What is Islam?
Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world. Indeed, one out of every five persons on this earth is a Muslim. There are nearly 3 million Muslims living in United Kingdom and the number is growing. Yet, unfortunately, Islam is also the most misunderstood religion. Muslims live in different parts of the world ranging from China to Argentina, Russia to South Africa. The country with the largest Muslim population is Indonesia.
Islam means the active submission to the one God. It is strictly a monotheistic religion since it restricts worship to the one supreme Lord who is the Originator and Creator of the universe. Peace (the root from which the word Islam is derived) is attained through complete obedience to the commandments of God, for God is the source of all peace. Muslims are those who believe in one God and in Muhammad (PBUH) as the final Prophet of God. They devote their lives to the service of God, the Creator and Sustainer of the universe.
Islam teaches that God (called Allah in Arabic) is the source of all creation and that human beings are the best of His creation. He communicates by inspiring them towards goodness and by sending Prophets who deliver God’s message. Muslims believe that the first Prophet was Adam followed by a long chain of Prophets to guide humanity. The Qur’an, according to Muslim belief, is the word of God revealed to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). It mentions many other Prophets like Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Ishmael, Moses, Jacob, Joseph and Jesus. All the Prophets brought the same message, i.e., belief in one God, upright human conduct and belief in the accountability of human acts at the end of time.
Islam is the final religion revealed to human beings through the last Prophet who was called Muhammad (PBUH). He was born in Mecca (in Saudi Arabia) in the year 570 A.D. Muhammad (PBUH) was a very truthful and honest person. He was also very pious and detested the moral decadence of his society. At the age of forty, God asked him, through the angel Gabriel, to proclaim the religion of Islam publicly. God’s message to humanity was delivered in the Qur’an which was revealed to Muhammad (PBUH). The Qur’an, which is the holy book for Muslims, contains 114 chapters (called Suras). Muslims believe that it is the pure word of God, unadulterated over 14 centuries. It deals with issues that affect human beings in their earthly lives; issues like piety, upright human conduct, worship, the creation of a just and virtuous society and the practice of ethics.
Islam has two major schools of thought – the Shi’a and the Sunni. The Sunnis believe that the community selected its own leader after Prophet Muhammad’s death whereas the Shi’as believe that the Prophet had appointed ‘Ali, by divine will, to be his successor. Leadership is thus divinely designated. It is to be noted that both the Sunnis and the Shi’as are united in their major beliefs i.e., they believe in the same God, the same book, the same Prophets and pray in the same direction. The differences are mainly theological and jurisprudential.
The Teachings of Islam
Islam teaches that human beings are born pure and sinless. No one is responsible for, or can take responsibility for the sins of others. The doors of forgiveness are always open for those who repent sincerely. God continuously reminds us in the Qur’an of His infinite mercy and compassion. Muslims are enjoined to maintain inner spiritual purity through constant remembrance and prayer to God. Islam balances the spiritual dimension by emphasizing human responsibility. Human beings are created with a purpose. Attainment of piety is but one dimension of such purpose; playing an active role in the creation of a just society is another. Because Muslims attach importance to what happens in this world, they have made substantial contributions to the development of science, medicine, mathematics, physics, astronomy, geography and literature.
Muslims like Avicenna and Averroes have played major roles in the advancement of science in the West. The first university in the world was established by Imam Jafar Al-Sadiq in Madina, Arabia. Many crucial systems such as the Arabic numerals, algebra, the first map of the globe and navigational maps were developed by Muslims and adopted by the medieval Europeans.
Apart from human responsibility, Islam also teaches human accountability. The final destination of human beings is the hereafter. Muslims believe that,at the end of time, all human beings will be resurrected to account for their deeds. Those who have performed righteous deeds will be rewarded with eternal bliss in heaven and those who have performed evil acts will be punished in hell.
Islam and War
The concept of jihad (wrongly translated as holy war) refers to the duty of Muslims to struggle for their faith and the welfare of the Muslim community. The Qur’an does not permit aggression against anyone and Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) propagated his message in a peaceful manner.Warfare is permitted only in self-defence. However, it must be noted that people only resort to violence when their basic human rights are violated and when all attempts at peaceful settlement are thwarted.
Islam and Human Rights
Islam teaches that human beings have a moral obligation to live in harmony with one another. Islam also recognizes and accords rights to all human beings regardless of race, color or creed. 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. It states: “There is no compulsion in religion” (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 further encourages Muslims to respect the rights of all living things. Therefore, Muslims are required to be conscious of the environment and are not allowed to cause harm to nature.
It is important to realize that far from being extremists and fanatics, Muslims are peaceful and law abiding citizens of the countries in which they live. This stance is derived directly from the Qur’an which states: “O human beings, We have created you from one male and female (Adam & Eve), and we have created you as different tribes and nations so that you may know each other” (49:13).
Islam & the secret of existence?
Can we find an explanation of the great universe? Is there any convincing interpretation of the secret of existence? We realize that no family can function properly without a responsible head, that no city can prosperously exist without sound administration, and that no state can survive without a leader of some kind. We also realize that nothing comes into being on its own. Moreover, we observe that the universe exists and functions in the most orderly manner, and that it has survived for hundreds of thousand of years. Can we then say that all this is accidental and haphazard? Can we attribute the existence of man and the whole world to mere chance.
Man represents only a very small portion of the great universe. And if he can make plans and appreciate the merits of planning, then his own existence and the survival of the universe must also be a planned policy. This means that there is an extraordinary power to bring things into being and keep them moving in order.
In the world then must be a great force in action to keep everything in order. In the beautiful nature there must be a Great creator who creates the most charming pieces of art produces every thing for a special purpose in life. The deeply enlightened people recognize this creator and call him Allah "God". He is not a man because no man can create or make another man. He is not an animal, nor he is a plant. He is neither an Idol nor is He a statue of any kind because non of these things can make itself or create anything else. He is different from all these things because he is the maker and keeper of them all. The maker of anything must be different from and greater than things which he makes.
There are various ways to know God "ALLAH'' and there are many things to tell about him. The great wonders and impressive marvels of the world are like open books in which we can read about God. Besides, God Himself comes to our aid through the many Messengers and revelations He has sent down to man. These Messengers and revelations tell us everything we need to know about God.
The complete acceptance of the teachings and guidance of God 'Allah' as revealed to His Messengers Muhammad is the religion of Islam. Islam enjoins faith in the oneness and sovereignty of Allah, which makes man aware of meaningfulness of the Universe and of his place in it. This belief frees him from all fears and superstitions by making him conscious of the presence of the Almighty Allah and of man's obligations towards Him. This faith must be expressed and tested in actions, faith alone is not enough. Belief in one God requires that we look upon all humanity as one family under the universal Omnipotence of God the Creator and Nourisher of all. Islam rejects the idea of chosen people, making belief in God and good actions the only way to heaven. Thus, a direct relationship in established with God, without any intercessor.
Islam is not a new religion. It is, in essence, the same message and guidance which Allah revealed to all Prophets. Adam, Noah, Abraham, Ismael, David, Moses and Jesus (PBUT). But the message which was revealed to Prophet Mohammed (PBUT) is Islam in its comprehensive, complete and final form.
The Quran is the last revealed word of Allah and the basic source of Islamic teachings and laws. The Quran deals with the basis of creeds, morality, history of humanity, worship, knowledge, wisdom, God-man relationship, and human relationship in all aspects. Comprehensive teaching on which, can be built sound systems of social justice, economics, politics, legislation, jurisprudence, law and international relations, are important contents of the Quran. Hadith, the teachings, sayings and actions of Prophet Mohammed (PBUT), meticulously reported and collected by his devoted companions. Explained and elaborated the Quranic verses.