12-29-2004, 02:01 PM
By al-Sheikh Ali al-Tantawi
Once I posed the following question to my students: If a foreigner asks you to explain all about Islam within an hour, could you fulfill this task? They replied: ‘this is impossible! He has to study Tawhid, commentary on the Holy Qur’an and the Art of its Reciting, Hadith and Jurisprudence. He has also to delve into problems and issues which may need five years.
I retorted by saying: ‘Subhana Allah! Didn’t the unlettered Bedouin come to Allah’s Messenger (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) and learn all about Islam just by staying in his company for a day or even less? And didn’t that very same Bedouin carry the message of Islam to the desert folks, and in turn become their guide and teacher? Don’t you remember how our Prophet explained the whole religion in three brief sentences? He spoke about
: Iman, Islam and Ihsan (man’s realization of his relation to Allah). So, why can’t we explain the whole religion in an hour nowadays?
Thus, what is Islam? How does one become a Muslim?
Every creed, whether it is based on truth or falsehood; every society, good or bad and even every party, whether its intentions are noble or not, operates on the basis of certain principles and percepts that define their goal and chart out their course of action. These principles and precepts are put together in the form of a constitution that guides all members and followers.
Whoever wants to become a member of such an organization will, at the outset, study its principles and guidelines. If he finds that they satisfy his conscious thinking and subconscious mind, and believes in their ultimate validity, then he will apply for membership to that organization. Thus, he becomes one of its members and supporters. From then on, he has to obey its laws, to pay the membership fee, and prove in due course his sincerity to the principles and precepts of the organization. This means that he has to remind himself of those principles and avoid doing anything that contradicts them. In fact, he has to set the best example of one who adheres to those principles and as an ardent supporter of them, in word and in deed.
Thus, membership to a society means:
Knowledge about its system; Adherence to its regulations;
To conduct oneself in everyday life in accordance with those principles and regulations.
These are accepted conventions which are all applicable to Islam. Whoever wants to embrace Islam has to, at the outset accept its intellectual principles firmly and fully. He will thus have developed the faith in himself.
The principles that he has to accept can be briefly stated as follows:
This material world is not the be-all and end-all of existence and this worldly life is only a stage of life. Man existed even before he was born and will continue to exist after death: he did not create himself but he had been created before he could know himself.
The inanimate objects around him did not create him because he is a rational being whereas they are not.
Everything in this universe has been created from nothingness by one God, Allah the Al-mighty.
Allah, subhanahu watala, is the only One Who grants life and causes death. It is He Who has created everything, and if He wishes He will destroy and obliterate it.
Allah (SWT) has no resemblance with any of His creation. He is the infinitely pre-existent, the eternal, the omnipotent and the omniscient.
He is fully just and His justice cannot be assessed on the norms of human justice.
It is He Who has laid down the rules, which we call the laws of nature.
He has created everything according to a well-defined measure since eternity. Thus, all the phenomena of activity and inactivity, consistency and inconsistency that take place in animate and inanimate beings have been clearly defined and demarcated.
Man has been bestowed with the power of intellect with which he can think and decide on whatever matters that are subject to his disposal and he has been granted the power of reasoning with which he can make his own choice and will-power by which he can achieve what he wants.
Allah, (SWT) has created an eternal life beyond this temporary life, wherein the welldoers will be rewarded with a life in paradise and the evildoers will be punished and exist in Hell-fire.
This God is one only: Allah. He has no partner to be worshipped with Him; no intermediary can take us nearer to Him to plead on our behalf without His permission. Thus, He and only He is to be worshipped in all sincerity and purity. He has created all the material beings that we can see and feel. He has also created unseen beings, some animate and others inanimate, which we cannot see. Among the unseen beings are the angels, who have been created for absolute good, and then, the Satans, who have been created as totally evil beings. Apart from these, there is a third category of unseen beings who have in them both the elements of good and evil; they are at once virtuous and wicked i.e. the Jinn. And from amongst human beings Allah (SWT) selects certain people to whom the Shari’a is revealed so that they can guide humanity to it. Such people are the Prophets and Messengers.
This Shari’a is contained in all the books revealed from the Heavens. Every successive book abrogates or amends the preceding book; the Holy Qur’an is the last of these books. All the books that preceded it were either distorted or got lost and forgotten. The Holy Qur’an has remained intact.
The last of these Prophets is Muhammad Ibn ‘Abullah, an Arab of the Quraish tribe. With him came an end to all the Divine Messages and Religions. There is no Prophet after him.
The Holy Qur’an is the constitution of Islam. Whoever endorses the fact that it is has been revealed by Allah and believes in completely is a Mu’min (believer). Iman in this sense is something that can only be seen by Allah the Almighty because human beings cannot penetrate into human hearts and know what is in them. Therefore it is essential, in order to be accepted in the fold of Islam, that one should declare his faith by pronouncing the two statements of faith, namely ‘I bear witness that there is no god except Allah and I bear witness that Muhammad is Allah’s Messenger. The moment one pronounces this statement of faith, he/she becomes a Muslim, who is entitled to all the rights enjoyed by Muslims and he also agrees to perform all the duties enjoined upon him by Islam.
These duties are the prescribed forms of worship. They are only a few and easy to perform and do not require much effort nor exertion. They are as follows:
First: One has to perform the prescribed Salah at Dawn-2 Rak’as, Midday-4, Later afternoon-4, After sunset-3, and at night-4 Rak’as during which one has communion with his Lord. One asks for His goodness and seeks refuge in Him from His punishment. Before offering Salah one has to perform Wudu (washing of the hands up to the elbows, face, rubbing head and washing feet) or take a bath if he is in a state of ritual impurity.
These are the obligatory times of Salah (prayers), the performing of which will not, on the whole, take more than half an hour everyday. There is no particular place or person required for the performance of Salah neither does it need any intermediary between a Muslim and his Lord.
Second: In the month of Ramadan of every year, Muslims have to change their normal daily routine of meals: breakfast is eaten before dawn and then meal is taken after sunset, and during the day they abstain from food and water and sexual intercourse. It is the month of self-purification for every Muslim in body and soul. It is also the month which represents the human desire to do good, to be generous and to reflect the brotherhood of man in the material life.
Third: A Muslim has to render 2.5% of his wealth as Zakah to the poor and needy. He has to do this yearly whenever a certain amount of saved money remained with him after his own needs and those of his family have been met. This financial support comes as a great source of comfort to the poor, the sick and the needy. It thus helps to alleviate poverty and to establish a form of social security.
Fourth: Islam has devised certain periodical gatherings for Muslims. Every day they get together five times in order to offer Salah in a congregation. This gathering is similar to a quarter meeting, which is held five times a day like school teaching hours. That is the congregational Salah through which Muslims can reap the reward of virtue.
There is no disruption of work for anyone, whatever the career. Those who miss the congregation, can offer Salah at home even though they will deprive themselves of the reward of performing Salah in a congregation.
Then there is the weekly congregation on Fridays for Jum’a Salah. It lasts less than one hour and it is compulsory for all male Muslims to attend.
Besides the above, there are mass congregations held twice a year on the occasion of the Two Eids. Attendance is not compulsory and they last less than an hour.
Finally, there is the annual world congregation known as Hajj. It is a kind of mammoth public gathering, held once a year in a certain place and time. This congregation, in fact, provides guidance in all aspects: spiritual, physical and intellectual. A Muslim is required to partake in it only once in his lifetime if he can afford.
These are the acts of ‘Ibadah enjoined upon every Muslim, male or female.
Apart from the above, abstention from certain action is also considered as ‘Ibadah. These are actions which are deployed by all sensible people and condemned as evil actions. They are such as: killing without a valid reason, encroachment and aggression on others; all forms of injustice, all intoxicants which affect the brain, Zina, since it destroys honour and dignity and violates the sanctioned forms of blood relationship; Riba, utterance of lies cheating, betrayal and deserting military service which seeks to further the cause of Allah; and above all, disobedience to one’s parents and making false oath and producing false witness. These are some of the vile deeds that are condemned by all sensible persons.
However, if a Muslim fails to do some of his duties or commits some actions that are not permissible, and then, repents and seeks pardon from Allah, verily He will pardon him. But, if he does not repent, he shall still be considered a Muslim–but a disobedient one who will be punished in the next world. This punishment will however, be only temporary and will not be equal to that of a Kafir.
As for a Muslim who denies some of the basic beliefs of Islam or expresses doubts regarding them, or refuses to perform a duty enjoined upon him and ignores Islamic regulations, or even renounces one single word of the Holy Qur’an, he will be considered as an apostate deprived of his Islamic identity. Apostasy is a crime in Islam. It is like the crime of high treason in contemporary law. And the punishment for it is death if the apostate does not give up his wrong beliefs and repent.
A Muslim may not perform some of the duties or he may commit some impermissible acts but if he acknowledges what is enjoined upon him and what is not permissible for him, he will still continue to be a Muslim i.e. a disobedient Muslim. As regards faith, it is something to be accepted in totality and therefore a denial of any aspect (of it) is deemed as a denial of the whole. Thus, if one accepts 99% of the faith and refuses 1%, one is considered a Kafir.
A Muslim may be a hypocrite like a person who joins a political party or a society, attends its meetings, duly pays the subscriptions and does all that is required of a member, but refuses its principles and remains unconvinced. He has joined the party only for the purpose of spying or creating disorder in that organization. Such a Muslim is a hypocrite. He pronounces the two statements of faith. Hypocrisy is defined as: outward profession of the faith and concealment of disbelief. He also performs the forms of ‘Ibadah but remains unconvinced about them in his inner self. Such a person has no salvation from Allah’s punishment although, in our eyes, he may be considered a Muslim. People judge the outward appearances whereas Allah the Almighty alone is aware of what is hidden in the hearts and innermost beings.
The Holy Prophet (SAW) said: "A hypocrite can be recognized in three ways: failure to keep his promise, lying and betraying anyone’s trust".
If a person believes in the intellectual principles of Islam, he becomes a true Muslim. And these intellectual principles are:
-Having sheer belief in the Tawhid;
-Belief in the Revealed Books;
-Belief in Prophets and Messengers;
-Belief in the hereafter;
-Belief in Destiny;
-Expression of the two statements of Faith;
-Performance of the obligatory Salah;
-Fasting in the month of Ramadan;
-Payment of Zakah;
-Performance of Hajj;
-Abstention from all that is forbidden by Muslim consensus. But he will not reap the fruits of Iman nor be blessed by its bounty or be a complete Muslim unless he adapts the life style of a true Muslim.
Our Prophet Muhammad (Sallallaho alaihi Wasallam) has summed up the characteristics of a true Muslim in one eloquent sentence which states the essence of faith and action in a nutshell: "You should worship Allah as though He is watching you: If you do not see Him, He sees you". This is the essence of Islam. It enjoins upon every Muslim to be God-conscious in all his actions, seen or unseen, serious or non-serious. Verily Allah (SWT), is watching us constantly and is aware of our every move. Therefore, every person who is God-conscious will not embark on any act of disobedience nor will he despair because he will realize that Allah is with him. Thus, a person who is fortified with such a consciousness will not cringe for help from anybody, because he will ask of Allah what he needs. And if a person commits an act of disobedience to Allah – it is human nature to disobey–he shall repent his action and Allah will pardon him.
03-30-2007, 02:58 PM
The ruling of Islam concerning other religions is that they are all either fabricated and false, or abrogated. Reply
The fabricated and false religions are those like the ancient Arabian practise of worshipping idols and stones.
The abrogated religions are those which were taught by the Prophets who came before our Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him). They are valid in that their origins are from Allaah, but Islam came and took their place, not with regard to basic beliefs such as the existence of God, the angels, Paradise and Hell, for these are matters which all the Messengers have in common, but there are differences between them with regard to ways of worshipping and drawing close to Allaah by means of prayer, fasting, pilgrimage, alms, etc. The later followers of the Prophets have fallen into deviations of belief and shirk, but Islam came to point that out and bring people back to the correct belief taught by the earlier Prophets.
It was narrated that Abu’l-Darda’ (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: ‘Umar brought some pages of the Tawraat to the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) and said, “O Messenger of Allaah, these are some pages of the Tawraat which I took from a brother of mine from Banu Zurayq.” The expression of the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) changed, and ‘Abd-Allaah ibn Zayd – who had been shown the adhaan [in a dream] – said, “Has Allaah taken away your mind? Do you not see the expression on the face of the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him)?” ‘Umar said, “We are pleased with Allaah as our Lord and with Islam as our religion and with Muhammad as our Prophet and with the Qur’aan as our guide.” Then the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) relaxed [?}, and said, “By the One in Whose hand is my soul, if Moosa were to come among you and you were to follow him and leave me, you would have gone far astray. You are my share among the nations and I am your share among the Prophets.” (Narrated by Ahmad, 15437).
Ibn Hajar said:
All the isnaads of this hadeeth are such that they could not be taken as evidence individually, but when taken together they prove that this hadeeth is correct. (Fath al-Baari, 13/525).
The evidence for that is the verse in which Allah says (interpretation if the meaning):
“And whoever seeks a religion other than Islam, it will never be accepted of him, and in the Hereafter he will be one of the losers”
[Aal ‘Imraan 3:85]
Imam al-Tabari said in his commentary on this verse:
What Allaah means by that is that whoever looks for a religion other than Islam to follow, Allaah will never accept that from him, “and in the Hereafter he will be one of the losers” meaning, one of those who deprived themselves of their share of the mercy of Allaah.”
(Tafseer al-Tabari, 3/339)
Islam does not regard them (followers of other religions) only as sinners, but as kaafirs (disbelievers) who will abide forever in the Fire of Hell, as stated in the verse quoted above.
He (the kaafir) will be a loser in Hell, and will not come of out it. It is not possible for a kaafir to enter Paradise unless he becomes Muslim. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):
“Verily, those who belie Our Ayaat (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.) and treat them with arrogance, for them the gates of heaven will not be opened, and they will not enter Paradise until the camel goes through the eye of the needle (which is impossible). Thus do We recompense the Mujrimoon (criminals, polytheists, sinners)”
It was proven that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “By the One is Whose hand is my soul, no one of this nation, Jew or Christian, will hear of me and not believe in that with which I have been sent, but he will be one of the people of Hell.” (Narrated by Muslim).
We ask Allaah to guide the seekers of truth from other religions to look into the religion of Islam and its Book, the Qur’aan. May Allaah guide them and open their hearts to enter Islam
06-14-2007, 11:51 PM
What is Islam? by Dr. PhilipsReply
Islam is not a new religion, but the same truth that God revealed through all His prophets to every people. For a fifth of the world’s population, Islam is both a religion and a complete way of life. Muslims follow a religion of peace, mercy, and forgiveness, and the majority have nothing to do with the extremely grave events which have come to be associated with their faith.
Who are the Muslims?
One billion people from a vast range or races, nationalities and cultures across the globe - from the southern Philippines to Nigeria - are united by their common Islamic faith. About 18% live in the Arab world; the world’s largest Muslim community is in Indonesia; substantial parts of Asia and most of Africa are Muslim, while significant minorities are to be found in the Soviet Union, China, North and South America, and Europe.
What do Muslims believe?
Muslims believe in One, Unique, Incomparable God (called Allah in Arabic); in the Angels created by Him; ; in the Angels created by Him; in the prophets through whom His revelation were brought to mankind; in the Day of Judgement and individual accountability for actions; in God’s complete authority over human destiny and in life after death. Muslims believe in a chain of prophets starting with Adam and including Noah, Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Job, Moses, Aaron, David, Solomon, Elias, Jonah, John the Baptist, and Jesus, peace be upon them. But God’s final message to man, a reconfirmation of the eternal message and a summing-up of all that has gone before was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) through Angel Gabriel.
How does someone become a Muslim?
Simply by saying ‘there is no god worthy of worship besides God (Allah), and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah. By this declaration the believer announces his or her faith in all God’s messengers, and the scriptures they brought.
What Is Ka'bah?
The Ka’bahah is the place of worship which God commanded Prophets Abraham and Ishmael to build over Four thousand years ago. The building was constructed of stone.
Who is Muhammad?
Muhammad (pbuh ) was born in Makkah in the year 570, at a time when Christianity was not yet fully established in Europe. Since his father died before his birth, and his mother shortly afterwards, he was raised by his uncle from the respected tribe of Quraysh. As he grew up, he became known for his truthfulness, generosity and sincerity, so that he was sought after for his ability to arbitrate in disputes. The historians describe him as calm and meditative.
Muhammad (pbuh) was of a deeply religious nature, and had long detested the decadence and idolatry of his society. It became his habit to meditate from time to time in the Cave of Hira near the summit of Jabal al-Nur, the ‘Mountain of Light’ near Makkah.
How did he become a prophet and a Messenger of God?
At the age of 40, while engaged in a meditative retreat, Muhammad ( pbuh ) received his first revelation from God through the Angel Gabriel. This revelation, which continued for twenty-three years, is known as the Qur’an.
As soon as he began to recite the words he heard from Gabriel, and to preach the truth which God had revealed to him, he and his small group of followers suffered bitter persecution, which grew so fierce that in the year 622 God gave them the command to emigrate. This event, the Hijirah, [migration], in which they left Makkah for the city of Madeenah some 260 miles from Mekkah.
How did the spread of Islam affect the world?
Among the reasons for the rapid and peaceful spread of Islam was the simplicity of its doctrine. Islam calls for faith in only One God worthy of worship. It also repeatedly instructs man to use his powers of intelligence and observation.
Within a few years, great civilizations and universities were flourishing, for according to the Prophet ( pbuh ) , ‘seeking knowledge is an obligation for every Muslim. The synthesis of Eastern and Western ideas and of new thought with old, brought about great advances in medicine, mathematics, physics, astronomy, geography, architecture, art, literature, and history. Many crucial systems such as algebra, the Arabic numerals, and also the concept of the zero (vital to the advancement of mathematics), were transmitted to medieval Europe from Islam. Sophisticated instruments which were to make possible the European voyages of discovery were developed, including the astrolabe, the quadrant and good navigational maps.
What does ‘Islam’ mean?
The Arabic word ‘Islam’ simply means ‘submission’, and derives from a word meaning ‘peace’. In a religious context it means complete submission to the will of God. ‘Mohammedanism’ is thus a misnomer because it suggests that Muslims worship Muhammad ( pbuh ) rather than God. ‘Allah’ is the Arabic name for God, which is used by both Arab Muslims and Arab Christians alike.
Why does Islam often seem strange?
Islam may seem exotic or even extreme in the modern world. Perhaps this is because religion does not dominate everyday life in the West today, whereas Muslims have religion always uppermost in their minds, and make no division between secular and sacred. They believe that the Divine Law, the Sharee‘ah, should be taken very seriously, which is why issues related to religion are still so important.
Do Islam and Christianity have different origins?
No. Together with Judaism, they go back to the prophet and patriarch Abraham, and their three prophets are directly descended from his sons - Muhammad from the eldest, Ishmael, and Moses and Jesus from Isaac. Abraham established the settlement which today is the city of Makkah, and built the Ka‘bah towards which all Muslims turn when the pray.
God commanded Abraham to summon all mankind to visit this place, and when pilgrims go there today the say ‘Here I am O Allah’, in response to Abraham’s summons.
What is the Qur’an?
The Qur’an is a record of the exact words revealed by God through the Angel Gabriel to the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). It was memorized by Muhammad (pbuh) and then dictated to his Companions, handwritten down by scribes, who cross-checked it during his lifetime. Not one word of its 114 chapters, Suras, has been changed over the centuries, so that the Qur’an is in every detail the unique and miraculous text which was revealed to Muhammad (pbuh) fourteen centuries ago.
What is the Qur’an about?
The Qur’an, the last revealed Word of God, is the prime source of every Muslim’s faith and practice. It deals with all the subjects which concern us as human beings: wisdom, doc-trine, worship, and law, but its basic theme is the relationship between God and His creatures. At the same time it provides guidelines for a just society , proper human conduct and an equitable economic system.
Are there any other sacred sources?
Yes, the sunnah, the practice and example of the Prophet (pbuh), is the second authority for Muslims. A hadith is a reliably transmitted report of what the Prophet (pbuh) said, did, or approved. Belief in the sunnah is a fundamental part of the Islamic faith.
Examples of the Prophet’s sayings
The Prophet (pbuh) said:
‘God has no mercy on one who has no mercy for others.’
‘None of you truly believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself.’
‘He who eats his fill while his neighbor goes without food is not a true believer.’
“The truthful and trusty businessman is associated with the prophets, the saints, and the martyrs.’
‘Powerful is not he who knocks the other down, indeed powerful is he who controls himself in a fit of anger.’
‘God does not judge according to your bodies and appearances but He scans your hearts and looks into your deeds.’
‘A man walking along a path felt very thirsty. Reaching a well he descended into it, drank his fill and came up. Then he saw a dog with its tongue hanging out, trying to lick up mud to quench its thirst. The man saw that the dog was feeling the same thirst as he had felt so he went down into the well again and filled his shoe with water and gave the dog a drink. God forgave his sins for this action.’ The Prophet (pbuh) was asked: ‘Messenger of God, are we rewarded for kindness towards animals?’ He replied, ‘There is a reward for kindness to every living thing.’
From the hadith collections of Bukhaaree, Muslim, Tirmithee and Bayhaqee.
What are the ‘Five Pillars’ of Islam?
They are the framework of the Muslim life: faith, prayer, concern for the needy, self-purification, and the pilgrimage to Makkah for those who are able.
There is no god worthy of worship except Allah and Muhammad is His messenger. This declaration of faith is called the Shaahadah, a simple formula which all the faithful pronounce. In Arabic, the first part is la ilaaha il - lal - ’laah-’ there is no god except Allah’; ilaaha (god) can refer to anything which we may be tempted to put in place of God-wealth, power, and like. Then comes il - lal - ‘laah:’ except Allah’, the creator of all things The second part of the Shahaadah is Muhammadun rasoolul-laah ‘Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.’ A Message of guidance has come through a man like ourselves.
Salaah is the name for the obligatory prayers which are performed five times a day, and are a direct link between the worshipper and God. There is no hierarchical authority in Islam and no priests, so the prayers, are led by a learned person who knows the Qur’an, chosen by the congregation. These five prayers contain verses from the Qur’an, and are said in Arabic, the language of the Revelation, but personal supplication can be offered in one’s own language. Prayers are said at dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset and nightfall, and thus determine the rhythm of the entire day. Although it is preferable to worship together in a mosque, a Muslim may pray almost anywhere, such as in fields, offices, factories and universities. Visitors to the Muslim world and struck by the centrality of prayers in daily life.
A translation of the Call to Prayer is:
Allah is most great. Allah is most great.
Allah is most great. Allah is most great.
I testify that there is no god except Allah.
I testify that there is no god except Allah.
I testify that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.
I testify that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.
Come to prayer! Come to prayer!
Come to success (in the life and the Hereafter)! Come to success!
Allah is most great. Allah is most great.
There is no god except Allah.
3. THE ‘ZAKAAH’
One of the most important principles of Islam is that all things belong to God, and that wealth is therefore held by human beings in trust. The word zakaah means both ‘purification’ and growth’. Our possessions are purified by setting aside a proportion for those in need, and, like the pruning of plants, this cutting back balances and encourages new growth.
Each Muslim calculates his or her own zakat individually. For most purposes this involves the payment each year of two and a half percent of one’s surplus savings.
A pious person may also give as much as he or she pleases as sadaqah, and does so preferably in secret.
Although this word can be translated as voluntary charity’ it has a wider meaning. The Prophet (pbuh) said
‘even meeting your brother with a cheerful face is charity.’
The Prophet (pbuh) said: ‘Charity is a necessity for every Muslim.’ He was asked’ What if a person has nothing?’ The Prophet (pbuh) replied: ‘He should work with his own hands for his benefit and then give something out of such earnings in charity.’ The Companions asked: ‘What if he is not able to work?’ The Prophet (pbuh) said: ‘He should help poor and needy persons.’ The Companions further asked, ‘What if he cannot do even that?’ The Prophet (pbuh) said’ He should urge others to do good.’ The Companions said ‘What if he lacks that also?’ The Prophet (pbuh) said’ He should check himself from doing evil. That is also charity.’
4. THE FAST
Every year in the month of Ramadaan, all Muslim fast from first light until sundown, abstaining from food, drink, and sexual relations.
Those who are sick, elderly, or on a journey, and women who are pregnant or nursing are permitted to break the fast and make up an equal number of days later in the year. If they are physically unable to do this, they must feed a needy person for every day missed. Children begin to fast (and to observe the prayer) from puberty, although many start earlier.
Although the fast is most beneficial to the health, it is regarded principally as a method of self purification. By cutting oneself off from worldly comforts, even for a short time, a fasting person gains true sympathy with those who go hungry which leads to growth in one’s spiritual life.
5. PILGRIMAGE (Hajj)
The annual pilgrimage to Makkah the Hajj - is an obligation only for those who are physically and financially able to perform it. Nevertheless, about two million people go to Makkah each year from every corner of the globe providing a unique opportunity for those of different nations to meet one another.
Although Makkah is always filled with visitors, the annual Hajj begins in the twelfth month of the Islamic year (which is lunar, not solar, so that Hajj and Ramadan fall sometimes in summer, sometimes in winter). Pilgrims wear special clothes: simple garments which strip away distinctions of class and culture, so that all stand equal before God.
The rites of the Hajj, which were begun by Prophet Abraham, include circling the Ka’bah seven times, and going seven times between the mountains Safaa and Marwah as Hager did during her search for water. Then the pilgrims stand together on the wide plain of ‘Arafah and join in prayers for God’s forgiveness, in what is often thought of as a preview of the Last Judgement.
In previous centuries the Hajj was an arduous undertaking. Today, however, water, modern transport, and the most up-to-date health facilities are provided for the millions who take part in the pilgrimage.
The close of the Hajj is marked bya festival, ‘Eed al-Ad-haa, which is celebrated with prayers and the exchange of gifts in Muslim communities everywhere. This, and the ‘Eedal-Fitr, a feast-day commemorating the end of Ramadan, are the main festivals of the Muslims’ calendar.
Does Islam tolerate other beliefs?
The Qur’an says:
Allah does not forbid you with regards to those who do not fight you for [your] faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them; for Allah loves those who are just. (Qur’an, 60:8)
It is one function of Islamic law to protect the privileged status of minorities, and this is why non-Muslim places of worship have flourished all over the Islamic world. History provides many examples of Muslim tolerance towards other faiths: when the caliph Omar entered Jerusalem in the year 634, Islam granted freedom of worship to all religious communities in the city.
Islamic law also permits non-Muslim minorities to set up their own courts, which implement family laws drawn up by the minorities themselves.
SIN: According to Islam, man is not born in ‘original sin’. Every child is born with an innate disposition towards virtue, knowledge, and beauty. Islam considers itself to be the ‘primordial religion’, it seeks to return man to his original, true nature in which he is in harmony with creation, inspired to do good, and confirming the Oneness of God.
What do Muslims think about Jesus?
Muslims respect and revere Jesus (r), and await his Second Coming. They consider him one of the greatest of God’s messengers to mankind. The Qur’an confirms his virgin birth (a chapter of the Qur’an is entitled ‘Mary’), and Mary is considered the purest woman in all creation. The Qur’an describes the Annunciation as follows:
‘Behold!’ the Angel said, ‘God has chosen you, and purified you, and chosen you above the women of all nations. O Mary, God gives you good news of a word from Him, whose name shall be the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, honored in this world and the Hereafter, and one of those brought near to God. He shall speak to the people from his cradle and in maturity, and shall be of the righteous.’
She said: ‘O my Lord! How shall I have a son when no man has touched me?’ He said: ‘Even so; Allah creates whatever He wills. When He decrees a thing, He says to it, “Be!” and it is.’ (Qur’an, 3:42-7)
Jesus (r) was born miraculously through the same power which had brought Adam (r) into being without a father:
Truly, the likeness of Jesus with God is as the likeness of Adam. He created him of dust, and then said to him, ‘Be!’ and he was. (3:59)
During his prophetic mission Jesus (r) performed many miracles. The Qur’an tells us that he said:
‘I have come to you with a sign from your Lord: I make for you out of clay, the figure of a bird, and breathe into it and it becomes a bird by Allah’s leave. And I heal the blind, and the lepers, and I raise the dead by Allah’s leave.(3:49)
Neither Muhammad (r) nor Jesus (r) came to change the basic doctrine of the belief in One God, brought by earlier prophets, but to confirm and renew it. In the Qur’an Jesus (r) is reported as saying that he came:
‘To attest the law which was before me. And to make lawful to you part of what was forbidden you; I have come to you with a sign from your Lord, so fear Allah and obey Me.’
The Prophet Muhammad (r) said:
‘Whoever believes there is no god but God, alone without partner, that Muhammad (r) is His messenger, that Jesus is the servant and messenger of God, His word breathed into Mary and a spirit from Him, and that Paradise and Hell are true, shall be received by Allah into Heaven.’
(Hadith from Bukhaaree)
Why is the family so important to Muslims?
The family is the foundation of Islamic society. The peace and security offered by a stable family unit is greatly valued, and seen as essential for the spiritual growth of its members. A harmonious social order is created by the existence of extended families; children are treasured, and rarely leave home until the time they marry.
What about Muslim women?
Islam sees a woman, whether single or married, as an individual in her own right, with the right to own and dispose of her property and earnings. A marriage dowry is given by the groom to the bride for her own personal use, and she keeps her own family name rather than taking her husband’s.
Both men and women are expected to dress in a way which is modest and dignified. Women are required to cover all of their body except for the face and hands in order to protect their modesty and honor.
The Messenger of God (pbuh) said:
"The most perfect in faith amongst believers is he who is best in manner and kindest to his wife."
Can a Muslim have more than one wife?
The religion of Islam was revealed for all societies and all times and so accommodates widely differing social requirements. Circumstances may warrant the taking of another wife but the right is granted, according to the Qur’an, only on condition that the husband is scrupulously fair.
Is Islamic marriage like Christian marriage?
A Muslim marriage is not a ‘sacrament’, but a simple, legal agreement in which either partner is free to include conditions. Marriage customs thus vary widely from country to country. As a result, divorce is not common, although it is not forbidden as a last resort. According to Islam, no Muslim girl or boy can be forced to marry against their will: their parents will simply suggest young men or women they think may be suitable.
How do Muslims treat the elderly?
In the Islamic world there are no old people’s homes. The strain of caring for one’s parents in this most difficult time of their lives is considered an honor and blessing, and an opportunity for great spiritual growth. God asks that we not only pray for our parents, but act with limitless compassion, remembering that when we were helpless children they preferred us to themselves.
Mothers are particularly honored: the Prophet (pbuh) taught that ‘Paradise lies at the feet of mothers’. When they reach old age, Muslim parents are treated mercifully, with the same kindness and selflessness.
In Islam, serving one’s parents is a duty second only to prayer, and it is their right to expect it. It is considered despicable to express any irritation when, through no fault of their own, the old become difficult.
The Qur’an says: ‘Your Lord has commanded that you worship none but Him, and be kind to parents. If either or both of them reach old age with you, do not say ‘Uff’ to them or chide them, but speak to them in terms of honor and kindness. Treat them with humility, and say, ‘My Lord! Have mercy on them, for they cared for me when I was little’. (17:23-4)
How do Muslims view death?
Like Jews and Christians, Muslims believe that the present life is only a preparation for the next realm of existence. Basic articles of faith include: Resurrection the Day of Judgment, Heaven and Hell.
When a Muslim dies, he or she is washed, usually by a family member, wrapped in a clean white cloth, and buried preferably the same day. Simple prayers following Muslims consider this one of the final services they can do for their relatives, and an opportunity to remember their own brief existence here on earth. The Prophet (pbuh) taught that three things can continue to help a person even after death; charity which he had given, knowledge which he had taught and prayers on their behalf by a righteous child.
What does Islam say about war?
Like Christianity, Islam permits fighting in self-defense, in defense of religion, or on the part of those who have been expelled forcibly from their homes. It lays down strict rules of combat which include prohibitions against harming civilians and against destroying crops, trees and livestock. As Muslims see it, injustice would be triumphant in the world if good men were not prepared to risk their lives in a righteous cause. The Qur’an says:
‘Fight in the cause of God against those who fight you, but do not transgress limits. God does not love transgressors.’ (2:190)
If they seek peace, then you should also seek peace. And trust in Allah for He is the One that hears and knows all things. (8:61)
War, therefore, is the last resort, and is subject to the rigorous conditions laid down by the sacred law.
The term jihaad literally means’ struggle’, and Muslims believe that there are two kinds of jihaad. The outer struggle against the forces of evil and corruption and the inner struggle which everyone wages against egotistic desires, for the sake of attaining inner peace.
What about food?
Although much simpler than the dietary law followed by Jews and the early Christians, the code which Muslims observe forbids the consumption of blood, pork and any kind of intoxicating substances. The Prophet taught that ‘your body has rights over you’, and the consumption of wholesome food and the leading of a healthy lifestyle are seen as religious obligations.
The Prophet (pbuh) said:
‘Ask God for certainty [of faith] and well-being; for after certainty, no one is given any gift better than health!’
How does Islam guarantee human rights?
Freedom of conscience is laid down by the Qur’an itself: ‘There is no compulsion in religion’. (2:256) The life and property of all citizens in an Islamic state are considered sacred whether a person is Muslim or not. Racism is incomprehensible to Muslims, for the Qur’an speaks of human equality in the following terms:
‘O mankind! We created you from a single soul, male and female, and made you into nations and tribes, so that you may come to know one another. Truly, the most honored of you in Allah’s sight is the greatest of you in piety. Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware. (49:13)
Islam in the United States?
It is almost impossible to generalize about American Muslims: converts, immigrants, factory workers, doctors, all are making their own contribution to America’s future. This complex community is unified by a common faith, underpinned by a countrywide network of more than a thousand mosques.
Muslims were early arrivals in North America. By the eighteenth century there were may thousands of them, working as slaves on plantations.
These early communities cut off from their heritage and families, inevitably lost their Islamic identity as time went by. Today many Afro-American Muslims play an important role in the Islamic community.
The nineteenth century, however, saw the beginnings of an influx of Arab Muslims, most of whom settled in the major industrial centers where they worshipped in hired rooms. The early twentieth century witnessed the arrival of several hundred thousand Muslims from Eastern Europe: the first Albanian mosque was opened in Maine in 1915; others soon followed, and a group of Polish Muslims opened a mosque in Brooklyn in 1928.
In 1947 the Washington Islamic Center was founded during the term of President Truman, and several nationwide organizations were set up in the fifties. During the fifties through seventies there was a great influx of Muslims from India and Pakistan who today represent a major segment of immigrant American Muslims. From the early twenties until the seventies a few Pseudo-Islamic organizations have appeared among indigenous Muslims using Islamic terminology to cover racist un-Islamic teachings: The nation of Islam (commonly called “Black Muslims”), The Moorish Science Temple, The Ansarullah.
Although they have always remained a small but vocal minority, some of their spokesmen continue to tarnish the image of Islam until today. Today the Muslim population in America is estimated by researchers at five to eight millions.
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