What Is Islam?
Learn the true meaning of Islam and its real teachings
With knowledge comes understanding followed by acceptance. Today we begin with our series of articles on the major religions of the world, starting off with the most talked about but perhaps the least understood religion – Islam.
The religion of Islam is the acceptance of and obedience to the teachings of God as revealed to His last prophet Muhammad. Said teachings are recorded in the Qur’an, which Muslims consider to be the unaltered and final revelation of God, and also applied by Muhammad as recorded in the hadith.
The following are some of their beliefs:
Muslims believe in monotheism – that there is only one incomparable God, who has no partner nor son, and that no one else should be worshipped but Him alone. He is the true God, and every other deity is false. He is viewed as a personal god who responds whenever a person calls Him. There are no intermediaries, such as clergy, to contact God. Allah is the term, with no gender or plural, used by Muslims to call God.
Muslims believe that Islam is the complete and universal version of a primordial faith that was revealed many times before through prophets which include Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. Muslims believe that Muhammad is the last law-bearing prophet that God sent and that he has set behavioral standards that Muslims should follow. This is called the Sunnah (meaning “trodden path”) which Muslims are admonished to follow since it is viewed as the guiding interpretation of the Qur’an. Muhammad’s way of life is recorded in the hadith, which recount his actions, words, and personal characteristics.
Muslims believe that everything that happens, good or bad, has been preordained. This is called the Al-Qadar or Divine Predestination. But this belief in Divine Predestination does not mean that human beings do not have free will. Rather, Muslims believe that God has given human beings free will. This means that they can choose right or wrong and that they are responsible for their choices.
In relation to Divine Predestination, Muslims also believe in the Day of Resurrection or Yawm al-Qiyāmah. Muslims believe all mankind will be judged on their good and bad deeds and will be sent to either Jannah (heaven) or Jahannam (hell). The Qur’an lists several sins that can condemn a person to hell, such as disbelief in God and dishonesty; however, the Qur’an also makes it clear God will forgive the sins of those who repent.
Now we cannot talk about Islam without touching its 5 Pillars. The 5 Pillars of Islam are obligatory acts for Muslims. It is their framework for worship and shows their commitment to the faith. Here they are:
The Shahada is the basic creed of Islam that must be recited under oath with the specific statement: “I testify that there is no god but God, Muhammad is the messenger of God.” The testimony of faith is said to be the most important pillar of Islam.
Ritual prayers, called Salah or Ṣalāt, must be performed 5 times a day (dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset, and night). These are nice breaks during the day where the mind focuses on God, to talk to Him personally. The prayers are recited in the Arabic language, and consist of verses from the Qur’an. It is interesting to note that said prayers are to be done facing the direction of the Kaaba, a small stone building in the court of the Great Mosque at Mecca that contains a sacred black stone. Nowadays, there are compass apps that make it easier for Muslims to locate said direction. A Muslim may pray wherever they are during stated times, or they can also go to a nearby mosque, which is what Muslims call their place of worship.
The Islamic principle behind almsgiving or zakat is that all things belong to God, and that men are just stewards of wealth. Zakat means both “purification” and “growth.” Material possessions are purified by setting aside a portion for those in need, and, like the pruning of plants, this cutting back encourages new growth. The amount of zakat is set at, but not limited to, 2.5% per year. Muslims are encouraged to give more as voluntary alms or charity if they are capable of doing so.
Fasting or sawm from food and drink (among other things) must be performed from dawn to dusk during the month of Ramadhan. Just like almsgiving, fasting is meant to both purify and grow. By fasting, a person separates from worldly dependence and draws closer to God at the same time being one with those who are hungry, the poor and the needy.
The pilgrimage or hajj to Mecca is a once-in-a-lifetime obligation for Muslims who can physically and financially afford it. Mecca is the birthplace of Muhammad, thereby being the spiritual center of Islam, and is located in Saudi Arabia.
It is also fascinating to know how the religion of Islam governs the way life of its adherents. Below are some examples:
The Prophet Muhammad was a preacher, a theologian, a warrior, and a politician. He was also the leader and builder of a new state, capturing, holding and governing new territory. This is why the separation of church and state cannot really be fully applied to the religion of Islam. With Islam, faith is expressed through the observance of the law. The failure to follow Islamic law (Shariʻah) is a reflection of the believer’s lack of faith. For Muslims, salvation is impossible without law.
Islamic etiquette (adab) includes greeting others with “as-salamu `alaykum” (“peace be unto you”), saying bismillah (“in the name of God”) before meals, and using only the right hand for eating and drinking. Circumcision of male offspring is also practiced in Islam.
Islam is very precise in what its adherents should do, even what to eat. Muslims are not allowed to consume pork, blood, and alcohol. All meat must come from herbivorous animals slaughtered in the name of God. The religion actually has very specific slaughtering directions (i.e. use of a sharp knife to mitigate the suffering of the animal, the head of the animal should also be in the direction of the Kaaba as the prayer is recited.) Food permissible for Muslims is known as halal food.
Marriage in Islam is a civil contract which consists of an offer and acceptance between two qualified parties in the presence of two witnesses. The groom is required to pay a gift (mahr) to the bride, as stipulated in the contract. The Qur’an limits the number of wives to 4 and only if a man could treat them with fairness and equity. The father is seen as financially responsible for his family. Contrary to popular belief, most Islamic families are monogamous as the rule is a conditional permission not a recommendation. Polyandry, a form of polygamy, where a woman takes on two or more husbands is prohibited in Islam.
In Islam, serving one’s parents is a duty second to prayer. When Muslim parents reach old age, they are treated mercifully, with compassion and generosity. Mothers are particularly honored. It is considered despicable to express any irritation when, through no fault of their own, the old become difficult.
To conclude, one can only commend the Muslims for their fierce devotion towards their religion and religious practices. What we have learned now is that Islam is a religion of forgiveness, kindness, and peace.
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