What is Islam?
Islam is not a new religion. It is the same truth that God revealed to all His prophets throughout history. As God tells us in the Qur’an,
” Indeed I sent messengers to every nation saying worship the One and only God and avoid all evil…” (16:36)
Islam is both a religion and a complete way of life. It literally means submission to the will of God. A Muslim is one who submits their will to God. It is about applying scripture to our everyday life. Muslim scripture is the Qur’an which is the literal word of God brought to the Prophet’s heart through the angel Gabriel. The other scripture is the Sunnah which is the recorded life example of the Prophet Muhammad- Peace and Blessings of God be with him- that was inspired and guided by God.
Who are Muslims and what do they believe?
There are an estimated 1.2 billion Muslims worldwide. Less than 20 percent of all Muslims live in the Arab world. The country with the largest Muslim population is Indonesia. Muslims exclusively believe in and worship the Creator of the universe. The One and only Merciful and Compassionate God who is defined by the perfection of all good characteristics. The pure absolute transcendental reality from which everything originates whose will and knowledge comprehensively surround and dictate all creation. We believe that God created angels to be His workers who submit to Him without question. We believe in the Day of Judgement and individual accountability for actions. We believe in a chain of prophets spanning over thousands of years the world over beginning with Adam and including Noah, Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Job, Moses, David, Solomon, and Jesus and many others. God’s eternal message was reaffirmed and finalized by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be on them all). The declaration of faith is simply saying, “There is no deity but God, and Muhammad is the messenger of God.” By this declaration, the person announces faith in all of God’s messengers and their message.
What is the Quran?
The Quran is the book containing the exact words revealed by God through the Angel Gabriel to the Prophet Muhammad. It was memorized by Muhammad and then dictated to hundreds of his companions who also memorized it. The text of the Quran was preserved by memory and writing during the life of the Prophet. The 114 chapters of the Quran have remained unchanged through the centuries. One of the miracles of the Qur’an is its completely compatible with modern science. Please feel free to research this-
What are the “Five Pillars” of Islam?
1) The Declaration of Faith (Shahadah)– This consists of the two sentence declaration described above.
2) Prayer (Salat)– Muslims perform five obligatory prayers each day. Islamic prayers are a direct link between the worshiper and God. Islam has no hierarchical authority or priesthood. A learned Muslim chosen by each congregation leads the prayers. These prayers consist of standing, bowing and prostrating. In each position there may be reading of portions of the Qur’an, divine remembrances and supplications.
3) Alms (Zakat) – One of the most important principles of Islam is that all things belong to God and that wealth is held in trust by human beings. Zakat, or charitable giving, “purifies” wealth by setting aside a portion for those in need. This payment is usually two and a half percent of one’s capital.
4) Fasting – Every year in the Arabic lunar month of Ramadan, Muslims give up food, water and marital relations from the crack of dawn to sunset. Fasting is another method of self-purification and spiritual discipline meant to fortifying the heart of a believer and bringing him or her to realize their purpose as obedient selfless servants of God.
5) Pilgrimage (Hajj)– A pilgrimage to Makkah, is an obligation for those who are physically or financially able. This pilgrimage consists of rituals performed in honor and remembrance of Abraham, Hagar and Ishmael. The theme of the pilgrimage is the unity of Muslims who are collectively connected and devoted to Almighty God.
What about the American Muslim community?
There are an estimated 7 million Muslims in America. The Muslim community in America is made up of people from a wide variety of ethnic backgrounds and national origins. There are over 2,000 mosques, Islamic schools and Islamic centers in America. Muslims are active in all walks of life. Islam is one of the fastest growing religions in this country and around the world.
What about Muslim women?
Under Islamic law, women were always obliged to work, own property, receive an education, inherit, vote, take leadership positions and otherwise take part in community life. These are rights that Islam pioneered for women centuries before the west did. Men and women are to be respected and honored equally as spiritual entities. The Islamic rules for modest dress apply to both women and men. (Men cannot expose certain parts of their bodies, wear gold or silk, etc.) If a particular society oppresses women, it does so in spite of Islam, not because of it. The role of the mother is highly emphasized and according to the Prophet gives her three times the right of the father to love and companionship.
What is Jihad?
“Jihad” does not mean “holy war.” Literally, jihad means to strive, struggle and exert effort. It is a central and broad Islamic concept that includes struggle against evil inclinations within oneself, struggle to improve the quality of life in society, struggle in the battlefield for self-defense (e.g., – having a standing army for national defense), or fighting against tyranny or oppression. The idea is to overcome evil and corruption through trusting in Almighty God’s guidance.
Killing oneself is prohibited by the clear teachings of the Holy Qur’an,
“… and do not kill yourselves…” (4:29)
Similarly killing innocent non-combatants is also clearly forbidden by the Prophet,
“When you go into battle, do not kill a woman, the elderly, the monks or children.” (Abu Dawood)