بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim
In the name of God (Allah), the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.
Basic About Islam
Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world. Indeed, one out of every five persons on this earth is a Muslim. There are nearly 3 million Muslims living in United Kingdom and the number is growing. Yet, unfortunately, Islam is also the most misunderstood religion. Muslims live in different parts of the world ranging from China to Argentina, Russia to South Africa. The country with the largest Muslim population is Indonesia.
Islam means submission to the one God. It is strictly a monotheistic religion since it restricts worship to the one supreme Lord who is the Originator and Creator of the universe. Peace (the root from which the word Islam is derived) is attained through complete obedience to the commandments of God, for God is the source of all peace. Muslims are those who believe in one God and in Muhammad as the final Prophet of God. They devote their lives to the service of God, the Creator and Sustainer of the universe.
Islam teaches that God (called Allah in Arabic) is the source of all creation and that human beings are the best of His creation. He communicates by inspiring them towards goodness and by sending Prophets who deliver God’s message. Muslims believe that the first Prophet was Adam followed by a long chain of Prophets to guide humanity. The Qur’an, according to Muslim belief, is the word of God revealed to Prophet Muhammad. It mentions many other previous Prophets like Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Ismael, Moses, Jacob, Joseph and Jesus. All the Prophets brought the same message, which are belief in one God, upright human conduct and belief in the accountability of human acts at the end of time.
Belief in One God
Monotheism, belief in one God, is the most important and foundational concept in Islam.Muslims believe in one God who created the universe and has power over everything within it. He is unique and exalted above everything He creates, and His greatness cannot be compared to His creation. Furthermore, He is the only one deserving of any worship and the ultimate purpose of all creation is to submit to Him. The Islamic understanding of God is distinct from all other religions and beliefs in various respects since it is based on a pure and clear understanding of monotheism. This essentially captures the concept of God in Islam, which will be further elaborated in this pamphlet.
Muslims call their God as Allah. This is a universal name for God and does not refer to an exclusively ‘Islamic’ God. Interestingly, this name is related to the Aramaic and Hebrew names for God, Allaha and Elohim. Therefore, Allah is simply the Arabic name for God which affirms that He is One singular God with no partners or equals. The name Allah cannot be pluralized or limited to a specific gender, which establishes that God is One and that He is unique from everything He creates. Muslims continue to use this original Arabic name for God (Allah) since it perfectly expresses His unique qualities.
God is the Creator and the Sustainer of the universe who created everything for a reason. Muslims believe that He created humankind with a simple purpose – to worship Him. He sent messengers to guide people in fulfilling this purpose. Some of these messengers include Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad, peace be upon all of them. They all taught a consistent message about God by affirming His greatness as the Creator and guiding people to worship Him alone. This basic concept has always resonated with people’s natural understanding of God.
When the final prophet, Muhammad, peace be upon him (pbuh), was asked about God, the answer came directly from God in the holy book of Muslims, the Quran (also spelled ‘Koran’):
“Say, ‘He is God the One, God the eternal. He begot no one nor was He begotten. No one is comparable to Him.’” [112:1-4]
This is a clear statement by God describing Himself to humanity without any room for confusion. God is One and is exalted above everything He creates and He is capable over all things.
Fully accepting the oneness of God is to accept that He is distinct from everything else. It would not suit God’s majesty and glory to associate the limited attributes of His creation to Him because He is not restricted in any way, while His creation is. He is the First with no beginning and the Last with no end. Everything in the universe was created by His will. He is not confined by space or time and He is the only One who is in control and provides for His creation.
“He is God: there is no god other than Him. It is He who knows what is hidden as well as what is in the open, He is the Lord of Mercy, the Giver of Mercy. He is God: there is no god other than Him, the Controller, the Holy One, Source of Peace, Granter of Security, Guardian over all, the Almighty, the Compeller, the Truly Great; God is far above anything they consider to be His partner. He is God: the Creator, the Originator, the Shaper. The best names belong to Him. Everything in the heavens and earth glorifies Him: He is the Almighty, the Wise.” [Quran, 59:22-24]
“God: there is no god but Him, the Ever Living, the Ever Watchful. Neither slumber nor sleep overtakes Him. All that is in the heavens and in the earth belongs to Him. Who is there that can intercede with Him except by His leave? He knows what is before them and what is behind them, but they do not comprehend any of His knowledge except what He wills. His throne extends over the heavens and the earth; it does not weary Him to preserve them both. He is the Most High, the Tremendous.” [Quran, 2:255]
The primary pillar of Islamic belief clearly states that there is nothing worthy of worship except God. Associating partners with God or attributing qualities of lesser beings to Him is considered to be the greatest sin in Islam.
In the past, this often took the form of idol worship or praying to multiple lesser gods. Although this is less common now, the current era has replaced many of the physical ‘idols’ of the past with other contemporary ‘gods.’ Many people today allow passions like entertainment, drugs, relationships or material objects to become the center of their lives. They become so consumed with these things that they submit to whatever will allow them to fulfill their desires. For example, if a drug addict allows their addiction to control their actions, beliefs, feelings, and behaviors, causing them to risk their personal safety and the safety of others, that drug has essentially become their god. Likewise, if another person puts a loved one before God by obeying that person even if that causes them to transgress against God’s commands, their loved one has taken precedence over God.
Islam teaches that people should completely submit only to God as He is the only One worthy of their worship. He is the Creator and Sustainer of the universe and everything in it belongs to Him. The Quran points out the faulty thinking of those who worship other than God:
“‘How can you worship things you carve with your own hands, when it is God who has created you and all your handiwork?’” [37:95-96]
The Believer’s Surrender
In order to be a true believer, one must believe in the absolute oneness of God, as the only Creator, Preserver and Nourisher of everything. However, this belief in the true characteristics of God is not the sole condition of true faith; one must also acknowledge that God is the only one who deserves to be worshipped. His commands and guidelines for how to live one’s life should always take precedence over the commands of anything He created. Indeed, He guides humanity to what is best for them in this life and the hereafter and He is All-Knowing and All-Wise.
Having embraced this understanding of God, one should constantly have faith in Him, and should remain steadfast on the truth. When true faith enters a person’s heart, it positively impacts their outlook and behaviour. The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said, “Faith is that which resides firmly in the heart and which is proved by actions.”
One of the striking effects of faith is a feeling of gratitude towards God. Believers love God and are grateful to Him for the blessings He gives them. They are aware of the fact that their good deeds will never be equal to His divine favors upon them so they are always striving to please Him. Furthermore, sincere believers in God accept that any hardships they face are part of the greater ‘test of life.’ They are patient through times of difficulty and turn to God for assistance. A beautiful characteristic of the believers is that they accept everything God wills and continuously remember Him in all aspects of life.
Anyone who denies the basic truth of the existence of God is considered ungrateful and a disbeliever. On many occasions in the Quran, God reminds humanity of the disbelievers’ clear misguidance and His complete power over everything:
“Behold! Verily to Allah belong all creatures, in the heavens and on earth. What do they follow who worship as His “partners” other than Allah? They follow nothing but fancy, and they do nothing but lie.” [10:66]
“It is God who has given you the night in which to rest and the day in which to see. God is truly bountiful to people, but most people do not give thanks. Such is God your Lord, the Creator of all things: there is no god but Him. How can you be so deluded? [40:61-62]
In the end, we must understand that our belief or disbelief in God does not affect Him in any way. Believing in Him, worshipping Him, and following His commands will only benefit us because we are in need of His blessings, favors and mercy. On the other hand, He does not need us because He is the Self-Sufficient Creator. However, it is never too late for a person to turn back to God, seeking His guidance and forgiveness by submitting to Him.
“Say: “O my Servants who have transgressed against their souls! Despair not of the Mercy of Allah: for Allah forgives all sins: for He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. Turn ye to our Lord (in repentance) and bow to His (Will), before the Penalty comes on you: after that ye shall not be helped. And follow the best of (the courses) revealed to you from your Lord, before the Penalty comes on you – of a sudden while ye perceive not!” [Quran, 39:53-55]
If you agree with the basic concepts, you may still ask why Islam stands out from other religions. The reason is simply that Islam is the final and complete way of life that God revealed to guide humanity. Previous divine messages (such as the ones taught by Abraham, Moses and Jesus) have been lost or altered throughout time. God chose to send Muhammad (pbuh) to deliver His final message, which maintains the core teachings of all the previous revelations. The book sent to Muhammad (pbuh) was the Quran, which was revealed as guidance for all of humanity. Just like the Torah sent to Moses and the Gospel sent to Jesus, the Quran is a guidebook teaching us how to worship God in the purest manner and thereby achieve our purpose in life. The Quran is unique because it has remained preserved in its exact and original form for more than 1,400 years!!
Islam is not a new way of life; rather, it is the final message, which upholds the same essential beliefs that God sent to humanity through all of His messengers. Through this message, God calls on each individual to lead a conscientious life by drawing close to Him and to remain cognizant of their final accountability in front of the one and only God.
“Has the time not come for those who have believed that their hearts should become humbly submissive at the remembrance of Allah and what has come down of the truth?” [Quran, 57:16]
Islam is the final religion revealed to human beings through the last Prophet who was called Muhammad. He was born in Mecca (in Saudi Arabia) in the year 570 A.D. Muhammad was a very truthful and honest person. He was also very pious and detested the moral decadence of his society. No wonder why Prophet Muhammad listed as the most influential person in history as list by Michael H. Hart in his book, The 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History At the age of forty, God asked him, through the angel Gabriel, to proclaim the religion of Islam publicly. God’s message to humanity was delivered in the Qur’an which was revealed to Muhammad. The Qur’an, which is the holy book for Muslims, contains 114 chapters (called Surah). Muslims believe that Quran is the pure word of God, unadulterated over 14 centuries. It deals with issues that affect human beings in their earthly lives; issues like piety, upright human conduct, worship, the creation of a just and virtuous society and the practice of ethics.
The Teachings of Islam
Islam teaches that human beings are born pure and sinless. No one is responsible for, or can take responsibility for the sins of others. The doors of forgiveness are always open for those who repent sincerely. God continuously reminds us in the Qur’an of His infinite mercy and compassion. Muslims are enjoined to maintain inner spiritual purity through constant remembrance and prayer to God. Islam balances the spiritual dimension by emphasizing human responsibility. Human beings are created with a purpose. Attainment of piety is but one dimension of such purpose; playing an active role in the creation of a just society is another. Because Muslims attach importance to what happens in this world, they have made substantial contributions to the development of science, medicine, mathematics, physics, astronomy, geography and literature.
Muslims like Avicenna and Averroes have played major roles in the advancement of science in the West. The first university in the world was established by Imam Jafar Al-Sadiq in Madina, Arabia. Many crucial systems such as the Arabic numerals, algebra, the first map of the globe and navigational maps were developed by Muslims and adopted by the medieval Europeans.
Apart from human responsibility, Islam also teaches human accountability. The final destination of human beings is the hereafter. Muslims believe that, at the end of time, all human beings will be resurrected to account for their deeds. Those who have performed righteous deeds will be rewarded with eternal bliss in heaven and those who have performed evil acts will be punished in hell.
Islam and War
The concept of jihad (wrongly translated as holy war) refers to the duty of Muslims to struggle for their faith and the welfare of the Muslim community. The Quran does not permit aggression against anyone and Prophet Muhammad propagated his message in a peaceful manner. Warfare is permitted only in self-defence. However, it must be noted that people only resort to violence when their basic human rights are violated and when all attempts at peaceful settlement are thwarted.
Islam and Human Rights
Islam teaches that human beings have a moral obligation to live in harmony with one another.Islam also recognizes and accords rights to all human beings regardless of race, color or creed. Islam requires its followers to show respect and tolerance even to those who do not share their faith. Prophet Muhammad said: “God has no mercy on one who shows no mercy to others”.
Freedom of conscience is guaranteed by the Qur’an itself. Islamic law stipulates that Muslims should protect the status of minorities. It states:
“There is no compulsion in religion” [2:256]
Therefore the life and property of all citizens in an Islamic state are considered sacred, whether a person is a Muslim or not. Because of this, non-Muslim places of worship have survived and flourished all over the Muslim world. Islam further encourages Muslims to respect the rights of all living things. Therefore, Muslims are required to be conscious of the environment and are not allowed to cause harm to nature.
It is important to realize that far from being extremists and fanatics, Muslims are peaceful and law abiding citizens of the countries in which they live. This stance is derived directly from the Qur’an which states:
“O human beings, We have created you from one male and female (Adam & Eve), and we have created you as different tribes and nations so that you may know each other” [49:13]
Islam and Women
Muslim women have all the rights of their male counterparts. Islam granted full rights to women fourteen hundred years ago. Muslim women may own and dispose property; they may work, exercise voting powers and exercise numerous other rights freely without constraints. More so, Muslim women cannot be forced to marry against their will.
To preserve chastity, respect and moral values in society, Muslim men and women are required to dress in a manner which is considered modest and dignified. Women are asked to cover their hair and wear loose clothing. The diversity of female dress in some Muslim countries is often the expression of local customs.
Since Islam is a universal religion, it is easy to become a Muslim. One has to believe and affirm that “There is no god but God and that Muhammad is the Messenger of God”.
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