بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
In the name of Allah the beneficent the merciful
What is Islam?
Among the blessings and favors that God (Allah SubhanaWaTa'ala) has bestowed upon humanity is that He endowed them with an innate ability to recognize and acknowledge His existence. He placed this awareness deep in their hearts as a natural disposition that has not changed since human beings were first created. Furthermore, He reinforced this natural disposition with the signs that he placed in Creation that testify to His existence. However, since it is not possible for human beings to have a detailed knowledge of God except through revelation from Himself, God (Allah SubhanaWaTa'ala) sent His Messengers to teach the people about their Creator Who they must worship. These Messengers also brought with them the details of how to worship God (Allah SubhanaWaTa'ala), because such details cannot be known except by way of revelation.
The ultimate goal of every Divine Message has always been the same: to guide the people to God, to make them aware of Him, and to have them worship Him alone. Each Divine Message came to strengthen this meaning, and the following words were repeated on the tongues of all the Messengers: “Worship God (Allah SubhanaWaTa'ala), you have no god other than Him.”
The Arabic word “Muslim” literally means “someone who is in a state of Islam (submission to the will and law of God)”. The message of Islam is meant for the entire world, and anyone who accepts this message becomes a Muslim. There a over a billion Muslims worldwide.
Muslim follow Quran, the revelation sent to last and final prophet Muhammed, peace be upon him and his teachings (Hadiths). Muslim take shahada, declaration of oneness of god (Allah SubhanaWaTa'ala) and in Muhammed (peace be upon him). They say:
لا إله إلا الله محمد رسول الله
THERE IS NO GOD BUT ALLAH AND MUHAMMED IS THE PROPHET AND MESSENGER OF ALLAH.
The Essential Beliefs of Islam
There are five simple but essential observances that all practicing Muslims accept and follow. These “Pillars of Islam” represent the core that unites all Muslims.
The Origin of Islam
But where does the message of Muhammad, may the mercy and blessings of God (Allah SubhanaWaTa'ala) be upon him, fit in with the previous messages revealed by God (Allah SubhanaWaTa'ala)? A brief history of the prophets might clear this point.
The first human, Adam, followed Islam, in that he directed worship to God (Allah SubhanaWaTa'ala)alone and none else and abided by His commandments. But through the passage of time and the dispersal of humanity throughout the earth, people strayed from this message and began directing worship to others instead of or along with God (Allah SubhanaWaTa'ala). Some took to worshipping the pious who passed away amongst them, while others took to worshipping spirits and forces of nature. It was then that God (Allah SubhanaWaTa'ala)started to send messengers to humanity steering them back to the worship of God (Allah SubhanaWaTa'ala) Alone, which accorded to their true nature, and warning them of the grave consequences of directing any type of worship to others besides Him.
The first of these messengers was Noah, who was sent to preach this message of Islam to his people, after they had started to direct worship to their pious forefathers along with God (Allah SubhanaWaTa'ala). Noah called his people to leave the worship of their idols, and ordered them to return to the worship of God (Allah SubhanaWaTa'ala) Alone. Some of them followed the teachings of Noah, while the majority disbelieved in him. Those who followed Noah were followers of Islam, or Muslims, while those that did not, remained in their disbelief and were seized with a punishment for doing so.
After Noah, God (Allah SubhanaWaTa'ala) sent messengers to every nation who had strayed from the Truth, to steer them back to it. This Truth was the same throughout time: to reject all objects of worship and to direct all worship without exception to God (Allah SubhanaWaTa'ala) and none else, the Creator and Lord of all, and to abide by His commandments. But as we mentioned before, because each nation differed in regards to their way of life, language, and culture, specific messengers were sent to specific nations for a specific time period.
God sent messengers to all nations, and to the Kingdom of Babylon He sent Abraham – one of the earliest and greatest prophets – who called his people to reject the worship of the idols to which they were devoted. He called them to Islam, but they rejected him and even tried to kill him. God (Allah SubhanaWaTa'ala) put Abraham through many tests, and he proved true to all of them. For his many sacrifices, God proclaimed that he would raise from amongst his progeny a great nation and choose prophets from amongst them. Whenever people from his progeny started to stray away from the Truth, which was to worship none but God alone and to obey His commandments, God (Allah SubhanaWaTa'ala) sent them another messenger steering them back to it.
Consequently, we see that many prophets were sent amongst the progeny of Abraham, such as his two sons Isaac and Ishmael, along with Jacob (Israel), Joseph, David, Solomon, Moses, and of course, Jesus, to mention a few, may the peace and blessings of God be upon them all. Each prophet was sent to the Children of Israel (the Jews) when they went astray from the true religion of God, and it became obligatory upon them to follow the messenger which was sent to them and obey their commandments. All of the messengers came with the same message, to reject worship of all other beings except God Alone and to obey His commandments. Some disbelieved in the prophets, while others believed. Those that believed were followers of Islam, or Muslims.
From amongst the messengers was Muhammad, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him, from the progeny of Ishmael, the son of Abraham, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him, who was sent as a messenger in succession to Jesus. Muhammad preached the same message of Islam as the previous prophets and messengers – to direct all worship to God Alone and none else and to obey His commandments – in which the followers of the previous prophets went astray.
So as we see, the Prophet Muhammad was not the founder of a new religion, as many people mistakenly think, but he was sent as the Final Prophet of Islam. By revealing His final message to Muhammad, which is an eternal and universal message for all of mankind, God finally fulfilled the covenant that He made with Abraham.
Just as it was incumbent upon the those who were alive to follow the message of the last of the succession of prophets which was sent to them, it becomes incumbent upon all of humanity to follow the message of Muhammad. God promised that this message would remain unchanged and fit for all times and places. Suffice is it to say that the way of Islam is the same as the way of the prophet Abraham, because both the Bible and the Quran portray Abraham as a towering example of someone who submitted himself completely to God and directed worship to Him alone and none else, and without any intermediaries. Once this is realized, it should be clear that Islam has the most continuous and universal message of any religion, because all prophets and messengers were “Muslims”, i.e. those who submitted to God’s will, and they preached “Islam”, i.e. submission to the will of Almighty God by worshipping Him Alone and obeying His commandments.
So we see that those who call themselves Muslims today do not follow a new religion; rather they follow the religion and message of all prophets and messengers which were sent to humanity by God’s command, also known as Islam. The word “Islam” is an Arabic word which literally means “submission to God”, and Muslims are those who willfully submit to and actively obey God, living in accordance with His message.
Do Islam, Christianity, and Judaism have different Origins?
No. Muslims believe that the original, unchanged message given to Muhammad, Jesus, Moses and all other prophets came from the One same God. This common origin explains their similarities in many beliefs and values.
"Say: We Believe in God and what has been revealed to us, and what was revealed to Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and the tribes, and what was given to Moses and Jesus and to the prophets from their Lord; we do not make any distinction between any of them, and to Him (God) do we wholly give ourselves." (Qur'an 3:84)
Jews, Christians and Muslims all consider Abraham their Patriarch. Abraham is mentioned in the Qur'an as one of the great prophets. He was blessed by God to be the father of many nations. From his second son, Isaac, descended the tribes of Israel, and through them, Moses and Jesus; and from his first son, Ishmael, came Muhammad (peace and blessings of God be upon all of His messengers).
Abraham was commanded by God to rebuild the place of worship that Adam first built - the Ka'bah, in Makkah (Mecca). The Ka'bah is a simple stone structure, erected as a sanctuary for the worship of the One God. Muslims do not worship the Ka'bah; the cubical building is simply the unified direction toward which all Muslims face in Prayer to God, Almighty.
How did Prophet Muhammad relate to the Christians?
The earliest interfaith dialogue between Christians and Muslims occurred near the beginning of Muhammad's prophethood. The Prophet and his companions were greatly oppressed by the polytheists of Makkah. Muhammad sent some of his followers to seek refuge with the Negus of Abyssinia - a righteous and just Christian king. He listened to the Prophet's emissary with great respect and awe, especially the Qur'anic description of Mary and Jesus. This description led the king and his subjects to affirm that this indeed was God's revelation, and gladly grant the Muslims asylum they sought.
The Prophet recognized Christians as one of the "People of the Book." He treated them with respect and kindness, contracted treaties with the various Christian tribes, and he assured them the freedom to practice their faith and determine their own affairs while living under Islamic law.
One noteworthy example is when a large delegation of Christians from Najran visited the Prophet in Madinah. He received them with great hospitality, and they stayed at the Prophet's Mosque. When they wanted to leave the Mosque and go outside to perform their church services, the Prophet surprised them by offering the use of his Mosque.
Although they did not reach an agreement on all matters of faith, they left Madinah with a treaty of peace and cooperation given to them by the Prophet. This, and similar incidents, are the examples for Muslims and Christians to emulate in the pursuit of better interfaith relations.
What do Muslims think about Jesus?
Muslims love and respect Jesus. They consider him one of the greatest of God's prophets and messengers to humankind. A Muslim never refers to him simply as "Jesus," but always adds the phrase "may the peace and blessing of God be upon him." The Qur'an confirms his virgin birth, and a special chapter of the Qur'an is entitled "Mary." The Qur'an describes the Annunciation as follows:
"The Angels said, 'O Mary! God has chosen you, and purified you, and chosen you above all the women of all nations…'
'O Mary, God gives you good news of a word from Him, whose name is the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, honored in this world and in the Hereafter, and one of those brought near to God. He shall speak to the people in infancy and in old age, and shall be of the righteous.'
She said: ' O my Lord! How shall I have a son when no man has touched me?' He said: 'Even so; God creates what he wills. When He decrees a thing, he says to it, "Be!" and it is."' (Qur'an 3:42, 45-7)
Just as God created Adam without a mother or a father, He caused Jesus to be conceived without a father:
"Truly the example of Jesus in relation to God is as the example of Adam. He created him from dust and then said to him, "Be!" and he was." (Qur'an 3:59)
During his prophetic mission, Jesus performed many miracles. The Qur'an tells us that he said: "I have come to you with a sign from your Lord: I make for you out of clay, as it were, a figure of a bird, and breathe into it and it becomes a bird by God's leave. And I heal the blind, and the lepers, and I raise the dead by God's leave." (Qur'an 3:49)
Jesus, like Muhammad, came to confirm and renew the basic doctrine of the belief in One God brought by earlier prophets. In the Qur'an, Jesus is reported as saying that he came: "To attest the Torah that was before me. And to make lawful to you part of what was forbidden to you; I have come to you with a sign from your Lord; so be conscious of God and obey me." (Qur'an 3:50)
The Prophet Muhammad said: "Whoever believes that there is no deity except God, alone without partner, that Muhammad is his messenger, that Jesus is the servant and messenger of God; His word which he bestowed on Mary and a spirit proceeding from Him, and that Paradise and Hell are true, shall be received by God into Heaven."
Who are American Muslims?
There are over 8 million Muslims who live in the United States, representing every race, ethnicity and culture. They come from all social demographics, and contribute to American society as entrepreneurs, engineers, industrialists, physicians, scientists and teachers. Many were born in the United States; others migrated to America seeking a better life.
The first Muslims in America were West Africans who traded with Native American tribes prior to Columbus. Later, large numbers of African Muslims were forcibly brought to the US to work on plantations as slaves. Very few retained their Islamic identity.
Today, many African Americans are rediscovering their Islamic heritage. From the 1930's onward, the Nation of Islam (a different faith, not related to Islam) played a major role in bringing African Americans to mainstream Islam. Many who joined the Nation, such as Malcolm X, left it after realizing that the true teachings of Islam were universal and not restricted to a chosen race of people.
Like their fellow countrymen, American Muslims were shocked and saddened when terrorists attacked their homeland on September 11th, 2001. In today's post 9-11 America, Muslims have taken on a new role - bridging the gap between the Muslim world and America, and educating the rest of America about the true and peaceful nature of Islam.
How are Islam and America related?
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endorsed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
These ideals are very much part of the Islamic faith. Muslims believe that all humans are created equal and are blessed by their Creator with certain rights - the right to life, the right to pursue eternal happiness and the right to liberty. Liberty, as Muslims see it, is not just defined as freedom of religion, assembly, and speech, but freedom from subservience to any creation of the Creator. It is the freedom to serve the Creator, God Almighty, alone.
While many so-called Muslim nations are not, Islam is democratic in spirit. Islam advocates the right to vote, he right to self-governance and the right to self-determination. The Qur'an enjoins Muslims to rule themselves through consultation and consensus. Muslims believe that each person is responsible for his or her own deeds; and that all stand equal before God. This independent sprit on one hand, coupled with an egalitarian worldview on the other, are both uniquely American.
The American ideals of independence, liberty, democracy, equality, and especially monotheism "- one nation under God," are all found within Islam.
Verily, this nation of yours is one nation and I am your Lord, so worship Me." (Qur'an 21:92)
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