I was browsing through this section earlier today and noticed there wasn't really a thread to highlight the teachings of Islam. Brother Jeels did post a link in the pinned thread 'Know Your Religions' but not many will look into it I feel.
Its just that I've found not many are aware of its teachings as they either relate some misinformation brought about from assumptions it seems or don't mention it altogether. Of course their reasons are there own. But I feel I should highlight some basic principles about it. I read a great little booklet that explains it very well in brief that I wanted to post here. Couldn't find it online sadly, so ended up writing it myself. Its named the same as the Title of this thread.
If anyone has any queries after the post feel free to post your thoughts and ask any question that you have to learn more about this religion. There are a few brothers in Islam here along with me who I'm sure wouldn't mind answering your qeuries. Thank You.
An Outline of the Basic Principles of Islam
It has been related on the authority of ‘Umar ibn Katthab that he said:
“One day while we were with the Messenger of Allah (PBUH), there appeared before us a man whose clothes were exceedingly white and whose hair was exceedingly black; no signs of journey could be seen on him and none amongst us knew him. He came and sat down by the Prophet (pbuh), then rested his knees against his and placed the palms of his hands on his thighs, and said: “O Muhammad, tell me about Islam.” The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said, “Islam is to testify that there is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, to establish prayers, to pay alms, to fast in Ramadan, and to make the pilgrimage to the House (Ka’bah in Makkah) if you are able to make the way there.” He said, “You have spoken rightly,”and we were amazed at him asking him and saying he had spoken rightly.
He said, “Then tell me about Iman.”
He (pbuh) said, “It is to believe in Allah, His angels, His Books, His messengers, and the Last Day, and to believe in destiny, both the good and evil thereof.”
He said, “You have spoken rightly.”
He then said, “Now tell me about Ihsan.”
He said (pbuh), “It is to worship Allah as though you are seeing Him, for though you see Him not yet truly He sees you.”
He said, “Then tell me about the Hour.”
He said (pbuh), “The one questioned about it knows no better than the questioner.”
He said, “Then tell me about its signs.”
He (pbuh) said, “That the slave-girl will give birth to her mistress, and that you will see the barefooted, naked, destitute, shepherds competing in constructing lofty buildings.”
Then he went away and I stayed for some time. Then (the Messenger (pbuh)) said, “O ‘Umar, do you know who that questioner was?”
I said, “Allah and His Messenger know best.”
He (pbuh) said, “It was Jibra’il (Gabriel). He came to teach you your religion.”(Sahih Muslim Book of Faith)
“Tell me about Islam”
Islam literally means to submit and to surrender. It also means to enter into peace. The idea is that you’re in peace with someone when you’re not fighting or opposing them. Islam is to enter into submission before God and so to enter into peace with Him, the most Wise and all-Powerful, the One whose Will the whole universe obeys. This is what the purpose of true religion has always been and what every man of God has called towards. And this is the call of every person’s nature too, and the reason you consider good as good and bad as bad. Islam is therefore to enter into peace with your own nature too.
“Islam is to testify that there is no god but Allah.”
The beginning of this submission, Islam, in its outward form is to submit to the truth that you know inside yourself, that there is only one God, and bear witness to it. Everything apart from the Creator is, like yourself, a created being and always in need of its Maker, and therefore unworthy of your worship. It is only God who is in no need of anything outside of Himself, Absolute and Independent.
The Arabic word for God, Allah is made up of al, the definite article in Arabic meaning, the, and ilah which means God, in contrast to the false forms and images that people’s minds have qualified for worship. It isn’t, therefore, in an way the ‘gods of the Arabs’ or Muslims but the same One and Only God to whom all true divine traditions called.
“Say: He is Allah, the One and Only; Allah, the Eternal, Absolute; He begets not, nor is He begotten; And there is none like unto Him.” (Al- Qur’an 112:1-4)
Since He is our Creator and the Creator of everything around us, the One who gave us life and all that we’ve ever had, it is His right upon us that we recognise Him and are grateful to Him. And since He is the ultimate One in control, it only makes sense that we obey Him and seek His pleasure; anything else that we live our lives chasing is soon going to end while we, at the end of our road, have to go back to God.
“...and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah...”
Submitting to the truth that comes from God includes accepting the messenger who is sent by God to guide us towards Him. In our case, this is Muhammad (pbuh), the last of the many men sent by God towards humanity.
Muhammad (pbuh) was born in the city of Makkah in Arabia in the sixth century after Christ (pbuh). Twice orphaned, his father passed away before his birth, and his mother passed away when he was only six. He was then taken into care by his grandfather who also passed away a few years later. At his death he entrusted Muhammad (pbuh) to his son Abu Talib, the maternal brother of Muhammad’s (pbuh) father. Muhammad (pbuh) belonged to the noble Banu Hashim clan of the Quraysh tribe, who are direct descendants of the prophets, Abraham (pbuh) and his eldest son, Ishmael (pbuh).
He grew up to be an honest and trustworthy man, caring for orphans, widows and the weak. He was known for his generosity to the poor and also for his uprightness. His people soon came to call him as-Sadiq (the Truthful) and al-Amin (the Trustworthy).
At the age of forty, Muhammad (pbuh) would go to the cave of Hira’ to mediate. The injustices of the tribal communities of Arabia, their disregard for the poor and weak, and their foolish religion of many idols and rituals, all sorrowed him and he would come to this cave to get away from it all, wishing in his heart for guidance. It was in this cave he received the first verse of the Noble Qur’an from God, brought by the Archangel, Gabriel:
“Proclaim! (or read!) in the name of thy Lord and Cherisher, Who created- Created man, out of a (mere) clot of congealed blood: Proclaim! And thy Lord is Most Bountiful,- He Who taught (the use of) the pen,- Taught man that which he knew not.” (Al-Qur’an 96:1-5)
For the next twenty-three years, Muhammad (pbuh) was to receive by revelation the final Message of God. Though himself unschooled, unable to read or write, he presented before a world of great poets and orators a clear call so sublime and grand that its greatest men of letters could not meet the challenge of the Qur’an made to “bring forth a chapter like it” (Al-Qur’an 2:23) if they doubted it was from God.
The revelation spoke of the creation of the heavens and the earth and the day they shall be brought to an end; the beginning of man and his journey through life of this world; the Hereafter and man’s reckoning before God; that all people, men or women, black or white, rich or poor are equal in the sight of the God that made them, and that only in their obedience to Him and in doing good to His creatures did anyone gain virtue over another. It makes mention of other great men and women of God in the past, like Jesus and his mother, Mary, as well as those who became proud in their power until it lead to their destruction, like the Pharaoh.
It teaches of God’s mercy and warns against His punishment, and contains His commandments to humankind as well as His prohibitions. In short, it is the guidance to humankind to obtain peace physically, mentally, spiritually and practically in every aspect of their lives, both within them and throughout the world at large, till the end of time. It is to take the people out of ignorance and push them to be intellectuals. To stop committing the most heinous crime of associating others with the only one worthy of worship, or denying Him altogether, and understand the true meaning of Tawheed, the worship to only One God.
Within just over two decades of having received those first verses of the Qur’an, Muhammad (pbuh) gave the call to his people of the Oneness of God, and the oneness of purpose of man, was turned out of his hometown of Makkah and forced to migrate to Madinah, established a state built on justice and equality made up of people of diverse colours and lands such as Persia, Rome, Abyssinia, and Arabia, re-entered Makkah as a conqueror with an army of ten thousand with no bloodshed, and was accepted as Messenger of God by near enough the whole of Arabia, leaving behind a faith that was to spread from the furthest reaches of East to West. In other words of Thomas Carlyle;
“These Arabs, the man Mahomet [sic] , and that one century, - is it not as if a spark had fallen, one spark, on a world of what seemed black unnoticeable sand; but lo! The sand proves explosive powder, blazes heaven-high from Delhi to Granada! I said, the Great man was always as lightning out of Heaven; the rest of men waited for him like fuel, and then they too would aflame...” (Heroes and Hero Worship)
The life of Muhammad (pbuh) was recorded and preserved as that of no other leader in history because after the Word of God, the Qur’an, it is his example and teachings, the Sunnah, that forms the core of Islam.
As the purpose of Divine revelation was now completed and the task of the apostleship fulfilled, Muhammad was declared the last Messenger sent by God; no new prophet will come after him.
“Muhammad is not the father of any of your men, but (he is) the messenger of Allah, and the seal of the prophets...” (Al-Qur’an 33:40)
This concludes the first pillar of Islam, to “testify that there is no god worthy of worship except Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger and Servant of Allah.” This is known is Arabic as the Shahadah, or the Testimony, the simple declaration with which one enters into Islam. Below are the Arabic words for the Shahadah:
ASH-HADU AL-LA ILAHA IL-LAL-LAH, WA ASH-HADU ANNA MUHAMMADAN ABDUHU WA RASUL-LU-HU
“I bear witness that there is no deity worthy of worship except Allah, and I bear witness that Muhammad is the servant and Messenger of Allah.”
“...to establish the prayers...”
The second pillar of Islam is establishing Salah, or regular prayer. Spaced out into five different parts of the day, Salah is a physical expression of submission and devotion to the Almighty. At the time of prayer, believers detach themselves from whatever they may be doing, putting the chores of the life of this world on hold to worship God and to remind themselves that life and everything in its fleeting, and the only God and that which is with Him lasts forever.
It is an expression of gratitude to God for His blessings under which we live every moment of our lives. Salah consists physically of standing, bowing, prostrating, and sitting, changing from one posture to another in the manner shown by the Messenger (pbuh) [explained in Hadiith Book of Salah] Verbally, it is made up of words and praise and glorification of God, and prayers for His blessings and mercy. Passages from the Qur’an are recited while standing, and with their foreheads on the ground like the messenger of the past, believers whisper, “Glory be to God, most High.”
Salah is the obligation on every believer, male or female, from the age of puberty onwards. It is to be performed under all conditions, sitting if one is unable to pray standing, lying down if unable to pray sitting. Prayer may be offered individually or in congregation. When it is performed in congregation, worshippers stand in completely straight rows, standing, bowing, and prostrating shoulder to shoulder, for all men are equal before God. It is best to perform all the five obligatory prayers in congregation in the mosque.
The five daily prayers are:
1. Fajr, performed at dawn before sunrise.
2. Zuhr, performed at noon when the sun starts to decline from the meridian
3. Asr, performed in the afternoon
4. Maghrib, performed just after sunset
5. Isha’, performed at night before going to bed
One can see that a Muslim’s day starts and ends with prayer. This exemplifies the meaning of Islam, submission to God, by living an intimate relationship with God.
On Fridays, the normal noon prayer is replaced by a special congregational prayer, the Jumu’ah Salah. Before the prayer, a sermon (khutbah) is delivered by the Imam (leader or teacher) containing advice on how to best live our day to day lives to gain the pleasure of Allah, to overcome hardships faced in life by understanding the teachings of the Qur’an and Prophetic teachings, and other problems faced in today’s worlds are addressed. The sermon is a reminder and guide and a remembrance of the Almighty.
Before performing prayer, a person must make sure that his body, clothes, and his place of worship are clean. Believers wash their faces, arms and feet and pass wet hands over their head in a ritual cleansing process called Wudu’, in preparation for standing before the Lord of the worlds. Cleanliness and hygiene is of high priority in Islam, and one must be pure in mind, body and soul when standing before his Lord.
“...to pay the poor-due...”
The third pillar is Zakah, a word which literally means “to purify”. By giving a portion of their wealth to those less fortunate, believers who have been blessed with the affluence seek to purify themselves of greed and their wealth from the rights of others. It is a reminder that a person’s wealth is not his own, but its real owner is God. Since He has decreed that a part of it be spent on others, that amount of one’s property now becomes the right of the poor and needy.
Zakah is an act of worship, it is a way of showing sympathy to those who are less fortunate, it is a means to take greed and the lover of money away from our hearts, and is a bridge between the rich and the poor.
Zakah purifies one’s wealth. Wealth on which Zakah is paid is blessed by God, while that on which Zakah has not been paid will be a source of punishment and something which one will answer to before God.
“Of their good take alms, so that you might purify and sanctify them.” (Al-Qur’an 9:103)
“...to fast in Ramadan...”
The fourth pillar is Sawm, or fasting. During the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, Ramadan, it is an obligation on every able and mature believer to abstain from eating, drinking, and intimate marriage relationships from dawn till dusk.
God tells us:
“O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that you may (learn) self-restraint” (Al-Qur’an 2:183)
Fasting is therefore both a physical and spiritual exercise. The Arabic word for piety in the verse above, taqwa, has many meanings, one of the most important of which is God-consciousness. Since fasting is an act of worship which spans over a whole day, it creates a strong awareness of God as believers go about the usual chores of life, but this time constantly reminded that they cannot eat or drink in obedience to God.
Acts which are always forbidden, like evil speech and behaviour, have to be avoided with all the more diligence. Fasting teaches one discipline and trains one to control one’s desires. It develops endurance and steadfastness, and allows one to truly empathise with the hungry and thirsty. These are some of the ways in which Sawm helps a person “attain piety”.
Ramadan is a very spiritual month for Muslims as it was in this month that the revelation of the Qur’an began. Muslims fast during the daylight hours of the month and offer a special prayer in its nights known as Salah at-Tarawih in which the whole Qur’an is completed over the month with recitation of verses during the units of prayer. The fasting subdues one’s desires while the extra worship nourishes the soul and refines one’s higher instincts.
The blessed month is concluded with a day of celebration called ‘Eid al-Fitr’ a day of rejoicing and thanksgiving at the success of completing the month of fasting and sharing with the less fortunate through charity. The Messenger (pbuh) once said, “The person who fasts as two occasions of rejoicing; one at the time of ending his fast, and another at the time of meeting his Lord,” (Sahih Bukhari and Muslim)
“..and to make the pilgrimage to the House if you are able to make the way there.”
The fifth pillar of Islam is to make pilgrimage to the Great House built by Abraham for the worship of God in the Sacred Mosque in Makkah, known as the Ka’bah. This is the Hajj, an obligation on all who can afford the expenses and withstand the journey once in a lifetime.
“Pilgrimage to it (Ka’bah) is a duty men owe to Allah- those who can afford the journey...” (Al-Qur’an 3:97)
Abraham (pbuh) was ordered by God to call people for pilgrimage. It is in response to his call that Muslims flock to Makkah every year. They carry out the acts of Hajj in the footsteps of Abraham (pbuh) with devotion and sincerity. They confirm their readiness to forsake worldly enjoyment and comfort for the sake of God.
Hajj is the annual gathering of Muslims. They come from all over the world to assemble in the Holy Land. It is a true demonstration of the universal nature of Islam and that all Muslims are brothers and equal to one another. Pilgrims wear the same simple sheets and gather on the plain of ‘Arafat, a powerful reminder of the day that all mankind will gather (here) before God for the final judgement. All will stand equal that day except by the degree of piety and righteousness.
“Then tell me about Iman.”
Iman literally means to believe, to have faith. After dealing with the outer aspects of Islam, we now come to the inner dimension: what is it that a believer must have faith in.
“It is to believe in Allah, His angels, His books, His messengers, and the Last Day, and to believe in Destiny, both the good and evil thereof.”
The belief in these six fundamental articles of faith is crucial for one to become Muslim.
1. The first is to believe in God, that He alone is the Creator, Sustainer, and Lord of all things. He alone is Great, everything else derives its qualities and properties from Him. There is, therefore, no power or might but through Him, and He alone is worthy of worship.
2. The second is to believe in the angels, beings created by God from pure light. They are always in obedience to God, unable to sin. They have been assigned to various tasks which they carry out faithfully, like conveying revelation to messengers, recording the good and bad deeds of people, protecting people from harm, and bringing the souls to babies in their mothers’ wombs e.t.c. The number of angels is known to God alone, but four well-known in Islamic and Hebrew tradition are Gabriel (Jibrail), Michael (Mika’il), Raphael (Israfil) and Azrael (Izra’il).
3. The third is to believe in the messenger sent by God. These were men chosen by God to deliver His message to their people and call them toward goodness. They were all pious and upright people of who lived their lives according to what they preached, often having to battle against evil and make great sacrifices for the truth. These include Adam, Noah (Nuh), Abraham (Ibrahim), Ishmael (Isma’il), Isaac (Ishaq), Moses (Musa), David (Dawud), Solomon (Sulayman), Jesus (Isa), and last of all, Muhammad (Peace and blessings be upon them all). All these men preached the same message of Tawheed and followed not their own desires and will but the will of Almighty God who had sent them. This proclamation in Arabic is the proclamation of a Muslim, to follow the will of God is submission to Him. A Muslim must believe in all who were sent by God and give them due respect, but they are not to be worshipped. Great as they were, they were but men and claimed to be so, sent to guide men towards God.
4. The fourth is to believe in the Books of God which He revealed to His messengers with guidance to Mankind. Of these, four are known to us; the Torah (Tawrah) which was revealed to Moses, the Psalms (Zabur) revealed to David, the Gospel (Injil) revealed to Jesus, and the Qur’an which was revealed to Muhammad (peace be upon them all). The earlier scriptures were altered over time with additions and subtractions by men, until the divine became difficult to tell apart from the human. The Qur’an however, being the last revelation, has been preserved by God from any kind of distortion to withstand the test of time. (For more information read the thread Preservation and Literary Challenge of the Qur'an)
5. The fifth is to believe in the Last Day. Divine religion has always taught that all who live will die and one day be raised up again and assembled before God to be judged for their deeds. The deeds of men will be dealt justly and accordingly and they will either be rewarded for their good in Gardens of Paradise or punished for their ignorance and rebellious ways against the truth in levels of Hell. May God preserve us all from this and Guide us.
6. The sixth is to believe that everything that ever comes our way comes to us from God. Since God is the Creator of all things, He too is the One by whose Will everything related to occurs. No atom is set into motion or becomes still, nor is a breath disturbed or quietened except by His allowing it to happen. Being complete in Knowledge, He knew before creating things exactly what they would go on to do once created, and decreed accordingly. What the creation will do is known to Him and the path is known to Him, but the creation does not know. This world and its tribulations is a test for him to better himself and learn from his experiences. And so all that befalls us, whether we consider it good or bad, befalls us by His leave, and all of it has the potential to become both ultimately good or ultimately bad for us, depending on our response to it. The Messenger of God (pbuh) once said:
“How amazing is the affair of the believer – all of his affair is good for him, and this happens with none but the believer. If happiness befalls him, he gives thanks, so that becomes good for him; and if sorrow befalls him, he is patient, so that becomes good for him (too).” (Sahih Muslim Book of Faith)
“Then tell me about Ihsan.”
Ihsan literally means to make beautiful, to do well. Having asked about the physical submission, Islam, and the internal affirmation, Iman, the next question was about the achievement of excellence; what is the highest goal that the believer is to aspire toward in his relationship with his Lord, the closest a human can get to perfection, the ultimate state of beauty?
“It is to worship Allah as though you are seeing Him, for though you see Him not yet truly He sees you.”
The highest state and peak of excellence that a worshipper can attain to, Ihsan, is to behold the Worshipped. It is to fine-tune one’s senses to God, transforming worship from a set of motions to seeing the beauty and glory of the Almighty. And as worship in Islam goes beyond simply the ritual acts of prayer and fasting, e.t.c. to encompass the whole of a life spent in obedience to God, so too is Ihsan to be aspired toward throughout every part of life by becoming perceptive of the presence and beauty of the truly Magnificent and Majestic all around us.
A person in such state of consciousness of God spreads beauty and goodness everywhere he or she goes, because of the beauty and goodness that they are constantly in touch with. Achieving excellence, Ihsan, in one’s relationship with one’s Maker takes one to excellence in everything he or she does and is; one becomes a Muhsin, a doer of good, of beauty. If you live “as though you are seeing Him”, or at least with the awareness that “truly He sees you”, you become anxious of choosing what is pleasing and beautiful in His sight in everything you do; the way you speak to those around you and interact with them, the way you respond to different situations, the way you treat even animals in nature. Effectively, you are always with God.
“For Allah is with those who restrain themselves, and those who do good.” (Al-Qur’an 16:128)
“Then tell about the Hour.”
“The one questioned about it knows no better than the questioner.”
The appointed time of the Final Hour of Reckoning, or Judgement Day, is amongst the best kept secret in existence. Its knowledge was not vouchsafed to either angel or messenger.
“They ask you about the (final) hour – when will be its appointed time? Say: “The knowledge of it is with my Lord (alone): none but He can reveal as to when it will occur. Heavy were its burden through the heavens and the earth. Only all of a sudden will it come to you...” (Al-Qur’an 7:187)
“Then tell me about its signs.”
“That the slave girl will give birth to her mistress, and that you will see the barefooted, naked, destitute shepherds competing in constructing lofty buildings.”
Two of the signs of the imminence of the Hour are mentioned here. The first has been understood to mean various things, including that mothers would give birth to overbearing and oppressive children. It is worthy to note the civilisation of Islam went on to give rise to the Modern World by introducing Europe to learning and culture when it was in its ‘Dark Ages’, thereby planting the seeds of Europe’s Renaissance. And it was this same Modern World that was to colonise and enslave virtually all the Muslim World.
The second sign is one that has physically been witnessed in our times all over the world, but mostly literally in Arabia, as those who were shepherds for generations suddenly found themselves sitting on oil. Sudden wealth may be a great gift, but it is also a great test.
Both the signs mentioned related to social wrongs; the mistreatment by the powerful of those who brought them to power, and the gross materialism that infects those of wealth who had, until not long ago, been needy themselves. It has to cause concern, then, that the age we live in is characterised above all else by social injustice and the lavish extravagance of the wealthy while millions struggle with poverty.
“Do you know who the questioner was? It was Gabriel. He came to you teach you your religion.”
And so this was the exchange between the Archangel Gabriel and the Seal of the Messengers, Muhammad (pbuh), concluded. It took place, we now learn, for our benefit; to encapsulate for us comprehensively the guidance sent for the last time from the heavens to humanity. Islam is a declaration of truth and worship according to it; it is a teaching of pure beliefs and a clear creed; it is an instruction of beauty in word and deed, and of spreading beauty by living in consciousness of the Source of Beauty. And in the end, lest we should become distracted by the world and its pursuit, we are reminded of the reality of the Final Reckoning before God.
“And fear the Day when ye shall be brought back to Allah. Then shall every soul be paid what it earned, and none shall be dealt with unjustly.”