Frequently Asked Questions about Islam
“Islām” is an Arabic word which means peaceful, willing submission – submission to the code of conduct ordained by God . So Islam is a religion, but it is also a complete way of life based upon a voluntary relationship between an individual and his Creator. It is the way of life ordained by God which was taught by each of His prophets and messengers, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad (peace be upon them). What distinguishes Islam from other religions is that it refuses to accept any form of creation, whatsoever, as a deity worthy of worship. Instead, it emphasizes the exclusive worship of the one God who created the entire universe and to whom all creation will eventually return.
Monotheism is the foundation of Islam and its most important concept which cannot be compromised in any way. Not only is God acknowledged as the sole creator and sustainer of everything in existence, but Islam declares that He is the only true deity and He alone is worthy to be worshipped. Further, it recognizes that the attributes of God are nothing like those of His creation and cannot be compared to it; He is absolute, perfect and unique. By following God’s guidance as revealed in the Quran, an individual can obtain meaning and purpose in this live and eternal paradise in the hereafter.
One billion people from a vast range of 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.
Muslims believe in One, Unique, Incomparable God; in the Angels created by Him; in the prophets through whom His revelations were brought to mankind; in the Day of Judgement and individual accountability for actions; in God’s complete authority over human destiny and in life after death. Muslims believe in a 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. But God’s final message to man, a reconfirmation of the eternal message and a summing-up of all that has gone before was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) through Gabriel.
Simply by saying ‘There is no god apart from God, and Muhammad is the Messenger of God.’ By this declaration the believer announces his or her faith in all God’s messengers, and the scriptures they brought.
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 always have religion uppermost in their minds, and make no division between secular and sacred. They believe that the Divine Law, the Shari’a, should be taken very seriously, which is why issues related to religion are still so important.
No. Together with Judaism, they go back to the prophet and patriarch Abraham, and their three prophets are directly descended from his sons–Muhammad (SAW) from the eldest, Ishmael, and Moses and Jesus, peace be upon them, from Isaac. Abraham established the settlement which today is the city of Makkah, and built the Ka’ba towards which all Muslims turn when they pray. To find out more, visit: An Islamic perspective on Christianity.
The Ka’ba is the place of worship which God commanded Abraham and Ishmael to build over four thousand years ago. The building was constructed of stone on what many believe was the original site of a sanctuary established by Adam. God commanded Abraham to summon all mankind to visit this place, and when pilgrims go there today they say ‘At Thy service, O Lord’, in response to Abraham’s summons.
Muhammad (SAW) 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 (SAW) was of a deeply religious nature, and had long detested the decadence of his society. It became his habit to meditate from time to time in the Cave of Hira near the summit of Jabal al-Nur, the ‘Mountain of Light’ near Makkah.
At the age of 40, while engaged in a meditative retreat, Muhammad received his first revelation from God through the Angel Gabriel. This revelation, which continued for twenty-three years, is known as the Quran. 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 that God gave them the command to emigrate. This event, the Hijra, ‘migration’, in which they left Makkah for the city of Madinah some 260 miles to the north, marks the beginning of the Muslim calendar. After several years, the Prophet (SAW) and his followers were able to return to Makkah, where they forgave their enemies and established Islam definitively. Before the Prophet (SAW) died at the age of 63, the greater part of Arabia was Muslim, and within a century of his death Islam had spread to Spain in the West and as far East as China.
Among the reasons for the rapid and peaceful spread of Islam was the simplicity of its doctrine. Islam calls for faith in only One God worthy of worship. It also repeatedly instructs man to use his powers of intelligence and observation. Within a few years, great civilizations and universities were flourishing, for according to the Prophet (SAW) ‘seeking knowledge is an obligation for every Muslim man and woman’. The synthesis of Eastern and Western ideas and of new thought with old, brought 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 transmitted to medieval Europe from Islam. Sophisticated instruments which were to make possible the European voyages of discovery were developed, including the astrolabe, the quadrant and good navigational maps. The Prophet (SAW) said, ‘Seek knowledge even into China’: the Hui Shen mosque was built in the seventh century.