Intro to Islam
Introduction to Islam
"ISLAM" is derived from the Arabic root salaama, which means (peace, purity, submission and obedience). In the religious sense, Islam means submission to the will of God and obedience to His law.
Everything and every phenomenon in the world, other than man and jinn (another creation of God) is administered totally by God-made laws. They are obedient to God and submissive to His laws, i.e. they are in the state of Islam. Man possesses the quality of intelligence and choice, thus he is invited to submit to the good will of God and obey His law, i.e. become a Muslim. Submission to the good will of God, together with obedience to His beneficial law, i.e. becoming a Muslim, is the best safeguard for man's peace and harmony.
Islam dates back to the age of Adam, and its message has been conveyed to man by God's Prophets and Messengers including Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad. Islam's message has been restored and enforced in the last stage of the religious evolution by God's last Prophet and Messenger, Muhammad.
The word ‘Allah’ in the Arabic language means God, or more accurately, The One and Only Eternal God, Creator of the Universe, Lord of all lords, King of all kings, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful. The word ‘Allah’ to mean God is also used by Arabic- speaking Jews and Christians.
PILLARS OF ISLAM
There is no god worthy of worship except God and Muhammad is His messenger. This declaration of faith is called the Shahada, a simple formula which all the faithful pronounce. In Arabic, the first part is la ilaha illa Llah - 'there is no god except God'; ilah (god) can refer to anything which we may be tempted to put in place of God - wealth, power, and the like. Then comes illal lallah: 'except God', the source of all Creation. The second part of the Shahada is Muhammadun rasu lullah: 'Muhammad is the messenger of God.' A message of guidance has come through a man like ourselves.
Muslims perform five obligatory prayers each day. The prayers are direct link between the worshiper and God. Prayers are said at dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset and nightfall, and thus determine the rhythm of the entire day. 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. 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. 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 are struck by the centrality of prayers in daily life. By reciting "The Opening", the first chapter of the Qur'an, as required in all prayers, the worshipper stands before God, thanks and praises Him, and asks Him for guidance along the Straight Path. In addition, the daily prayers remind Muslims to give thanks for Allah's blessings and that Islam takes precedence over all other concerns, thereby revolving their life around Allah (God) and submitting to His will. Prayer also serves as a formal method of remembering Allah, or (dhikr) in Arabic. From the Qur'an: "The true believers are those who feel fear in their hearts (of the consequences of violating the commands of God) when God is mentioned. And when His Revelations are recited to them, they find their faith strengthened. They do their best and then put their trust in their Lord." [The Qur'an 8:2]
ALMSGIVING OR CHARITY (Zakat)
One of the most important principles of Islam is that all things belong to God, and that wealth is therefore held in trust by human beings. The word zakat 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. The obligation of giving zakat (charity) is mentioned several times in the Quran: "And be steadfast in prayer and regular in charity: And whatever good ye send forth for your souls before you, ye shall find it with Allah. For Allah sees Well all that ye do". [The Qur’an 2:110] “The alms are only for the poor and the needy, and those who collect them, and those whose hearts are to be reconciled, and to free the captives and the debtors, and for the cause of Allah, and (for) the wayfarers; a duty imposed by Allah. Allah is knower, Wise.” [The Quran 9:60] Zakat (charity) is given mostly to the poor. Each Muslim calculates his or her own zakat individually. For most purposes, this usually is a yearly payment of 2.5% of one's capital other than needs. A person must also have reached a certain threshold of wealth in order to become obliged to pay the zakat. Those who do not reach this threshold are the ones who receive the zakat (charity).
FASTING IN THE MONTH OF RAMADAN (Sawm)
Every year during the month of Ramadan, Muslims fast from first light until sundown, abstaining during this time from food, drink, and sexual relations with one’s spouse. It is mentioned in the Qur'an: "O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become Al-Muttaqun (the pious ones)". [The Qur'an 2:183] The ultimate goal of fasting is greater God-consciousness. The Qur’anic word is taqwa( God consciousness), signifying a state of constant awareness of God. From this awareness a person should be able to gain discipline, self-restraint and a greater incentive to do good and avoid wrong. Muslims welcome Ramadan as an opportunity for self-evaluation, spiritual improvement and growth. 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.
The annual pilgrimage to Makkah – called the Hajj - is an obligation only for those who are physically and financially able to perform it. In the Quran, Allah (God) states: "The first House (of worship) appointed for men was that at Bakkah (Makkah); full of blessing and of guidance for all kinds of beings: In it are Signs Manifest; (for example), the station of Abraham; Whoever enters it attains security; Pilgrimage thereto is a duty Men owe to Allah – Those who can afford the journey; but if any deny faith, Allah stands not in need of any creatures". [The Qur'an 3:96-7] 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). About two million people go to Makkah each year for the Hajj from every corner of the globe. 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 are of Abrahamic origin, include circling the Ka'bah seven times, and going seven times between the mountains of Safa and Marwa as Hagar did during her search for water. Then the pilgrims stand together on the wide plain of Arafat and join in prayers for God's forgiveness, in what is often thought of as a preview of the Last Judgment. In previous centuries the Hajj was an arduous undertaking. Today, however, Saudi Arabia provides millions of people with water, modern transport, and the most up-to-date health facilities. The close of the Hajj is marked by a festival, the Eid al-Adha, which is celebrated with prayers and the exchange of gifts in Muslim communities everywhere. This, and the Eid al-Fitr, a feast-day commemorating the end of Ramadan, are the two main holidays in Islam.
In Islam, there are 6 basic beliefs. They are called the "6 Pillars of Iman (Faith)"
Belief in Allah (God)
A Muslim believes in ONE GOD, Supreme and Eternal, Infinite and Mighty, Merciful and Compassionate, Creator and Provider. God has no father or mother, no son or daughter. None is equal to Him. He is God of all mankind, not of a special tribe or race. God is High and Supreme but He is very near to the pious thoughtful believers; He answers their prayers and helps them. He loves the people who love Him and forgives their sins. He gives them peace, happiness, knowledge and success. God is the Loving and the Provider, the Generous, and the Benevolent, the Rich and the Independent, the Forgiving and the Clement, the Patient and the Appreciative, the Unique and the Protector, the Judge and the Peace. God's attributes are mentioned in the Qur'an. God creates in man the mind to understand, the soul and conscience to be good and righteous, the feelings and sentiments to be kind and humane. If we try to count His favors upon us, we cannot, because they are countless. In return for all the great favors and mercy, God does not need anything from us, because He is Needless and Independent. God asks us to know Him, to love Him and to enforce His law for our benefit and our own good.
Belief in Messengers and Prophets of God
A Muslim believes in all the Messengers and Prophets of God without any discrimination. All messengers were mortals, human beings endowed with Divine revelations and appointed by God to teach mankind. The Holy Quran mentions the names of 25 messengers and prophets and states that there are others. Among them are Adam, the first Prophet, Noah, Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad, the last of the Prophets (peace be upon them all). The key message brought by all Prophets was the same; to believe in One God and not to associate partners with Him, to stay away from sins and to lead a life devoted to earning God’s pleasure.
Belief in the Revelations and the Qur'an
A Muslim believes in all scriptures and revelations of God as revealed in their original forms. Muslims believe in the original scriptures that were given to previous messengers; for example David received the Zabur (Psalms), Moses the Torah and Jesus the Injeel (Gospel). The Qur'an is the last testament in the series of divine revelations from God. It comprises the unaltered and direct words of God, revealed through the Angel Gabriel, to the final Prophet, Muhammad (pbuh) some 1400 years ago. Muslims recite and turn to it for guidance in all aspects of their lives. The Qur'an is unique because it is the only revealed book that exists today in the precise form and content in which it was originally revealed. The Qur'an is unrivalled in its recording and preservation. The astonishing fact about this scripture is that it has remained completely unchanged over the past fourteen centuries, a fact that is attested to by both non-Muslim and Muslim scholars alike. There are no versions of the Qur'an and every copy in the world remains identical, word for word in its original language, Arabic. Muslims to this day continue to emphasize the importance of memorizing the Qur'an word by word, as a whole or in part, recognizing that it is the Speech of God and not a book written by Muhammad (peace be upon him) himself.
Belief in the Angels
Angels are a creation of God. They are purely spiritual and splendid beings that require no food or drink or sleep. They have no physical desires or material needs. Like other creations of God, Angels spend their time worshiping God. In contrast to human beings, Angels do not have free Will - they can only obey God and do not have the ability to disobey Him. Each Angel is charged with a certain duty. Angels cannot be seen by the naked eyes, but can and have appeared in human form by God’s command. Among the angels mentioned in the Qur'an is the Angel Gabriel (or Jibril in Arabic), who Muslim believe was responsible for revealing God’s word to the prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), and is the greatest of all of the angels.
Belief in the Day of Judgment
A Muslim believes in the Day of the Judgment. This world as we know it will come to an end, and the dead will rise to stand for their final and fair trial. On that day, all men and women from Adam to the last person will be resurrected from the state of death. Everything we do, say, make, intend, and think are accounted for and kept in accurate records. They are brought up on the Day of Judgment. People with good records will be generously rewarded and warmly welcomed to Paradise. People with bad records will be fairly punished and cast into Hell. The real nature of Heaven and Hell are known to Allah only, but they are described by Allah in man's familiar terms in the Qur'an. If some good deeds that are not fully appreciated or credited in this life, they will receive full compensation and be widely acknowledged on the Day of Judgment. Likewise, if some people who commit sins, neglect God and indulge in immoral activities seem superficially successful and prosperous in this life, absolute justice will be done to them on the Day of Judgment. The time of the Day of Judgment is known by God alone.
Belief in Predestination
A Muslim believes in the ultimate Knowledge and Power of God to plan and execute His plans. God is Wise, Just and Loving, and whatever He does must have a good motive, although we may fail sometimes to understand it fully. The believer should have strong faith in God, recognizing that their own knowledge is limited and their thinking is based on individual consideration. In contrast, the Knowledge of God is limitless and He plans on a universal basis. Man should think, plan and make sound choices and then put their trust in God. If things happen as they want they should praise God. If things do not happen as they want they should still praise God, recognizing that He knows best what is good for the affairs of mankind.