Questions & Answers
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.
The Islamic world remains today a vast land stretching from the Atlantic to the Pacific, with an important presence in Europe and America, animated by the teachings of Islam and seeking to assert its own identity. Despite the presence of nationalism and various secular ideologies in their midst, Muslims wish to live in the modern world but without simply imitating blindly the ways followed by the West.
The Islamic world wishes to live at peace with the West as well as the East but at the same time not to be dominated by them. It wishes to devote its resources and energies to building a better life for its people on the basis of the teachings of Islam and not to squander its resources in either internal or external conflicts. It seeks finally to create better understanding with the West and to be better understood by the West.
The destinies of the Islamic world and
the West cannot be totally separated and therefore it is only in understanding
each other better that they can serve their own people more successfully
and also contribute to a better life for the whole of humanity.
More then 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 Judgment 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 صلى الله عليه و سلم through Gabriel.
Simply by saying 'There is no god apart from Allah سبحانه التعالئ, and Muhammad صلى الله عليه و سلم is the last Messenger of God.' By this declaration the believer announces his or her faith in all God's messengers, and the scriptures they brought.
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 صلى الله عليه و سلم rather than God. 'Allah سبحانه التعالئ ' is the Arabic name for God, which is used by Arab Muslims and Christians alike.
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 Shari'a, should be taken very seriously, which is why issues related to religion are still so important.
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 The service, O Lord', in response to Abraham's summons.
Muhammad صلى الله عليه و سلم 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 صلى الله عليه و سلم 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.
How Did Muhammad صلى الله عليه و سلم Become A Prophet And A Messenger Of God?
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 Qur’aan.
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 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 صلى الله عليه و سلم and his followers were able to return to Makkah, where they forgave their enemies and established Islam definitively. Before the Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم 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.
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 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 صلى الله عليه و سلم '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 صلى الله عليه و سلم said, 'Seek knowledge even into China': the Hui Shen mosque was built in the seventh century.
The Qur’aan is a record of the exact words revealed by God through the Angel Gabriel to the Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه و سلم . It was memorized by Muhammadصلى الله عليه و سلم and then dictated to his Companions, and written 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’aan is in every detail the unique and miraculous text which was revealed to Muhammad صلى الله عليه و سلم fourteen centuries ago.
The Qur’aan, 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, doctrine, 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.
Yes, the sunna, the practice and example of the Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم , is the second authority for Muslims. A hadith is a reliably transmitted report of what the Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم said, did, or approved. Belief in the sunna is part of the Islamic faith.
Examples of the Prophet's sayings The Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم 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 neighbour goes without food is not a 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 scans 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 صلى الله عليه و سلم was asked: 'Messenger of God, are we rewarded for kindness towards animals?' He said, 'There is a reward for kindness to every living thing.'
(From the hadith collections of Bukhari, Muslim, Tirmidhi and Bayhaqi.)
The Qur’aan says: God forbids you not, with regards to those who fight you not for [your] faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them; for God loveth those who are just. (Qur’aan, 60.8)
It is one function 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: when the caliph Omar entered Jerusalem in the year 634, Islam granted freedom of worship to all religious communities in the city.
Islamic law also permits non-Muslim minorities to set up their own courts, which implement family laws drawn up by the minorities themselves.
When the caliph Omar took Jerusalem from the Byzantines, he insisted on entering the city with only a small number of his companions. Proclaiming to the inhabitants that their lives and property were safe, and that their places of worship would never be taken from them, he asked the Christian patriarch Sophronius to accompany him on a visit to all the holy places.
The Patriarch invited him to pray in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, but he preferred to pray outside its gates, saying that if he accepted, later generations of Muslims might use his action as an excuse to turn it into a mosque. Above is the mosque built on the spot where Omar did pray.
According to Islam, man is not born in ''original sin'. He is God's vicegerent on earth. Every child is born with the fitra, an innate disposition towards virtue, knowledge, and beauty. Islam considers itself to be the 'primordial religion', din al-hanif, it seeks to return man to his original, true nature in which he is in harmony with creation, inspired to do good, and confirming the Oneness of God.
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; the traditions of female dress found in some Muslim countries are often the expression of local customs.
The Messenger of God said:
'The most perfect in faith amongst believers is he who is best in manner and kindest to his wife.'
Also read about Nikha (marriage) and life of Hadrat Aaisha.
A Muslim marriage is not a 'sacrament', but a simple, legal agreement in which either partner is free to include conditions. Marriage customs thus vary widely from country to country. As a result, divorce is not common, although it is not forbidden as a last resort. According to Islam, NO Muslim girl can be forced to marry against her will: her parents will simply suggest young men they think may be suitable.
Freedom of conscience is laid down by the Qur’aan 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.
Racism is incomprehensible to Muslims, for the Qur’aan speaks of human equality in the following terms:
'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 honoured of you in God 's sight is the greatest of you in piety. God is All-Knowing, All-Aware'. (49.13)
The Muslim population of the world is over one billion. Most Muslims live east of Karachi. 30% of Muslims live in the Indian subcontinent, 20 % in Sub-Saharan Africa, 17% in Southeast Asia, 18% in the Arab world, 10% in the Soviet Union and China. Turkey, Iran and Afghanistan comprise 10% of the non-Arab Middle East. Although there are Muslim minorities in almost every area including Latin America and Australia, they are most numerous in the Soviet Union, India, and central Africa. There are 8 million Muslims in the United States.