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Wednesday, 28 March 2007

What is Islam?

The word "Islam" is an Arabic word that means "submitting and surrendering your will to Almighty God".

The word comes from the same root as the Arabic word "salam", which means peace.

Unlike the names used for other religions, such as Buddhism, Hinduism and Christianity, the name for the religion of Islaam was both revealed by God and carries a deep spritual meaning - only by submitting one's will to Almighty God can one obtain true peace both in this life and in the life hereafter. Islam teaches that all religions originally had the same essential message - which was to submit whole-heartedly to the will of God and to worship Him and Him alone.

For this reason, Islam is not a new religion but is the same divinely revealed Ultimate Truth that God revealed to all prophets, including Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus.

Prepared by: Abu 'Iyaad

Who are the Muslims?

The Arabic word "Muslim" literally means "someone who submits to the will of God".

The message of Islam is meant for the entire world and anyone who accepts this message becomes a Muslim.

Some people mistakenly believe that Islam is just a religion for Arabs, but nothing could be further from the truth, since in actuality over 80% of the world's Muslims are not Arabs! Even though most Arabs are Muslims, there are Arabs who are Christians, Jews and atheists.

If one just takes a look at the various peoples who live in the Muslim World - from Nigeria to Bosnia and from Morocco to Indonesia - it is easy enough to see that Muslims come from all different races, ethnic groups and nationalities.

From the very beginning, Islam had a universal message for all people. This can be seen in the fact that some of the early companions of the Prophet Muhammad were not only Arabs, but also Persians, Africans and Byzantine Romans. Being a Muslim entails complete acceptance and active obedience to the revealed will of Almighty God.

A Muslim is a person who freely accepts to base his beliefs, values and faith on the will of Almighty God. In the past, even though you don't see it as much today, the word "Mohammedans" was often used as a label for Muslims. This label is a misnomer and is the result of either wilful distortion or sheer ignorance. One of the reasons for the misconception is that Europeans were taught for centuries that Muslims worshipped the Prophet Muhammad in the same way that Christians worship Jesus. This is absolutely not true since a Muslim is not permitted to worship anyone or anything besides Almighty God.

Prepared by: Abu 'Iyaad

Who is Allah?

Very often one will here the Arabic word "Allah" being used in regards to Islam.

The word "Allah" is simply the Arabic word for Almighty God, and is the same word used by Arabic speaking Christians and Jews.

If one were to pick up an Arabic translation of the Bible, one would see the word "Allah" being use where the word "God" is used in English. Actually, the Arabic word for Almighty God, "Allah", is quite similar to the word for God in other Semitic languages - for example, the Hebrew word for God is "Elah".

For various reasons, some non-Muslims mistakenly believe that Muslims worship a different God than Jews and Christians. This is certainly not the case, since the Pure Monotheism of Islam calls all people to the worship of the God of Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and all of the other prophets. However, even though Jews, Christians and Muslims worship the same God -since there is only one God - their concepts concerning Him differ in some significant ways.

Prepared by: Abu 'Iyaad

Who is Muhammad?

The last and final prophet that God sent to humanity was the Prophet Muhammad.

Muhammad explained, interpreted and lived the teachings of Islam.

The Prophet Muhammad is the greatest of all prophets for many reasons, but mainly because the results of his mission have brought more people into the pure belief in One God than any other prophet.

Even though other religious communities claimed to believe in One God, over time they had corrupted their beliefs by taking their prophets and saints as intercessors with Almighty God.

Some religions believe their prophets to be manifestations of God, "God Incarnate" or the "Son of God". All of these false ideas lead to the creature being worshipped instead of the Creator, which contributed to the idolatrous practice of believing that Almighty God can be approached through intermediaries. In order to guard against these falsehoods, the Prophet Muhammad always emphasised that he was only a human-being tasked with the preaching of God's message. He taught Muslims to refer to him as "the Messenger of God and His Slave".

To Muslims, Muhammad is the supreme example for all people - he was the exemplary prophet, statesman, military leader, ruler, teacher, neighbour, husband, father and friend. Unlike other prophets and messengers, the Prophet Muhammad lived in the full light of history. Muslims don't need to have "faith" that he existed and that his teachings are preserved - they know it to be a fact. Even when his followers only numbered a few dozen, Almighty God informed Muhammad that he had be sent as a mercy to all of mankind. Because people had distorted or forgotten God's messages, God took it upon Himself to protect the message revealed to Muhammad. This was because Almighty God promised not to send another messenger after him.

Since all of God's messengers have preached the message of Islaam - i.e. submission to the will of God and the worship of God alone - Muhammad is actually the last prophet of Islaam, not the first.

Prepared by: Abu 'Iyaad

What are the teachings of Islam?

The foundation of the Islamic faith is belief in the Unity of God.

This means to believe that there is only one Creator and Sustainer of everything in the Universe, and that nothing is divine or worthy of being worshipped except for Him.

Truly believing in the Unity of God means much more than simply believing that there is "One God" - as opposed to two, three or four.

There are a number of religions that claim belief in "One God" and believe that ultimately there is only one Creator and Sustainer of the Universe. Islaam, however, not only insists on this, but also rejects using such words as "Lord" and "Saviour" for anyone besides Almighty God. Islaam also rejects the use of all intermediaries between God and Man, and insists that people approach God directly and reserve all worship for Him alone. Muslims believe that Almighty God is Compassionate, Loving and Merciful.

The essence of falsehood is the claim that God cannot deal with and forgive His creatures directly. By over-emphasising the burden of sin, as well as claiming that God cannot forgive you directly, false religions
seek to get people to despair of the Mercy of God. Once they are convinced that they cannot approach God directly, people can be mislead into turning to false gods for help. These "false gods" can take various forms, such as saints, angels, or someone who is believed to be the "Son of God" or "God Incarnate". In almost all cases, people who worship, pray to or seek help from a false god don't consider it to be, or call it, a "god". They claim belief in One Supreme God, but claim that they pray to and worship others beside God only to get
closer to Him. In Islaam, there is a clear distinction between the Creator and the created. There is no ambiguity in divinity - anything that is created is not deserving of worship and only the Creator is worthy of being worshipped. Some religions falsely believe that God has become part of His creation, and this has led people to believe that they can worship something created in order to reach their Creator.

Muslims believe that even though God is Unique and beyond comprehension - He has no "Son", partners or associates. According to Muslim belief, Almighty God "does not beget nor was He begotten" - neither literally, allegorically, metaphorically, physically or metaphysically - He is Absolutely Unique and Eternal. He is in control of everything and is perfectly capable of bestowing His infinite Mercy and Forgiveness to whomever He chooses. That is why is called the All-Powerful and Most-Merciful. Almighty God has created the Universe for man, and as such wants the best for all human beings. Muslims see everything in the Universe as a sign of the Creatorship and Benevolence of Almighty God. Also, the belief in the Unity of God is not merely a metaphysical concept. It is a dynamic belief that effects ones view of humanity, society and all aspects of life. As a logical corollary to the Islaamic belief in the Oneness of God, is its belief in the oneness of mankind and humanity.

Misconception: Islam degrades women

Even though many aspects of Islam are misunderstood by non-Muslims, the ignorance, misinformation and incorrect assumptions that are made in regards to Islam's treatment of women are probably the most severe.

Numerous verses of the Qur'aan make it clear that men and women are equal in the sight of God. According to the teachings of Islam, the only thing that distinguishes people in the sight of God is their level of God-consciousness. Due to this, many people are surprised to find out that Islamic Law guaranteed rights to women over 1400 years ago and that women in Europe and America only obtained their rights recently. For example, Islam clearly teaches that a woman is a full-person under the law, and is the spiritual equal of a male. Also, according to Islamic Law, women have the right to own property, operate a business and receive equal pay for equal work. Women are allowed total control of their wealth, they cannot be married against their will and they are allowed to keep their own name when married.

Additionally, they have the right to inherit property and to have their marriage dissolved in the case of neglect or mistreatment. Also, Islam does not consider a woman an "evil temptress", and thus does not blame women for the "original sin". Women in Islam participate in all forms of worship that men participate in. Actually, the rights that Islam gave to women over 1400 years ago were almost unheard of in the West until the 1900's.

Less than fifty years ago in England and America, a woman could not buy a house or car without the co-signature of her father or husband! Additionally, Islam gives great respect to women and their role in society; it gives them the right to own property, marry who they want and many other rights. Also, it should be mentioned that the Prophet Muhammad's mission stopped many of the horrible practices in regards to women that were present in the society of his time. For example, the Qur'aan put an end to the pagan Arab practice of killing their baby daughters when they were born.

Additionally, Islam put restrictions on the unrestricted polygamy of the Arabs of the time, and put many laws in place to protect the well-being of women. Today, most of the so-called reforms in the status of women came about after the West abandoned religion for secularism. Even those in the West who claim to follow the so-called "Judaeo-Christian tradition" really follow the values of Western liberalism, but just to a lesser degree than their more liberal countrymen.

If women in the Muslim World today don't have their rights, it is not because Islam did not give them to them. The problem is that in many places alien traditions have come to overshadow the teachings of Islam, either through ignorance or the impact of Colonialisation.

Prepared by: Abu 'Iyaad