ISLAM, what do Muslims believe?
First of all: ALLAH means GOD in Arabic. Usually the name is not translated leaving the reader in the notion that the meaning of “Allah” is something different from God. In most Arabic speaking countries considerable Christian minorities exist and the name of GOD of the Arabic speaking Christians is Allah. Allah was the name of God in Aramaic, the language of Jesus and a sister language of Arabic and Hebrew and it was used by all Prophets since Adam and by the last Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon them all).
Muslims do not worship Prophet Mohammad nor do they pray to him. Their deeds are done for the sake of God alone. In Islam there are no saints whose intervention would be needed, nor any prayers are held on grave yards. The word “Islam” comes from “salaam = peace” meaning peaceful surrender to God.
What is Islam?
Islam is understood by Muslims as the original pure monotheism which Allah (God) has made known to mankind since the Creation and which was revealed through many prophets before Mohammad. 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.
Islam is one of the three monotheistic religions, which originate from the same source – Prophet ABRAHAM (Ibrahim).
First there was the Old Testament (the Scriptures of the Jews, who stop short of acknowledging Jesus p.b.u.h.), then the New Testament, the book of the Christians. Together they are called the Bible. In the Qur’an the Jews and the Christians are called “People of the Book”. The last Prophet, Mohammad (p.b.u.h.), was sent to the Arabs to confirm what was revealed before.
Quoting Rabbi Marc Gellman & Msgr. Thomas Hartman, The God Squad (Newsday.com): “Islam is not a good religion — it’s a great religion. For 1,600 years, it has had no Inquisitions, sponsored no Crusades and had no Holocaust. In 1492, when the Jewish people were expelled from Christian Spain, they were warmly accepted in Muslim Turkey. The Muslim King Hassan of Morocco, who was allied with Hitler and Mussolini during World War II, refused Hitler’s orders to transport even a single Moroccan Jew to Europe for extermination. Islamic translators and philosophers, called mutikalimun, translated Plato, Aristotle and the Greek classics into Arabic when Europe was in the Dark Ages.
In view of this glorious past, it’s particularly tragic that today Islam has been hijacked just like those planes on Sept. 11. A small number of fanatics have used Islam to justify their political agenda and their murderous obsessions.
Islam also teaches that both Moses and Jesus were holy prophets from God. Jews and Christians are not unbelievers (kafirs), according to explicit Muslim teaching. In fact, the clear teaching of Islam is that “to kill one single innocent person is like killing the whole world.
Islam teaches that jihad, which means struggle, justifies holy war only as a defense of one’s homeland (very much like the “just war” teaching of Christianity and Judaism). It forbids killing innocent noncombatants and never allows people who are not respected Muslim scholars to issue fatwas, or religious orders. Osama bin Laden is not a scholar. His version of fatwas, his terrorism and his teachings are against every tenet of Muslim law. So condemning all of Islam for the Sept. 11 attacks is like condemning all of Christianity for the Crusades or the Inquisition.
Sometimes, religions go through a time of trial and testing, and need a reformation to return to their true teachings of love and compassion. Islam seems to be going through such a time now, and we must hear the voices of those Muslims speaking out against this perversion of a great religion and pray for their ability to reclaim their faith. We non-Muslims must keep hatred out of our hearts and guard against making all Muslims scapegoats for the hateful distortions of a few maniacs”
Islam is both a religion and a way of life: (Quote from *)
Muslims follow a religion of peace, mercy and forgiveness and the majority of them has nothing to do with the extremely grave events which have come to be associated with their faith. There are extremists and terrorists in every religious community, why are they not called ‘Jewish, Christian or Catholic terrorists’, we hear and read only about Muslim terrorists. In the world Media Islam is often portrayed in very negative light as practices of extreme wings of Islam are described. Most people don’t know, that a moderate stream of Islam even exists. In fact it is the vast majority of the believers. Muslims altogether count well over one billion believers around the world today.“In Islam, the purpose of life is not simply to affirm but to actualize; not simply profess belief in God but to realize God’s will… Faith without works is empty; without merit; indeed, it is the “Book of Deeds” that will be the basis of divine judgment.” (Quote from **)The last Prophet Mohammad (p.b.u.h.) was chosen to speak to the Arabs who until that date had no revelation at all and lived with hundreds of gods and idols. He came to confirm the message that was earlier sent to the people of Israel. As the Qur’an says the message had been altered and forgotten by the people.What do Muslims believe?
Muslims believe in One, Incomparable, Most Merciful God; in the Angels created by Him; in the Prophets through whom His revelation were brought to mankind; in the Day of Judgment and individual accountability for actions, in God’s complete authority over human destiny.
Muslims believe in Life after Death, the Resurrection, the Day of Judgment and Divine Court and the administration of reward (Paradise) and punishment (Hell). This world will come to an end, God will destroy the universe. People will stand equal before God, waiting for their final destiny. The deeds and intentions of the people will be judged and weighted against each other, good and bad.
Muslims believe in a chain 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 all. But God’s final message to man, a summing up of all that has been sent before was revealed to Prophet Mohammad (p.b.u.h.) through angel Gabriel (Jabriel).
No differentiation is made between the Prophets, denial of one is denial of all. Unfortunately, there are different “Schools” within Islam, but for all of them the Holy Qur’an is the ultimate source of faith.
“Say: ‘We believe in God, and the revelation given to us, and to Abraham, Ismael, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and that given to Moses and Jesus, and that given to (all) prophets from their Lord; We make no difference between one and another of them, And we submit to God.” (Qur’an 2:136)
The three elements of Islam:
1 . The Revelation . Qur’an, revealed to the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) by Angel Gabriel. The message was given to the Prophet in fragments over a period spanning approximately 23 years, on different occasions. They were immediately memorized by him and his followers and written down . The language of the Qur’an is in rhymes, easy to learn by heart for Arabic speaking people. Any translation of the Qur’an immediately ceases to be the literal word of God, and hence cannot be equated with the Qur’an in its original Arabic form. In fact, each of the translations is actually an interpretation which has been translated.
2 . The Hadith’s. Sayings and deeds of the Prophet, reported by different people around him. They were written down much later, ca. 250 years after his death. It is reported, that the Prophet did not encourage his followers to record these Hadith’s fearing they would later reach the same authority like the Qur’an. Many collections were written and many of them are not very reliable. But some like the “Bukhari”(d. 256 Hijjrah/870 A.D., the most quoted one) are considered authentic .
3 . The Sunnah. The example of the Prophet in every-day life.
Five Pillars of Islam:
1 . Faith: “There is only one God and Mohammad is his Messenger”.
2 . The “Salat “( Prayer ): Five times a day by reciting parts from the Holy Qur’an.
3 . The ” Zakat” ( Charity ): One of the most important principles of Islam is, that all things belong to God and that wealth is therefore held by human beings in trust. Each Muslim calculates his or her Zakat individually (ca. 2,5 % p.a.) and distributes it in charity. “Believe in God and His messenger and spend of that over which He made you trustees.” (Qur’an 57:7)
4. The Fast: Every year in the month of Ramadan (a whole month long) all Muslims fast from the first light until sundown, abstaining from food, drink, smoking and sexual relations. Only the sick, people on a journey, nursing or pregnant women are permitted to brake the fast and make up an equal number of days later in the year. If they are unable to do so, they must feed a needy person for every day missed.
5 . Pilgrimage: The annual pilgrimage to Mecca ( Hajj) is an obligation only for those who are physically and financially able to perform it (Muslims should try to make that journey once).
Muslims are also obligated to maintain a high level of physical cleanliness, making ablution for the prayers (a simple action of washing the hands, face, nose, mouth, arms, feet, and wiping over the head and in the ears, keeping the nails cut, and washing with water after urinating or defecating) to purify themselves physically.
They are also trying to purify themselves spiritually. God guides us to be the best of character. They should be honest, forgiving, just, kind, modest, humble, good to their parents, their relatives, their neighbors, etc. They are not allowed to backbite, slander, lie, steal, fornicate, commit adultery, etc.
Islam is an Easy Religion. “… (God) has not laid upon you in religion any hardship.” (Qur’an 22:78)
The Problem of translation:
The written classic language of the Qur’an is the main unifying factor in the Islamic World today. As the Arabic language is a very complex language the difficulty of translating it remains a challenge. It was highly developed, poetry was very popular and it was orally recited on many occasions. Until today the poetry of that time is considered unparalleled. Many made their livelihood by visiting different communities reciting poems. Until today poetry is highly appreciated and popular even among ordinary people.
The Language of the Qur’an is in rhymes, easy to memorize for Arabic speaking people but an additional challenge for the translator. It was commonly spoken in Arabia some 1400 years ago. Since then it has developed and today also average Arabic speaking Muslims have to rely on some explanation (Tafsir), not to mention peoples whose mother tongue is not Arabic.
It is important to understand the message in DETAILS and the scholars, who explain it to the people have an enormous influence in delivering it.
What we should remember while reading a translation is, that the language of the Qur’an leaves room for interpretation. Very often we find the same verse translated in different words and the meaning can be unclear. Today, in the light of new discoveries done by scientists during the past centuries, many verses (suras) have got “a new meaning” or interpretation.
Non-Arabic speakers are generally daunted above all by the script and the right-to-left flow of text. Yet the script is in fact the easiest thing about Arabic. The root of an idea or concept is represented by a simple verb. These verbs are the very basis of the Arabic Language and all variations of meaning around the root idea are expressed by imposing different patterns on the basic verb root. Beyond this, there is the complication that each verb root has up to ten additional forms, all of which change the basic meaning.
The average English tabloid reader is said to have a working vocabulary of 3000 words, whereas the Arabic equivalent is said to have about 10,000. There are also many interesting features of the language which hint at the nature and attitude of the Arab mind, notably the existence of only two tenses, perfect and imperfect: there is no future tense. Arabic, by the very nature of its structure is an extremely rich language capable of expressing fine shades of meaning, and this is reflected in the wealth of Arabic Literature, especially poetry.
Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia 2001, quote: “ARABIC LANGUAGE. The poems are forceful, dynamic, realistic, and vivid, in tune with the poets’ harsh environment; and the richness of the Arabic language imparts variety and colour to obligatory, almost stereotyped, motifs. Arabic prose too is vivid in style. To the ancient Arab, language was the chief medium of art, and both poetry and prose were meant to be heard. To this day, poetry and oratory can rouse passion and enthusiasm in an Arab crowd… The most outstanding example of Arabic literature is the Koran… Its literary style, regarded as inimitable by Muslims, is derived from that of the pre-Islamic Arab soothsayers whose utterances were in the form of brief phrases having rhyme and rhythm but no metre. In its earliest suras, or chapters, the Koran expresses religious concepts with a beauty and passion that can be fully appreciated only in the original Arabic text… Hundreds of odes and poems composed about a century before the Prophet’s time still exist, some available in European translation. This poetry deals with the life of the Bedouins… In such centres of Islamic life as Basra, Al Kûfah, and Baghdad, as well as in the non-Arab lands of Iran and Spain, academies were founded for the study of philology, theology, law, and philosophy.”
* “Shattering the Myth, Islam beyond Violence” by Prof. Bruce B. Lawrence (Duke-Univ.,N.C.)
** “Islam, the Straight Path.” by John L. Esposito (prof. at Georgetown Univ.), Oxford University Press Inc., New York (an accurate, unbiased and readable introduction to Islam and its history