Islam – A Short Introduction:
Islam is an Arabic word, meaning for the attainment of ‘peace’ through total surrender to the ‘Will and Commandments of God’. It is the faith preached by all the prophets from Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus Christ and lastly by Muhammad (peace be upon them all). “Abraham was not a Jew nor yet a Christian; but He was true In Faith, and bowed His will to God (in Islam), and He joined not gods with God. Without doubt, among men, the nearest of kin to Abraham, are those who follow him, As are also This Messenger (Muhammad) and those who believe and God is the Protector of those who have Faith.”(Qur’an;3:67-68).” “Jesus said unto them, If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the (deeds) works of Abraham”(John;8:39). Prophet Jesus Christ (peace be upon him) aslo said; “I can of myself do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is righteous; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of Him that sent me.”(John;5:30); “Thy will be done”.(Mathew; 6:10,26:42).“Not every one who says to me, Master, Master, shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven (Islam: Surrender to will of GOD). On that day many will say to me, Master, Master, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers’.” (Methew;7:21-23). One word for ‘Doing the will of Father in heavens’ in Arabic is ‘Islam’.
Fundamental Principles of Islam:
Anyone wishing to embrace Islam has to accept its intellectual principles with total conviction right from the start. This means he will have developed the faith within himself. The principles he has to accept are outlined briefly as follows:
1) This material world is not the ‘all’ and ‘end of all’ of existence and life in this world is only a part of the eternal life.
2) Man existed even before he was born and will continue to exist after death; he did not create himself but had been created before he was conscious of his human existence.
3) The inanimate objects around him couldn’t have created him, as he is a rational being and they are not; * everything in this universe has been created from nothingness by the one God, God the Almighty.
4) God is the only one who grants life and causes death. It is He who created everything, and if He wishes. He will destroy and obliterate it.
5) Almighty God does not resemble His creation in any way. He existed before this creation and He is eternal and has unlimited knowledge.
6) He is completely just in a way that cannot be assessed in human terms; it is He who has laid down what we call the laws of nature.
7) He has created everything according to a well-defined measure before all creation, thus all the phenomena of activity, inactivity, consistency and inconsistency that we can observe in both animate and inanimate beings have been clearly defined and distinct boundaries have been set.
8) Man has been bestowed with the power of intellect to deal with whatever matters he is presented with and he has been given the power of reasoning with which he can make his own choice and will power to enable him to achieve what he wants.
9) God has created an eternal life beyond this temporary life, where the doer of good will be rewarded with a life in paradise and the wrong doer will be punished and exist in hell. This God is One. No one else may be worshipped but Him; no one can take us nearer to Him to plead on our behalf without His permission. Thus we should worship God alone, in all sincerity and purity.
10) All the material beings that we can see and feel which have been created by Him. 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 there are the Satans, who have been created as dark and negative forces.
11) Apart from these there is a third category of unseen beings, the jinn, who are divided into Satans and ‘good’ or ‘obedient’ jinn and from amongst human beings.
12) God selects certain people to whom the Shari’ a (Divine Law) is revealed, so that they can guide humanity towards it, these people are the prophets. [i.e. The Law of Moses and Shari’a of Muhammad (pbut)]
13) This divine law is contained in all the books revealed from the God. God takes us through progressive “steps” in each book until the final book, the Holy Qur’an. Books that preceded it were either distorted or got lost and forgotten. The Holy Qur’an, however, has remained intact. The last of these prophets is Muhammad bin Abdullah, an Arab of the Quraysh tribe. With him there was an end to all the previous divine messages and religions. There has been no other prophet since his time. The Holy Qur’an is the constitution of Islam. Whoever endorses the fact that it has been revealed by God and believes in it completely, is a Mu’min (believer). Iman (faith) in this sense can only be seen by God 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 a man declare his faith.
The Articles of Islamic Faith:
The root of affirmation of ‘Islamic Faith’ is based on the conviction upon unity of Allah (Tawheed-monotheism). In order to be a Muslim one has to believe in the Six Articles of Faith, which has been repeatedly mentioned in Qur’an at;24:62, 2:136,177,285, 4:136, 3:114, 4:78, 54:3, 17:99, 29:20, 64:67 and many other places.
The six ‘Articles of Faith’ and 5 pillars of Islam are adhered to by the majority Muslims. They are orally confessed by the Muslims (believers), which should also be deep rooted, in the heart:
1) To affirm his/her belief in Allah (Single God).
2) To believe in His messengers (from Adam to Noah, Abraham to Moses and Jesus Christ peace be upon them all, twenty five mentioned by name in Qur’an), and Muhammad (peace be upon him) to be His Last Messenger.
3) His books, Qur’an and all scriptures revealed to His Messengers which also include the original Torah, Psalms (Zabur) and original Gospel (Injeel) to Jesus Christ (pbuh).
4) To believe in Al Ghaib [metaphysical creatures like the angels, Jinns, etc].
5) Resurrection after death on the Day of Judgment, accounting and the scales, hell and paradise.
6) The good and evil of destiny are in the power of Allah, the Most High.
The Day of Judgment is one of the cardinal beliefs in Islam. Allah says: “That Day will every soul be requited for what it earned; no injustice will there be that Day for Allah is Swift in taking account.”(Qur’an;40:16-17). The time of occurrence of Day of Judgment is not known to any one except God (Qur’an;31:34). Paradise is the abode of enjoyment which Allah, the Exalted, prepared for the righteous. No eye has ever seen, no ear has ever heard of, and no human being has ever thought of the blessings that they will enjoy there (Qur’an;32:17). The Hell is the abode of punishment that Allah has prepared for the sinners and unbelievers: “(Qur’an;18:29).
The Islamic creed of confession (Shahada) is the verbal commitment and pledge to testify: “La ilaha Illallah , Muhammad-ur- Rasul-Allah” [None has the right to be worshipped but Allah and Muhammad (peace be upon him) is the Messenger of Allah].
The ‘Five Pillars of Faith’ are the physical manifestation of combination of faith and practices, which are also the forms of worship (Qur’an;2:21, 43:64, 69:52); the first two; Shahada & Salah (prayer 5 times a day) are daily, next two Zakat (Charity, Alms) ) & Saum (fasting, during month of Ramadan) are annual and the last Hajj (Pilgrimage to Makkah) is once in life if one can afford.
Some More Aspects of Islamic Faith and Beliefs:
Oneness of God: The God (Allah) is One and the Only One. He is not two in one or three in one. This means that Islam rejects the idea of trinity or such a unity of God which implies more than one God in one.
Oneness of mankind: People are created equal in front of the Law of God. There is no superiority for one race over another. God made us of different colors, nationalities, languages and beliefs so as to test who is going to be better than others. No one can claim that he is better than others. It is only God Who knows who is better. It depends on piety and righteousness.
Innocence of Man at Birth: Muslim believes that people are born free of sin. It is only after they reach the age of puberty and it is only after they commit sins that they are to be charged for their mistakes. No one is responsible for or can take the responsibility for the sins of others. However, the door of forgiveness through true repentance is always open.
State and Religion: Muslims believe that Islam is a total and a complete way of life. It encompasses all aspects of life. As such, the teachings of Islam do not separate religion from politics. As a matter of fact, state and religion are under the obedience of Allah through the teachings of Islam. Hence, economic and social transactions, as well as educational and political systems are also part of the teachings of Islam.
Jihad- Important Element of Faith (Ayman): Strenuous Efforts (Jihad) made sincerely for advancement of the cause of Allah, though not included among five pillars of Islam; but it is an important element of the Faith (ayman, Belief).(Qur’an;49:15). The aim of making Strenuous Efforts (Jihad) is three fold: The first and foremost is to; ‘Strive Against Selfish Desires’ (Nafs ammarah), to purify the heart, so that the faith (ayman) of Islam is deeply rooted in the heart, to become fully subservient to the commands of God and His Apostle Secondly, making strenuous efforts (Jihad) to convey the Last message of God (Islam) to the humanity(Dawah) called Bigger Jihad (Jihad Kabira)(Qur’an;25:52). Thirdly Jihad (warfare) is to be conducted by Islamic State to provide protection to Muslims and non Muslims against oppression. The specific word used exclusively for warfare is Qitaal (Qur’an;2:216-217) or Qatelu, wa-Qatalu (Qar’an;4 89-91). The warfare is to be conducted with in laid down Islamic principles. Killing of innocent people and creating mischief on earth (fisad fil ardh) for power and glory is not Jihad.
Muslims love the Prophet, his household; (Qur’an;33:6) and the Pious Companions of the Prophet (pbuh). It may not be appropriate for any believer to criticize them rather they deserve of beautiful praise. (Qur’an;7:42-43, 57:10, 9:100 & 59:10).
A Sinner Muslim: If a Muslim fails to perform some of his obligations and is remiss in practice or commits some such actions as are forbidden, yet he believes in the liability of all obligations and the impropriety of all unlawful deeds, he will continue to be a Muslim though he will be a sinner. [The concept of Takfeer i.e declaring a non-practicing Muslim, to be ‘apostate’ and liable to be killed; by some extremist groups, calling themselves as ‘True Muslims only’, is rejected by mainstream Islam.]
More over the Muslims believe in what is stated in the Holy Qur’an regarding the creation of the paradise, earth and man. His behaviour and conduct in everyday life should reflect such a belief. A Muslim will therefore accept and abide by the Holy Qur’an, the authenticity of which he has no doubt. it is a book of codes with which a Muslim can govern his daily life. He accepts what is declared to be lawful and refrains from what is forbidden. He acts on what it instructs, and abstains from what is not permitted. Other religions may be confined to their respective places of worship. Islam however is not confined to s the mosque. In fact its impact and influence pervades all places— the mosque, the home, the streets and government offices. It is a religion to be observed at times of war as well as peace. Islam is an unalienable factor in the life of every Muslim. He is guided by its teachings on every aspect of life. It informs him of what is lawful and what is forbidden.
All actions of a Muslim can be classified under one of the following five categories: Lawful, Recommended, Obligatory, Forbidden and Reprehensible. Whereas other religions may only include forms of worship and may not include politics and acquisition of knowledge that is not the case with Islam. Besides being a religion of worship, Islam also contains a set of civil and criminal codes of law; it includes international law, rules and regulations of administration, principles of ethics and the science of politics. You can open any book on Islamic Jurisprudence and you will find these topics discussed.
Worship in some religions may only take the form of prayer. But Islam includes every action done for the good of the people, with the intention of dedication to God in addition to prayer and fasting. If religion is thought to be separate from the realm of knowledge, then Islam can be described as a religion of learning – because the very first word of Divine Revelation was “Read” (Recite). It did not say, “Fight” nor did it say, “Accumulate money and possessions” or, “Renounce the world”. “Read” was the first word revealed in the Holy Qur’an, followed by a discourse on knowledge. The biggest gift God has granted to mankind is the gift of knowledge, knowledge of what man did not know. No other blessing can match it – be it in the form of wealth, physical strength or fame and glory.
It is necessary for every member of an Islamic society, with in his capability to acquire every area of knowledge needed. No other religion on earth except Islam considers the acquisition of knowledge as a religious duty. It therefore exhorts its followers to learn the sciences of chemistry, medicine, aviation, etc. Islam is also the religion of’ ‘riches’. God has described wealth as khair – ‘good’. But man’s attachment to wealth is described as follows: “And violent is he in his love of wealth.”(Qur’an;100:7). Muslims should therefore seek to be rich, but they should acquire their wealth lawfully, and this wealth should not become an obsession.
Every Muslim should be aware of another duty he should perform: to convey the Message of Islam to others, and to call others to the path of God with wisdom and beautiful preaching. He should not compel or force anyone to accept Islam: “Let there be no compulsion in religion.”(Qur’an;2:256). He should present the salient features of Islam in a way that appeals to both the head and the heart. Muslims should be living examples of the glorious principles of Islam. They SHOULD NOT present a perverted and distorted picture of Islam.
It must be kept in mind that Islam is not afraid of debate on any issue and it does not avoid discussions on intellectual plane. Islam has arguments and proofs for all matters. It also demands proof and argument form its opponents: “Say, “Bring forth your argument if you are telling the truth.”(Qur’an;2:111); “Whoever invokes another god besides Allah – about whose divinity he has no proof thereof..”(Qur’an;23:117). It is impossible to give proof against the Oneness of God. If such Muslim missionaries take up the task, the whole world will accept the religion of God [by choice not coercion]. For God has revealed this religion and He will preserve it: “We have without doubt, sent down the message; and We will assuredly guard it (from corruption).”(Qur’an;15:9). Islam will continue to exist, the future is for Islam (presently Islam is the fastest growing religion in Europe and North America, women are leading the men).
What Islam Expects From The Muslims?
1) To inhere in their best civilization and matchless culture in a manner that they surpass all the civilized nations of the world. They should be the most prosperous of all as far as the different branches of knowledge are concerned.
2) Invite the humanity towards Islam, by conveying the message with wisdom, peacefully, in a logical and convincing way. They should argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious.
3) Not to kill the innocent people of any faith (including own self, through suicide) except by law, they don’t have to create mischief on earth by creating anarchy or disturbing the peaceful coexistence.
4) Warfare against injustice and oppression and self defence is permissible, to be declared by the Islamic State but the rules lay down for its conduct by Shari’a (Islamic Law) be strictly adhered to. Those who surrender or do not fight or remain neutral are not to be disturbed. The prisoners are to protected and provided peace and security.
5) To use the right of retaliation to any injustice or oppression with equality, not exceeding the limits forgiveness and patience is however preferable.
6) To fulfill all bilateral and international accords (like UN Charter) for peace and stability of humanity. To treat all members of society with equality fairness and justice.
7) Non Muslims in the Islamic society enjoy complete protections and freedom to practice their faith. The places of worship of other religions are to be protected.
What is NOT demanded by Islam!
1) Islam does not demand form a Muslim to give up the world altogether.
2) Islam does not expect Muslims to be ignorant, lacking in knowledge of their faith and other branches of knowledge.
3) Nor does it require one to make the mosque a permanent abode, never to leave it.
4) Islam also does not insist that one should live in a cave and spend his whole life there —- Not at all.
[More on Islam: http://faithforum.wordpress.com , http://endeavour-peace.page.tl ]
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