About Islam: A Brief Introduction
Islam is a natural and complete way of life. It encourages one to give due attention to his relationship with his Creator (God). It teaches that people find true lasting happiness and peace through being close to God, following His guidance and performing good deeds.
Muslims constitute approximately one fifth of the world’s population, making Islam one of the largest religions. Belief in and worship of the One True God is the purpose of life and cornerstone of Islam.
The Arabic word “Islam” literally means “submission and surrender” to the One True God alone. It comes from the root word salama or peace, hence the complete definition for Islam is Peace through ‘submission and surrender’ to God. One who voluntarily surrenders to will of God is called a Muslim, who can be from any racial or ethnic background.
A distinguishing feature of Islam, unlike many other religions, is that it is not named after a person or tribe.
The 6 Aspects (Articles) of Belief
1. Belief in Allah
“Allah” is the unique Arabic name of The One True God. Allah has no rivals, partners, equals, children or parents. He is not like His creation, as nothing shares His divine essence and perfect attributes. Some of His names and attributes include: The Creator, The Most Merciful, The Most High, The All-Powerful, The Most Just, The All-Wise, The Sustainer and The All-Knowing.
He is the Creator and Sustainer of all, the One who has granted us countless blessings, such as our faculties of hearing, seeing and thinking, as well as the ability to walk, talk and be productive. He is the only true deity. As such, we should acknowledge, thank and worship Him alone by following His guidance.
It is rational to conclude that such a complex and balanced universe is not possible by any other than a powerful and intelligent being. It is therefore illogical to believe that the universe created itself or was the result of random or coincidental events. He created the universe with purpose.
2. Belief in the Angels
Angels are made from light, have allocated tasks and never disobey their Creator. Details about a few have been revealed, such as Gabriel, who delivers God’s message to the Prophets, and the Angel of Death, who takes the souls of people.
3. Belief in the Revealed Books
Allah sent divine revelation to His Messengers as a guidance and mercy to mankind. These include the Torah and Gospel as originally revealed to Moses and Jesus respectively, and the Quran as revealed to Muhammad (peace be upon them all).
The Quran is the literal word of God and the final revelation to all of mankind. There are many clear signs and miracles that it is from God, examples of which include:
- Contains a simple, pure and universal message which appeals to Man’s inherent beliefs about Almighty God.
- Contains a unique style of language that is universally known as the pinnacle of Arabic eloquence and linguistic beauty – yet the Quran was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) who was known, historically, to be illiterate.
- Includes prophecies
- Contains many scientific facts which have only been discovered recently despite being revealed over 1400 years ago.
- Free from any errors or contradictions.
- Preserved, word-for-word, since it was revealed in its original Arabic language (which is spoken today), unlike other scriptures which have been distorted, paraphrased, changed or lost.
The most rational explanation for the many unique and miraculous aspects of the Quran is that it can only be from God. Together with the authentic sayings and actions of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), it is the primary source of Islamic knowledge.
4. Belief in the Prophets
Muslims believe that thousands of Prophets were sent by Allah, at least one to every nation, to convey God’s revelation. These Prophets include Adam, Noah, Abraham, David, Joseph, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad (peace be upon them all). Their mission was to return people to the worship of the One True God, to serve as practical examples of how to obey God, and to guide people to the path of salvation. Prophets do not share in any part of God’s divinity, and any type of prayer or worship towards the Prophets, or to God through them, is strictly forbidden and considered a violation of God’s right to be worshipped alone.
– Prophet Jesus
Muslims believe that Jesus (peace be upon him) was an honorable prophet of God, born miraculously through his virgin mother Mary. He performed many miracles with the permission of God, such as healing the sick, curing the blind and speaking as a newborn defending his mother from accusations. Although Muslims respect and love Jesus, they do not worship him. He is not considered the son of God, nor part of a trinity, nor does he share in any of God’s perfect attributes. God says:
“It is not befitting for Allah to take a son; exalted is He! When he decrees an affair, He only says, ‘Be’ and it is.” Quran 19:35
– Prophet Muhammad
Muhammad (peace be upon him) was the final Prophet sent to all of mankind. He came with the Quran to demonstrate how its teachings should be applied, and was a perfect example of an honest, just, merciful, compassionate, truthful and brave human being. As with Jesus, Muslims do not worship Muhammad.
5. Belief in the Day of Judgement
The Day of Judgment is the inevitable event when each one of us will stand before our Creator and be questioned about our good and bad deeds. Every one of our actions will be accounted for, regardless of size.
On this momentous Day, Allah, the All-Just, will settle all matters fairly and no person will be wronged. Ultimate justice will be served. Everyone’s rights will be returned. All will be treated justly, by either the reward of Paradise, or the punishment of the Hellfire. Without a Day of Judgement, life would be grossly unfair, as not everyone receives justice in this world.
6. Belief in Divine Destiny
Allah knows everything from the past, the present, and anything that will occur in the future. He has power over all things – nothing occurs without His knowledge and permission.
Every person has been given the free will to choose between right and wrong, and will be held to account accordingly.
Free will does not contradict the fact that events can only occur with God’s knowledge and permission. Nor does it mean that God’s power over everything prevents or restricts people’s free will. God’s knowledge of people’s decisions does not mean that they are being forced to make such decisions, and God is not necessarily pleased with everything that He allows to occur.
The 5 Pillars of Worship
The foundation of a Muslim’s life.
1. The Declaration of Faith
The declaration of faith is bearing witness that there is no God worthy of worship except Allah, and Muhammad is His Messenger. It must be based on a sincere and firm belief in the heart, followed by action. With this declaration, a person rejects all false deities, asserts that Allah is the only One worthy of worship, and accepts His final Messenger, hence becoming a Muslim.
2. The Five Daily Prayers
Prayer establishes a personal and spiritual connection between Muslims and their Creator and is a constant and practical reminder of a person’s duty to obey God. The five prayers are prescribed once each at dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset and nightfall. Each prayer can take a few minutes to perform, consisting of recitation of the Quran, supplications, praising Allah, and various movements. In preparation for prayer, Muslims wash certain parts of their body, such as the face and hands, to ensure spiritual and physical purity.
3. The Annual Charity
The annual charity is an obligation on every Muslim who meets certain criteria (e.g. has wealth above a certain threshold). A mere 2.5% of one’s annual wealth is donated to those who are eligible, such as the poor, the needy or those in debt. It purifies one’s wealth and carries many benefits for both the giver and the receiver. One benefit is it reduces the gap between the rich and poor, ensuring everyone has their basic needs met.
4. The Annual Fasting
Every year during the month of Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn until sunset, abstaining from food, drink and sexual relations. It serves as a spiritual purification, nurtures patience and self-restraint, and provides many health benefits.
5. The Pilgrimage
Pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca, in Saudi Arabia, must be performed once in a person’s life, if they are physically and financially able. It occurs annually in the 12th month of the Islamic calendar, unifying people of every color, race, status and age, as they join in worship of the One True God. All pilgrims wear simple and similar clothing, which strip away distinctions of class and culture, so that all stand equal before God. This great journey consists of many components, including sacrifices, travelling and praying at various sites. Such an experience is life altering and humbles a person, making them more patient and thankful.
The Concept of Worship
Any action that Allah is pleased with.
Islam’s concept of worship is not restricted to only the five pillars. Worship is an all-inclusive term for any actions that are pleasing to Allah. Everyday activities can become acts of worship by purifying one’s intention and ensuring one’s actions are in line with God’s guidelines. Examples include smiling, being good to one’s neighbors, supporting one’s family, being honest, and even removing rubbish from the road.
It should be noted that Allah is not in need of anyone’s worship, rather, we are in need of Him and our worship is for our benefit.
The above-mentioned aspects of faith and acts of worship make up the essence of Islam. When practiced, Islam fulfils the spiritual, physical, psychological and social needs of all people, and is a practical and rational way of life. Furthermore, it is the only way of life which is accepted by God Almighty, and the only path that leads to everlasting Paradise.
“Whoever does righteousness, whether male or female, while he is a believer – We will surely cause him to live a good life, and We will surely give them their reward [in the Hereafter] according to the best of what they used to do.” Quran 16:97