Intro to Islam
Islam is a monotheistic religion, part of the Abrahamic traditions, revealed after Judaism and Christianity; and it calls for the same truth that God revealed through all of His prophets to all people. Muslims are one fifth of the world’s population, and follow the religion of peace, mercy, and forgiveness, despite the extremely grave events which have come to be associated with their faith at the hands of a very few misguided individuals.
Who are the Muslims?
Over 1.8 billion people from a vast range of races, nationalities and cultures across the globe – from the southern Philippines to Nigeria – are united by their common Islamic faith. About 16% live in the Arab world; the world’s largest Muslim communities are in Indonesia and Bangladesh; substantial parts of Asia and most of Africa’s populations are Muslim, while significant minorities are to be found in the Soviet Union, China, North and South America, and Europe.
What do Muslims believe?
Muslims believe in One, Unique, Incomparable God; in the Angels created by Him; in the prophets through whom His revelations were brought to mankind; in the Day of Judgement and individual accountability for actions; in God’s complete authority over human destiny and in life after death. Muslims believe in a chain of prophets starting with Adam and including Noah, Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Job, Moses, Aaron, David, Solomon, Elias, Jonah, John the Baptist, Jesus, and many others, peace be upon them. But God’s final message to man, a reconfirmation of the eternal message and a summing-up of all that has gone before was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (S) through Gabriel and codified in the Holy Qur’an.
How does someone become a Muslim?
Simply by saying ‘there is no god apart from God, and Muhammad is the Messenger of God.’ By this declaration the believer announces his or her faith in the Oneness of God, and in all of God’s messengers, and the scriptures they brought.
What does ‘Islam’ mean?
The Arabic word ‘Islam’ simply means ‘submission’, and is derived from a word meaning ‘peace.’ In a religious context, Islam means complete submission to the will of God. ‘Muhammedanism’ is thus a misnomer because it suggests that Muslims worship Muhammad rather than God. ‘Allah’ is the Arabic name for God, which is used by Arab Muslims and Christians alike.
Who is Allah / God?
Allah is the proper Arabic name for God. Muslims believe in and worship the same One God that the Jews and Christians worship. Allah says in the Qur’an:
“And do not debate with the People of the Book, unless in the best of manners, but not with those who are unjust, and say: “We believe in the Revelation that has come down to us and in that which has come down to you; Our God and your God is One, and to Him do we wholly give ourselves.” (Qur’an 29:46)
Allah is a unique term with no plural an no gender. It predates Muhammad and was also used in the form of El, Elah or Elohim by David, Moses, Jesus and other messengers of God, peace be upon them all.
“He is God, the One that there is no deity but He; the Knower of the unseen and the apparent; He is the Source of All Mercy, the Merciful.
He is God, the One that there is no deity but He; the King, the Holy, the Source of All Peace, the Guardian of Faith, the Preserver, the Mighty, the Compeller, the Majestic; Glory to God, beyond their associations (of partners with Him)!
He is God, the Creator, the Maker, the Fashioner. To Him belong the most beautiful names. All that is in the heavens and the earth magnifies Him; He is the Mighty, the Wise.” (Qur’an 59:22-24)
Is Islam respectful of other beliefs?
Yes. The Qur’an states unequivocally:
“There is no compulsion in religion. Truth stands out clearly from falsehood…” (Qur’an 2:256)
Freedom of conscience is an essential tenant of Islam. Truth can only be seen if it is not clouded by coercion. Protection of the rights of non-Muslims is an intrinsic part of Islamic law. The Prophet Muhammad is reported to have said:
“He who hurts a non-Muslim citizen of a Muslim State – I am his adversary and I shall be his adversary on the Day of Judgment.”
“Beware on the Day of Judgment, I shall, myself, be the accuser against him who wrongs a non-Muslim citizen (of a Muslim State) or Lays on him a responsibility greater than he can bear, or deprives him of anything that belongs to him.”
History provides many examples of Muslims’ respect towards other faiths. For instance, prior to the Spanish Inquisition, Jews and Christians lived and prospered in Spain for centuries under Muslim rule. Another well known example is when Umar, the second political successor to Prophet Muhammad, entered Jerusalem. He refused to pray inside the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. He was concerned that some overzealous Muslim in the future might destroy the church and build a Mosque in his honor.
Do Islam and Christianity have different origins?
No. Together with Judaism, they go back to the prophet and patriarch Abraham, and their three prophets are directly descended from his sons; Muhammad from the eldest, Ishmael, and Moses and Jesus from Isaac. Abraham established the settlement which today is the city of Makkah, and built the Ka’aba towards which all Muslims turn when they pray.
What is the Ka’aba?
The Ka’aba is the place of worship which God commanded Abraham and Ishmael to build over four thousand years ago. The building was constructed of stone on what many believe was the original site of a sanctuary established by Adam. God commanded Abraham to summon all mankind to visit this place, and when pilgrims go there today they say ‘At Thy service, O Lord’, in response to Abraham’s summons.
Who is Muhammad?
The Prophet Muhammad (Peace and Blessings be upon him and his family), was born in Makkah in the year 570, at a time when Christianity was not yet fully established in Europe. Since his father died before his birth, and his mother shortly afterwards, he was raised by his uncle, Abu Talib, from the respected tribe of Quraysh. As he grew up, he became known for his truthfulness, generosity and sincerity, so that he was sought after for his ability to arbitrate in disputes. The historians describe him as calm and meditative.
Muhammad was of a deeply religious nature, and had long detested the decadence of his society. It became his habit to meditate from time to time in the Cave of Hira near the summit of Jabal al-Nur, the ‘Mountain of Light’ near Makkah.
How did Muhammad become a prophet and a messenger of God?
At the age of 40, while engaged in a meditative retreat, Muhammad received his first revelation from God through the Angel Gabriel. This revelation, which continued for twenty-three years, is known as the Qur’an.
As soon as he began to recite the words he heard from Gabriel, and to preach the truth which God had revealed to him, he and his small group of followers suffered bitter persecution, which grew so fierce that in the year 622 God gave them the command to emigrate. This event, the Hijra, ‘migration’, in which they left Makkah for the city of Madinah some 260 miles to the north, marks the beginning of the Muslim calendar.
After several years, the Prophet and his followers were able to return to Makkah, where they forgave their enemies and established Islam definitively. Before the Prophet died at the age of 63, the greater part of Arabia was Muslim, and within a century of his death, Islam had spread to Spain in the West and as far East as China.
How did the spread of Islam affect the world?
Among the reasons for the rapid and peaceful spread of Islam was the simplicity of its doctrine – Islam calls for faith in only One God worthy of worship. It also repeatedly instructs man to use his powers of intelligence and observation.
Within a few years, great civilizations and universities were flourishing, for according to the Prophet, ‘seeking knowledge is an obligation for every Muslim man and woman’. The synthesis of Eastern and Western ideas and of new thought with old, brought about great advances in medicine, mathematics, physics, astronomy, geography, architecture, art, literature, and history. Many crucial systems such as algebra, the Arabic numerals, and also the concept of the zero (vital to the advancement of mathematics), were transmitted to medieval Europe from Islam. Sophisticated instruments which were to make possible the European voyages of discovery were developed, including the astrolabe, the quadrant and good navigational maps.
Here are some links that offer an introduction to Islam, its history, Islamic concepts and details you may need to know about Islam.
About.com is a useful site with step by step information about prayers and other related topics.
Islamicity.com offers information on how to pray, perform ablution and calls to prayers.