An introduction to basic Islamic belief and practices

by Dr. Ahmad H. Sakr, Ph.D.


I. Islam and Muslims


The name of this religion is Islam, the root of which, Silm or Salam, means peace. Salam is also part of the greeting of peace among Muslims. In addition, one of the beautiful names of God is As-Salam, meaning “The Peace”. The word, however, means much more than just “peace”. It means submission to the One God, as well as to live in harmony with other people and with the environment. A Muslim is, therefore, any person, anywhere in the world, whose obedience, allegiance and loyalty are to God, Lord of the Universe, and who strives to live in accordance with God’s laws.


II. Muslims and Arabs


The followers of Islam are called Muslims. We should not confuse Muslims with Arabs. Muslims may be Arabs, or they may be Turks, Persians, Indians, Pakistanis, Indonesians, Europeans, Africans, Americans, Chinese, or any other nationality. Islam is not limited to any nationality or race.


Arabs, also, are not limited to only one religion. An Arab may be a Muslim, a Jew, a Christian, an atheist, or part of any other belief system. Any person who adopts the Arab language as his or her mother tongue is called an Arab.


While there are over one billion Muslims in the world, there are about 200 million Arabs, among whom about ten percent are not Muslim. Thus, Arab Muslims constitute only about twenty percent of the Muslim population of the world.


The language of the Qur’an, the Holy Book of Islam, is Arabic. Muslims all over the world try to learn Arabic so that they may be able to read the Qur’an and understand its meaning. They pray in the language of the Qur’an, but supplications to God may be in any language.


III. Allah, the One and the Only God


Allah is the name of the One and Only God. Allah has ninety-nine beautiful names, such as: The Gracious, The Merciful, The Beneficent, The Creator, The All-Knowing, The All-Wise, The Lord of the Universe, The First, The Last, and many others.


He is the Creator of all human beings. He is the God for the Christians, the Jews, the Muslims, the Buddhists, the Hindus and all others, including those who do not even believe in Him. Muslims worship God, and put their trust in Him as they seek His help and guidance.


IV. Muhammad


Muhammad was chosen by God to deliver His Message of Peace, namely Islam. He was born in 570 C.E. (Common Era) in Makkah, Arabia. He was entrusted with the Message of Islam when he was at the age of forty years. The revelation that he received is called the Qur’an, while the message is called Islam.


Muhammad is the very last Prophet of God to mankind. He is the final Messenger of God. His message was and still is to all of mankind, including the Christians and Jews. He was sent to those religious people to inform them about the true mission of Jesus, Moses, David, Jacob, Isaac and Abraham.


Muhammad is considered to be the summation and culmination of all the prophets and messengers that came before him. He purified the previous messages from adulteration and completed the Message of God for all humanity. He was entrusted with the power of explaining, interpreting and living the teachings of the Qur’an.


V. Sources of Islam


The legal sources of Islam are the Qur’an and the Hadith. The Qur’an is the exact words of God; its authenticity, originality and totality are intact. The Hadith are the reports of the sayings, deeds and approvals of the Prophet Muhammad. The Prophet’s sayings and deeds are called Sunnah. The Seerah is the writings of followers of Muhammad about the life of the Prophet. Hence, it is the life history of the Prophet Muhammad which provides examples of daily living for Muslims.


VI. Some Islamic Principles


A. Oneness of God
He is One and the Only One. He is not two in one or three in one. This means that Islam rejects the idea of trinity or such a unity of God which implies more than one God in one.


B. Oneness of mankind
People are created equal in front of the Law of God. There is not superiority of one race over another. God made us of different colors, nationalities, languages and beliefs so as to test who is going to be better than others. No one can claim that he is better than others. It is only God Who knows who is better. It depends on piety and righteousness.


C. Oneness of Messengers and the Message
Muslims believe that God sent different messengers throughout the history of mankind. All came with the same message and the same teachings. It was the people who misunderstood and misinterpreted them. Muslims believe in Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Ishmael, Jacob, Moses, David, Jesus and Muhammad. The Prophets of Christianity and Judaism are indeed the Prophets of Islam.


D. Angels and the Day of Judgment
Muslims believe that there are unseen creatures such as angels created by God in the universe for special missions. Muslims believe that there is a Day of Judgment when all people of the world throughout the history of mankind till the last Day of life on earth, are to be brought for accounting, reward and punishment.


E. Innocence of Man at Birth
Muslims believe that people are born free of sin. It is only after they reach the age of puberty and it is only after they commit sins that they are to be charged for their mistakes. No one is responsible for or can take responsibility for the sins of others. However, the door of forgiveness through true repentance is always open.

F. State and Religion
Muslims believe that Islam is a total and a complete way of life. It encompasses all aspects of life. As such, the teachings of Islam do not separate religion from politics. As a matter of fact, state and religion are under the obedience of Allah through the teachings of Islam. Hence, economic and social transactions, as well as educational and political systems, are a part of the teachings of Islam.

VII. Practices of Islam


God instructed the Muslims to practice what they believe in. In Islam there are five pillars:


A. Creed (Shahadah)
The verbal commitment and pledge that there is only One God and Muhammad is the Messenger of God, is considered to be the Creed of Islam.


B. Prayers (Salat)
The performance of the five daily prayers is required of Muslims.


C. Fasting (Saum)
Fasting is total abstinence from food, liquids and intimate relations from dawn to sunset during the entire month of Ramadan.


D. Purifying Tax (Zakat)
This is an annual payment of a certain percentage of a Muslim’s property, which is distributed among the poor or other rightful beneficiaries.


E. Pilgrimage (Hajj)
The performance of pilgrimage to Makkah is required once in a lifetime if the means are available. Hajj is, in part, a memorial to the trials and tribulations of Prophet Abraham, his wife Hagar and his eldest son, Prophet Ishmael.


VIII. Other Related Aspects


A. Calendar
Islamic practices are based on the lunar calendar. However, Muslims also use the Gregorian calendar in their daily religious lives. Hence, the Islamic calendar includes both the common era and the migration (Hijra) year of the Prophet of Islam from Makkah to Madinah in the year of 623 C.E.


B. Celebrations (Eid)
Muslims have two celebrations (Eid): the Eid of Sacrifice and the Eid of Fast-breaking. The Eid of Sacrifice is in remembrance of the sacrifice to have been made by Prophet Abraham of his son. The Eid of Fast-breaking comes at the end of Ramadan, the month of fasting.


C. Diets
Islam allows Muslims to eat everything which is good for the health. It restricts certain items such as pork and its byproducts, alcohol and any narcotic or addictive drugs.


D. Place of Worship
The place of worship is called the Mosque or Masjid. There are three holy places of worship for the Muslims on the world. These are the Mosque of the Kaabah in Makkah, the Mosque of Prophet Muhammad in Madinah, and Masjid Aqsa, adjacent to the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem.


A Muslim may pray anywhere in the world, whether in a Mosque, a house, an office, or outside. The whole world is a place of worship. It is preferable that Muslims pray in a congregation, but he/she may pray individually anywhere.


E. Holiday
The holy day of the Muslims is Friday. It is considered to be sacred, and the Day of Judgment will take place on Friday. Muslims join together shortly after noon on Friday for the Friday congregational prayer in a Mosque. A leader (Imam) gives a sermon (khutbah) and leads the congregational prayer.


F. Distribution of Muslims in North America

There are approximately seven million Muslims in North America and are distributed all around the continent, including major cities.


G. Contributions in North America

Muslims are now established in North America. The Sears Tower and John Hancock buildings in Chicago were designed by a Muslim chief architect, Fazlur Rahman, originally from Bangladesh. Muslims have established academic institutions, community centers and organizations, schools and places of worship. They live in peace and harmony among themselves and among other groups of people in the society. The rate of crime among Muslims is very minimal. Muslims in North America are highly educated and have added to the success of American scientific and technological fields.


The Muslims of the early period of the Islamic era were pioneers in medicine, geography, navigation, arts, poetry, mathematics, algebra, logarithms, calculus, etc. They contributed to the Renaissance of Europe and world civilization.


IX. Non-Muslims


Muslims are required to respect all those who are faithful and God conscious people, namely, those who received messages. Christians and Jews are called People of the Book. Muslims are asked to call upon the People of the Book for common terms, namely, to worship One God, and to work together for the solutions of the many problems in the society.


Christians and Jews lived peacefully with Muslims throughout centuries in the Middle East and other Asian and African countries. The second Caliph, Umar, did not pray in the church in Jerusalem so as not to give the Muslims an excuse to take it over.


Christians trusted the Muslims, and as such, the key of the Church in Jerusalem is still in the hands of Muslims.


Jews fled from Spain during the Inquisition, and they were welcomed by the Muslims. They settled in the heart of the Islamic Caliphate. They enjoyed positions of power and authority.


Throughout the Muslim World, churches, synagogues and missionary schools were built within the Muslim neighborhoods. These places were protected by Muslims even during the contemporary crises in the Middle East.

It is a known fact that every language has one or more terms that are used in reference to God and sometimes to lesser deities. This is not the case with Allah. Allah is the personal name of the One true God. Nothing else can be called Allah. The term has no plural or gender. This shows its uniqueness when compared with the word “god,” which can be made plural, as in “gods,” or made feminine, as in “goddess.” It is interesting to notice that Allah is the personal name of God in Aramaic, the language of Jesus and a sister language of Arabic.


The One true God is a reflection of the unique concept that Islam associates with God. To a Muslim, Allah is the Almighty Creator and Sustainer of the universe, Who is similar to nothing, and nothing is comparable to Him. The Prophet Muhammad was asked by his contemporaries about Allah; the answer came directly from God Himself in the form of a short chapter of the Qur’an, which is considered to be the essence of the unity or the motto of monotheism. This is chapter 112, which reads:

“In the name of Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate. Say (O Muhammad), He is God, the One God, the Everlasting Refuge, who has not begotten, nor has been begotten, and equal to Him is not anyone.”

Some non-Muslims allege that God in Islam is a stern and cruel God who demands to be obeyed fully and is not loving and kind. Nothing could be farther from the truth than this allegation. It is enough to know that, with the exception of one, each of the 114 chapters of the Qur’an begins with the verse, “In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate.” In one of the sayings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), we are told that “God is more loving and kind than a mother to her dear child.”


On the other hand, God is also Just. Hence, evildoers and sinners must have their share of punishment, and the virtuous must have God’s bounties and favors. Actually, God’s attribute of Mercy has full manifestation in His attribute of Justice. People suffering throughout their lives for His sake should not receive similar treatment from their Lord as people who oppress and exploit others their whole lives.


Expecting similar treatment for them would amount to negating the very belief in the accountability of man in the Hereafter and thereby negate all the incentives for a moral and virtuous life in this world. The following Qur’anic verses are very clear and straightforward in this respect.


Verily, for the Righteous are gardens of Delight, in the Presence of their Lord. Shall We then treat the people of Faith like the people of Sin? What is the matter with you? How judge you? (68:34-36)


Islam rejects characterizing God in any human form or depicting Him as favoring certain individuals or nations on the basis of wealth, power or race. He created the human-beings as equals. They may distinguish themselves and get His favor through virtue and piety only.


The concepts that God rested on the seventh day of creation, that God wrestled with one of His soldiers, that God is an envious plotter against mankind, and that God is incarnate in any human being are considered blasphemy from the Islamic point of view.


The unique usage of Allah as a personal name of God is a reflection of Islam’s emphasis on the purity of the belief in God that is the essence of the message of all God’s messengers. Because of this, Islam considers associating any deity or personality with God as a deadly sin that God will never forgive, despite the fact that He may forgive all other sins.


The Creator must be of a different nature from the things created because if He is of the same nature as they are, He will be temporal and will therefore need a maker. It follows that nothing is like Him. If the maker is not temporal, then he must be eternal. But if he is eternal, he cannot be caused, and if nothing caused Him to come into existence, nothing outside Him causes Him to continue to exist, which means that he must be self-sufficient. And if He does not depend on anything for the continuance of His own existence, then this existence can have no end. The Creator is therefore eternal and everlasting: “He is the First and the Last.”


He is Self-sufficient or Self-subsistent, or, to use a Qur’anic term, Al-Qayyum. The Creator does not create only in the sense of bringing things into being, He also preserves them and takes them out of existence and is the ultimate cause of whatever happens to them.

God is the Creator of everything. He is the guardian over everything. Unto Him belong the keys of the heavens and the earth. (39:62-63)
No creature is there crawling on the earth, but its provision rests on God. He knows its lodging place and its repository. (11:16)

God’s Attributes


If the Creator is Eternal and Everlasting, then His attributes must also be eternal and everlasting. He should not lose any of His attributes nor acquire new ones. If this is so, then his attributes are absolute. Can there be more than one Creator with such absolute attributes? Can there be, for example, two absolutely powerful Creators? A moment’s thought shows that this is not feasible.


The Qur’an summarizes this argument in the following verses:

God has not taken to Himself any son, nor is there any god with Him: for then each god would have taken of that which he created and some of them would have risen up over others. (23:91)
And why, were there gods in earth and heaven other than God, they (heaven and earth) would surely go to ruin. (21:22)

The Oneness of God


The Qur’an reminds us of the falsity of all alleged gods. To the worshipers of man-made objects it asks:

Do you worship what you have carved yourself? (37:95)
Or have you taken unto yourself others beside Him to be your protectors, even such as have no power either for good or for harm to themselves? (13:16)

To the worshipers of heavenly bodies it cites the story of Abraham:

When night outspread over him, he saw a star and said, “This is my Lord.” But when it set, he said, “I love not the setters.” When he saw the moon rising, he said, “This is my Lord.” But when it set, he said, “If my Lord does not guide me, I shall surely be of the people gone astray.” When he saw the sun rising, he said, “This is my Lord; this is greater.” But when it set, he said, “O my people, surely I quit that which you associate, I have turned my face to Him who originated the heavens and the earth; a man of pure faith, I am not one of the idolaters.” (6:76-79)

The Believer’s Attitude


In order to be a Muslim, that is, to surrender oneself to God, it is necessary to believe in the oneness of God, in the sense of His being the only Creator, Preserver, Nourisher, etc. But this belief, later called Tawhid Ar-Rububiyyah, is not enough. Many of the idolators knew and believed that only the Supreme God could do all this. But this was not enough to make them Muslims. To tawhid ar-rububiyyah, one must add tawhid al-‘uluhiyyah, that is, one acknowledges the fact that it is God alone who deserves to be worshipped, and thus abstains from worshiping any other thing or being.


Having achieved this knowledge of the one true God, man should constantly have faith in Him, and should allow nothing to induce him to deny truth.


When faith enters a person’s heart, it causes certain mental states that result in certain actions. Taken together, these mental states and actions are the proof for the true faith. The Prophet said, “Faith is that which resides firmly in the heart and which is proved by deeds.”


Foremost among those mental stated is the feeling of gratitude towards God, which could be said to be the essence of ibada (worship).


The feeling of gratitude is so important that a non-believer is called ‘kafir‘, which means ‘one who denies a truth’ and also ‘one who is ungrateful’.


A believer loves, and is grateful to God for the bounties He bestowed upon him, but being aware of the fact that his good deeds, whether mental or physical, are far from being commensurate with Divine favors, he is always anxious lest God should punish him, here or in the Hereafter. He, therefore, fears Him, surrenders himself to Him and serves Him with great humility. One cannot be in such a mental state without being almost all the time mindful of God. Remembering God is thus the life force of faith, without which it fades and withers away.


The Qur’an tries to promote this feeling of gratitude by repeating the attributes of God very frequently. We find most of these attributes mentioned together in the following verses of the Qur’an:

He is God; there is no god but He. He is the Knower of the unseen and the visible; He is the All-Merciful, the All-Compassionate. He is God; there is no god but He. He is the King, the All-Holy, the All-Peace, the Guardian of the Faith, the All-Preserver, the All-Mighty, the All-Compeller, the All-Sublime. Glory be to God, above that they associate! He is God, the Creator, the Maker, the Shaper. To Him belong the Names Most Beautiful. All that is in the heavens and the earth magnifies Him; He is the Almighty, the All-Wise. (59:22-24)

There is no god but He, the Living, the Everlasting. Slumber seizes Him not, nor sleep. To Him belongs all that is in the heavens and the earth. Who is there that shall intercede with Him save by His leave? He knows what lies before them, and what is after them, and they comprehend not anything of His knowledge save such as He wills. His throne comprises the heavens and earth. The preserving of them oppresses Him not; He is the All-High, the All-Glorious. (2:255)

People of the Book, go not beyond the bounds in your religion, and say not as to God but the truth. The Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, was only the Messenger of God, and His Word that He committed to Mary, and a Spirit from Him. So believe in God and His Messengers, and say not “Three”. Refrain; better it is for you. God is only one God. Glory be to Him – (He is) above having a son. (4:171)

Prophethood is not unknown to heavenly revealed religions, such as Judaism and Christianity. In Islam, however, it has a special status and significance.


According to Islam, Allah created man for a noble purpose: to worship Him and lead a virtuous life based on His teachings and guidance. How would man know his role and the purpose of his existence unless he received clear and practical instructions of what Allah wants him to do? Here comes the need for prophethood. Thus Allah has chosen from every nation at least one prophet to convey His Message to people.


One might ask, how were the prophets chosen and who were entitled to this great honor?

Prophethood is Allah’s blessing and favor that He may bestow on whom He wills. However, from surveying the various messengers throughout history, three features of a prophet may be recognized:


1. He is the best in his community morally and intellectually. This is necessary because a prophet’s life serves as a role model for his followers. His personality should attract people to accept his message rather than drive them away by his imperfect character. After receiving the message, he is infallible. That is, he would not commit any sin. He might make some minor mistakes, which are usually corrected by revelation.


2. He is supported by miracles to prove that he is not an imposter. Those miracles are granted by the power and permission of God and are usually in the field in which his people excel and are recognized as superior. We might illustrate this by quoting the major miracles of the three prophets of the major world religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam.Moses’ contemporaries were excellent in magic, so his major miracle was to defeat the best magicians of Egypt of his day. Jesus’ contemporaries were recognized as skilled physicians, therefore, his miracles were to raise the dead and cure incurable diseases. The Arabs, the contemporaries of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), were known for their eloquence and magnificent poetry. So Prophet Muhammad’s major miracle was the Qur’an, the equivalent of which the whole legion of Arab poets and orators could not produce, despite the repeated challenge from the Qur’an itself. Again, Muhammad’s miracle has something special about it. All previous miracles were limited by time and place; that is, they were shown to specific people at a specific time. Not so with the miracle of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), the Qur’an. It is a universal and everlasting miracle. Previous generations witnessed it and future generations will witness its miraculous nature in terms of its style, content and spiritual uplifting. These can still be tested and will thereby prove the divine origin of the Qur’an.


3. Every prophet states clearly that what he receives is not of his own, but from God for the well-being of mankind. He also confirms what was revealed before him and what may be revealed after him. A prophet does this to show that he is simply conveying the message that is entrusted to him by the One True God of all people in all ages. So the message is one in essence and for the same purpose. Therefore, it should not deviate from what was revealed before him or what might come after him.


Prophets are necessary for conveying God’s instructions and guidance to mankind. We have no way of knowing why we were created. What will happen to us after death? Is there any life after death? Are we accountable for our actions? These and so many other questions about God, angels, paradise, hell, and more, cannot be answered without direct revelation from the Creator and Knower of the unseen. Those answers must be authentic and must be brought by individuals whom we trust and respect. That is why messengers are the elite of their societies in terms of moral conduct and intellectual ability.


Hence, the slanderous Biblical stories about some of the great prophets are not accepted by Muslims. For example, Lot is reported to have committed incestuous fornication while drunk. David is alleged to have sent one of his leaders to his death in order to marry his wife. Prophets, to Muslims, are greater than what these stories indicate. These stories cannot be true from the Islamic point of view.


The prophets are also miraculously supported by God and instructed by Him to affirm the continuity of the message. The content of the prophets’ message to mankind can be summarized as follows:


  • a) Clear concept of God: His attributes, His creation, what should and should not be ascribed to Him.
  • b) Clear idea about the unseen world, the angels, jinn (spirits), Paradise and Hell.
  • c) Why God has created us, what He wants from us and what rewards and punishments are for obedience and disobedience.
  • d) How to run our societies according to His will. That is, clear instructions and laws that, when applied correctly and honestly, will result in a smoothly functioning, harmonious society.

It is clear from the above discussion that there is no substitute for prophets. Even today with the advancement of science, the only authentic source of information about the supernatural world is revelation. Guidance can be obtained neither from science nor from mystic experience. The first is too materialistic and limited; the second is too subjective and frequently misleading.


Now one might ask:


How many prophets has God sent to humanity? We do not know for sure. Some Muslim scholars have suggested 240,000 prophets. We are only sure of what is clearly mentioned in the Qur’an, that God has sent a messenger to every nation. That is because it is one of God’s principles that He will never call a people to account unless He has made clear to them what to do and what not to do. The Qur’an mentions the names of 25 prophets and indicates that there have been others who were not mentioned to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). These 25 include Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad (Peace be upon them all). These five are the greatest among God’s messengers. They are called ‘the resolute’ prophets.


An outstanding aspect of the Islamic belief in prophethood is that Muslims believe in and respect all the messengers of God with no exceptions. All the prophets came from the same One God, for the same purpose: to lead mankind to God. Hence, belief in them all is essential and logical; accepting some and rejecting others has to be based on misconceptions of the prophet’s role or on a racial bias. The Muslims are the only people in the world who consider the belief in all the prophets an article of faith. Thus the Jews reject Jesus and Muhammad (peace be upon them), and the Christians reject Muhammad (PBUH). The Muslims accept them all as messengers of God who brought guidance to mankind. However, the revelations which those prophets before Muhammad (PBUH) brought from God has been tampered with in one way or another.


The belief in all the prophets of God is enjoined upon the Muslims in the Qur’an:

Say (O Muslims): We believe in Allah and that which is revealed to us and that which was revealed to Abraham and Ishmael, and Isaac and Jacob, and their children, and that which Moses and Jesus received and that the prophets received from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them and unto Him we have surrendered. (2:136)

The Qur’an continues in the following verses to instruct the Muslims that this is the true and impartial belief. If other nations believe in the same, they are following in the right track. If they do not, they must be following their own whims and biases and God will take care of them. Thus we read:

And if they believe in what you believe, then they are rightly guided. But if they turn away, then they are in disunity, and Allah will suffice you against them. He is the Hearer, the Knower. This is God’s religion and who is better than God in religion? (2:137-138)

There are, at least, two important points related to prophethood that need to be clarified. These points concern the roles of Jesus and Muhammad (peace be upon them) as prophets, who are usually misunderstood.


The Qur’anic account of Jesus emphatically rejects the concept of his ‘divinity’ and ‘divine sonship’ and presents him as one of the great prophets of God. The Qur’an makes it clear that the birth of Jesus without a father does not make him the son of God and mentions, in this respect, Adam, who was created by God without a father or mother.

Truly, the likeness of Jesus, in God’s sight, is as Adam’s likeness; He created him of dust, them said He unto him “Be”, and he was. (3:59)

Like other prophets, Jesus also performed miracles. For example, he raised the dead and cured the blind and lepers, but while showing these miracles, he always made it clear that it was all from God. Actually, the misconceptions about the personality and mission of Jesus (PBUH) found a way among his followers because the Divine message he preached was not recorded during his presence in the world. Rather, it was recorded after a lapse of about one hundred years. According to the Qur’an, he was sent to the children of Israel; he confirmed the validity of the Torah, which was revealed to Moses (PBUH), and he also brought the glad tidings of a final messenger after him.

And when Jesus son of Mary said, “Children of Israel. I am indeed the messenger to you, confirming the Torah that is before me, and giving good tidings of a Messenger who shall come after me, whose name shall be the praised one. (61:6)

(The “praised one” is the translation of “Ahmad”, which is Prophet Muhammad’s name.)


However, the majority of the Jews rejected his ministry. They plotted against his life and in their opinion, crucified him. But the Qur’an refutes this opinion and says that they neither killed him nor crucified him; rather, he was raised up to God. There is a verse in the Qur’an which implies that Jesus will come back and all the Christians and Jews will believe in him before he dies. This is also supported by authentic sayings of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).


The last prophet of God, Muhammad, was born in Arabia in the sixth century C.E. Up to the age of forty, people of Makkah knew him only as a man of excellent character and cultured manners and called him Al-Ameen (the trustworthy). He also did not know that he was soon to be made a prophet and receiver of revelation from God. He called the idolaters of Makkah to worship the one and only God and accept him (Muhammad, PBUH) as His prophet. The revelation that he received was preserved in his lifetime in the memory of his companions and was also recorded on pieces of palm leaf, leather, etc. Thus the Qur’an that is found today is the same that was revealed to him, not a syllable of it has been altered, as God Himself has guaranteed its preservation. This Qur’an claims to be the book of guidance for all of humanity for all times, and mentions Muhammad (PBUH) as the last Prophet of God.

The question of whether or not there is life after death does not fall under the field of science, because science is only concerned with the classification and analysis of recorded data. Moreover, man has been busy with scientific inquiries and research, in the modern sense of the term, only for the last few centuries, while he has been familiar with the idea of life after death since time immemorial. All the prophets of God called their people to worship God and to believe in life after death. They laid so much emphasis on the belief in life after death that even a slight doubt in it meant denying God and made all other beliefs meaningless. The very fact that all the prophets of God have dealt with this metaphysical question so confidently and uniformly – the gap between their ages being thousands of years – goes to prove that the source of their knowledge of life after death, as proclaimed by them all, was the same: Divine revelation.


We also know that these prophets of God were greatly opposed by their people, mainly on the issue of life after death, as their people thought it impossible. But in spite of that opposition, the prophets won many sincere followers. The question arises, what made those followers forsake the established beliefs, traditions and customs of their forefathers, regardless of the risk of being totally alienated from their own community? The simple answer is that they made use of their faculties of mind and heart and realized the truth.


Did they realize the truth through experiencing it? Not so, as the perceptual experience of life after death is impossible. Actually, God has given man, besides perceptual consciousness, rational, aesthetic and moral consciousness too. It is this consciousness that guides man regarding realities that cannot be verified through sensory data. That is why all the prophets of God, while calling people to believe in God and the life hereafter, appealed to the aesthetic, moral and rational sides of man. For example, when the idolaters of Makkah denied even the possibility of life after death, the Qur’an exposed the weakness of their stand by advancing very logical and rational arguments in support of it:

And he has coined for us a similitude, and has forgotten the fact of his creation, saying: Who will revive these bones when they have rotted away? Say: He will revive them who produced them at the first, for He is the Knower of every creation, Who has appointed for you fire from the green tree, and behold! you kindle from it. Is it not He who created the heavens and the earth, able to create the like of them? Yes, and He is indeed the Supreme Creator, the All-Knowing. (36:78-81)

At another occasion, the Qur’an very clearly says that the disbelievers have no sound basis for their denial of life after death. It is based on pure conjecture:

They say, ‘There is nothing but our present life; we die, and we live, and nothing but Time destroys us.’ Of that they have no knowledge; they merely conjecture. And when Our revelations are recited to them, their only argument is that they say, ‘Bring us our father, if you speak truly.’ (45:24-25)

Surely God will raise all the dead. but God has His own plan of things. A day will come when the whole universe will be destroyed and then again the dead will be resurrected to stand before God. That day will be the beginning of the life that will never end, and that Day, every person will be rewarded by God according to his good and evil deeds.


The explanation that the Qur’an gives about the necessity of life after death is what the moral consciousness of man demands. Actually, if there is no life after death, the very belief in God becomes irrelevant, or even if one believes in God, that would be an unjust and indifferent God: having once created man only to be unconcerned with his fate. Surely, God is just. He will punish the tyrants whose crimes are beyond count: having killed hundreds of innocent persons, created great corruption in the society, enslaved numerous persons to serve their whims, and so forth. Man, having a very short span of life in this world, and this physical world, also, not being eternal, punishments or rewards equal to the evil or noble deeds of persons are not possible here. The Qur’an very emphatically states that the Day of Judgment must come and God will decide about the fate of each soul according to his or her record of deeds:

Those who disbelieve say: The Hour will never come unto us. Say: Nay, by my Lord, but it is coming unto you surely. (He is) the Knower of the Unseen. Not an atom’s weight, or less than that or greater, escapes Him in the heavens or in the earth, but it is in a clear Record. That He may reward those who believe and do good works. For them is pardon and a rich provision. But those who strive against our revelations, challenging (Us), theirs will be a painful doom of wrath. (34:3-5)

The Day of Resurrection will be the Day when God’s attributes of Justice and Mercy will be in full manifestation. God will shower His mercy on those who suffered for His sake in the worldly life, believing that an eternal bliss was awaiting them. But those who abused the bounties of God, caring nothing for the life to come, will be in the most miserable state. Drawing a comparison between them the Qur’an says:


Is he, then, to whom we have promised a goodly promise the fulfillment of which he will meet, like the one whom We have provided with the good things of this life, and then on the Day of Resurrection he will be of those who will be brought arraigned before God? (28:61)


The Qur’an also states that this worldly life is a preparation for the eternal life after death. But those who deny it become slaves of their passions and desires, and make fun of virtuous and God-conscious persons. Such people realize their folly only at the time of their death and wish in vain to be given a further chance in the world. Their miserable state at the time of death, and the horror of the Day of Judgment, and the eternal bliss guaranteed to the sincere believers are very beautifully mentioned in the following verses of the Qur’an.

Until, when death comes unto one of them, he says, ‘My Lord, send me back, that I may do right in that which I have left behind!’ But nay! It is but a word that he speaks; and behind them is a barrier until the day when they are raised. And when the Trumpet is blown there will be no kinship among them that day, nor will they ask of another. Then those whose scales are heavy, they are successful. And those whose scales are light are those who lose their souls, in hell abiding, the fire burns their faces and they are glum therein. (23:99-104)

The belief in life after death not only guarantees success in the Hereafter, but also makes this world full of peace and happiness by making individuals most responsible and dutiful in their activities.


Think of the people of Arabia. Gambling, wine, tribal feuds, plundering and murdering were their main traits when they had no belief in a life hereafter. But as soon as they accepted the belief in One God and life after death, they became the most disciplined nation of the world. They gave up their vices, helped each other in hours of need, and settled all their disputes on the basis of justice and equality. Similarly, the denial of life after death has its consequences not only in the Hereafter, but also in this world. When a nation as a whole denies it, all kinds of evils and corruptions become rampant in that society and ultimately it is destroyed. The Qur’an mentions the terrible end of ‘Aad, Thamud and the Pharaoh in some detail:

(The tribes of) Thamud and ‘Aad disbelieved in the judgment to come. As for Thamud, they were destroyed by the lightning, and as for ‘Aad, they were destroyed by a fierce roaring wind, which he imposed on them for seven long nights and eight long days, so that you might see the people laid prostrate in it as if they were the stumps of fallen down palm trees.

Now do you see remnant of them? Pharaoh likewise and those before him and the subverted cities. They committed errors and those before him, and they rebelled against the Messenger of their Lord, and He seized them with a surpassing grip. Lo, when the waters rose, We bore you in the running ship that We might make it a reminder for you and for heeding ears to hold.

So when the Trumpet is blown with a single blast and the earth and the mountains are lifted up and crushed with a single blow, then on that day, the Terror shall come to pass, and the heaven shall be split, for upon that day it shall be very frail.

Then as for him who is given his book in his right hand, he shall say ‘Here, take and read my book! Certainly I thought that I should encounter my reckoning.’ So he shall be in a pleasing life in a lofty garden, its clusters nigh to gather. Eat and drink with wholesome appetite for what you did long ago, in the days gone by.

But as for him who is given his book in his left hand, he shall say: ‘Would that I had not been given my book and known my reckoning! Would it had been the end! My wealth has not availed me, my authority is gone from me.’ (69:4-29)

Thus, there are very convincing reasons to believe in life after death.


First, all the prophets of God have called their people to believe in it.


Secondly, whenever a human society is built on the basis of this belief, it has been the most ideal and peaceful society, free of social and moral evils.


Thirdly, history bears witness that whenever this belief is rejected collectively by a group of people in spite of the repeated warning of the Prophet, the group as a whole has been punished by God, even in this world.


Fourthly, moral, aesthetic and rational facilities of man endorse the possibility of life after death.


Fifthly, God’s attributes of Justice and Mercy have no meaning if there is no life after death.


The concept of worship in Islam is misunderstood by many people, including some Muslims. Worship is commonly taken to mean performing ritualistic acts such as prayers, fasting, charity, etc. This limited understanding of worship is only one part of the meaning of worship in Islam. That is why the traditional definition of worship in Islam is a comprehensive definition that includes almost everything in any individual’s activities. The definition goes something like this: “Worship is an all inclusive term for all that God loves of external and internal sayings and actions of a person.” In other words, worship is everything one says or does for the pleasure of Allah. This, of course, includes rituals as well as beliefs, social activities, and personal contributions to the welfare of one’s fellow human beings.


Islam looks at the individual as a whole. He is required to submit himself completely to Allah, as the Qur’an instructed the Prophet Muhammad to do:

Say (O Muhammad) my prayer, my sacrifice, my life and my death belong to Allah; He has no partner and I am ordered to be among those who submit (Muslims). (6:162-163)

The natural result of this submission is that all of one’s activities should conform to the instructions of the one to whom the person is submitting. Islam, being a way of life, requires that its followers model their life according to its teachings in every aspect, religious or otherwise. This might sound strange to some people who think of religion as a personal relationship between the individual and God, having no impact on one’s activities and outside rituals.


As a matter of fact Islam does not think much of mere rituals when they are performed mechanically and have no influence on one’s inner life. The Qur’an addresses the believers and their neighbors from among the People of the Book who were arguing with them about the change of the direction of the Qibla (the direction in which Muslims pray) in the following verse:

It is not righteousness that you turn your faces toward the East or the West, but righteous is he who believes in Allah and the Last Day and the angels and the Book and the prophets, and gives his beloved money to his relatives and the orphans and the needy and for the ransoming of captives; and who observes prayer and pays the poor-due; and those who fulfill their promises when they have made one; and the patient in poverty and affliction and the steadfast in time of war. It is those who have proved truthful and it is those who are the God-fearing. (2:177)

The deeds in the above verse are the deeds of righteousness and they are only a part of worship. The Prophet (PBUH) told us about faith, which is the basis of worship, that it “is made up of sixty and some branches: the highest of which is the belief in the Oneness of Allah (that is, there is no god but Allah) and the lowest in the scale of worship is removing obstacles and dirt from people’s way.


Decent work is considered in Islam a type of worship. The Prophet (PBUH) said: “Whoever finds himself at the nightfall tired of his work, God will forgive his sins.” Seeking knowledge is one of the highest types of worship. The Prophet (PBUH) told his companions that “seeking knowledge is a (religious) duty on every Muslim.” In another saying he said: “Seeking knowledge for one hour is better than praying for seventy years.” Social courtesy and cooperation are part of worship when done for the sake of Allah as the Prophet told us: “Receiving your friend with a smile is a type of charity, helping a person to load his animal is a charity and putting some water in your neighbor’s bucket is a charity.


It is worth noting that even performing one’s duties is considered a sort of worship. The Prophet (PBUH) told us that whatever one spends for his family is a type of charity; he will be rewarded for it if he acquires it through legal means. Kindness to the members of one’s family is an act of worship as when one puts a piece of food in his spouse’s mouth. Not only this, but even the acts we enjoy doing very much are considered worship when they are performed according to the instructions of the Prophet (PBUH). He told his companions that they will be rewarded even for having sexual intercourse with their wives. The companions were astonished and asked, “How are we going to be rewarded for doing something we enjoy very much?” The Prophet (PBUH) asked them, “Suppose you satisfy your desires illegally; don’t you think you will be punished for that?” They replied, “Yes.” “So,” he said, “by satisfying it legally with your wives, you are rewarded for it.” This means they are acts of worship.


Thus, Islam does not consider sex a dirty thing that one should avoid. It is dirty and a sin only when it is satisfied outside marital life.


It is clear, from the previous discussion that the concept of worship in Islam is a comprehensive concept that includes all the positive activities of the individual. This, of course, is in agreement with the all-inclusive nature of Islam as a way of life. It regulates human life on all levels: individual, social, economic, political and spiritual. That is why Islam provides guidance in the smallest details of one’s life on all these levels. Thus, following these details is following Islamic instructions in that specific area. It is a very encouraging element when one realizes that all his activities are considered by God as acts of worship. This should lead the individual to seek Allah’s pleasure in his actions and always try to do them in the best possible manner, whether he is observed by his superiors or is alone. There is always the permanent supervisor, who knows everything: Allah.


Discussing the non-ritual worship in Islam first does not mean under-evaluating the importance of the ritual worship. Actually, ritual worship, if performed in true spirit, elevates man morally and spiritually and enables him to carry on his activities in all walks of life according to the Guidance of God. Among ritual worships, Salah (ritual prayer) occupies the key position for two reasons. Firstly, it is the distinctive mark of a believer. Secondly, it prevents an individual from all sorts of abominations and vices by providing him chances of direct communion with his Creator five times a day, wherein he renews his covenant with God and seeks His guidance again and again: “You alone we worship and to You alone we turn for help. Guide us to the straight path.” (1:5-6). Actually, Salah is the first practical manifestation of Faith and also the foremost of the basic conditions for the success of the believers:

Successful indeed are the believers who are humble in their prayers. (23:1-2)

The same fact has been emphasized by the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in a different way. He says:

“Those who offer their Salah with great care and punctuality, will find it a light, a proof of their Faith and cause of their salvation on the Day of Judgment.”

After Salah, Zakah (poor-due) is an important pillar of Islam. In the Qur’an, Salah and Zakah have been mentioned together many times. Like Salah, Zakah is a manifestation of faith that affirms that God is the sole owner of everything in the universe. What men possess is a trust in their hands to discharge as God has laid down:

Believe in Allah and His messenger and spend of that over which He has made you trustees. (57:7)

In this respect, Zakah is an act of devotion that, like prayer, brings the believer nearer to his Lord.


Apart from this, Zakah is a means of redistribution of wealth in a way that makes a contribution to social stability, providing a means of survival for those who have not, and reminding those who are wealthy that what they have is a trust from God. By purging the soul of the rich from selfishness, and the soul of the poor from resentment against society, Zakah blocks the channels leading to class hatred and makes it possible for the springs of brotherhood and solidarity to gush forth. Such stability is not merely based on the personal generous feelings of the rich: it stands on a firmly based right of the destitute which, if denied by those holding the wealth, would be exacted by force, if necessary.


Siyam (fasting during the daylight hours of the month of Ramadan) is another pillar of Islam. The main function of fasting is to make the Muslim pure from “within” as other aspects of Shariah (Islamic law) make him pure from “without.” By such purity he responds to what is true and good and shuns what is false and evil. This is what we can perceive in the Qur’anic verse:

O you who believe, fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may gain piety. (2:183)

In an authentic tradition, the Prophet (PBUH) reported Allah as saying:

“He suspends eating, drinking and gratification of his sexual passion for My sake.

Thus his reward is going to be according to God’s great bounty.


Fasting, then, awakens the conscience of the individual and gives it scope for exercise in a joint experience for all society at the same time, thus adding further strength to each individual. Moreover, fasting offers a compulsory rest to the overworked human machine for the duration of one month. Similarly, fasting reminds an individual of those who are deprived of life’s necessities throughout the year or throughout life. It makes him realize the suffering of others, the less fortunate brothers in Islam, and thus promotes in him a sense of sympathy and kindness to them.


Lastly, we come to Al-Hajj (pilgrimage to the House of God in Makkah). This very important pillar of Islam manifests a unique unity, dispelling all kinds of differences. Muslims from all corners of the world, wearing the same dress, respond to the call of Hajj in one voice and language: LABBAIK ALLAHUMMA LABBAIK (Here I am at your service, O Lord!). In Hajj there is an exercise of strict self-discipline and control where not only sacred things are revered, but even the life of plants and birds is made inviolable so that everything lives in safety:

And he that venerates the sacred things of God, it shall be better for him with his Lord. (22:30)

And he that venerates the way marks of God, it surely is from devotion of the heart. (22:32)

Pilgrimage gives an opportunity to all Muslims from all groups, classes, organizations, and governments from all over the Muslim world to meet annually in a great congress. The time and venue of this congress have been set by their One God. Invitation to attend is open to every Muslim. No one has the power to bar anyone. Every Muslim who attends is guaranteed full safety and freedom as long as he himself does not violate its safety.


Thus, worship in Islam, whether ritual or non-ritual, trains the individual in such a way that he loves his Creator most and thereby gains an unyielding will and spirit to wipe out all evil and oppression from human society and make the word of God dominant in the world.

Fasting the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar


by M. Amir Ali, Ph.D.


Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar, may be 29 or 30 days long. An Islamic month begins with the sighting of the new crescent in the western horizon, immediately after sunset. Muslims look toward the western horizon for the new moon on the 29th day of Sha’ban, the eighth month. If the new moon is sighted, Ramadan has begun with the sunset but fasting begins with the next dawn. If the new moon is not sighted on this 29th day, Muslims complete 30 days of Sha’ban and Ramadan begins the following day.


The Significance of Ramadan and Fasting


Allah says in the Qur’an:

O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you, even as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may attain God-consciousness. (2:183)

In the month of Ramadan the Qur’an was revealed, a book of guidance with proofs of guidance distinguishing right from wrong. Therefore whoever of you is present in that month let him fast. But who is ill or on a journey shall fast a similar number of days later on. Allah desires your well-being, not your discomfort. He desires you to fast the whole month so that you may magnify Him and render thanks to Him for giving you His guidance. (2:185)

Accordingly, the month of Ramadan is called the month of the Qur’an. Therefore, Muslims have tradition of reciting Qur’an frequently in this month.


Sawm or Fasting


Sawm means a fast that begins with dawn and ends with sunset. Muslims rise before dawn, eat Sahur (pre-dawn meal) and drink liquids for the preparation of sawm. Eating and drinking stops at dawn. During the day no eating, drinking or sexual activity is allowed. In addition, a Muslim must adhere to the moral code of Islam very strictly as failure violates the requirements of fasting.


Fasting in the month of Ramadan is one of the deeds of worship required of all Muslims who have attained puberty. Women who are having their menstrual period or who have not fully recovered from childbirth postpone the fast until they are completely out of their special conditions. In addition, those who are ill or in travel may choose to postpone their fast.


Muslims fast because Allah has commanded them to do so. However, they may also think about the benefits of fasting which may include developing control over hunger, thirst and sexual urges, training to be a good moral person and testing sincerity to the Creator. During the fast, Muslims may conduct their business as usual. However, in the Muslim countries working hours are shortened by a couple of hours a day and the hours are changed to make the work comfortable.


The fast is broken immediately after sunset usually by eating dates and drinking water or juice. However, any lawful food or drink may be used to break the fast. This is followed by the Maghrib salah (after sunset prayer) which is followed by a complete meal. After a brief rest, Muslims go to the mosque to offer the ‘Isha salah (night prayer) and then a special night prayer, called taraweeh.




This nightly congregational salah (prayer) is performed after the ‘Isha salah. Traditionally, a Hafiz of the Qur’an, a person who has memorized the whole Qur’an (in Arabic), leads the prayer. He recites the Qur’an in small portions, in proper sequence, every night and completes the recitation of the whole Qur’an before the end of the month of Ramadan. Every Muslim who attends such prayers regularly gets the opportunity of listening to the whole Qur’an in a month. If a Hafiz of the Qur’an is not available, the Muslim who has memorized the most in a group leads the prayer and recites according to his ability. In the absence of a Hafiz some Muslims hold the Qur’an in the hand during their salah and read from it. Many Islamic scholars cite the sunnah (way) of the Prophet(S) that he always prayed during the night alone in his apartment whether it was Ramadan or not and same was the habit of many of his great companions.


Ramadan Generosity


The month of Ramadan brings many blessings multiplied manifold for those who do good. During this month people are more generous, more cordial, more friendly and more ready than other times of the year to do good work. The poor and the needy receive food, clothing and money from the well-to-do in the community. Many people go to the mosque in the neighborhood for fast-breaking and meals. People in the neighborhood send fruit, food and drinks to the mosque – the atmosphere is that of a friendly pot luck dinner every evening of the month.


Well-known philanthropists of the Muslim community find themselves surrounded by the needy people and Islamic workers for donations. Zakat, a wealth purifying tax, and donations are given at this time of the year since many Muslims wish to take the opportunity of multiplied rewards from Allah.


Laylat al-Qadr


This is the night of the Qadr. The term Al-Qadr has been frequently translated as “the power”. A better translation may be “the value” or “the decree” because Allah says the value of this night is better than one thousand months, a lifetime of over eighty-three years. Allah sends His decrees in this night. This is the night when the Qur’an was revealed. Allah says in the Qur’an:

We have indeed revealed this (the Qur’an) in the Night of Value (or Measure). And what will explain to you what the Night of Value is? The Night of Value is better than a thousand months. Therein come down angels and the Spirit (the angel Gabriel) by Allah’s permission with all decrees. (That night is) Peace until the rising of the dawn. (97:1-5)

The Night of Value is a gift to mankind from Allah. However, it is not clear which night is Laylat al-Qadr. Some reports by companions of the Prophet(S) allude it to be the 27th night of the month of Ramadan, but many more sayings point to any of the odd date nights during the last third of the month of Ramadan. According to authentic teachings of the Prophet Muhammad(S), Muslims are advised to spend the 21st, 23rd, 25th, 27th and 29th nights of Ramadan in worship and doing good works to assure finding Laylat al-Qadr. A portion of the Muslims stay up all night in prayers and good works, however, the Prophet(S) and his companions used to sleep at least one-third of the night.


In Muslim countries, the 27th of Ramadan is a holiday to enable people to rest during the day after all night of worship. Schools are closed from the 27th of Ramadan through the 2nd of Shawwal (5 to 6 days) to combine Laylat al-Qadr and ‘Eid al-Fitr observances.


I’tekaf or Seclusion


The practice of the Prophet Muhammad(S) was to spend the last ten days and nights of Ramadan in the masjid (mosque). Following his practice, it is considered a community duty that some people go in I’tekaf (seclusion) in a neighborhood masjid. The people in I’tekaf spend their time in various forms of dhikr (remembrance of Allah), such as doing extra salah, recitation and study of the Qur’an, study of the Hadith, repetition of some phrases of praise and glory to Allah, exhorting each other to be good through obeying Allah and His Messenger(S). Since people in I’tekaf are not permitted to go outside the masjid except for emergencies, they sleep in the masjid and use available facilities of the masjid.


The food for the people in I’tekaf is provided either by their own families or people in the community. I’tekaf is terminated, generally, at the declaration of sighting of the moon or the end of the month of Ramadan. For busy people a shorter version of I’tekaf is allowed, such as one night, one day or a few days.


Sadaqat al-Fitr


In general, any material help extended to the poor, needy and to those who ask and are deserving is called SadaqahSadaqat al-Fitr, which is also called Zakat al-Fitr, is the obligatory material help extended to the poor of the society before the ‘Eid prayers, preferably to be given early enough for the poor to prepare for the celebration. In North America, the estimated amount is $5 to $8 to be given on behalf of each member of the donor’s family, including infants.


‘Eid al-Fitr


The end of the fasting month is celebrated on the first of Shawwal, the 10th month, which follows Ramadan. Traditionally, on the 29th of Ramadan after sunset, people go out in the open looking for a new crescent in the western horizon where the sun sets. If the crescent is sighted, the end of Ramadan and ‘Eid are declared. If the crescent is not sighted, Ramadan is extended by one day.


On the day of ‘Eid, people take a bath or shower in the early morning, eat breakfast, wear their best clothes, apply perfume and proceed to the place of ‘Eid congregation while pronouncing takbeerat, saying, “Allah is the Greatest, there is no deity but Allah and all praise belongs to Allah.” Muslims pronounce takbeerat in their homes, in the street and at the place of congregation while waiting for the leader, the Imam. It was the practice of the Prophet Muhammad(S) to hold ‘Eid prayer congregations in open grounds. Following the practice of the Prophet(S) Muslims are advised to hold ‘Eid prayers in open grounds. In the Muslim countries with warm climate there are designated ‘Eid prayer grounds. However, in North America Muslims rent halls at convention centers or major hotels.


The Imam rises at the appointed time, leads the prayers and delivers a khutbah (sermon). At the end of the sermon, people supplicate, greet, embrace and congratulate each other for the successful completion of Ramadan and ask Allah for the acceptance of their efforts in His obedience.


During the day, people visit each other and children may receive gifts. In some countries, people go for picnics and other gatherings. In addition, special ‘Eid celebrations may be arranged at work or in social settings. Essentially, ‘Eid is a day of thanks to Allah, and also a gathering of family and friends.


‘Umrah or Minor Hajj in Ramadan


There is a report from Prophet Muhammad(S) saying that performing ‘Umrah in the month of Ramadan is equal to performing a major or complete Hajj. Hajj is a pilgrimage to Makkah. Hajj is the enactment of some of the trials and tribulations of Prophet Abraham(A), his wife Hajirah (Hagar) and his oldest son, Isma’il(A) (Ishmael). Hajj includes the sacrifice of Ishmael, represented by the sacrifice of an animal, such as a ram, goat, sheep, cow or a camel. Complete Hajj lasts for five days but ‘Umrah is completed in a couple of hours. ‘Umrah is only a small part of the Hajj. An animal sacrifice may be offered at the completion of ‘Umrah. ‘Umrah may be performed anytime during the year but it has special significance in Ramadan. Hajj is performed only during the 8th and 13th days of Dhul Hijjah, the twelfth month of the Islamic calendar.

7 basic beliefs and 7 basic practices


by M. Amir Ali, Ph.D.


The approach to the presentation of Islamic beliefs and practices depends upon the addressee’s religion and culture. A reference point of commonalty or contrast is useful. For example, the Christians believe in the “original sin”; the connotation is that a human being has the stigma of being born as a sinner and is dirty filthy by nature. What has a newborn done to be a sinner or to be a filthy person? Contrast this with the Islamic teaching that every human being is born in nature, meaning good with no stigma of any kind and, if left alone without any brain washing will do no wrong. Such a person has a natural ability to distinguish between right and wrong and his tendency is to do right. In the society which raises a person brain washed, many times when he reaches puberty he is all confused – good has become bad and bad has become good under the influence of the society. He was not dirty by birth but the society has made him dirty in beliefs and practices.




When clothes get dirty, they are washed; when the body gets dirty, a bath or a shower is in order. Similarly, when beliefs and practices have become dirty, a purification job is in order and this purification is the entry into Islam through the door of witnessing or shahadah. Once a person has entered Islam he is purified as a newborn and has a second chance to start over again. His past sins are washed away while keeping his good works as assets.


Analogy of a Building


There are two aspects of purification: (a) physical, and (b) spiritual. Physical purification consists of purifying the body, clothes and environment. Spiritual purification consists of purifying beliefs and practices (works or deeds). The analogy of Islam is that of a building. A building has its foundation, pillars, roof, walls and other components. The foundation of a building is underground and not visible; similarly, the foundation of Islam consists of beliefs and remains invisible. The pillars, walls, roof and other parts of a building are visible. Similarly, what a Muslim says and does is visible and becomes the pillars, roof and walls of Islam. Frequently, Muslims talk about the five pillars of Islam without thinking that five pillars cannot stand without a foundation and only pillars standing on the ground are not called a building. It is, therefore, necessary that Islam be presented in its totality not just five pillars. Five pillars are a necessary but small part of a Muslim’s life.


Beliefs as the Foundation of Islam


As the foundation of a building consists of many components, such as, steel, cement, rocks, etc., the foundation of Islam consists of seven components.


1. Allah, the Only True God


Nothing is made without its planner and maker. Similarly, this universe, the earth and life on it, did not happen by itself – the first cause is the Creator, Allah or the God. Allah is the Creator of life and death, hence He is free of death and is Ever Living or Eternal. He created males and females for procreation, hence He is free of gender. Whatever He created He knows in its minutest detail, hence He is All-Knowing. Similarly, He is All-Seeing, All-Hearing, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful, Forgiving, Just; He has many attributes or good names – Muslims are told that He has ninety-nine names. All of His names are not abstract words but they have relevance in every Muslim’s life. He created everything and humankind for a purpose: to serve Him. The God, in Islam, is the bedrock of the foundation of Islam.


2. Prophets and Messengers


Only Allah can tell the purpose of the creation of humankind which He does through his chosen human beings called prophets and messengers. Islam recognizes many prophets of the Bible, such as, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and many in between them. Muhammad Ibn Abd-Allah Ibn Abd-al Muttalib was the last prophet-messenger of Allah who lived fourteen centuries ago. He received guidance from Allah, gave its meaning in words and deeds, thus becoming the role model for humankind.


3. The Guidance from Allah


When one accepts a new job he is given a job description and someone shows him how to do various tasks. Similarly, Allah gives the job description in His revelations and the Prophet shows the meaning and implementation of what and how. All the prophets of the Bible fulfilled their duties and the last prophet, Muhammad, did also. He left behind the Word of Allah, the Qur’an, and his teachings, Hadith, were collected by his companions. The Qur’an and the Hadith are the textual sources of Islamic teachings and will remain so as long as there is life on earth. Allah Himself has taken the responsibility for their preservation.


4. The Angels


Another creation of Allah, scattered all over the universe doing the work for Him, is angels. Human beings have been given very little knowledge about angels. One much honored angel, Gabriel or Jibrail, brought Allah’s guidance to the prophets. Along with other angels mentioned in the Qur’an there are two angels with each human being writing his deeds.


5. The Last Day


Allah has created everything with a preset life span. Everything and everyone, from the moment of creation, are running towards its destruction or death. Modern sciences have arrived at the same conclusion. Science tells us that the solar system is middle-aged; when sun arrives at the moment of its death, that will be the end of its planets, including the earth. Similarly, the whole universe has its life span and there will be a Big Crush, the opposite of the Big Bang.


The last day for each human being is the day of his/her death, as there is a last day for life on earth. On the last day of the earth, there will be earthquakes, mountains will either be rendered to sand or will float in space like carded wool, water of the oceans will either be sucked into the earth or will boil away and the valleys thus created will be filled with earth or rocks. The earth will become smooth without mountains or valleys with no life on it. However, this is not the end of human beings. There is life hereafter or the after life.


6. The Life Hereafter


Allah is Just but there is much injustice on earth. Murderers are getting away with murders, embezzlers are getting away with their loot, dictators are getting away with their oppression and injustices, and other criminals are getting away with their crimes. Are they really getting away with their crimes? No, it only appears that way. Everyone will be accountable for his deeds to Allah on the Day of Judgment and will receive reward or punishment. The life of the earth is the life of trials, not the place of real reward or punishment. This leads to the reality of Life Hereafter. After destruction of life on earth Allah will command human beings to come back to life with body and soul, their resurrection. Resurrection is followed by the judgment by Allah. No judgment is complete without reward for good doers and punishment for evil livers. The reward is the life of paradise and punishment is the life of hell. Both are believed to be eternal.


7. Al Qadr (Measure, Destiny, Decree)


People are created as males and females, short or tall, black, white, brown, yellow, smart or not so smart, with appointed parents, having a given time and place of birth and death and so on. All this is decreed by Allah. However, human beings have choices and enjoy limited freedom. The result of their activities depends upon their level of knowledge, level of effort and permission of Allah to succeed. Since human beings do not have perfect knowledge, sometimes they succeed and other times they fail in their pursuits. The admission that only Allah has perfect knowledge and human knowledge is imperfect and practical implications of this admission is Qadr.


Works and Deeds as the Building of Islam Above Ground


The visible part of a building is whatever exists above ground built on a stable foundation. Similarly, a Muslim’s life, his talk and his activities must represent his beliefs. They are summarized below.


Five Rites (Acts) of Worship


The term worship has two aspects: (a) Love for Allah more than the love for anyone or anything in life, including the love of one’s own life. It simply means that one is willing to give up anyone or anything for the love for Allah. (b) Obedience of Allah and His Messenger for the love of them. If one looks for worldly benefits in obedience of Allah or desires to avoid worldly harm by obeying, then it is for business not for the love of Allah. Five rites of worship are given below.


1. Shahadah, Witnessing


If one believes in the seven aspects of beliefs and is willing to live his life accordingly, he declares his intention voluntarily and publicly or at least in front of two or more witnesses. Such declaration consists of pronouncing, “La Ilaha illa-Allah wa Muhammadur-Rasool-Allah” meaning there is no deity but Allah and Muhammad is His Messenger. This pronouncement has the connotation that my Creator, Provider and Sustainer Lord is Allah and I have been brought to this world by Allah to serve Him for which I will be accountable on the Day of Judgment. The Messenger of Allah, Muhammad(S), brought the guidance from Allah, delivered to me and became a role model for me, therefore, I am going to live by the Qur’an and Sunnah (the way of the Messenger of Allah, Muhammad(S)).


2. Salah, Prescribed Prayers


Once a person takes shahadah, he is a Muslim and is required to perform the five daily prescribed prayers. In prayers a person addresses Allah directly without any intermediary or intercessor. Islam is the only religion in the world which has removed all kinds of intermediaries and intercessors between man and Allah.


3. Zakah, Wealth Cleansing Tax


The basic principle is that Allah is the owner of heavens and the earth, therefore, He is my owner and everything in my possession belongs to Him. I am only a trustee of Allah for anything in my possession. I must do whatever Allah requires me to do. Allah demands that when a certain amount of money is in one’s possession for a year, a small percentage (typically 2.5%) must be spent for Allah’s causes. In general, collection of Zakah is spent to help the poor and needy and other Islamic causes.


4. Sawm, Fasting in the Month of Ramadan


Ramadan is the ninth month of Islamic lunar calendar. During this month Muslims are required to fast from dawn to dusk, meaning not to eat, drink, smoke or indulge in sex. After sunset all lawful food, drink and sex are allowed. However, one must implement the moral code of Islam very strictly because non-adherence has double jeopardy, namely, violating the moral code and nullification of the fast. The fast is a test of one’s sincerity to Allah.


5. Hajj, Pilgrimage to Makkah


A Muslim must perform Hajj once in a life time provided expenses can be met without borrowing or owing any money to anyone, health is good and the way is safe. Hajj is the re-creation of some of the trials and tribulations of Prophets Abraham and Ishmael, and Hagar, the wife of Abraham, with a few additional rituals. The Hajj lasts for five days from the 8th to 12th of Dhul Hijjah. Approximately two million people perform Hajj every year.


Significance of the Pillars


The above mentioned five rites of worship are also called the five pillars of Islam. Pillars are supporters of roofs and walls. If the pillars fall down there is no building left. Similarly, if a Muslim is not doing his five daily salah, this pillar is absent from his building of Islam and part of the building is destroyed. He may claim to be a Muslim but in practice he is a hypocrite. The same analogy is applied to other pillars.


Excellence in Knowledge and Conduct


A good believing and practicing Muslim is a role model for the people and the Muslim Ummah is the role model for all other societies. A Muslim scientist must be the best among his peers, a doctor must be the best, a car mechanic must be the best and so on. A role model must excel in all aspects of his life, that is, in knowledge, profession, on the job, in his moral character and honoring other people’s rights. Most importantly he must excel in his service to his Lord, Allah.


Islamic Moral Code, Enjoining Good and Forbidding Evil


Islam requires Muslims to be righteous, truthful, fulfill their promises, be courteous, gentle in disagreements, have humility, keep the trust and keep all other well known virtues. Naturally, Islam condemns the immoral and criminal acts of lying, cheating, backbiting, slandering, breaking promises, breaching the trust, arrogance, haughtiness, and all other well known vices. It is not enough to stay away from vices and adopt all virtues but he has a duty to promote the same good in the society and do everything possible to stop evil and vice.


Fulfill the Duty to Others


There are mutual rights and duties. However, Allah will not ask on the Day of Judgment if you have received all your rights but He will ask if you have done all your duties. Human duties fall under four categories:


1. Duty to Allah


The first and foremost duty is to Allah. There are three duties to Allah, (a) not to associate partners with Him, (b) not to worship anyone but Allah, and (c) not to depend upon anyone for help but Allah.


2. Duty to Other Human Beings


Whenever there is interaction with another person there are mutual rights and duties. One person’s rights are other person’s duties. There are duties to parents, spouse, children, relatives, neighbors, buyers, sellers, ruler, ruled, boss, subordinates and so on.


3. Community Duty


There is a duty to defend the family, the country and the community as a whole. In addition there are people who cannot provide for themselves, such as, the poor, orphans, widows, handicapped, refugees and others whom a single person cannot support fully but the community as a whole can. Every Muslim should be a part of such a support system. Every human being has five basic rights, namely, food, clothing, shelter, education and health maintenance; every Muslim should be part of the system providing basic rights to all those who cannot provide for themselves.


4. Duty to Manage the Earth


Allah has appointed man Khalifah on the earth, meaning that man is a trustee or manager of the earth for the owner, Allah. Humankind, in general, and Muslims, in particular, have the duty to see that the resources of the earth are not abused: air and water are not polluted, animals are not killed for fun or for greedy people, trees are not cut down unnecessarily and so on. Use resources of the earth but do not abuse them.


Lawful (Halal) and Unlawful (Haram)


This is a part of Islamic Shari’ah, civil and criminal law. Every Muslim is not going to be an Islamic lawyer or a judge, but he should know about a few unlawful things. The basic principle is that everything is lawful except those things which are explicitly unlawful. A few things are doubtful therefore it is advisable to avoid them. The unlawful things fall under four categories.


1. Food and Drink


There are a number of things which have been forbidden as food and drink, such as, flesh of swine, blood, anything offered in the name of anyone other than Allah, flesh of dead animals, carnivorous animals, birds of prey, all intoxicants including alcoholic liquor and drugs of abuse and anything poisonous to humans.


2. Sources of Income


Any business involving production, distribution or sale of unlawful food or drinks is unlawful. In addition, all trades of exploitation or taking others rights away are unlawful, such as, prostitution, gambling, usury and interest, stealing, robbery, embezzlement, monopolizing and hoarding to raise prices and others.


3. Spending the Wealth


It has been mentioned that all wealth is owned by Allah and human beings are trustees for whatever they possess. It is, therefore, necessary that Allah’s wealth not be spent wherever Allah does not desire it to be spent. A few examples of such unlawful areas are already given above. One person’s spending is another person’s source of income. Additional unlawful areas are spending money on unlawful food and drinks to serve others.


4. Sexual Relations


A simple principle is no sex without marriage. An engagement is a social custom not a religious rite. A person closest in blood relation lawful to marry is a first cousin. There is no permission for homosexuality or such “marriages” in Islam.


Conveying the Message of Islam


A duty of every Muslim, male and female, individually and collectively, is to present Islam to the non-Muslims. A Muslim, by the Grace and Mercy of Allah, may go to paradise but a non-Muslim has no such chance. At least, a person must convey the message of Islam to his loved ones, giving them a chance to save themselves from the hell fire.


Implementation of the Rule of Allah


Every aspect of a Muslim’s life should be guided by Allah, including personal, family, social, economic and political life. None of the aspects of human life are outside the domain of Allah.


In summary, there are seven essential components of beliefs and seven essentials of good works required of every sane adult Muslim, male and female. The Qur’an and Hadith are essentially explanations of beliefs (Iman) and good works (‘Amal-us-Salihat) and learning them in detail could be a life long pursuit.

The Creator And Lord Of The Universe


by M. Amir Ali, Ph.D.


Allah is the name of the true One God in the Arabic language. In the Hebrew language His name is Eloh, Elohim for respect. It is well known that when a word is borrowed from one language to another it’s spelling and pronunciation is often altered. It is, therefore, reasonable to say that Eloh and Allah are names of the same Deity of Abraham believed by the three monotheistic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Islam is the most rigorously monotheistic religion among the three dedicated to the worship of Allah, never seen by a human eye.


Who is Allah? The translation of verses from the Qur’an are given to answer this question. References of the verses are given in brackets, the number before the colon represents the Surah (chapter) and the following number represents the verse number.


Allah, the One Only

“Proclaim: Allah is One. Allah is Eternal. He neither begets nor was begotten.” (112:1-4)


“Nothing is like unto Him.” (42:11)

“If there were therein Gods besides Allah, then verily both (the heavens and the earth) would have collapsed into disorder and chaos. Glorified be Allah, the Lord of the Throne, transcendent beyond all they ascribe unto Him.” (21:22)

“Sight can never reach Him; His sight reaches all things.” (6:103)

“And proclaim: Praise be to Allah, Who has not taken unto Himself a son, and Who has no partner in the Sovereignty, nor has He (need for) any protecting friend through dependence. (17:111)

“Allah! There is no God save Him.” (3:2, 2:255)

“Is there any God beside Allah? Nay, but they are folk who ascribe equals (unto Him)! (27:60).

“Is there any God beside Allah? Nay, but most of them know not.” (27:61)

Attributes of Allah


Muslims talk about ninety-nine attributes of Allah; a few are given in the following verses of the Qur’an.

“And He is the Mighty, the Wise. His is the Sovereignty of the heavens and the earth; He gives life and He gives death; and He is able to do all things. He is the First and the Last, and the Outward and the Inward; and He is the Knower of all things.” (57:1-3)

“Allah is He, other than Whom there is no deity. He knows (all things) both secret and open; He, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. Allah is He, other than Whom there is no deity; the Sovereign, the Holy One, the Source of Peace (and Perfection), the Guardian of Faith, the Preserver of Safety, the Exalted in Might, the Irresistible, the Supreme: Glory to Allah! (High is He) above the partners they attribute to Him. He is Allah the Creator, the Evolver, the Bestower of Forms (and Colors). To Him belong the Most Beautiful Names: Whatever is the heavens and on earth, do declare His Praise and Glory; and He is exalted in Might, the Wise.” (59:22-24)

“Allah! There is no God save Him, the Alive, the Eternal. Neither slumber nor sleep overtakes Him. Unto Him belongs whatsoever is in the heavens and whatsoever is in the earth. Who is he that intercedes with Him save by His permission? He knows that which is in front of them and that which is behind them, while they encompass nothing of His knowledge save what He will. His throne includes the heavens and the earth, and He is never weary of preserving them. He is the Sublime, the Tremendous.” (2:255)

“The Originator of the heavens and the earth!” (6:101)

“The Beneficent, the Merciful: Owner of the Day of Judgment. (1:3-4)

“Say: Call upon Allah, or call upon Ar-Rahman: by whatever name you call upon Him, (it is well): For to Him belong the Most Beautiful Names.” (17:110)

“And you seek the Grace of Allah: for Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (73:20)

“The revelation of this Book is from Allah, Exalted in Power, Full of Knowledge, Who forgives sin, accepts repentance, is strict in punishment, and has a long reach (in all things). There is no god but He: to Him is the Final Goal.” (40:2-3)

Allah the Creator

“Have not those who disbelieve known that the heavens and the earth were of one piece, then We parted them, and We made every living thing from water? Will they not then believe?” (21:30)
[In this verse ‘We’ belongs to imperial language, not of plurality. In the Qur’an, Allah uses ‘I’, ‘Me’ ‘We’ and ‘Us’ for Himself.]
“And He it is Who created the night and the day, and the sun and the moon. They float each in an orbit… And from among His signs are the night and the day, and the sun and the moon. Prostrate not to the sun nor to the moon, but prostrate to Allah Who created them, if you (really) worship Him.” (21:33, 41:37)

“He has created man: He has imparted unto him articulate thought and speech. [At His behest] the sun and the moon run their appointed courses; the stars and the trees prostrate themselves [before Him]. And the skies has He raised high, and has devised [for all things] a measure, so that you [too, O men,] might never transgress the measure [of what is right]: weigh, therefore, [your deeds] with equity, and cut not the measure short! (55:3-9)

“It is Allah Who created everything in the best of form…It is He Who created and perfected all things.” (32:7, 87:2)

“It is Allah Who created life and death that you may prove yourself worthy in your deeds.” (67:2)

“Such is Allah, your Lord. There is no god except Him, the Creator of all things, so serve Him. And He takes care of all things.” (6:102)

“He is the Cleaver of the daybreak, and He has appointed the night for stillness, and the sun and the moon to run their appointed courses: [all] this is laid down by the Will of the Almighty, the All-Knowing. (6:96)

“Allah is He Who created seven heavens and of the earth a similar number. Through the midst of them (all) descends His command: that you may know that Allah has power over all things, and that Allah comprehends all things in (His) knowledge.” (65:12)

“He it is Who has made the sun a [source of] radiant light and the moon shining [surface], and has determined for it phases so that you might know how to compute the years and to measure [time]. None of this has Allah created without [an inner] truth. Clearly does He spell out these messages unto people of [innate] knowledge.” (10:5)

“Allah has indeed made all things in heaven and earth subservient to humankind; it is all from Him. Lo! Herein verily are portents for people who reflect.” (45:13)

Allah, the Sustainer, the Cherisher, the Lord (Al-Rabb)

“All praise is due to Allah Alone, the Lord [the Sustainer, the Cherisher] of the worlds.” (1:2)

“Everything We have created and prescribed for its measure, its character and destiny…No creature creeps on earth but Allah provides for it its sustenance. He knows its purpose and destiny. For it is He Who prescribed them in His eternal order…The sun rises and sets traversing its orbit exactly as the Almighty, the All Knowing has ordained. And the moon passes regularly through its phases, returning to its original thin crescent form. Neither sun nor moon overtakes the other; neither night nor day deviates from their preordained courses. Each moves in the orbit Allah has ordained for it. (54:49, 11:6, 36:38-40)

In the Qur’an, the name Allah is used more than 2,600 times and His attribute, Al-Rabb (the Lord, the Cherisher, the Sustainer), has been used over 1,000 times.


Allah Revealed the Truth – Option Given

“We revealed to you the Book in truth, that you may proclaim it to the world. Whoever decides to be guided by its guidance does so to his own credit. Whoever rejects its guidance does so to his own discredit and you are not a warder over them.” (39:41)

“Let there be no compulsion [or coercion] in religion: Truth stands out clear from error; whoever rejects evil and believes in Allah has grasped the most trustworthy handhold that never breaks. And Allah hears and knows all things.” (2:256)

“And say: The Truth [has now come] from your Lord: let, then him who wills, believe in it, and let him who wills, reject it.” (18:29)

“And if your Lord willed, all who are in the earth would have believed together. Would you [Muhammad] compel men until they are believers?” (10:99)

“No person is responsible for the guilt of another. To every person belongs the merit or demerit of what he had wrought… Allah does not charge a person with more than he can bear. Therefore, to everyone belongs the credit or discredit which he had personally earned.” (53:38-39, 2:286)

“Whoever guides himself by Our revelation does so to his own credit. Whoever goes astray does so to his own peril. Nobody will be responsible for another’s deeds, and We will not judge but after a messenger sent [to proclaim and warn] … Whoever does good will have that good reckoned for him. Whoever does evil will have that evil marked against him. Your Lord commits no injustice to His servants.” (17:15, 41:46)

“Say: You are not accountable for our crimes; nor are we for the evil you do… On the Day of Judgment, no person will of any avail to another, neither for good nor for ill. Those who committed injustice will be assigned to the Fire which they denied.” (34:25,42)

“Say: Are those who know equal with those who know not? But only men of understanding will pay heed.” (39:9)

“There is not an animal in the earth nor a flying creature flying on two wings, but they are community like unto you. We have neglected nothing in the Book. Then unto their Lord they will be gathered.” (6:38)

“Allah has made what is in the heavens and on the earth subservient to you… And He has made subservient to you the sun and the moon, predetermined in their orbits, and the day and the night… It is Allah Who made you His trustees on earth… Can you not see that Allah made all that is on earth subservient to you?” (14:33, 31:29, 35:39, 22:65)

Allah was the God-in-Chief of the Pagan Arabs

“If indeed you ask them (the pagan Arabs) who has created the heavens and the earth and subjected the sun and the moon (to His Law), they will certainly reply, ‘Allah’… And if indeed you ask them Who it is that sends down rain from the sky, and gives life therewith to the earth after its death, they will certainly reply, ‘Allah!’” (29:61,63; similar message is found in 31:25; 39:38; 43:9)

“And those unto whom they (the pagan Arabs) call instead of Him (Allah) possess no power of intercession, … And if you ask them who created them (gods of the pagans and pagans themselves), they will surely say, ‘Allah!’” (43:86,87)

Fabrications against Islam


In 1990, one of the most anti-Islam demagogues, named Robert Morey, published an anti-Islam book in which he claimed that Allah is the name of the moon-god, therefore, Islam is another old pagan religion. The claim that Allah is the moon god did not exist before the publication of Robert Morey’s book in 1990; apparently he is the originator of this idea. Allah is the name of the originator of the Universe who has a variety of names in various languages. “Moon-god” has existed in many animist societies but it is Morey who combined two into one and the same deity. Others, like Jack Chic of Chick Publications of California and a few additional Islam-haters have picked up the Morey fabrication of moon-god, and are publishing tracts, brochures, flyers and comic books distributing them by the millions all over the world. These Islam-haters subscribe to the Nazi belief that if a lie is spoken loud enough and spoken repeatedly, it will be believed. Thus, Robert Morey, Jack Chick and others like them are disciples of the Nazis and are not ashamed of using the scare tactics of McCarthyism. Muslim leaders have met both of them and asked for the proof of their allegations; they had none but refused to cease their propaganda of lies and deception. For documentary evidence of Robert Morey’s fabrication of “Allah, the moon-god”, see on Internet “Islamic Awareness” by Shabbir Ally.


Any intelligent reader, however much he may be ignorant of Islam, can see from the above quoted sixty plus verses of the Qur’an, that the moon is one of the creations of Allah. The moon is a tiny part of Allah’s universe.


Arab Christians and Arab Jews believe in Allah


Arabs include Christians and Jews who speak Arabic language as their mother tongue. In the Arabic language Bible the name “Allah” is written wherever “God” appears in the English language. The Arabic language Bible printed in the U.S. uses the name, Allah, on the first page of Genesis. Does this mean that the Christians also believe in “Allah, the moon-god” of Robert Morey and Jack Chic?


An Appeal


The reader of this brochure is requested to distribute this brochure to the widest possible audiences. Photocopies may be made and distributed to American people. You may obtain printed copies of this brochure and other brochures about Islam from the III&E for a small donation. Islam-haters are trying to widen the gap between the Muslims and their non-Muslim American brethren. The goal of anti-Islam demagogues is to create hate against the Muslim minority in the non-Muslim majority of America. Would you, as a decent human being allow it happen? The reader of this brochure is requested to bridge the gap between fellow Americans of different faiths by participating in the education of the American people about the correct faith of the Muslims.


Additional Reading


  • Muhammad Asad, translator, THE MESSAGE OF THE QUR’AN, Dar al-Andalus Limited, 3 Library Ramp, Gibralter.
  • Abdullah Yusuf Ali, translator, THE HOLY QUR’AN, Text, Translation and Commentary, Amana Corporation, 4411 41st Street, Brentwood, MD 220722.
  • Muhammad Marmaduke Pickthall, translator, THE GLORIOUS QUR’AN, various publishers.
  • Zafar Ishaq Ansari, translator, TOWARDS UNDERSTANDING THE QUR’AN, English rendering of Tafhim al-Qur’an by Sayyid Abul A’la Mawdudi, The Islamic Foundation, Leicester, U.K.
  • M. Amir Ali, A BIRD’S EYE VIEW OF ISLAMIC BELIEFS & PRACTICES, The Institute of Islamic Information & Education (III&E), Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.
  • Brochures and booklets published by the III&E
  • There are many Internet sites. See and links to others.
  • Isma’il Raji al Faruqi, TAWHID: ITS IMPLICATIONS FOR THOUGHT AND LIFE, International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT), Herndon, Virginia, U.S.A.
  • Hammudah Abdalati, ISLAM IN FOCUS, American Trust Publications, Indianapolis, Indiana, U.S.A.
  • Suzanne Haneef, WHAT EVERYONE SHOULD KNOW ABOUT ISLAM AND MUSLIMS, Library of Islam, Des Plaines, Illinois, U.S.A.

A Survey of English Translations of the Quran


by A.R. Kidwai


Despite the historical fact that the early Muslim community’s stand on the translation of the Arabic text of the Quran was ambivalent, as indeed, the general Muslim attitude remains so to this day, the act of translation may be logically viewed as a natural part of the Muslim exegetical effort. However, whereas the idea of interpreting the Quran has not been so controversial, the emotional motives behind rendering the Quranic text into languages other than Arabic have always been looked upon with suspicion.


This is obvious as the need for translating the Quran arose in those historic circumstances when a large number of non-Arabic speaking people had embraced Islam, and giving new linguistic orientations to the contents of the revelation – as, for instance, happened in the case of the ‘New Testament’ – could have led to unforeseeable, and undesirable, developments within the body of the Islamic religion itself. (For a brief, though highly useful, survey of the Muslim attitudes towards the permissibility of translating the text of the revelation to non-Arabic tongues, see M. Ayoub, ‘Translating the Meaning of the Quran: Traditional Opinions and Modern Debates’, in Afkar Inquiry, Vol. 3, No. 5 (Ramadan 1406/May 1986), pp.349).


The Muslim need for translating the Quran into English arose mainly out of the desire to combat the missionary effort. Following a long polemical tradition, part of whose goal was also the production of a – usually erroneous and confounding – European version of the Muslim scripture, Christian missionaries started their offensive against a politically humiliated Islam in the eighteenth century by advancing their own translations of the Quran.


Obviously, Muslims could not allow the missionary effort – invariably confounding the authenticity of the text with a hostile commentary of its own – to go unopposed and unchecked. Hence, the Muslim decision to present a faithful translation of the Quranic text as well as an authentic summary of its teaching to the European world. Later, the Muslim translations were meant to serve even those Muslims whose only access to the Quranic revelation was through the medium of the European languages. Naturally, English was deemed the most important language for the Muslim purpose, not least because of the existence of the British Empire which after the Ottomans had the largest number of Muslim subjects.


The same rationale, however, applies to sectarian movements within Islam or even to renegade groups outside the fold of Islam, such as the Qadiyanis. Their considerable translational activities are motivated by the urge to proclaim their ideological uniqueness.

Although there is a spate of volumes on the multi-faceted dimensions of the Quran, no substantial work has so far been done to critically examine the mass of existing English translations of the Quran.


Even bibliographical material on this subject was quite scant before the fairly recent appearance of World Bibliography of the Translations of the Meanings of the Holy Quran (Istanbul, OIC Research Centre, 1986), which provides authoritative publication details of the translations of the Quran in sixty-five languages.


Some highly useful work in this field had been done earlier by Dr. Hamidullah of Paris. Appended to the Cambridge History of Arabic Literature Volume 1, Arabic Literature to the End of the Umayyad Period (Cambridge university Press, 1983) is a bibliography of the Quran translations into European languages, prepared by J.D. Pearson, as is the latter’s article in the Encyclopaedia of Islam. It is, however, of not much use to the Muslim.


Since none of the above-mentioned works is annotated, the reader gets no idea about the translator’s mental make-up, his dogmatic presuppositions and his approach to the Quran as well as the quality of the translation.


Similarly the small chapter entitled ‘The Qur’an and Occidental Scholarship’ in Bell and Watt’s Introduction to the Qur’an (Edinburgh, 1970, pp. 173-86), although useful in providing background information to Orientalists’ efforts in Quranic studies, and translations, more or less for the same reasons, is of little value to general Muslim readers. Thus, studies which focus on those aspects of each translation of the Quran are urgently needed lest Western scholars misguide the unsuspecting non-Arabic speaking readers of the Quran. An effort has been made in this survey to bring out the hallmarks and shortcomings of the major complete translations of the Quran.


The early English translations of the Quran by Muslims stemmed mainly from the pious enthusiasm on their part to refute the allegations leveled by the Christian missionaries against Islam in general and the Quran in particular.


Illustrative of this trend are the following translations:


(i) Mohammad Abdul Hakim Khan, The Holy Qur’an:’with short notes based on the Holy Qur’an or the authentic traditions of the Prophet, or and New Testaments or scientific truth. All fictitious romance, questionable history and disputed theories have been carefully avoided’ (Patiala, 1905);


(ii) Hairat Dehlawi, The Koran Prepared, by various Oriental learned scholars and edited by Mirza Hairat Dehlawi. Intended as ‘a complete and exhaustive reply to the manifold criticisms of the Koran by various Christian authors such as Drs. Sale, Rodwell, Palmer and Sir W. Muir’ (Delhi, 1912); 


(iii) Mirzal Abu’l Fadl, Qur’an, Arabic Text and English Translation Arranged Chronologically with an Abstract (Allahabad, 1912).


Since none of these early translations was by a reputed Islamic scholar, both the quality of the translation and level of scholarship are not very high and these works are of mere historical interest.


Later works, however, reflect a more mature and scholarly effort.


Muhammad Marmaduke William Pickthall, an English man of letters who embraced Islam, holds the distinction of bringing out a first-rate rendering of the Qur’an in English, The Meaning of the Glorious Qur’an (London, 1930).


It keeps scrupulously close to the original in elegant, though now somewhat archaic, English. However, although it is one of the most widely used English translations, it provides scant explanatory notes and background information. This obviously restricts its usefulness for an uninitiated reader of the Qur’an.


Abdullah Yusuf Ali’s The Holy Qur’an: Translation and Commentary (Lahore, 1934 37), perhaps the most popular translation, stands as another major achievement in this field. A civil servant by vocation, Yusuf Ali was not a scholar in the classical Muslim tradition. Small wonder, then, that some of his copious notes, particularly on hell and heaven, angels, jinn and polygamy, etc. are informed with the pseudo-rationalist spirit of his times, as for instance in the works of S. Ahmad and S. Ameer Ali.


His overemphasis on things spiritual also distorts the Qur’anic worldview. Against this is the fact that Yusuf Ali doubtless was one of the few Muslims who enjoyed an excellent command over the English language. It is fully reflected in his translation. Though his is more of a paraphrase than a literal translation, yet it faithfully represents the sense of the original.


Abdul Majid Daryabadi’s The Holy Qur’an: with English Translation and Commentary (Lahore, 1941 – 57) is, however, fully cognate with the traditional Muslim viewpoint.


Like PIckthall’s earlier attempt, it is a faithful rendering, supplemented with useful notes on historical, geographical and eschatological issues, particularly the illuminating discussions on comparative religion. Though the notes are not always very exhaustive, they help to dispel the doubts in the minds of Westernized readers. However, it too contains inadequate background information about the Suras (chapters of the Quran) and some of his notes need updating.


The Meaning of the Qur’an (Lahore, 1967), the English version of Sayyid Abul A’la Mawdud’i’s magnum opus, the Urdu Tafhim al-Quran is an interpretative rendering of the Qur’an which remarkably succeeds in recapturing some of the majesty of the original.


Since Mawdudi, a great thinker, enjoyed rare mastery over both classical and modern scholarship, his work helps one develop an understanding of the Qur’an as a source of guidance. Apart from setting the verses/Suras in the circumstances of its time, the author constantly relates, though exhaustive notes, the universal message of the Qur’an to his own time and its specific problems. His logical line of argument, generous sensibility, judicious use of classical Muslim scholarship and practical solutions to the problems of the day combine to show Islam as a complete way of life and as the Right Path for the whole of mankind. Since the translation of this invaluable work done by Muhammad Akbar is pitiably poor and uninspiring, the much-needed new English translation of the entire work is in progress under the auspices of the Islamic Foundation, Leicester.


The Message of the Quran by Muhammad Asad (Gibraltar, 1980) represents a notable addition to the body of English translations couched in chaste English. This work is nonetheless vitiated by deviation from the viewpoint of the Muslim orthodoxy on many counts. Averse to take some Qur’anic statements literally, Asad denies the occurrence of such events as the throwing of Abraham into the fire, Jesus speaking in the cradle, etc. He also regards Luqman, Khizr and Zulqarnain as ‘mythical figures’ and holds unorthodox views on the abrogation of verses. These blemishes apart, this highly readable translation contains useful, though sometimes unreliable background information about the Qur’anic Suras and even provides exhaustive notes on various Qur’anic themes.


The fairly recent The Qur’an: The First American Version (Vermont, 1985) by another native Muslim speaker of English, T.B. Irving, marks the appearance of the latest major English translation. Apart from the obnoxious title, the work is bereft of textual and explanatory notes.


Using his own arbitrary judgment, Irving has assigned themes to each Qur’anic Ruku’ (section). Although modern and forceful English has been used, it is not altogether free of instances of mistranslation and loose expressions. With American readers in mind, particularly the youth, Irving has employed many American English idioms, which, in places, are not befitting of the dignity of the Qur’anic diction and style.


In addition to the above, there are also a number of other English translations by Muslims, which, however, do not rank as significant ventures in this field.


They may be listed as:


1. Al-Hajj Hafiz Ghulam Sarwar, Translation of the Holy Qur’an (Singapore, 1920)

2. Ali Ahmad Khan Jullundri, Translation of the Glorious Holy Qur’an with commentary (Lahore, 1962)

3. Abdur Rahman Tariq and Ziauddin Gilani, The Holy Qur’an Rendered into English (Lahore, 1966)

4. Syed Abdul Latif, Al-Qur’an: Rendered into English (Hyderabad, 1969)

5. Hashim Amir Ali, The Message of the Qur’an Presented in Perspective (Tokyo, 1974)

6. Taqui al-Din al-Hilali and Muhammad Muhsin Khan, Explanatory English Translation of the Holy Qur’an: A Summarized Version of Ibn Kathir Supplemented by At-Tabari with Comments from Sahih al-Bukhari (Chicago, 1977)

7. Muhammad Ahmad Mofassir, The Koran: The First Tafsir in English (London, 1979)

8. Mahmud Y. Zayid, The Qur’an: An English Translation of the Meaning of the Qur’an (checked and revised in collaboration with a committee of Muslim scholars) (Beirut, 1980)

9. S.M. Sarwar, The Holy Qur’an: Arab Text and English Translation (Elmhurst, 1981)

10. Ahmed Ali, Al-Qur’an: A Contemporary Translation (Karachi, 1984).


(In view of the blasphemous statements contained in Rashad Khalifa’s The Qur’an: The Final Scripture (Authorized English Version) (Tucson, 1978), it has not been included in the translations by Muslims).


Even amongst the Muslim translations, some are representative of the strong sectarian biases of their translators.


For example, the Shia doctrines are fully reflected in accompanying commentaries of the following books: S.V. Mir Ahmad Ali, The Holy Qur’an with English Translation and Commentary, according to the version of the Holy Ahlul Bait includes ‘special notes from Hujjatul Islam Ayatullah Haji Mirza Mahdi Pooya Yazdi on the philosophical aspects of the verses’ (Karachi, 1964); M.H. Shakir, Holy Qur’an (New York, 1982); Syed Muhammad Hussain at-Tabatabai, al-Mizan: An Exegesis of the Qur’an, translated from Persian into English by Sayyid Saeed Akhtar Rizvi (Tehran, 198~). So far five volumes of this work have been published.


Illustrative of the Barelvi sectarian stance is Holy Qur’an, the English version of Ahmad Raza Khan Brailai’s Urdu translation, by Hanif Akhtar Fatmi (Lahore, n.d.).


As pointed out earlier, the Qadiyanis, though having abandoned Islam, have been actively engaged in translating the Qur’an, Apart from English, their translations are available in several European and African languages.


Muhammad Ali’s The Holy Qur’an: English Translation (Lahore, 1917) marks the beginning of this effort. This Qadiyani translator is guilty of misinterpreting several Qur’anic verses, particularly those related to the Promised Messiah, his miracles and the Qur’anic angelology.


Similar distortions mar another Qadiyani translation by Sher Ali, The Holy Qur’an: Arabic Text with English Translation (Rabwah, 1955). Published under the auspices of Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmad, second successor of the “Promised Messiah” and head of the Ahmadiyyas, this oft-reprinted work represents the official Qadiyani version of the Qur’an.

Unapologizingly, Sher Sher Ali refers to Mirza Ghulam Ahmad as the “Promised Messiah” and mistranslates and misinterprets a number of Qur’anic verses.


Zafarullah Khan’s The Qur’an: Arabic Text and English Translation (London, 1970) ranks as another notable Qadiyani venture in this field. Like other Qadiyanis, Zafarullah too twists the Qur’anic verses to opine that the door of prophethood was not closed with the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him). The obtrusion of similar obnoxious views upon the Qur’anic text is found in the following Qadiyani translations, too:


(i) Kamaluddin and Nazir Ahmad, A Running Commentary of the Holy Qur’an (London, 1948)

(ii) Salahuddin Peer, The Wonderful Koran (Lahore, 1960)

(iii) Malik Ghulam Farid, The Holy Qur’an (Rabwah, 1962)

(iv) Khadim Rahman Nuri, The Running Commentary of the Holy Qur’an with under-bracket comments (Shillong, 1964)

(v) Firozuddin Ruhi, The Qur’an (Karachi, 1965)


Apart from the Qadiyanis, Christian missionaries have been the most active non-Muslim translators of the Qur’an. As already noted, origins of this inglorious tradition may be traced back to the anti-Islamic motives of the missionaries.


Small wonder, then that these ventures are far from being a just translation, replete as they are with frequent transpositions, omissions, unaccountable liberties and unpardonable faults.


A very crude specimen of the Orientalist-missionary approach to the Qur’an is found in Alexander Ross’s The Alcoran of Mahomet translated out of Arabique into French, by the Sieur Du Ryer…And newly Englished, for the satisfaction for all that desire to look into the Turkish vanities (London, 1649).


In translating the Qur’an, the intention of Ross, a chaplain of King Charles I, was: ‘I thought good to bring it to their colours, that so viewing thine enemies in their full body, thou must the better prepare to encounter…his Alcoran.’


In the same rabidly anti-Islamic vein are the two appendices in the work entitled as (a) ‘A Needful Caveat or Admonition, for them who desire to know what use may be made of or if there be danger in reading the Alcoran’ (pp. 406 20) and ‘The Life and Death of Mahomet: the Prophet of the Turks and author of the Alcoran’ (pp. 395-405).


George Sale, a lawyer brought out his The Koran, commonly called The Al Koran of Mohammed (London, 1734), which has been the most popular English translation. Sale’s exhaustive ‘Preliminary Discourse’, dealing mainly with Sira and the Qur’an, betrays his deep hostility towards Islam and his missionary intent in that he suggests the rules to be observed for ‘the conversion of Mohammedans’ (q.v.).


As to the translation itself, it abounds in numerous instances of omission, distortion and interpolations.


Dissatisfied with Sale’s work, J.M. Rodwell, Rector of St. Ethelberga, London, produced his translation entitled The Koran (London, 1861). Apart from hurling all sorts of wild and nasty allegations against the Prophet and the Qur’an in the Preface, Rodwell is guilty of having invented the so-called chronological Sura order of the Qur’an. Nor is his translation free from grave mistakes of translation and his own fanciful interpretations in the notes.


E.H. Palmer, a Cambridge scholar, was entrusted with the preparation of a new translation of the Qur’an for Max Muller’s Sacred Books of the East series. Accordingly, his translation, The Qur’an, appeared in London in 1880. As to the worth of Palmer’s translation, reference may be made to A. R. Nykl’s article, ‘Notes on E.H. Palmer’s The Qur’an‘, published in the Journal of the American Oriental Society, 56 (1936) pp. 77-84 in which no less than 65 instances of omission and mistranslation in Palmer’s work have been pointed out.


Richard Bell, Reader of Arabic, University of Edinburgh, and an acknowledged Orientalist produced a translation of the Qur’an with special reference to its Sura order, as is evident from the title of his work, The Qur’an translated with a critical rearrangement of the Surahs (Edinburgh, 1937-39). In addition to describing the Prophet as the author of the Qur’an, Bell also believes that the Qur’an in its present form was ‘actually written by Muhammad himself’ (p. vi). In rearranging the Sura order of the Qur’an, Bell, in fact, makes a thorough mess of the traditional arrangement and tries to point out ‘alterations substitutions and derangements in the text.


A.J. Arberry, a renowned Orientalist and Professor of Arabic at the Universities of London and Cambridge, has been, so far, the latest non-Muslim translator of the Qur’an.


Arberry’s The Koran Interpreted (London, 1957) no doubt stands out above the other English renderings by non-Muslims in terms of both its approach and quality. Nonetheless, it is not altogether free from mistakes of omission and mistranslation, such as in Al’ Imran 111:43, Nisa’ IV: 72, 147 and 157, Ma’ida V: 55 and 71, An’am VI: 20, 105, A’raf VII: 157, 158 and 199, Anfal VIII: 17, 29, 41, 59, Yunus X: 88, Hud XI: 30 and 46 and Yusuf XII: 61.


N.J. Dawood is perhaps the only Jew to have translated the Qur’an into English. Available in the Penguin edition, Dawood’s translation, The Koran (London, 1956) is perhaps the most widely circulated non-Muslim English translation of the Qur’an. The author’s bias against Islam is readily observable in the Introduction. Apart form adopting an unusual Sura order in his translation, Dawood is guilty also of having mistranslated the Qur’an in places such as Baqara II:9 and A’raf VII:31, etc.


No doubt, the peculiar circumstances of history which brought the Qur’an into contact with the English language have left their imprint on the non-Muslim as well as the Muslim bid to translate it. The results and achievements of their efforts leave a lot to be desired.


Unlike, for instance, major Muslim languages such as Persian, Turkish and Urdu, which have thoroughly exhausted indigenous linguistic and literary resources to meet the scholarly and emotional demands of the task, the prolific resources of the universal medium of English have not been fully employed in the service of the Qur’an.


The Muslim Scripture is yet to find a dignified and faithful expression in the English language that matches the majesty and grandeur of the original. The currents of history, however, seem to be in favour of such a development. Even English is acquiring a native Muslim character and it is only a matter of time before we have a worthy translation of the Qur’an in that tongue.


Till them, the Muslim student should judiciously make use of Pickthall, A. Yusuf Ali, Asad and Irving, Even Arberry’s stylistic qualities must not be ignored. Ultimately, of course, the Muslim should try to discover the original and not allow himself to be lost in a maze of translations and interpretations.


(Originally printed in The Muslim World Book Review, Vol. 7, No. 4 Summer 1987)


Extracted 08/11/02 from

How do we know that the Qur’an we have today is the word of


The importance of this question cannot be underestimated. Scriptures
form the bedrock of a religion’s teachings and typically compel people
to follow them on the assumption that they are of divine origin. However,
with so many competing claims, it is no longer sufficient to rely on
mere assumption alone to feel confident that a religious scripture ought
to be trusted as Truth. If being a “Muslimmeans “one
who surrenders to the will of Allah”, then every Muslim should
know that it really is the will of Allah that one is surrendering to.


To answer the question, we first need to establish that the Qur’an
we have today is the same Qur’an as revealed to the Prophet Muhammad
(p) and that no corruption has taken place in the transmission of that
message. In other words, we initially need to prove the fact that the
Qur’an has survived history, perfectly preserved. Secondly, we
need to establish who the author of the Qur’an really is. This
may be done by eliminating all possible authors that are unacceptable
to reason. That is, we may be certain of the definite author by eliminating
all unlikely authors.


This two-step process is outlined below:


I. The Recording and Perfect Preservation of the Qur’an


The Glorious Qur’an, the Muslims’ religious Scripture, was
revealed in Arabic to the Prophet Muhammad (p) through the angel Gabriel.
The revelation occurred piecemeal, over a period of twenty-three years,
sometimes in brief verses and sometimes in longer chapters [1].


The Qur’an (lit. a “reading” or “recitation”)
is distinct from the recorded sayings and deeds (Sunnah) of the Prophet
Muhammad (p), which are instead preserved in a separate set of literature
collectively called the “Ahadith” (lit. “news”;
report”; or “narration”).


Upon receiving revelation, the Prophet (p) engaged himself in the duty
of conveying the message to his Companions through reciting the exact
words he heard in their exact order. This is evident in his inclusion
of even the words of Allah which were directed specifically to him,
for example: “Qul” (“Say [to the people,
O Muhammad]”). The Qur’an’s rhythmic style and eloquent expression
make it easy to memorize. Indeed, Allah describes this as one of its
essential qualities for preservation and remembrance (Q.44:58; 54:17,22,32,40),
particularly in an Arab society which prided itself on orations of lengthy
pieces of poetry. Michael Zwettler notes that “in ancient times,
when writing was scarcely used, memory and oral transmission was exercised
and strengthened to a degree now almost unknown” [2]. Large portions
of the revelation were thus easily memorized by a large number of people
in the community of the Prophet (p).


The Prophet (p) encouraged his Companions to learn each verse that
was revealed and transmit it to others [3]. The Qur’an was also required
to be recited regularly as an act of worship, especially during the
daily meditative prayers (salat). Through these means, many repeatedly
heard passages from the revelation recited to them, memorized them and
used them in prayer. The entire Qur’an was memorized verbatim (word
for word) by some of the Prophet’s Companions. Among them were
Zaid ibn Thabit, Ubayy ibn Ka’b, Mu’adh ibn Jabal, and Abu
Zaid [4].


Furthermore, the sequence or order of the Qur’an was arranged by the
Prophet (p) himself and was also well-known to the Companions [5]. Each
Ramadan, the Prophet (p) would repeat after the angel Gabriel (reciting)
the entire Qur’an in its exact order as far as it had been revealed,
while in the presence of a number of his Companions [6]. In the year
of his death, he recited it twice [7]. Thereby, the order of verses
in each chapter and the order of the chapters became reinforced in the
memories of each of the Companions present.


As the Companions spread out to various provinces with different populations,
they took their recitations with them in order to instruct others [8].
In this way, the same Qur’an became widely retained in the memories
of many people across vast and diverse areas of land.


Indeed, memorization of the Qur’an emerged into a continuous tradition
across the centuries, with centers/schools for memorization being established
across the Muslim world [9]. The Qur’an is perhaps the only book,
religious or secular, that has been memorized completely by millions
of people [10]. Leading orientalist Kenneth Cragg reflects that “this
phenomenon of Qur’anic recital means that the text has traversed the
centuries in an unbroken living sequence of devotion. It cannot, therefore,
be handled as an antiquarian thing, nor as a historical document out
of a distant past. The fact of hifz (Qur’anic memorization) has made
the Qur’an a present possession through all the lapse of Muslim time
and given it a human currency in every generation, never allowing its
relegation to a bare authority for reference alone” [11].


The entire Qur’an was however also recorded in writing at the
time of revelation from the Prophet’s dictation by some of his
literate companions, the most prominent of them being Zaid ibn Thabit
[12]. Others among his noble scribes were Ubayy ibn Ka’b, Ibn Mas’ud,
Mu’awiya ibn Abi-Sufyan, Khalid ibn Waleed and Zubayr ibn Awwam
[13]. The verses were recorded on leather, parchment, scapulae (shoulder
bones of animals) and the stalks of date palms [14].


The codification of the Qur’an (i.e. into a ‘book form’)
was done soon after the Battle of Yamama (11AH/633CE), after the Prophet’s
death, during the Caliphate of Abu Bakr. Many companions became martyrs
at that battle and it was feared that unless a written copy of the entire
revelation was produced, large parts of the Qur’an might be lost
with the death of those who had memorized it. Therefore, at the suggestion
of Umar to collect the Qur’an in the form of writing, Zaid ibn
Thabit was requested by Abu Bakr to head a committee which would gather
together the scattered recordings of the Qur’an and prepare a suhuf
– loose sheets which bore the entire revelation on them [15]. To safeguard
the compilation from errors, the committee accepted only material which
had been written down in the presence of the Prophet (p) himself, and
which could be verified by at least two reliable witnesses who had actually
heard the Prophet (p) recite the passage in question [16]. Once completed
and unanimously approved of by the Prophet’s Companions, these
sheets were kept with the Caliph Abu Bakr (d. 13AH/634CE), then passed
on to the Caliph Umar (13-23AH/634-644CE), and then Umar’s daughter
and the Prophet’s widow, Hafsa [17].


Although the Qur’an was initially revealed in the Qurayshi dialect
of Arabic to the Prophet (p), it was also later revealed in seven different
Arabian dialects to aid the understanding of those belonging to non-Quraysh
tribes [18]. At the time of the third Caliph Uthman (23AH-35AH/644-656CE),
however, a companion named Hudhayfah ibn Al-Yaman observed that the
people of the regions of present-day Syria and Iraq had begun disputing
over various pronunciations of some of the words of the Qur’an,
while new Muslims in provinces outside Arabia were unsure which dialect
should be learned. Urged by Hudhayfah to take heed of how the Ahl
 (People of the Book) had differed among themselves regarding
Allah’s Word, Uthman perceived the danger of divisions, disunity
and corruption arising on the basis of different readings/dialects of
the Qur’an which were earlier on approved by the Prophet (p) [19].
He therefore requested Hafsa to send him the manuscript of the Qur’an
which was in her safekeeping, and ordered the production of several
bounded copies of it (masaahif, sg. mushaf) using the
Quraysh dialect (i.e. the dialect of the Prophet himself and in which
the Qur’an had commenced being revealed in). This task was entrusted
to the Companions Zaid ibn Thabit, Abdullah ibn Az-Zubair, Sa‘id
ibn As-‘As, and Abdur Rahman ibn Harith ibn Hisham [20].


Upon completion (in 25AH/646CE), Uthman returned the original manuscript
to Hafsa and sent the copies to the major Islamic provinces to replace
other materials that were in circulation. He also ordered that all other
extracts or copies of the Qur’an which differed from that undoubted
“official” copy (including incomplete manuscripts and those
with additional personal notes) be burnt so that the Qur’an would
not suffer the same fate of alterations, uncertainty of authenticity
and contradictory versions which characterized prior religious scriptures.
This action of Uthman was unanimously approved of by the Prophet’s
Companions, as evidenced in the accounts of Zaid, Mus’ab, and Ali
that the Companions had gathered in large numbers to witness the burning,
with no-one speaking out against it. Their accounts also reveal that
many had openly declared their support for Uthman at the time, and how
pleased they were with the measures he had taken [21]. It was therefore
not the “Original” Qur’an that was burnt, nor a fabricated
story to discredit Uthman in the eyes of the community, as some critics
of Islam allege.


The story of how the Qur’an came to be preserved as described above
is drawn entirely from authentic Ahadith. Some orientalist critics,
however, claim that the narrations in Hadith collections cannot be trusted
due to their being recorded by “Muslim sources”. These orientalists
ignore the fact that news and social history have always been uncovered
through eye-witness reports, and that early Muslim scholars have developed
some of the most rigorous criteria to scrutinize such reports for authenticity
[22]. The majority of what we know of the life of the Prophet (p) and
his Companions are from mutawaatir reports (reported by many
different reliable narrators, who all independently verify the same
account). This continuing and dynamic science (now over thirteen centuries
old) has produced highly accurate (albeit not perfect) reports of Muslim
history. Through this science, thousands of scholars have repeatedly
analyzed the Ahadith collections in order to identify and filter out
any fabrications. The accusation that most Muslim scholarship has been
based on forgery would necessarily implicate that all the geographically
scattered scholars of the first four centuries of Hadith collection,
who belonged to varied and competing schools of thought, collaborated
together in a mutual conspiracy – an idea which neither appeals
to reason nor the fact that such scholars were renowned for their piety
and integrity of character.


A number of orientalists (such as Ignaz Goldziher [23]) have been attached
to the theory that certain variations in some of the reports make the
entire story of the Qur’an’s codification dubious. Yet other
scholars have pointed out that these differences are often reconcilable
due to context of each narration (contexts which, incidentally, are
also recorded in Ahadith collections), and the time of narration (some
referring to earlier instances, such as prior to the completion of the
entire Qur’an [24]). Muslim scholars also note that the number
of memorizers was great for any given portion of the Qur’an and therefore
if any error had been made in Uthman’s codification, someone would have
pointed it out. Furthermore, the majority of the reports indicate that
the text of Uthman’s codification is mutawaatir – ie. transmitted
and agreed upon by many people – while other variant readings were
only used by a sole companion or occasionally two or three [25].


Jeffrey Lang [26] points out that orientalists often base their conclusions
on mere speculation or fragmentary data which also stem from the same
Hadith collections that they criticize. In line with Edward Said’s
comments on the underlying biases of Western scholarship [27], he also
remarks that the bulk of orientalist analysis has been so predisposed
to write off discrepancies in the body of early Muslim literature as
evidence of Hadith fabrications that it often overlooks clear evidence
that easily explains otherwise. An example of this is the frequent criticism
that Ahadith were forged in the second and third century after Hijrah
to support jurists’ legal rulings. Azami [28] explains that such
accusations often relied on a faulty comparison of legal and hadith
literature when in fact they are two distinct fields. One involves narrating
and verifying Ahadith, the other involves deriving legal opinions and
discussions from such Ahadith. Inferences about one science cannot validly
be made by studying the development of another. The theory that all
Ahadith about the collection of the Qur’an were forged in the second
and third century has been further refuted by proof that much of the
Ahadith were actually written down in the first century [29].


In an excellent attempt at objective analysis of Western criticism
of Hadith traditions, Jeffrey Lang [30] concludes that Muslim scholars’
deductions of history hold ground more solidly with the available evidence
than their orientalist counterparts’. Orientalist theories are
further addressed and refuted in the works of Ali [31], Azami [32],
Abbott [33], Siddiqi [34], and Abdul Ghafar [35].


Despite such defective theories, many orientalists themselves have admitted
like Gibb that “It seems reasonably well established that no material
changes were introduced and that the original form of Mohammed’s
discourses were preserved with scrupulous precision” [36]. John Burton,
at the end of his substantial work on the Qur’an’s compilation,
says with reference to criticisms made of different readings narrated
in Ahadith that “No major differences of doctrines can be constructed
on the basis of the parallel readings based on the Uthmanic consonantal
outline, yet ascribed to mushafs other than his. All the rival readings
unquestionably represent one and the same text. They are substantially
agreed in what they transmit…” [37]. He further states that
the Qur’an as we have it today is “the text which has come down to
us in the form in which it was organized and approved by the Prophet….
What we have today in our hands is the mushaf of Muhammad.” [38].
Kenneth Cragg describes the transmission of the Qur’an from the time of
revelation to today as occurring in “an unbroken living sequence
of devotion” [39]. Schwally concurs that “As far as the various
pieces of revelation are concerned, we may be confident that their text
has been generally transmitted exactly as it was found in the Prophet’s
legacy” [40].


The historical credibility of the Qur’an is further established by
the fact that one of the copies sent out by the Caliph Uthman is still
in existence today. It lies in the Museum of the City of Tashkent in
Uzbekistan, Central Asia [41]. A facsimile of the mushaf in Tashkent
is available at the Columbia University Library in the USA [42]. This
copy is proof that the text of the Qur’an we have in circulation
today is identical with that of the time of the Prophet and his companions.
A copy of the mushaf sent to Syria (duplicated before a fire in 1310AH/1892CE
destroyed the Jaami’ Masjid where it was housed) also exists in the
Topkapi Museum in Istanbul [43], and an early manuscript on gazelle
parchment exists in Dar al-Kutub as-Sultaniyyah in Egypt. More ancient
manuscripts from all periods of Islamic history found in the Library
of Congress in Washington, the Chester Beatty Museum in Dublin (Ireland)
and the London Museum have been compared with those in Tashkent, Turkey
and Egypt, with results confirming that there have not been any changes
in the text from its original time of writing [44].


The Institute for Koranforschung, for example, in the University of
Munich (Germany), collected over 42,000 complete or incomplete ancient
copies of the Qur’an. After around fifty years of research, they
reported that there was no variance between the various copies, except
the occasional mistakes of the copyist which could easily be ascertained.
This Institute was unfortunately destroyed by bombs during WWII [45].


Thus, due to the efforts of the early companions, with Allah’s
assistance, the Qur’an as we have it today is recited in the same
manner as it was revealed. This makes it the only religious scripture
that is still completely retained and understood in its original language.
Indeed, as Sir William Muir states, “There is probably no other
book in the world which has remained twelve centuries [now fourteen]
with so pure a text” [46].


The evidence above confirms Allah’s promise in the Qur’an: “Verily,
We have revealed the Reminder, and verily We shall preserve it.

(Q.15:9). The Qur’an has been preserved in both oral and written form
in a way no other book has, and with each form providing a check and
balance for the authenticity of the other.


But though it is proven that the text of the Qur’an has remained
intact till today, how are we sure that that words actually originated
from God and not some other source? This takes us to look at the authenticity,
authority, or source of the Qur’an.


II. Source or Authority of the Qur’an


Concerning the authorship of the Qur’an, Muslims believe that
it was revealed verbatim (ie. word for word) by God, to Muhammad (p).
Non-Muslims, however, who do not support this view can have no differences
with Muslims concerning the fact that the Qur’an was at least first
witnessed to be uttered by Muhammad (p), a Makkan Arab in the 7th century
CE and, as proved above, there have been no changes to the records of
his utterances since then.


Muslims’ claim of “internal evidence” for the divine
authorship of the Qur’an, ie. from statements to that effect in
the Qur’an itself (e.g. Q.4:82; 6:19; 6:92; 27:6; 45:2, etc.),
is understandably looked upon with skepticism, as nearly anyone can
quote passages from his or her scripture that claim the scripture in
question is revelation from God. We are therefore forced by reason and
objectivity to look elsewhere for “external evidence” of the
Qur’an’s divine source or authority.


The simple proposed structure for the presentation of this “external
evidence” is an elimination process, where we get to the answer
of the question – “Who is the author of the Qur’an?”
– by eliminating all alternative answers to this question which
are definitely implausible. In other words, the definite or (at least)
most probable author or source of the Qur’an is identified by eliminating
unacceptable alternative candidates.


There are various contradictory views and opinions held by some non-Muslims
as to the source of the Qur’an. The following list of “possible”
authors reflects the main theories.


  1. Muhammad (p)
  2. Some other Arab poet(s), scholars, etc.
  3. Some non-Arab scholars, or poets or religious personalities
  4. Monks or Rabbis (i.e. from the Bible or Judeo-Christian sources)
  5. Satan (or other deceitful “spirits” or “aliens”,
  6. God

We may now proceed to examine from a closer study of the Qur’an
and history how plausible these theories are.


Muhammad: unlettered and uneducated


The fact that Muhammad could neither read nor write (Q.29:48) is well
known and uncontested by even his non-Muslim contemporaries and present
day historians. He had no schooling or teacher of any kind. He had never
been known to compose oral poetry or prose. The Qur’an, with its
all-embracing laws and freedom from all inconsistencies, has its greatness
acknowledged even by non-Muslim scholars [47]. Its contents treat social,
economic, political and religious legislation, history, views of the
universe, living things, thought, human transactions, war, peace, marriage,
worship, business, and everything relating to life – with no contradicting
principles. The Qur’an has never been edited or revised as it was
never in need of any revision or correction. How were such vast subject
areas expounded upon with such precision by a 7th century Arab with
no formal education or even the ability to read what scant material
there may have been in his environment on such topics? Where and when
has history ever produced an illiterate and uneducated author of such
a scripture?


Muhammad’s known integrity


Muhammad’s sincerity, truthfulness and integrity were so well
known that he was even nicknamed “Al-Ameen” (The Trustworthy)
by his pre-Islamic community. Not a single lie is recorded against him,
and many modern Western orientalists have themselves admitted that contrary
to any deliberate deception, that the Prophet (p) had a profoundly sincere
conviction that it was revealed to him by God Himself is undeniable


If his integrity had been in question, and he was supposed to have
been motivated by the desire for personal glory to produce the Qur’an,
why then would he disclaim authorship and instead claim it was from
God, especially when the pagan Makkans had conceded that no one could
produce such a scripture (Q.2:23-24, 17:88, etc.), but only marvel at
it? His enemies even offered him kingship over Makka and any riches
he desired if only he would stop reciting. If it was true that he desired
his personal glory and leadership, why would he decline the offer when
it was presented to him and instead prefer a life of humility, simplicity,
persecution, sanctions, and even hostile attack by those who felt threatened
by the Message of One God?


In addition, how reasonable is it to believe that unlettered Muhammad
(p) would author the Qur’an for personal benefit and then within
the Qur’an correct and reprove himself? For example:

He frowned and turned away when the blind man came to him…


…And you did fear men, though God is more deserving
that you should fear Him
” (Q.33:37).

See also Q.18:23-24, etc. Why would he embarrass himself when he could
simply omit or favorably modify such verses in the Qur’an? They
were certainly not to his advantage if his goals were power and prestige.
The existence of such verses only proves that Muhammad (p) was indeed
a truthful and sincere Messenger of God!


The style of the Qur’an


There is a world of difference between the style of the Qur’an
and Muhammad’s own style as recorded in the books of Ahadith. The
differences between the two in every respect – style and contents
– are immediately evident. The sayings of Muhammad (Ahadith) are
conversational, oratorical, and expository, of a kind the Arabs were
already familiar with. By contrast, the style of the Qur’an is
authoritative (“We created the heavens and the earth…;
Say!…) and challenging (“… had it
(the Qur’an) been from any other than God, they would have found
therein much discrepancies
” (Q.4:82;, “
… Say then:
Bring a chapter like it and call, if you can, on other than God…

(Q.10:38); “… then bring a chapter like unto it… and
if you can not — for surely you cannot, then…
” (Q.2:23-24)).


Which fallible human being would write a book and challenge humanity
to find discrepancies in it, as does the author of the Qur’an (Q.4:82)?
Would any sensible student after writing an exam paper add a note to
the lecturer saying “Read my answers with care and find any discrepancies
or mistakes in it if you can!”? The style of the Qur’an is
simply that of the All-Knowing Creator.


Furthermore, the Qur’an is a literary masterpiece of Arabic which was
and remains unrivaled in its eloquence. Its rhythmic style, rhyme, near-haunting
depth of expression, majesty, and “inimitable symphony, the very
sounds of which move men to tears and ecstasy” [49], shook the
foundations of a society which had prided itself on its oratory skills.
Contests were held every year in Makka for who could recite the longest
and most eloquent pieces from memory. When the Qur’an was revealed,
all such contests were brought to a halt, as there was no more competition.


Like the miracle of Moses’ stick turning into a real snake which
outdid the ability of all the Pharaoh’s magicians at a time when the
Egyptians were noted for their mastery of sorcery and magic, and the
miracle of Jesus’ healing of the blind and bringing the dead back
to life which outdid the ability of all the doctors at a time when the
Jews were noted for their mastery of medicine, the Qur’an was the
Prophet Muhammad’s own miracle [50]. How could such magnificent
and unrivaled expressions emanate from a man who, for 40 years, was
never known for any such ability?


Similarities and discrepancies between the Qur’an and the Bible


The mere existence of similarities between any two books is insufficient
to prove that one must have been copied from the other. Both could have
drawn information from a third common source, thus accounting for some
similarities between them. This, in fact, is the argument of the Qur’an
that Allah is the Source of all authentic revelation (Q.4:47).


Some scholars have noted that the only Christians the Prophet (p) is
recorded as having been personally introduced to prior to his mission
did not spend long enough time with him to teach him of their scripture,
and no other historical record mentions anyone who taught the Prophet
from among the Jews and Christians [51]. Furthermore, the Arabs of his
time were very eager to discredit him. Hence, if there was any secret
teacher, he would most likely have been exposed by them then.


Furthermore, could the Qur’an have been copied from the Bible
if they exhibit serious creedal differences? Regarding doctrines such
as the concepts of God and prophethood, sin and forgiveness, the Qur’an
differs significantly with the Bible. The Qur’an in fact addresses
Jews and Christians directly when correcting what it states are corruptions
in their own scriptures. Interestingly, Qur’anic revelations of
doctrinal problems with Christianity were sent largely in the Makkan
period, prior to the Prophet’s migration to Madina, where he would
have encountered many more Jewish and Christian scholars.


Even in the case of narration common to both scriptures, vital discrepancies
can be observed. For example, the Qur’an, unlike the Bible:


— does not blame women for the mistake committed by Adam and Eve
(peace be upon them) in disobeying God in the Garden of Eden. (Compare
Genesis 3:12-17 with Q.91:7-8 and 2:35-37);


— emphasizes that Adam and Eve repented to God (Q.7:23) and were
forgiven by Him (Q.2:37);


— mentions that the eventual dwelling of Adam and Eve on Earth
was already part of God’s plan even before He created them (Q.2:30),
and not a sort of punishment (Genesis 3:17-19).


Other significant variations can be seen in the stories of Solomon
[52], Abraham [53], Ishmael and Isaac, Lot, Noah [54], Moses and Jesus
[55] (peace be upon them).


The Qur’an also mentions a good amount of historical information
about which the Bible is completely silent. From which portion of the
Bible were the following copied?


  • The stories of the people of ‘Ad and Thamud, and their Prophets,
    Hud (p) and Saleh (p).
  • The dialogue between Prophet Noah (p) and his son before the flood
  • The dialogue between Abraham (p) and his father (Q.6:74), as well
    as between he and a king (Q.2:258), and between he and his people
    (Q.22:70-102; 29:16-18; 37:83-98; 21:57).
  • The mention of the city of Iram (Q.89:7).
  • The Pharaoh of the Exodus having drowned, with his body preserved
    as a sign for people of future generations (Q.10:90-92).
  • Jesus’s miracles of speaking from the cradle (Q.3:46), and
    his producing (by God’s will) a bird from clay (Q.3:49), etc.

For further examples, see the following references from the Qur’an:
21:69, 2:260, and 3:37.


Qur’anic teachings about Satan and about morality


Some claim that the Qur’an was the work of the devil [56]. Let
us examine how much sense (or non-sense) this allegation makes.


If he authored or inspired the Qur’an, why would Satan curse himself
and call himself the worst enemy of man (Q.35:6; 36:60)? Why would Satan
command that before reciting the Qur’an, one must first say “I
seek refuge in God from Satan the accursed ” (Q.16:98)? How could
Satan so vehemently condemn himself? Is it really acceptable to common
sense to hold the view that Satan would ask people to do good, to be
moral and virtuous, to worship none but God, to not follow Satan or
his whispers, and to avoid and struggle against evil?


To hold such a view is clearly repugnant to reason, as Satan has only
undermined himself through this means if he is the author. Even the
Bible attests: “And if Satan has risen up against himself and is
divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end.” (Mark 3:26
[57]). This argument applies to any “Satanic forces”, be they
evil spirits”, “deceitful aliens”, etc.


The Qur’an’s factual contents and scientific information


Within the Qur’an are recorded facts about ancient times that
were unknown to Muhammad’s contemporaries and even to historians
in the first half of the 20th century. In scores of verses, we also
find references to scientific wonders, some only recently discovered
or confirmed, regarding the universe, biology, embryology, astronomy,
physics, geography, meteorology, medicine, history, oceanography, etc.

Below are some examples of modern scientific discoveries mentioned in
the Qur’an:


– The Lost City of Iram (Qur’an 89:7)


The existence of the city of Iram was unknown to any historian in the
world prior to the excavation in Syria (in 1973) at the site of the
ancient city of Ebla where clay tablets found there confirmed that the
people of Ebla used to do business with the people of Iram. Details
of this can be found in the National Geographic magazine of December,
1978. So unknown was the city of Iram until recently that even some
Muslim commentators, out of embarrassment or feeling apologetic for
their religion, have commented on this mention of the city in the Qur’an
as being perhaps figurative, saying that Iram was possibly a man and
not a city! How did the author of the Qur’an know of the existence
of the city of Iram (Q.89:7) when no one else knew it?


– Worker bees being female (Qur’an 16:68)


A subtle yet extraordinary precision in describing a natural phenomenon
occurs in Q.16:68: “And your Lord inspired the bee, (saying),
‘Take for yourself dwellings in hills, on trees and in what they (mankind)
” The imperative “take” above is the
translation of the Arabic word “ittakhidhi”, which
is a feminine form (for Arabic verbs, unlike English ones, differentiate
between the sexes). In Arabic, the female form is used when all those
it refers to are female, whereas the masculine is used when a group
contains at least one male. Therefore the Qur’an is in fact saying:

Take for yourself, you female bees, dwellings…


A swarm of bees comprises three types: a queen, the worker bees who
collect honey and build the hive, and the male drones, whose sole purpose
is to impregnate the queen and are then killed off by the worker bees.

These worker bees are all females with underdeveloped sex organs. Thus
the phrasing of this command in the Qur’an is in perfect correspondence
with the fact that male bees do not participate in the construction
of the hive or “dwelling”, which is the sole work of the females.


– Mountains as “stakes” and stabilizers


In his co-authored book entitled “Earth” [58], Professor
Emeritus Frank Press says that mountains have underlying roots. These
roots are deeply embedded in the ground; thus, mountains have a shape
like a stake. [59].


This is just how the Qur’an has described mountains. The Creator
is recorded in the Qur’an (78:6-7) as saying: “Have We not made
the earth as a resting place (for you), and the mountains as (its) stakes?

Modern earth sciences have shown that mountains have deep roots underground,
and that these roots can reach several times their elevations above
the surface of the ground. So the most suitable word to describe mountains
on the basis of this information is the word “stake”, since
most of a properly set (tent) stake is hidden underground. How did the
author of the Qur’an know such a precise description when the theory
of mountains having deep roots was introduced only in the latter half
of the nineteenth century [60].


Mountains also play an important role in stabilizing the crust of the
earth. They hinder the shaking of the earth. The author of the Qur’an
states: “And He has set firm mountains in the earth so that
it could not shake with you…
(Q.16:15) Likewise, the
modern theory of plate tectonics holds that mountains work as stabilizers
of the rapidly spinning earth. This knowledge about the role of mountains
just began to be understood in the late 1960’s. [61].

– The spherical shape of the Earth

In several places (Q.7:54; 36:37; 31:29), the Qur’an directs us
to consider the alternation of night and day as another sign from the
Almighty. For example, the verse 39:5 states: “He wraps
the night around the day and He wraps the day around the night.

The Arabic verb “kawwara” means “to coil or wrap
around” and has the connotation of wrapping or winding something
around a spherical object, such as winding a strand of yarn around its
ball, or a turban cloth around a person’s head.

From the perspective of the planet Earth, this is exactly what takes
place in that a half sphere of night followed by a half sphere of day
is continually being wound around its surface. An observer from space,
looking at Earth from a distance, would see in fact what appears to
be the winding of day and night around the planet in a circular motion.
When observing from a stationary angle, the light of the day appears
to merge into the night and vice versa. This is due to the earth’s
rotation and the sun’s relatively stationary position in relation
to the earth. The Qur’an’s use of words in this description
is thus remarkable.


– The expanding universe (Qur’an 51:47)


By studying the galactic spectrum, scientists have recently established
that the universe is expanding. In the Qur’an (51:47), we read:
The firmament, We have built it with power. Verily, We are
expanding it.
” The word “samaa‘a” means
firmament or heaven in the sense of the extra-terrestrial world, and
the word “musi‘un” is the present plural participle
of the verb “awsa‘a”, which means “to widen,
to extend, to expand.” This fact is confirmed in Stephen Hawking’s
classic book “A Brief History of Time” [62].


– The “Big Bang” (Qur’an 21:30)


In Qur’an 21:30 we read:

Have not those who disbelieve seen that the heavens and
the earth were fused (ratq) and then We broke them apart (fataqa),
and We made every living thing out of water. Will they then not believe?


Scientists have postulated for a long time now that the universe was
originally a single primary mass of nearly infinite density that subsequently
split into multiple fragments after a tremendous explosion, called the
“Big Bang.” It has also been established that all living cells
consist mostly of water, which is the essential element for the existence
of life as we know it. The word “maa’a” is commonly translated
as “water” but refers to both water in the sky and in the
sea, and in fact any sort of liquid [63]. The verse above therefore
is in agreement with scientific observations.


Jeffrey Lang also notes that “the more interesting observation
is that this challenge to unbelievers was proclaimed in the seventh
century. We may ask ourselves: Which unbelievers are being addressed
here? For the contemporaries of Muhammad, this revelation had many compelling
aspects, but this question could not have made much sense to them unless
there was some ancient, and presently unknown, Arabian mythology to
which they could relate it. Was it then meant to be understood by people
of a much later era who would be familiar with modern scientific findings?”


That at one point in time, the whole universe was nothing but
a cloud of “smoke” (Q.41:11)


The description of the Qur’an of the universe as having been shaped
out of a cloud of smoke: “And He who turned [His design] to
the skies when it had been smoke…
” (Q.41:11) is now an undisputed
principle of modern cosmology. The term “smoke” is most befitting
to explain the opaque, highly dense and hot gaseous composition that
existed prior to the universe’s expansion. New stars are in fact still
forming, as astronomers explain, from the remnants of that primary “smoke”
[65]. It is virtually inconceivable that a person of seventh century
Arabia could have known such information about the beginnings of the


The Qur’anic description of the development of the human


The Qur’an (23:12-14) describes the development of the embryo
at a microscopic level inside the womb in the following manner: “Man
We did fashion from a quintessence of clay. Then We placed him as (a
drop of) seminal fluid in a place of rest firmly fixed. Then We fashioned
the seminal fluid into a leech-like thing that clings
 (the word
alaq” is sometimes incorrectly translated as a blood-clot).
Then We fashioned that leech-like thing that clings into a chewed-like
lump. Then We fashioned the chewed-like lump into bones and We clothed
the bones with flesh. Then We developed out of it another creature.
So hallowed be Allah, the Best of Artisans
”; Q.96:1-2: “…who
fashioned man from a leech-like thing that clings
”; and Q.22:5:
We fashioned you out of dust, then out of a drop of fluid,
then out of a leech-like thing that clings, then out of a morsel of
flesh – partly formed and partly unformed
” The incredible
accuracy of these descriptions of the various stages of embryonic development
are confirmed in Keith Moore and T.V.N. Presaud’s 5th edition textbook
The Developing Human” and others [66].


These are just a few of the numerous scientific revelations in the
Qur’an. Readers who are interested in further examples, are referred
to “The Bible, the Qur’an and Science” by Maurice
Bucaille [67], “Struggling to Surrender” p.33-38, by
Jeffery Lang [68], “The Qur’anic Phenomenon” by
Malik Bennabi [69], “The Developing Human”, 3rd edition,
by Keith L. Moore [70], “A Brief Illustrated Guide to Understanding
”, by I. A. Ibrahim, [71], “The Sources of the
” by Hamza Mustapha Njozi [72], “The Basis
of Muslim Beliefs
” [73] and “The Amazing Qur’an
by Gary Miller [74], etc.


How many well trained modern scientists and geniuses with the aid of
hi-tech equipment, satellites, telescopes, microscopes and computers
were required to discover the above facts, and over what time span?
Is it even conceivable that any human being over 1,400 years ago could
have produced a scripture with such information in it, let alone a person
who had never been educated?


Although the inability of man to encompass all the mysteries and complexity
of creation is mentioned in the Qur’an (67:3-4), the revelation
nevertheless seems to point to various natural phenomena as if urging
human beings to enquire and verify what is said – again, with such
an attitude of confidence that one can only assume the author is indeed
challenging our disbelief. To be generous to the skeptic, perhaps one
or two of the scientific revelations were the result of nothing more
than a good guess or coincidence, but how probable could it have been
that they all were?


Comparing Qur’anic statements that deal with the physical universe
with certain scientific notions leads us to discover profound similarities.
But, more notably, as Dr. Maurice Bucaille observes, the Qur’an
is distinguished from all other works of antiquity that describe or
attempt to explain the workings of nature in that it avoids mistaken
concepts. For in the Qur’an, many subjects are referred to that
have a bearing on modern knowledge without a single statement that contradicts
what has been established by present-day science. [75].


Dr. Bucaille goes as far as to conclude his study with the following
remark: “In view of the level of knowledge in Muhammad’s day,
it is inconceivable that many statements in the Qur’an which are
connected with science could have been the work of a man. It is, moreover,
perfectly legitimate, not only to regard the Qur’an as an expression
of Revelation, but also to award it a very special place, on account
of the guarantee of authenticity it provides and the presence in it
of scientific statements which, when studied today, appear as a challenge
to explanation in human terms.” [76].




In examining the possible source of the Qur’an we have covered
the following points:


  • Muhammad’s being unlettered,
  • Muhammad’s integrity,
  • The Style of the Qur’an,
  • Discrepancies between the Qur’an and the Bible,
  • Qur’anic teachings about Satan and about morality, and
  • The Qur’an’s factual contents and scientific information.

These points were presented to aid us in our “elimination process”
of unacceptable sources or authors of the Qur’an, as follows:


Muhammad (p): We might start by eliminating Muhammad (p) from the list
of possible authors of the Qur’an. There is just no way he could
have authored the Qur’an in view of points 1, 2, 3, 5 and 6 presented


Other Arab Poet(s), Scholar(s), etc. We can also eliminate any other
Arab from the list of possible authors in view of points 2, 3 and 6
(at least).


Some non-Arab: The reasons for the elimination of any Arab from the
list also eliminate any non-Arab scholar, poet or religious personality.


Christian Monks or Jewish Rabbis (i.e. Judeo-Christian sources): This
alternative source of the Qur’an is unreasonable in view of points
1, 2, 3, 4 and 6.


Satan (or other deceitful spirits or aliens, or anyone on his side,
etc.): This option is also unacceptable in view of the points discussed,
especially under 5.


God (i.e. Allah): In the absence of any more acceptable alternative
as source and author of the Qur’an, one is more or less forced
by reason to accept the Qur’an for what it claims to be –
revelation from God through His Prophet Muhammad (p). This position
seems reasonable not just because it is the only option that cannot
be objectively eliminated, but because it is only reasonable to expect
that a book with such qualities and contents would come from man’s
Creator and Guide. Of all the possible sources of the Qur’an, it
is also only the last alternative – God – who even claims
in the Qur’an itself to be the author of the scripture.


The position, therefore, which holds that Allah is the author of the
Qur’an still stands, and the challenge (or falsification test,
Q.4:82) remains open to anyone to disprove the Qur’an’s claim
to being revelation from Allah. Having undertaken this task ourselves,
the Muslim’s contention that the Qur’an is the Word of God appears not
just a product of blind faith but, in fact, a product of very sound
and reasoned judgment in light of all the available evidence. Indeed,
after having assessed the evidence, it would be blind faith to contend


Note: The evidence for the Divine Authorship of the Qur’an is
also evidence for the existence of the Divine. Allah must exist, unless
a more reasonably acceptable author of the Qur’an can be produced!




[1] Muhammad Hamidullah, Introduction to Islam, London: MWH
Publishers, 1979, p.17


[2] Michael Zwettler, The Oral Tradition of Classical Arabic Poetry,
Ohio State Press, 1978, p.14


[3] Sahih al-Bukhari Vol.6, Hadith No.546


[4] Sahih al-Bukhari Vol.6, Hadith No.525


[5] Ahmad von Denffer, Ulum al-Qur’an, The Islamic Foundation,
UK, 1983, p.41-42; Arthur Jeffery, Materials for the History of the
Text of the Qur’an
, Leiden: Brill, 1937, p.31


[6] Sahih al-Bukhari Vol.6, Hadith No.519


[7] Sahih al-Bukhari Vol.6, Hadith Nos.518 & 520


[8] Ibn Hisham, Seerah al-Nabi, Cairo, n.d., Vol.1, p.199


[9] Labib as-Said, The Recited Koran, translated by Morroe Berger,
A. Rauf, and Bernard Weiss, Princeton: The Darwin Press, 1975, p.59


[10] William Graham, Beyond the Written Word, UK: Cambridge
University Press, 1993, p.80


[11] Kenneth Cragg, The Mind of the Qur’an, London: George Allen
& Unwin, 1973, p.26


[12] Jalal al-Din Suyuti, Al-Itqan fi ‘Ulum al-Qur’an, Beirut:
Maktab al-Thaqaafiyya, 1973, Vol.1, p.41 & 99


[13] Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani, Al-Isabah fi Taymeez as-Sahabah,
Beirut: Dar al-Fikr, 1978; Bayard Dodge, The Fihrist of al-Nadim:
A Tenth Century Survey of Muslim Culture
, NY: Columbia University
Press, 1970, p.53-63. Muhammad M. Azami, in Kuttab al-Nabi, Beirut:
Al-Maktab al-Islami, 1974, in fact mentions 48 persons who used to write
for the Prophet (p)


[14] al-Harith al-Muhasabi, Kitab Fahm al-Sunan, cited in Suyuti,
Al-Itqan fi ‘Ulum al-Qur’an, Vol.1, p.58


[15] Sahih al-Bukhari Vol.6, Hadith Nos.201 & 509; Vol.9,
Hadith No.301


[16] Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani, Fath al-Bari, Vol.9, p.10-11


[17] Sahih al-Bukhari, Vol.6, Hadith No.201


[18] Sahih al-Bukhari Vol.6, Hadith Nos. 513-514; Jalal al-Din
Suyuti, Al-Itqan fi ‘Ulum al-Qur’an, Beirut: Maktab al-Thaqaafiyya,
1973, Vol.1, p.41


[19] Sahih al-Bukhari Vol.6, Hadith No.510


[20] Sahih al-Bukhari Vol.4, Hadith No.709; Vol.6, Hadith No.507


[21] see Nizam al-Din al-Naysaburi, Ghara’ib al-Qur’an wa Ragha’ib
, Cairo, 1962; Ibn Abi Dawud, Kitab al-Masaahif,
p.12, in Arthur Jeffery, Materials for the History of the Text of
the Qur’an
, Leiden: Brill, 1937; and Badr al-Din al-Zarkashi, Al-Burhan
fi Ulum al-Qur’an
, Cairo, 1957, Vol.1, p.240 respectively


[22] including a continuous chain of reporters, each reporter’s memory
skills and record of honesty, evidence that they were there at the time
of the event, as well as textual consistency with the Qur’an and other
established Ahadith.


[23] Ignaz Goldziher, Muslim Studies II, London: George Allen
& Unwin Ltd., 1971


[24] For an example of this, see the discussion of the variance in
the manuscripts of some Companions in footnote 41, p.48 in Von Denffer,
Ulum al-Qur’an, The Islamic Foundation, UK, 1983


[25] Bilal Philips, Usool at-Tafseer, Sharjah: Dar al-Fatah,
1997, p.159


[26] Jeffrey Lang, Struggling to Surrender, Maryland: Amana
Publications, 1994, p.92


[27] Edward Said, Orientalism, NY: Pantheon Books, 1978


[28] Muhammad M. Azami, Studies in Early Hadith Literature,
Beirut, 1968


[29] see, for example, Fuad Sezgin, Geschichte der Arabischen Schrifttums,
Leiden: Brill, 1967, Vol.1; Muhammad Hamidullah, Sahifa Hammam ibn
Munabbih: The Earliest Extant Work on the Hadith
, Paris: Centre
Cultural Islamique, 1979


[30] Jeffrey Lang, Struggling to Surrender, Maryland: Amana
Publications, 1994, p.90-105


[31] Muhammad Mohar Ali, Sirat al-Nabi and the Orientalists,
Vol.1A & B, Madina Munawwara: King Fahd Complex for the Printing
of the Holy Qur’an, 1997 (A very comprehensive analysis of the major
theories – well worth the read)


[32] Muhammad M. Azami, Studies in Early Hadith Literature,
Beirut, 1968


[33] Nabia Abbott, Studies in Arabic Literary Papyri, Vol.1:
Historic Texts, Chicago, 1957, & Vol.2: Qur’anic Commentary and
Tradition, Chicago, 1967


[34] Muhammad Z. Siddiqi, Hadith Literature, Calcutta: Calcutta
University Press, 1961


[35] Suhaib H. Abdul Ghafar, Criticism of Hadith among Muslims,
IFTA, 1984


[36] H.A.R. Gibb, Mohammedanism, London: Oxford University Press,
1969, p.50


[37] John Burton, The Collection of the Qur’an, Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1977, p. 171


[38] John Burton, The Collection of the Qur’an, Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1977, p.239-40


[39] Kenneth Cragg, The Mind of the Qur’an, London: George Allen
& Unwin, 1973, p.26


[40] Schwally, Geschichte des Qorans, Leipzig: Dieterich’sche Verlagsbuchhandlung,1909-38,
Vol.2, p.120


[41] Yusuf Ibrahim al-Nur, Ma’ al-Masaahif, Dubai: Dar al-Manar,
1st ed., 1993, p.117; Isma’il Makhdum, Tarikh al-Mushaf al-Uthmani
fi Tashqand, Tashkent: Al-Idara al-Diniya
, 1971, p.22ff


[42] The Muslim World, 1940, Vol.30, p.357-358


[43] Yusuf Ibrahim al-Nur, Ma’ al-Masaahif, Dubai: Dar al-Manar,
1st ed., 1993, p.113


[44] Bilal Philips, Usool at-Tafseer, Sharjah: Dar al-Fatah,
1997, p.157


[45] Mohammed Hamidullah, Muhammad Rasullullah, Lahore: Idara-e-Islamiat,
n.d., p.179


[46] Sir William Muir, Life of Mohamet, London, 1894, Vol.1,


[47] see Fredrick Denny, Islam, NY: Harper & Row, 1987,
p.88; Dr. Maurice Bucaille, The Bible, the Qur’an and Science,
Indianapolis: American Trust Publications, 1983, p.163; and H.A.R. Gibb,
Wither Islam, NY: A.M.S. Press, 1932, p.350; etc.


[48] see for example, H.A.R. Gibb, Mohammedanism, London: Oxford
University Press, 1962, p.25


[49] Marmaduke Pickthall, The Meaning of the Glorious Quran,
New York: The Muslim World League, 1977, p.vii


[50] Sahih al-Bukhari Vol.6, Hadith No.504; Sahih Muslim Vol.1,
Hadith No.283


[51] Bilal Philips, Usool at-Tafseer, Sharjah: Dar al-Fatah,
1997, p.127-128


[52] eg. the Qur’an rejects that this Prophet was ever a worshipper
of idols – compare Q.2:102 with 1 Kings 11:4


[53] eg. the Qur’an describes the account of the story of God’s command
to sacrifice his son as occurring in a dream with his son as a willing
participant before being saved by God’s intervention, while the Bible
speaks of God speaking directly to him and his son as unaware of his
plans – compare Q.37:99-111 with Genesis 22:1-19


[54] The Bible describes the Great Flood as covering the entire Earth
whereas the Qur’an describes the flood as a local event only, a description
which is more consistent which scientific evidence – compare Q.25:37
with Genesis 7:23


[55] A critical difference is the Qur’an’s insistence that Jesus (p)
was never truly crucified


[56] see Norman Daniel’s Islam and the West: the Making of
an Image
, UK: Edinburgh University Press, 1989, p.83, 94, etc.


[57] cited in H.M. Njozi, The Sources of the Qur’an: A Critical
Review of the Authorship Theories
, Saudi Arabia: WAMY Publications,
1991, p.96


[58] Frank Press and Raymond Siever, Earth, W.H. Freeman, 1986.


[59] See also E.J. Tarbuck and F.K. Lutgens, Earth Science,
8th edition, Prentice-Hall, 1997, p. 157


[60] Z.R. El-Naggar, The Geological Concept of Mountains in the
, The Association of Muslim Scientists and Engineers
and the International Institute of Islamic Thought, Research Monograph
Series No.3, 1991


[61] ibid.


[62] Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time, London: Bantam
Books, 1990, p.13


[63] Maurice Bucaille, What is the Origin of Man?, Paris: Seghers,
1983, p.166


[64] Jeffrey Lang, Struggling to Surrender, Maryland: Amana
Publications, 1994, p.36


[65] Stephen Weinberg, The First Three Minutes: A Modern View of
the Origin of the Universe
, London: Andre Deutsch, 1977, p.94-105.
See also I.A. Ibrahim, A Brief Illustrated Guide to Understanding
, Houston, Darussalam Publishers, 1997, p.14


[66] K.L. Moore and T.V.N. Presaud, The Developing Human, 5th
edition, Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders Co., 1993, p.8. See also I.A. Ibrahim,
A Brief Illustrated Guide to Understanding Islam, Houston: Darussalam
Publishers, 1997, p.6-11; Maurice Bucaille, What is the Origin of
, Paris: Seghers, 1983, p.182-188; and Jeffrey Lang, Struggling
to Surrender
, Maryland: Amana Publications, 1994, p.34


[67] Maurice Bucaille, The Bible, the Qur’an and Science, Indianapolis:
American Trust Publications, 1978


[68] Jeffrey Lang, Struggling to Surrender, Maryland: Amana
Publications, 1994


[69] Malik Bennabi, The Qur’anic Phenomenon, transl. A.B. Kirkary,
Indianapolis: American Trust Publications, 1983


[70] Keith Moore, The Developing Human, 3rd edition, Philadelphia:
W.B. Saunders Co., 1982


[71] I.A. Ibrahim, A Brief Illustrated Guide to Understanding Islam,
Houston: Darussalam Publishers, 1997


[72] H.M. Njozi, The Sources of the Qur’an: A Critical Review of
the Authorship Theories
, Saudi Arabia: WAMY Publications, 1991


[73] Gary Miller, The Basis of Muslim Beliefs, Kuala Lampur:
Prime Minister’s Department – Islamic Affairs Division, 1995




[75] Maurice Bucaille, The Bible, the Qur’an and Science, Indianapolis:
American Trust Publications, 1978


[76] ibid., p.163

The name of this religion is Islam, the Arabic root of which is “Silm” or “Salam”, both meaning peace.


by Sulaiman Dufford


I. Islam and Muslims


The name of this religion is Islam, the Arabic root of which is “Silm” or “Salam”, both meaning peace. “Salam” may also mean greeting one another with peace. One of the beautiful names of God is that He is The Peace, but this Divine Name also means more than that: it means submission to the One God, and living in peace with the Creator. It means living in peace with one’s self, with other people, and with the natural environment. A Muslim is supposed to live in peace and harmony with all these segments. Hence, a Muslim is any person anywhere in the world whose obedience, allegiance, and loyalty are to God, the Lord of the Universe, and to the innate harmony of His Creation. Thus, Islam is a total system of living.


II. Muslims and Arabs


The followers of Islam are called Muslims. Muslims are not to be confused with Arabs. Muslims may be Arabs, Turks, Persians, Indians, Pakistanis, Malaysians, Indonesians, Europeans, Africans, Americans, Chinese, Russians, or other nationalities.


An Arab could be a Muslim, a Christian, a Jew, or an atheist. Any person who adopts the Arabic language is called an Arab. However, the language of the Qur’an (the Revealed Book of Islam) is also Arabic. Muslims all over the world try to learn Arabic so that they may be able to read the Qur’an and understand its meaning. Although personal supplications can be in any language, Muslims pray their five required daily prayers in the language of the Qur’an, namely Arabic, which is also, and perhaps not by coincidence, one of the most stable, sophisticated, and beautiful languages in modern history.


Thus, whereas some religions have their liturgical languages (such as the Catholics used to have Latin), the Muslims are blessed with more than that. The Muslims have a Revelatory Language, the unchanged and incorruptible language in which the Qur’an was actually received. The Prophet Muhammad was confronted and entranced by the Angel Gabriel off and on over a period of years in both Makkah and Madinah, and all of these segments of the Qur’an were immediately dictated to his Companions.


Yet, even though there are more than a billion Muslims in the world, there are only about two hundred million Arabs, of whom about ten percent are not Muslim. Thus, Arab Muslims constitute only about twenty percent of the Muslim population of the world.


III. Allah, the One and Only God


Although Allah is the name of the One and Only God, we may call Him by ninety-nine other beautiful names, such as: The Gracious, The Merciful, The Beneficent, The Creator, The All-Knowing, The All-Wise, The Lord of the Universe, The First, The Last, and others. He is the Creator of all human beings. He is the God for the Christians, the Jews, the Muslims, the Buddhists, the Hindus, the atheists, and others. Muslims put their trust entirely in Allah, and they seek only His help and only His guidance.


IV. Muhammad


Muhammad was chosen by God to deliver His Message of Peace, namely Islam. Muhammad was born in 570 C.E. (Christian or Common Era), in Makkah in Arabia. He was entrusted with the Message of Islam when he was at the age of forty years. The revelation that he received is called the Qur’an, while the message is called Islam.


Muhammad is considered to be the summation and the culmination of all the prophets and messengers that came before him. He purified the previous messages from adulteration and completed the Message of God for all humanity. He was also entrusted with the power of explaining, interpreting, and living the teachings of the Qur’an. When asked why he did not perform miracles as other prophets before him were said to have done, he replied that the Qur’an was his miracle.


V. The Sources of Islam


The legal sources of Islam are the Qur’an and the Hadith. The Qur’an contains the exact words of God – its authenticity, originality, and totality are intact. The Hadith are reports by Companions of Muhammad of indisputable integrity of the sayings, deeds, and explanations of the Prophet Muhammad. The Prophet’s sayings and deeds themselves are called “Sunnah”. Those related to explication of verses of the Qur’an are considered binding upon all Muslims. Those Hadith related to Prophet Muhammad’s dress and personal behavior as an Arab are considered optional. However, the “Seerah”, or writings of followers of Muhammad about his life and actions, provide examples of daily living for Muslims.


VI. The Islamic Creed


Muslims, or those who wish to convert to Islam, must agree to and hold the following beliefs as inviolable:


1) Oneness of God


He is One and the Only One. He is not two-in-one or three-in-one. This means that Islam rejects the idea of a trinity, a son of God, or any man-god. By implication, people are created equal in front of the Law of God. There is no superiority for one race over another. However, God has created the races with different ethnic cultures, colors, languages, beliefs, and skills, so as to interest and inspire one another. The Qur’anic teaching is that the different races are meant to be complementary, not confrontational. The concept is global, not tribal. If there is superiority among mankind, it is only God Who knows what it really is. It is only God Who knows which men or women are among the truly pious or the truly righteous.


2) The Revealed Books


Christians, Jews, and Muslims are all “People of the Book”. All have received teachings revealed directly from God, and perhaps others before them have received revealed Books as well, even though their books may have been lost or fragmented. The Qur’an, being the only fully authentic and unchanged of the revealed Books, is considered the final treasure given to mankind. Further advice is not needed, only deeper understanding of divine advice already given in the Qur’an, as well as earlier books. Muslims are required to believe in and respect all revealed Books that have descended to mankind throughout its history.


God promised in the Qur’an to protect its contents until the end of history, and evidence of that protection can be found in the thousands and thousands of children, as well as devout adults, who can recite the entire Qur’an BY MEMORY, from cover to cover, as well as the millions who can and do recite portions of it every day of their lives.


3) The Prophets of God


Muslims believe that God sent different messengers throughout the history of mankind. All came with the same message and the same teachings. It was the people who misunderstood and misinterpreted them. Muslims believe in, among others, Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Ismail, Jacob, Moses, David, Jesus, and Muhammad. The Prophets of Christianity and Judaism are indeed the Prophets of Islam. Even the Buddha may have been a prophet whose original teachings were lost or corrupted, since the Qur’an states that many prophets unknown to modern history also brought revealed Books and teachings. The Hindu Vedas may have been fragments of the Book brought by Abraham (Brahmanism).


4) Angels


Muslims believe that there are unseen creatures such as angels created by God for special missions in the universe. At the end of every prayer, Muslims give the greeting of “Peace” to the angels which accompany them over each shoulder – to the right, the Recording Angel for our good deeds; to the left, the Recording Angel for our sins. The Qur’an was revealed and taught to Prophet Muhammad through the agency of the Angel Gabriel. The Prophet tells many stories in his Hadith about angels appearing in the world.


5) The Day of Judgement


Muslims believe that there is a Day of Judgement when all people of the world throughout the history of mankind till the last day of life on earth, are to be brought for accounting, reward, and punishment. The Prophet enjoined all Muslims to hold the reality of this day in awe and trepidation, and to manage all their earthly affairs with the inevitability of this day in mind. To that end, the following Islamic rituals and actions have been given by God to the Prophet, and thence to all the Muslims, to protect and sharpen Muslims’ remembrance of the Last Day.


VII. Islamic Practices


Whereas the Islamic creed shares much with other world religions, the true Muslim distinguishes himself from the followers of these other religions by means of diligent study and practice of the following rituals and practices, known as the FIVE PILLARS OF ISLAM:


1) Witnessed Profession of Faith (“Shahada”)


The verbal commitment and pledge that there is only One God and that Muhammad is the Messenger of God, is considered to be the Creed of Islam. In addition to anyone who is born to Muslim parents, anyone who utters the words of this creed before two sane, adult Muslim witnesses has become Muslim all the rest of his life, both in this world and the next.


2) Prayer (“Salat”)


In further witness thereto, children and Muslim converts eight years of age and up are required to learn the distinctive Islamic way of approaching the One God by means of the Muslim Prayer, or “Salat”, as revealed to Prophet Muhammad on his miraculous Ascension to the Throne of Allah, which began from the famous golden “Dome of the Rock” in Jerusalem. This Dome is not really a mosque, as is often supposed. It is rather a shrine to the Prophet’s Ascension. However, it is sometimes also referred to as the “Mosque of Omar”, because it was built by the Caliph Omar to mark and protect the large rock within it, from which the Prophet’s journey to Heaven traditionally began. The third holiest mosque in Islam is nearby, the “Aqsa Mosque” at the other end of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.


Although children and new Muslims are given any amount of time to learn their “Salat” properly, it is an absolute requirement for anyone who calls himself Muslim. It generally becomes second nature, something like the act of respiration, for those of sincere dedication to Islam. The absence of “Salat” may create various hazards for Muslims who think they can ignore this bedrock of Muslim worship with impunity. “Salat” contains many benefits and secrets for the worshipper, psychological as well as spiritual.


3) Fasting (“Saum”)


Every ninth month of the Muslim lunar calendar is Ramadan, and the Qur’an orders all Muslims of sound mind and body to fast from dawn until sunset all the days of the month. No drinking, eating, or marital relations are permitted. In addition, harsh words, acts of anger, and various other emotional indulgences are also not permitted. As with “Salat”, this Ramadan fast holds many secrets and benefits. Many Muslim converts come to Islam AFTER practicing this fast and experiencing the proofs and benefits thereof.


4) Purifying Tax (“Zakat”)


The distinction between pure and impure financial gain is important in Islam, and in order to protect oneself against the temptations of undeserved or impure gain, every Muslim must pay a given percentage of his wealth to the poor or other rightful beneficiaries before the end of every Ramadan month. There have been eras in Islamic history when the “Zakat” system solved all the problems of poverty and hardship within Muslim communities.


5) Pilgrimage (“Hajj”)


The performance of pilgrimage to Makkah is required once in a lifetime if means are available. “Hajj” is partly in memory of the trials and tribulations of Prophet Abraham, his wife Hagar, and their eldest son Prophet Ismail. A successful “Hajj” may not be performed on credit. It is sometimes taught that a reasonably successful Ramadan fast must precede the “Hajj”, which is then considered a response to an invitation from Allah, the Most High, to visit His Holy House on earth. The realty of heaven, hell, prayers of supplication, and forgiveness of one’s sins, are all often experienced by sincere “Hajjis”.


VIII. Other Related Aspects


Following from the beliefs and practices mentioned above, Muslims gain personal conviction that people are born free of sin. It is only after they commit sins that they are to be charged for their mistakes. No one is responsible for or can take responsibility for the sins of others. However, the door of forgiveness through true repentence is always open, provided it is accompanied by sincere remorse.


Muslims believe that Islam is a total and a complete way of life. It encompasses all aspects of life. As such, the teachings of Islam do not separate religion from politics. As a matter of fact, both private and public life are considered under the obedience of Allah through His teachings. Hence, economic and social transactions, as well as educational and political systems, are also part of this obedience.


However, early Islamic polities did not call themselves, or refer to, an “Islamic State”. All states must be Islamic in values and beliefs, whether or not they refer to themselves as “Islamic”. Admittedly, many modern states do not yet reach this standard, though they may be full of Muslims.

Islamic practices and celebrations are based on the lunar calendar. However, most Muslim countries use the Gregorian solar calendar for business or economic purposes. Central to Islamic culture, however, is the “Hijra”, or migration of the Prophet and all Muslims from Makkah to Madinah in the year 623 C.E. This “Hijra” enshrines each Muslim’s individual effort to free himself from the bonds or dangers of the non-Muslim elements of the culture into which he or she may have been born. Therefore, only the “Hijra”, or lunar calendar, truly expresses distinctively Muslim culture, and should hang in every Muslim home on earth.


The two main celebrations marked by the “Hijra” or lunar calendar, are the Idul Fitra, which follows Ramadan and celebrates whatever degree of inner revelation we may have attained by virtue of our diligent fasting; and the Idul Adha, which follows the Pilgrimage Season and celebrates our gratitude for the performance of a successful “Hajj” by ourselves or those Muslims who were able that year, by means of sacrificing dedicated animals to feed the poor.


Charity at the end of Ramadan is economic, charity at the end of Hajj season is by feeding the poor.


As for the Islamic diet, only animals slaughtered in the name of the One God should be eaten by Muslims, although some jurists allow western meat to be eaten since western Christians are still considered “People of the Book”. A further consideration, however, is that “zabiha” slaughter must also involve draining of the blood, so that most western meat suppliers cannot be considered fully “zabiha”. Muslims are also restricted from consuming pork, alcohol, or any dangerous or addictive drug.


The Muslim place of worship is called a Mosque or Masjid. The three most holy places of worship in the world for Muslims are: Mosque of Ka’aba in Makkah, Mosque of the Prophet Muhammad in Madinah, and Masjid Aqsa, adjacent to Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem.


A Muslim may pray anywhere in the world, whether in a Mosque, a house, an office, or outside. The whole world is a place of worship. Muslims may pray individually anywhere, though it is preferable to pray in congregation.


The special day for Muslims is Friday. It is considered sacred and it is said that the Day of Judgement will take place on Friday. A leader (“Imam”) gives a sermon (“Khutba”) and leads the congregational prayer. However, in contrast to the Jewish and Christian “Sabbath” days (Saturday and Sunday), Muslims are allowed to return to their economic activities immediately after the Friday prayers.


Although differing in days of congregational worship, Muslims, Christians, and Jews are all called “People of the Book” in the Qur’an and they are advised to work together for common terms, to worship the One God, and to cooperate in solving the many problems in society.


Modern European Jewish Zionism is considered a political maneuver that is totally distinct from Judaism as a monotheistic religious entity, with whom Muslims have no quarrel. Proof of the peaceful relations between Muslims and Jews can be found in the many Jews who fled the Catholic Inquisition in Spain and were welcomed by the Muslims. These Jews settled in the heart of the Islamic Caliphate. They enjoyed positions of power and authority.

Back to top button