Islam is the universal religion of more than one billion people from every race and nationality, and it is the fastest growing religion in the world today. Islam is a religion which guides its followers in every aspect of their lives, spiritually and practically: it is a way of life. Islam seeks to give dignity to man and a meaningful purpose to our lives on this earth, and to guide us in fulfilling that purpose by creating peace and harmony between ourselves, our Creator and our fellow human beings.
“Islam” and “Muslim”
“Islam” is an Arabic word meaning “submission”, “surrender”, “peace”, and all that goes with a due human subordination to the One true God. Islam is literally: “submission and surrender to God”. A “Muslim” is one who submits and surrenders to the will of God and follows His teachings and commandments.
Islam – God’s message to all the Prophets
Islam teaches that God is the source of all creation, and that human beings are the best of His creation. He communicates with us by sending Prophets who deliver God’s message. Muslims believe that the first Prophet was Adam, followed by a long line of Prophets sent to guide humanity. All the Prophets taught belief in the One God, upright human behaviour, and belief in the Hereafter and the accountability of all human beings. Thus Islam is not a new religion – it is in essence the same message and guidance which God sent to all His Prophets through the ages. It complements the teachings and is the culmination of the message sent by God to the Prophets of old – through Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus (peace be upon them all), and completed and perfected through Muhammad, the last Prophet sent by God (peace be upon him). The message which was revealed to Muhammad (peace be upon him) is Islam in its comprehensive, complete and final form.
“Say: We believe in Allah, and in what has been revealed to us and what was revealed to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob and the tribes, and in (the Books) given to Moses, Jesus, and the Prophets from their Lord; we make no distinction between one and another among them, and to Allah do we bow our will (in Islam).”(Noble Qur’an 3:84)
The Oneness of God
Islam is a strictly monotheistic religion. It teaches that there is only one God who is the origin and Creator of the universe. This is the foundation of Islam. The belief in one God means that man should not worship any person or material thing in this universe.
“Seek refuge in Allah. He is the One Who hears and knows all things. Among His Signs are the Night and the Day, and the Sun and the Moon. Adore not the sun and the moon, but adore Allah, Who created them, if it is Him you wish to serve.” (Noble Qur’an 41:36,37)
Who is Allah?
“Allah” is the Arabic word for “God”. It is the same word that Arabic-speaking Christians use for God; in an Arabic Bible you will see the word “Allah” being used where “God” is used in English. It is the personal name of the One true God. Nothing else can be called Allah. In English translation the word “Allah” literally means “The God”, or “The One true God”. In Arabic the word has a deep and religious meaning – “The One Who deserves all worship”, containing within it the pure monotheistic message of Islam and the Oneness of God.
To a Muslim, “Allah” is the Almighty, Creator and Sustainer of the Universe, Who is similar to nothing and nothing is comparable to Him. He is One and He has no equal. He is the one who is adored in worship, who created all that exists, who has priority and superiority over all creation, who is hidden and manifest, who confounds and is beyond all human perception and understanding.
“Say: He is Allah, the One and Only; Allah, the Eternal, Absolute; He begets not, nor is He begotten; and there is none like unto Him.” (Noble Qur’an, Chapter 112)
One God, One Humanity
Faith in the Oneness and Sovereignty of God causes man to reflect upon the Creation and to be aware of the meaningfulness of the Universe and of his place in it. Belief in one God for all humanity promotes the sense of brotherhood and equity in human society, and that we look upon all humanity as one family – all equally related to God in the same way, irrespective of colour, class, race or nationality, under the One true God, Creator of all. Islam rejects the idea of a chosen people; faith in Allah and good actions are the only way to attain God’s favour and good pleasure. Thus a direct relationship is established with Allah, open to all mankind.
Jesus in Islam
Muslims respect and venerate Jesus Christ (peace be upon him). They consider him to be one of God’s greatest messengers to mankind. The Qur’an re-affirms his miraculous birth and his miraculous abilities, and his mother Mary is regarded as one of the most pure and exalted women of all creation. The Qur’an says:
“Behold! the angels said: ‘O Mary! Allah has chosen you and purified you – chosen you above the women of all nations. (Noble Qur’an 3:42)
“Behold! the angels said: ‘O Mary! Allah gives you the glad tidings of a Word from Him: his name will be Christ Jesus, the son of Mary, held in honour in this world and the Hereafter, and of (the company of) those nearest to Allah.” (Noble Qur’an 3:45)
Muhammad (pbuh), the Final Messenger of God
God gave His message one last time to the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), who came after the Prophet Jesus (pbuh), to complete and perfect His guidance for the whole of mankind. The Qur’an is the last revealed word of Allah, and as such affirms and completes the total process of revelation which has come from the Divine Source for the human race.
Muhammad (peace be upon him) was born in the year 570 A.D. in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. He came from a noble Arab family, and he was a very honest and trustworthy man. He was also very pious and he detested the moral decadence of his society at the time. He received the first revelation at the age of forty, when God spoke to him, through the angel Gabriel, and commissioned him to proclaim the religion of Islam publicly. When he started preaching Islam, he and his followers were persecuted and had to endure severe hardships. He was therefore commanded to leave Mecca and to migrate to Medinah, another city in Saudi Arabia. The Holy Qur’an was revealed to him gradually, in parts, over a period of 23 years and committed to memory and writing by his followers under his supervision during his lifetime. He died at the age of 63, having fulfilled his Prophethood and his mission. His life is the perfect example for all human beings
THE NOBLE QUR’AN
Qur’an literally means “recitation”. It contains 114 chapters (called surahs). The Qur’an contains God’s guidance for mankind, in teachings and commandments which are valid for all times, all places and all peoples. It is the basic source of Islamic teachings and laws, and deals with issues which affect human beings in all aspects of their earthly lives: – morality, upright human conduct, worship, reflection on Allah’s creation, history of humanity, knowledge, wisdom, the human relationship and the man/God relationship, as well as containing comprehensive teachings on systems of social justice, economics, politics, legislation, jurisprudence, law and international relations.
The original and complete text of the Qur’an is available to everyone in Arabic, the language in which it was revealed. Translations of the meaning of the Qur’an are available in many languages, making it accessible to non-Arabic speakers also, though no translation can do full justice to the beauty, eloquence, depth and meaning of the original Arabic.
Hadith: These are the teachings, sayings and actions of the Prophet (pbuh), meticulously reported and collected by his devoted companions. The hadith explain and elaborate the Qur’anic verses, and after the Qur’an are the second source of Islamic teaching used by Muslims.
The Concept of Worship
Islam does not teach or accept mere ritualism. It emphasises intention and action. To worship Allah is to know Him and love Him, to act upon His laws in every aspect of one’s life, to remember Him and to reflect on His Creation, to enjoin goodness and forbid evil, to practice kindness, charity and justice and to serve Him by serving one’s fellow human beings. Every action which is done with the intention and awareness that it fulfils the will of Allah is considered an act of worship in Islam. Islam seeks to implant in man’s heart the strong conviction and consciousness that his every thought and action are known by Allah, Who sees him at all times and in all places.
The Status of Human Beings in Islam
The Purpose of Life
Our life on this earth has a specific purpose; it is not the result of nature’s accident, nor is it a punishment for eating the fruit of the forbidden tree. We are here according to God’s plan, and the life of this world is a trial and a test; it is a chance to prove ourselves as deserving of the eternal blissful life in the Hereafter. God did not create us merely for a few years of this life. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, “You have not been created to perish; on the contrary, you have been created for eternal life.”
According to Islam, the final destination of mankind is the life hereafter. Muslims believe that at the end of time all human beings will be resurrected to account for their deeds and what they did in this life. The life in the Hereafter will be an eternal life. However, whether it will be blissful or full of sorrow depends on how we spend our present life.
“He Who created Death and Life, that He may try which of you is best in deed; and He is the Exalted in Might, Oft-forgiving.” (Noble Qur’an 67:2)
Islam teaches that human beings are born sinless, and no child inherits or carries the burden of his or her ancestors sins. Although Islam teaches that God has predetermined the span of our life and the time of our death, we each have within us the potential to choose to do good or evil in our lives, and we are each responsible and accountable for our own actions; no-one is responsible for or can take the responsibility for the sins of others. Each human being is born with a pure conscience which can absorb and accept the true message of God, and it is only the social and familial influences which take a person away from God’s message.
Islam and Human Rights
Islam teaches that human beings have a moral obligation to live in harmony with one another. Islam also recognises and accords rights to all human beings regardless of race, colour or religion. Islam requires its followers to show respect and tolerance even to those who do not share their faith. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said: “God has no mercy on one who shows no mercy to others.” Freedom of conscience is guaranteed by the Qur’an itself, which states:
“Let there be no compulsion in religion” (Noble Qur’an: 2:256).
Islamic law stipulates that Muslims should protect the status of minorities. 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 encourages Muslims to respect the rights of all living things, and to be conscious of the environment and not cause harm to nature.
The Universal Religion
Islam is a rational and practical religion. The unity of God, the Prophethood of Muhammad (pbuh) and the concept of life after death are the basic articles of faith. There is no hierarchy of priests or clergy and there are no complicated rites and rituals. Islam is for everyone – everybody may approach the Qur’an directly and translate its teachings and values into practice in one’s life. Islam stands for the middle path and the goal of producing a moral human being in the service of a just society. Islam guides towards a better and complete life, glorifying in all its phases Allah, the Almighty Creator.
“Our Lord! Let not our hearts deviate now after You have guided us, but grant us mercy from Your Presence; for You are the Grantor of bounties without measure.”(Noble Qur’an 3:8)