Islam originates from the root word 'salama' which means getting free of inward evils. The derivatives are many, such as peace, submission, surrender, survival, health and safe reconciliation. Hence, a Muslim is one, who submits to none except the Will of the Creator, Who fashioned the human beings as the most excellent form of creation, and endowed them with the power called brains.
As our analysis proved in 'Towards Peace', Prophet Moses never described his teachings as Judaism, nor did Prophet Jesus choose the word Christianity for his message, or for that matter Buddha and others, named their mission as Buddhism and etc. Therefore, it is an erroneous notion to think that Islam originated a mere fourteen centuries ago, all of a sudden, in the deserts of Arabia. But as facts testify, Islam, or submission to the Almighty's Will and a healthy way of survival, was the message preached by all prophets. However with the revelation to Prophet Muhammad (saw), the word Islam became a proper name for the true path, and came to acquire added significance.
Thus, it is not without reason, that Islam is often referred to as the 'Natural Religion' because its dynamism has withstood the test of time, and its tenets perfectly blend with, and have scientifically catered to the needs of the human race in every time and era.
Islam for Beginners: ISLAMIC PRINCIPLES
The starting point of Islam is the testimony (Shahada): There is no god but Allah (La Ilaha Ill-Allah). This wondrous phrase indicates the pinnacle of human intellect and will power, because Islam is not the paying of mere lip service out of fear of superstition, but a firm conviction in the Omnipotence of the Creator. It means that man is responsible to the Creator alone for his acts and deeds, and how he passes the transitionary lifespan. It means that everything in this universe is subordinate to the power of the Creator, who fashioned the universe out of naught and made the human race as the finest form of life. It also means that the human kind and human mind is far superior to all man-made objects or other creatures, and even the powers of nature, whom retarded minds had worshipped as deities. Lastly it means that one who professes this testimony realizing its deep meanings is in firm control of his own will power, which if not properly harnessed by intellect and ration, destroys the human itself.
Thus the Almighty is One, Single, Unique, Eternal, Omniscient and Self-Subsistent. He has no likeness or form, nor resemblance to any of His creatures. His power encompasses everything, and He is All-knowing, All-Wise, Merciful and Just. It is Allah alone, Who creates, sustains, gives life, brings death, resurrects the dead, and to Him all the creatures will return. He has no partner, and He alone is worthy of worship, submission and obedience.
But to be a Muslim, the first testimony (Shahada) is not complete, unless immediately followed by the second one, which is Muhammad: is the Messenger of Allah (Muhammad-ur-Rasool-Allah). If the first indicates the Greatness and Majesty of the Creator, the second proves His Justice and Mercy for mankind. Because, since He is the Perfect, it would be injustice to leave the creatures without a perfect practical example. A model, who expounds the truth, leads them on the right path and warns them of the pitfalls of the mortal world.
The Messenger in charge of the divine mission should not only promulgate the laws, but practically enact them. He should not be a hermit or a recluse, taking to the caves or jungles, engrossed in his human nature itself, for the Creator fashioned man in a different mould. Man is a social animal and a society has its familial, economic, political and various other needs. Hence the messenger should offer the perfect example in every sphere of social life. And as facts testify, except for the Messenger of Allah, there was no other messenger who lived a full and perfect life.
Thus this testimony (Shahada) is a coordination of will and intellect and proves that Prophet Muhammad (saw) is the last Messenger of Allah (Khatme Nabuwwat). "And We have not sent you but as a mercy to the worlds." Holy Qur'an (21:107)
A Muslim also believes in the prophets who preceded Prophet Muhammad (saw), who was given the most comprehensive message. It was revealed to him as it was revealed to the previous prophets through the archangel Gabriel. The Almighty sent him the eternal Holy Qur'an as He sent down the divine scriptures to Noah, Abraham, David, Jacob, Job, John, Joseph, Moses, Jesus and others (peace be upon them).
Among the pillars of Islamic doctrine is to believe that Allah is Just and He never charges His creatures more than their ability. To them He gave a free will and the right to choose their path. Allah, the Most High, declares: "Allah does not charge a soul save to His ability..." Holy Qur'an (2:286) "...and your Lord shall not wrong anyone." Holy Qur'an (18:49) It is also essential for a Muslim to believe in the Day of Judgement, when Allah will resurrect the entire mankind. Every soul that was ever born, will be brought back to life and meted out just retribution. In Islam, physical death is not the final end, because there is another world called the Hereafter, where our deeds bear their fruits. In short, the pillars of doctrine are called Usool-e-Deen (The main principles of religion) and these are as follows:
Belief in the Oneness of Allah, the Just, the Omnipotent and Everlasting.
Belief in the Prophets, Messengers (peace be upon them), the Divine Books, Angels and also belief that Prophet Muhammad (saw) is the final Prophet (Khatme Nabuwwat).
Belief in the Hereafter, the Day of Judgement, Paradise and Hell.
Islam for Beginners: UNIVERSALITY IN ISLAM
Unlike other creeds, Islam is universal in outlook and speaks for humanity as a whole. It has no chosen race or people, nor does it give preference to anyone except in terms of virtue and uprightness of character. "Surely the most honored of you with Allah is the one of you who guards (against evil)." Holy Qur'an (49:13) Despite being revealed in eloquent Arabic, which none of the Arabic literati have been able to match over the past millenium and a half, the Holy Qur'an is free from racial, regional or lingual prejudices. It does not contain a single word of praise for Arabs or for any other ethnic group, a fact in itself testifying to its universality. It declares that no people were deprived of divine guidance, whatever the time, place or language, as can be gleaned from the following verses of the Holy Qur'an.
"All human beings are a single nation..." Holy Qur'an (2:213)
"And human beings are naught but a single nation..." Holy Qur'an (21:92)
"And every people had a Prophet..." Holy Qur'an (10:47)
"And certainly We raised in every people a Prophet" Holy Qur'an (16:36)
"And there is not a people but a Warner has gone among them" Holy Qur'an (35:24)
"And We did not send any Prophet but with the language of the people, so that he might explain to them..." Holy Qur'an (14:4) Remarkable indeed! No scripture, which we can find today, has declared this so impressively and so repeatedly, as the Holy Qur'an.
Islam for Beginners: MORALS AND SOCIAL ORDER IN ISLAM
The following are concise points concerning laws, orders, worships and morals, which distinctively and clearly show the greatness of Islam and its role in reforming the human race. Islam pays great attention to morals and cultivation of the human conscience, which directs man towards uprightness, charity, and respect for others right, forbearance etc. Several verses of the Holy Qur'an lay emphasis on developing the best of morals. The Holy book addresses the Messenger in the following words: "And most certainly you stand on sublime morality" Holy Qur'an (68:4) And similarly, regarding other prophets, it says: "...and We revealed to them the doing of good..." Holy Qur'an (21:73) Prophet Muhammad (saw) considers perfection of morals as a perfect expression of faith; He is quoted to have said: "The faith of one who possesses decent morals is more complete." Indeed, he deems morals as one of the prime targets for the human soul. "I was sent to complete the best of morals." "Whoever does good is better than good itself, and whoever does evil is worse than evil itself". But morals can be considered perfect, only when one abstains from evil, and accordingly Islam strictly frowns upon all such social diseases as lying, deceit, treachery, backbiting, malice, arrogance and etc. It then goes on to instill in the believer's soul, the virtues of loyalty, truth, justice, forbearance, compassion, respect for others rights, altruism.. Etc.
The facts can be gleaned from the following verses of the Holy Book: "...nor let some of you backbite others. Does one of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brothers? But you abhor it..." Holy Qur'an (49:12) "Surely those who love to spread scandal about those who believe, they shall have a grievous punishment in this world and the Hereafter..." Holy Qur'an (24:19) "And whoever commits a fault or a sin and throws it on one innocent, he indeed, takes upon himself the burden of a calumny and a manifest sin" Holy Qur'an (4:1) "Allah does not like the public utterance of hurtful speech except by one who has been wronged..." Holy Qur'an (4:148) "...and argue with them in the best of manner..." Holy Qur'an (16:125) "Kind word and pardon are better than charity followed by injury..." Holy Qur'an (2:263) "O you who believe render not your charities worthless by reproach and injury..." Holy Qur'an (2:264) The Messenger of Allah once remarked: "Backbiting is worse than adultery." Asked to elaborate, he said: "The repentance of an adulterer may be accepted by Allah, but not the backbiter's unless he is forgiven by the one he had wronged".
Islam for Beginners: WORSHIP IN ISLAM
Allah, the Exalted, says: "Verily I (alone) am Allah: there is no god but I: worship (only) Me and keep up prayer for My remembrance!" Holy Qur'an (20:14)
As Islam ordains the basis of faith and how to deal with matters related to ideology, and how to consolidate psychological and moral principles in the depths of the human conscience, it also organizes the life of mankind and the relationship with the Creator. Allah specifies certain acts of worship to be performed such as the daily five times a day prayer, fasting, Hajj (pilgrimage), supplication, dedicating things by vow to Allah, reciting the Holy Qur'an ...etc, so that man can express his servitude and loyalty to his Creator, and free himself from the shackles of lusts and Taghuts (false-deities). To be ritually clean from all such impurities as urine, faeces, blood, sperm, carcasses, swines, dogs are preconditions for engaging in worship. For example, to perform prayers, one should do the ablution: However, Ghusl (obligatory bathing) is required in certain cases such as after sexual intercourse and discharge of semen for men and for women after their monthly cycle, childbirth or sexual intercourse.
Every obligatory act has a purpose behind. The daily prayers are a constant reminder of the bond between the Creator and created and ensure virtue and uprightness. The fasting of Ramadhan is a period of reflection over past deeds and self-reformation. It also builds up discipline, tolerance, the urge to do good, and last but not the least, improves health by cutting off gluttony. As for the Hajj pilgrimage to the Holy Kaaba in Makkah, it is obligatory once in a lifetime for an adult and sane Muslim provided he or she can afford the journey. It is the greatest annual assembly on earth and is a wonderful intermingling of different races, languages, colours, classes and customs in the harmonious melting-pot called Islam. The multi-sided Hajj is the finest expression of worship for the one and only Creator and a forum for discussing the issues of the Ummah.
Islam for Beginners: PHYSICAL AND PSYCHOLOGICAL CARE IN ISLAM
Allah, the Exalted, says:"O' Children of Adam! take your adornment at every (time and place of) worship, and eat and drink, but waste not. Surely he loves not the prodigals." Holy Qur'an (7:31) "O' Mankind eat of that which is lawful and good in the earth." Holy Qur'an (2:168) "Say: Who has prohibited the adornment of Allah, which He has brought forth for His servants and the good things of the provision?..." Holy Qur'an (97:32)
Islam sets effective laws to protect health and body by keeping it sound and apt from illness, impurities and filth. It lays stress on hygiene, and in order to keep body and soul in a healthy state, it forbids all such means of self-destruction as adultery, sodomy, eating pork and carrion, drinking wine and blood, and etc. Islam also frowns upon gluttony to ensure health and happiness.
Imam Jafar Sadiq (as) quotes Imam Ali (as) as saying: "Allah is beautiful and loves beauty, and loves to see the signs of being well-off on His servants." But of course, this does not mean vain pride or arrogance, nor such a sort of dressing, which is offensive to a healthy society. Islam also calls for fitness of body. The Messenger of Allah is quoted to have said: "Teach your sons swimming, archery and horsemanship." " Your body has the right upon you to take care of it." Only a sane person with sound mind and healthy body can enjoy life as Allah plans and wants.
Islam for Beginners: HONOR AND RESPECT IN ISLAM
Male or female, both are guaranteed freedom and personal dignity in Islam, which spells out their respective rights in society. Allah, the Exalted, says: "And indeed We have honored the children of Adam, and We carry them in the land and the sea and we have provided them with sustenance of good things, and We have exalted them over most of those whom We have created, by (high) degrees of exaltation." Holy Qur'an (17:70) "O' you people! Verily We have created you of a male and a female, and made you nations and tribes, that you may recognize each other; verily the most honored of you with Allah is the one of you who guards (himself) the most (against evils),..." Holy Qur'an (49:13)
Islam endeavors to set up a cooperative and close-knitted society in which people enjoy equal rights, and their duties are tied to each other by the bonds of love, respect and cooperation. "...and cooperate(with each other) in righteousness and piety; and cooperate not in sin and enmity..." Holy Qur'an (5:2)
Special attention is paid to the neighbors, the elders and kinsmen. Even a stranger has his own rights in Islam. The Messenger of Allah is quoted to have said: "Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, should be kind to his neighbor; whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day should honor his guest and whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day should speak good, or else keep silent". "The faithful are, in their mutual love, mercy and sentiment, like the body, of which if any organ aches the whole body becomes restless and sick".
Islam for Beginners: FAMILY SET-UP IN ISLAM
Islam considers the family as the basic unit of the social structure and also stresses the importance of social relationships within the family and the community. As family is considered the fundamental unit in building the society, proper attention is paid to the ties between the husband and wife, parents and children, and brothers and sisters, resulting in a cohesive structure based on love, harmony, and reciprocal respect.
Allah, the Exalted, says: "And of His signs is that He created for you from yourselves, wives that you may repose in them, and caused between you love and compassion:..." Holy Qur'an (30:21) "...and consort with them (women) in a fair manner..." Holy Qur'an (4:19) "...and they (women) have rights similar to those (of men) upon them in a fair manner..." Holy Qur'an (2:228)
The Messenger of Allah discloses the importance of marriage and the family in the following words: "Never is a structure built in Islam more pleasing to Allah, the Exalted than marriage." "Whoever marries safeguards half of his religion. Let him take care of his duty to other half." Islam fixes the husband-wife relationship on the basis of love and mutual respect. Among the responsibilities of the husband towards his wife is to spend on cosmetics, housing, health, etc. But all these should be done according to his financial ability, and not in extravagance or on matters, which contradict the laws of Islam. "Let him with abundance spend of his abundance..." Holy Qur'an (65:7)
Similar close, solid, lawful and moral relations are set between the parents and children. Parents have rights upon their children, as children have their own upon their parents. "And (your Lord) has commanded that you shall worship not (any one) but Him, and (do) goodness to parents..." Holy Qur'an (17:23) "...be grateful to Me and to your parents; (and remember that) to Me is the ultimate return (of all)." Holy Qur'an (31:14) The Messenger of Allah is reported to have said: "An affectionate look by a son towards his parents is worship to Allah." On the other hand, Islam orders the parents to love their children, be kind to them, bring them up properly and spend on them. The Messenger of Allah says: "Love children and have mercy on them. When you promise, keep it, as they think it is you who support them." Allah, the Exalted, says: "O' you who believe! Save yourselves and your families from the fire whose fuel shall be people and stones..." Holy Qur'an (66:6) If Islam makes it among the responsibilities of parents to take proper care of and groom their children, it also makes it a duty the sons to financially support their parents when they are no longer able to earn their own living.
Islam for Beginners: RIGHTS OF WOMEN IN ISLAM
Today in some societies, a women can walk semi-naked in public, swim topless, patronize bars and clubs, smoke, drink, dance in discos, and have sex with anybody she feels like. She can even serve her boyfriend, like an unpaid prostitute, and be free to murder her unborn baby if she falls pregnant. She can also complete in the business world by using her body to promote commercial commodities. At the end of the day she will be regarded as a truly 'liberated' women! In Islam, however, liberation of women is far more serious, noble and dignified than just the burning of bras as is done in the so-called permissive societies where the fair sex is regarded as no more than a sex object. Today the west is very quick to condemn Shariah (Islamic Law) which protect women from degradation, especially those regarding modesty of dress, purity of purpose and the intermingling of the sexes at all levels of society.
The liberation of women in Islam is far superior to Western liberation as it allows women to live with respect, dignity and equality in society. Equality does not mean aping and behaving like men or dancing to their carnal tunes; that would be an act of inferiority in the face of one's own femininity. A truly liberated woman always dresses decently and modestly. A true woman will never degrade her body and sell her dignity to the highest bidder. No woman is truly liberated if she is still the slave of her wayward conscience, bodily lust or infidelity. Thus in Islam, women, whatever their role as mothers, wives, sisters or daughters, command respect and have a constructive role to play in society. The Hijab itself gives an aura of freedom to the womankind, facilitating their movement and protecting them from provocation and wanton greed of the human wolves. "O' Prophet! Say to your wives and daughters and the women of the believers that they let down upon them their over-garments; that they may be known and thus will not be troubled..." Holy Qur'an (33:59) Modesty and chastity form part of the Islamic faith. The world and all things in it are valuable. But the most valuable thing in the world is a virtuous wife.
In Islam, a woman has the right to own property, marry according to her choice, and if the case has gone beyond reconciliation, to divorce her husband. Similarly, she has the right to charge her husband for giving suck to their children, and raising them up. Islam gave her true emancipation long back at a time when the world was seething in darkness and women were treated as mere chattel, by the Romans, the Jews, the Christians, the Arabs and the Hindus.
Islam for Beginners: JIHAD IN ISLAM
Jihad means to strive or struggle for the cause of Islam, Justice and righteousness. It is not always the resorting to arms against non-muslims, as some have misconceived. Of course, war is part of Jihad, if the faith, honor, or homeland of Muslims is at stake and is attacked by oppressors. But, Islam never calls for war, for the sake of war itself. "Go fourth (with) light and heavy equipment and strive in the way of Allah with your property and yourselves;..." Holy Qur'an (9:41) "And you prepare against them whatever force you can." Holy Qur'an (8:6) Jihad can be waged by various means such as speeches, writings, wealth and by arms, as per the circumstances. Enlightening fellow humans by oratory and discourses or by writing books and articles is Jihad, and so also the funding of welfare projects like schools, hospitals, roads, bridges and providing employment opportunities is Jihad. Islam calls to peace and mutual understanding among the human race.
Allah, the Exalted, says: "And if they lean to peace, then lean you too to it, and trust in Allah,..." Holy Qur'an (8:61)
Islam for Beginners: INVITING TOWARDS GOOD AND FORBIDDING EVIL IN ISLAM
The doing of good and exhorting towards it, and the forbidding of evil, is one of the most important principles of faith and ensures the healthy progress of a society. Hence it is obligatory for Muslims to bid for what is right and forbid what is wrong in order to reform the community and keep it safe from deviation and corruption. It can be achieved through establishing relevant associations and organizations, and through the instrument of mass media such as the press, radio and television.
Allah, the Exalted, says: "And from among you there should be a group inviting to good, bidding what is right and forbidding what is wrong; those are they the successful". Holy Qur'an (3:104) Especially, in this modern world, the media plays a vital part in influencing the life structure of the society. Therefore, it is highly important to put the right people in its charge, and impart the correct ideas of life and Islamic culture to the Muslims, and also make them aware of the dangers of misleading thoughts and acts.
Islam for Beginners: CONCLUSION
Thus, dear readers, these in short are the outlines of Islamic principles, which if sincerely followed, hold the key to the March and progress of society. The Wise Creator Himself decreed those tenets in keeping with human nature and psychology. Wouldn't life be wonderful, if we pondered on these points for the benefit and happiness of mankind as whole?
Courtesy: Al-Balagh Foundation