50 answers to common questions about Islam
"Islām" is an Arabic word which means peaceful, willing ubmission - submission to the code of conduct ordained by God. So Islam is a religion, but it is also a complete way of life based upon a voluntary relationship between an individual and his Creator. It is the way of life ordained by God which was aught by each of His prophets and messengers. What distinguishes Islam from other religions is that it refuses to accept any form of creation whatsoever as a deity worthy of worship. Instead, it emphasizes the exclusive worship of the one God who created the entire universe and to whom all creation will eventually return.
Monotheism is the foundation of Islam and its most important concept which cannot be compromised in any way. Not only is God acknowledged as the sole creator and sustainer of everything in existence, but Islam declares that He is the only true deity and He alone is worthy to be worshipped. Further, it recognizes that the attributes of God are nothing like those of His creation and cannot be compared to it; He is absolute, perfect and unique.
Question 1: What is Islam?
Muslim is someone who practices Islam; that is, who willingly submits to the revealed directives of God. Everything in the universe is inherently submissive to God, functioning according to the natural laws created by Him. Human beings are physically "muslim" in that their bodies function according to the genetic program set by God for the period of time He has decreed.
A "Muslim" in the religious sense, however, is someone who consciously commits himself to the worship of God alone, not according to his own inclinations or those of other men but according to the method conveyed by God through His appointed prophets. The Qur'an gives many examples of people who lived before Muhammad and believed in and obeyed the prophet that God had sent them. They entered Paradise because of their obedience to God, and that is the meaning of "Islam."
All the prophets of God, from Adam to Muhammad, and those who believed and followed each of them during the period of his prophethood 'were called "Muslims." But since Prophet Muhammad was the last of God's messengers to mankind, a "Muslim" can now only be defined as one who accepts and complies with the final, completed message conveyed by God through him. For rationally, the most recently revised legislation always supersedes and invalidates whatever came before it.
Question 2: What is a Muslim?
Question 3: Isn´t it true that Islam is an Arab religion?
This mistaken assumption is possibly based on the fact that Prophet Muhammad was an Arab, that most of the first generation of Muslims were Arabs, and that the Qur'an is in the Arabic language.
But in actual fact, only about 18 percent of Muslims in the world today are Arabs. The largest Muslim populations are found in Indonesia, the Indian sub-continent and other parts of Asia. Islam is also widespread in many parts of Africa, and there are substantial minorities in Europe, North and South America, and Oceania. Islam is the fastest growing major religion in the world, and its adherents on all continents include both Arabs and non-Arabs. Further, not all Arabs are Muslims, for there are significant communities of Christian Arabs as well as a number who belong to other religions or profess atheism. While "Arab" is a geographic and cultural term, "Muslim" refers to an adherent to the religion of Islam.
While the revelation was still in its early stages, the Qur'an disclosed that Islam is indeed a global religion. Allah addressed His Prophet therein, saying:
"And We have not sent you but as a mercy to [all] the worlds. "(Holy Quran 21:107)
"And We have not sent you except comprehensively to mankind, as a bringer of good tidings and a warner, but most of the people do not know."(Holy Quran 34:28)
Islam is meant for all people regardless of race, nationality, cultural or religious background. From the commencement of his mission, the Prophet's companions came from a wide range of lands and races. Among them was an African, a Byzantine, a Persian and a Jewish scholar. All were united in the brotherhood of faith.
There are many references in the Qur'an to the universal nature of Islam. It frequently addresses humanity, saying, "O mankind" or "O people." The Prophet, his companions and their followers made every effort to spread the message of truth to all nations and peoples. He naturally began the propagation of God's message among his own people, the Arabs, but that does not mean it was restricted to them - rather, only that initially conveying it to those nearest him was the logical first step toward the realization of a long-term goal. Later in his mission when conditions became more favorable, he sent letters of invitation to Islam to the rulers of the Byzantine and Persian Empires, Abyssinia, Egypt, Damascus, Bahrain, Yamamah, Oman and others who represented the influential world figures of the day. Whatever their response to it, the Prophet's message was fully acknowledged by the major powers of his time.
Question 4: Isn't Islam just another faith based on legends?
On the contrary, Islam is the only religion whose sources are authentically preserved, historically recognized, and have remained entirely free of human alteration and interference over the centuries. Its divine scripture, the Qur'an, contains no myths or fables and is in accord with established facts of science. It provides an acceptable explanation of the origin, development and purpose of the universe and for occurrences within it.
The message of Islam is not new. What is new is the form of the message, its dimensions and scale. This final revelation has been preserved in its original state, as promised by God when He revealed:
"Indeed, it is We who sent down the message, and indeed, We will be its guardian.(Holy Quran-15:9)
It has miraculously remained immune to the ravages of time and the interference of man, and is still accessible in its original language to all who seek guidance.
Distinct from the teachings of many religions which assume the incompatibility of faith and reason, Islam upholds the role of the mind and regards those who fail to use reason as intellectually
deficient. Because the mind tends to seek out interrelationship wherever there is variety and multiplicity, it is satisfied by the Qur'an's clear and unambiguous statement that everything is traceable to a single source, backed with sound arguments and evidence. An important feature of Islam is that while it is based exclusively upon revelation from God, never exceeding the bounds of the divinely revealed texts, it does not fail to provides logical proofs for its tenets.
Islam teaches that one should expect a natural cause for everything that occurs in creation. It promotes the research, study, thought and contemplation that lead one to faith by conviction rather than blind acceptance. The Qur'an urges man to observe and consider the signs of God within creation and provides guidelines for the sound thinking that leads to appropriate conclusions.
Question 5: Don´t all world religions have similar objectives?
There are many areas in which religions agree, but there are also significant theological and practical differences between them. Undeniably, one will find in every religion expressions of wisdom, high moral values, warnings against evil, and promotion of good works. But what distinguishes Islam from other faiths is that it goes beyond simply urging people to be generous and morally upright. Islam identifies human problems and prescribes practical solutions to them, both individually and collectively.
Although there are a variety of religious communities in the world, each of them content with its own version of "the truth," Islam represents the completion of divinely revealed religion and the finalized legal code for mankind. For this reason the Qur'an states:
"Verily, the religion in the sight of God is Islam.,, (Holy Quran 3:19)
The divine messages revealed prior to that of Prophet Muhammad all called for the worship of God alone and contained some legislation. However, each of them was addressed to a specific people at a specific period of time in order to remedy particular problems and circumstances such as moral degeneration, economic injustices and excessive materialism, misuse of power and political oppression. The final message of Islam addresses these same social evils but as part of a comprehensive program for the amendment, reform and benefit of every nation, community and individual that will exist until the end of the world.
The prophethood of Muhammad launched an era in which divine guidance became openly universal, more comprehensive in scope, and precisely detailed. The responsibility for man's fate and moral well-being depends completely on his own free choice and willing initiative to respond to the invitation of his Creator.
Question 6: Do Muslims worship God or Allah?
One of the biggest misconceptions about Islam concerns the name "Allah." Some people believe that Muslims worship a different God than Christians, Jews and others, and some missionary organizations distribute literature in English in which they say such things as: "Allah is the god of the Muslims" and "Muhammad told people to believe in the god, Allah. " They thus imply and reinforce the idea that "Allah" is some sort of false deity.
This is totally incorrect because "Allah" is the same word that Arabic-speaking Christians and Jews use for God. If you pick up an Arabic Bible, you will find the word "Allah" wherever "God" is used in English. "Allah" is also the proper name of God. Therefore, Muslims use the name "Allah" even when they speak other languages.