What is Islam?
The name of the religion is Islam, which comes from an Arabic root word meaning
"peace" and "submission." Islam teaches that one can only find peace in one's
life by submitting to Almighty God (Allah) in heart, soul and deed. The same
Arabic root word gives us "Salaam alaykum," ("Peace be with you"), the universal
Who is a Muslim?
A person who believes in and consciously follows Islam is called a Muslim, also
from the same root word. So, the religion is called Islam, and a person who
follows it is a Muslim.
How Many and Where?
Islam is a major world religion, with over 1 billion followers worldwide (1/5 of
the world population). It is considered one of the Abrahamic, monotheistic
faiths, along with Judaism and Christianity. Although usually associated with
the Arabs of the Middle East, less than 10% of
Muslims are in fact Arab. Muslims are found all over the world, of every nation,
color and race. Muslim majorities are found throughout the Middle East, North
Africa, East Asia and the Pacific
Islands. Large numbers are also
found in Western Europe, the former Soviet Union, and North America.
Who is Allah?
Allah is the proper name for Almighty God, and is often translated merely as
"God." Allah has other names that are used to describe His characteristics: the
Creator, the Sustainer, the Merciful, the Compassionate, the Judge, the
Governor, the Eternal, etc. Allah is without beginning, without end, and He
alone sees and knows all things. Allah is transcendent, yet close to mankind.
"...He knows what enters within the earth and what comes forth out of it, what
comes down from heaven and what mounts up to it. And He is with you wheresoever
you may be. And Allah sees well all that you do" (Qur'an 57:4). Since Allah
alone is the Creator, it is He alone that deserves our devout love and worship.
Anything other than Him is simply His creation. "That is Allah, your Lord! There
is no god but He, the Creator of all things; then worship Him, and He has power
to dispose of all affairs. No vision can grasp Him, but His grasp is over all
vision; He is the Sublime, Well-Aware" (Qur'an 6:102-103). Islam holds to a
strict monotheism - Allah has no partners and is not divided into a trinity.
"Say: He is Allah, the One; Allah, the Eternal, Absolute. He begets not, nor is
He begotten, and there is none like unto Him" (Qur'an 112:1-4). Any worship and
prayers directed at saints, prophets, other human beings or nature is considered
The Six Articles of Faith
1. Faith in the Unity of God
As mentioned previously, Muslims believe in the absolute unity of God (Allah).
The essence of Islam is expressed in the phrase "La ilaha illa Allah," meaning
"There is no deity but Allah." "And your God is One God; there is no god but He,
Most Gracious, Most Merciful" (Qur'an 2:163). This statement of faith
distinguishes a Muslim from an unbeliever, a polytheist, or an atheist. A Muslim
is one who grasps the full meaning of this phrase, realizes its significance,
reposes true belief in it, and accepts and follows it in letter and spirit.
Belief in the Unity of God means that there is no being worthy of worship except
Him, that it is only to Him that heads should bow in submission and adoration,
that He alone possesses all powers, that all are in need of His favor, and that
all must seek His help and mercy. This belief is the bedrock of Islam; all other
beliefs, commands, and laws of Islam stand firm on this foundation.
2. Faith in Allah's Angels
Angels are also Allah's creatures, spiritual beings that are under His command.
They administer Allah's kingdom, carrying out His orders obediently. They have
no free-will or ability to disobey; it is their very nature to be Allah's
faithful servants. These angels surround us, and their duties include recording
man's deeds in this life, which will be presented on the Day of Judgment.
3. Faith in Allah's Prophets
Allah is transcendent and beyond all physical limitations of man, so through the
medium of an angel, Allah causes His command to be revealed to His human
messengers and thus to mankind. The purpose of our life on this earth is to
worship Allah and obey His commands. Through His Grace and Benevolence, Allah
sent prophets and messengers to every nation, in order to communicate with and
guide mankind to the right path.
The prophets who were sent to mankind include (among others) Noah, Abraham,
Isaac, Ishmael, Moses, David, John the Baptist, Jesus, and finally, Muhammad
(peace be upon all of Allah's prophets). These (and many other) chosen men all
came with the same message: Islam. That is, they taught of faith in One Almighty
God, faith in the Day of Judgment, faith in the Prophets and the Books, and
asked people consequently to live a life of obedience and submission to their
Lord. This is the definition of a Muslim. "Abraham was not a Jew nor yet a
Christian; but he was upright, and bowed his will to Allah's (which is Islam).
And he joined not gods with Allah" (Qur'an 3:67). Some of these prophets brought
revealed books (see below). They were all men guided by Allah to teach mankind
and guide them on the straight path. Muslims believe in them all and make no
distinction between them. "Say: 'We believe in Allah, and in what has been
revealed to us and what was revealed to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, and the
Tribes, and in the Books given to Moses, Jesus, and the Prophets, from their
Lord; we make no distinction between one and another among them, and to Allah do
we bow our will in Islam" (Qur'an 3:84).
Muslims believe that the final prophet, Muhammad, came to invite people back to
the true teachings of the previous prophets, and to bring to mankind a final and
all-encompassing guidance: the Qur'an. The Qur'an remains in its complete and
unadulterated form; there is therefore no need for any more prophets to come.
Allah's message is complete.
4. Faith in Allah's Revealed Books
Muslims believe in books that Allah has sent down to mankind through His
prophets. These books include the Books of Abraham, the Torah of Moses, the
Psalms of David, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. These books all had the same
source (Allah), the same message, and all were revealed in truth. This does not
mean that they have been preserved in truth. Muslims (and many other Jewish and
Christian scholars and historians) find that the books in existence today are
not the original scriptures, which in fact have been lost, changed, and/or
translated over and over again, losing the original message. "They change the
words from their right places and forget a good part of the Message that was
sent them..." (Qur'an 5:13). Reading these books today, we have no way of
knowing what portion was revealed by Allah, and what was recorded and changed by
Muslims believe that Allah sent a final revelation, the Qur'an, through the
final Prophet of Allah, Muhammad (peace be upon him and all of Allah's
messengers). "None of Our revelations do We abrogate or cause to be forgotten,
but We substitute something better or similar..." (Qur'an 2:106). The sending of
this divine Book is not a new and strange event; but only to confirm, restate,
and complete those divine instructions which people had mutilated or lost in
antiquity. "To thee (Muhammad) We sent the Scripture in truth, confirming the
scripture that came before it, and guarding it in safety..." (Qur'an 5:48). The
Qur'an is addressed to all of humanity. It seeks to guide mankind in all walks
of life; spiritual, temporal, individual and collective. It contains directions
for the conduct of life, relates stories and parables, describes the attributes
of Allah, and speaks of the best rules to govern social life. It has directions
for everybody, every place, and for all time. The Qur'an was revealed and
preserved in the Arabic language. While translations into other languages may
differ in word choice, the original Arabic script has been uncorrupted and
unchanged since its revelation in the 7th century.
5. Belief in Hereafter/Unseen (Life After Death)
Muslims believe that this world will come to an end on a day Allah has
appointed. "Every soul shall have a taste of death; and only on the Day of
Judgment shall you be paid your full recompense..." (Qur'an 3:185). Everything
will be annihilated, and all of the human beings who had lived in this world
will then be restored to life and will be presented before Allah.
The entire record of every man and woman - of all their deeds and misdeeds -
will be presented before Allah for final judgment. "We shall set up scales of
justice for the Day of Judgment, so that not a soul will be dealt with unjustly
in the least..." (Qur'an 21:47). One who excels in goodness will, by the Mercy
of Allah, receive a goodly reward; one whose wrongs overweigh his good deeds
will be punished.
It is neither faith nor just to treat everyone equally. "Is then the man who
believes no better than the man who is rebellious and wicked? Not equal are
they" (Qur'an 32:18). Allah on that day will judge with Justice, and every soul
will receive what it has earned. While unsure of their fate in the Hereafter,
Muslims are confident of the Mercy and Justice of Allah. "Say: 'Oh My servants
who have transgressed against their own souls! Despair not of the Mercy of
Allah, for Allah forgives all sins, for He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.'"
(Qur'an 39:53). Those who emerge successfully from Judgment will go to eternal
Paradise; those who are condemned and deserve punishment will be
sent to Hell. Allah is the perfect and fair Judge.
6. Belief in Divine Decree
Muslims believe that Allah has full power and knowledge of all things, and that
nothing happens except by His will and with His full knowledge. What is known as
divine decree, fate, or "destiny" is known in Arabic as al-Qadr. Everything in
the world has a predetermined, set course. The destiny of every creature is
already known to Allah.
This belief does not contradict with the idea of man's free will to choose his
course of action. Allah does not force us to do anything; we can choose whether
to obey or disobey Him. Our choice is known to Allah before we even do it. We do
not know what our destiny is; but Allah knows the fate of all things.
Therefore, we should have firm faith that whatever befalls us, it is according
to Allah's will and with His full knowledge. There may be things that happen in
this world that we do not understand, but we should trust that Allah has wisdom
in all things.