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What is Islam
Surah Ar-rahman
What is Islam
Former model follows spiritual path at Yale

The word "Islam" is Arabic word which means "submission to the will of Allah". This word comes from the same root as the Arabic word "Salam", which means "peace".

Thus Islam states that in order to achieve true peace of mind and surety of heart, one must submit to Allah, and only Allah, and live according to His Divinely revealed Law. The most important truth that Allah revealed to mankind is that there is nothing divine or worthy of being worshipped except for Almighty Allah. Hence all human beings should submit to Him. The word "Muslim" means one who submits to the will of Allah, regardless of their race, nationality or ethnic background. Being a Muslim entails willful submission and active obedience to Allah, and living in accordance with His message. Some people mistakenly believe that Islam is just a religion for Arabs, but that's not true, Islam was sent to all mankind. And here we raise a number of questions together with their answers that give explanation to some major aspects in Islam.

Question 1 "What is Islam?"

Islam is not a new religion, but the same truth that God revealed through all His prophets to Mankind, and through the two other religions He sent before Islam. 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.

Question 2 "Who are the Muslims?"

Muslims are people who's religion is Islam, they assert that there is no God but Allah, and that Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) is His Messenger, and they fulfill the 5 Pillars of Islam. One billion people from a vast range of races, nationalities and cultures across the World--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.

Question 3 "What do Muslims believe?"

Muslims believe in One, Unique, Incomparable God (Allah); in the Angels created by Him; in the prophets through whom His revelations were brought to Mankind; in the Day of Judgment; 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, Jesus, ending with Prophet Mohammad peace be upon them all. 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 (PBUH) through Gabriel.

Question 4 "How does someone become a Muslim?"

To assert and say that 'There is no God except Allah" and that Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) is the Messenger of Allah.'

Question 5 "What does 'Islam' mean?"

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 Allah. 'Mohammedanism' is thus a misnomer because it suggests that Muslims worship Muhammad (PBUH) rather than God.

Question 6 "Why does Islam seem strange to Non-Muslims?"

Islam may seem exotic or even extreme in the modern world. Perhaps this is because religion does not dominate everyday life in the Western societies, 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 (God's Commandments), should be taken very seriously.

Question 7 "What is the Ka'ba?"

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'.

Question 8 "Who is Muhammad?"

Mohammad (PBUH) is the last Prophet God sent was born in Mekkah in the year 570. Since his father died before his birth, and his mother shortly afterwards, he was raised by his grandfather, adn then by his uncle. 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. Mohammad (PBUH) was of a deeply religious nature, and had long detested the decadence of his society. At the age of 40, his mission as the last Prophet began.

Question 9 "How did he become a Prophet and a Messenger of God?"

At the age of 40, Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) received his first revelation from God through Gabriel. This revelation, which continued for twenty-three years.

As soon as he began to recite the words he heard from Gabriel (The Qur'an), 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 God gave them the command to emigrate. This event, the Hijra, 'migration', in which they left Mekkah for the city of Madinah some 260 miles to the north, marks the beginning of the Muslim calendar.

After several years, the Prophet (PBUH) and his followers were able to return to Mekkah, where they forgave their enemies and established Islam definitively. Before the Prophet (PBUH) died at the age of 63, the greater part of Arabia was Muslim, and within a century of his death Islam reached out to Spain in the West and as far East as China.

Question 10 "How did the spread of Islam affect the whole 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; Allah. It also instructs man to use his powers of intelligence and observation to feel the existence of Allah.

Within few years, great civilizations and universities were flourishing, for according to Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) 'seeking knowledge is an obligation for every Muslim man and woman'. Many crucial systems such as algebra, the Arabic numerals, and also the concept of the zero (vital to the advancement of mathematics), were firstly known through Islam. Sophisticated instruments which were to make possible the European voyages of discovery were developed, including the astrolabe, the quadrant and good navigational maps.
To continue with more questions and answers that give more explanation to some of the major aspects in Islam.

Question 11 "What is the Qur'an?"

The Qur'an is a record of the exact words revealed by Allah through Gabriel to Prophet Mohammad (PBUH). It was memorized by Mohammad (PBUH) and then dictated to his Companions, and written down by scribes, who cross-checked it during his lifetime. Not one word of the Qur'an's 114 chapters, Surrahs, has been changed over the centuries, so the Qur'an is in every detail the unique and miraculous text which was revealed to Muhammad (PBUH) fourteen centuries ago.

Question 12 "What is the Qur'an about?"

The Qur'an, the last revealed Words of God, is the prime source of every Muslim's faith and practice. It deals with all the subjects that 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.

Question 13 "What are the 'Five Pillars' of Islam?"

Allah has set a framework of the Muslim life: faith, prayer, care for the needy, self-purification, and the pilgrimage to Mekkah for those who are able.
1. First Pillar: Faith
2. Second Pillar: Prayer
Salat is the Arabic name for the Five obligatory prayers which are performed five times a day, and are a direct link between the worshiper and Allah.
3. Third Pillar: Zakat
One of the most important principles of Islam is that all you have belongs to God, and God asked those who are wealthy to care and help those who are poor and needy.
4. 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.
5. Fifth Pillar: The Pilgrimage (Hajj)
The annual pilgrimage to Mekkah, the Hajj, is an obligation only for those who are physically and financially able to perform it. Nevertheless, more than two million Muslims go to Mekkah each year from all over the world, providing a unique opportunity for those of different nations to meet one another. Although Mekkah is always filled with visitors, the annual Hajj begins in the twelfth month of the Islamic year.

Question 14"Why is the family so important to Muslims?"

The family is the foundation of Islamic society. The peace and security provided in a stable family unit is greatly valued, and seen as essential for the spiritual growth of its members, and their inner peacefulness. A harmonious social order is created by the existence of extended families; children are treasured, and rarely leave home until the time they marry.

Question 15 "What about Muslim women?"

Islam gives high respect to women, whether single or married, as an individual, 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.

Islam moreover calls on respecting women and urges the husband to be kind to his wife and to treat her well. Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) says:

'The most perfect in faith amongst believers is he who is best in manner and kindest to his wife.'

Question 16 "Can a Muslim have more than one wife?"

Islam was revealed for all societies and all times, and so accommodates widely differing social requirements. Circumstances may warrant the taking of another wife but the right is granted. In Islam a husband can marry up till 4 wives, provided to be scrupulously fair to each one of them. Allah gave men this license not for them to abuse, nor to marry just for the sake of pleasure, but to give all women more chances to marry, for at a certain point in time, men will be less in proportion to women, also to give women whom their husbands died in war to marry and enjoy a secure peaceful life.

Question 17"How do Muslims treat the elderly?"

In the Islamic world there are no old people's homes. The strain of caring for one's parents in this most difficult time of their lives is considered an honor and blessing, and an opportunity for great spiritual growth. We, Muslims, should not only pray for our parents, but act with limitless compassion, remembering that when we were helpless children they preferred us to themselves. Mothers are particularly honored in Islam: Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) said that 'Paradise lies at the feet of mothers'. When they reach old age, Muslim parents are treated mercifully, with even more kindness and selflessness than ever, opposite to what usually happens in most of the Western societies.

In Islam, serving one's parents is a duty second only to prayer, and it is their right to expect it. It is considered despicable to express any irritation when the old become difficult and stubborn.

Allah says: "Your Lord has commanded that you worship none but Him, and be kind to parents. If either or both of them reach old age with you, do not say 'uff' (expressing anger) to them or chide them, but speak to them in terms of honor and kindness. Treat them with humility, and say, 'My Lord! Have mercy on them, for they did care for me when I was little." (17.23-4)

Question 18 "How do Muslims view death?"

Muslims believe that the present life is only a trial preparation for the next realm of existence. Basic articles of faith include: the Day of Judgment, resurrection, Heaven and Hell. When a Muslim dies, he or she is washed (in a certain way), usually by a family member, wrapped in a clean white cloth, and buried with a simple prayer preferably the same day. Muslims consider this one of the final services they can do for their relatives, and an opportunity to remember their own brief existence here on earth, and get prepared for the hereafter life. Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) says: "Three things can continue to help a person even after death; charity which he had given, knowledge which he had taught, and prayers on their behalf by a righteous child."

Question 19 "What does Islam say about war?"

Islam allows fighting in self-defense, in defense of religion, or on the part of those who have been expelled forcibly from their homes. It lays down strict rules of combat which include prohibitions against harming civilians and against destroying crops, trees and livestock.

Allah says: 'Fight in the cause of God against those who fight you, but do not transgress limits. God does not love transgressors.' (2.190)

'If they seek peace, then seek you peace. And trust in God for He is the One that hear and know all things.' (8.61)

War, therefore, is the last resort in Islam, and is subject to the rigorous conditions laid down by the sacred law. The term Jihad literally means 'struggle', and in Islam there are two kinds of jihad. The Jihad against anti-Mislims, and the other jihad is the inner struggle which everyone wages against egotistic desires, fighting oneself back from doing bad deeds, for the sake of attaining inner peace.

Question 20 "What about food in Islam?"

Allah forbids the consumption of pig meat or any kind of intoxicating drink.

Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) says: 'your body has rights over you'.

And the consumption of wholesome food and the leading of a healthy lifestyle are seen as religious obligations.

Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) says: 'Ask God for certainty [of faith] and well-being; for after certainty, no one is given any gift better than health!'

Question 21 "How does Islam guarantee human rights?"

Freedom of conscience is laid down by the Qur'an 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 a Muslim or not. Racism is incomprehensible to Muslims, as the Qur'an 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 honored of you in God's sight is the greatest of you in piety. God is All-Knowing, All-Aware'. (49.13)

Islam and World of peace
This is an extract form the book ‘Islam and World of Peace, An explanation of a Sufi’, by M. R. Bawa Muhaiyaddeen.

It is important in this present day that the children of Adam clearly understand the true meaning of Islam.

We must know the value of its purity, of its peacefulness, its unity, its sincerity, its honesty, and the value of its conscience and justice and truth. We must know the greatness of Allah who rules over all this, and we must find tranquility in our lives, so that we will be able to guide others toward peacefulness.

To all those who have accepted Allah and His Messenger, Mohammad (PBUH), with perfect faith, certitude, and determination before we can bring peace to all lives, before we can eliminate poverty, suffering, illusion, and disease in the world, before we can come to love every life as we do our own, we must first understand the value of absolute faith.

To have determined faith in Allah, the Almighty Lord, to know Him, to pray to Him, to believe with complete certitude in His messengers, prophets, and angels, to carry out the commandments sent through them, to bring into our actions His gracious qualities and His ninety-nine attributes, and to dedicate our lives to His worship - this is the true meaning of Islam.

Islam is equality, peacefulness, and unity. Islam is inner patience, contentment, trust in Allah, and praise of Allah. One who understands this and puts it into practice will be a true believer; he will know Allah and His commandments and practice the explanations given through His revelations.

We who claim to be in Islam must destroy all the evil qualities that arise within us. We must cut away and discard all that God discarded from Himself, all the differences that separate us from Him. We must remove all the thoughts that disrupt the unity of Adam's children, the unity of Islam. We must fight against the separations that grow within our bodies, sucking our blood like animals and demons.

With the wealth of God's grace and with the help of His messengers, we must wage a holy war against every one of the four hundred trillion, ten thousand evil qualities that come to destroy our good qualities. This holy war, this jihad, is not something that can be fought on the outside; our real enemies have been within us from birth. Our own evil qualities are killing us. They are the enemies that must be conquered. We must control and subdue them and keep them in their place. We must show these animal qualities their true master, That is the way of Islam.

Allah's perfectly pure qualities, His ninety-nine attributes, and His gracious qualities have all been gathered together with His love and made into the treasure of Iman-Islam. Allah has given this gift of Iman-Islam to the true believers, to those who have absolute faith, certitude, and trust. He has given this gift to the children of Adam so that they might receive the wealth of Allah's kingdom and live a life filled with peacefulness. He gave this gift in abundance to the prophets, so that they could help man to free himself from his enslavement to earth, gold, sensual pleasures, desires, thoughts, and attachments. And yet man is suffering and can find no freedom; he is a slave to so many things. He has no peace, tranquility, equality, or love. The children of Adam must release themselves from the bondage of this suffering.

If only man could acquire the wealth of Allah's love and integrity, the wealth of His beautiful laws, then he would never lack anything. That wealth is pure; it is the purity of Islam. If man had such inner wealth, he would never meet with destruction in this world or in the hereafter. He would be beautiful in both worlds. Allah has asked mankind to accept this, to find freedom, and to raise the flag of unity on the tree of love.

People with strong faith know that it is important to clear their own hearts, while those with unsteady faith seek to find fault in the hearts and prayers of others. This becomes a habit in their lives. But those who pray to Allah with faith, determination, and certitude know that the most important thing in life is to surrender their hearts to Allah. If the pond of the heart is full, then all creations can come and partake of its clear water. If it is shallow, then all those who come will stir up the mud and have nothing but dirty water to drink.

A fruit can only give the taste that it has within itself. In the same way, the children of Adam can only give what they have within themselves. If we have wisdom, others with wisdom will recognize that taste. If we have sweetness in our hearts, we will recognize that taste in others. If we can find truth, patience, and tranquility deep in our hearts, if we can find Allah and His Messenger there, and if we can find unity among ourselves, then we will be truly exalted people. Unity, compassion, and truth are Islam. Let us realize this and live accordingly.

Let us constantly strengthen our faith, certitude, and determination. We must unite and live as one race, accepting that there is one God and praying together as one family in one gathering. This is the wealth of Iman-Islam. God sent this gift to each of the prophets and finally gave it in completeness to Prophet Mohammad (PBUH). The fundamental explanations of perfect faith were resonated to God's messengers, and they in turn shared them with mankind in the scriptures, in the traditions of the Prophet (PBUH), and in the Qur'an. There are very deep meanings to be found in these.


Qur’an and Modern Science
Some scientific truths are used for a wider understanding of the Holy Qur'an.

After a study which lasted ten years, the famous French physician Maurice Bucaille addressed the French Academy of Medicine in 1976 and expressed the complete agreement of the Qur’an and established findings of modern science. He presented his study on the fact that the Holy Qur’an includes certain statements concerning physiology and reproduction. The reason behind this choice was that "how can a text produced at the time of the Qur’an could have contained ideas that have only been discovered in modern times".

Decades later a noted embryologist Keith L. Moore and expert in his field, upon being presented with the statements made in the Qur’an regarding the stages of the formation of the embryo from the mixing of the male and female gametes up to the embryo’s full development remarked "It has been a pleasure for me to help clarify statements in the Qur’an about Human Development. Professor Moore presented his findings to scientists at several conferences. Several Canadian periodicals published many of Moore’s statements. He moreover presented three television programmes in which he highlighted the compatibility of modern science with what has been revealed in the Qur’an 1400 years ago. Consequently, he was asked: "Does this mean that you believe that the Qur’an is the word of Allah?" to which he replied "I find no difficulty in accepting this."

Actually Professor Moore was mesmerized at the preciseness of the descriptions and the terminology used for various stages of the development of the embryo. He included all the relevant Qur’anic verses and authentic statements of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) into his book, The Developing Human: Clinically oriented embryology with Islamic additions, which was published by WB Saunders in 1987 and was used afterwards as a university textbook in the United States.

The book now contains verses from the Qur'an and the Hadith (verified statements of Prophet Mohammad 'PBUH') for every stage of development and Professor Moore has also adopted the classification used in the above two sources.

Consider also the statement of Tejatet Tejasen (Professor at the Dept. of Anatomy, Faculty of Medicine, Chiang Mei University, Thailand) after his study on the Qur’an Surrahs and verses dealing with embryology: "From my studies and what I have learnt at this conference I believe that everything that has been stated in the Qur’an 1400 years ago is true. That can be proved the scientific way". Also the statement of E. Marshal Johnson (Professor and Chairman, Dept. of Anatomy, Daniel Bough Institute, Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, USA) when he became aware of such statements in the Qur’an and studied them: "The Qur’an describes not only the development of external form but emphasizes also the internal stages - the stages inside the embryo of its creation and development, emphasizing major events recognized by contemporary science... "

Actually Islam can be used as a guide to science and scientisits by adding revelation to some of the traditional scientific approaches... There exist statements in the Qur’an shown centuries later to be valid which support knowledge in the Qur’an.

Consider also the statement of T.V.N. Persaud (Professor and Head, Dept. of Anatomy, Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Manitoba, Canada): "Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) was illiterate... we are talking about 1400 years ago, you have some illiterate person making profound statements that are amazingly accurate, of a scientific nature... I personally can’t see how this could be mere chance, there are too many accuracies and like Dr. Moore I have no difficulty in my mind reconciling that this is a divine inspiration or revelation which lead Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) to these statements".

These are some quotes from the "Scientific Community" concerning the divine nature and the origins of the Holy Qur’an. In fact the Qur’an and Hadith do not just talk about embryology but many more phenomenon including the earth and sun being round, spinning around their own axis and following their own orbits, the origin and formation of the universe, the two types of seas between which is a barrier, the role of mountains in stabilising the earths crust, the formation of milk in cows, the location of pain receptors within the body, the expansion of the universe, the precise nature of the water cycle, the change in atmospheric pressure at high altitudes, the gender of the bee which is responsible for producing honey (female), the stars consuming themselves via the combustion of their gases and this being the source of their light and many more.

So peoples academic capabilities might differ yet they can go and ask those who have knowledge, those who are in a position to make such a judgement, like those quoted above.

Allah says in the Qur'an:

"And those who have been given Knowledge see that what has been revealed to you from your Lord is the Truth, and it guides to the Path of the Almighty, the Worthy of All Praise"Qur'an( 34:6)

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