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What is Islam ?
By Mohammed Al-Omari
What is Islam? Much is said and heard about this religion, yet very little is actually known about it. Before commencing a discussion on Islam, however, precise definitions must be established and then differentiated from inaccurate and misleading connotations.
To define Islam, one must first begin with the actual literal semantics.
Islam in Arabic literally means "submission," implying submission to God, the Creator of all things.
Islam centers its entire belief system around the Greatness of God, the Creator and Sustainor of all things. Islam is the ONLY religion whose name is not attributed to a human.
For example, a Jew, technically, is one who comes from the Tribe of Judah; a Christian is one who follows Jesus Christ; a Buddist is one who follows Budda, and so on.
On the other hand, Islam does not take its name from anyone. Rather it is a name which God has chosen for Mankind meaning that Man's religion should be "a submission to God" (i.e. Islam = Submission).
The Quran is the only Holy Book in existence today which speaks of and defines a religion called Islam. In this Holy Book, Islam is described as the Ultimate Religion for Mankind irrespect of tribe, race, color or nationality. The Quran says that God taught Islam to the Prophet Adam, the father of Mankind, and that all the prophets after him also taught Islam to their people.
The Quran repeatedly states that the Prophets Adam, Noah, Abraham, Lot, and Moses, all taught Islam to their people. For surely they could NOT have been teaching Judaism or Christianity because neither Judah nor Christ were born yet.
As evidenced by history, most messages which God gave to His Prophets were temporary ones limited to a certain tribe or group of people and applicable only for their times. For instance, God gave messages to Adam, Seth, Noah, and Abraham among others; yet their books do not exist today. Obviously, God chose not to perserve these books because they were only applicable to that period of time.
Similarily the messages given to other prophets were specifically destined for a particular group of people. For instance the Books of Moses were all addressed to the Children of Israel, not Mankind.
Repeatedly throughout the Old Testament of the Bible, it is the Children of Israel who were to believe in God and follow Moses' teachings. It was the Children of Israel who were given the Books of Moses. It was the Children of Israel who were rescued from Egypt. It was the Children of Israel who were consistently described in the Bible as the object of God's Messages. In fact, non-Israelites are treated as outsiders, barbarians and enemies.
By contrast, the Quran consistantly addresses all of Mankind, regardless of race or nationality. It does not differentiate between nationalities or race as does the Bible between Israelites and Gentiles.
Even the Great Prophet Jesus, who (by God's Miracle) was born of Virgin-birth, was sent specifically to the Children of Israel; to teach them the true meaning of God's religion.
After Jesus, God decided to send a final messenger to establish and forever maintain His religion on Earth.
God sent His last Prophet, Mohammed, for the salvation of all mankind rather than just the Children of Israel. God decided to give Mohammed a Holy Book containing God's Spoken Words, to teach all of Mankind how to best worship and love God.
In this Holy Book, it is clearly and repeatedly stated that the Quran IS the 100% Word of God, the unchanged and unaltered book revealed to the Prophet Mohammed, well over one thousand years ago.
The acceptance of the Quran as the Word of God and the acceptance of all of God's Prophets, from Adam to Mohammed, is most definitely a requirement in Islam. This is so important that if one chose to reject even one prophet, like Moses or Jesus, then he would NOT be a follower of Islam.
In fact, Islam is the ONLY non-Christian religion which loves and adores Jesus Christ and holds him as a special messenger born miraculously without a father. Islam is therefore the Ultimate Religion for Mankind, and a follower of Islam is called a Moslem (or Muslim in Arabic). Again, literally a Moslem is one who submits himself to God.
The Quran clearly and unambiguously outlines and describes the doctrine incumbant on a beleiver in God. These set of beliefs are called the Articles of Faith.
ARTICLES OF FAITH
(i) Belief in God, His oneness and His sovereignty over all things. He alone rules the Universe without any associates. He is the Creator, Ruler, and Protector of all things. Here is the importance of "rule" and "sovereignty," the concept that He is the Legislator and that Mankind must simply recognize His Authority and obey His Laws.
(ii) Belief in the Prophets sent by God to guide Mankind to the Truth. These prophets although pious God-fearing men were nevertheless mortal men, and are in no way divine. It is a belief that Islam started with Adam and continued through (many prophets, most notably:) Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and lastly, (but surely not least) Mohammed. It is also a belief that their messages were infallible, because their source of guidance was a direct revelation from the source of All Truth--God. In addition, Mohammed is the last prophet sent to Mankind, there will be none after him.
(iii) Belief in all the messages sent down by God to Mankind via His prophets. It is a belief that previous messages were sent down to Mankind, but were later altered (through translation or otherwise). The last message, which was sent to Mohammed, came to confirm the previous messages, reestablish Truth and lay down an entire day-to-day way of life. In addition it contained a special characteristic which other messages did not have: that the task of preserving this message was with God Himself, not the followers. God declares in the Quran that He takes an oath to protect and preserve it for all time.
(iv) Belief in God's angels. It is a belief that God created angels, spiritual creatures created out of light, who have the built-in characteristic of total-obedience to God, they inherently cannot disobey God, ever. The angels must be distinguished from the jinns, which were created from fire. The jinns (like the humans) have the ability (or free will) to obey or disobey God. One leader of the jinns was the Satan Ibleess (Lucifer) who disobeyed God. The point here is that Satan is a jinn and not a fallen angel, simply because an angel by nature cannot sin. In addition, not all jinns are followers of Satan, some are faithful worshippers of God; whereas all angels faithfully worship God. One of the most well-known angels is Gabriel who revealed God's message to Jesus and Mohammed (among others).
(v) Belief in an "Ultimate Divine Purpose for all things." In the Quran, God says that He has created a purpose for everything. The fact that we do not know why certain events and facts of nature occur or exist does not make them useless or unimportant. There is a universal order of things decreed by God.
(vi) Belief in the Day of Judgement, a day when all creatures will be called into account for their beliefs and deeds. The Reward for good is a green garden paradise, and the Punishment for evil is the eternal fires of hell. The outcome of the hereafter for anyone depends on how one has spent his first life.
Those were the Articles of Faith incumbent on all believers in God. The Quran also outlines the rights and responsiblities of Man as to his behavior and conduct in this life.
There of course cannot be any comparison between God and man because of God's infinite power and man's inherent fallibilities.
Yet a rough ideation can be visualized.
Today an automobile manufacturing company issues an advised driver's manual as to how to best operate the cars it produces.
God in His Infinite Wisdom issued His "manual" for His creations. This "Ultimate Manual" was outlined in His Holy Book, the Quran, and described in detail to His Messenger to Mankind, Mohammed. Therefore the beliefs and behavior of Mankind is contained in God's Own Words, the Quran, and in the words and actions of his Prophet Mohammed, called the Ahadeeth/Sunna (Ahadeeth meaning "sayings", and Sunna meaning "way of life").
Now we can say that then Islam is God's Manual, a literary text consisting of the Quran (God's Words) and the Prophet Mohammed's Ahadeeth/Sunna (Words and Actions). This text of Islam (consisting of the Quran and Ahadeeth/Sunna) can be thought of as a prescription for an entire day-to-day way of life, covering every aspect of human contemplation and endeavor. If one was to choose to follow part of that prescription and refuse to follow other parts, he would inevitably be doing injustice to that prescription.
It must be noted here, that Islam should NOT be judged from the actions of those who simply call themselves Muslims; however if one seeks to truely understand Islam, then he must refer directly to the Text of Islam---the Quran and Ahadeeth/Sunna.
© 1999-2001 All Rights Reserved by Mohammed Al-Omari
What is the Text of Islam ?