Monday, February 9, 2009

What is Islam?

By Ahmad Darwish Alshaykh

IN THE NAME OF ALLAH, THE MERCIFUL, THE MOST MERCIFUL

FROM MUHAMMAD THE MESSENGER OF ALLAH, TO HERACLIUS: THE GREATEST OF ROMANS.

Peace be upon those who follow Divine Guidance. I therefore invite you to embrace Islam, surrender to Allah to be in peace. Allah will doubly reward you, but if you turn away the sin of the Arians will rest upon you.

“‘People of the Book, (Jews and Christians), let us come to a common word between us and you that we will worship none except Allah, that we will associate none with Him, and that none of us take others for lords besides Allah.’ If they turn away, say: ‘Bear witness that we are Muslims (those have surrendered to Him)’.” Koran 3:64


The Prophets of Allah mentioned in the Holy Koran

Muhammad, Jesus, John, Zachariah, Elisha, Ellias, Jonah, Ezekiel, Job, Solomon, David, Aaron, Moses, Shuaib, Joseph, Jacob, Isaac, Ishmael, Lot, Abraham, Salih, Hood, Idris, Noah and Adam

To the reader:
First of all we would like to thank you for taking the time gain a better understanding of Islam which is the religion of absolute submission to the Creator of mankind and prophets alike, Allah.

We sincerely hope that you will benefit from this authentic introduction to Islam, and that it may deepen your knowledge and increase your interest.

People such as yourself with inquiring minds invariably have families and friends of similar inclination, and we invite you to give them a copy of this booklet.
The Mosque of the Internet team

Welcome!

Everything seems to be turned upside down these days. Crazy things are happening all over the world, we are fed with partial information, misinformation and so on, that many of us find ourselves in a state of complex ignorance, that is we are ignorant that we are ignorant and do not know the whole truth through no fault of our own, and we form our opinions accordingly.

This brief booklet presents Islam in its true form and we stress that it is not that of the fanatical Saudi Wahabi cult, responsible, since its inception for terrorism and the murder of many innocent people as well as Muslims. Their actions are totally against the principals of Islam and Islam rejects and condemns their actions. Islam is the religion of peace, brotherhood, and tolerant co-existence among all mankind, not just amongst its followers.

The foremost principal of Islam is the belief in the Oneness of God, the Creator of all, who has no partners, who is the sender of the Prophets to whom he gave His guidance, who is the sender of the last prophet, Prophet Muhammad who was sent for all mankind and not to one nation as were the missions of previous prophets. Praise and peace be upon all the prophets of Allah.

Many people have the inherent desire for guidance. However, in this complicated, fast moving technological society, the pace of life is so consuming that one is soon distracted from his/her search. New religions are born almost every day only to fade into oblivion soon after.

Many of us try to do good, but how many times has it turned out to be the opposite? We have all heard the phrase, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. So what are we to do? Without the correct guidance we are going to keep falling into the same error time and time again.

Islam addresses each and every aspect of our life from conception to death. It is a complete religion, both spiritually and materialistically that shows us the right path to take, and Allah, the Arabic pronoun for God, confirms this in the opening verses of chapter two in His Holy Book, the Koran “That is the (Holy) Book, where there is no doubt. It is a guidance for the cautious.”

Muslims are no in doubt that the Arabic Koran recited today is the same as it was when it was first revealed to Prophet Muhammad because Allah in His Mercy promises in the Koran to protect this, His Final Word from alteration. The Koran contains guidance for every age up until the end of time and contains miraculous signs that await discovery in the appropriate centuries. One such sign that awaited discovery was the developmental stages of the fetus in the womb. This process only became known to physicians recently, many centuries after the revelation of the Koran, and it is impossible that it would have been known at the time of the sending down of the Holy Koran.

The Koran found in today’s book stores can be compared to the first copies ever to be written down, such as the one in Bukhara, USSR, there is no difference between them. This in itself is a miracle as rabbis and priest alike admit their books have been, for one reason or another, subjected to alteration and/or parts deleted over the passage of time. Allah refers to the alterations in the Koran saying: “Some Jews tampered with the words (altering) their places saying: ‘We heard and we disobey,’ and ‘hear, without hearing,’ and ‘observe us’ twisting with their tongues traducing religion ….” Koran 4:46

The Gospel given to Prophet Jesus by Allah is no longer found in the New Testament, what remains, for the most part, are the teachings of Paul who was not a prophet.

Islam is not a new religion. It is the completion of teachings of Prophets Abraham, Moses and Jesus, all of whom preached that God is One and has no partners. It is tolerant and respectful of all other heavenly religions and their followers who share the belief in the One and only God. The Holy Koran teaches: "There is no compulsion in religion. Righteousness is now distinct from error. He who disbelieves in the idol and believes in Allah has grasped the firmest tie that will never break, Allah is Hearing, Knowing.” Koran 2:256

THE MEANING OF ISLAM
It is false to call Islam Muhammadanism, as has been done so frequently in the West. We have already pointed out that Muslims believe that Islam is the eternal message which Allah sent to all prophets, peace be upon them, from the dawn of mankind, and not a new belief which began with the Prophet Muhammad (praise and peace be upon him)

Muslims call their religion Islam, and the Arabic word “Islam” implies the attainment of peace through submission to Allah. The word “Muslim” is an adjective derived from the noun Islam, and implies one who has peace within himself from his submission to Allah.

Muslims believe in the One, Eternal God, who created the heavens and the earth and all that exists. In Arabic, God is called Allah.

There is absolutely no difference between Allah and the God of Abraham, Moses and Jesus . Muslims do not believe that Prophet Muhammad was the only prophet; rather they believe that he was the last of the prophets of the Old and New Testaments. The Holy Koran is the revealed and sacred scripture of Islam, and it teaches: "Say (O Muslims), ‘We believe in Allah and that which is sent down to us, and in what was sent down to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob and the tribes; to Moses and Jesus and the prophets of their Lord. We do not differentiate between any of them, and to Him we are submissive (Muslims.)” Koran 2:136.

SOME BASIC BELIEFS OF ISLAM
The most fundamental concept of Islam and the fountainhead of all its other principles and practices is the Oneness of Allah. Islam is monotheism in its purest form, and the logic of pure monotheism is the thread that runs through the entire fabric of the Islamic way of life.

Islam teaches a fundamental difference between Allah, the Creator and that which He has created. The sky, the moon, the stars, the harmony and perfection of the natural world, the grace and beauty of the human body and the excellence of the human mind, the alternation of day and night, the change of the seasons, and the mystery of life and death all point to something beyond, greater than themselves.

To the believer these are all signs of Allah. Islam teaches that Allah is not to be likened to anything that He has created. He is All–Powerful,
All-Knowing; He is beyond any imperfection, and is the fulfillment of all Perfection. He is not a substance, nor is He like any of His creatures. Allah is not a far away and distant God, nor is He unapproachable ideal. He is All-Kind, All Merciful, and the Turner of hearts.

Islam teaches that Allah is eternal. He was not Himself born, nor has He fathered a son or a daughter. Islam rejects the concept of the incarnation of Allah, which is found in Hinduism, Christianity, and other religions, and believes that the concept of incarnation limits the concept of Allah and destroys the believer's conviction of the activeness and perfection of Allah.

The Koran describes Allah being perfect and active: "Allah, there is no god except He. The Living, the Everlasting. Neither dozing nor sleep overtakes Him. To Him belongs all that is in the heavens and the earth. Who is he that shall intercede with Him except by His permission? He knows what will be before their hands and what was behind them, and they do not comprehend anything of His knowledge except what He willed. His Seat embraces the heavens and earth, and the preserving of them does not weary Him. He is the High, the Great." Koran 2:255.

Islam rejects the notion that Jesus, peace be upon him, was the son of God. Rather it honors and respects him as one of the great messengers and prophets of Allah to the children of Israel. Islam rejects the Pauline concept of trinity and considers it a contradiction of pure monotheism. It also rejects the argument of some Christians that God made Himself incarnate in Jesus, peace be upon him, so that God could be known by men, and also rejects the argument that Jesus, peace be upon him, died on the cross for mankind's sins.

To begin with, Islam believes that man can come to know Allah and feel close to Him by means of proper prayer, fasting, charity, pilgrimage, and righteous deeds. The very practice of Islam is meant to purify the believer's soul and to bring him/her closer to Allah. With regard to Jesus dying for our sins, Islam teaches that no human being can bear the burden of another's responsibility.

Allah is very aware of our human weaknesses and imperfection. He does not condemn us because we are imperfect; rather He guides us to self-perfection and He forgives us and showers His Mercy upon us when we fail and then sincerely ask His forgiveness.

Muslims believe in the Divine origin of the Bible although Muslims doubt the historical authenticity of some parts of the Old and New Testaments and do not believe them to be exact representations of what Allah originally revealed.

The Koran upheld this view of the text of the Old and New Testaments hundreds of years ago, and in recent years, this view has been upheld by textual studies of biblical scholars. Muslims believe in the Angels of Allah, and His Prophets, peace be upon them. They believe in the resurrection of the dead at the end of the world; they believe in the coming of the Day of Judgement and eternal life in Paradise or Hell.

Although Muslims believe that Allah is All-Powerful and maintains complete control over His creation, they also believe that Allah has created man with free will and the ability to choose and act, and that Allah is just in making man morally responsible for what does during his/her lifetime. It is false to say that Islam teaches its followers to resign meekly and passively to their fate or destiny. Rather, Islam challenges the believer to fight against wrong and oppression and to strive for the establishment of righteousness and justice.

FAITH IN ACTION
Faith without action is a dead letter. Islam teaches us that faith by itself is not enough until it is transformed into action.

Prophet Muhammad said; "Faith does not depend on raising hopes, but it is something which is firmly established in the heart and testified to by action. Indeed, there are people who have been deceived by their hopes, so that they finally leave this world without merit. They used to say, 'We have good expectations from Allah.' Yet they only deceived themselves. For had they truly placed good expectations in Allah, they would have excelled in good deeds."

Each Muslim is taught that he/she is personally responsible for his/her own actions. Islam teaches that every individual must carry the responsibility of his/her own actions and that no one can carry that burden for them.

THE POSITION OF WOMEN IN ISLAM
Islam teaches that the woman is not inherently inferior to man; rather man and woman are of similar nature. They both are equal in intellectual and spiritual capacity. Furthermore, they are both equally responsible for their deeds before Allah.

It is also true that Islam regards the woman as having a primary role to play in the constitution and running of the family. Such is the importance of the role of motherhood that Prophet Muhammad informed us that Paradise lies under the feet of the mother, in other words one must respect, honor and be good to one’s mother. If you visit a Muslim home it will become very noticeable how the entire family pivots around her and it is extremely rare in Muslim countries to hear of a mother or father being farmed off into a nursing home when they are elderly.

Islam places great emphasis on the role of the Muslim woman as a wife and particularly as a mother, and Muslims are often of the opinion that the best position for the woman is in the home with her children and family. However, the Muslim woman is not prohibited from leaving her home to pursue education, a career, or other worthwhile and constructive goals that profit not only her but society as well. The Koran establishes the spiritual equality and mutual responsibility of man and woman in verses such as the following: "But whosoever does good works of righteousness, whether they be a believing male or female, shall enter Paradise, and not be wronged a pit mark of a date stone.” Koran 4:124.

"And indeed their Lord answered them, 'I do not waste the labor of any that labors among you, male or female, you are from each other.” Koran 3:195.

The relationship of the Muslim husband to his wife is not that of master to slave. Rather the entire responsibility of economic support is placed on the shoulders of the husband alone. He cannot demand of his wife that she also become economically productive to support the family, although she is able to do this if she desires.

The Koran explains this responsibility of men to women in the following verse: "Men are the maintainers of women for that Allah has preferred in bounty one of them over the other, and for that they have spent their wealth. Righteous women are obedient, guarding in secret that which Allah has guarded." Koran 4:34.

The important point that should be made is that the religion of Islam has great respect for the woman. It does not teach that she is without a soul or that she is the root of all evil, neither does it define a woman as being inferior and must be kept in seclusion and subjugation.

We are often asked why Muslim women wear black and are completely veiled. This practice is nationalistic and not from Islam. The attire of a Muslim woman is that of modesty, where her figure is not apparent to outsiders, not of veiling, however a scarf is a necessity. In this day and age in particular where rape is a common occurrence in the west she finds modest clothing to be a protection from unwarranted advances by the opposite sex. Also, modest clothing has recently been advocated by cancer physicians as a form of protection against the sun’s harmful rays that cause melanoma, skin cancer.
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Both Judaism and Christianity preach that the fall of Adam from the Garden of Eden was the fault of Eve and as such women are to blame. This is not the teaching of Islam, the Koran directs all the responsibility to Adam himself, while adding that Allah turned to Adam in mercy and forgave him his sin. Therefore, Adam's sin stops with Adam himself, and Allah does not hold mankind responsible for the sin of Adam and rejects the concept of original sin.

We cannot deny that the condition of women has at times been regrettable in the Muslim world, but the same can also be said of the rest of the world at large. We do not wish to justify these circumstances, but only to make the point that they did not originate from the teachings of Islam itself. Rather they are the results of short sightedness, ignorance and human failure. Those believing women who were unjustly treated will be recompensed for their patience in the Hereafter because Allah is Just and does not love injustice.

BROTHERHOOD AND EQUALITY OF MANKIND
Islam teaches that the human family is one, that there is no superiority of white over black or black over white. Islam rejects radically all notions of racial prejudice and teaches that the only basis of distinction between human beings is their belief and individual moral qualities.

The concept of Islamic brotherhood has two primary dimensions; the relationship of Muslims to Muslims and the relationship of Muslims to non-Muslims. As for the first category, Islam teaches that the brotherhood between all Muslims is to be absolute and total. The Arab has no privileges over the non-Arab, and, since there is no clergy or priesthood in Islam, all Muslims are basically equal, from top to bottom, from rich to poor, from educated to uneducated.

As for the relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims, the teaching of Islam is that this is to be a relationship of mutual respect and particularly of tolerance. It is preferable that Muslims and non-Muslims live in peace, protect each other, and cooperate with one another. As the Koran says: "There is no compulsion in religion" Koran 2:256 and "To you your religion, and to me my religion.” Koran 109:6

REASON
Muslims consider their religion to be very rational and consistent with the dictates of the believing and reasoning mind.

Furthermore, the Koran teaches that rational faculty is one of the greatest gifts of Allah to man, and encourages us to use and develop this faculty. Islam does not ask its followers to believe and then follow everything blindly and unquestioningly. The Koran says, for instance: "If you are in doubt of what We (1) have sent down to Our worshipper (Prophet Muhammad), produce a chapter comparable to it. Call upon your helpers, other than Allah, to assist you, if you are true." Koran 2:23

(1) When pronouns are capitalized they refer to the Creator, Allah. Examples: You, He, Him, His and, Own while pronouns such as Our, Ours, Us and We denote His Greatness not plurality.

Islam encourages reasoning, thought and personal opinion. The Prophet said: "The differences of opinion among the learned of my followers are Allah's mercy." Islam has great respect for learning science and for man's exploration of the secrets of nature and of creation. In fact Allah challenges man on many occasions in the Koran to deepen his faith, knowledge, and wisdom from study and contemplation of the natural world, its harmony, symmetry, and beauty. For example: “(It is He) who created the seven heavens, one above the other. You cannot see any inconsistency in the creation of the Merciful. Then return your gaze once more and yet again, your gaze comes back to you dazzled, and tired.” Koran 67:3-4.

The individual capacities and unique abilities of people are the gift of Allah, to be developed, perfected, and used for the benefit of humanity. Islam does not try to crush the individuality of its believers, but rather to guide each believer to perfection and purify his own uniqueness.

This multiplicity of expressive and developed personalities enriches society and places it on a higher level, like the beauty of an intricate but unified arabesque.

ISLAMIC ATTITUDE TOWARDS WAR
In the eyes of some commentators on Islam in the West, Islam has been portrayed as a militant religion, a religion of blood, fire, and sword. We have already tried to draw attention to the fundamental concern of Islam for tolerance and religious freedom, and have also commented upon the emphasis Islam places on peace and cooperation among mankind. However, Islam is a practical religion, a religion which never ignores for a single moment the complexities and demands of the harsh realities and facts of life. Islam is fundamentally concerned with establishing societies in which the rights of freedom of belief, human rights, and protection of life, dignity, and property are secure from both internal and external threats.

Therefore, even as Islam teaches its followers to be merciful and inclined toward forgiveness and peace even in times of war, it never teaches them to turn the other cheek. The philosophy of "turning the other cheek" may be appropriate for private individuals and small day- to-day affairs, however, it spells social suicide if it is implemented by society as an absolute value.

Islam therefore stipulates principles that Muslims are to follow before, during, and after war. Peace is to be established on the basis of justice. Muslims are not to be aggressive or to violate treaties they have concluded with others, but war is to be waged in defense of the Muslim community and what it stands for. It is forbidden for Muslims to be the initiators of war or terrorist activities.

During war, killing of civilians and those who do no participate directly in the war is strictly forbidden. Prisoners are to be treated humanely. Destruction of lands, fruit trees, animals, and towns and villages are also forbidden where avoidable. Muslims are to incline to peace if the enemy is truthfully inclined to peace, and make treaties and agreements to preserve that peace and then observe those treaties as long as the enemy observes them. The concept of "jihad" is one of the highest concepts in Islam. The term has at times been translated as "Holy War". However, this translation is incomplete for jihad also means by language "struggling." It is a concept that places great emphasis on the struggle of oneself with the temptations of satan; to do good and sacrifice.

Prophet Muhammad said, that the greatest jihad is the striving of the Muslim to purify himself.

Jihad consists of all the striving the Muslim does in his external life, charity, righteous living and acts, the constant effort to achieve the Right Path in his dealings with his fellow men. This is true striving in the Way of Allah.

THE FIVE PILLARS OF ISLAM
Islam sets down five principle duties that are obligatory upon all Muslims, and form the structure, or pillars, of his/her life.
They are:

1. Belief in the Oneness of Allah, and the bearing of witness to this belief with the words: "I bear witness that there is no god except Allah, and that Muhammad is His Prophet and Messenger."

2. The five daily prayers at dawn, noon, afternoon, sunset and nightfall. These five daily prayers help one to develop Allah consciousness in his/her everyday life. The importance of these cannot be over emphasized. They are a constant reminder to the worshipper of the Presence and Power of Allah and help the worshipper to keep his/herself from deviating from the Right Path.

3. The bestowal of charity on one's fellow man. Islam places great emphasis on generosity and charity as a means of purifying one's soul and drawing closer to Allah. The Muslim is enjoined to give voluntarily whenever he/she can; however, he/she is required each lunar year to pay an obligatory charity tax of 2 ½% of his/her annual savings. This obligatory charity is then given to orphans, the needy and the poor. The Zakat, which means obligatory charity, enables the Muslim community to take care of all its members and insures that no one will be deprived of his/her basic human right to exist.

4. Fasting during the ninth month of the lunar year called "Ramadan." This fast is enjoined upon Muslims of good health and sound body who have attained the age of physical maturity and are not prevented from performing the fast by various circumstances like travel, sickness, mental illness, or specifically in the case of women, menstruation, or childbirth. The fast of Ramadan begins at dawn and lasts until sunset. During this period the Muslim abstains from eating, and drinking, sexual activity and smoking. Fasting teaches self-discipline and control, while purifying the soul and body and strengthening one's consciousness of Allah.

5. The pilgrimage to Mecca. The pilgrimage is required of all Muslims at least once during their lifetime, if they have the financial means. The annual pilgrimage to Mecca is one of the greatest events of the Muslim world, uniting Muslims from every race and from every corner of the world. This is a great experience in the life of a Muslim that enables him/her to draw closer to Allah. The greatest blessings of going on pilgrimage is that all one’s previous sins are wiped away and the pilgrimage returns as pure as the day he/she was born. We would like to remind the reader that the Holy Mosque in Mecca was built by Prophet Abraham and his son, Prophet Ishmail .

WHO IS A MUSLIM?
Since there is no priesthood in Islam, no clergy and no official religious institution, all one has to do to become a Muslim is to be personally convinced of the truth of the teachings of Islam and bear witness that "There is no god except Allah, and that Muhammad is His Prophet."

One of the great beauties of Islam is its simplicity, naturalness, and lack of formalities. Islam is the religion of Adam and of mankind in its earliest and most advanced stages of development. Allah says in the Holy Koran: "Therefore set your face to the religion purely, the upright creation upon which He originated people. There is no changing of the creation of Allah. This is the valuable religion, although most people do not know.” Koran 30:30.

A THOUGHT PROVOKING QUESTION
Allah asks you, “Did you think that We had created you only for play, and that you would never be returned to Us? Koran 23:115. Have you ever stopped and asked yourself what is this life all about, what is the purpose of being here, the purpose of your creation? The correct answer to this question is that you seek the truth, worship Allah alone, do good deeds for which there is the greatest reward, the reward of living eternally in Paradise.

THE BENEFIT OF EMBRACING ISLAM
Among the many benefits of embracing Islam are that once you bear witness that: "There is no god except Allah, and Muhammad is His Prophet," all your past sins are forgiven and are transformed into merits with an enormous reward awaiting you in Paradise! In addition, you receive the reward of believing the religion of the Prophet Jesus, if you are a Christian, or Prophet Moses, if you are a Jew, and the religion of Prophet Muhammad, which means that you receive two huge rewards, and you know that Allah loves you because He guided you to Him.

Quran Guidance of the Day