There is hardly any place on earth today where Islam is totally unknown. More and more people have become curious enough to find out something about this much publicized religion; more often than not, they have been pleasantly surprised.
The Islamic creed did not begin with the prophethood of Muhammad, nor was it invented by him. It is essentially the same message contained in previous divine scriptures and taught by all prophets of Allah. Islamic beliefs are eternal truths that neither change nor develop; they provide truths about Allah and His relationship with the visible and invisible aspects of the universe, about the reality of this life, man’s role therein and what will become of him afterwards. The requirements, or “pillars”, of the Islamic faith are:
Belief in Allah; in the angels created by Him; in His scriptures; in the prophets through whom His revelation was conveyed to humanity; in the eternal life after death and in Allah’s perfect judgment and complete authority over human destiny.
Belief in Allah (God)
Monotheism is the essence of Islam, and it emphasizes the Oneness of Allah. Muslims believe in One eternal and unique God. He is the Creator of all that exists, yet He cannot be compared to anything of His creation. Muslims acknowledge that Allah alone is divine, that He alone is the Creator and Sustainer of creation. He is all-knowing and all-powerful, completely just and merciful.
Allah is not part of His creation, nor is any of it a part of Him. The significance of exclusive divinity is that no one and nothing in existence is worthy to be worshipped except Allah, the Creator and Sustainer of all things. In Islam, everything is built upon the Oneness of Allah. No act of worship has any meaning if the concept of monotheism is in any way compromised.
The proper name of God is “Allah”. He is the same God known to Christians, Jews and to people of other monotheistic faiths. Allah sent a series of messages to mankind through appointed prophets and messengers. Quite a few of them are familiar to people of Judeo-Christian background, such as Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and many others.
Belief in the angels
Muslims believe that Angels exist. No one knows their exact number except Him. They obey Him, fulfill His commands, and guard over the universe and the creatures that dwell within it. They carry out the orders of Allah, from administration, observation, guarding and protecting the universe as well as its creatures, all according to Allah’s Will and Order.
Allah has revealed to us the names of some of the angels; for example, Gabriel, who was given the task of revelation, Michael, who has been assigned the task of directing rain and vegetation. There is also the Angel of Death, who has been given the task of collecting the souls at their appointed times.
Belief in the scriptures
Muslims also believe in the original scriptures revealed by Allah, such as the Scriptures of Abraham and Moses, the Torah, the Psalms of David and the Gospel of Jesus. The final revelation to humanity is the Quran, which was revealed to Prophet Muhammad.
The Quran remains preserved and unchanged since the time of revelation in its original Arabic text. There is only one version of the Quran. It is recited and memorized by Muslims throughout the world. It contains the final message to humanity and legislation which both encompasses all spheres of human life and is also suited to all peoples and all times.
Moreover, it contains numerous verses that speak of the universe, its components and phenomena – the earth, sun, moon, stars, mountains, wind, rivers and seas, plants, animals, as well as the successive stages of human embryonic development.
One of the miracles of the Quran, and evidence of its divine origins, is that nothing within it contradicts any established scientific fact.
Belief in the messengers
A Muslim is required to believe that Allah chose the finest amongst humanity to be Messengers whom He sent to His creation with specific legislations: to worship and obey Him and to establish His religion and His Oneness “Not a messenger did We send before thee without this inspiration sent by Us to him: that there is no god but I; therefore worship and serve Me.” (Quran 21:25)
The last of the divinely appointed messengers was Prophet Muhammad. To him was conveyed the final and complete revelation from Allah. All the prophets preached the same basic message: the worship of Allah alone. In essence, they all preached Islam, which means willing, peaceful submission to Allah, the one true God; Creator of the universe.
The final prophet was sent by the Creator as a human model to be followed and obeyed. Prophet Muhammad exemplified the principles laid down in the Quran, and true Muslims strive to follow his noble example. His biography has been recorded in minute detail and is easily accessible for study. There is a complete, authentically narrated documentation of his sayings and practices which is the second source of Islamic legislation. It is complementary to the Quran and supplements it with additional details and clarification of meanings.
This record contains the prophetic traditions referred to as the Sunnah. Scholars have carefully and painstakingly scrutinized the reliability of the transmitters of these traditions, and only those whose narrators are found to be completely reliable and sound are accepted.
Belief in the last day
Muslims believe that the life of this world will come to an end “All that is on earth will perish” (Quran 55:26)
The Day of Resurrection is the day when each individual will stand before Allah and be questioned about their deeds. The compensation for evil in the Hereafter is exact justice, while the compensation for good is much greater – comprehensive, multiple rewards and complete satisfaction and happiness. People will be judged according to their degree of righteousness, and nothing else. Allah says “He that doeth good shall have ten times as much to his credit: He that doeth evil shall only be recompensed according to his evil: no wrong shall be done unto (any of) them.” (Quran 6:160)
A person is rewarded for merely intending to do good, even if they do not follow up that intention with action. Prophet Muhammad mentioned that Allah said “Whoever intends to perform a good deed but does not do it, Allah records it for him as one good deed. If one intends to do a good deed and does it, Allah records for him the like thereof ten times, up to seven hundred times, to many times. If one intends to do an evil deed, but does not do it, Allah records it for him as one good deed. If one intends to do an evil deed and does it, Allah records it only as one evil deed.”
Belief in predestination
Muslims believe in predestination, whether good or bad, which Allah has measured and ordained for all creatures according to His previous knowledge and as deemed suitable by His wisdom. Allah, the All-Knowing, knows everything that happened in the past, everything that is happening now and all that will happen in the future. Humankind has been given free will and the choice of whether or not to follow what Allah ordained. He has been given a mind with which he is able to reason and choose wisely.
The requirements of Islam
The five “Pillars” of Islam make up the framework of a Muslim’s life, they are:
1. The Declaration Of Faith
To be a Muslim, one must believe in and pronounce words that mean, ‘There is no deity worthy of being worshipped except Allah and Muhammad is His slave and messenger.’ This declaration testifies that Allah exists, that He is unlike and superior to His creation and that none is worthy of worship but Him.
It also testifies that He is the Creator and Proprietor of all that exists and Disposer of all affairs. Allah says in the Quran “Behold! verily to Allah belong all creatures, in the heavens and on earth. What do they follow who worship as His “partners” other than Allah? They follow nothing but fancy, and they do nothing but lie.” (Quran 10:66)
The ‘Shahadah’ testifies that Muhammad is among the prophets who conveyed Allah’s revelation to humankind “We have not sent thee but as a universal (Messenger) to men, giving them glad tidings, and warning them (against sin), but most men understand not.” (Quran 34:28)
In fact, it is stated in the Quran that Muhammad is the last of Allah’s messengers. Allah says” Muhammad is not the father of any of your men, but (he is) the Messenger of Allah, and the Seal of the Prophets: and Allah has full knowledge of all things.” (Quran 33:40)
The Quran also confirms that Muhammad’s teachings are infallible and conveyed from Allah “Nor does he say (aught) of (his own) Desire. It is no less than inspiration sent down to him” (Quran 53:3-4)
Thus, the Quran, and Sunnah of the final prophet, are the basis of the religion, and they define every aspect of the Islamic way of life.
2. The Obligatory Prayer
Prayer was practiced in some form throughout history by all prophets and their followers as an indispensable part of Allah’s religion. Islam, the final message to humanity, considers prayer essential. A Muslim is required to pray five times daily within specified intervals, as taught by the Prophet .
These prayers are obligatory, and form a direct bond between the worshipper and his Creator. Islam does not call upon Muslims to merely perform this act of worship; rather; it wants of them to purify their souls. Allah says, regarding Prayer ”and establish regular Prayer: for Prayer restrains from shameful and unjust deeds; and remembrance of Allah is the greatest (thing in life) without doubt. And Allah knows the (deeds) that ye do.” (Quran 29:45)
3. The Obligatory Annual Charity
The word “Zakah” means purification and growth. An important principle of Islam is that all things belong to Allah. Muslims are enjoined to earn and spend their wealth in ways that are acceptable to Allah. The divinely ordained system of Zakah is the right of Allah within His dominion. It is neither a charity nor a tax, but an obligation due from Muslims who possess wealth in excess of their basic needs. Thus, the difference between Zakah and tax is that a Muslim pays Zakah willfully and on their own accord; they are the ones who supervise its payment.
Zakah is only due when a person has the minimum required amount, which varies with the type of wealth.
Zakah cleanses a Muslim of greed, selfishness, base covetousness, and the love of this temporal world “And those saved from the covetousness of their own souls,- they are the ones that achieve prosperity.” (Quran 59:9) It is the ideal way to meet the needs of the poorer sections of society without causing hardship to the wealthy.
4. Fasting The Month Of Ramadan
Allah has enjoined fasting upon the Muslims as He enjoined it upon previous nations. He, the Exalted, says “O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that ye may (learn) self-restraint” (Quran 2:183)
Islamic fasting, which involves abstinence from eating, drinking, sexual intercourse and all prohibited habits such as smoking, is observed throughout the daylight hours of the lunar month of Ramadan. When done in obedience to God’s command, fasting teaches believers patience and self-control, as well as reminding them of their responsibility toward the millions of human beings who lack provisions or are victims of their unjust distribution. The month of fasting is accompanied by increased efforts toward good manners and righteous deeds, along with additional worship at night. Fasting is not a retreat from life; rather, it is a supplement to the Muslim’s ordinary activities.
5. Pilgrimage To Mecca
Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca (in Saudi Arabia), is a once-in-a-lifetime obligation for those who are physically and financially able to perform it “In it are Signs Manifest; (for example), the Station of Abraham; whoever enters it attains security; Pilgrimage thereto is a duty men owe to Allah,- those who can afford the journey; but if any deny faith, Allah stands not in need of any of His creatures.” (Quran 3:97)
Nevertheless, millions of Muslims journey to Mecca each year from every corner of the globe, providing a unique opportunity for people of various nations to meet one another as guests of Allah. Hajj is an expression of pure faith and total submission to His command, and the pilgrim performs rites of unqualified obedience, seeking nothing but the acceptance of their efforts and forgiveness of their past sins. A person who has completed the Hajj returns with a fresh outlook on life, a purified soul and blessings from Allah.