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          Introduction To Islam
 

                What is ISLAM ?

Islam means submission, that is submission to the will of God, the characteristic attitude of member of our faith.
Muslim is based on the same Arabic root as Islam and means one who submits to God, that is a believer in Islam.

 

 

 

 

Believe In God

Believe In angels

Believe In God's Revealed Books

Believe In The Messenger And Prophets Of God

Believe In The Day Of Judgment

A True Religion

A way Of Life Solution To Modern Problems

God And Creation

Jesus (pbuh)

Main Pillars

Other Religions

Peace

Sunnah

Tolerance

Women In ISLAM

 

Allah (God)

Muslims believe in one, unique, incomparable God, Who has no son nor partner, and that none has the right to be worshipped but Him alone. He is the true God, and every other deity is false. He has the most magnificent names and sublime perfect attributes. No one shares His divinity, nor His attributes. In the Quran, God describes Himself Say, “He is God, the One. God, to Whom the creatures turn for their needs. He begets not, nor was He begotten, and there is none like Him.”
(Quran, 112:1-4)

No one has the right to be invoked, supplicated, prayed to, or shown any act worship, but God alone. God alone is the Almighty, the Creator, the Sovereign, and the Sustainer of everything in the whole universe. He manages all affairs. He stands in need of none of His creatures, and all His creatures depend on Him for all that they need. He is the All-Hearing, the All-Seeing, and the All-Knowing. In a perfect manner, His knowledge encompasses all things, the open and the secret, and the public and the private. He knows what has happened, what will happen, and how it will happen. No affair occurs in the whole world except by His will. Whatever He wills is, and whatever He does not will is not and will never be.

His will is above the will of all the creatures. He has power over all things, and He is able to do everything. He is the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful, and the Most Beneficent. In one of the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad , we are told that God is more merciful to His creatures than a mother to her child.One God is far removed from injustice and tyranny. He is All-Wise in all of His actions and decrees. If someone wants something from God, he or she can ask God directly without asking anyone else to intercede with God for him or her.

 

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Muslims believe in the existence of the angels and that they are honored creatures.


The angels worship God alone, obey Him, and act only by His command. Among the angels is Gabriel, who brought down the Quran to Muhammad

Malaikah is plural of malak, meaning an angel. Angels are also creation of Allah like human beings. They are made of light(i.e Noor). They are invisible to us and are neither male nor female. They are always doing the task assigned to them by Allah beside hymning His praise. A Muslim believes in Angels and has firm faith in their existence. The number of angels is known to Allah only. But, there are four of them, the Archangels, who are superior in rank to others. A Muslim has as much faith in the Malaikah as in the Unity of Allah and Prophethood. Allah says in the Holy Quran:

"It is no virtue that you turn your faces towards the East and the West, but the virtue is that any believes in God, the Last Day, the angels, the Book and the Prophets; and he gives his wealth, for the love of Him, to kinsmen, orphans, the needy, the traveller, the beggars, and for (ransoming) the enslaved; and he establishes the Prayer and pays the Due-alms; and they fulfil their covenant when they make it; and they are patient in adversity, hardship and in time of peril; those are the ones who have spoken the truth, and those are the godfearing." (Al_Baqarah177)
 

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God's Revealed Books


Muslims believe that God revealed books to His messengers as proof for mankind and as guidance for them. Among these books is the Quran, which God revealed to the Prophet Muhammad God has guaranteed the Quran’s protection from any corruption or distortion. God has said:Indeed, We have sent down the Quran, and surely We will guard it (from corruption). (Quran, 15:9)

 

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  The Prophets And Messengers Of God

Muslims believe in the prophets and messengers of God, starting with Adam, including Noah, Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and Jesus (peace be upon them). But God’s final message to man, a reconfirmation of the eternal message, was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad Muslims believe that Muhammad is the last prophet sent by God, as God has said:Muhammad is not the father of any one of your men, but he is the Messenger of God and the last of the prophets... (Quran, 33:40)Muslims believe that all the prophets and messengers were created human beings who had none of the divine qualities of God.
 

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The Day Of Judgment


Muslims believe in the Day of Judgment (the Day of Resurrection) when all people will be resurrected for God’s judgment according to their beliefs and deeds.

According to the Qur'an, the life of this world is a testing ground for man. As a requirement of the test, this life is only a temporary phase in man's existence. The scope of this test is primarily moral. During this test, man has been bestowed with the knowledge of 'good' and 'evil', which subsequently has been further strengthened by God, through His prophets and messengers. During this test, man is required to do 'right', even if it entails material and emotional costs, and to refrain from doing 'wrong', even if this restraint deprives him of immediate gains. This test shall soon be terminated. At the end of this test, man will have to face its results. The 'good' and the 'bad' that remain mixed and indistinguishable during the life of this world, shall on that day be separated from each other. Both shall meet separate ends. Those, who, during the life of this world, ignored the call of their conscience and that of the prophets and messengers of God, shall have to face the dire consequences of their deeds; while those, who stood by the truth with patience and perseverance, shall have all their needs and requirements completely fulfilled and shall remain in the eternal bliss of God's Paradise, forever.

The Day of Judgment is evidenced on the basis of God's obvious attributes from two separate perspectives. Firstly, the Qur'an emphatically states that the Day of Judgment is a necessary requirement of God's mercy, providence, wisdom and justice. Secondly, God's omnipotence and omniscience are referred to evidence the fact that God can, as required by His basic attributes, organize a Day of Judgment

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ISLAM (A True Religion)


• Each person is born in a circumstance which is not of his own choosing. The religion of his family or the ideology of the
state is thrust upon him from the very beginning of his existence in this world. By the time he reaches his teens, he is
usually fully brain-washed into believing that the beliefs of his particular society are the correct beliefs that everyone
should have. However, when some people mature and are exposed to other belief-systems, they begin to question the validity
of their own beliefs.
• The seekers of truth often reach a point of confusion upon realizing that each and every religion,
sect, ideology and philosophy claims to be the one and only correct way for man. Indeed, they all encourage people to do
good. So, which one is right? They cannot all be right since each claims all others are wrong. Then how does the seeker
of truth choose the right way?. God gave us all minds and intellects to enable us to make this crucial decision. It is the
most important decision in the life of a human being. Upon it depends his future, Consequently, each and every one of us
must examine dispassionately the evidence presented and choose what appears to be right until further evidence arises. Like
every other religion or philosophy, Islam also claims to be the one and only true way to God. In this respect it is no
different from other systems.
• This booklet intends to provide some evidence for the validity of that claim. However, it
must always be kept in mind that one can only determine the true path by putting aside emotions and prejudices, which
often blind us to reality. Then, and only then, will we be able to use our God-given intelligence and make a rational and
correct decision.
• There are several arguments, which may be advanced to support Islam’s claim to be the true religion of God. The following are only three of the most obvious. The first argument is based on the divine origin of the names of the religion and the comprehensiveness of its meaning. The second deals with the unique and uncomplicated teachings concerning the relationship between God, man, and creation. The third argument derives from the fact that Islam is universally attainable by all men at all times. The significance of the name Islam (submission to God), Islam’s fundamental acknowledgment of the uniqueness of God and Islam’s accessibility to all mankind at all times convincingly support Islam’s claim that from the beginning of time in whatever language it was expressed, Islam alone has been, and will be the true religion of God.
 

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 A way Of Life Solution To Modern Problems

• The Brotherhood of Man:
A major problem which modern man faces is that of racism. The materially advanced nations can send man to the moon but they cannot solve man's existing problems on earth. Islam, over the last 1400 years, has shown in practice how racism can be ended. Every year during Hajj, the Islamic miracle of real brotherhood of all races and nations can be seen in action.

• The Family:
The family which is the basic unity of civilization is disintegrating in all western countries. Islam's family system brings into a fine equilibrium the rights of man, wife, children and relatives. Islam nourishes human unselfishness, generosity and love in a well organized family system. Human beings live according to their view of life. The tragedy of secular societies is that they fail to connect the different aspects of life. The secular and the religious, the scientific and the spiritual seem to be in conflict. Islam puts an end to, this conflict and brings harmony to man's vision of life.

• Conclusion:
What is the state of the world today? Has man freed himself from all superstitions, imbecilities and absurd beliefs? Has he discovered the man from within himself? Has he liberated himself from the yoke of worldly tyrants indulging in the exploitation of man by man? If such a millennium has not been achieved despite all developments in science and technology, then Islam has still a great and glorious part to play.
 

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 God And Creation

• Since the total submission of one’s will to God represents the essence of worship, the basic message of God’s divine religion, Islam, is the worship of God alone. It also requires the avoidance of worship directed to any person, place or thing other than God. Since everything other than God, the creator of all the things, is God’s creation, it may be said that Islam, in essence, calls man away from worship of creation and invites him to worship only his Creator. He is the only one deserving of man’s worship, because it is only by His will that prayers are answered. Accordingly, if a man prays to a tree and his prayers are answered, it is not the tree which answers his prayers but God, who allows the circumstances prayed for to take place. One might say, "That is obvious". However, to tree-worshippers, it might not be so. Similarly, prayers to Jesus, Buddha, or Krishna or Saint Christopher, or Saint Jude or even to Muhammad, are not answered by them, but are answered by God. Jesus did not tell his followers to worship him but to worship God, as the Quran states:

"And behold! Allah will say: ‘O Jesus, the son of Mary! Did you say to men, worship me and my mother as gods besides Allah?, He will say: "Glory to you, I could never say what I had no right (to say)."
[Quran 5:118]
• It is worth emphasizing that the basic message of Islam (namely, the worship of God alone) also proclaims that God and His creation are distinctly different entities. God is neither equal to His creation nor a part of it, nor is His creation equal to Him or a part of Him. This might seem obvious, but man’s worship of creation, instead of the Creator is to a large degree based on ignorance, or neglect, of this concept. It is the belief that the essence of God is everywhere in His creation or that His divine being is or was present in some parts of His creation, which has provided justification for the worship of God’s creation and naming it the worship of God. However, the message of Islam, as brought by the prophets of God, is to worship only God and to avoid the worship of His creation either directly or indirectly.

• In the Qu’an God clearly states:

"For we assuredly sent amongst every people a prophet, with the command Worship Me and avoid false Gods."
[Quran 16:36]
• When idol worshippers are questioned as to why they bow down to idols created by men, the invariable reply is that they are not actually worshipping the stone image, but God who is present within it. They claim that the stone idol is only a focal point for God’s essence and is not in itself God! One who has accepted the concept of God being present in any way within His creation will be obliged to accept this argument for idolatry. Whereas, one who understands the basic message of Islam and its implications would never agree to idolatry no matter how it is rationalized. Those who have claimed divinity for themselves down through the ages have often based their claims on the mistaken belief that God is present in man. Taking one step further, they claim that God is more present in them than in the rest of us, and that other humans should therefore submit to them and worship them as God in person or as God concentrated within their persons. Similarly, those who have asserted the godhood of others after their deaths have found fertile ground among those who accept the false belief of God’s presence in man. It should be abundantly clear by now that one who has grasped the basic message of Islam and its implications could never agree to worship another human being under any circumstance. God’s religion, in essence, is a clear call to the worship of the Creator and the rejection of creation-worship in any form. This is the meaning of the motto of Islam.

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Signs Of God

• Throughout people’s lives, from childhood until the time they die, signs of the one and only true God are shown to them
in all regions of the earth and in their own souls, until it becomes clear that there is only one true God (Allah). God says
in the Quran
• "We will show them our signs In the furthest regions (of the earth) and in their souls, until it becomes clear to them that
this is the truth."
[Quran 41:53]
• The following is an example of God revealing by a sign to one man the error of his idol-worship. In the south-eastern
region of the Amazon jungle in Brazil, South America, a primitive tribe erected a new hut to house their man-idol Skwatch,
representing the supreme God of all creation. The following day a young man entered the hut to pay homage to the God, and
while he was in prostration to what he had been taught was his Creator and Sustainer, a mangy old flea-ridden dog slunk
into the hut. The young man looked up in time to see the dog lift his hind leg and pass urine on the idol. Outraged, the
youth chased the dog out of the temple; but when his rage died down he realized that the idol could not be the Lord of the
Universe. God must be elsewhere, he concluded. As strange as it may seem, the dog urinated on the idol was a sign from God
for that young man. This sign contained the divine message that what he was worshipping was false. It liberated from
slavishly following his traditionally learned worship of a false god. As a result, this man was given a choice: either to
seek the true god or to continue in the error of his ways. Allah mentions Prophet Abraham’s quest for God as an example of
how those who follow His signs will be rightly guided.

• "So also did we show Abraham the power and the Laws of the heavens and the earth that he might (with understanding) have certitude.

• When the night covered him over, he saw a star. He said: ‘This is my Lord.’ But when it set, he said: ‘I love not those that set’

• When he saw the moon rising in splendor, he said: ‘This is my Lord.’ But when the moon set, he said: ‘Unless my Lord guide me, I shall surely be among those who go astray.’

• When he saw the rising sun in splendor, he said:

‘This is my Lord this is the greatest (of all).’ But when the sun set, he said; ‘O my people I am indeed free from your (guilt) of giving partners to Allah.

• For me, I have set my face, firmly and truly, towards Him who created the heavens and the earth, and never shall I give partners to Allah"


[Quran 6:75-79]

• Prophets have been sent to every nation and tribe to support man’s natural belief in God and man’s in-born inclination to worship Him, as well as to reinforce the divine truth in the daily signs revealed by God. Although much of these prophets’ teachings became distorted, portions revealing their God-inspired messages have remained untainted and have served to guide mankind in the choice between right and wrong. The influence of God-inspired messages down through the ages can be seen in the "Ten Commandments" of Judaism’s Torah which were later adopted into Christianity’s teachings, as well as in the existence of laws against murder, stealing and adultery in most societies throughout the ancient and modern world. As a result of God’s signs to mankind through the ages combined with His revelation through His prophets, all mankind has been given a chance to recognize the one only true God. Consequently, every soul will be held accountable for its belief in God and its acceptance of the true religion of God, namely Islam, which means total submission to the will of Allah.

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Jesus (Peace Be Upon Him)

 

Islam honors all the prophets who were sent to mankind. Muslims respect all prophets in general, but Jesus in particular, because he was one of the prophets who foretold the coming of Muhammad. Muslims, too, await the second coming of Jesus. They consider him one of the greatest of Allah's prophets to mankind. A Muslim does not refer to him simply as "Jesus," but normally adds the phrase "peace be upon him" as a sign of respect.

No other religion in the world respects and dignifies Jesus as Islam does. The Qur'an confirms his virgin birth (a chapter of the Qur'an is entitled "Mary"), and Mary is considered to have been one of the purest women in all creation. The Qur'an describes Jesus' birth as follows:

"Behold!' the Angel said, God has chosen you, and purified you, and chosen you above the women of all nations. Mary, God gives you good news of a word from Him, whose name shall be the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, honored in this world and in the Hereafter, and one of those brought near to God. He shall speak to the people from his cradle and in maturity, and he shall be of the righteous. She said: "My Lord! How shall I have a son when no man has touched me?' He said: "Even so; God creates what He will. When He decrees a thing, He says to it, 'Be!' and it is." [3:42-47]

Muslims believe that Jesus was born immaculately, and through the same power which had brought Eve to life and Adam into being without a father or a mother.

"Truly, the likeness of Jesus with God is as the likeness of Adam. He created him of dust, and then said to him, 'Be!' and he was." [3:59]

During his prophetic mission, Jesus performed many miracles. The Qur'an tells us that he said:

"I have come to you with a sign from your Lord: I make for you out of clay, as it were, the figure of a bird, and breathe into it and it becomes a bird by God's leave. And I heal the blind, and the lepers, and I raise the dead by God's leave." [3:49]

Muhammad and Jesus, as well as the other prophets, were sent to confirm the belief in one God. This is referred to in the Qur'an where Jesus is reported as saying that he came:

"To attest the law which was before me, and to make lawful to you part of what was forbidden you; I have come to you with a sign from your Lord, so fear God and obey me." [3:50]

Prophet Muhammad emphasized the importance of Jesus by saying:

"Whoever believes there is no god but Allah, alone without partner, that Muhammad is His messenger, that Jesus is a servant and messenger of God, His word breathed into Mary and a spirit emanating from Him, and that Paradise and Hell are true, shall be received by God into Heaven. [Bukhari]

 

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Main Pillars

Shahadah ( Tuheed )

Salah

Sawm

Zakah

Hajj

 

Shahadah( Tuheed )

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 (PBUH) 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 prophethood of Muhammad (PBUH) 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 (PBUH) 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".

 

Salah

Prayer (Salah), in the sense of worship, is the second pillar of Islam. 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 Dhuhr prayer.

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 congregants 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.

 

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 (Juz') 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 (PBUH) 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 forbidden.

 

Zakah

The third pillar of Islam is the alms-tax (Zakah). 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.

 

Hajj

The fifth pillar of Islam is to make a pilgrimage (Hajj) to Makkah, 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 Hajj 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 Hajj is nothing less than Paradise.

The Hajj 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 Hajj, 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.

 

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Other Religions

Islam is the religion of all prophets. Muslims believe that all the prophets were sent to their respective peoples from God (Allah). They all had the same mission and message - guiding people to the right path.

The three revealed, monotheistic religions, Islam, Christianity, and Judaism, go back to Abraham. The prophets of these religions were directly descended from him - Moses, Jesus and others from Isaac, but Muhammad from IsmaŒil. It was Prophet Abraham who had established the settlement which today is the city of Makkah, and with his son IsmaŒil built the KaŒbah, which Muslims all over the world face when they pray.

Christians and Jews hold a special place in Islam. They are called the People of the Book (Ahl al-Kitab), since the original Torah and Gospel were also divinely revealed and they shared in the prophetic tradition. Islamic states have nearly always shown their religious minorities tolerance and respect and those communities flourished under Islamic rule. God says:

"...[T]hose who believe (in the message of Islam), and the Jews, the Sabaeans, and the Christians - all those who believe in Allah and the Last Day, and act righteously - no fear shall come upon them..." [5:69]

Setting up the Islamic state in Madinah, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) further warned:

"Whoever oppresses any Dhimmi (non-Muslim citizen of the Islamic state), I shall be his prosecutor on the Day of Judgment."

In setting up the Islamic state, Prophet Muhammad made it inclusive of the Arabian Jews and Christians. Their persons, properties, churches and synagogues were protected, freedom of worship was guaranteed, and they controlled their own community affairs with their own civil and religious laws and courts. For most of the first century of the Islamic state, in fact, the majority of the citizens were Christians, enjoying peace and liberty such as they had not had even under Christian Rome or Byzantium.

The Jews, from the very beginning in Madinah, and later everywhere else, were lifted from the burden of being clients of individual Arab tribes to being citizens of the state, thus freeing them to focus on their Jewishness. When the Islamic state expanded outside Arabia the Jews of other lands were treated for the first time as liberated citizens. Judaism flourished as never before, with Jews even serving in Muslim armies and administrations while their culture bloomed in the arts, sciences, medicine and philosophy. This knowledge they transmitted to their brethren in the hostile climate of Christian Europe. Even Jewish mysticism originated under the influence of sufism and spread to northern Europe.

When Islam reached Persia the concept of People of the Book was extended to the Zoroastrians as well. Later, when the Muslims conquered parts of India and encountered Buddhists and Hindus, who appeared to worship idols, the question was referred to the ulema (council of scholars), who judged that even they could have the same protected status as the Jews and Christians, so long as they did not fight Islam and they paid the Jizyah tax.

 

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Peace

"Peace" is the most common word on a Muslim's tongue. Whenever two people meet, they exchange greetings, wishing each other peace: "Peace be upon you." But peace cannot prevail except through justice. Since the concept of justice may differ from one man to another, or from one society to another, Muslims believe that real justice is that which is specified by Allah (God).

Islam permits fighting in self-defense, in defense of the religion, or by those who have been expelled forcibly from their homes. At the same time, Islam requires one to treat one's enemy mercifully. It lays down strict rules of combat which include prohibitions against harming civilians and against destroying crops, trees, and livestock. Islam also requires that if an enemy declares his desire to end hostilities and seek peace, the Muslims must do the same.

The concept of Jihad (struggling in the cause of Allah) is stated in the Qur'an. Allah said: "Fight in the cause of God those who fight you, but do not transgress limits. God does not love transgressors." [2:19] Jihad is never to be waged to force anybody to choose a particular religion. On the contrary, it is to waged to protect his right to choose freely. Therefore, if there is a force in the world that tries to prevent a person from practicing this right, Jihad may lead to fighting the force that is trying to prevent him from exercising free will.

 

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Sunnah

The term Sunnah comes from the root word sanna, which means to pave the way or make a path easily passable, such that it becomes a commonly followed way by everyone afterwards. Thus sunnah can be used to describe a street or road or path on which people, animals, and cars travel. Additionally, it can apply to a prophetic way, i.e. the law that they brought and taught as an explanation or further clarification of a divinely revealed book. Normally, the prophetic way includes references to his sayings, actions, physical features and character traits.

From the Islamic standpoint, Sunnah refers to anything narrated or related about the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), authentically traced to him regarding his speech, actions, traits, and silent approvals, before and after the revelation.

Each narration is composed of two parts: the isnad and the matn. The isnad refers to a chain of people who narrated a paricular narration. The matn is the actual text of the narration. The isnad must comprise upright and sincere individuals whose integrity is unquestionable.

 

The Speech of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)

The speech of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) refers to his sayings. For example, he said:

"Actions are judged by their intentions; everyone will be rewarded according to his/her intention. So whoever migrates for the sake of Allah and His Prophet then his migration will be noted as a migration for the sake of Allah and His Prophet. Conversely, one who migrates only to obtain something worldly or to marry a woman, then his migration will be worth what he had inteded.² [Bukhari]. The Prophet (PBUH) also said: ³Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, should say something good or keep quiet.

The above two accounts clearly show that the Prophet (PBUH) spoke these words. Consequently, these are known as his speech.

 

The Actions of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)

His actions pertain to anything he did, as authentically reported by the Sahabah (Companions). For instance, Hudhayfah reported that whenever the Prophet (PBUH) got up at night, he would clean his teeth with a tooth-stick. Also A'ishah reported that the Prophet (PBUH) loved to do everything starting with the right side - putting on shoes, walking, cleaning himself, and in all his affairs generally.

 

The Silent Approvals of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)

His silent approvals on different issues meant his not opposing or minding what he saw, heard or knew of the actions or sayings of his Companions. On one occasion, for example, the Prophet (PBUH) learned of actions of some of his Companions from other Companions. Soon after the battle of Khandaq, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) gave the order to the Companions to move quickly to surround the tribe of Banu Quraydah, encouraging them to hurry so that perhaps they would pray 'Asr (the late afternoon prayer) there. Some of the Companions of the Prophet (PBUH) responded immediately and left without praying 'Asr. They arrived after sunset, pitched camp and prayed 'Asr- after sunset. At the same time another group of Companions formulated their judgment differently. They thought that the Prophet (PBUH) was merely encouraging them to hasten to their destination, rather than to delay 'Asr until after sunset. Consequently, they decided to stay in Madinah until they had prayed 'Asr. Immediately thereafter, they hastened towards the tribe of Banu Quraydhah. When the Prophet (PBUH) was told of how each group responded differently to his announcement, he (PBUH) affirmed both judgments.

 

Physical and Moral Traits of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)

Everything authentically narrated concerning the Prophet's complexion and the rest of his physical features is also included in the definition of sunnah. Umm Ma'bad described what she saw of the great Prophet (PBUH). She said:

"I saw a man, his face radiant with a bright glow, not too thin or too fat, elegant and handsome. His eyes had a deep black hue with long eyelashes. His voice was pleasant and his neck long. He had a thick beard. His long black eyebrows were beautifully arched and connected to each other. In silence, he remained dignified, commanding utmost awe and respect. When he spoke, his speech was brilliant. Of all people he was the most handsome and the most pleasant, even when approaching from a distance. In person, he was unique and most admirable. Graced with eloquent logic, his speech was moderate. His logical arguments were well organized as though they were a string of gems. He was not too tall or too short, but exactly in between. Among three, he appeared the most radiant and most vibrant. He had companions who affectionately honored him. When he spoke, they listened to him attentively. When he gave orders, they were quick to execute them. They rallied around him guarding him. He never frowned or spoke frivolously." [Hakim]

Along with his physical features, his Companions also described his habits and behavior with people. Once Anas reported:

"I served the Prophet of Allah (PBUH) for ten years. Never once did he so much as express any bit of displeasure nor did he ever ask 'Why did you do it?' for something I did or 'Why didn't you do it?' for something I didn't do."

From the above we can clearly see that when the term sunnah appears in a general context refering to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) it comprises anything narrated about the Prophet (PBUH) and authentically traced to him. Once a Muslim learns of the authenticity of any narration, he/she is obliged to follow and obey it accordingly. Such obedience is mandated by Allah as He declares

"...and obey Allah and His Prophet and do not turn away when you hear (him speak)." [8:20]

At times, some Muslims are perplexed when people say that sunnah is something only recommeded and is not mandatory. Thus they conclude that we are only required to follow the Qur'an and not the Sunnah. Such an argument results from a gross misunderstanding. Scholars of Islamic jurisprudence use the term sunnah to denote what is authentically established of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in deeds which were not subsequentlly made mandatory by Allah.

They further hold that this includes any saying of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) where he encourages Muslims to do a particular task and compliments those who imbibe such attributes. Thus to them, the term sunnah denotes what is authentically established of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in deeds which he did voluntarily and which were not subsequently made mandatory by Allah. They further hold that this includes any saying of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) where he encourages Muslims to do a particular task and compliments those who imbibe such attributes. Thus to them, the term sunnah refers to what is "recommended" and is not mandatory (fard or wajib).

From the above, we can clearly see that the term sunnah takes on different meanings when used by different Islamic disciplines.

 

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Tolerance

 

Freedom of belief is guaranteed in Islam. It should be very clear that Islam tolerates not only other faiths but even its enemies. This is stated clearly in the Qur'an:

"God forbids you not with regard to those who fight you not for (your) faith, nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them, for God loves those who are just." [60:8]

It is one function of Islamic law to protect the privileged status of minorities, and this is why non-Muslim places of worship have flourished all over the Islamic world. Islamic law also permits non-Muslim minorities to set up their own courts to implement family laws drawn up by the minorities themselves and to govern their own affairs.

History provides many examples of Muslim tolerance towards other faiths. When the great leader and second Caliph, Umar, entered Jerusalem in the year 634, Islam guaranteed freedom of worship to all religious communities in the city. In fact, so careful was Umar in setting an example for his people that he not only went to a church to pray, he prayed outside in the courtyard, lest his followers after his death be tempted to convert the church into a mosque.

Islam teaches that the closest to Allah and the most beloved of Allah are those who are the best in piety. Thus all people, male and female, and regardless of race, color, nationality or ethnicity, are considered and treated as equal before Allah and before the law. This concept of tolerance did not reach the West even in theory until the 18th century, and in practice not until the 20th century.

 

 

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Women

 

At a time when the rest of the world, from Greece and Rome to India and China, considered women as no better than children or even slaves, with no rights whatsoever, Islam acknowledged women's equality with men in a great many respects. The Qur'an states:

"And among His signs is this: that He created mates for you form yourselves that you may find rest, peace of mind in them, and He ordained between you love and mercy. Lo, herein indeed are signs for people who reflect." [30:21]

Prophet Muhammad said:

"The most perfect in faith amongst believers is he who is best in manners and kindest to his wife." [Abu Dawud]

Muslims believe that Adam and Eve were created from the same soul. Both were equally guilty of their sin and fall from grace, and both were forgiven by Allah. Many women in Islam have had high status; consider the fact that the first person to convert to Islam was Khadijah,the wife of Muhammad, whom he both loved and respected. His favorite wife after Khadijah's death, AŒisha, became renowned as a scholar and one of the greatest sources of Hadith literature. Many of the female Companions accomplished great deeds and achieved fame, and throughout Islamic history there have been famous and influential scholars, jurists and mystics.

With regard to education, both women and men have the same rights and obligations. This is clear in Prophet Muhammad's saying:

"Seeking knowledge is mandatory for every believer." [Ibn Majah]

This implies men and women.

A woman is to be treated as God has endowed her, with rights, such as to be treated as an individual, with the right to own and dispose of her own property and earnings, enter into contracts, even after marriage. She has the right to be educated and to work outside the home if she so chooses. She has the right to inherit from her father, mother, and husband. A very interesting point to note is that in Islam, unlike any other religion, a woman can be an imam, a leader of communal prayer, for a group of women.

A Muslim woman also has obligations. All the laws and regulations pertaining to prayer, fasting, charity, pilgrimage, doing good deeds, etc., apply to women, albeit with minor differences having mainly to do with female physiology.

Before marriage, a woman has the right to choose her husband. Islamic law is very strict regarding the necessity of having the woman's consent for marriage. A marriage dowry is given by the groom to the bride for her own personal use. She keeps her own family name, rather than taking her husband's. As a wife, a woman has the right to be supported by her husband even if she is already rich. She also has the right to seek divorce and custody of young children. She does not return the dowry, except in a few unusual situations.

Despite the fact that in many places and times Muslim communities have not always adhered to all or even many of the foregoing in practice, the ideal has been there for1,400 years, while virtually all other major civilzations did not begin to address these issues or change their negative attitudes until the19th and 20th centuries, and there are still many contemporary civilzations which have yet to do so.

 

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