General Information about islam
What is Islam ?
Islam is a religion ****d upon the surrender to God who is One. The very **** of the religion, al-islam in Arabic, means at once submission and peace, for it is in submitting to God's Will that human beings gain peace in their lives in this world and in the hereafter. The message of Islam concerns God, who in Arabic is called Allah, and it addresses itself to humanity's most profound nature. It concerns men and women as they were created by God -not as fallen beings. Islam therefore considers itself to be not an innovation but a reassertion of the universal truth of all revelation which is God's Oneness.
Who are the Muslims?
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 20% 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.
What do Muslims believe?
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.
Who is Muhammad ?
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 Allah 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.
What is the meaning of Islam?
ISLAM is derived from the Arabic root "SALEMA": peace, purity, submission and obedience. In the religious sense, Islam means submission to the will of God and obedience to His law.
Everything and every phenomenon in the world, other than man is administered TOTALLY by God-made laws i.e. they are obedient to God and submissive to His laws i.e. they are in the STATE OF ISLAM. Man possesses the quality of intelligence and choice, thus he is invited to submit to the good will of God and obey His law ie. become a Muslim. Submission to the good will of God, together with obedience to His beneficial law, i.e. becoming a Muslim is the best safeguard for man's peace and harmony.
Islam dates back to the edge of Adam and its message has been conveyed to man by God's Prophets and Messengers including Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad. Islam's message has been restored and enforced in the last stage of the religious evolution by God's last Prophet and Messenger Muhammad.
The word Allah in the Arabic ******** means God, or more accurately The One and Only Eternal God, Creator of the Universe, Lord of all lords, King of all kings, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful. The word Allah to mean God is also used by Arabic speaking Jews and Christians.
What is the purpose of life ?
A Muslim believe that the purpose of life is to worship Allah. Worshipping Allah does not mean we spend our entire lives in constant seclusion and absolute meditation. To worship Allah is to live life according to His commands, not to run away from it. To worship Allah is to know Him, to love Him, to obey His commands, to enforce His laws in every aspect of life, to serve His cause by doing right and shunning evil and to be just to Him, to ourselves and to our fellow human beings.
How does someone become a Muslim ?
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 ******ures they brought.
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 (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.
What is the Quran?
Revelations and the Quran
A Muslim believes in all ******ures and revelations of God, as they were complete and in their original versions. Allah, the Creator, has not left man without guidance for the conduct of his life. Revelations were given to guide the people to the right path of Allah and sent down to selected people, the prophet and messengers, to convey it to their fellow men.
The message of all the prophet and messengers is the same. They all asked the people of their time to obey and worship Allah and none other. Abrahim, Moses, David, Jesus and Muhammad who were revealed their own book of Allah, were sent at different times to bring back straying human being from deviation to Right Course.
The Quran is the sacred book of the Muslims. It is the last book of guidance from Allah, sent down to Muhammad, peace be upon him, through the angel Jibraeel (Gabriel). Every word of it is the word of Allah. It was revealed over a period of 23 years in the Arabic ********. It contains 114 Surahs (chapters) and over 6000 verses.
The Quran deals with man and his ultimate goal in life. Its teachings cover all areas of this life and the life after death. It contains principles, doctrines and directions for every sphere of human life. The theme of the Quran broadly consists of three fundamental ideas: Oneness of Allah, Prophethood and life after death. The success of human beings on this earth and in the life hereafter depends on obedience to the Quranic teaching.
The Quran is unrivalled in its recording and prservation. The astonishing fact about this book of Allah is that it has remained unchanged even to a dot over the past fourteen hundred years. No scholar has questioned the fact that the Quran today is the same as it was revealed. Muslims till today memorize the Quran word by word as a whole or in part. Today, the Quran is the only authentic and complete book of Allah. Allah is protecting it from being lost, corrupted or concealed.
What is the makeup of The Muslim World?
The Muslim population of the world is around 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 minonties in almost everv area including Latin America and Australia, they are most numerous in the Soviet Union, India, and central Afnca. There are 5 million Muslims in the United States.
What are the 'Five Pillars' of Islam?
They are the framework of the Muslim life: faith, prayer, concern for the needy, self-purification, and the pilgrimage to Makkah for those who are able.
First Pillar: Faith
There is no god worthy of worship except God and Muhammad is His messenger. This declaration of faith is called the Shahada, a simple formula which all the faithful pronounce. In Arabic, the first part is la ilaha illa'Llah - 'there is no god except God'; ilaha (god) can refer to anything which we may be tempted to put in place of God--wealth, power, and the like. Then comes illa'Llah: 'except God', the source of all Creation. The second part of the Shahada is Muhammadun rasulu'Llah: 'Muhammad is the messenger of God.' A message of guidance has come through a man like ourselves.
Second Pillar: Prayer
Salat is the **** for the obligatory prayers which are performed five times a day, and are a direct link between the worshipper and God. There is no hierarchical authority in Islam, and no priests, so the prayers are led by a learned person who knows the Quran, chosen by the congregation. These five prayers contain verses from the Quran, and are said in Arabic, the ******** of the Revelation, but personal supplication can be offered in one's own ********.
Prayers are said at dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset and nightfall, and thus determine the rhythm of the entire day. Although it is preferable to worship together in a mosque, a Muslim may pray almost anywhere, such as in fields, offices, factories and universities. Visitors to the Muslim world are struck by the centrality of prayers in daily life.
A translation of the Call to Prayer is:
'God is most great. God is most great. God is most great. God is most great. I testify that there is no god except God. I testify that there is no god except God. I testify that Muhammad is the messenger of God. I testify that Muhammad is the messenger of God. Come to prayer! Come to prayer! Come to success (in this life and the Hereafter)! Come to success! God is most great. God is most great. There is no god except God.'
Once Muslims prayed towards Jerusalem, but during the Prophet's lifetime it was changed to Makkah. From the minbar, the pulpit, the Imam who leads the prayer gives the sermon at the Friday noon community prayers.
Third Pillar: Zakat
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. The word zakat means both 'purification' and 'growth'. Our possessions are purified by setting aside a proportion for those in need, and, like the pruning of plants, this cutting back balances and encourages new growth.
Each Muslim calculates his or her own zakat individually. For most purposes this involves the payment each year of two and a half percent of one's capital.
A pious person may also give as much as he or she pleases as sadaqa, and does so preferably in secret. Although this word can be translated as 'voluntary charity' it has a wider meaning. The Prophet (SAW) said: 'Even meeting your brother with a cheerful face is charity.'
TheProphet (SAW) said: 'Charity is a necessity for every Muslim.' He was asked: 'What if a person has nothing?' TheProphet (SAW) replied: 'He should work with his own hands for his benefit and then give something out of such earnings in charity.' The Companions asked: 'What if he is not able to work?' The Prophet (SAW) said: 'He should help poor and needy persons.' The Companions further asked 'What if he cannot do even that?' The Prophet (SAW) said 'He should urge others to do good.' The Companions said 'What if he lacks that also?' The Prophet (SAW) said 'He should check himself from doing evil. That is also charity.'
Fourth Pillar: The Fast
Every year in the month of Ramadan, all Muslims fast from first light until sundown, abstaining from food, drink, and sexual relations. Those who are sick, elderly, or on a joumey, and women who are pregnant or nursing are permitted to break the fast and make up an equal number of days later in the year. If they are physically unable to do this, they must feed a needy person for every day missed. Children begin to fast (and to observe the prayer) from puberty, although many start earlier.
Although the fast is most beneficial to the health, it is regarded principally as a method of selfpurification. By cutting oneself off from worldly comforts, even for a short time, a fasting person gains true sympathy with those who go hungry as well as growth in one's spiritual life.
Fifth Pillar: The Pilgrimmage (Hajj)
The annual pilgrimage to Makkah, the Hajj, is an obligation only for those who are physically and financially able to perform it. Nevertheless, about two million people go to Makkah each year from every comer of the globe providing a unique opportunity for those of different nations to meet one another. Although Makkah is always filled with visitors, the annual Hajj begins in the twelfth month of the Islamic year (which is lunar, not solar, so that Hajj and Ramadan fall sometimes in summer, sometimes in winter). Pilgrims wear special clothes: simple garments which strip away distinctions of class and culture, so that all stand equal before God.
The rites of the Hajj, which are of Abrahamic origin, include circling the Ka'ba seven times, and going seven times between the mountains of Safa and Marwa as did Hagar during her search for water. Then the pilgrims stand together on the wide plain of Arafa and join in prayers for God's forgiveness, in what is often thought of as a preview of the Last Judgement.
In previous centunes the Hajj was an arduous undertaking. Today, however, Saudi Arabia provides millions of people with water, modem transport, and the most up-to-date health facilities.
The close of the Hajj is marked by a festival, the Eid al-Adha, which is celebrated with prayers and the exchange of gifts in Muslim communities everywhere. This, and the Eid al-Fitr, a feast-day commemorating the end of Ramadan, are the main festivals of the Muslim calendar.
How did Islam spread?
From the oasis cities of Makkah and Al-Madinah in the Arabian desert, the Message of Islam went forth with electrifying speed. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) started calling his people to Islam with wisdom and beautiful preaching as God commanded him. In the beginning, only few people responded to the Call of the Prophet including rich and poor, slaves and free people. After a long period of torture and persecution by the Makkans, the Prophet and his companions migrated to Al-Madinah and established the first Muslim state. Many people from the Arab tribes out of Al-Madinah accepted Islam and started calling to it among their own tribes. The Prophet sent many letters to leaders and kings in and outside the Arabian Peninsula. During that time Muslims were few and weak, so they were targeted by the pagans a lot and they had to defend themselves. Consequently many military clashes and battles took place between Muslims and the pagans who attacked Al-Madinah more than once. In the end Muslims won the battles, and the Arabian Peninsula was purified from paganism and idolatry.
Outside the Arabian peninsula, Islam was spread in two ways:
1- The contacts between the Muslim traders and callers with non-Muslim peoples. These Muslims presented the facts of Islam to others with wisdom, beautiful preaching and good behaviour. The peoples of East Asia (Indonesia, Malaysia and their neighbours) and sub-Saharan Africa embraced Islam through this way.
It was faith in the One God, the great and logical teachings of Islam that treat all people equally and the kind and gracious behaviour of Muslims that brought vast numbers of people into the fold of Islam. The new religion did not coerce people to convert. Many continued to remain Jews and Christians, and to this day important communities of the followers of these faiths are found in Muslim lands, and churches and synagogues still exist from the first century.
Moreover, the spread of Islam was not limited to its miraculous early expansion outside of Arabia. During later centuries the Turks embraced Islam peacefully as did a large number of the people of the Indian subcontinent and the Malay-speaking world. In Africa also, Islam has spread during the past two centuries even under the mighty power of European colonial rulers. Today Islam continues to grow not only in Africa but also in Europe and America where Muslims now comprise a notable minority. Non-Muslims’ contacts with Muslim minorities and recognition of the truth of Islam through the media and modern ways of communication made Islam the fastest growing religion in the world and particularly in America.
2- The Muslim conquests that took place to stop the threats of the Roman and Persian colonizations, to liberate the Arab countries and to remove the obstacles that deprived those people from knowing the new faith. The conquered peoples found in Islam freedom, tolerance and honour they always sought.
The war between Muslims and the Romans ended with the Roman’s defeat in Asia Minor (Turkey). A state of war prevailed until Constantinople was conquered. That conquest led to Eastern Europe and the Balkans.
As for the war with the Persians, despite the participation of the major Persian leaders including Caesar, it ended with the collapse of the Persian state. This paved the way to freedom of religion in those areas. The majority of those peoples chose Islam as their new faith. Some minorities in Persia and other conquered countries, until our days, preserved their religion under the care of the Muslim rule.
General Characteristics of Life in Islam
1. Spiritual Life: prayer (salah), fasting, charity giving (zakah), pilgrimage (hajj), Allah Remembrance (zikr), love for Allah and His Messenger, love for truth and humanity for the sake of Allah, hope and trust in Allah at all times and doing good for the sake of Allah.
2. Intellectual Life: True knowledge ****d on clear proof and indisputable evidence acquired by experience or experiment or by both. The Quran points to the rich sources of knowledge in the whole universe. Islam demands faith in Allah on the basis of knowledge and research and leaves wide open all field of thought before the intellect to penetrate as far it can reach.
3. Personal Life: purity and cleanliness, a healthy diet, proper clothing, proper behaviour, and good healthy sexual relations within marriage.
4. Family Life: A family is a human social group whose members are bound together by the bond of blood ties and/or marital relationship and nothing else (adoption, mutual alliance, common law, trial marriage...etc.). Marriage is a religious duty on all who are capable of meeting its responsibilities. Each member of the family has rights and obligations.
5. Social Life: Man is ordained by Allah to extend his utmost help and kindness to other family members, relations, servants and neighbours. No superiority on account of class, colour, origin or wealth. Humanity represents one family springing from the one and the same father and mother. The unity of the humanity is not only in its origin but also in its ultimate aims.
6. Economical Life: Earning one's living through decent labour is not only a duty but a great virtue as well. Earning is man's private possession. The individual is responsible for the prosperity of the state and the state is responsible for the security of the individual. The Islamic economic system is not ****d on arithmetical calculations alne but also on moral and principles. Man comes to this world empty-handed and departs empty-handed. The real owner of things is Allah alone. Man is simply a trustee.
7. Political Life: The sovereignty in the Islamic State belongs to Allah; the people exercise it by trust from Him to enforce His laws. The ruler is only an acting executive chosen by the people to serve them according to Allah's law. The State is to administer justice and provide security for all citizens. Rulers and administrators must be chosen from the best qualified citizens. If an administration betrays the trust of Allah and the people, it has to be replaced. Non-Muslim can administer their personal life of marriage, divorce, foods and inheritance according to the Islamic law or to their own religious teachings. They may pay Zakah or a different tax tributes "Jizyah". They are entitled to full protection and security of the State including freedom of religion.
8. International Life: Man has a common origin, human status and aim. Other people's interests and right to life, honour and property are respected as long as the right of Muslim are in tact. Transgression is forbidden. War is only justified if the state security is endangered. During war, destruction of crops, animals and homes, killing non-fighting women, children and aged people are forbidden.
General Characteristics of Islamic Civilization
Islam was destined to become a world religion and to create a civilization which stretched from one end of the globe to the other. Already during the early Muslim caliphates, first the Arabs, then the Persians and later the Turks set about to create classical Islamic civilization. Later, in the 13th century, both Africa and India became great centers of Islamic civilization and soon thereafter Muslim kingdoms were established in the Malay-Indonesian world while Chinese Muslims flourished throughout China.