What is Islam?
You may have heard Islam being mentioned by others such as in the news, friends, colleagues etc. But what does Islam actually mean?
As the Arabic language is so rich and eloquent, it’s difficult to find the exact word in English. However, the closest word for ‘Islam’ would be peace, coming from the word ‘Salam’, and this is peace acquired by submitting one’s will to the obedience of God.
What is meant by submission?
To summarise, this means looking to live life according to the revealed teachings of the Creator. As Muslims, the revealed teachings are believed to be found within the Glorious Qur’an, which was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) over 1400 years ago.
Continuity of Message
As it’s only been over 1400 years since the time of the Prophet Muhammad, you may be thinking that Islam is a new religion. This is contrary to the Muslim belief. Islam is not considered to be a new religion, but it is the same message and guidance, which Allah revealed to all His prophets.
“Say, “We have believed in Allah and in what was revealed to us and what was revealed to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, and the Descendants, and in what was given to Moses and Jesus and to the prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and we are Muslims [submitting] to Him.”
The message, which was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), the last Prophet, is Islam in its comprehensive, complete and final form.
The Five Pillars of Islam
You may remember fragments of this from RE lessons at school. However, there’s no harm in re-visiting them to jog your memory.
Islam consists of five main pillars including:
- Shahada (Declaration of faith) – the declaration of faith is to say, “I bear witness that there is none worth of worship except Allah and that Muhammad is His servant and messenger.”
- Salah (Prayer) – prayers are prescribed five times a day as a duty towards Allah. They offer many physical benefits in addition to physical. Some of the spiritual benefits include strengthening the belief and connection of people in Allah, and inspiring them towards higher morality.
Further, the prayer helps to purify the heart and control the temptation towards wrongdoing. It should be stressed that whilst Allah does not need our prayers, we cannot achieve guidance without His blessings.
“O you who have believed, seek help through patience and prayer. Indeed, Allah is with the patient. O you who believe! (Qur’an, 2:153).
- Siyam (Fasting) – fasting is observed once each year during the month of Ramadan. This means staying away from eating food, drink and intimacy between dawn and sunset. It teaches love, sincerity and devotion towards our Creator, and fosters discipline, patience and will power within individuals.
- Zakah (Almsgiving) – almsgiving (or as often known as obligatory charity) is an annual payment of 2.5% of an individual’s net savings as a purifying sum to be spent on the poor and needy. Zakah implies that everything man possesses belongs to Allah and therefore anyone in need has a share in it.
- Hajj (Pilgrimage) – pilgrimage to Mecca is required once in a lifetime for every Muslim that can afford it. Hajj implies an individual temporary suspension of all worldly activities and his realisation of himself as a servant in front of God alone.
This includes a variety of rituals including walking briskly between Safa and Marwa. Traditionally, these were two small hills which Hagar, the wife of Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him) ran between searching for water for her son: Ismail (peace be upon him).
Islam enjoins faith in the Oneness and Sovereignty of Allah, which makes us aware of the meaningfulness of the Universe and our place in it. This belief frees us from all fears and superstitions by making us conscious of the presence of Almighty Allah and our obligations towards Him. Belief in one God requires that we look upon all humanity as one family irrespective of colour, class, race, or ethnicity, under the Omnipotence of Allah – the Creator and Nourisher of all. Islam rejects the ideas of a chosen nation, making faith in Allah and good action, the only way to salvation. Thus, a direction relationship is established with Allah, open to all alike, without any mediator.
Human beings: the free agents
Human beings are the highest creation of Allah and they can choose his own way. Created with the highest potentialities, humans are left relatively free in their will, action and choice. Allah has shown humans the right path and the life of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) – the perfect example.
Humans’ success and salvation lies in following them.
Life after death
The world, according to Islam, is a place of trial and humans are being judged in it. Human beings are accountable to Allah for all that he does to preserve it. Life on earth, will one day, come to an end; and after that a new world will be resurrected. It will in this life after death that humans will be rewarded or punished for their deeds and misdeeds. Almighty Allah will judge humans on the day of resurrection which leads to further blessings (Heaven), or to Hell; a stage of suffering and punishment.
Qur’an and Hadith
The Glorious Qur’an is the last revealed word of Allah and as such affirms and completes the total process of revelation which has come from the Divine Guidance for the human race. The Qur’an is the basic sound of Islamic teachings and laws and deals with the bases of creed, morality, history of humanity worship, knowledge, wisdom, the God-human relation, and human relationship, in all aspects. Comprehensive teachings, on which sound systems of social justice, economics, politics, legislation, jurisprudence, law and international relations can be built are important contents of the Holy Qur’an.
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) himself was an unlettered man who could not read or write. The Holy Qur’an was revealed to him piece-meal over a 23-year period and committed to memory and writing by his followers under his supervision during his lifetime. The original and complete text of the Qur’an is available to everybody in Arabic, the language in which it was revealed. Translations of the meaning into many languages are widely used.
Hadith, the teachings, sayings and actions of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), meticulously reported and collected by his devoted companions, explain and elaborate the Qur’anic verses.
Concept of worship
Islam does not teach or accept mere ritualism. It emphasises intention and action. To worship Allah is to know Him and love Him, to act upon His laws in every aspect of life, to enjoin goodness and forbid evil and oppression, to practice charity and justice, and to serve Him by serving mankind. Islam seeks to implant in humans’ heart the strongest conviction that their every thought and action are known by Allah – who sees at all times.
“…Indeed, Allah is Hearing and Knowing.” (Qur’an, 8:17)
Islamic way of life
Islam provides definite guidelines for all people to follow in all walks of life. The guidance it gives is comprehensive and includes the social, economic, political, moral and spiritual aspects of life. The Qur’an reminds humans of the purposes of life on earth, and their duties and obligations towards themselves, their friends and relatives, their community, their fellow human beings, and their Creator.
Human beings are given fundamental guidelines about a purposeful life and then they are left with the challenge of human existence before them so that they put these high ideals into practice.
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was born approximately in the year 570 A.D. in Mecca, Arabia. He came from a noble Arab family and first received the firs revelation at the age of forty.
As soon as he started telling others about Islam, he and his followers were persecuted and had to face severe difficulties. Subsequently, he was commanded to migrate to Madinah, another city in Arabia.
During a short span of 23 years, he completed his prophethood and died at the age of 63. He was put to rest in the city of Madinah.
Interestingly, unlike many Kings and rulers, he left no wealth or property. He led a perfect life and set an example for all human beings. His biography illustrates in real life, the meaning and implications of the Qur’anic teachings.
Islam’s rational appeal
Islam is a simple, rational and practical way of life. The unity of God, the Prophethood of Muhammad (peace be upon him) and the concept of life and death are the basic articles of faith. There is no hierarchy of priests, no confessions to humans, and no complicated rites and rituals. Everybody may approach the Qur’an directly and translate its dictates into practice.
Islam stands for the middle path and the goal of producing a moral human being in the service of a just society.
“…”Our Lord, give us in this world [that which is] good and in the Hereafter…” (Qur’an, 2:201).
Status of Women
No discrimination is made on the basis of gender. Islam recognises that the sphere of potential capabilities and hence responsibilities of mean and women are equally important in themselves but not exactly the same. The roles of men and women are complementary to each other.
Click here to learn more about the rights of women.
“And whoever does righteous deeds, whether male or female, while being a believer – those will enter Paradise and will not be wronged, [even as much as] the speck on a date seed.” (Qur’an, 4:124)
Whilst this word most probably carries negative connotations today, Jihad involves exerting oneself to the utmost in order to follow the teachings of Islam. A Muslim, therefore is required to strive and struggle against themselves to achieve the pleasure of their Lord.
The Family which is the basic unit of civilisation is unfortunately, disintegrating in many countries. Islam’s family system brings into a fine equilibrium the rights of man, wife, children and relatives. Islam nourishes human unselfishness, generosity and love in a well organised family system.
Human beings live according to their view of life. The tragedy of secular societies is that they fail to connect the different aspects of life. The secular and the religious, the scientific and the spiritual seem to be in conflict. Islam puts an end to this conflict and brings harmony to humans’ vision of life.
Fulfil Your purpose in life
The question would be, what is stopping you from the greatest gift from your Creator? God has created you for a purpose and provided guidance through His books and His Messengers (peace be upon them all) to help you achieve that purpose. The Creator is waiting to see which of his creation are willing to accept the truth for themselves.
The most significant reason for your coming into existence is to worship God. There should be a meaning to your being alive today.
We humbly request for you to take this purpose seriously, for time is ticking away, and cannot be brought back or replaced.
To learn more about your purpose of existence, get in touch with us today and we’ll be happy to help.