Islam is a religion that is, unfortunately, largely misunderstood in the west. One of the most common questions is regarding the beliefs of the Muslims; what do Muslims believe? In this article I will attempt to give a brief overview of what it means to be a Muslim. I am largely basing this article on a famous hadith, or saying, of the prophet Muhammad (PBUH), which I will put at the end of the article.
Islam has five pillars, five basic acts that one must believe and do in order to be a Muslim. The first is the declaration of faith, stating with complete belief and sincerity that "there is no deity worthy of worship except Allah (God) and that Muhammad is His prophet and messenger." Islam does not accept any type of idol worshipping, whether that idol is a rock, a statue, a human being (like Jesus PBUH), or something a little less obvious like money, status or family.
After you have declared you worship of only God, you are then required to act on it. The second pillar is prayer, a Muslim is required to pray at a minimum of five times per day at specified times: dawn, mid-day, afternoon, sunset and evening. By this repetition we are constantly reminded of what is important which is God and working to gain a good place in the afterlife.
The third pillar is Zakat, which literally means purification. It is a tax that is paid by Muslims directly to the poor. It is different from income tax however, because Muslims are only required to pay 2.5% of their excess wealth that they have had in the bank for a full year. Also, unlike tithing, the money collected for Zakat is not permissible to be used to fund mosques, schools or any other public programs; the money is strictly for the use of the poor people. If every Muslim on the face of the earth actually paid their Zakat the way Allah commanded, that would be including kings and other incredibly rich, there would be no starvation in the world today.
The fourth pillar is fasting in the month of Ramadan from dawn to sunset. This act has many benefits, but the primary benefit is to soften the heart of the one who is fasting. Islam heavily emphasizes charity and feeding the poor and hungry, what better way to encourage a person to feed the hungry than letting them feel hunger too? Ramadan is a month of fasting and prayer, a time to re-dedicate oneself to Allah and Islam. Muslims are encouraged to read the entire Qur'an in Ramadan and increase in their good deeds and prayers. Everyone is required to fast except young children, old or sick people who would harm their health, a person traveling and a pregnant or nursing mother.
The fifth pillar is hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca. Every Muslim is required to make the hajj at least once in their life if they are physically and financially able. If you are not physically or financially able to go then you have no sin, but you should always be trying to find a way to make the pilgrimage. Also, since we never know when we will die, it is important not to put it off into the unforeseeable future.
The next important subject is faith; what is faith? According to the abovementioned hadith, or saying, of the prophet Muhammad (PBUH), faith is believing in Allah, His angels, His books, His messengers, the resurrection on the Last Day, and to believe in both the good and evil of divine destiny. That's a mouthful, so what does it mean?
To believe in Allah, which is the Arabic name for God for Christians, Jews and Muslims, means to believe in him as He commands. Tawhid is a fundamental belief in Islam, which is the oneness of God. Muslims do not believe in a trinity, nor do they believe that God is everywhere. Muslims believe that God is one, indivisible, and that He is above the seven heavens. How? We don't know. And, we don't ask. God exists before and after His creations, God does not resemble any of His creation, and any image that you can imagine does not resemble God. But, Allah is everywhere in his knowledge: he sees everything, hears everything, knows everything, is omnipotent and omniscient.
Belief in the angels is another tenet of faith. Muslims believe that the angels were created from light, that they are completely obedient to God, and that they are eternal beings that had a beginning, like humans, and unlike God who has no beginning or end. Muslims do not believe that Satan was a fallen angel because angels are completely obedient to Allah. Rather, the Qur'an tells us that Satan was one of the jinn, another being that was created from fire. There are an inexhaustible numbers of angels, Muhammad (PBUH) said that there is a place where the angels go to pray, each day 70,000 angels pray there, never to return again, and this has been happening since the beginning of time.
To believe in His books means that Muslims believe that the Qur'an is the last in a series of revelations that God has given to mankind throughout history. Muslims believe that throughout time, a prophet has come, either with a written text or without, he has preached to worship God alone, then he has died and the information was changed by man over time or completely lost, which meant eventually and new prophet would be sent. This has happened 124,000 times since the creation of man according to the prophet Muhammad (PBUH), but we only know the names of the 25 mentioned in the Qur'an. The previous books mentioned in the Qur'an are the Zabur which was given to David, the Torah which was given to Moses, the Injeel which was given to Jesus and the Qur'an which was given to Muhammad, peace be upon them all.
The messengers that we are required to believe in include the Biblical prophets, Muslims believe in Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, Solomon, David, John, Enoch, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad just to name a few. Islam is not some new religion, it is the same religion taught by all of the prophets and messengers; worship only one God. It confirms the divine origin of the previous scriptures and corrects the manmade mistakes of those scriptures.
The fifth tenet of faith is belief in the Last Day, yowm al- qiyama in Arabic. Every Muslim believes that at the end of time every person will be resurrected and have to stand alone before God to be judged for what they did in their life. God is the only judge, even a Muslim isn't guaranteed a free pass to Heaven. God may or may not forgive any person of any sin. But, God has promised that he will never forgive the sin of worshipping something or someone else, that is called shirk in Arabic.
The last pillar of faith is the belief in the divine decree, both the good and evil thereof. Muslims believe that Allah has a will, and man has a will, but Allah's will overrides man's. So, if a person wants to do something, if it has not been willed by Allah he will never be able to do it. Likewise, if a person tries to avoid a thing that God has willed, no matter how he tries he will not avoid it. A human does have his own will as well. It is up to us how we spend our time on earth, who we worship and what we believe. We will be judged according to our intentions on the Day of Judgment.
That is a quick overview of what Muslims believe. I hope that you have enjoyed this article. Please visit www.AdvocateIslam.com for more information. God bless!
On the authority of Omer1 (may Allah be pleased with him), who said:*
One day while we were sitting with the Messenger of Allah (i.e. Prophet Muhammed, may the blessings and peace of Allah be upon him), there appeared before us a man whose clothes were exceedingly white and whose hair was exceedingly black; no signs of journeying were to be seen on him and none of us knew him. He walked up and sat down by the Prophet (may the blessings and peace of Allah be upon him). Resting his knees against his (the Prophet's) and placing the palms of his hands on his thighs, he said:
O Muhammed, tell me about Islam.
The Messenger of Allah (may the blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) said: Islam is to testify that there is no god but Allah and Muhammed is the Messenger of Allah, to perform the prayers, to pay the Zakat2 to fast in Ramadhan, and to make the pilgrimage to the House3 if you are able to do so.
He said: You have spoken rightly, and we were amazed at him asking him (the Prophet bpuh) and saying that he had spoken rightly.
He said: Then, tell me about Iman.4
He (the Prophet) said: It is to believe in Allah, His angels, His books, His messengers, the Last Day, and to believe in divine destiny, both the good and the evil thereof.
He said: You have spoken rightly.
He said: Then, tell me about Ihsan.5
He (the Prophet bpuh) said: It is to worship Allah as if you are seeing him, and while you see Him not yet truly He sees you.
He said: Then, tell me about the hour.6
He (the Prophet bpuh) said: The one questioned about it knows no better than the questioner. He said: Then, tell me about its signs.
He (the Prophet bpuh) said: That the slave-girl will give birth to her mistress, and that you will see the barefooted, naked, destitute herdsmen competing in constructing lofty buildings.
Then, he took himself off and I stayed for some time. Then he (the Prophet bpuh) said: O Omer, do you know who the questioner was? I said: Allah and His Messenger know better. He said: It was Jibril (Gabriel), who came to you to teach you your religion.7
The Messenger of Allah (bpuh) told the truth.
This Hadith was related by Muslim.
This Hadith was translated by Ezzeddin Ibrahim and Denys Johnson-Davies (Abdul Wadoud), "An-Nawawi's Forty Hadiths." 1976. Dar Al-Manar.
1 Omer Bin Al-Khattab, the second Caliph.
2. Often rendered as alms-tax or poor due, it is a tax levied on a man's wealth and distributed among the poor.
3. The Ka'aba and the Holy Mosque in Makkah.
4. Iman is generally rendered as religious belief or faith. However, being a fundamental term in Islam, the Arabic word has been retained.
5. In this context, the word ihsan has a special religious significance and any single rendering of it would be inadequate. Dictionary meaning for ihasan includes right actions, goodness, charity, sincerity, and the like. The root also means to master or be proficient at, and it is to be found in this meaning in Nawawi's Hadith Number 17.
6. i.e. of the Day of Judgment.
7. This phrase has more than one interpretation. Among those given by An-Nawawi in his commentary is that slave girls will give birth to sons and daughters who will become free and so be masters of those who bore them. The word ama, normally translated as a slave girl, is also capable of meaning any woman in that we are all slaves or servants of God. The words thus have the meaning: When a woman will give birth to her master, i.e. a time will come when children will have so little respect for their mothers that they will treat them like servants. The commentators point out that there the word rabba (mistress) includes the masculine rabb (master).
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