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  Frequently asked question abut Islam  
What is Sufism?

The word “Sufism” is thought to come from the Arabic word suf (wool). In the centuries after Islam’s revelation, Muslims who chose to adopt the ascetic lifestyle of a Sufi (one who espouses the views and practices of Sufism) often preferred rough woolen clothing in symbolic rejection of worldly matters and materials. Essentially, Sufism may be defined as an approach, within an Islamic framework, by which believers desire to achieve communion with God. Sufis are typically organized in groups or orders known as tariqas, usually named after the historical founder. For example, the Naqshbandi order was founded by Baha ud-Din an Naqshabandi (d.1389 C.E.) and the Mevlevi order was founded by Jalal ud-Din Rumi (d.1273 C.E.). Leaders of Sufi orders are usually titled Shaykh (leader or chief), and new initiates are given the title murid. The tariqahs have developed various supererogatory prayers and rituals to exalt God and enable individual Sufis to feel subsumed into the “light” of God. Fervent dancing in circular patterns, practiced in some tariqahs, is an example of such rituals. More often, Sufis engage in devotional prayers and repetition of phrases glorifying God, such as Alhamdu Lillah, “Praise b to God”. In short, Sufism emphasizes inner spiritual growth and love for God over legalistic observance of religious duties. Sufis comprise a minority among Muslims, yet their emphasis on spirituality and piety has great influence upon other Muslims. Indeed, in the course of Muslim history, Sufis have been great teachers and role models, and Sufis are credited in large part with the spread of Islam in India, Africa, central Asia and Southeast Asia.

  Who were the Sahabah?  
The Makkah of Muhammad (SAW)’s time was a center of polytheistic practices and tribal affiliations dictated power and social relations. Many of the Quraysh opposed the Prophet, since his revolutionary message of social justice and equality undermined their sense of tradition, prosperity and tribal obligation. However, there were some who responded to the Prophet (SAW)’s call to righteousness and belief in the One God. Gradually, the number of Muslims grew. These individuals, who embraced Islam and who were close companions of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW), are known as Sahabah. They were witness to Prophet(SAW)’s life and learnt Islam directly from him. Accounts from the lives of the Sahabah (companions) are important as additional sources for proper behavior and practice. Many of the characteristics exhibited by various companions of the Prophet 9SAW) serve as inspiration to Muslims the world over. For example, the courage of Ali ibn Abi Talib sleeping in the Prophet (SAW)’s stead on the night the Quraysh planned to assassinate him reminds Muslims to challenge hostility or ill- will head on, and the ingenuity of Salman al-Farsi, who recommended that the Muslims dig a deep trench around Madinah to thwart the forces of the Quraysh during one particular battle encourages Muslims to constantly seek novel solutions to seemingly insurmountable obstacles. And the selfless dedication and piety of Sumayyah bint Khubbat, who was killed by a Quraysh notable for her newly adopted belief in Islam, thereby becoming first martyr, is also well remembered.

What is the Islamic concept of worship?


The regular performance of acts of worship, such as salah (formal worship) and sawm (fasting), is essential for acknowledging God’s authority in one’s life and for spiritual growth. While these acts involve specific practices and statements, Islam does not teach blind ritualistic imitation. Muslims believe that God does not want from His servants’ absent-minded movement of the tongue and body, rather HE wants attention of the heart and sincere actions. Consequently, the neeyah, or intention that one has before fulfilling a particular obligation, counts a great deal. Indeed, a hadith states “Actions are judged according to intentions”. Interestingly the Arabic word ibadah means, “Worship” as well as “service”. Thus to worship God means not only to love and exalt Him but also to serve him by living in accord with His guidance in every aspect of life, to enjoin goodness among people and forbid wrong doing and oppression, to practice charity and justice, and to serve Him by serving humanity. “It is not righteousness that you turn your faces towards East or West; but it is righteousness to believe in God and the Last Day and the Angels and the Scripture and the Messengers; to spend of your wealth, out of love for Him, for your kin, for orphans, for the needy, for the wayfarer, and for those who ask, and for freeing slaves; to observe prayer and give charity; to fulfill the contracts that you have made, to be firm and patient in pain and in adversity, and time of stress: such are those who are sincere. Such are the God-conscious.”(Qur’an,2:177)


Is it true that Islam produces a lazy uneducated society?


The reasons given for this misconception is false, and the misconception itself is actually refuted directly by the Qur’an and Sunnah. While it is true that the Creator is the source of everything to us, it is not true that this can be used as an excuse for humanity to hide behind as the following verses of the Qur’an state (translation), [16:35]
The worshippers of the false gods say: “If Allah had so willed, we should not have worshipped anything but Him-neither we nor our fathers, -nor should we have prescribed prohibitions other than His.” So did those who went before them. But what is the mission of messengers but to preach the Clear Message? 
And also in [43:20]
They (the idolaters) say, “If it had been the will of Allah the Most Merciful, we should not have worshipped such (deities)!” Of that they have no knowledge: they do nothing but lie!
Allah has taught us via the Qur’an and Sunnah that we all have a certain amount of free will. This free will must be exercised properly in accordance with the Qur’an and Sunnah to please the Creator. This is plenty of motivation for all Muslims to push themselves to be the most knowledgeable, effective Muslims they can be. If Muslims societies are not meeting their potential, it is surely not due to their knowledge of Islam, rather it is their ignorance of this way of life. The importance of seeking knowledge and working are made clear in the Sunnah. From the Sunnah, specially in the study of the Sunnah called Sunan Abu Dawud, we find: [9:1637] Narrated by Anas ibn Malik: A man of the Ansar came to the Prophet (PBUH) and begged from him. He (the Prophet) asked: Have you nothing in your house? He replied: Yes, a piece of cloth, a part of which we wear and a part of which we spread (on the ground), and a wooden bowl from which we drink water. He said: Bring them to me. He then brought these articles to him and he(the Prophet) took them in his hands and asked: Who will buy these? A man said: I shall buy them for one dirham. He said twice or thrice: Who will offer more than one dirham? A man said: I shall buy them for two dirhams. He gave these to him and took the two dirhams and, giving them to Ansari, he said: Buy food with one of them and hand it to your family, and buy an axe and bring it to me. He then brought it to him. The Apostle of Allah (PBUH) fixed a handle on it with his own hands and said: Go, gather firewood and sell it, and do not let me see you for a fortnight. The man went away and gathered firewood and sold it. When he had earned ten dirhams, he came to him and bought a garment with some of them and food with the others. The Apostle of Allah (PBUH) then said: This is better for you than that begging should come as a spot on your face on the Day of Judgment. Begging is right only for three people: one who is in grinding poverty, one who is seriously in debt or one who is responsible for compensations and finds it difficult to pay. Also from the Sunnah, specifically in the study of the Sunnah called Sunan Ibn Majah, we find that the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said: Seeking knowledge is a duty upon every Muslim. Knowledge of the Qur’an and the Sunnah are clearly the best types of knowledge, and knowledge, which benefits humanity, is good as well. The Qur’an and the Sunnah do not condemn the study of this earth and in fact the Creator encourages us to investigate the world we live in according to the following verse from the Qur’an  (translation), [3:190-191]
Behold! in the creations of the heavens and the earth, and the alteration of the night and the day, there are indeed signs for people of understanding. People who celebrate the praises of Allah, standing, sitting, and lying down on their sides, and contemplate the (wonders of) creation in the heavens and the earth, (with the thought): “Our Lord! not for nothing have You created (all) this! Glory to You! Give us Salvation from the penalty of the Fire.”


How were divine scriptures reveled?


The angel or heavenly Spirit Jibreel (Gabriel) is believed to have transmitted divine communications from God to human Prophets and personages [such as Mary, mother of Jesus(PBUH)]. As such, Jibreel figures prominently in the history of scriptural revelation, culminating, with the holy book revealed to Muhammad (PBUH). In 610 C.E., at the age of 40, while in spiritual retreat in the cave of Hira above Makkah, Muhammad (PBUH)was visited by Jibreel for the first time. During this encounter, Jibreel revealed the first of many divine versus that would eventually comprise the Qur’an. Muslims believe God revealed His holy scriptures to the Prophets in their native language. For this reason, the Torah was revealed to Moses(PBUH) in Hebrew, while the Qur’an was revealed to Muhammad(PBUH) in Arabic.


What is a “divinely revealed” scripture?


A divinely revealed scripture is a holy book or collection of writings believed to have divine, rather than human origins. Muslims believe God revealed scriptures to certain Prophets to communicate His commandments and guidance to humanity. For Muslims, belief in the original scriptures revealed to Abraham(PBUH)[Scrolls],Moses(PBUH)[Torah, including the Ten Commandments],David(PBUH)[Psalms] and Jesus(PBUH)[Evangelium or original Gospel] is an essential component of faith. Indeed, one cannot be considered a Muslim unless one believes in these previous scriptures and their historical role in the spiritual development of humankind.


What does Islam say about Polygamy?


The religion of Islam was revealed for all societies and all times and so accommodates widely different social requirements. Circumstances may warrant the taking of another wife but the right is granted, according t the Qur’an, only on the condition that the husband is scrupulously fair. No woman can be forced into this kind of marriage contract. Polygamy is neither mandatory, nor encouraged, but merely permitted. Images of “sheikhs with harems are not consistent with Islam, as a man is only allowed at most four wives only if he can fulfill the stringent conditions of treating each fairly and providing each with separate housing etc. Permission to practice polygamy is not associated with mere satisfaction of passion. It is rather associated with compassion towards widows and orphans. It was the Qur’an that limited and put conditions on the practice of polygamy among the Arabs, who had as many as ten or more wives and considered them “property.” It is both honest and accurate to say that it is Islam that regulated this practice, limited it, made it more humane, and instituted equal rights and status for all wives. What the Qur’anic decrees amount to, taken together is discouragement of polygamy unless necessity for it exists. It is also evident that the general rule in Islam is monogamy and not polygamy. It is a very tiny percentage of Muslims that practice it over the world. However, permission to practice limited polygamy is only consistent with Islam’s realistic view of the nature of man and woman and of the various social needs, problems and cultural variations. The question is, however far more than the inherent flexibility of Islam; it also is the frank and straightforward approach of Islam in dealing with practical problems. Rather than requiring hypocritical and superficial compliance, Islam delves deeper into the problems of individuals and societies, and provides for legitimate and clean solutions, which are far more beneficial than would be the case if they were ignored. There is no doubt that the second wife legally married and treated kindly is better off than a mistress without any legal rights or security


Why does the Qur’an allow Muslim men to have four wives?


There are some situations in which it is advantageous to society to have men marry multiple wives, and for this reason polygamy is practiced by many religions and cultures. Polygamy is permitted in Bible too. Here we will see that the Qur’an permits only a restricted and limited form of that practice. Notice that the Qur’an permits but does not command a man to have four wives. Furthermore the Qur’an stipulates that a man is responsible for the maintenance of his wife or wives. If a man has more than one wife, he has to provide separate living accommodation for each of his wives. Multiple marriages are a heavy responsibility on the male. It is not a pleasure trip as some may assume. Some even imagine all kinds of sexual exploits involving a man and his wives altogether. However, such activity is not permissible in Islam. A man must divide his time equally among his wives. He may, for example, spend one night with each wife on a rotating schedule. If a man cannot maintain justice in the treatment of his wives, the Qur’an stipulates that he is to have no more than one wife. Polygamy provides a solution to some of life’s problem. When there is a shortage of men, for example after a devastating war, many women, will be unable to find husbands. Most women in that situation, given the option would rather co-wife than no wife. If one maintains a strict monogamy in such a situation, moral depravity is bound to result. It may be useful at this point to see what some non-Muslims writers are now saying on this much misunderstood subject: John Esposito says: Although it is found in many religions and cultural traditions, polygamy (or more precisely, polygyny) is most often identified with Islam in the minds of Westerners. In fact, the Qur’an and Islamic Law sought to control and regulate the number of spouses rather than give free license. (John Espito, Islam: The Straight Path, Oxford University, 1988, p.97). Espito then goes on to explain that in a society which allowed men an unlimited number of wives, Islam limited the number of wives to four. Then he continued to say: The Qur’an permits a man to marry up to four wives, provided he can support and treat them all equally. Muslims regard this Qur’anic command as strengthening the status of women and the family for it sought to ensure the welfare of single women and widows in a society whose male population was diminished by warfare, and to curb unrestricted polygamy (John Espito: Islam the Straight Path, p.97) Karen Armstrong explains much the same in her book entitled Muhammad: A Western Attempt to Understand Islam. She says: We have to see the ruling about polygamy in context. In the seventh century Arabia, when a man could have as many wives as he chose, to prescribe only four wives was a limitation, not a license to new oppression (Karen Armstrong, Muhammad: A Western Attempt to Understand Islam, Victor Gollanez Ltd., 1991,p.191). It is unfortunate that a Western media often gives the wrong impression of what Islam is all about. Karen Armstrong writes: Popular films like Harem give an absurd and inflated picture of the sexual life of the Muslim sheikh which reveals more about Western fantasy than it does about reality (p.190). Some people incorrectly assume that because of this ruling most men would have four wives. However, as Huston Smith points out, “multiple wives are seldom found in Islam today” (The World’s Religion, p.252). Ira Zepp, Jr. says, “less than 2% of Muslim marriages are polygamous” (A Muslim Primer, p.180). About this being a solution for the problem of surplus women, Ira Zepp, Jr. comments on page 181 of his book: The Roman Catholic Church is facing the same problem today in parts of Africa. Social and economic reasons are forcing the Church to reconsider polygamy as a Christian option. (See Polygamy Reconsidered by Eugene Hillman, New York: Orbis Press, 1973).


Is there priesthood or clergy in Islam?


The use of the terms “priesthood” or “clergy” to describe Muslim religious leaders is inappropriate. In Islam, religious leaders or scholars are not ordained persons, nor do they belong to any kind of leadership hierarchy. Rather, they are simple individual Muslims who have acquired more religious knowledge than average believer. Universities and specialized academics around the world, mainly in Muslim countries, provide relevant curricula for those interested in the various religious fields. Different terms are used to refer to different types of scholars or leaders. An Alim is one who has studied the Qur’an, hadith and other texts extensively. A faqih is one qualified to make judgments based on the Shari’ah. A hafiz is one who has memorized the entirety of the Qur’an, while a qari specializes in reciting the Qur’an in a formal melodic manner. The term shaykh is an honorific title applied to respected learned men, elders or leaders, and in Sufism it takes on an added dimension of meaning as the shaykh is viewed as a spiritual master or guide for other believers. The term imam among Sunni Muslims designate as a leader of the five daily prayers, and is used generically to refer to any religious leader who teaches courses, offers sermons, officiates marriages and performs other duties. Within the Shi’ah tradition, the term Ayatollah (lit. “Sign of God”) is used as an honorific title for highly learned and pious religious authorities, and Imam designates a person with supreme religious authority. While such persons play valuable religious and social roles within the community, it is important to note that they do not in any way serve as spiritual intercessors between individual Muslim and God.


Are there saints in Islam?


In various parts of the Muslim world, some Muslim hold certain deceased pious person in high esteem and reverence. These Muslims may even visit the tombs of such individuals on occasion, believing that worshipping at such sites may be beneficial. It may seem natural to call such revered figures saints, likening them to revered persons in other religious traditions, yet to do so would be inappropriate. Visitation of tombs in search of spiritual or worldly assistance has no basis in Islamic doctrine, and it is not an accepted practice described in the Qur’an or Sunnah. Most Muslims do not ascribe any worth to such practices, and reiterate that there are no official saints or intercessors in Islam.


What is the dress code for Muslims?


The Qur’an, Sunnah and the consensus of Muslim scholars provide a general Islamic dress code that applies to both men and women. In practice, Muslim peoples have integrated the Islamic dress code with their own local cultures, customs and geographical conditions, resulting in great varieties of Muslim dress from region to region. From the Islamic perspective, clothes are meant for cover and simple adornment, not for demonstration of social status or attraction of the opposite sex. In other words, guidelines for dress are meant to prevent men and women from being objects of desire and temptation. Islamic dress is based on a few guidelines: clothes should be loose fitting, such that the shape of the body is not highlighted; clothes should not be transparent or sheer; clothes should cover certain prescribed parts of the body of the body- for men, minimally the body from the navel to the knee (though it is extremely rare to see a male in a Muslim setting who isn’t covered from ankle to neck), and for women, everything except face, hands and feet. Muslim women who cover according to these guidelines are said to be in hijab. The term is also used commonly to describe the head covering or scarf worn by many Muslim women. A Muslim woman who covers her hair does so out of a sense of religious obligation, piety and modesty, and to be clearly recognized as Muslim women. As indicated above, the dress code is interpreted according to cultural setting. In Muslim countries, people typically dress in traditional attire. Men usually wear a tunic-like garment (thawb and jelabiyah) that extends to their feet, or a shorter shirt like garment that extends below the hips. Many Muslim men also wear a religious or cultural cap or head dress, such as a kefiyah, kuhi or fez. The traditional Muslim woman’s dress various greatly from culture to culture: the full-length chador is popular in the Gulf states and Iran, long coat like garments are typical of Syria and Jordan, colorful long dresses and turbans can be seen in West Africa, and wrapped saris are common in India. In America, immigrant Muslims can be seen in varying traditional clothing, whereas native born or second and third generation Muslim men and women typically wear Western styles of clothing adapted to Islamic requirements of covering. Considering the greater degree of covering required for women, due to pronounced physical differences between men and women, men have a particular responsibility to avert their eyes and treat women with dignity and respect. “Tell the believing men to lower their gaze and to be mindful of their chastity: this will be most conducive to their purity- verily, God is aware of all that we do. And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and to be mindful of their chastity, and not to display their charms (in public) beyond what may (decently) be apparent thereof; let them draw their head-coverings over their bosoms.”(Qur’an, 24:30-31)


How real is the threat of Islamic Fundamentalism?


In recent years, a great deal of attention in the media have been given to the threat of “Islamic Fundamentalism.” Unfortunately, due to a twisted mixture of biased reporting in the western media and the actions of some ignorant Muslims, the world over “Islam” has become synonymous with “terrorism”. However, when one analyzes the situation the question that should come to the mind is: Do the teaching of Islam encourage terrorism? The answer: Certainly not! Islam totally forbids the terrorist act that is carried out by some misguided people. It should be remembered that all religions have cults and misguided followers, so it is their teachings that should be looked at, not the actions of a few individuals. Unfortunately, in the media, whenever a Muslim commits a heinous act, he is labeled as a “Muslim terrorist”. However, when Serbs murder and rape innocent women in Bosnia, they are not called “Christian terrorist”, nor are the activities in the Northern Ireland labeled “Christian terrorism”. Also when right-wing Christians in the U.S. bomb abortion clinics, they are not called “Christian terrorist”. Reflecting on these facts, one could certainly conclude that there is a double standard in the media! Although religious feelings play a significant role in the previously mentioned “Christian” conflicts, the media does not apply religious labels because they assume that such barbarous acts have nothing to do with the teachings of Christianity. However, when something happens involving a Muslim, they often try to put the blame on Islam itself—and not the misguided individual. Certainly, Islamic law allows war—any religion or civilization that did not, would never survive---but it certainly does not condone attacks against innocent people, women or children. The Arabic word “Jihad” which is often translated as “Holy War”, simply means, “to struggle”. The word for “war” in Arabic is “harb”, not “jihad”. “Struggling”, i.e. “making jihad”, to defend Islam, Muslims or to liberate a land where Muslims are oppressed is certainly allowed (and even encouraged) in Islam. However, any such activities must be done according to the teachings of Islam. Islam also clearly forbids “taking the law into your own hands”, which means that individual Muslims cannot go around deciding who they want to kill, punish or torture. Trial and punishment must be carried out by lawful authority and a knowledgeable judge. Also, when looking at event sin the Muslim World, it should be kept in mind that a long period of colonialism ended fairly recently in most Muslim countries. During this time, the people of these countries were culturally, materially and religiously exploited- mostly by the so-called “Christian” nations of the West. This painful period has not really come to an end in many Muslim countries, where people are still under the control of foreign powers or puppet regimes supported by foreign powers. Also, through the media, people in the West are made to believe that tyrants like Saddam Hussein in Iraq and Moamar in Qaddafi in Libya are “Islamic” leaders—when just the opposite is true. Neither of these rulers even profess Islam as an ideology, but only use Islamic slogans to manipulate their powerless population. They have about as much to do with Islam, as Hitler had to do with Christianity! In reality, many Middle Eastern regimes which people think of as being “Islamic” oppress the practice of Islam in their countries. So suffice it to say that “terrorism” and killing of innocent people directly contradicts the teachings of Islam. Also see “What does Islam say about Terrorism?” in FAQ.

  What is “Islamic Fundamentalism”?  

Historically, the term “fundamentalist” was originally applied to those Christians who took the Bible as literal scripture, as opposed to allegorical truth, among other implications. Muslims, on the other hand have always considered Qur’an to be the literal Speech of God. Moreover, there are no degrees of belief regarding the basic doctrines of faith. Nowadays, the term “fundamentalist” is used to describe any adherent of the major world religion who holds that faith is a model for modern life and plays a role in political, economic or social matters. Furthermore, in terms of Islam, it is often applied to those Muslim, better-termed “extremists” who use unjustified means to achieve particular political goals. A further problem is that the term is often wantonly and pejoratively used in the media to describe Muslims who base their views and actions on a particular religious worldview. In such cases, sincere, practicing Muslims who perform the daily worship, avoid alcohol, or wear hijab are labeled inappropriately, even though their behavior may be normative. Thus, “Islamic Fundamentalism” is a confusing misnomer, resulting in broad generalizations and misunderstanding.


Does Islam promote violence and terrorism?


Contrary to popular misconception, Islam does not condone terrorism. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and the rightly Guided Khalifahs (caliphs) prohibited the killing of civilians and non-combatants in the courts of warfare. The Qur’an says, “ Fight for the sake of God those that fight against you, but do not attack them first. God does not love the aggressors” (2:190). Moreover, the Qur’an indicates that taking one life unjustly is like taking the life of all humanity, providing a strong moral deterrent to indiscriminate bloodshed. Besides prohibiting the killing of non-combatants, the Qur’an and the Prophet (PBUH) also prohibited the torturing of prisoners and the senseless destruction of crops, animals and property. Struggle against injustice and oppression is a key, distinctive concept in Islam. Through the ages, the concept of righteous struggle has inspired Muslim peoples and movements to stand up against wrong and oppression, as in the case of the wars of independence against colonialism. African-Americans, in recent decades, have been drawn to Islam, in part, because of its activist stance. While some extremists Muslims may perpetrate acts of terrorism, this does not diminish the legitimacy of righteous struggle against oppression and injustice experienced by Muslims in many parts of the world (often at the hands of the so-called Muslim leaders). Indeed, such persons actually violate the teachings of Islam. “O you who have attained to faith! Be ever steadfast in your devotion to God, bearing witness to the truth in all equity; and never let hatred of anyone lead you into the sin of deviating from justice. Be just: this is the closest to being God-conscious. And remain conscious of God: verily, God is aware of all that you do.” (Qur’an, 5:8). In any case there can be no such thing as “Islamic terrorism”, despite the fact that such terms have become popular oxymoron. The adjective “ Islamic” cannot be applied to what some misguided Muslims do. See the section on Teaching with Sensitivity for more on inappropriate usage of various terms. Also see FAQ for “What does Islam say about Terrorism?”


What is Jihad?


The Arabic word “jihad” means “struggle” or “exertion” and refers to any spiritual, moral or physical struggle. Upon returning from a battle, the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is reported to have said, “We are returning from the lesser jihad to the greater jihad-jihad against the self.” For Muslims, jihad means to struggle in the cause of God, which may take many forms. In the personal sphere, efforts such as obtaining an education, trying to quit smoking, or controlling one’s temper are forms of jihad. Jihad as a military action is justified in two cases: struggle to defend oneself, or others, from aggression and struggle for freedom of religion and justice. The Qur’an says, “ Tumult and oppression are worse than killing”(2:217), and therefore must be thwarted. Human beings are responsible agents of God on earth are compelled to exert themselves to protect the oppressed and strive to create righteous societies. Systematic, forced conversions to Islam is a historical myth. Muslims defeated hostile forces (Byzantines and Persians for example) and gained controls of new lands where Islamic rule was established, yet non-Muslim inhabitants were not forced to become Muslims. Islam clearly condemns such actions: “ There is no compulsion in religion” (Qur’an, 2:256). For various reasons, and in course of time many non-Muslims did find the message of Islam appealing, however, and converted to Islam, resulting ultimately in the transformation of society at all levels. Because jihad is a highly nuanced concept, and because the term stems from an Arabic root meaning, “struggle”, the term “holy war” is an inappropriate rendering or definition. Also see FAQ fro “what does Islam say about terrorism?”


What does Islam say about Terrorism?


One of the distinctive characteristics of the times we live is the overwhelming presence of violence in our societies. Whether it is a bomb going off in a market place, or the hijacking of an aircraft where innocent people are held at ransom to achieve political ends. We live in an age, where manipulation and loss of innocent lives has become commonplace. The word terrorism came into wide usage only a few decades ago. One of the unfortunate results of this terminology is that it limits the definition of terrorism to that perpetrated by small groups or individuals. Terrorism, in fact, spans the entire world, and manifests itself in various forms. Its perpetrators do not fit any stereotype. Those who hold human life cheap, and have the power to expend human lives, appear at different levels in our societies. The frustrated employee who kills his colleagues in cold-blood or the oppressed citizen of an occupied land who vents his anger by blowing up a school bus are terrorist who provoke our anger and revulsion. Ironically, however the politicians who use age-old ethnic animosities between people to consolidate his position, the head of state who orders “carpet bombing” of entire cities, the exalted councils that choke the millions of civilians to death by wielding the insidious weapon of sanctions, are rarely punished for their crimes against humanity. It this narrow definition of terrorism that implicates only individuals and groups, that has caused Muslims to be associated with acts of destruction and terror, and as a result, to become victims of hate violence and terror themselves. Sometimes the religion of Islam is held responsible for the acts of a handful of Muslims, and even the acts of non-Muslims! Could it be possible that Islam, the light of whose influence ended the Dark Ages in Europe, now pro-pound the advent of an age of terror? Could a faith that has over 1.2 billion adherents the world over, and over 7 millions in America, actually advocate the killing and maiming of innocent people? Could Islam, whose name itself stands for “peace” and “submission to God”, encourage its adherent to work for death and destruction? For too long, have we relied on popular images in the media and in Hollywood films, fro answer to these pertinent questions. It is now time to look at the sources of Islam, and its history to determine whether Islam does indeed advocate violence. The sanctity of human life, The Glorious Qur’an says: “…take not life, which God hath made sacred, except by way of justice and law: thus doth He command you, that ye may learn wisdom.”[Al-Qur’an 6:151]. Islam considers all life forms as sacred. However, the sanctity of life is accorded a special place. The first and the foremost basic right of a human being is the right to live. The Glorious Qur’an says, “…if anyone slew a person- unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land –it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people.”[Al-Qur’an 5:32]. Such is the value of a single human life, that the Qur’an equates the taking of even one human life unjustly, with killing all of humanity. Thus, the Qur’an homicide in clear terms. The taking of a criminal’s life by the state in order to administer justice is required to uphold the rule of the law, and the peace and security of the society. Only a proper and competent court can decide whether an individual has forfeited his right to life by disregarding the right to life and peace of other human beings. The Ethics of War even in the state of war, Islam enjoins that one deals with the enemy nobly on the battlefield. Islam has first drawn a clear line of distinction between the combatants and the non-combatants of the enemy country. As far as the non-combatant population is concerned such as women, children, the old and the infirm, etc., the instructions of the Prophet (PBUH) are as follows: “Do not kill any old person, any child or any women.” “ Do not kill the monks in monasteries” or “Do not kill the people who are sitting the places of worship.” During the war, the Prophet saw (PBUH) the corpse of a woman lying on the ground and observed: “She was not fighting. How then she came to be killed?” Thus the non-combatants are guaranteed the security of life even if their state is at war with an Islamic state. Jihad while Islam in general is misunderstood in the western world, perhaps no other Islamic term evokes such strong reactions as the word ‘jihad’. The term ‘jihad’ has been much abused, to conjure up much bizarre images of violent Muslims, forcing people to submit at the point of sword. This myth was perpetuated during the centuries of mistrust during and after the Crusaders. Unfortunately, it survives to this day. The word jihad comes from the root word jahada, which means to struggle. So jihad is literally an act of struggling. The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said that the greatest Jihad is to struggle with the insidious suggestions of one’s own soul. Thus jihad primarily refers to the inner struggle of being a person of virtue and submission to God in all aspects of life. Secondarily, jihad refers to struggle against injustice. Islam, like many other religions, allows for armed self-defense, or retribution against tyranny, exploitation, and oppression. The Glorious Qur’an says: “And why should ye not fight in the cause of God and of those who, being weak, are ill-treated (and oppressed)? - Men, women, and children, whose cry is: “Our Lord! Rescue us from this town, whose people are oppressors; and raise for us from thee one who will protect; and raise for us from thee one who will help!”[Al-Qur’an 4:75]. Thus Islam enjoins upon its believers to strive utmost, in purifying themselves, as well as in establishing peace and justice in the society. A Muslim can never be at rest when he sees injustice and oppression around him. As Martin Luther King Jr. said: “ We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.” Islam enjoins upon all Muslims to work actively to maintain the balance in which God created everything. However, regardless of how legitimate the cause may be, the Glorious Qur’an never condones the killing of innocent people. Terrorizing the civilian population can never be termed as jihad and can never be reconciled with the teachings of Islam. History of Tolerance even Western scholars have repudiated the myth of Muslims coercing other convert. The Great historian De Lacy O’ Leary wrote: “History makes it clear, however, that the legend of fanatical Muslims, sweeping through the world and forcing Islam at the point of sword upon conquered races is one of the most fantastically absurd myths that historians have ever repeated.” Muslims ruled Spain for roughly 800 years. During this time, and up until they were finally forced out, the non-Muslims there were alive and flourishing. Additionally, Christian and Jewish minorities have survived in the Muslim lands of the Middle East for centuries. Counties such as Egypt, Morocco, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan all have significant Christian and/or Jewish populations. This is not surprising to a Muslim, for his faith prohibits him from forcing others to see his point of view. The Glorious Qur’an says: “Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error: whoever rejects evil and believes in God hath grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold, that never breaks. And God heareth and knoweth all things.”[Al-Qur’an 2:256].  Islam- The Great Unifier far from being a militant dogma, Islam is a way of life that transcends race and ethnicity. The Glorious Qur’an repeatedly reminds us of our common origin: “ O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of male and female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise each other (each other). Verily the most honored of you in the sight of God is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And God has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all thongs).”[Al-Qur’an 49:13]. Thus it is the universality of its teachings that makes Islam the fastest growing religion in the world. In a world full of conflicts and deep schisms between human beings, a world that is threatened with terrorism, perpetrated by individuals and states, Islam is a beacon of light that offers hope for the future.


What does Islam say about abortion?

Islam values human life. This is clearly expressed in the Holy Qur’an where we are told that in the sight of God killing human being is a very serious matter (see Qur’an 5:32). The Qur’an teaches that on the Day of Judgment parents who killed their will be under trial for that crime, and their children will be witness against them (see Qur’an 81:8-9). People often fear that having more children will make the poor. In reply to that, the Qur’an says: “Do not slay your children for fear of poverty. We shall provide for them and for you (Qur’an 17:31).” Even in a case where one is already poor, the Qur’an insists that Allah will provide for sustenance for us and for our children, and furthermore that Allah has made human life sacred (see Qur’an 6:151). The right to life is God given. No human should take away that right. The general rule, therefore, is that abortion is not permitted in Islam. However, Islam is a very practical religion. It includes principles to deal with exceptional cases. One such principle is that when the pregnancy threatens the life of the mother, an abortion may be performed. Although the lives of both mother and child are sacred, in this case it is better to save the principal life, the life of the mother. Even in this case, it would be better if the abortion is done before the fetus is 120 days old, for that is when the soul is breathed into the fetus. Islam does not permit abortion on other cases.

Is Islam intolerant of other Religions / Beliefs?


The Creator has taught us in the Qur’an and Sunnah that all other ‘religions’ and ways of Life are unacceptable to Him if a person is aware of Islam.The Qur’an states (translation), {3:85}”And whoever desires a religion other than Islam, it shall  not be accepted from him,And in the hereafter he shall be one of the losers. However, even though the Creator has Clearly specified  that no other way of life is acceptable to Him except Islam (i.e. Submission to Him as embodied in the Qur’an and Sunnah), He has also commanded the Muslims to be tolerant of people who espouse other creeds. From the sunnah, Specifically in the study of the Sunnah called Al-Awsat by Al-Tabarabi, we find regarding those non-Muslims living in the Islamic state. The Messenger of Allah (saas) said “One who kills a non-Muslim person under protection (Arabic:dhimmi) will not even smell the fragrance of Paradise.” Also from the Sunnah, specifically in a report from Al-khatib, we find that the Messenger of Allah (saas) also said:Whoever hurts a non- Muslim person under protection, I am his adversary, and I shall be an adversary to him on The Day of Resurrection. In short, Islam is intolerant of false ideas, however it is tolerant of the people who hold to those ideas. One historical example of Muslims living up to the standard of Islam can be found from the time of the Spanish Inquisition. During that disaster sprung by misguided Catholics, some Spanish Jews fled to Muslim Turkey and to this day, there is a community of Spanish-speaking Jews in Turkey. Another example may be found during one of the Crusader invasions from Western Europe. Some of the Catholic Western European Knights were so likely to rape, murder and pillage the Jews and Orthodox Christians, that when the Muslims won, they were treated as a Liberating force by those non-Muslims.


Do Muslims celebrate birthday of Prophet Muhammad?


The birth of Prophet Muhammad is commemorated on the twelfth of the month of Rabi Al- Awwal. Rather than celebrating the event with festivities or fanfare, most Muslims Take the opportunity to study more about the Prophet and his deeds, since Muslims Consider him to be the best example of how one should lead his or her life. While the Prophet’s birth date is an important event recognized by Muslims, it is not an official Religious holiday like Eid al-Fitr or Eid al-Adha.


What holidays do Muslims celebrate?

There are two major holidays in Islam: Eid al-Fitr takes place on the 1st of Shawwal, the Tenth month of Islamic lunar year, at the conclusion of Ramadan, the month of fasting. The holiday celebration begins early in the morning with a special congregational  workship. The Eid prayers are often held in a specially designated gathering place, such as a park or convention center, meant to accommodate large numbers of Muslims from several local masjids. After the prayer, the imam (worship leader) delivers as short Khutbah (sermon or address). Then everyone rises to their feet and hug one another. The rest of the festival’s observances are held among family and friends, and include visits, shared meals, new clothes, gifts for young children, and lots of sweets. In Muslim countries, festivities are often in evidence for three or more days. In order to share the spirit of the occasion with all members of society. Muslims pay a special nominal charity tax which is used  to purchase food, clothing and gifts for needy persons. Eid a-Adha takes place on the tenth of Dhul-Hijjah (The twelfth month of the Islamic lunar calendar), after the majority of Hajj rituals are completed by pilgrims. Around the world, Muslims share in the spirit of the Hajj by observing the Eid festivities in their own localities. The day’s observances are similar to those of Eid-al-Fitr, with the addition of a special sacrifice-Muslims commemorate Prophet Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his elder son Ishma’il when God commanded him to do so as a test his commitment. Since God miraculously provided a lamb to Abraham which took the place of his son, Muslims recall the event by sacrificing animals such as lambs, goats, sheep. Cows or camels. The sacrifice may be performed any time after the Eid morning prayers until the evening of the twelfth of Dhul-Hijjah. The meat of the sacrificed animals is distributed to the poor or needy, and portions are kept for one’s own family and friends during this time of extra charity and hospitality.


What are some important dates in the Islamic year?


There are a number of important dates in the Islamic calendar. Some of them are described below: The first day of the month of Muharram announces the new hijri year, and the tenth of this month is known as Ashurah. Muslims believe the tenth of Muharram to be the day when Moses led his people out of Egyptian bondage. It is also date on which the Prophet’s grandson Husayn and his family were killed by the forces of Yazid, the second Umayyad ruler, who, it is believed, unsruped rightful leadership of the Muslim community. All Muslims, but especially Shi’ahs, mourn this tragic event. Laylat al-Qadr, or the “Night of Power,” is one of the last ten nights of the month of Ramadan. It is significant as the night on which in 610 C.E. Prophet Muhammad received the first revelations of the Qur’an. Muslims commemorate this night by offering additional prayers and supplications late into the night. It is said the blessings for praying on the night are greater than those received for praying for a thousand months. The 27th of the month of Rajab is the date for Laylat-al-Miraj. On this date Muslims recall Prophet Muhammad’s miraculous journey from Makkah to Jerusalem and thence to Heaven atop the heavenly steed known as Buraq. According to tradition, during this Night Journey and Ascension, which took place in 619 C.E., Muhammed received instruction for instituting the salah, or formal workship, Islam’s connection with previous monotheistic religious traditions was also reiterated, as the Prophet met all of his predecessors during his experience.


What is the holy day of Muslims?


Muslims’ special day is Friday. On this day, the mid-day formal worship is replaced by a special congregational worship called Salat al-jum’ah (Friday prayer). This worship is preceded by the khutbah, a short weekly address given by the imam (worship leader). After the worship is completed, Muslims often enjoy lunch with each other and socialize. In Muslims countries, many Muslims do not work on the day of Jum’ah. Despite its importance as a day of congregation, Jum’ah is not a “sabbath” day, since Muslims are Not obliged to observe a “day of rest” for fear of punishment. Muslims attend their local masjids on other days as well. What does the crescent and stat symbolize? Often Islam is associated with a symbol of the crescent moon and a star. This symbolism may be related to the fact that the lunar calendar plays a significant role in Islam. Some historical sources posit that the symbol was appropriated from the Byzantines when star icon does not constitute and official symbol in Islam, though it adorns many countries’ flags, currency, masjids and other structures.


What kind of calendar do Muslims use?


The hijrah (migration of Prophet Muhammad from Makkah to Madinah in 622 C.E.), marks the starting point of the Islamic calendar, comprised of twelve lunar months. Each lunar month begins when the new moon’s crescent becomes visible every 29 or 30 days. Muslims use such a Hijri calendar for various religious obligations such as fasting during Ramadan, celebrating the two Eid holidays, and performing the Hajj. Since the lunar year is about eleven days shorter than the solar year, dates in the Islamic calendar “move forward” eleven days every year in relation to the commonly-used Gregorian calendar. Consequently, over a period of about thirty-six years, the events in the Islamic calendar cycle through the various seasons. In this way, Islamic events do not acquire specific seasonal connotations, and Muslims around the world have the opportunity to experience these events under varying environmental conditions.

  How do Muslims view dating and mixing of the sexes?  

Dating as it is commonly understood in western society in not permitted in Islam. For Muslims, physical interaction, an almost inevitable component of dating, is only permissible within the bonds of marriage. While Muslims often find themselves in mixed environments in American society, and may participate in certain coeducational group activities, as a general rule they opt to observe a degree of segregation. Naturally, the proper and productive functioning of society requires the talents and contributions of all its citizens, male and female. Therefore, Islam provides guidelines for etiquette and behavior in order to enable full participation of men and women while at the same time fostering righteous societies. Some guidelines pertain to appropriate forms if interaction across gender, while others pertain to kinds of clothing men and women should wear in the interest of modesty. By observing such guidelines, the potential for sexual harassment, uninvited attention, disrespect, or acts of violence fostered by provocative dress or conduct is absolutely minimized.

  What is Islam’s view on human rights and social justice?  

According to Islam, human beings are the noblest creations of God. Endowed with consciousness and freedom of choice. The Qur’an states the God has made human beings His trustees or stewards on the earth. Muslims see this world as God’s field, and human beings as the farmers and caretakers. Muslims believe humanity’s ultimate task is to build a world that reflects the will of God. Thus, Islam is balanced in its concern for Salvation in the Hereafter as well as peace and justice in the present world. Islam places great emphasis on social justice for all people. Muslims consider it an obligation to oppose all who exploit, oppress, discriminate, and deal unjustly with people. “O you who believe, be upholders of justice, witness for God even if it be against yourselves.” (Qur’an,4: 135) Muslims understand the goal of Islam to be the spiritual upliftment of the individual and productive development of society. The ultimate consequence of rejecting God and His guidance is a selfish, pleasure-seeking, corrupt, and unjust society, Conversely, the natural consequence of obedience to God’s laws and living according to His guidance is a society of peace, equality, dignity for all, and justice.


What is the Qur’an?


The word Qur’an literally means “ the most read” or “the most recited” (scripture), and refers to the divinely revealed scripture given to Muhammad. Since Muhammad is considered the last prophet of God, the Qur’an is believed to be the final revelation from God to humanity, The Qur’an is considered by Muslims to the literal Speech of God given to Muhammad in the Arabic language. The chapters and verses of the Qur’an were revealed throughout Prophet Muhammad’s mission, over a span of close to twenty-three years, from 610-632 C.E. Contrary to common misconception, Muhammad is not the author of the Qur’an. Rather, he is viewed as the chosen transmitter of the revelation and the ideal implementor of principles and commandments contained therein. The personal sayings or words of Muhammad are known as hadith, which are distinct from the divine origin of the content of the Qur’an. As verses of the Qur’an were revealed to Muhammad and subsequently repeated by him to companions and other fellow Muslims, they were written down, recited and memorized. The Prophet also typically led the formal worship five times daily, during which he recited the revealed verses according to the procedure that he established. The verses were also recited out loud by designated Muslims in the early dawn hours and prior to the worship times and other important occasions. In short, the Qur’anic verses played an immediate and practical role in the spiritual lives of Muslims from the outset. Before he passed away, the Prophet arranged the 114 chapters into the sequence we find in the Qur’an. Scholars, both Muslim and non-Muslim, agree that the Qur’an has remained intact and unchanged to the present. The Qur’an as a scripture stands unique in this regard. 1. Do translaction of the Qur’an exist in other languages? Translation of the Qur’an exist in may languages throughout the world, including English, Spanish, French, German, Urdu, Chinese, Malay, Vietnamese, and others. It is important to note that  while translations are useful as renderings or explanations of the Qur’an, only the original Arabic text is considered to be the Qur’an itself. As a consequence, Muslims the world over, regardless of their native language, always strive to learn Arabic, so they can read and understand the Qur’an in its original form. Muslims also learn Arabic in order to recite the daily formal worship (salah) and for greeting one another with traditional expressions. However while almost all Muslims have some basic familiarity with the Arabic language, not all Muslims speak fluent Arabic. 2. What is the structure  and content of the Qur’an? The Qur’an is comprised of 114 surah (chapters) containing over six thousand ayahs (verses). The surahs were not arranged according to the sequence in which they were revealed; rather they were arranged according to the Prophet’s instructions, with the longest chapter (al-Baqarah, The Cow) near the begning. The various surahs discuss many of the same events and issues found in the Bible, but in a different fashion. Rather than presenting a sequential account of human spiritual history beginning with Adam and culminating with Muhammad, the Qur’an’s chapters focus on various important themes and issues. In < essence, the Qur’an was revealed as a book of guidance. In its own unique style it addresses a variety of subjects such as humans’ relationship with God, His unique attributes, accountability and the Day of Judgement, ethics, social justice, politics, the rise and fall of nations, law, the natural world and family issues. The Qur’an stresses the development of certain moral and spiritual characteristics, and links these with establishing justice and righteousness in the world. Many of the lessons of the Qur’an are given through accounts of past prophets and their missions to their respective people. Muslims also view the Qur’an as providing answers to questions such as: What are the duties and responsibilities given to me by God? How should I interact with family, friends, colleagues, classmates, clients or customers, as well as other creations of God, even the environment? How should I treat myself as a human being endowed with a free will, the ability to reason and make choices, as well as various innate desires and drives?

3. Is Prophet Muhammad (PUBUH), the author of the Holy Qur’an In addressing this misconception, it is interesting to note that no other religious scripture claims to the direct word of Almighty in toto as clear and as often as the Holy Qur’an. As the Qur’an clearly says: “if had been written by man, you would have found many discrepancies therein”. At the time the Qur’an was revealed, the Arabs recognized that the language of the Qur’an 
was unique and that is was distinctly different from the language normally used by the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. The Arabs of that time, by the way, were known for their beautiful poetry and Muhammad was known to be unlettered man! The Qur’an clearly says that Muhammad was unable to read and write, so if this wasn’t true, certainly his contemporaries would have protested and rejected him. However, there are
no reports of this. Certainly there were people who rejected Muhammad’s message, just
like other prophets were rejected, but none for this reason. On the contrary, Muhammad, peace be upon him, had thousands of loyal followers and the results of their efforts spread of Islam from Spain to China in just over a century! It is also interesting to note that even though the Qur’an is not poetry, the Arabs more or less gave up writing poetry after it was revealed.

It could be said that the Qur’an is the piece of Arabic literature par execellance – and Muhammad’s contemporaries realized that they couldn’t out do it, Additionally, it is easy to prove that Muhammad did not possess a great deal of the knowledge which is expounded in the Qur’an: such as knowledge of historical events, previous prophets and natural phenomenon. The Qur’an says in several places that Muhammad and his people did not know these things – so, again, if this wasn’t true, certainly his contemporaries would have rejected his claims. Suffice it to say that not only is the Qur’an the most memorized and well preserved scripture on earth, it is also unequaled in eloquence, spiritual impact, clarity of message and the purity of its truth.


How do Muslims deal with death?


Muslims believe that life and death are in God’s hand, and that God appoints a time for each person to pass from this existence into the next. Muslims are reminded regularly that death is inevitable and that the actions of this life determine one’s status in the Hereafter. When a person dies, his or her relatives are urged to be patient and accepting of God’s decree. It is permissible to cry and express grief at the death of loved one, though excessive lamentation is discouraged. Though grieving may never fully end, the period of outward mourning typically lasts no more than three days. “Every human being is bound to taste death; and we test you (all) through the bad and the good (things of life) by way of trial: and unto Us you all must return.” (Qur’an, 21:35). As soon as possible after death, the body of the deceased person is washed and wrapped in plain white linen and placed in asimple wooden coffin (if one is necessary). The body is then taken to the cemetery, where it may be carried by community members on a bier to the gravesite.
Before burial, a special congregational worship service is offered, and prayers are made for God’s mercy upon the deceased. For Muslims, burial represents human beings’ return to the most elemental state, since we were fashioned from earth by the Creator. Thus cremation, preservation of the body, internment in above-ground mausoleums, or other methods are not allowed in Islam. The affairs of the deceased may be handled via a will or testament. The Qur’an prescribes specific means for disbursing of inheritance to spouses, children and relatives. When a married man dies, his wife must not remarry until at least four months and ten days have passed. This period of waiting, known as iddah, allows her to determine whether she may be pregnant with her deceased husband’s child, which would affect issues of inheritance, lineage, and related matters. Even in an age of sophisticated DNA technology, in which the identity of parents can be ascertained quite accurately, the waiting period serves to honor the deceased husband and preserve the dignity of the marriage bond.


What is the Day of Judgement


Muslims believe that our essential purpose in this world is to recognize and serve God by implementing His guidance as found in His divine scriptures. The role of prophets culminating with Muhammad has been to serve as role models for righteous behavior and warners of potential punishment for those who fail to heed God’s commandments. Islam teaches that human beings are responsible to God for all their words and deeds. The relatively short span of our lives, therefore, constitutes a test. “He is the one who created death and life that He may test which of you is best in deeds” (Qur’an, 67:2). “Say:
‘Behold my prayer, and (all) acts of my worship, and my living and my dying are for God (alone), the Sustainer of all the worlds.`” (Qur’an, 6:162). In the interest of justice and to fulfill God’s divine plan, a day will come when the present world will be destroyed and the entire human race will be resurrected and assembled before God for individual judgement. One will either be rewarded with permanent bliss in Jannah (Paradise) or be punished with suffering in Jahannam (Hell). However, the infinite mercy of God is demonstrated in the Qur’anic statement that those who have even a mustard seed’s weight of belief in God will eventually be admitted into Heaven. 2. How is “Salvation” viewed by Muslims? For Muslims, following the straight path laid down by the prophets and exemplified by the last Prophet, Muhammad, whose message has been preserved since its revelation, is the means of safety and salvation. According to Muslim belief, a person who consciously rejects the prophets and their message is rejecting God, and thereby earns His wrath. Those who have not consciously rejected any prophet will be judged according to their belief in God and their good deeds. Ultimately, the Creator is the sole judge, and Muslims believe that no human being can judge another in spiritual terms. A hadith states “A person may appear to be working the deeds of the people of Paradise, while he is among the people of the Fire. And a person may appear to be working the deeds of the people of the Fire, while he is among the people of  Paradise.”
For Muslims, belief in accountability to God and responsibility for one’s own deeds gives one a sense of purpose, and every moment and event in life has religious purport. Thus, awareness of God’s presence serves as a deterrent against crime, corruption, immorality and injustice as well as a means of acknowledging the role of God in one’s life. 3. What
is the Muslim view of the life after death Muslims believe that death is not the end of life,
but rather a transitory state. After death, life continues in a different form. Various verses
in the Qur’an describe Heaven as a place of blissful gardens and rivers, where all of one’s desires may be fulfilled, while Hell is described as a place of fire and torment.” O my devotees! No fear shall be on you that Day, nor shall you grieve. Tell those who believe
in Our signs and surrender themselves: ‘Enter the Garden rejoicing, both you and your spouses!’ To them will be passed round dishes and goblets of gold; there they will have
all that the souls could desire; all that the eyes could delight in; and you shall abide therein forever. Such will be the Garden of which you are made heirs for your good deeds in
life.”(Qur’an, 43: 68-72)” Those who reject Allah, for them will be the Fire of Hell; no
term shall be determined for them, that they may die, nor shall its penalty be lightened for them; thus do we reward every ungrateful one.” (Qur’an, 35: 36)

  What do the terms “Sunni” and “Shi’ah” mean?  

At the time of Prophet Muhammad, the terms “Sunni” and “Shi ‘ah” did not exist -  they developed later in Muslim history. After the Prophet passed away, Muslims were left to determine who should rightfully succeed him as the political leader (khalifah) of the
Muslim community. Many were of the belief that a leader could be selected among any
of the righteous and pious Muslims who demonstrated leadership abilities and is God – fearing, leaders are human beings and they can err. This has come to be known as the majority viewpoint, designated “Sunni” in reference to these Muslims’ reliance on the Qur’an and Sunnah of Muhammad as the sources of religious doctrine and practice. Others believed that the position had been conferred upon Ali ibn Abu Talib, cousin and son-in-law of Muhammad, by the Prophet. In the ensuing years, this difference of opinion was perpetuated, as the Shi’ah (“supporters” or partisans” of Ali) continued to hold that
authority belonged to Ali and his immediate descendants, even while historically,
leadership was excercised by various dynasties such as those of Umayyads and
Abbasids. Ali and eleven successive descendants are given the title Imam by Shi’ahs and they are considered the rightful, designated successors of Prophet Muhammad. The
Arabic term “imam” literally means “leader” or “model” and is commonly used to refer
to the leader of formal congregational worship. Shi’ah Muslims use the term more reverentially, since the Imams are believed to be sinless and do have knowledge of things unknown to others. Furthermore, the teachings of the Imams are given weight similar to
that of the Qur’an and Sunnah as a source for correct belief and practice. Shi’ahs also
believe that the twelfth and final Imam, born in 868 C.E., continues to live, albeit in a miraculous state of occupation (concealment from human view). The Hidden Imam is believed to enact God’s plan in the world and provide continued guidance on behalf of
the first Imam Ali.


What dietary regulations must Muslims observe?


A general rule of shari’ah is that anything that is not expressly haram (forbidden) or that doesn’t lead to haram acts is considered halal (permissible). This principle applies to foodstuffs as well. In the Qur’an, very few items are expressly forbidden, namely the
flesh of swine, blood, meat of carcasses,  predatory animals, and meat of animals slaughtered in the name of anything other than One God. When Muslims slaughter animals for consumption, they pronounce the name of God during the act, symbolizing recognition of His bounty and His role as Creator of all things. Such blessed meat is termed halal, a designation similar to “kosher” used by Jews. In fact, the Qur’an states
that meat from the Ahl al-Kitab, or “People of the Book” (Christians and Jews) is permissible for Muslims to eat. Such legal provisions serve to reiterate the common monotheistic bond of the three Abrahamic religions. At the same time, many Muslims do not eat meat from commercial sources, since rules for slaughtering animals in Islam differ from those current in America. Aside from certain foodstuffs, substances which are detrimental to human health or livelihood are also prohibited. Chief among these is  alcohol, since it alters one’s mental state and impairs one’s abilities for reasoning and judgement, affects one’s moral compass, and interferes with the proper functioning of the biological senses. Along these lines, and considering their powerful addictive qualities, so-called recreational drugs such as cocaine, heroine, and marijuana are prohibited in Islam as well. The societal ramifications of alcohol and drug abuse in terms of automobile accidents, conflict and divorce,and crime and violence are well-documented, affirming for Muslims Islam’s wisdom regarding even casual use of such substances. Mild stimulants such as caffeine found in chocolate, coffee, tea and soft drinks do not have direly adverse effects, and therefore such foods and drinks are permissible, so long as one does not feel addicted to them.

  What are the beliefs of Muslims?  

The central concept in Islam, reflected in the Shahadah, is tawheed, or Oneness of God. For Muslims, there is but One God who is Lord and Sovereign of Creation, and devotion, allegiance, and obedience must first of all be to Him. This view serves as the foundation from which the basic of Islam emanate, since God is recognized as the source for
all knowledge and understanding. More specifically, the beliefs of Muslims are delineated and described in the Qur’an and in the sayings and traditions of Prophet
Muhammad. The practice of Islam is based upon belief in One God (Allah), creations (humanly perceived and unperceived) of God, prophetic leadership, revealed guidance, and a Day of Judgement.

  How do Muslims view Angels?  

Mala’ikah, or Angels, are believed to be among God’s many creations, and belief in angels is symbolic of a Muslim’s belief in al-Ghayb, the world of the unseen (a world of which only God has knowledge). Angels are considered heavenly beings created by God to perform various duties. Angels by nature do not deviate from righteousness, as they do not posses an inherent free will, as do human beings. Some angels are considered more prominent than others. Jibreel (Gabriel), for example, is known as the “Angel of Revelation,” since he communicated God’s revelations and scriptures to various human prophets, and also announced (much to her surprise and incredulity) to Mary, Mother of Jesus, that she would bear the messiah awaited by the Children of Israel. Indeed, Jibreel is uniquely described in the Qur’an as a Sprit (ruh) from God due to his role in bridging the divine and human spheres. Muslims also believe that each human being is assigned two angels by God-one to keep track of good deeds, and the other to record bad deeds or sins. Tradition holds that these “personal” angels will present the records of one’s deeds to each individual as he or she stands before God on the Day of Judgement. 2. Is Satan a “fallen” angel? Most commentators of the Qur’anic account of Creation do not view Satan as a fallen angel. Rather he is believed to be one of the jinn, a class of God’s creation distinct from angels. The jinn, like angels, exist in the unseen world, and cannot ordinarily be perceived  by human beings. Like humans, however, the jinn have been endowed with free will, and thus can choose to act according to God’s commands. When God commanded Iblis (the personal name of Satan), a leader among the jinn, to bow before Adam in recognition of human eminence among God’s creations, he rebelled and was cast out with his followers. Iblis asked God for a respect until the Day of Judgement to prove that he could undermine humankind’s claim to superiority. A recurrent theme in all of God’s revelations to humanity is that of Satan’s machinations against humankind. The Qur’an repeatedly warns against deviating from the “straight path” by falling prey to Satan’s temptations. Satan has no independent source of power over humans-only what they cede to him.

  What does the term “Allah” mean?  

The Arabic word Allah is a contraction of the words “al” and “ilah” and literally means “The God.” Believers in Islam understand Allah to be the proper name for the Creator as found in the Qur’an. The name Allah is analogous to Eloh, a Semitic term found in the divine scriptures revealed to Muhammad’s predecessors Moses and jesus (may peace be upon them all). The use of the term Allah is not confined to believers in Islam alone-Arabic-speaking Christians and Jews also use Allah in reference to God, demonstrating thereby that followers of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism believe in a common monotheistic Creator, a fact that many people are surprised to learn. One reason for this may be that English-speaking persons are accustomed to the term God, whereas believers in Islam, regardless of their native language, use the Arabic word Allah. This difference in usage may cause people to view the term Allah with reticence and uncertainty, preventing them from making the connection between the Arabic name and the accepted English equivalent term. In other words, Allah means “God”, like Dios and Dieu mean “God” in Spanish and French, respectively. 1. How is God viewed in Islam? The Qur’an, the divinely-revealed scripture of Islam, contains numerous verses describing the nature of God. The role of human beings as creations of God upon the earth and their relationship with God are also discussed extensively in the sacred text. “Say: He is God, the One, the Eternal, Absolute. He does not beget, nor is He begotten, and there is none like unto Him.” (Qur’an, 112: 1-4)” It is He who brought you forth from the wombs of your mothers when you knew nothing, and He gave you hearing and sight and intelligence and affections that you may give thanks.” (Qur’an, 16:78) “No vision can grasp Him, but His grasp is over all vision. He is above all comprehension, yet is acquainted with all things.” (Qur’an, 6:103) Muslims believe that God has no partners or associates who share in His divinity or authority, Muslims also believe that God is transcendent and unlike His creations, and thus has no physical form. Nor is God believed to exist in (or be represented by) any material object. A number of divine attributes or “names.” Which serve to describe God, are found in the Qur’an. Some commonly known attributes include the Most Merciful, the Most Forgiving, the Most High, the Unique, and the Everlasting, among others. In Islam, human beings, like other creations, are seen as completely unlike God, though they may aspire to exhibit various attributes manifested by God, such as justice or mercy. Furthermore, even while God is

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