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About Islam

About Islam

Islam is a natural and complete way of life. It encourages one to give due attention to their relationship with their Creator (God). It teaches that people find true lasting happiness and peace through being close to God, following His guidance and performing good deeds.Muslims constitute approximately one fifth of the world’s population, making Islam one of the largest religions. Belief in and worship of the One True God is the purpose of life and cornerstone of Islam.The Arabic word “Islam” literally means “submission” to the One True God alone. One who voluntarily surrenders their will to God is called a Muslim, who can be from any racial or ethnic background.

A distinguishing feature of Islam, unlike many other religions, is that it is not named after a person or tribe.

The 6 Aspects (Articles) of Belief

1. Belief in Allah

“Allah” is the unique Arabic name of The One True God. Allah has no rivals, partners, equals, children or parents. He is not like His creation, as nothing shares His divine essence and perfect attributes. Some of His names and attributes include: The Creator, The Most Merciful, The Most High, The All-Powerful, The Most Just, The All-Wise, The Sustainer and The All-Knowing.

He is the Creator and Sustainer of all, the One who has granted us countless blessings, such as our faculties of hearing, seeing and thinking, as well as the ability to walk, talk and be productive. As such, we should acknowledge, thank and worship Him alone by following His guidance.

It is rational to conclude that such a complex and balanced universe is not possible by any other than a powerful and intelligent being. It is therefore illogical to believe that the universe created itself, or was the result of random or coincidental events.

2. Belief in the Angels

Angels are made from light, have allocated tasks and never disobey their Creator. Details about a few have been revealed, such as Gabriel, who delivers God’s message to the Prophets, and the Angel of Death, who takes the souls of people.

3. Belief in the Revealed Books

Allah sent divine revelation to His Messengers as a guidance and mercy to mankind. These include the Torah and Gospel as originally revealed to Moses and Jesus respectively, and the Quran as revealed to Muhammad (peace be upon them all).

The Quran is the literal word of God and the final revelation to all of mankind. There are many clear signs and miracles that it is from God, examples of which include:

  • Contains a simple, pure and universal message which appeals to Man’s inherent beliefs about Almighty God.
  • Contains a unique style of language that is universally known as the pinnacle of Arabic eloquence and linguistic beauty – yet the Quran was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) who was known, historically, to be illiterate.
  • Contains many scientific facts which have only been discovered recently despite being revealed over 1400 years ago.
  • Free from any errors or contradictions.
  • Preserved, word-for-word, since it was revealed in its original Arabic language, unlike other scriptures which have been distorted, changed or lost.

The most rational explanation for the many unique and miraculous aspects of the Quran is that it can only be from God. Together with the authentic sayings and actions of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), it is the primary source of Islamic knowledge.

4. Belief in the Prophets

Muslims believe that thousands of Prophets were sent by Allah, at least one to every nation, to convey God’s revelation. These Prophets include Adam, Noah, Abraham, David, Joseph, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad (peace be upon them all). Their mission was to return people to the worship of the One True God, to serve as practical examples of how to obey God, and to guide people to the path of salvation. Prophets do not share in any part of God’s divinity, and any type of prayer or worship towards the Prophets, or to God through them, is strictly forbidden and considered a violation of God’s right to be worshipped alone.

– Prophet Jesus

Muslims believe that Jesus is an honourable prophet of God, born miraculously through his virgin mother Mary. He performed many miracles with the permission of God, such as healing the sick, curing the blind and speaking as a newborn defending his mother from accusations. Although Muslims respect and love Jesus, they do not worship him. He is not considered the son of God, nor part of a trinity, nor does he share in any of God’s perfect attributes. God says:

It is not befitting for Allah to take a son; exalted is He! When he decrees an affair, He only says, ‘Be’ and it is.Quran 19:35

– Prophet Muhammad

Muhammad (peace be upon him) was the final Prophet sent to all of mankind. He came with the Quran to demonstrate how its teachings should be applied, and was a perfect example of an honest, just, merciful, compassionate, truthful and brave human being. As with Jesus, Muslims do not worship Muhammad.

5. Belief in the Day of Judgement

The Day of Judgment is the inevitable event when each one of us will stand before our Creator and be questioned about our good and bad deeds. Every one of our actions will be accounted for, regardless of size.

On this momentous Day, Allah, the All-Just, will settle all matters fairly and no person will be wronged. Everyone’s rights will be returned. All will be treated justly, by either the reward of Paradise, or the punishment of the Hellfire. Without a Day of Judgement, life would be grossly unfair, as not everyone receives justice in this world.

6. Belief in Divine Destiny

Allah knows everything from the past, the present, and anything that will occur in the future. He has power over all things – nothing occurs without His knowledge and permission.

Every person has been given the free will to choose between right and wrong, and will be held to account accordingly

Free will does not contradict the fact that events can only occur with God’s knowledge and permission. Nor does it mean that God’s power over everything prevents or restricts people’s free will. God’s knowledge of people’s decisions does not mean that they are being forced to make such decisions, and God is not necessarily pleased with everything that He allows to occur.

The 5 Pillars of Worship

The foundation of a Muslim’s life.

1. The Declaration of Faith

The declaration of faith is bearing witness that there is no God worthy of worship except Allah, and Muhammad is His Messenger. It must be based on a sincere and firm belief in the heart, followed by action. With this declaration, a person rejects all false deities, asserts that Allah is the only One worthy of worship, and accepts His final Messenger, hence becoming a Muslim.

2. The Five Daily Prayers

Prayer establishes a personal and spiritual connection between the Muslim and their Creator, and is a constant and practical reminder of a person’s duty to obey God. The five prayers are prescribed once each at dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset and nightfall. Each prayer can take a few minutes to perform, consisting of recitation of the Quran, supplications, praising Allah, and various movements. In preparation for prayer, Muslims wash certain parts of their body, such as the face and hands, to ensure spiritual and physical purity.

3. The Annual Charity

The annual charity is an obligation on every Muslim who meets certain criteria (e.g. has wealth above a certain threshold). A mere 2.5% of one’s annual wealth is donated to those who are eligible, such as the poor, the needy or those in debt. It purifies one’s wealth and carries many benefits for both the giver and the receiver. One benefit is it reduces the gap between the rich and poor, ensuring everyone has their basic needs met.

4. The Annual Fasting

Every year during the month of Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn until sunset, abstaining from food, drink and sexual relations. It serves as a spiritual purification, nurtures patience and self-restraint, and provides many health benefits.

5. The Pilgrimage

Pilgrimage to the holy city of Makkah, in Saudi Arabia, must be performed once in a person’s life, if they are physically and financially able. It occurs annually in the 12th month of the Islamic calendar, unifying people of every colour, race, status and age, as they join in worship of the One True God. All pilgrims wear simple and similar clothing, which strip away distinctions of class and culture, so that all stand equal before God. This great journey consists of many components, including sacrifices, travelling and praying at various sites. Such an experience is life altering and humbles a person, making them more patient and thankful.

The Concept of Worship

Any action that Allah is pleased with.

Islam’s concept of worship is not restricted to only the five pillars. Worship is an all-inclusive term for any actions that are pleasing to Allah. Everyday activities can become acts of worship by purifying one’s intention and ensuring one’s actions are in line with God’s guidelines. Examples include smiling, being good to one’s neighbours, supporting one’s family, being honest, and even removing rubbish from the road.

It should be noted that Allah is not in need of anyone’s worship, rather, we are in need of Him and our worship is for our benefit.

Conclusion

The above-mentioned aspects of faith and acts of worship make up the essence of Islam. When practised, Islam fulfils the spiritual, physical, psychological and social needs of all people, and is a practical and rational way of life. Furthermore, it is the only way of life which is accepted by God Almighty, and the only path that leads to everlasting Paradise.

Whoever does righteousness, whether male or female, while he is a believer – We will surely cause him to live a good life, and We will surely give them their reward [in the Hereafter] according to the best of what they used to do.Quran 16:97

Misconceptions About Islam

Misconceptions

What do you REALLY know?

Islam is one of the world’s largest religions yet it is also one of the most misunderstood. For various reasons – be they political, economic, biased media or fear of the “other” – mistruths and misconceptions have been spread about Islam. The key to understanding Islam and Muslims is to resist stereotypes and examine each situation according to Islamic teachings and authentic sources.

Misconception 1 – “Muslims Do Not Share Good and Noble Values with non-Muslims”

“The best among you are those who have the best manners and character.” – Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him)

Some people allege that Islamic values are somehow incompatible with decent “Western” values. Such claims could not be further from the truth.

Muslims cherish noble and universal values such as:

  • being honest and just
  • keeping one’s word
  • allowing freedom of religion
  • respecting parents, relatives, neighbours, and the elderly
  • being charitable, generous, and looking after the poor and needy
  • not lying, cheating, swearing or backbiting anyone

Muslims are required to contribute positively towards society and to always conduct themselves with the highest of morals and best of actions.

Misconception 2 – “Muslims Worship a New God Called Allah”

Muslims worship the same God worshipped by Prophets Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus. The word “Allah” is simply the Arabic word for Almighty God – an Arabic word of rich meaning, denoting the one and only God. Allah is also the same word that Arabic speaking Christians and Jews use to refer to God.

However, although Muslims, Jews and Christians believe in the same God (the Creator), their concepts regarding Him differ significantly. For example, Muslims reject the idea of God having any partners or being part of a ‘trinity’, and ascribe perfection only to God, the Almighty.

Misconception 3 – “Islam Permits Terrorism”

The media generally portrays any Muslim who fights as a terrorist, regardless of whether they fight justly or unjustly, or whether they are oppressing others or being oppressed.

In war, the targeting of innocent non-combatants is a despicable act which Islam clearly prohibits. In fact, Muslims are not allowed to destroy plants and animals unnecessarily, let alone innocent humans. However, it is important to distinguish between terrorism and legitimate resistance to occupation, as the two are very different.

The Quran clearly demonstrates the seriousness of killing an innocent person, and emphasises the value of human life.

If anyone murders an innocent person, it will be as if he has murdered the whole of humanity. And if anyone saves a person it will be as if he has saved the whole of humanity.”Quran 5:32

Misconception 4 – “Islam Oppresses Women”

In Islam, men and women are viewed as equals before God, in terms of both receiving equal reward and accountability for their actions. The only thing that distinguishes people in the sight of God is their level of piety.

“Verily the most honourable of you in the sight of Allah is the most God conscious.”Quran 49:13

This verse proves that real honour and status is not attained because a person is rich or poor, black or white, male or female, but attained through piety and devoutness.

Allah, the Creator of both genders, has assigned different roles and responsibilities for each, taking into account their differences. Women are given the utmost respect and honour, such as the right to equal pay, choice of spouse, pursuit of education, and the right to divorce and inheritance.

Unfortunately, there are some Muslim women who are oppressed and not given their rights. This is not the fault of Islam. The problem is that in some countries, people follow certain cultural practices and traditions which have nothing to do with Islam.

Misconception 5 – “The Quran is Just another History or Poetry Book”

The Quran is the divine literal word of God Almighty, revealed to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), through the angel Gabriel. It is a criterion for the truth, containing guidance for humanity to live by. The Quran cites lessons from preceding generations and the history of the Prophets in order that we may learn from their experiences. It further teaches us about ourselves and our Creator, as well as the purpose of our existence which is to acknowledge God, worshipping Him alone.

God did not create humans to simply wander aimlessly. The test of one’s faith is in using one’s intellect, free will and reasoning abilities to contemplate and recognise God’s signs – one of the greatest signs being The Quran.

The Quran contains within it many miracles, so that we can have no doubt about its authenticity. The best way to discover what the Quran is actually about, is to read it for yourself.

Misconception 6 – “Hijab is Oppressive”

To observe the hijab, Muslim women are required to modestly cover their body with clothes that do not reveal their figure in front of non-closely related males. However, hijab is not just about outer appearances; it is also about noble speech, modesty, and dignified conduct.

Although there are many benefits of the hijab, the key reason Muslim women observe hijab is because it is a command from Allah (God), and He knows what is best for His creation.

The hijab empowers a woman by emphasising her inner spiritual beauty, rather than her superficial appearance. It gives women the freedom to be active members of society, while maintaining their modesty.

The hijab does not symbolize suppression, oppression or silence. Rather, it is a guard against degrading remarks, unwanted advances and unfair discrimination. So the next time you see a Muslim woman, know that she covers her physical appearance, not her mind or intellect.

Misconception 7 – “All Muslims are Arabs”

Only about 20% of Muslims in the world are Arabs, meaning that up to about 80% of Muslims are non-Arabs. For example, there are more Indian and Indonesian Muslims than Arab Muslims.
Islam teaches that an individual is not superior to another because of race or colour, and is strictly against any form of racism. Islam has a universal message for all of mankind – that is, that everyone can gain peace and success only by acknowledging and worshipping the One True God.

Misconception 8 – “Jihad is Terrorism”

The essence of Jihad is to struggle and sacrifice for one’s religion in a manner which is pleasing to God. Linguistically, it means to “struggle” and can refer to one’s striving to do good deeds, give charity, or to join an Islamic military action. The most commonly known form is the military Jihad which is permitted in order to preserve the well being of society, to prevent oppression from spreading, and to promote justice. This can be either defensive or offensive, depending on the circumstance.

Misconception 9 – “Muslims Worship Muhammad or the Moon God”

Yet another misconception is that Muslims worship Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). This is entirely untrue, and is easily refuted by the actual saying of the Prophet (peace be upon him):“Do not over-praise me as the Christians over-praised Jesus, the son of Mary. I am His slave, so refer to me as ‘God’s slave and Messenger.’ “

Islam teaches Muslims to respect all of God’s Prophets and Messengers – but respecting and loving them does not mean worshipping them.

A related claim is that Muslims worship the “moon God” which is also totally incorrect. Worshipping the moon, or anything other than Allah, is strictly prohibited in Islam:

Do not prostrate to the sun or to the moon, but prostrate to Allah Who created them, if you really worship Him.”Quran 41:37

Islam acknowledges the complete perfection, greatness and uniqueness of God with absolutely no compromises. He is the Most Just and the Most Merciful. Worshipping Him alone is the most important belief in Islam, as mentioned in the Quran in numerous places.

Misconception 10 – “Islam Permits Forced Marriages”

Arranged marriages are cultural practices which are predominant in certain countries throughout the world. Although not restricted to Muslims, forced marriages have become incorrectly associated with Islam.

In Islam, both males and females have the right to choose or reject their potential spouse, and a marriage is considered null and void if a woman’s genuine approval is not granted prior to the marriage.

Misconception 11 – “Islam Forces People to Become Muslim”

God says, “Let there be no compulsion in religion. Truth has been made clear from error.”Quran 2:256

Although it is a duty on Muslims to convey and share the beautiful message of Islam to others, no one can be compelled to accept Islam. To accept Islam, a person must sincerely and voluntarily believe and obey God, so, by definition, no one can (or should) be forced to accept Islam.

Consider the following:

  • Indonesia has the largest Muslim population yet no battles were fought to bring Islam there.
  • There are around 14 million Arab Coptic Christians that have been living in the heart of Arabia for generations.
  • Islam is one of the fastest growing religions in the western world today.
  • Although fighting oppression and promoting justice are valid reasons for waging jihad, forcing people to accept Islam is not one of them.
  • Muslims ruled Spain for around 800 years yet never coerced people to convert.

Conclusion

Learning about Islam from unqualified sources without verification is dangerous and leads to misunderstandings. Do not be misled into accepting misconceptions and false information about Islam – the belief shared by more than a quarter of mankind.

Does not the guidance for all humanity, the message of Islam, deserve to be carefully pondered over and reflected on?

Women’s Rights in Islam

Women's Rights in IslamWomen in Islam are thought to be subjugated, degraded, oppressed – but are they really? Are millions of Muslims simply that oppressive or are these misconceptions fabricated by a biased media?
“And for women are rights over men, similar to those of men over women.”Qur’an 2:228

Over fourteen hundred years ago, Islam gave women rights that women in the West have only recently began to enjoy. In the 1930’s, Annie Besant observed, “It is only in the last twenty years that Christian England has recognised the right of woman to property, while Islam has allowed this right from all times. It is a slander to say that Islam preaches that women have no souls.” (The Life and Teachings of Mohammed, 1932).

Men and women all descended from a single person – the Prophet Adam (peace be upon him). Islam does not accept for either of them anything but justice and kind treatment.

Equal Reward & Equal Accountability

Men and women worship Allah in the same way, meaning they worship the same God (Allah), perform the same acts of worship, follow the same scripture, and hold the same beliefs. Allah (the Arabic word for the One true God of all creation), judges all human beings fairly and equitably. Allah emphasises the just treatment and reward due to both men and women in many verses of the Qur’an:

Allah has promised to the believers, men and women, gardens under which rivers flow, to dwell therein, and beautiful mansions in gardens of everlasting bliss.”Qur’an 9:72

Never will I allow the loss of the work of any worker amongst you, male or female; you are of one another.”Qur’an 3:195

These verses show that reward is dependent upon one’s actions and not one’s gender. Gender does not play any part in how a person is rewarded and judged.

If we compare Islam to other religions, we see that it offers justice between the sexes. For example, Islam dismisses the idea that Eve is more to blame than Adam for eating from the forbidden tree. According to Islam, Adam and Eve both sinned, they both repented and God forgave them both.

Equal Right to Knowledge

Both men and women are equally encouraged to seek knowledge. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Education is compulsory for every Muslim.”

Also, great female Muslim Scholars existed at and around the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him). Some were from his family and others were his companions or their daughters. Prominent amongst them was Aisha, the wife of the Prophet (peace be upon him) through whom a quarter of the Islamic law has been transmitted.

Other females were great scholars of jurisprudence and had famous male scholars as their students.

Equal Right to Choose a Spouse

Islam has honoured women by giving them the right to choose a spouse and keep their original family name once married. Additionally, many have the impression that parents force their daughters into marriage. This is a cultural practice, and has no basis in Islam. In fact, it is prohibited.

At the time of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), a woman came to him and said, “My father has married me to my cousin to raise his social standing and I was forced into it.” The Prophet sent for the girl’s father and then in his presence gave the girl the option of remaining married or nullifying the marriage. She responded, “O Messenger of Allah, I have accepted what my father did, but I wanted to show other women (that they could not be forced into a marriage).”

Equal yet Different

While men and women have equal rights as a general principle, the specific rights and responsibilities granted to them are not identical. Men and women have complementary rights and responsibilities.

Aside from external and internal anatomical differences, scientists know there are many other subtle differences in the way the brains of men and women process language, information and emotion, just to mention a few.

A socio-biology expert, Edward O. Wilson of Harvard University, said that females tend to be higher than males in verbal skills, empathy and social skills, among other things, while men tend to be higher in independence, dominance, spatial and mathematical skills, rank-related aggression, and other characteristics.

It would be foolish to treat both genders the same and to ignore their differences. Islam teaches that men and women have complementary, yet different, roles because it is best suited to their nature. God says:

And the male is not like the female.”Qur’an 3:36

Does not the One who created, know? And He is the Most Kind, the All Aware.”Qur’an 67:14

The Family Unit

God created men and women to be different, with unique roles, skills and responsibilities. These differences are not viewed as evidences of superiority or inferiority, but of specialisation. In Islam, the family is of central importance. The man is responsible for the financial well being of the family while the woman contributes to the family’s physical, educational and emotional well being. This encourages cooperation rather than competition. By fulfilling their mutual responsibilities, strong families are created and hence strong societies.

Also, emotionally, neither men nor women live a happy life without one another. Allah describes this beautifully by saying:

They are clothing for you and you are clothing for them.”Qur’an 2:187

Clothing provides comfort, warmth and security as well as making one look good – this is how the relationship between the husband and wife is defined in Islam.

Love & Mercy in Spousal Relations

The Prophet (peace be upon him) also encouraged men to treat their spouses in the best way, “The best of you are those who are best (in treatment) to their wives.”

And among His signs is that He created or you wives amongst yourselves that you may dwell in tranquillity with them; and He has put love and mercy between your (hearts). Surely in this are Signs for people who reflect.”Qur’an 30:21

Aisha (the Prophet’s wife) was once asked how the Prophet’s conduct was in his home. She said,“He was like one of you at home, yet he was most lenient and most generous … He was ready to give a helping hand to his wives in the ordinary work of the house, [he] sewed his own clothes and mended his own shoes.” In general, he helped in whatever work his wives did.

Lofty Positions of Mothers & Daughters

A mother has the greatest influence on a child especially in the earlier years through her affection, care and love. Undoubtedly, the success of a society is due to mothers. Therefore, it is only right for Islam to honour and raise their status.

Allah says in the Qur’an:

And we have enjoined on man to be dutiful and kind to his Parents, His mother bears him with hardship and she brings him forth with hardship.”Qur’an 46:15

The Prophet (peace be upon him) was once asked, “O Messenger of Allah, who among people is most deserving of my good treatment?” He said, “Your mother.” The man asked twice more,“Then who?” and was given the same response. Only until the fourth time did the Prophet respond,“Then your father.” Reward is not only given to the good and kind treatment towards mothers. In fact, Islam has designated a special reward for raising daughters that is not granted for raising sons.

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, “Whoever Allah has given two daughters and is kind towards them, they will be a reason for him entering Paradise.”

Conclusion

Before Islam, women were considered shameful, female children were buried alive, prostitution was rampant, divorce was only in the hands of the husband, inheritance was only for the strong, and oppression was widespread. Islam came and abolished these practices. Even now, in “developed countries”, women are not granted respect, dignity and honour, let alone equal pay for equal work. Islam, however, regards women as precious and valuable, not to be disrespected or disgraced. The mistreatment of women in some Middle-Eastern countries or Muslim families is due to cultural factors that some Muslims wrongly follow, not because of Islam. Why would many women around the world willingly enter Islam if it is an oppressive religion?

We end with the words of our Lord and your Lord, the Creator and Sustainer of all men and women:

Surely the men who submit and the women who submit, and the believing men and the believing women, and the obedient men and the obedient women, and the truthful men and the truthful women, and the patient men and the patient women, and the humble men and the humble women… Allah has prepared for them forgiveness and a great reward.”Qur’an 33:35

The Five Pillars of Islam

Every sound structure must have a solid foundation in order to remain strong. Islam’s foundation is the five pillars it was built upon, forming the basis of Islamic teaching as taught by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), wherein he said:

Islam is built upon five pillars:

 

 

1. The Declaration of Faith (Shahadah);
2. Establishing regular prayers (Salah);
3. Paying Charity (Zakah);
4. Fasting the (lunar) month of Ramadan (Sawm);
5. Pilgrimage (Hajj)

These five pillars are a cornerstone of a Muslim’s life.

1. Declaration of Faith – SHAHADAH

The declaration of faith is bearing witness (testifying) that there is no deity worthy of worship but Allah (God), and that Muhammad (peace be upon him) is His Servant and Messenger. It must be based on a sincere and firm belief in the heart, as well as being uttered verbally.

The first part of the declaration implies that:

  • No person, object or being has the right to be worshipped except Allah alone. The Arabic name “Allah” refers to the One True God of all mankind and everything that exists.
  • Allah alone is the Creator and Sustainer of all that exists, and He has power over all things.
  • Allah alone has perfect attributes and is free from all deficiencies.
  • Allah has no partner, equal, father, mother or son.

The second part of the declaration is that Muhammad (peace be upon him) is Allah’s Servant and final Messenger. He is the final Prophet in a long chain of Prophets sent to call the people to the obedience and worship of Allah alone. Some of these Prophets include Adam, Noah, Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David, Solomon and Jesus (peace be upon them all).

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was sent with the Qur’an (the final revelation), in order to teach the people Allah’s message, and serve as an example for all to follow.

Some benefits of the Declaration of Faith:

  • Complete surrender to the will of Allah and becoming His true servant and subject.
  • Produces a high degree of self-respect and confidence, while also remaining humble and modest.
  • Produces strong determination, patience and perseverance, making a person brave and courageous, as well as dutiful and upright.
  • Makes a person obey and observe Allah’s commands.

2. The Prayer – SALAH

“Indeed, I am Allah! There is none worthy of worship but I, so worship Me and offer the prayer for My remembrance.”Qur’an 20:14

The five daily prayers form the most important ritual of worship in a Muslim’s life; one each at dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset and nightfall. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “Prayer is a pillar of the religion (Islam). Whoever establishes it, establishes religion; and whoever destroys it (e.g. neglects it), destroys religion.”

Prayer establishes a personal and spiritual connection between the Muslim and his Creator, based on faith, love, hope and reverence. When prayer is performed correctly with complete concentration, humility and sincerity, it will have an enduring effect on the person, filling his heart with contentment, peace and closeness with Allah.

Prayer is the centre of a Muslim’s life and the best way to achieve submission to Allah. It can be offered almost anywhere clean: such as in fields, offices, factories or universities; and takes only a few minutes to perform. It consists of recitation from the Holy Qur’an, supplicating to and praising Allah, with various body postures such as standing, bowing, prostrating and sitting. Through prayer, the Muslim remembers the greatness of his Creator and supplicates to Him for his needs and wishes.

Repeatedly humbling oneself before Allah prevents a person from falling into sin, and is a type of purification for one’s soul, as mentioned in the Qur’an: “Verily, the prayer prevents one from the shameful and evil deeds.” Qur’an 29:45. Prayer is also an opportunity for repentance and seeking forgiveness from Allah.

The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) asked his companions, “If one of you had a river by his door in which he bathed five times a day, would any filth remain on him?” They replied,“No.” Then the Prophet added, “Likewise, Allah wipes away sins with the five daily prayers.”

3. The Prescribed Charity – ZAKAH

“Those who establish the prayer (salah) and give the charity (zakah) … these are the ones who will prosper.”Qur’an 31:4-5

All things belong to Allah, including wealth, which is considered as a trust. The prescribed charity (zakah) is an obligation on every Muslim who meets certain criteria (e.g. attained maturity, is sane, has wealth above a certain threshold). A small portion of wealth (includes 2.5% monetary and may include other assets) which must be paid annually to those who are eligible, as prescribed in the Qur’an (e.g. the poor and needy).

The Prophet (peace be on him) said: “Allah has made zakah obligatory simply to purify your remaining wealth.”

Misconceptions About Islam – Part 2

Would you send your car to a butcher for repair, or a sick child to a florist? Of course not. A butcher is not qualified to repair a car, nor a florist qualified to treat the sick. Likewise, people without Islamic knowledge are not qualified to inform others about Islam. So why is it that people are willing to accept information about Islam from those that do not have the required knowledge?

Islam, one of the world’s largest religions, is, without doubt, gravely misunderstood. For various reasons, numerous false rumours have been spread about Islam, which have led many people to hold misconceptions about its true teachings.

#1 – “All Muslims are Arabs”

In contradiction to this misconception, only about 15% to 20% of Muslims in the world are Arabs, meaning that up to 85% of Muslims are not Arabs! There are more Indian Muslims than Arab Muslims, and more Indonesian Muslims than Indian Muslims. This mistaken assumption is possibly based on the fact that most of the first generation of Muslims were Arabs, that the Qur’an is in Arabic, and that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was an Arab. The final message may have initiated in a particular region and a particular language, but it was revealed for all mankind.

It [the Qur’an] is not except a reminder to the worlds. Qur’an 12:104

Islam is a message for all mankind, and no race is superior to another:

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, “An Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab, nor has a non-Arab any superiority over an Arab; also a black has no superiority over white, nor has a white any superiority over black, except by piety and good action.”While it is true that not all Muslims are Arabs, not all Arabs are Muslim either. Some Arabs are Christian, Jewish or even atheist.

#2 – “Islam Permits Forced Marriages”

Arranged marriages are cultural practices which are predominant in certain countries throughout the world. Although not restricted to Muslims, forced marriages have become incorrectly associated with Islam. In fact, some Muslims mistakenly believe that this practice has an Islamic origin. The reality is quite the opposite.

In Islam, both males and females have the right to choose or reject their potential spouse, and a marriage is considered null and void if a woman’s approval is not granted prior to the marriage. This was illustrated in an incident in which a woman told the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), that she had been forced into marriage. He advised that it was entirely up to her to either continue with, or end the marriage.

Since an Islamic marriage is a voluntary agreement between both the male and the female, forced marriages are not only invalid, but completely forbidden.

#3 – “Muslims Worship the Moon God”

A common misconception about Islam is that Muslims worship a ‘Moon God’. Muslims actually worship the Creator, whose personal name in Arabic is ‘Allah’. This name is also used by Arab Christians and Jews to refer to God. Worshipping the moon, or anything other than Allah, is strictly prohibited in Islam:

And from among Allah’s signs are the night and the day, and the sun and the moon. Do not prostrate to the sun or to the moon, but prostrate to Allah Who created them, if you really worship Him.Qur’an 41:37

#4 – “Fundamentalist Muslims are a Threat to Society”

The word “fundamentalist” actually does not mean anything bad, nor is it specific to Islam. In fact, the term was first used to describe Christian groups.

One of the more illogical and sinister rumours recently spread about Islam and Muslims is that “fundamentalist” Muslims are a danger to society. To understand this issue correctly, we must firstly understand the true meaning of the word “fundamentalist”. A fundamentalist is one who strictly adheres to the original teachings of the doctrine or theory they are following. For example, in order for a person to be a good economist, they must know, follow and practise the fundamentals of economics; i.e. they must be a “fundamentalist” in the field of economics. Likewise, for a person to be a good Muslim, they must know, follow and practise the fundamentals of Islam; i.e. they must be a “fundamentalist” Muslim.

Based on the above definition, society has nothing to fear from fundamentalist Muslims, as they bring benefit, not harm to society. A fundamentalist Muslim who follows the correct teachings of Islam cannot be a drug addict, an alcoholic, a thief, a rapist, a murderer or a liar, as these are all grave sins. Rather, the fundamentalist Muslim is required to be pious, just and sincere in all of their actions and dealings with others.

Many people fear fundamentalist Muslims because they confuse them with extremists.

From an Islamic perspective, a fundamentalist Muslim simply adheres to the original teachings of Islam, making them balanced in all of their actions, while an extremist exceeds the bounds set by Islam, harming themselves and others. The media at times depicts both of these as one. Even the word “extremist” has been thrown around without definition by governments and the media, so we should not always take this to be true on face value either.

Being a fundamentalist Muslim prevents an individual from harming others, which in return shields society from harmful acts. However, for those who do not obey God nor have high morals, there is nothing preventing them from committing any such crimes. Therefore, it is these people, and not the fundamentalist Muslim, that threaten society.

#5 – “Muslims Worship Muhammad”

Yet another misconception is that Muslims worship the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). This is entirely untrue, and is easily refuted by the actual saying of the Prophet (peace be upon him): “Do not over-praise me as the Christians over-praised Jesus, the son of Mary. I am His slave, so refer to me as ‘God’s slave and Messenger.’ ” Worshipping God alone is the basis of Islamic teachings, as mentioned in the Qur’an in numerous places:

And worship Allah and do not join anyone with Him in worship.Qur’an 4:36

#6 – “Muslims Do Not Share Good & Noble Values With non-Muslims”

It is often claimed by many non-Muslims that Muslims do not share the same refined values as themselves, and that, perhaps, they dislike anyone with different values. These same people use such lies to allege that Islamic values are somehow incompatible with decent Western values. Such claims could not be further from the truth.

Muslims cherish universal values such as:

  • being honest and upright
  • keeping one’s word
  • allowing freedom of religion
  • respecting parents, relatives, and the elderly
  • being charitable
  • caring for one’s neighbour
  • looking after the poor and needy, and
  • contributing to society.

In fact, it is compulsory for Muslims to display these values at all times, not only if they feel like it. Muslims are required to contribute positively towards society and to always conduct themselves with the highest of morals and best of actions.

Reflect on some of these noble values in Islam.

From the words of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him):

“The best among you are those who have the best manners and character.”

“Allah is not kind to him who is not kind to people.”

“Removing something harmful from the road is charity.”

“None of you can be a believer unless he loves for his brother (in faith) what he loves for himself.”

“He will not enter Paradise if his neighbour is not safe from his harm.”

From the words of Allah, the Creator of all things:

“And your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him and that you be dutiful to your parents. If one of them or both of them attain old age in your life, say not to them a word of disrespect, nor shout at them but address them in terms of honour. And lower unto them the wing of submission and humility through mercy, and say: ’My Lord! Bestow on them Your Mercy as they nurtured me when I was small.’ ”Qur’an 17:23–24

#7 – “The Qur’an is Just Another History or Poetry Book”

Some people mistakenly believe that the Qur’an, Islam’s Holy Book of Scripture and God’s final revelation, is just another history book or a book of poetry. The Qur’an is actually the divine literal word of God Almighty, revealed to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), through the angel Gabriel. It is a criterion for the truth, containing rules and guidelines for humanity to live by. The Qur’an also cites lessons from preceding generations and the history of the Prophets in order that we may learn from their experiences, and learn the correct narrations of the past. It further teaches us about ourselves and our Creator, as well as the purpose of our existence.

This revelation is a miracle from God, and contains within it many miracles, so that we can have no doubt about its authenticity.

The best way to discover what the Qur’an is actually about is to read it for yourself.

Conclusion

Sending your sick child to a florist is illogical and harmful. Likewise, learning about Islam from unqualified sources without verification is also damaging and leads to misunderstandings. Therefore, before you accept everything you hear as fact, verify it through an Islamic scholar or other reputable sources. After all, the decision to accept false and misleading information about Islam, the belief shared by a quarter of mankind, lies solely in your hands. Does not the guidance for all humanity, the message of Islam, deserve to be carefully pondered over and reflected on?

What is the Purpose of Life?

Where did I come from? Why am I here? Where am I going?

One of the first questions that comes to mind when considering our purpose of life is, “where did we come from?” Are we here based on random natural coincidences or is there a higher intelligent being, a creator? Acknowledging the existence of a creator is the first step in understanding our true purpose in life. There are many logical and rational reasons for believing in a creator. Three reasons are briefly mentioned below.

1. Beginning of the Universe

The first evidence that points to the existence of God relates to understanding the origin of the universe.

Imagine walking in a desert and finding a watch. We know a watch consists of glass, plastic and metal. Glass comes from sand, plastic from oil, and metal extracted from the ground – all these components are found in the desert. Would you believe that the watch formed itself? That the Sun shone, the wind blew, lightning struck, the oil bubbled to the surface and mixed with the sand and metal, and over millions of years the watch came together by random or natural coincidences?

Some may ask, “Who created God”? God, the Creator, is different to His creation. God is eternal, has always existed and has no beginning; therefore the question of who created God is irrational.

Human experience and simple logic tells us that something that has a beginning does not simply come from nothing, nor can something create itself. Therefore, the most rational explanation is that a higher “being” created the universe. This “being” must be powerful and intelligent as it brought the whole universe into existence and created the ‘laws of science’ which govern it. We can also reason that this “being” is timeless and spaceless, because time, space and matter began at the creation of the universe. All of these attributes make up the basic concept of God, the creator of the universe. This is in perfect agreement with modern science which concludes that the universe is finite and has a beginning

2. Perfection of the Universe

The second evidence that points to the existence of an intelligent creator is the order and perfect balance of our complex universe.

Many features in the universe clearly indicate it to be specially designed to support life, such as the earth’s distance from the sun, the thickness of the earth’s crust, the speed at which the earth revolves, the percentage of oxygen in the atmosphere, and even the earth’s tilt. If these measurements were slightly different to what they currently are, life could not exist.

In the same way that a watch has an intelligent maker to keep accurate time, so too must the earth have an intelligent maker to keep accurate time around the sun. Could this occur by itself?

When we see the order, precise laws and systems within ourselves and throughout the universe, is it not rational they have an organiser? This ‘organiser’ is best explained by the existence of God – the one who brought about this order.

3. Revelation from God

The third evidence that points to the existence of God is the actual revelation that God has sent to humankind as a sign of His existence. There are clear signs that the book of Islam, the Quran, is the word of God. Below is a brief summary of reasons that support this claim. The Quran:

  • Is over 1400 years old and contains many scientific facts that were unknown to people of that time and which have only been discovered recently by science. Examples include: water being the origin of all living things (Quran 21:30); the expanding universe (Quran 51:47); and the individual orbits of the sun and moon (Quran 21:33).
  • Contains many historical facts that were unknown to the people of that time as well as numerous predictions which have proven to be correct.
  • Is free from any errors or contradictions despite gradual revelation over 23 years and covering a wide variety of topics.
  • Has been preserved, word-for-word, since its revelation in its original Arabic language, unlike other scriptures which no longer exist in their original form.
  • Has a simple, pure and universal message which appeals to Man’s intellect and inherent beliefs about Almighty God.
  • Has a deep and moving effect on people.
  • Was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) who was known to be illiterate, yet contains a unique style of language that is universally known as the pinnacle of Arabic eloquence and linguistic beauty.

The most rational explanation for the many unique and miraculous aspects of the Quran is that it is from God.

God Sends Guidance

Upon acknowledging that we have been created by the All-Wise Creator, we would expect to be informed of our purpose. How can we know what God expects from us? Do we live in trial and error, or make our own purpose? Do we “go with the flow” by following others? No. God sent Prophets and revelation to inform us of our purpose.

God sent thousands of Prophets, at least one to every nation, with the same message: to worship God alone and to follow His guidance. They included Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad (peace be upon them all).

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), the last in the chain of Prophets, was the perfect example of an honest, just, compassionate and brave human being. He was sent with the final revelation from God, the Quran, to demonstrate how its teachings should be applied.

The Quran is a book of guidance and explains many concepts such as the purpose of our existence; who God is; the actions liked and disliked by God; the stories of the Prophets and their lessons; accounts of Heaven, Hell, and the Day of Judgement. It aims to clarify misunderstandings about the nature of God, such as clarifying the nature and role of Jesus compared to the nature of God.

Jesus, like all the other Prophets, performed miracles and called to the worship of The One true God (Quran 19:36).

The Nature of Jesus

When trying to understand the concept of God in Islam, it is important to discuss the status of Jesus, given the widespread confusion and claims about his nature.

Some Christians claim that “Jesus is God” or part of a trinity – that is, he is the incarnation of God on earth and that God took on a human form. However, according to the Bible, Jesus was born, ate, slept, prayed and had limited knowledge – all attributes not befitting God. God has attributes of perfection whereas Man is the opposite. So how can anything be two complete opposites both at the same time? This is not rational.

However, some may ask, “If God can do anything, why can’t he become a man?” By definition, God does not do ungodly acts, so if God became man and took on human attributes, he would, necessarily, no longer be God.

Furthermore, the Bible contains many verses in which Jesus speaks and behaves as if God is a separate being to himself. For example, Jesus “fell on his face and prayed” [Matthew 26:39]. If Jesus was God, then would a God fall on his face and pray? And, who would he be praying to?

Some Christians claim that “Jesus is the Son of God.” We should ask ourselves, what does this actually mean? Surely God is far removed from having a physical and literal son. Rather, we find that the term “Son of God” is symbolically used in the earliest biblical languages for a “righteous person”. It is used throughout the Old Testament for many righteous people such as David, Solomon and Israel – not exclusively for Jesus, “…Israel is my firstborn son,” (Exodus 4:22) is one such example.

It is not befitting for Allah to take a son; He is perfect and flawless!

The Islamic belief about Jesus explains who the real Jesus was, whilst maintaining the pure belief about God and His complete Greatness, Uniqueness and Perfection. Jesus was as an honourable Prophet sent by God to call to the worship of God alone.

So…Why am I here?

Everyone would acknowledge that our body parts, such as our eyes, ears, brains and hearts, have a purpose. Wouldn’t it then make sense that the individual, as a whole, also has a purpose?

God, the All Wise, did not create us to simply wander aimlessly or to only fulfil our basic instincts and desires. Rather, we have a higher purpose – to acknowledge and worship God alone, so that we live upon the guidance of our Creator. This guidance enables us to live a successful and blessed life in all aspects. This includes personal acts of virtue like prayer, as well as beneficial acts to society, like being good to one’s neighbours, supporting one’s family, honesty, and caring for animals.

God forbids us from worshiping anything else (e.g. statues, the sun, moon, saints, priests or even Prophets). He does not need any partners or intermediaries. Everyone can always worship God directly.

God describes this life as a test, and people are tested in different ways. We cannot control what happens to us, but we can control how we react. Patience during adversities, and gratitude for blessings, are a means of getting closer to God and attaining eternal Paradise. We are also warned of a terrible punishment in Hell if we choose to disbelieve and ignore His commands.

So… what do I do now?

The test of one’s faith is in using one’s intellect to contemplate and recognise God’s signs and live according to His guidance. This is done by submitting to God’s commands, which in Arabic means to become a “Muslim”.

God, the One and only Creator – ‘Allah’ in Arabic – has made Islam accessible to everyone, regardless of their history, background or present situation. Therefore, anyone can become a Muslim by simply believing in, and uttering the following testimony of faith:

“I testify that there is no god worthy of worship except Allah, and I testify that Muhammad is Allah’s Messenger.”

Isn’t it time for you to fulfil your purpose of life, submit to the truth and acknowledge your Creator?

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