1. Are there any other sacred sources?
Yes, apart from the Holy Koran, Muslims consider the sunnah—practices, sayings, and tacit approvals of the Prophet (pbuh)— to be a sacred source of religious guidance. In fact, it is considered the second authoritative source in Islam.
Fortunately, Sunnah is accessible to Muslims in forms of transmitted reports with chains of narrators and transmitters tracing all the way back to the Prophet (pbuh). Not only that, Muslims have detailed knowledge available on transmitters, chains of narrations, and other aspects thus enabling Muslims to adequately assess the level of authenticity of these transmitted reports.
Some of the examples of the Prophet’s sayings
The Prophet (pbuh) said:
‘God has no mercy on one who has no mercy for others.’
‘None of you truly believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself.’
‘He who eats his fill while his neighbor goes without food is not a true believer.’
“The truthful and trusty businessman is associated with the prophets, the saints, and the martyrs.’
‘Powerful is not he who knocks the other down, indeed powerful is he who controls himself in a fit of anger.’
‘God does not judge according to your bodies and appearances but He looks your hearts and looks into your deeds.’ ‘A man walking along a path felt very thirsty. Reaching a well he descended into it, drank his fill and came up. Then he saw a dog with its tongue hanging out, trying to lick up mud to quench its thirst.
The man saw that the dog was feeling the same thirst as he had felt so he went down into the well again and filled his shoe with water and gave the dog a drink. God forgave his sins for this action.’ The Prophet (pbuh) was asked: ‘Messenger of God, are we rewarded for kindness towards animals?’ He replied, ‘There is a reward for kindness to every living thing.’
From the hadith collections of Bukhaaree, Muslim, Tirmithee and Bayhaqee.
2. Do Islam and Christianity have different origins?
No. Along with Judaism, Islam and Christianity are the three major monotheistic religions going back to the prophet and patriarch Abraham. In addition, the three primary prophets who have come to represent these three monotheistic religions are descendants of his sons – Muhammad from the eldest, Ishmael; and Moses and Jesus from Isaac.
Abraham established the settlement which today is the city of Makkah in Saudi Arabia, and built the Ka‘ba towards which all Muslims turn when the pray thus symbolizing their solidarity with Abraham, his message, and monotheism he brought.
3. Does Islam tolerate other beliefs?
The Qur’an says:
Allah does not forbid you with regards to those who do not fight you for [your] faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them; for Allah loves those who are just. (Qur’an, 60:8)
There is no compulsion in religion. (2:214)
It is one of the functions 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. History provides many examples of Muslim tolerance towards other faiths. For example, when the caliph Omar entered Jerusalem in the year 634, he granted amnesty to all and sanctioned freedom of worship to all religious communities in the city. Another example is Muslims who ruled the Spain had such tolerance of other beliefs that the Golden Age of Jewish Civilization flourished under the Muslim rule.
Not only that, Islamic law permits non-Muslim minorities to set up their own courts thus allowing them the autonomy to be judged according to their family law.
4. How did Muhammad (pbuh) become a prophet and a Messenger of God?
At the age of 40, while engaged in a meditative retreat, Muhammad ( pbuh ) received his first revelation from God through the Angel Gabriel. This revelation, which continued for twenty-three years, is known as the Holy Qur’an.
As soon as he began to recite the words he heard from Gabriel, and to preach the truth which God had revealed to him, he and his small group of followers suffered bitter persecution, which grew so fierce that in the year 622 God gave them the command to emigrate. This important event is known as the Hijirah, [migration] in which they left Makkah for the city of Madeenah some 260 miles from Mekkah.
5. How did the spread of Islam affect the world?
Among the reasons for the rapid and peaceful spread of Islam was the simplicity of its doctrine. Islam calls humanity towards servitude and worship to only One God. More specifically, Muslims firmly believe there is no deity worthy of worship except for the One, who creates everything, a doctrine known as Tawheed). Holy Koran repeatedly encourages the human being to reflect upon the nature, the harmony, balance, and equilibrium that is established in the creation. Ultimately, Qur’an teaches that nature, rationality, and sound reason all affirm the existence of the One.
Indoctrinated with such a powerful yet simple message of Tawheed, Islamic Civilization rapidly started to flourish in many parts of the world. One of the outcomes was the synthesis of Eastern and Western ideas bringing about great advances in medicine, mathematics, physics, astronomy, geography, architecture, art, literature, and history. Many crucial systems such as algebra, the Arabic numerals, and also the concept of the zero (vital to the advancement of mathematics), were introduced to medieval Europe from Islam. Sophisticated instruments which were to make possible the European voyages of discovery were developed by Muslims, including the astrolabe, the quadrant and good navigational maps.
6. How do Muslims treat the elderly?
In the Islamic world there are no old people’s homes. The strain of caring for one’s parents in this most difficult time of their lives is considered an honor and blessing, and an opportunity for great spiritual growth. God asks that we not only pray for our parents, but act with limitless compassion, remembering that when we were helpless children they preferred us to themselves.
Mothers are particularly honored: the Prophet (pbuh) taught that ‘Paradise lies at the feet of mothers’.
When they reach old age, Muslim parents are treated mercifully, with the same kindness and selflessness.
In Islam, serving one’s parents is a duty second only to prayer, and it is their right to expect it.
The Qur’an says: ‘Your Lord has commanded that you worship none but Him, and be kind to parents.
If either or both of them reach old age with you, do not say ‘Uff’ to them or chide them, but speak to them in terms of honor and kindness. Treat them with humility, and say, ‘My Lord! Have mercy on them, for they cared for me when I was little’. (17:23-4)
7. How do Muslims view death?
Like Jews and Christians, Muslims believe that the present life is only a preparation for the next realm of existence. Basic articles of faith include: Resurrection the Day of Judgment, Heaven and Hell.
When a Muslim dies, he or she is given a bath, usually by a family member, wrapped in a clean white cloth, and buried preferably the same day. Muslims than collectively do a funeral prayer for the deceased supplicating God for forgiveness and mercy, and remembering their own brief existence here on earth. The Prophet (pbuh) taught that three things can continue to help a person even after death: charity which he had given, knowledge which he had taught and prayers on their behalf by a righteous child.
8. How does Islam guarantee human rights?
Freedom of conscience is laid down by the Qur’an itself: ‘There is no compulsion in religion’. (2:256)
The life and property of all citizens in an Islamic state are considered sacred whether a person is Muslim or not.
‘O mankind! We created you from a single soul, male and female, and made you into nations and tribes, so that you may come to know one another. Truly, the most honored of you in Allah’s sight is the greatest of you in piety. Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware. (49:13)
9. How does someone become a Muslim?
By testifying with full conviction of the heart that “there is no diety worthy of worship except God (Allah), and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.” By this declaration the believer announces his or her faith in all of God’s messengers and the scriptures they brought.
10. Is Islamic marriage like Christian marriage?
In Islam, marriage is one of the most sacred bonds that two humans can forge. In addition, a marriage in Islam is also practical involving legal agreement and contractual obligations which spouses mutually agreed upon.
According to Islam, no Muslim girl or boy can be forced to marry against their will. Parents are to play a proactive and active role in suggesting potential spouses, but not to impose a decision upon their children.
11. What about food?
Although much simpler than the dietary law followed by Jews and the early Christians, the code which Muslims observe forbids the consumption of blood, pork and any kind of intoxicating substances. The Prophet taught that ‘your body has rights over you’ and the consumption of wholesome food and leading a healthy lifestyle are religious obligations and part of servitude and worship to the Almighty
The Prophet (pbuh) said:
‘Ask God for certainty [of faith] and well-being; for after certainty, no one is given any gift better than health!’
12. What about Muslim women?
Islam sees a woman, whether single or married, as an individual in her own right, with the right to own and dispose of her property and earnings. A marriage dowry is given by the groom to the bride for her own personal use, and she keeps her own family name rather than taking her husband’s.
Both men and women are expected to dress in a way which is modest and dignified. Women are required to cover all of their body except for the face and hands in order to protect their modesty and Honor.
The Messenger of God (pbuh) said:
“The most perfect in faith amongst believers is he who is best in manner and kindest to his wife.”
13. What are the ‘Five Pillars’ of Islam?
They are the framework of the Muslim life: faith in Islamic monotheism (Tawheed), daily prayers, charity, fasting in the month of Ramadan, and pilgrimage to Makkah for those who are able.
There is no deity worthy of worship except Allah, and Muhammad is His messenger. This declaration of faith is called the Shaahadah, a simple formula which all the faithful pronounce.
In Arabic, the first part is la ilaaha il – lal – ’laah-’ there is no deity worthy of worship except Allah’; Very noteworthy is the Arabic word, ilaaha, which refers to anything which we may be tempted to worship, venerate, and give godly attributes to. Upon careful examination of this testimony of faith, you will notice the first part (There is not deity worthy of worship) is negation of all false deities. Then comes il – la Allah, “except Allah”, the creator of all things. This last part is an affirmation of the One and Only One worthy of Worship, Allah. As we can see, negation and affirmation are combined to emphasize the purity and importance of monotheism in Islam.
The second part of the Shahaadah is Muhammadun rasoolul-laah “Muhammad is the messenger of Allah,” that we obey the guidance he brought and emulate him as our role model
Salaah is the name for the obligatory prayers which are performed five times a day allowing the worshipper to develop spiritually with God, humble himself before the almighty, and condition himself in a manner desired by his Lord.
There is no hierarchical authority in Islam and no priests, so the prayers are led by a learned person who knows the Qur’an, chosen by the congregation. These five prayers contain verses from the Qur’an, and are said in Arabic, the language of the Revelation, but personal supplication can be offered in one’s own language. Prayers are said at dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset and nightfall, and thus establish an organized rhythm for the entire day. Although it is preferable to worship together in a mosque, a Muslim may pray almost anywhere, such as in fields, offices, factories and universities. Visitors to the Muslim world are awe-struck by the centrality of prayers in daily life.
A prayer call is made before each prayer translated as following:
Allah is most great. Allah is most great.
Allah is most great. Allah is most great.
I testify that there is no deity worthy of worship except Allah.
I testify that there is no deity worthy of worship except Allah.
I testify that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.
I testify that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.
Come to prayer! Come to prayer!
Come to success (in the life and the Hereafter)! Come to success!
Allah is most Great. Allah is most Great.
I testify that there is no deity worthy of worship except Allah.
3. THE ‘ZAKAAH’
One of the most important principles of Islam is that all things are blessings bestowed from God, and therefore wealth is a blessing entrusted to human being. The word zakaah means both ‘purification’ and growth’. Our possessions are purified by setting aside a proportion for those in need, and, like the pruning of plants, this cutting back balances and encourages new growth. Each Muslim calculates his or her own zakat individually. For most purposes this involves the payment each year of two and a half percent of one’s surplus savings.
A pious person may also give as much as he or she pleases as sadaqah with a sincere intention of pleasing only the Almighty Allah.
The Prophet (pbuh) said: ‘Charity is a necessity for every Muslim.’ He was asked ‘What if a person has nothing?’ The Prophet (pbuh) replied: ‘He should work with his own hands for his benefit and then give something out of such earnings in charity.’ The Companions asked: ‘What if he is not able to work?’ The Prophet (pbuh) said: ‘He should help poor and needy persons.’ The Companions further asked, ‘What if he cannot do even that?’ The Prophet (pbuh) said’ He should urge others to do good.’
The Companions said ‘What if he lacks that also?’ The Prophet (pbuh) said’ He should check himself from doing evil. That is also charity.’
Prophet also said smiling is charity. In addition, he (pbuh) said:
‘Even meeting your brother with a cheerful face is charity.’
4. THE FAST
Every year in the month of Ramadaan, all Muslim fast from first light until sundown abstaining from food, drink, and sexual relations.
Those who are sick, elderly, or on a journey, and women who are pregnant or nursing are granted exceptions from fasting and make up an equal number of days later in the year. If they are physically unable to do this, they must feed a needy person for every day missed. Children begin to fast (and to observe the prayer) from puberty, although many start earlier.
Fasting has numerous benefits. Of the greatest benefits is that a Muslim in the month of fasting learns self-control and restraint. By restraining his/herself from worldly comforts all for the sake of Allah, it conditions him/her to also in the future exercise self-control in face of temptations to disobey Allah.
In addition, Prophet (PBUH) has numerous narrations regarding the act of fasting. He reminded the Muslims the fasting is of the greatest worship a human can do, Allah loves those who fast for his sake sincerely.
A fasting person also begins to appreciate more the blessings of food and water, and empathize and sympathize truly with those suffering from hunger around the world.
Ultimately, fasting leads to growth in one’s spiritual life.
5. PILGRIMAGE (Hajj)
The annual pilgrimage to Makkah the Hajj – is an obligation only for those who are physically and financially able to perform it. Nevertheless, about two million people go to Makkah each year from every corner of the globe providing a unique opportunity for those of different nations to meet one another.
Although Makkah is always filled with visitors, the annual Hajj begins in the twelfth month of the Islamic year (which is lunar, not solar, so that Hajj and Ramadan fall sometimes in summer, sometimes in winter). Pilgrims wear special clothes: simple garments which strip away distinctions of class and culture, so that all stand equal before God.
The rites of the Hajj, which were begun by Prophet Abraham, include circling the Ka’bah seven times, and going seven times between the mountains Safaa and Marwah as Hager did during her search for water. 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 Judgement.
In previous centuries the Hajj was an arduous undertaking. Today, however, water, modern transport, and the most up-to-date health facilities are provided for the millions who take part in the pilgrimage.
The close of the Hajj is marked bya festival, ‘Eed al-Ad-haa, which is celebrated with prayers and the exchange of gifts in Muslim communities everywhere. This, and the ‘Eedal-Fitr, a feast-day commemorating the end of Ramadan, are the main festivals of the Muslims’ calendar.
The pilgrimage is also of the greatest acts of worship which are beloved to Allah. In the pilgrimage, Muslims witness the diversity of the brotherhood of Islam. They witness the sheer variety of races and faces which have come to submit themselves to and worship Allah regardless of their status and wealth. As millions of faithful prostrate themselves before the Lord in the same simple attire standing shoulder to shoulder, the evil of racism, nationalism, ethnocentrism, and supremacist notions begins to dissolve away as their hearts and mind, with unity of purpose, connect to Allah.
14. What do Muslims believe?
Muslims believe in the worship of One, Unique, Incomparable God (called Allah in Arabic); in the Angels created by Him; in the prophets through whom His revelation were brought to mankind; in the Day of Judgment and individual accountability for actions; in God’s complete authority over human destiny and in life after death.
Muslims believe that God has sent the same message of Tawheed and monotheism throughout time and history through the chain of prophets starting with Adam and including Noah, Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Job, Moses, Aaron, David, Solomon, Elias, Jonah, John the Baptist, and Jesus, peace be upon them. For example, the first three commandments of the Ten Commandments say that Almighty is the Lord, and that worship should not be offered to any deity besides Him, and worshipping of false deities such as idols are explicitly forbidden.
But God’s final message was revealed to Muhammad (PBUH) which is a reaffirmation of the eternal message and symbolic return to the original monotheism preached by all the prophets especially Abraham.
15. What do Muslims think about Jesus?
Muslims respect and revere Jesus (r) as one of the mightiest messengers of God. The Qur’an confirms his virgin birth (a chapter of the Qur’an is entitled ‘Mary’), and Mary is considered the purest woman in all creation. The Qur’an describes the Annunciation as follows:
‘Behold!’ the Angel said, ‘God has chosen you, and purified you, and chosen you above the women of all nations. O 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 the Hereafter, and one of those brought near to God. He shall speak to the people from his cradle and in maturity, and shall be of the righteous.’
She said: ‘O my Lord! How shall I have a son when no man has touched me?’ He said: ‘Even so; Allah creates whatever He wills. When He decrees a thing, He says to it, “Be!” and it is.’ (Qur’an, 3:42-7)
Jesus (r) was born miraculously through the same power which had brought Adam (r) into being without a father:
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 (r) 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, the figure of a bird, and breathe into it and it becomes a bird by Allah’s leave. And I heal the blind, and the lepers, and I raise the dead by Allah’s permission.(3:49).
Neither Muhammad (r) nor Jesus (r) came to change the basic doctrine of the belief in One God brought by earlier prophets, but to confirm and renew it.
In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus is asked by the Jews the following:
“Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. (Mark 12-28)
In the Qur’an Jesus (r) 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 Allah and obey Me.’ (3:50)
The Prophet Muhammad (r) said:
‘Whoever believes there is no god but God, alone without partner, that Muhammad (r) is His messenger, that Jesus is the servant and messenger of God, His word breathed into Mary and a spirit from Him, and that Paradise and Hell are true, shall be received by Allah into Heaven.’
(Hadith from Bukhaaree)
16. What does Islam say about war?
Like Christianity, Islam permits fighting in self-defense, in defense of religion, or on the part of those who have been expelled forcibly from their homes. It lays down strict rules of combat which include prohibitions against harming civilians and against destroying crops, trees and livestock. As Muslims see it, injustice would be triumphant in the world if good men were not prepared to risk their lives in a righteous cause. The Qur’an says:
‘Fight in the cause of God against those who fight you, but do not transgress limits. God does not love transgressors.’ (2:190)
If they seek peace, then you should also seek peace. And trust in Allah for He is the One that hears and knows all things. (8:61)
War, therefore, is the last resort, and is subject to the rigorous conditions laid down by the sacred law.
The term jihaad literally means’ struggle’, and Muslims believe that there are two kinds of jihaad. The outer struggle against the forces of evil and corruption and the inner struggle which everyone wages against egotistic desires and temptations to commit sins for the sake of attaining inner peace.
17. What does ‘Islam’ mean?
The Arabic word ‘Islam’ simply means ‘submission’, and derives from a word meaning ‘peace’. In a religious context it means complete submission to the will of God. ‘Mohammedanism’ is thus a misnomer because it suggests that Muslims worship Muhammad ( pbuh ) rather than God. ‘Allah’ is the Arabic name for God, which is used by both Arab Muslims and Arab Christians alike.
18. What is Islam?
Islam is not a new religion, but the same truth that God revealed through all His prophets to every people. For a fifth of the world’s population, Islam is both a religion and a complete way of life.
Muslims follow a religion of peace, mercy, and forgiveness, and the majority have nothing to do with the extremely grave events which have come to be associated with their faith.
19. What Is Ka’ba?
The Ka’ba is the place of worship which God commanded Prophets Abraham and Ishmael to build over four thousand years ago. The building was constructed of stone.
20. What is the Qur’an about?
The Qur’an, the last revealed Word of God, is the prime source of every Muslim’s faith and practice. It deals with all the subjects which concern us as human beings: wisdom, doc-trine, worship, and law, but its basic theme is the relationship between God and His creatures. At the same time it provides guidelines for a just society , proper human conduct and an equitable economic system.
21. What is the Qur’an?
Muslims believe that Qur’an is the exact word of God transmitted through the Angel Gabriel to the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). It was memorized by Muhammad (pbuh) and then dictated to his Companions handwritten down by scribes, who cross-checked it during his lifetime. Not one word of its 114 chapters, Suras, has been changed over the centuries, so that the Qur’an is in every detail the unique and miraculous text which was revealed to Muhammad (pbuh) fourteen centuries ago.
22. Who are the Muslims?
One billion people from a vast range or races, nationalities and cultures across the globe – from the Southern Philippines to Nigeria – are united by their common Islamic faith. About 18% live in the Arab world; the world’s largest Muslim community is in Indonesia; substantial parts of Asia and most of
Africa are Muslim, while significant minorities are to be found in the Soviet Union, China, North and South America, and Europe.
23. Who is Muhammad?
Muhammad (pbuh ) was born in Makkah in the year 570, at a time when Christianity was not yet fully established in Europe. Since his father died before his birth, and his mother shortly afterwards, he was raised by his uncle from the respected tribe of Quraysh. As he grew up, he became known for his truthfulness, generosity and sincerity, so that he was sought after for his ability to arbitrate in disputes.
The historians describe him as calm and meditative. Muhammad (pbuh) was of a deeply religious nature, and had long detested the decadence and paganism his society was entrenched in. It became his habit to worship Allah from time to time in the Cave of Hira near the summit of Jabal al-Nur, the ‘Mountain of Light’ near Makkah.
24. Why does Islam often seem strange?
Islam may seem exotic or even extreme in the modern world. Perhaps this is because religion does not dominate everyday life in the West today, whereas Muslims have religion always uppermost in their minds, and make no division between secular and sacred. They believe that the Divine Law, the Sharee‘ah, should be taken very seriously, which is why issues related to religion are still so important.
25. Why is the family so important to Muslims?
The family is the foundation of Islamic society. The peace and security offered by a stable family unit is greatly valued, and seen as essential for the spiritual growth of its members. A harmonious social order is created by the existence of extended families; children are treasured, and rarely leave home until the time they marry.