What is Islam?

13 May

1. What is Islam?

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)

Muslims think

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?

Islam emphasizes

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?

No. Islam

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

Muslim men,

“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.

b. Abortion:

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).”

(Quran 3:64)

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

1 Comment

Posted by on May 13, 2011 in ISLAM


Tags: , , , , , , ,

One response to “What is Islam?

  1. Mohammed Abid Mohiuddin

    March 18, 2012 at 11:50 am



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