What did Jesus really say?

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  • What did Jesus really say?

  • What Did Jesus Really Say ? - What is Islam?
    Chapter 11: What is Islam?

    "Did you think that We had created you in play, and that you would not be returned unto Us?"

    The noble Qur'an, Al-Muminoon(23):115.

    This chapter shall, in great brevity, present some of the fundamental teachings of Islam. The following chapter will then present some of the details of a Muslim's faith.

    What does "Islam" mean?:

    The word "Islam" itself means "Submission to Allah." The religion of Islam is not named after a person as in the case of "Christianity" which was named after Jesus Christ, "Buddhism" after Gotama Buddha, "Marxism" after Karl Marx, and "Confucianism" after Confucius. Similarly, Islam is not named after a tribe like "Judaism" after the tribe of Judah and "Hinduism" after the Hindus. The Arabic word "Islam" means the submission or surrender of one's will to the will of the only true god worthy of worship, "Allah" (known as God "the Father" in Christianity). Anyone who does indeed submit to the will of Allah as required by Islam is termed a "Muslim," which means one who has submitted to the will of Allah. Many people in the West have developed the sad misinformed trend of calling Islam "Muhammadenism" and it's followers "Muhammadins." This is a totally foreign word to Muslims and unrecognized by them. No Muslim has ever called his religion "Muhammadenism" or called himself a "Muhammadin."

    What is the basic concept of Islam?:

    Islam teaches us that this life is a life of worship. We are placed on this earth in order to worship Allah and obey His command. During this earthly life we are subjected to a series of trials. We have the option of enduring these trials and conforming to certain laws, and our reward will be great in the next life, or we may decline to endure these trials and choose to not conform to the law, then we will be made to regret it in the next life. Each person will be solely and completely responsible for their own final reward. We are also told that God has designed these laws to make this life a better, safer, and more tolerable one for us. If we elect to conform to them then we will see the result in this life even before moving on to the next.

    We are told that the earthly life is a life of faith and work, and the next life is one of reward and no work. We have been placed on this earth to worship God, fast, pray, be industrious, good, kind, respectful, and a source of uprightness and morality. We are told that God has no need of our worship. Our worship can not increase the kingdom of God nor add to His power, however, it is in our best interests both in this life and the next that we do.

    Unlike some other religions which claim that God entered in a covenant with a certain group of people and that this group is genetically better than all other human beings, or closer to God, Islam on the other hand teaches that no color, race, tribe, or lineage is better than any other. Islam teaches that all humans are equal in the sight of Allah and that the only thing that can distinguish them in His sight is their piety and worship.

    "O humankind! Verily! We have created you from a male and female, and have made you nations and tribes that you may know one another. Verily! the noblest among you in the sight of Allah is the most God-fearing. Verily! Allah is The Knower, The Aware."

    The Qur'an, Al-Hujrat(49):13.

    Levels of Islam:

    Islam consists of three levels, each building upon the lower ones. They are:

    1) Islam:

    1. Testify that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah
    2. Establish the daily prayers
    3. Pay Zakat (Obligatory charity due the poor)
    4. Observe the fast of Ramadan
    5. Perform pilgrimage to the Ka'aba (in Makkah) once in your life if you are able

    2) Faith (Iman):

    1. To believe in Allah
    2. To believe in His angels
    3. To believe in His Books (Scriptures)
    4. To believe in His Messengers
    5. To believe in the Day of Judgment
    6. To believe in the Divine Decree (Divine fate) whether good or evil

    3) Excellence/Goodness (Ihsan)

    To worship Allah (God) as if you see Him, for if you can not see Him, He assuredly sees you.

    In Sahih Muslim, Abdullah ibn Umar ibn al-Khattab narrated:

    "My father, Umar ibn al-Khattab, told me: One day we were sitting in the company of Allah's Apostle (pbuh) when there appeared before us a man dressed in pure white clothes, his hair was extraordinarily black. There were no signs of travel on him, but none among us recognized him.

    This man came and sat beside the Apostle (pbuh) kneeling before him and placing his palms on his thighs. He then said: Muhammad, inform me about al-Islam. The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said: Islam implies that you testify that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah, and you establish prayer, pay Zakat, observe the fast of Ramadan, and perform pilgrimage to the (House) if you are solvent enough (to bear the expense of) the journey. He (the inquirer) said: You have told the truth.

    He (Umar ibn al-Khattab) said: It amazed us that he would put the question and then he would himself verify the truth. He (the inquirer) said: Inform me about Iman (faith). He (the Holy Prophet) replied: That you affirm your faith in Allah, in His angels, in His Books, in His Apostles, in the Day of Judgment, and you affirm your faith in the Divine Decree, either good and evil. He (the inquirer) said: You have told the truth. He (the inquirer) again said: Inform me about al-Ihsan (performance of good deeds). He (the Holy Prophet) said: That you worship Allah as if you are seeing Him, for though you don't see Him, He, verily, sees you. He (the inquirer) again said: Inform me about the hour (of the judgment). He (the Holy Prophet) remarked: The one who is asked knows no more than the one who is inquiring (about it). He (the inquirer) said: Tell me some of its indications. He (the Holy Prophet) said: That the slave-girl will give birth to her mistress and master, and that you will find barefooted, destitute goat-herders vying with one another in the construction of magnificent buildings.

    He (the narrator, Umar ibn al-Khattab) said: Then he (the inquirer) went on his way but I stayed with the messenger of Allah for a long while. The prophet Muhammad then, said to me: Umar, do you know who this inquirer was? I replied: Allah and His Apostle know best. He (the Holy Prophet) remarked: He was Gabriel (the angel). He came to you in order to instruct you in your religion."

    What are the pillars of Islam?:

    Islam is built upon five major pillars. A Muslim is taught that anyone who dies observing these five basic pillars will enter heaven. As mentioned, they are:

    1) To bear witness that there is no entity worthy of worship except Allah(God) alone, and that Muhammad (pbuh) was His messenger. This establishes obedience to God Almighty alone.

    2) To perform five prescribed prayers to God every day according to a specific prescribed method and at specific prescribed times. This continually reminds us to bear God in mind in all actions, either before or after any given prayer.

    3) To pay two and a half percent (2.5%) of ones wealth to charity every year if their savings exceed a certain minimum level which is considered above the poverty level. (This is the basic concept, the actual calculation is a little more complex).

    4) To fast the month of Ramadhan (from the Islamic Lunar calendar) every year from sun rise until sunset. This involves not eating, drinking, or having marital relations, from sun rise until sun set.

    5) To perform a pilgrimage to Makkah (in the Arabian Peninsula) once in a Muslim's lifetime if it is financially possible and their health permits. During this period, Muslims come from all over the world to join together for six days in a prescribed set of acts of worship. All Muslim men are mandated to wear the same garment which was designed to be very plain, simple, and cheap to obtain.

    Mu'ad ibn Jabal said: I said to Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him): Inform me about an act which would entitle me to enter into Paradise, and distance me from the Hell-Fire. He (the Prophet) said:

    "You have asked me about a matter [which ostensibly appears to be] difficult but it is easy for those for whom Allah, the Exalted, has made it easy. Worship Allah and do not associate anything with him, establish prayer, pay the Zakat, observe the fast of Ramadhan and perform Hajj to the House (Ka'aba)."

    (Narrated by Ahmed, al-Tirmathy, and ibn Majah)

    Prophet Muhammad (pbuh):

    Muslims are taught that prophets are humans who have been selected by God for a special purpose. They are given miracles to assist them in their message but these miracles are not performed through their own power, but through the power of God. The prophets of God have no divine powers of their own, nor even the power to decide who will go to heaven or to hell. They are merely there to convey the message entrusted to them by God to the best of their ability.

    In a similar manner, Muhammad (pbuh) was assisted by God with a number of miracles and entrusted to convey His message to mankind. Muhammad (pbuh) himself, however, was just a regular human being. He could not issue passes to heaven. He could not condemn people to hell. He could not change what was in people's hearts. He could only convey the message and hope that they would believe.

    Muhammad (pbuh) lived like any other man or woman of his people. He dressed like they dressed. He ate the same food they ate. He lived in the same manner and in the same sort of houses they did. It would be impossible for someone who did not know him to pick him out of a crowd.

    Muhammad (pbuh) taught his followers through example. If he commanded his followers to do something, he would be the first to abide by this command. He never broke his word, he was by far the most charitable man among his people. He was the most God-fearing and the least attached to this life. He never in his life accepted charity, but worked for a living. He never lied. It was not at all uncommon for him to spend months on end enduring severe hunger never seeing a single cooked meal. He taught his followers to be merciful to their children and respectful to their elders. He commanded them to never taste alcohol, gamble, engage in usury (interest), fornication, envy, deceit, or back-biting. Muhammad (pbuh) taught that no human being needs any other human being to intercede for him with God. He showed them that God is within the reach of all his creation. He hears and sees all and answers His servant's prayers. Muhammad (pbuh) further severely cautioned against promoting any of God's creation or groups thereof to higher levels of divine authority and closeness to God than others, or the excessive glorification of any human being. This includes the prophets of God themselves. He taught that the very best of God's servants are those who continuously seek out knowledge and that God sees all that they do.

    Muhammad (pbuh) taught his followers to be industrious and to earn an honest living. He taught them that the best Muslims are those who are not overly obsessed with earthly wealth since excessive wealth usually leads to corruption. However, he also taught that a wealthy person who is not blinded by his wealth is not condemned by God and may even be able to utilize his wealth in acts of worship not available to the poor. In other words, Muhammad (pbuh) taught moderation in all things.

    There is much more that could be said about the teachings of Muhammad (pbuh), however, probably one of the most general summaries made by Muhammad (pbuh) in this regard was:

    "Righteousness is good conduct, and sin is that which weaves inside your chest and you hate for it to be revealed to mankind."

    No 'religious' hierarchy:

    In Islam, there is no hierarchy of religious leadership such as the people of some other religions may have come to expect. There are no priests, bishops, monks, Popes, ...etc. Muslims define a scholar of Islam as an 'Imam' (not to be confused with the "Imams" of Iran who claim to have boundless supernatural powers and divine attributes). In any given neighborhood, the Imam is the person that a Muslim seeks for religious rulings. For example, if a Muslim dies and his sons want to distribute his inheritance, they go to the Imam and he presents them with the verses of the Qur'an and the Sunnah which describe the required procedure. This man will also usually give religious lectures to teach the Qur'an and the Sunnah.

    The Muslim Imams and scholars have no special divine powers. They cannot forgive sins. They do not receive divine "inspirations." They cannot issue passes to heaven. They do not have knowledge of the unseen. The can not change the law. They are just regular Muslims who have distinguished themselves with their study and their knowledge.

    No monasticism (monkhood)Monkhood:

    Islam commands Muslims to obey Allah and follow his command. It specifies acts of worship which are acceptable. It encourages Muslims to work and be industrious. It forbids 'monkhood' and excessive 'spritualization' or 'Zen' and other such practices. A Muslim is commanded not to forbid upon himself that which was made lawful by Allah, nor to introduce new and innovative acts of worship into the religion. This means that a Muslim should not decide that even though Islam allows marriage, he will forbid it upon himself and remain celibate (he may choose not to marry, but he can not forbid it upon himself). If he wishes to perform extra worship, there are many avenues open to him, such as nightly prayer, charity, abstinence from sin....etc. Muhammad (pbuh) once gave the example of two men. One was practicing monasticism and excessive worship, totally detaching himself from this worldly life. The other was working for a living and paying for the food and drink that the "monk" was consuming each day. Muhammad (pbuh) told his followers that the man who was making an honest living and supporting the 'monk' was greater in reward in the eyes of Allah.

    The law:

    Islam, like Judaism, is a structured set of laws and commandments. The basis of Islam is the five pillars mentioned previously. Anyone who dies observing the five pillars will enter heaven. Anyone who does not may enter Hell (there are exceptions). However, there are many subtle levels both above and below these. These levels are governed by the law.

    Islam teaches us that Muslims will be rewarded in proportion to their good deeds, their restraint from evil deeds, and their faith. In this manner we will have people who will enter different levels of heaven, as well as different levels of hell, in direct proportion to their faith and deeds.

    We learn about the laws of Islam from the Qur'an and the Sunnah. The Qur'an is the Holy book of Islam which contains the words of Allah Almighty and the broad guidelines of Islam. The Sunnah, is the traditions of the prophet Muhammad (pbuh) which included both his words and his actions. The Sunnah usually provides the details for those laws which are drawn out in broad outlines in the Qur'an. Each one of these two sources has a dedicated and very complex science associated with it.

    "And We have sent down unto you (O Muhammad) the Reminder (one of the names of the Qur'an), that you may clarify to mankind that which was sent down to them"

    The noble Qur'an, Al-Nahil(16):44

    Al-Bukhari narrated upon the authority of Abu Hurairah, that he said: Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) said:

    "Allah said: 'I will declare war against him who shows hostility to a pious worshipper of Mine. And the most beloved things with which My slave draws nearer to Me is that which I have ordained upon him. My slave continues to draw closer to Me through performing 'Nawafil' (supplementary worship) till I love him. So I become the sense of hearing with which he hears, and the sense of sight with which he sees, and the hand with which he grips, and the leg with which he walks. And if he asks Me, I will give him, and if he asks my protection, I will protect him'"

    The way of life:

    Islam is not the same as some other religions from the point of view that it is not confined to a certain place of worship or a certain act, or acts, of worship. Islam teaches it's followers that every single aspect of their life, from eating, to drinking, to sleeping, and everything in-between can be done in one of two ways: Either a way that pleases God, or one that displeases Him.

    Islam is also a social, economic, and political way of life. Every single aspect of human existence is governed by the law of Islam. A Muslim is commanded to respect his elders and to show humility and respect to his parents. He is also commanded to show kindness and mercy to those who are younger or weaker than himself as well as all of God's beasts. A Muslim is commanded to have nothing whatsoever to do with usury, gambling, or alcohol. A Muslim, however, is not passive and weak. He is commanded that if he sees the laws of God being violated or an injustice being committed, he must stand up for the truth and fight to establish the law of God, defend the oppressed, and establish justice and peace.

    A just but merciful law:

    Islam, as mentioned above, involves a structured set of laws and acts of worship. Some are more strict and rigid than others. For instance, there can be no excuse whatsoever for worshipping any entity other than Allah alone. Here there is no room for compromise. On the other hand, Islam is designed to also be flexible and lenient. For instance, if a Muslim is sick and can not fast during the month of Ramadhan without incurring bodily harm to himself, then even though this is one of the five pillars of Islam, he is not mandated to fast. In fact he is encouraged not to fast. The law allows for leniency in this, and most other cases.

    Muslims are taught that each good deed is multiplied by Allah Almighty till it becomes the equivalent of anywhere from ten up to seven hundred similar good deeds (sometimes more). An evil deed, however, is either counted as a single evil deed or is forgiven by Allah. A Muslim is further taught that as long as there is life there is hope. So long as death has not yet overcome him, he can still repent from his evil deeds and, if his intentions are sincere, Allah is willing to forgive all of his past evil deeds no matter if they exceed the drops of water in the ocean.

    Islam teaches Muslims that God holds them responsible for their INTENTIONS and not necessarily for their DEEDS. This is revealed by the prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in the following saying which was narrated by Umar ibn al-Khattab in Sahih Al-Bukhari:

    "The Prophet (pbuh) said, "O people! The reward of deeds depends upon the intentions, and every person will get the reward according to what he has intended. So, whoever emigrated for Allah and His Messenger, then his emigration was for Allah and His Messenger, and whoever emigrated to achieve a worldly benefit or for a woman to marry, then his emigration was for that which he emigrated for".

    "The good deed and the evil deed are not alike. Repel the evil deed with one which is better"

    The noble Qur'an, Fussilat(41):34

    "Verily! Allah does not forgive that a partner should be ascribed unto Him. He forgives (all) save that to whom He will. Whoso ascribes partners to Allah, he has indeed invented a tremendous sin."

    The noble Qur'an, Al-Nissa(4):48.

    "Whatever of misfortune strikes you, it is what your right hands have earned. And He forgives much."

    The noble Qur'an, Al-Shurah(42):30

    "And those who, when they do an evil thing or wrong themselves, remember Allah and implore forgiveness for their sins. Who forgives sins save Allah only? and they do not knowingly repeat (the wrong) they did. The reward of such will be forgiveness from their Lord, and Gardens underneath which rivers flow, wherein they will abide for ever, a bountiful reward for workers!"

    The noble Qur'an, A'al-Umran(3):135-136.

    "He knows the treachery of the eyes, and that which the chests do hide."

    The noble Qur'an, Ghafir(40):19.

    "He is the One that accepts repentance from His Servants and forgives sins: and He knows all that you do."

    The noble Qur'an, Al-Shurah(42):25.

    "The likeness of those who spend their wealth in Allah's way is as the likeness of a grain which grows seven ears, in every ear a hundred grains. Allah gives manifold increase to whom He will. Allah is All Embracing, All Knowing."

    The noble Qur'an, al-Bakarah(2):261

    "Say: My slaves who have been prodigal to their own hurt! Despair not of the mercy of Allah, Who forgives all sins. Lo! He is the Forgiving, the Merciful. Turn unto Him repentant, and surrender unto Him, before there comes unto you the doom, when you cannot be helped. And follow the better (guidance) of that which is revealed unto you from your Lord, before the doom comes on you suddenly when you know not, Lest any soul should say Alas, my grief that I was unmindful of Allah, and I was indeed among the scoffers! Or should say: if Allah had but guided me I should have been among the dutiful! Or should say, when it sees the doom: Oh, that I had but a second chance that I might be among the righteous! (But now the answer will be): Nay, for My revelations came unto you, but you denied them and were scornful and were among the disbelievers."

    The noble Qur'an, Al-Zumar(39):53-59.

    Abu Hurairah narrated that Allah's messenger (pbuh) said

    "When Allah completed the creation, He wrote in His Book which is with Him on His throne: Verily, 'My Mercy has overcome my Anger'."

    Narrated in Sahih Al-Bukhari.

    Abu Hurairah furhter narrated : I heard Allah's messenger (pbuh) saying:

    "Allah has divided His Mercy into one hundred parts, and He kept ninety nine parts with Him and sent down one part on the earth, and because of that one single part, His creatures are merciful to each other, so that even the mare lifts up it's hoof away from it's baby animal, lest it should trample it."

    Narrated in Sahih al-Bukhari.

    Names of God:

    The people of Christianity have been taught to refer to their deity as "God." If you were to ask one of them: "What is your god's name?," they would respond "God!" (there are some exceptions). They object to Muslims worshipping "Allah," and usually picture "Allah" as some pagan god. Some of them will even go so far as to curse "Allah," not realizing that they are cursing "God."

    Now the question becomes: where did the name "God" come from? Did Jesus (pbuh) ever say "God"? Did Moses (pbuh) ever say "God"? No! The Jews and Arabs are both Semitic tribes which descended from one father, Abraham (pbuh). Their languages are quite similar. The Old Testament tells us that Moses (pbuh) referred to God as "El" or "Elohiym." Jesus (pbuh) too, referred to God using a similar construct. Jesus (pbuh) spoke Aramaic, however, the ancient copies of the Gospel available to us today are mostly written in Greek. Very little of Jesus' actual words have been preserved to this day. However, we do know from Mark 15:34 that Jesus (pbuh) referred to God as "Eloi." "Eloi" is an Aramaic word which means "My God." It is pronounced as {el-o-ee'}. The Arabs would say the same word as "Elahi," pronounced {el-ah-ee'}. So Muslims refer to God with virtually the exact same word Jesus (pbuh) used.

    Muslims are taught that Allah Almighty has more than one hundred names, the most well known among them being "Allah." These names are to be found in many places throughout the Qur'an. They embody the major characteristics of Allah Almighty such as "The Gracious," "The Merciful," "The Majestic," "The Supreme"...etc.. These names are usually considered adjectives, unless they are applied to Allah Himself, in which case they are treated as proper nouns. For instance:

    "Allah's are the fairest names. Invoke Him by them. And leave the company of those who blaspheme His names. They will be requited what they do."

    The noble Qur'an, Al-Aaraf(7):180.

    "Say (unto mankind): Supplicate unto Allah, or supplicate unto the 'Rahman' (Compassionate/Merciful/Gracious), unto whichever you supplicate (it is the same). His are the most beautiful names."

    The noble Qur'an, al-Isra(17):110.

    "Allah! There is no god save Him. His are the most beautiful names.."

    The noble Qur'an, Taha(20):8.

    "Not equal are the Companions of the Fire and the Companions of the Garden: The companions of the Garden, they are the triumphant. Had We sent down this Qur'an on a mountain verily you would have seen it humble, rent asunder for fear of Allah. Such are the similitudes which We propound to humanity that they may reflect. He is Allah, other than whom there is no other god, He is the 'Knower' of (all things) both the unseen and the seen; He is the 'Gracious' the 'Merciful'. He is Allah, other than whom there is no god, the 'Sovereign' the 'Holy One' the (source of)'Peace,' the 'Guardian of Faith' the 'Overseer,' the 'Majestic,' the 'Irresistible,' the 'Supreme': Glory be to Allah! (highly exalted is He) above the partners they attribute to Him. He is Allah the 'Creator,' the 'Innovator,' the 'Fashioner'. His are the Most Beautiful Names: Whatever is in the heavens and on earth do glorify Him: and He is the 'Mighty' the 'Wise'."

    The noble Qur'an, al-Hashir (59):20-24.

    To learn more about the teachings of Islam, please read

    1. "Towards Understanding Islam," by Abul A`la Mawdudi
    2. "Concept of Islam," by Mahmoud Abu-Saud
    3. "Islam: Basic Principles and Characteristics," by Khurshid Ahmad.
    4. "Islam: An overview," by Muhammad Ibrahim H.I. Surti.

    Last modified: Mon Nov 18 14:20:47 EST 1996
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