The Religion of Islam
Say, Oh Muslims, we believe in Allah and
that which is revealed unto Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac
and Jacob and the tribes and that which Moses and Jesus received
and that which the Prophet received from the Lord. We make
no distinction between any of them and unto them we have
surrendered. (We are Muslims.)
In Arabic, Islām means "submission" and
is a "way of life" and/or "religion." The word Muslim is
also related to the word Islām and means "one
who surrenders" or "submits" to God. A practitioner
of the religion of Islam is known as a Muslim.
Followers of Islam, known as Muslims,
believe that God (or,
in Arabic, Allāh)
revealed his direct word for mankind to Muhammad (c. 570– 632)
and other prophets,
including Adam, Abraham, Moses,
and Jesus. Muslims
assert that the main written record of revelation to mankind is
which they believe to be flawless, immutable, and the final revelation
of God. Muslims
believe that some parts of the Bible and the Torah have been misinterpreted
or distorted by their followers. With that perspective they view
the Qur'an as
corrective of Jewish and Christian scriptures.
Muslims hold that Islam is essentially
the same belief as that of all the messengers sent by God to
mankind since Adam, with the Qur'ān (the one definitive
text of the Muslim faith) codifying the final revelation of God.
Islamic teaching sees Judaism and Christianity as
derivations of the teachings of certain of these prophets - notably
Abraham - and therefore acknowledges their Abrahamic roots,
whilst the Qur'an calls them People
of the Book. Islam has two primary branches of belief, based
largely on a historical disagreement over the succession of authority
after Muhammad's death; these are known as Sunni and Shi'ite.
Faisal Mosque, located in Islamabad,
the capital city of Pakistan, was built in 1986. It is one
of the largest mosques in Asia.
The basis of Muslim belief is found in the shahādatān ("two
statements"): lā ilāhā illā-llāhu;
muhammadur-rasūlu-llāhi — "There is no
god but God; Muhammad is the messenger of God." In order to
become a Muslim, one needs to recite and believe these statements.
All Muslims agree to this, although Sunnis further regard this
as one of the five pillars
of Islam .
Six articles of belief
There are six basic beliefs shared by all Muslims:
- Belief in God, the one and only one worthy of all worship.
- Belief in all the Prophets and Messengers (sent by God).
- Belief in the Books sent by God.
- Belief in the Angels.
- Belief in the Day of Judgment (Qiyamah) and in the
- Belief in Destiny (Fate) (Qadaa and Qadar in arabic).
The Muslim creed in English:
I believe in God; and in His Angels; and in His Scriptures; and
in His Messengers; and in The Final Day; and in Fate, that Good
and Evil are from God, and Resurrection after death be Truth.
I testify that there is nothing worthy
of worship but God; and I testify that Muhammad is
The fundamental concept in Islam is the oneness of God ( tawhid).
This monotheism is absolute, not relative or pluralistic in any
sense of the word. God is described in Sura al-Ikhlas,
(chapter 112) as follows: Say "He is God, the one, the Self-Sufficient
master. He never begot, nor was begotten. There is none comparable
In Arabic, God is called Allah, a contraction
of al-ilah or "the
(only) god". Allāh thus translates to "God" in
English. The implicit usage of the definite
article in Allah linguistically indicates the divine
unity. In spite of the different name used for God, Muslims assert
that they believe in the same deity as the Judeo-Christian religions.
However, Muslims strictly disagree with the Christian theology
concerning the unity of God (the doctrine of the Trinity and
that Jesus is the eternal Son
of God), seeing it as akin to polytheism. "O People
of the Scripture! Do not exaggerate in your religion nor utter
aught concerning Allah save the truth . The Messiah , Jesus son
of Mary , was only a messenger of Allah , and His word which He
conveyed unto Mary , and a spirit from Him . So believe in Allah
and His messengers , and say not "three" . Cease! ( it
is ) better for you! Allah is only One God . Far is it removed
from His transcendent majesty that he should have a son . His is
all that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth . And Allah
is sufficient as its defender." [Chapter 4 :
No Muslim visual images or depictions of
God exist because such artistic depictions may lead to idolatry
and are thus prohibited. Moreover, many Muslims believe that
God is incorporeal, rendering any two or three dimensional depictions
impossible. Instead, Muslims describe God by the many divine attributes
mentioned in the Qur'an,
and also with the
99 names of Allah. All but one Surah (chapter) of the Qur'an
begins with the phrase "In the name of Allah, the Beneficent,
the Merciful". These are consequently the most important divine
attributes in the sense that Muslims repeat them most frequently
during their ritual prayers (called salah in
Arabic, and in India and Pakistan called "namaz" (a
The Five Pillars of Islam
Pillars of Islam 2 is
the term given to the fundamental aspects of Islam. These five
pillars are the most important obligations of a Muslim under
Sharia law, and which all devout Muslims will perform faithfully,
because they are essential to pleasing Allah.
The Five Pillars of Islam are:
- "Shahadah": The Testimony
that there is none worthy of worship except God and that Muhammad
is his messenger.
- "Salah": Establishing of the
five daily Prayers (salah).
- "Zakat": The Giving of Zakaah (charity),
which is one fortieth (2.5%) of the net worth of possessions
kept for more than a year, with few exemptions, for every Muslim
whose wealth exceeds the nisab,
and 10% or 20% of the produce from agriculture. This money or
produce is distributed among the poor.
- "Ramadhan": Fasting from dawn
to dusk in the month of Ramadan (sawm).
- "Hajj": The Pilgrimage ( Hajj)
to Mecca during
the month of Dhul Hijjah, which is compulsory once in
a lifetime for one who has the ability to do it.
The Pilgrimage to Kaaba, Masjid
al Haram, Mecca (in Saudi Arabia) is one of the five pillars
of Islam for Sunnis.
NOTE: For the Shi'a a
sect of Islam, the Five Pillars (u ṣ ūlu-d-dīn ),
or more correctly translated "the principles of religion",
are the five fundamental principles of Islam; no more, no less.
The Shi'a sect consider the Sunni five pillars to be merely the
most important obligations rather than these being the
Five Pillars of Islam.
The Five Pillars of the Shi'a sect are:
- The Oneness of God (tawhīd).
- The Justice of God ('adl).
- Prophethood (nubuwwah).
- The Leadership of Mankind (imamah).
- The Resurrection (me'ad).
The Qur'an is
the sacred book of Islam. It has also been called, in English,
the Koran and the Quran. Qur'an is the currently preferred English
transliteration of the Arabic original (قرآن);
it means “recitation”.
Muslims believe that the Qur'an was revealed
to the Prophet Muhammad by the Angel Gabriel on numerous occasions
between the years 610 and Muhammad's death in 632.
In addition to memorizing his revelations, his followers are said
to have written them down on parchments, stones, bones, sticks,
Muslims believe that the Qur'an available
today is the same as that revealed to Prophet Muhammad and by
him to his followers, who memorized his words. Scholars accept
that the version of the Qur'an used today was first compiled
in writing by the third Caliph, Uthman ibn Affan, sometime between
650 and 656. He sent copies of his version to the various provinces
of the new Muslim empire, and directed that all variant copies
be destroyed. However, some skeptics doubt the recorded oral
traditions ( hadith) on which the account is based and will say
only that the Qur'an must have been compiled before 750.
There are also numerous traditions, and
many conflicting academic theories, as to the provenance of the
verses later assembled into the Qur'an. (This is covered in greater
detail in the article on the Qur'an.)
Most Muslims accept the account recorded in several hadith, which
state that Abu
Bakr, the first caliph, ordered Zayd
ibn Thabit to collect and record all the authentic verses of
the Qur'an, as preserved in written form or oral tradition. Zayd's
written collection, privately treasured by Muhammad's widow Hafsa
bint Umar, was used by Uthman and is the basis of today's Qur'an.
Uthman's version organized the revelations,
or suras, roughly in order of length, with the longest suras
at the start of the Qur'an and the shortest ones at the end.
Later scholars have struggled to put the suras in chronological
order, and among Muslim commentators at least there is a rough
consensus as to which suras were revealed in Mecca and
which at Medina.
Some suras (eg surat Iqra)
were revealed in parts at separate times.
Because the Qur'an was first written [date
uncertain] in the Hijazi, Mashq, Ma'il, and Kufic scripts,
which write consonants only and do not supply the vowels, and because
there were differing oral traditions of recitation, there was some
disagreement as to the correct reading of many verses. Eventually
scripts were developed that used "points" to indicate
vowels. For hundreds of years after Uthman's recension, Muslim
scholars argued as to the correct pointing and reading of Uthman's
unpointed official text, (the rasm).
Eventually, most commentators accepted ten variant readings ( qira'at)
of the Qur'an as canonical, while agreeing that the differences
are minor and do not greatly affect the meaning of the text.
The form of the Qur'an most used today
is the Al-Azhar text of 1923, prepared by a committee at the
prestigious Cairo university of Al-Azhar.
The Qur'an early became a focus of Muslim
devotion and eventually a subject of theological controversy.
In the 8th century, the Mu'tazilis claimed
that the Qur'an was created in time and was not eternal. Their
opponents, of various schools, claimed that the Qur'an was eternal
and perfect, existing in heaven before it was revealed to Muhammad.
The Mu'tazili position was supported by caliph Al-Ma'mun.
The caliph persecuted, tortured, and killed the anti-Mu'tazilis,
but their belief eventually triumphed and is held by most Muslims
of today. Only reformist or liberal Muslims are apt to take something
approaching the Mu'tazili position.
Most Muslims regard the Qur'an with extreme veneration, wrapping
it in a clean cloth, keeping it on a high shelf, and washing as
for prayers before reading the Qur'an. Old Qur'ans are not destroyed
as wastepaper, but deposited in Qur'an graveyards. The Qur'an is
regarded as an infallible guide to personal piety and community
life, and completely true in its history and science.
From the beginning of the faith, most Muslims
believed that the Qur'an was perfect only as revealed in Arabic.
Translations were the result of human effort and human fallibility,
as well as lacking the inspired poetry believers find in the
Qur'an. Translations are therefore only commentaries on the Qur'an,
of its meaning", not the Qur'an itself.
al-Nabawi in Medina.
The mosque also has a tomb of prophet Muhammad and
the first two caliphs, Abu
Bakr and Umar
The Qur'an speaks of God appointing two classes of human servants:
messengers (rasul in Arabic), and prophets (nabi in
Arabic and Hebrew). In general, messengers are the more elevated
rank. All prophets are said to have spoken with divine authority;
but only those who have been given a major revelation or message
are called messenger.
Notable messengers include Adam, Noah,
Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad,
all belonging to a succession of men guided by God. Islam demands
that a believer accept all of the Judeo-Christian prophets, making
no distinction between them. In the Qur'an, 25
specific prophets are mentioned.
Mainstream Muslims regard Muhammad as the 'Last Messenger' or
the 'Seal of the Prophets' based on the canon. However, there have
been a number of sects whose leaders have proclaimed themselves
the successors of Muhammad, perfecting and extending Islam, or,
whose devotees have made such claims for their leaders. However,
most Muslims remain unaffected by those claims and simply regard
those said groups to be deviant.
Islamic eschatology is
concerned with the Qiyamah ( end
of the world) and the final judgement of humanity. Like Christianity
and some sects of modern Judaism,
Islam teaches the bodily resurrection of
the dead, the fulfillment of a divine plan for creation, and the
immortality of the human soul; the righteous are rewarded with
the pleasures of Jannah ( Paradise),
while the unrighteous are punished in Jahannam (a fiery
Hell, from the Hebrew ge-hinnom or "valley of Hinnom";
usually rendered in English as Gehenna).
A significant fraction of the Qur'an deals with these beliefs,
with many hadith elaborating on the themes and details.
Other beliefs include the Angels,
the Jinns (a
species of beings not composed of solid matter, but of fire), and
the existence of magic (the
practice of which is strictly forbidden).