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Basics of Islam (from ToleranceFoundation.org)
Islam and Muslims
The word "Islam" is an Arabic word
which means "submission to the will of God". This word
comes from the same root as the Arabic word "salam", which
means "peace". As such, the religion of Islam teaches
that in order to achieve true peace of mind and surety of heart,
one must submit to God and live according to His Divinely revealed
Law. The most important truth that God revealed to mankind is that
there is nothing divine or worthy of being worshipped except for
Almighty God, thus all human beings should submit to Him. The word
"Muslim" means one who submits to the will of God, regardless
of their race, nationality or ethnic background. Being a Muslim
entails willful submission and active obedience to God, and living
in accordance with His message. Some people mistakenly believe that
Islam is just a religion for Arabs, but nothing could be further
from the truth. It is interesting to note that in actuality, more
than 80% of all Muslims are not Arabs.
Muslim creed is to believe in God (Allah),
His Angels, His Books, His Messengers, the Day of Judgment, and
Fate whether good or bad.
Islam is not a new religion because "submission to the will
of God", i.e. Islam, has always been the only acceptable religion
in the sight of God. For this reason, Islam is the true "natural
religion", and it is the same eternal message revealed through
the ages to all of God's prophets and messengers. Muslims believe
that all of God's prophets, which include Abraham, Noah, Moses,
Jesus and Muhammad, brought the same message of Pure Monotheism.
For this reason, the Prophet Muhammad was not the founder of a new
religion, as many people mistakenly think, but he was the Final
Prophet of Islam. By revealing His final message to Muhammad, which
is an eternal and universal message for all of mankind, God finally
fulfilled the covenant that He made with Abraham, who was one of
the earliest and greatest prophets. Suffice it to say that the way
of Islam is the same as the way of the prophet Abraham, because
both the Bible and the Quran portray Abraham as a towering example
of someone who submitted himself completely to God and worshipped
Him without intermediaries. Once this is realized, it should be
clear that Islam has the most continuous and universal message of
any religion, because all prophets and messengers were "Muslims",
i.e. those who submitted to God's will, and they preached "Islam",
i.e'submission to the will of Almighty God.
I bear witness that there is no god but
God and I bear witness that Muhammad is His messenger
The Islamic Way of Life
In the Holy Quran, God teaches human beings
that they were created in order to worship Him, and that the basis
of all true worship is God-consciousness. Since the teachings of
Islamic encompass all aspects of life and ethics, God-consciousness
is encouraged in all human affairs. Islam makes it clear that all
human acts are acts of worship if they are done for God alone and
in accordance to His Divine Law. As such, worship in Islam is not
limited to religious rituals. The teachings of Islam act as a mercy
and a healing for the human soul, and such qualities as humility,
sincerity, patience and charity are strongly encouraged. Additionally,
Islam condemns pride and self-righteousness, since Almighty God
is the only judge of human righteousness. The Islamic view of the
nature of man is also realistic and well-balanced. Human beings
are not believed to be inherently sinful, but are seen as equally
capable of both good and evil. Islam also teaches that faith and
action go hand-in-hand. God has given people free-will, and the
measure of one's faith is one's deeds and actions. However, human
beings have also been created weak and regularly fall into sin.
This is the nature of the human being as created by God in His Wisdom,
and it is not inherently "corrupt" or in need of repair.
This is because the avenue of repentance of always open to all human
beings, and Almighty God loves the repentant sinner more than one
who does not sin at all. The true balance of an Islamic life is
established by having a healthy fear of God as well as a sincere
belief in His infinite Mercy. A life without fear of God leads to
sin and disobedience, while believing that we have sinned so much
that God will not possibly forgive us only leads to despair. In
light of this, Islam teaches that: only the misguided despair of
the Mercy of their Lord. Additionally, the Holy Quran, which was
revealed to the Prophet Muhammad, contains a great deal of teachings
about the life hereafter and the Day of Judgment. Due to this, Muslims
believe that all human beings will ultimately be judged by God for
their beliefs and actions in their earthly lives. In judging human
beings, Almighty God will be both Merciful and Just, and people
will only be judged for what they were capable of. Suffice it to
say that Islam teaches that life is a test, and that all human beings
will be accountable before God. A sincere belief in the life hereafter
is key to leading a well-balanced life and moral. Otherwise, life
is viewed as an end in itself, which causes human beings to become
more selfish, materialistic and immoral.
The Five Pillars
of Islam(from ToleranceFoundation.org)
Testimony of Faith
1. The Testimony of Faith, Shahadah
The first pillar of Islam is that a Muslim believe
and declare his faith by saying the Shahadah (lit. 'witness'), also
known as the Kalimah:
La ilaha ila Allah; Muhammadur-rasul Allah. 'There
is no god but Allah; Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.'
This declaration contains two parts. The first
part refers to God Almighty, the Creator of everything, the Lord
of the Worlds; the second part refers to the Messenger, Muhammad
a prophet and a human being, who received the revelation through
the Archangel Gabriel, and taught it to mankind.
By sincerely uttering the Shahadah the Muslim
acknowledges Allah as the sole Creator of all, and the Supreme Authority
over everything and everyone in the universe. Consequently the Muslim
closes his/her heart and mind to loyalty, devotion and obedience
to, trust in, reliance on, and worship of anything or anyone other
than Allah. This rejection is not confined merely to pagan gods
and goddesses of wood and stone and created by human hands and imaginations;
this rejection must extend to all other conceptions, superstitions,
ideologies, ways of life, and authority figures that claim supreme
devotion, loyalty, trust, love, obedience or worship. This entails,
for example, the rejection of belief in such common things as astrology,
palm reading, good luck charms, fortune-telling and psychic readings,
in addition to praying at shrines or graves of "saints",
asking the dead souls to intercede for them with Allah. There are
no intercessors in Islam, nor any class of clergy as such; a Muslim
prays directly and exclusively to Allah.
Belief in the prophet hood of Muhammad entails
belief in the guidance brought by him and contained in his Sunnah
(traditions of his sayings and actions), and demands of the Muslim
the intention to follow his guidance faithfully. Muhammad was also
a human being, a man with feelings and emotions, who ate, drank
and slept, and was born and died, like other men. He had a pure
and upright nature, extraordinary righteousness, and an unwavering
faith in Allah and commitment to Islam, but he was not divine. Muslims
do not pray to him, not even as an intercessor, and Muslims abhor
the terms "Mohamedan" and "Mohamedanism".
2. The Prayer, Salah
The Prayer (Salah), in the sense of worship, is
the second pillar of Islam. The Prayer is obligatory and must be
performed five times a day. These five times are dawn (Fajr), immediately
after noon (Dhuhr), mid-afternoon ('Asr), sunset (Maghrib), and
early night (Isha'). Ritual cleanliness and ablution are required
before prayer, as are clean clothes and location, and the removal
of shoes. One may pray individually or communally, at home, outside,
virtually any clean place, as well as in a mosque, though the latter
is preferred. Special is the Friday noon prayer, called Jum'ah.
It, too, is obligatory and is to be done in a mosque, in congregation.
It is accompanied by a sermon (Khutbah), and it replaces the normal
There is no hierarchical clerical authority in
Islam, no priests or ministers. Prayers are led by any learned person
who knows the Qur'an and is chosen by the congregation. He (or she,
if the congregation is all women) is called the imam. There is also
no minimum number of congregates required to hold communal prayers.
Prayer consists of verses from the Qur'an and other prayers, accompanied
by various bodily postures - standing, bowing, prostrating and sitting.
They are said in Arabic, the language of the revelation, though
personal supplications (Du'ah) can be offered in one's own language.
Worshippers face the Qiblah, the direction of the Ka'bah in the
city of Makkah.
The significance of prayer lies in one's maintaining
a continuous link to God five times a day, which helps the worshipper
avoid misdeeds if he/she performs the prayers sincerely. In addition
it promotes discipline, God-consciousness and placing one's trust
in Allah alone, and the importance of striving for the Hereafter.
When performed in congregation it also provides a strong sense of
community, equality and brotherhood/sisterhood.
3. The Fasting, Sawm
The fourth pillar of Islam is fasting. Allah prescribes
daily fasting for all able, adult Muslims during the whole of the
month of Ramadan, the ninth month of the lunar calendar, beginning
with the sighting of the new moon. Exempted from the fast are the
very old and the insane. On the physical side, fasting is from first
light of dawn until sundown, abstaining from food, drink, and sexual
relations. On the moral, behavioral side, one must abstain from
lying, malicious gossip, quarreling and trivial nonsense.
Those who are sick, elderly, or on a journey,
and women who are menstruating, pregnant, or nursing are permitted
to break the fast, but must make up an equal number of days later
in the year. If physically unable to do so, they must feed a needy
person for each day missed. Children begin to fast (and to observe
the prayers) from puberty, although many start earlier.
Although fasting is beneficial to the health,
it is regarded principally as a method of self-purification. By
cutting oneself off from worldly pleasures and comforts, even for
a short time, the fasting person gains true sympathy for those who
go hungry regularly, and achieves growth in his spiritual life,
learning discipline, self-restraint, patience and flexibility.
In addition to the fast proper, one is encouraged
to read the entire Qur'an. In addition, special prayers, called
Tarawih, are held in the mosque every night of the month, during
which a whole section of the Qur'an is recited, so that by the end
of the month the entire Qur'an has been completed. These are done
in remembrance of the fact that the revelation of the Qur'an to
Prophet Muhammad was begun during Ramadan.
During the last ten days - though the exact day
is never known and may not even be the same every year - occurs
the Night of Power (Laylat al-Qadr). To spend that night in worship
is equivalent to a thousand months of worship, i.e. Allah's reward
for it is very great.
On the first day of the following month, after
another new moon has been sighted, a special celebration is made,
called 'Id al-Fitr. A quantity of staple food is donated to the
poor (Zakat al-Fitr), everyone has bathed and put on their best,
preferably new, clothes, and communal prayers are held in the early
morning, followed by feasting and visiting relatives and friends.
There are other fast days throughout the year.
Muslims are encouraged to fast six days in Shawwal, the month following
Ramadan, Mondays and Thursdays, and the ninth and tenth, or tenth
and eleventh of Muharram, the first month of the year. The tenth
day, called Ashurah, is also a fast day for the Jews (Yom Kippur),
and Allah commanded the Muslims to fast two days to distinguish
themselves from the People of the Book.
While fasting per se is encouraged, constant fasting,
as well as monasticism, celibacy, and otherwise retreating from
the real world, are condemned in Islam. Fasting on the two festival
days, 'Id al-Fitr and 'Id al-Adha, the feast of the Hajj, is strictly
4. The Charity, Zakah
The third pillar of Islam is the alms-tax. It
is a tax on wealth, payable on various categories of property, notably
savings and investments, produce, inventory of goods, salable crops
and cattle, and precious metals, and is to be used for the various
categories of distribution specified by Islamic law. It is also
an act of purification through sharing what one has with others.
The rationale behind this is that Muslims believe
that everything belongs to God, and wealth is held by man as a trust.
This trust must be discharged, moreover, as instructed by God, as
that portion of our wealth legally belongs to other people and must
be given to them. If we refuse and hoard this wealth, it is considered
impure and unclean. If, for example one were to use that wealth
for charity or to finance one's pilgrimage to Makkah, those acts
would also be impure, invalid, and of course unrewarded. Allah says:
"Of their wealth, take alms so you may purify
and sanctify them." [ 9:103]
The word Zakah means purification and growth.
Our possessions are purified by setting aside that portion of it
for those in need. Each Muslim calculates his or her own Zakah individually.
For most purposes this involves the payment each
year of 2.5% of one's capital, provided that this capital reaches
a certain minimum amount that which is not consumed by its owner.
A generous person can pay more than this amount, though it is treated
and rewarded as voluntary charity (Sadaqah). This amount of money
is provided to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor, and
can be used in many useful projects for the welfare of the community.
Historically the pillar of Zakah became mandatory
on Muslims form the second year after the Hijrah, 622 C.E. It is
mentioned more than thirty times in the Qur'an, usually in the same
breath as Salah. So important is this pillar that one is not considered
a part of the Islamic brotherhood if one ignores this obligation.
5. The Pilgrimage, Hajj
The fifth pillar of Islam is to make a pilgrimage
to Mecca, in Saudi Arabia, at least once in one's lifetime. This
pillar is obligatory for every Muslim, male or female, provided
that he/she is physically and financially able to do so. Prerequisites
for performing the Pilgrimage are to be a Muslim, to be free, to
be an adult or mature enough, to be of sound mind, and to have the
ability to afford the journey and maintain one's dependents back
home for the duration. The reward for the Pilgrimage is nothing
less than Paradise.
The Pilgrimage is the ultimate form of worship,
as it involves the spirit of all the other rituals and demands of
the believer great sacrifice. On this unique occasion, nearly two
million Muslims from all over the globe meet one another in a given
year. Regardless of the season, pilgrims wear special clothes (Ihram)
- two, very simple, unsewn white garments - which strips away all
distinctions of wealth, status, class and culture; all stand together
and equal before Allah (God).
The rites of the Pilgrimage, which go back to
the time of Prophet Abraham who built the Ka'bah, are observed over
five or six days, beginning on the eighth day of the last month
of the year, named Dhul-Hijjah (pilgrimage). These rites include
circumambulating the Ka'bah (Tawwaf), and going between the mountains
of Safa and Marwah, as Hajjar (Abraham's wife) did during her search
for water for her son Isma'il. Then the pilgrims stand together
on the wide plain of Arafah and join in prayers for God's forgiveness,
in what is often thought of as a preview of the Last Judgment. The
pilgrims also cast stones at a stone pillar which represents Satan.
The pilgrimage ends with a festival, called 'Id al-Adha, which is
celebrated with prayers, the sacrifice of an animal, and the exchange
of greetings and gifts in Muslim communities everywhere.
The following is included in this idea of how
Allah describes Himself in Surat al-Ikhlas, (chapter 112) which equals
a third of the Qur'an11, where He says:
Names and Attributes (from The Holy Quran)
"Say He is Allah The One, Allah The
Eternal. He never begot, nor was begotten. There is none comparable
And He described Himself in the greatest Ayah (verse) in His Book
(i.e., Ayat al-Kursi):
"Allah, there is no god save Him,
The Living, The Eternal. Neither slumber nor sleep overtake Him.
Unto Him belongs whatsoever is in the heavens and the earth. Who
is he who intercedes with Him except by His permission? He knows
that which is before them and that which is behind them, while they
encompass nothing of His Knowledge except what He wills. His seat
(kursi) contains the heavens and the earth, and He is never weary
of preserving them. He is The Sublime, The Great." (al-Baqarah
Therefore, Allah protects whoever reads this Ayah at night and no
devil can get close to him until morning. Allah has also said:
"Depend on The Living One, He Who
will never die." (al-Furqan 25/58).
And He, the Glorified, has said:
"He is The First (al-Awwal)
and The Last (al-Akhir), The Outward (as-Zahir) and The Inward (al-Batin)12;
He is The Knower of All Things." (al-Hadid 57/3)
``Say: We believe in Allah and in that which
has been revealed to us, and in that which was revealed to Abraham
and Ismael and Isaac and Jacob and the tribes, and in that which was
given to Moses and Jesus, and in that which was given to the Prophets
from their Lord. We do not make any distinction between any of them,
and we are Muslims.''
The Quran, Sura - 2 Al-Baqarah Verse 136
Peace be with you.
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