The word “Islam” means peace and
submission. Peace means to be at peace with yourself and your
surroundings and submission means submission to the will of God. A broader
meaning of the word “Islam” is to achieve peace by submitting to the will of
This is a unique religion with a name which signifies a moral
attitude and a way of life. Judaism takes its name from the tribe of Juda,
Christianity from Jesus Christ, Buddhism from Goutam Buddha and Hinduism from
Indus River. However, Muslims derive their identity from the message of Islam,
rather than the person of Muhammed (P), thus should not be called
2. Who is Allah?
Allah is the Arabic word for “one God”.
Allah is not God of Muslims only. He is God of all creations, because He is
their Creator and Sustainer.
3. Who is a Muslim?
The word “Muslim” means one who
submits to the will of God. This is done by declaring that
“there is no god
except one God and Muhammad is the messenger of God.” In a broader sense,
anyone who willingly submits to the will of God is a Muslim. Thus, all the
prophets preceding the prophet Muhammad are considered Muslims. The Quran
specifically mentions Abraham who lived long before Moses and Christ that, “he
was not a Jew or a Christian but a Muslim,” because, he had submitted to the
will of God. Thus there are Muslims who are not submitting at all to the will of
God and there are Muslims who are doing their best to live an Islamic life. One
cannot judge Islam by looking at those individuals who have a Muslim name but in
their actions, they are not living or behaving as Muslims. The extent of being a
Muslim can be according to the degree to which one is submitting to the will of
God, in his beliefs and his actions.
4. Who was Muhammad? (P)
In brief, Muhammad (Peace be upon
him) was born in a noble tribe of Mecca in Arabia in the year 570 AD. His
ancestry goes back to Prophet Ishmael (P), son of Prophet Abraham (P). His
father died before his birth and his mother died when he was six. He did not
attend a formal school since he was raised first by a nurse as it was the custom
those days, and then by his grandfather and uncle. As a young man, he was known
as a righteous person who used to meditate in a cave. At age 40, he was given
the prophethood when the angel, Gabriel, appeared in the cave. Subsequently, the
revelations came over 23 years and were compiled in the form of a book called
the Quran which Muslims consider as the final and the last word of God. The
Quran has been preserved, unchanged, in its original form and confirms the truth
in the Torah, the psalms and the Gospel.
5. Do Muslims worship Muhammad? (P)
No. Muslims do not
worship Muhammad (P) or any other prophets. Muslims believe in all prophets
including Adam, Noah, Abraham, David, Solomon, Moses and Jesus. Muslims believe
that Muhammad (P) was the last of the prophets. They believe that God alone is
to be worshiped, not any human being.
6. What do Muslims think of Jesus? (P)
highly of Jesus (P) and his worthy mother, Mary. The Quran tells us that Jesus
was born of a miraculous birth without a father. “Lo! The likeness of Jesus with
Allah is the likeness of Adam. He created him of dust, and then He said unto
him: Be and he is” (Quran 3.59). He was given many miracles as a prophet. These
include speaking soon after his birth in defense of his mother’s piety. God’s
other gifts to him included healing the blind and the sick, reviving the dead,
making a bird out of clay and most importantly, the message he was carrying.
These miracles were given to him by God to establish him as a prophet. According
to the Quran, he was not crucified but was raised into Heaven. (Quran, Chapter
7. Do Muslims have many sects?
Muslims have no sects. In
Islam, there are two major schools of thought, the Shia and
Sunni. Both have many things in common. They follow the same book – Quran.
They follow the same prophet Muhammad (P). Both offer their prayers five time a
day. Both fast in the month of Ramadan. They both go for hajj, pilgrimage to
Mecca. Those who follow Prophet Muhammad (P), in accordance with his sayings and
actions, are called Sunni and those who in addition follow the sayings and views
of Ali (Muhammad’s son-in- law), as the rightful successor to Prophet Muhammad
(P), are called Shia. Shia means a partisan (party of Ali) and it started more
as a political party to help Ali in his conflict with his political adversaries.
Most Shias live in Iran and Iraq while the rest of the Muslim world is mostly
Sunni. Shias comprise about 16-percent of the Muslim population.
8. What are the pillars of Islam?
There are five major
pillars of Islam which are the articles of faith. These pillars are 1)
belief (Iman) in one God and that Muhammad (P) is His messenger, 2)
prayer (Salat) which are prescribed five times a day, 3) fasting
(Siyam) which is required in the month of Ramadan, 4) charity (Zakat)
which is the poor-due on the wealth of the rich and 5) hajj which is the
pilgrimage to Mecca once in a lifetime if one can afford it physically and
financially. All the pillars should be of equal height and strength in a
building in order to give the building its due shape and proportions. It is not
possible that one would do hajj without observing fasting or without practicing
regular prayers. Now think of a building which has pillars only. It would not be
called a building. In order to make it a building, it has to have a roof, it has
to have walls, it has to have doors and windows. These things in Islam are the
moral codes of Islam such as honesty, truthfulness, steadfastness and
many other human moral qualities. Thus in order to be a Muslim, one should not
only be practicing the pillars of Islam but should also have the highest
possible attribute for being a good human being. Only then the building is
completed and looks beautiful.
9. What is the purpose of worship in Islam?
The purpose of
worship in Islam is to be God conscious. Thus the worship, whether it is prayer,
fasting, or charity, is a means to achieve God consciousness so that when one
becomes conscious of God, in thought and in action, he is in a better position
to receive His bounties both in this world and the hereafter.
10. Do Muslims believe in the hereafter?
God is Just and
manifest His justice, He established the system of accountability. Those who do
good will be rewarded and those who do wrong will be punished accordingly. Thus,
He created Heaven and Hell and there are admission criteria for both. Muslims
believe that the present life is a temporary one. It is a test and if we pass
the test, we will be given a life of permanent pleasure in the company of good
people in Heaven.
11. Will the good actions of the non-believers be
No. The Quran clearly says that, “anyone who has an atom’s worth of
goodness will see it and anyone who has done an atom’s worth of evil will also
see it” (Quran 99:7-8). By that it is meant that those who are non- believers
but have done good will be rewarded in this world for their good deed. On the
other hand, those who do good if they are Muslims, they will be rewarded not
only in this world but also in the world hereafter. However, the final Judgment
is up to God himself. (Quran 2:62)
12. What is the dress code for Muslims?
modesty. No person should be perceived as a sex object. There are certain
guidelines both for men and women that their dress should neither be too thin
nor too tight to reveal body forms. For men, they must at least cover the area
from the knee to navel and for women, their dress should cover all areas except
the hands and face. The veil is not essential.
13. What are the dietary prohibitions in Islam?
are told in the Quran not to eat pork or pork products, meat of the animals who
died before being slaughtered or the carnivorous animals (as they eat dead
animals), nor drink blood or intoxicants such as wine or use any illicit
14. What is Jihad?
The word “Jihad” means struggle, or to
be specific, striving in the cause of God. Any struggle done in
day-to-day life to please God can be considered Jihad. One of the highest levels
of Jihad is to stand up to a tyrant and speak a word of truth. Control of the
self from wrong doings is also a great Jihad. One of the forms of Jihad
is to take up arms in defense of Islam or a Muslim country when Islam is
attacked. This kind of Jihad has to be declared by the religious leadership or
by a Muslim head of state who is following the Quran and Sunnah.15. What is the Islamic Year?
The Islamic year started
from the migration (Hijra) of Prophet Muhammad (P) from Mecca to Medina
in 622 AD. It is a lunar year of 354 days. The first month is called Muharram.
1996 AD is in Islamic year 1416 AH.
16. What are the major Islamic festivals?
Fitre, marks the end of fasting in the month of Ramadan and is celebrated
with public prayers, feasts and exchange of gifts. Idul Adha marks the
end of the Hajj or the annual pilgrimage to Mecca. After the public prayers,
those who can afford, sacrifice a lamb or a goat to signify Prophet Abraham’s
obedience to God, shown by his readiness to sacrifice his son Ishmael.
17. What is Sharia?
Sharia is the comprehensive Muslim
law derived form two sources, a) the Quran b) the Sunnah or
traditions of Prophet Muhammad (P). It covers every aspect of daily individual
and collective living. The purpose of Islamic laws are protection of
individuals’ basic human rights to include right to life, property, political
and religious freedom and safeguarding the rights of women and minorities. The
low crime rate in Muslim societies is due to the application of the Islamic
18. Was Islam spread by the sword?
According to the
Quran, “There is no compulsion in religion” (2:256), thus, no one can be forced
to become a Muslim. While it is true that in many places where Muslim armies
went to liberate people or the land, they did carry the sword as that was the
weapon used at that time. However, Islam did not spread by the sword because in
many places where there are Muslims now, in the Far East like Indonesia, in
China, and many parts of Africa, there are no records of any Muslim armies going
there. To say that Islam was spread by the sword would be to say that
Christianity was spread by guns, F-16’s and atomic bombs, etc., which is not
true. Christianity spread by the missionary works of Christians. Ten-percent of
all Arabs are Christians. The “Sword of Islam” could not convert all the
non-Muslim minorities in Muslim countries. In India, where Muslims ruled for 700
years, they are still a minority. In the U.S.A., Islam is the fastest growing
religion and has 6 million followers without any sword around.
19. Does Islam promote violence and terrorism?
is religion of peace and submission and stresses on the sanctity
of human life. A verse in the Quran says, [Chapter 5, verse 32], that “anyone
who saves one life, it is as if he has saved the whole of mankind and anyone who
has killed another person (except in lieu of murder or mischief on earth) it is
as if he has killed the whole of mankind.” Islam condemns all the violence which
happened in the Crusades, in Spain, in WW II, or by acts of people like the Rev.
Jim Jones, David Koresh, Dr. Baruch Goldstein, or the atrocities committed in
Bosniaby the Christian Serbs. Anyone who is doing violence is not practicing his
religion at that time. However, sometimes violence is a human response of
oppressed people as it happens in Palestine. Although this is wrong, they think
of this as a way to get attention. There is a lot of terrorism and violence in
areas where there is no Muslim presence. For example, in Ireland, South Africa,
Latin America, and Sri Lanka. Sometimes the violence is due to a struggle
between those who have with those who do not have, or between those who are
oppressed with those who are oppressors. We need to find out why people become
terrorists. Unfortunately, the Palestinians who are doing violence are called
terrorists, but not the armed Israeli settlers when they do the same sometimes
even against their own people. As it turned out to be in the Oklahoma City
bombing, sometime Muslims are prematurely blamed even if the terrorism is
committed by non-Muslims. Sometimes those who want Peace and those who oppose
Peace can be of the same religion.
20. What is “Islamic Fundamentalism”?
There is no concept
of “Fundamentalism” in Islam. The western media has coined this term to brand
those Muslims who wish to return to the basic fundamental principles of Islam
and mould their lives accordingly. Islam is a religion of moderation and a
practicing God fearing Muslim can neither be a fanatic nor an extremist.
21. Does Islam promote polygamy?
No, polygamy in Islam
is a permission not an injunction. Historically, all the prophets except Jesus,
who was not married, had more than one wife. For Muslim men to have more than
one wibe is a permission which is given to them in the Quran, not to satisfy
lust, but for the welfare of the widows and the orphans of the wars. In the
pre-Islamic period, men used to have many wives. One person had 11 wives and
when he became Muslim, he asked the Prophet Muhammad (P), “What should I do with
so many wives?” and he said, “Divorce all except the four.” The Quran says, “you
can marry 2 or 3 and up to 4 women if you can be equally just with each of them”
(4:3). Since it is very difficult to be equally just with all wives, in
practice, most of the Muslim men do not have more than one wife. Prophet
Muhammad (P) himself from age 24 to 50 was married to only one woman, Khadija.
In the western society, some men who have one wife have many extramarital
affairs. Thus, a survey was published in “U.S.A. Today” (April 4, 1988 Section
D) which asked 4,700 mistresses what they would like their status to be. They
said that “they preferred being a second wife rather than the ‘other woman’
because they did not have the legal rights, nor did they have the financial
equality of the legally married wives, and it appeared that they were being used
by these men.”
22. Does Islam oppress women?
No. On the contrary, Islam
elevated the status of women 1,400 years ago by giving them the right to
divorce, the right to have financial independence and support and the right to
be identified as dignified women (Hijab) when in the rest of the world,
including Europe, women had no such rights. Women are equal to men in all acts
of piety (Quran 33:32). Islam allows women to keep their maiden name after
marriage, their earned money and spend it as they wish, and ask men to be their
protector as women on the street can be molested. Prophet Muhammad (P) told
“the best among you is the one who is best to his family.”
Not Islam, but some Muslim men, do oppress women today. This is because of
their cultural habits or their ignorance about their religion. Female Genital
Mutilations has nothing to do with Islam. It is a pre Islamic African Custom,
practiced by non Muslims including coptic Christians as well.
23. Is Islam intolerant of other religiou
Islam recognizes the rights of the minority. To ensure their
welfare and safety, Muslim rulers initiated a tax (Jazia) on them. Prophet
Muhammad (P) forbade Muslim armies to destroy churches and synagogues. Caliph
Umer did not even allow them to pray inside a church. Jews were welcomed and
flourished in Muslim Spain even when they were persecuted in the rest of Europe.
They consider that part of their history as the Golden Era. In Muslim countries,
Christians live in prosperity, hold government positions and attend their
church. Christian missionaries are allowed to establish and operate their
schools and hospitals. However, the same religious tolerance is not always
available to Muslim minorities as seen in the past during Spanish inquisition
and the crusades, or as seen now by the events in Bosnia, Israel and India.
Muslims do recognize that sometimes the actions of a ruler does not reflect the
teachings of his religion.
24. What is the Islamic view on-
a. Dating and Premarital sex:
Islam does not approve of intimate mixing
of the sexes, and forbids premarital or extramarital sex. Islam encourages
marriage as a shield to such temptations and as a means of having mutual love,
mercy and peace.
Islam considers abortion as murder and does not permit it
except to save the mother’s life (Quran 17:23-31, 6:15 1).
c. Homosexuality and AIDS:
Islam categorically opposes homosexuality and
considers it a sin. However, Muslim physicians are advised to care for AIDS
patients with compassion just as they would for other patients.
d. Euthanasia and Suicide:
Islam is opposed to both suicide and
euthanasia. Muslims do not believe in heroic measures to prolong the misery in a
terminally ill patient.
e. Organ transplantation:
Islam stresses upon saving lives (Quran 5:32);
thus, transplantation in general would be considered permissible provided a
donor consent is available. The sale of the organ is not allowed.
25. How should Muslims treat Jews and Christians?
Quran calls them “People of the Book”, i.e., those who received Divine
scriptures before Muhammad (P). Muslims are told to treat them with respect and
justice and do not fight with them unless they initiate hostilities or ridicule
their faith. The Muslims ultimate hope is that they all will join them in
worshipping one God and submit to His will.
“Say (O Muhammad): O people
of the Book (Jews and Christians) come to an agreement between us and you, that
we shall worship none but Allah, and that we shall take no partners with Him,
and none of us shall take others for Lords beside Allah. And if they turn away,
then say: Bear witness that we are those who have surrendered (unto Him).”
What about Hindus, Bahai, Buddhists and members of other
They should also be treated with love, respect, and understanding
to make them recipients of Invitations to Islam.
from Hassane Marecan