Monday, June 29, 2009

Basic Introduction to Islam

Dear visitors,
Thanks for dropping by. The following article is adapted from ABIM’s Islamic Outreach website. For more reading, you can try visit Introduction To Islam and Islam Online.

Islam is the religion of a quarter of the world population. Muslims live in all continents and occupy a significant portion of the earth. Countries like Indonesia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, libya, Iraq , etc are some example of countries with large population of Muslims. Islam is the name of the code of life acceptable to Allah and Muslims are those who submit to the Will of Allah.


Islam is an Arabic term which means submission and obedience. Submission is to accept Allah's commands and one who submits to Allah's command is called a Muslim. Acceptance of Allah's commands requires one to act and behave in a specific way. That is, one has to put into practice His commands. Only then he would have obeyed Allah and thus submitted to His commands. Submission to His commands reflects one's submission to Allah Himself. Allah's commands cover all aspects of a man's life. That is why Islam is referred ,to as "ad-din" - a complete way of life. Islam provides guidance for man from Allah, the Creator of the Universe. As a complete way of life, it gives guidance in respect of conducting man's private, social, political, economic, moral and spiritual affairs. Islam provides answers to man's most pressing questions on life, such as the purpose of creation, final destiny and man's place in the Universe and among its other creatures.

Submission and obedience to Allah bring peace. That is why the word 'Islam' also means peace or as a means to establish peace. There is peace in everything. From the high mountain to the deep blue sea, from the bird in the sky to the worm in the soil, all submit to Allah's commands they find peace in their existence and in their relations with the rest of the creation. And there is no contradiction in His creation. Everything fits in the realm of creation perfectly and harmoniously to collectively for the universe.

The Message of Islam

Islam teaches that there is only one God, who is called Allah in Arabic. He is the Creator of all and is above all things in the universe, and there is nothing or no one who is like Him or can be compared to Him. God, out of His love for us, has sent down guidance through his commandments and laws. For this purpose through the ages, he chose selected persons to convey His messages. These were His Messengers and Prophets. The number of such messengers and prophets is large and they were sent to all communities. There is no community where He did not send a messenger with his message. The core of the commandment has always asked man to serve Him alone and not to associate partners to Him. Thus the message of all the prophets and messengers from Adam to Muhammad is the same. This message sent through prophets reached its perfection and culmination wit Muhammad who was the last in the chain of prophets.

The message of God sent through Prophet Muhammad, in the very words given by God, is recorded in the Qur'an.

Islam by Choice

The universe created by God is full of living and inanimate creations. In man's daily experience, he observes a larger variety of these around him on earth. All these creations are governed by the law of God, which through submission brings harmony.

All these creatures go through their existence in accordance with the instincts and nature which are in-built in them. God has made it their nature to submit to His will.

In case of man, an additional distinguishing faculty has been granted, that of consciousness and reason. With this he can aware of and distinguish between right and wrong. Whereas his physical being submits to the will of God by its nature, man is free to make this choice with regard to his consciousness and will.

Everything in the Universe is created a Muslim, in that by its nature it submits to the Will of God. The exception to this are the creatures of God which have been given reason and freedom of choice. For them, being a Muslim means making a conscious of submitting to the Creator's will.
Complete way of life

As mentioned above, Islam is a complete way of life. Its guidelines are relevant to every sphere of human activity. It has the following three distinct dimensions.

a) Iman (or faith, belief) : Iman is the belief system of Islam which provides the worldview on which the Islamic way is based. It tells us about the Creator and His Creations, and their relation with respect to one another. It also defines the place man occupies in God's creation, and the purpose of his life. It therefore sets out the basis of understanding of one's life. The various aspects of Iman are described as Arkanul Iman, usually translated as the Articles of Faith.

b) 'Ibadah (or acts of submission to God) : Based on the purpose of life defined by Iman, the belief system, this dimension lays down the ways in, which man is to lead his life to achieve the purpose. It gives detailed guidelines of right and wrong action and conduct in man's life as an individual and as a member of the community.
It also prescribes the obligatory acts of service and worship enjoined for him by his Creator. These acts are called Arkanul Islam, or the Pillars of Islam. These are the pillars which support the structure of the Islamic way of life, which is made up of the acts of submission.

c) Ihsan (or perfection of Conduct): 'Ibadah tell us what to do and Iman gives us the reason arid understanding of why to do it. Ihsan concerns itself with bringing our motivation and spiritual qualities in harmony with our actions and understanding. It adds the quality of beauty and perfection to one's actions and conduct. Just as God has created the cosmos in goodness and beauty, so human activity which must follow the divine model has to be performed with similar attributes.

Purpose of Creation

Allah, the Almighty, creator human beings to serve Him through obeying His commands. "Service" in this verse means total obedience to Allah's commands. The Qur'anic word for service is 'Ibadah if we do it for Allah's sake. Our purpose in life is to please Allah through 'Ibadah.

Arkanul Iman

The structure of any building must have pillars, without which no building can be erected. The structure of iman is likewise built on pillars called arkan (sing. rukun) meaning the articles of faith. Profession of belief without any one of these pillars would render one's faith incomplete and rejection of any of these pillars would constitute deviation.

Article of Faith of Islam are:

1.Belief in Allah
2.Belief in His Angels (mala'ikah)
3.Belief in the Books of Allah (kutub)
4.Belief in the Messengers of Allah (rusul)
5.Belief in the the Day of Judgement (yawm ad-din)
6.Belief in the supremacy of Divine Will (al-qadr)

Arkanul Islam

The first pillar of Islam - Shahadah

This pillar of Islam requires a believer to profess that there is none worthy of respectful service except Allah and that Muhammad is His messenger, sent to guide the entire creation towards serving Him alone. The phraseology in Arabic is:

Ash-hadu al la ilaha illal-lah wa ash-hadu anna muhammadar rasu-lul-lah

I bear witness that there is none worthy of service except Allah and I bear witness that Muhammad is a messenger of Allah

Anyone entering Islam declares his faith by professing this statement. To be meaningful the declaration is to be accompanied by the belief in its meaning and its implications.

The second pillar of Islam - Salah

Allah commands His servants to establish salah (prayers). He says salah prevents abominable and detestable acts.
Salah is an act of remembering God with His praises.
The first question raised on the day of judgement will be regarding the performance of salah.

Salah which one does including intention, recitation, actions and salam through standing, bowing, sitting and prostrating. Salahs are to be performed at the appropriate time with wudu'.

There are five obligatory salahs prescribed in a day, at specified times. A salah means presenting oneself to God in the state of concentration, focus and physical and mental purity.

The third pillar of Islam – Zakah

After salah, comes zakah, which in its broadest sense includes any act of service to other men. Being good to others is the fruit and the proof of the tree of faith. Acquisition of wealth for its own sake or so that it may increase the worth of its collector is condemned. Mere acquisition of wealth counts for nothing in the sight of God. It does not give man any merit whether here or in the hereafter. People should acquire wealth with the intention of spending it on their own needs, and the needs of others.

This word zakah is derived from the verb 'Zaka' which means: 'to grow', 'to increase' and 'to purify'.
Spending the wealth for the sake of Allah purifies the heart of man of the love of material wealth.

In addition, the institution of zakah is a manifestation of social justice. The goal of zakah is the spiritual development of the Believers. By making them give up some of their wealth, the believers are taught the higher moral characteristics of generosity, compassion, gratitude to God and righteousness. But, since Islam does not neglect man's material need, part of the goal of zakah is the economic well-being of the members of society who are poor, in need and deserving.

The fourth pillar of Islam - Sawm

The word siyam or sawm (fasting), is derived from the root sama, to refrain from normal things, such as eating, drinking or talking. If an individual refrains from these things, he is called a sa'im, the observer of fast. In Shari'ah, the Islamic law, the "sawm" refers to a specific act of abstaining oneself from eating, drinking and sexual activity from dawn to dusk.

Fasting is obligatory on a healthy adult Muslim everyday for the entire month of Ramadan.

Ramadan is in the ninth month in the Islamic calendar. It is a month of great blessing. During this month, Muslims pay special attention to the spiritual aspects of their lives as compared to the worldly affairs. In addition to fasting during the daytime hours, they spend much of their time in prayer, reading the Qur'an, dhikr and contemplation. They concentrate on acts of charity, kindness and brotherhood.
They also try especially to stay away from the forbidden and the disliked behaviour. It is a month of endeavour when they seek to raise the level of their spirituality, god-consciousness and nearness to God.

Through abstinence from the normal human activities of eating, drinking, ets, fasting provides a physical platform to pursue the spiritual aspects with a single-minded focus. It puts into perspective the importance of the spiritual life in relation with man's worldly pursuits.

It was the sunnah of the Prophet to fast on certain other days in the year. These are optional fast, and Muslims are encouraged to fast at least on some of these days.
The two basic elements that constitute the essence of fasting are: (1) the full abstinence from consuming food, drink and from sexual activity from dawn to dusk, and (2) the niyyah (intention) of fasting for the sake of Allah alone. Without these elements the fast is invalid. Fasting is obligatory on a sane adult Muslim (male and female) who is healthy and is not in state of travel. Additionally, for women, they must be in a state of purity (clean from menstruation and post childbirth bleeding).

The Fifth pillar of Islam - Hajj

The word hajj means, to visit to the House of Allah (al-Ka'bah) to observe the necessary prescribed devotions. Hajj is not a new institution introduced by the Prophet. This institution is as old as al-Ka'bah itself. In a hadith it is mentioned that al-Ka'bah was first built by Adam, the first man on earth.


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