25 MOST FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT ISLAM

aassime abdellatif aassime1 at hotmail.fr
Fri Nov 30 20:03:37 CET 2007


1. What is Islam?
The word "Islam" means peace and submission. Peace means to be at
peace with yourself and your surroundings and submission means
submission to the will of God. A broader meaning of the word "Islam"
is to achieve peace by submitting to the will of God.

This is a unique religion with a name which signifies a moral attitude
and a way of life. Judaism takes its name from the tribe of Juda,
Christianity from Jesus Christ, Buddhism from Goutam Buddha and
Hinduism from Indus River. However, Muslims derive their identity from
the message of Islam, rather than the person of Muhammed (P), thus
should not be called "Muhammadans".


2. Who is Allah?
Allah is the Arabic word for "one God". Allah is not God of Muslims
only. He is God of all creations, because He is their Creator and
Sustainer.


3. Who is a Muslim?
The word "Muslim" means one who submits to the will of God. This is
done by declaring that "there is no god except one God and Muhammad is
the messenger of God." In a broader sense, anyone who willingly
submits to the will of God is a Muslim. Thus, all the prophets
preceding the prophet Muhammad are considered Muslims. The Quran
specifically mentions Abraham who lived long before Moses and Christ
that, "he was not a Jew or a Christian but a Muslim," because, he had
submitted to the will of God. Thus there are Muslims who are not
submitting at all to the will of God and there are Muslims who are
doing their best to live an Islamic life. One cannot judge Islam by
looking at those individuals who have a Muslim name but in their
actions, they are not living or behaving as Muslims. The extent of
being a Muslim can be according to the degree to which one is
submitting to the will of God, in his beliefs and his actions.


4. Who was Muhammad? (P)
In brief, Muhammad (Peace be upon him) was born in a noble tribe of
Mecca in Arabia in the year 570 AD. His ancestry goes back to Prophet
Ishmael (P), son of Prophet Abraham (P). His father died before his
birth and his mother died when he was six. He did not attend a formal
school since he was raised first by a nurse as it was the custom those
days, and then by his grandfather and uncle. As a young man, he was
known as a righteous person who used to meditate in a cave. At age 40,
he was given the prophethood when the angel, Gabriel, appeared in the
cave. Subsequently, the revelations came over 23 years and were
compiled in the form of a book called the Quran which Muslims consider
as the final and the last word of God. The Quran has been preserved,
unchanged, in its original form and confirms the truth in the Torah,
the psalms and the Gospel.


5. Do Muslims worship Muhammad? (P)
No. Muslims do not worship Muhammad (P) or any other prophets. Muslims
believe in all prophets including Adam, Noah, Abraham, David, Solomon,
Moses and Jesus. Muslims believe that Muhammad (P) was the last of the
prophets. They believe that God alone is to be worshiped, not any
human being.


6. What do Muslims think of Jesus? (P)
Muslims think highly of Jesus (P) and his worthy mother, Mary. The
Quran tells us that Jesus was born of a miraculous birth without a
father. "Lo! The likeness of Jesus with Allah is the likeness of Adam.
He created him of dust, and then He said unto him: Be and he
is" (Quran 3.59). He was given many miracles as a prophet. These
include speaking soon after his birth in defense of his mother's
piety. God's other gifts to him included healing the blind and the
sick, reviving the dead, making a bird out of clay and most
importantly, the message he was carrying. These miracles were given to
him by God to establish him as a prophet. According to the Quran, he
was not crucified but was raised into Heaven. (Quran, Chapter Maryam)


7. Do Muslims have many sects?
Muslims have no sects. In Islam, there are two major schools of
thought, the Shia and the Sunni. Both have many things in common. They
follow the same book - Quran. They follow the same prophet Muhammad
(P). Both offer their prayers five time a day. Both fast in the month
of Ramadan. They both go for hajj, pilgrimage to Mecca. Those who
follow Prophet Muhammad (P), in accordance with his sayings and
actions, are called Sunni and those who in addition follow the sayings
and views of Ali (Muhammad's son-in- law), as the rightful successor
to Prophet Muhammad (P), are called Shia. Shia means a partisan (party
of Ali) and it started more as a political party to help Ali in his
conflict with his political adversaries. Most Shias live in Iran and
Iraq while the rest of the Muslim world is mostly Sunni. Shias
comprise about 16-percent of the Muslim population.


8. What are the pillars of Islam?
There are five major pillars of Islam which are the articles of faith.
These pillars are 1) the belief (Iman) in one God and that Muhammad
(P) is His messenger, 2) prayer (Salat) which are prescribed five
times a day, 3) fasting (Siyam) which is required in the month of
Ramadan, 4) charity (Zakat) which is the poor-due on the wealth of the
rich and 5) hajj which is the pilgrimage to Mecca once in a lifetime
if one can afford it physically and financially. All the pillars
should be of equal height and strength in a building in order to give
the building its due shape and proportions. It is not possible that
one would do hajj without observing fasting or without practicing
regular prayers. Now think of a building which has pillars only. It
would not be called a building. In order to make it a building, it has
to have a roof, it has to have walls, it has to have doors and
windows. These things in Islam are the moral codes of Islam such as
honesty, truthfulness, steadfastness and many other human moral
qualities. Thus in order to be a Muslim, one should not only be
practicing the pillars of Islam but should also have the highest
possible attribute for being a good human being. Only then the
building is completed and looks beautiful.


9. What is the purpose of worship in Islam?
The purpose of worship in Islam is to be God conscious. Thus the
worship, whether it is prayer, fasting, or charity, is a means to
achieve God consciousness so that when one becomes conscious of God,
in thought and in action, he is in a better position to receive His
bounties both in this world and the hereafter.


10. Do Muslims believe in the hereafter?
God is Just and manifest His justice, He established the system of
accountability. Those who do good will be rewarded and those who do
wrong will be punished accordingly. Thus, He created Heaven and Hell
and there are admission criteria for both. Muslims believe that the
present life is a temporary one. It is a test and if we pass the test,
we will be given a life of permanent pleasure in the company of good
people in Heaven.


11. Will the good actions of the non-believers be wasted?
No. The Quran clearly says that, "anyone who has an atom's worth of
goodness will see it and anyone who has done an atom's worth of evil
will also see it" (Quran 99:7-8). By that it is meant that those who
are non- believers but have done good will be rewarded in this world
for their good deed. On the other hand, those who do good if they are
Muslims, they will be rewarded not only in this world but also in the
world hereafter. However, the final Judgment is up to God himself.
(Quran 2:62)


12. What is the dress code for Muslims?
Islam emphasizes modesty. No person should be perceived as a sex
object. There are certain guidelines both for men and women that their
dress should neither be too thin nor too tight to reveal body forms.
For men, they must at least cover the area from the knee to navel and
for women, their dress should cover all areas except the hands and
face. The veil is not essential.


13. What are the dietary prohibitions in Islam?
Muslims are told in the Quran not to eat pork or pork products, meat
of the animals who died before being slaughtered or the carnivorous
animals (as they eat dead animals), nor drink blood or intoxicants
such as wine or use any illicit drugs.


14. What is Jihad?
The word "Jihad" means struggle, or to be specific, striving in the
cause of God. Any struggle done in day-to-day life to please God can
be considered Jihad. One of the highest levels of Jihad is to stand up
to a tyrant and speak a word of truth. Control of the self from wrong
doings is also a great Jihad. One of the forms of Jihad is to take up
arms in defense of Islam or a Muslim country when Islam is attacked.
This kind of Jihad has to be declared by the religious leadership or
by a Muslim head of state who is following the Quran and Sunnah.


15. What is the Islamic Year?
The Islamic year started from the migration (Hijra) of Prophet
Muhammad (P) from Mecca to Medina in 622 AD. It is a lunar year of 354
days. The first month is called Muharram. 1996 AD is in Islamic year
1416 AH.


16. What are the major Islamic festivals?
Idul Fitre, marks the end of fasting in the month of Ramadan and is
celebrated with public prayers, feasts and exchange of gifts. Idul
Adha marks the end of the Hajj or the annual pilgrimage to Mecca.
After the public prayers, those who can afford, sacrifice a lamb or a
goat to signify Prophet Abraham's obedience to God, shown by his
readiness to sacrifice his son Ishmael.


17. What is Sharia?
Sharia is the comprehensive Muslim law derived form two sources, a)
the Quran b) the Sunnah or traditions of Prophet Muhammad (P). It
covers every aspect of daily individual and collective living. The
purpose of Islamic laws are protection of individuals' basic human
rights to include right to life, property, political and religious
freedom and safeguarding the rights of women and minorities. The low
crime rate in Muslim societies is due to the application of the
Islamic laws.


18. Was Islam spread by the sword?
According to the Quran, "There is no compulsion in religion" (2:256),
thus, no one can be forced to become a Muslim. While it is true that
in many places where Muslim armies went to liberate people or the
land, they did carry the sword as that was the weapon used at that
time. However, Islam did not spread by the sword because in many
places where there are Muslims now, in the Far East like Indonesia, in
China, and many parts of Africa, there are no records of any Muslim
armies going there. To say that Islam was spread by the sword would be
to say that Christianity was spread by guns, F-16's and atomic bombs,
etc., which is not true. Christianity spread by the missionary works
of Christians. Ten-percent of all Arabs are Christians. The "Sword of
Islam" could not convert all the non-Muslim minorities in Muslim
countries. In India, where Muslims ruled for 700 years, they are still
a minority. In the U.S.A., Islam is the fastest growing religion and
has 6 million followers without any sword around.


19. Does Islam promote violence and terrorism?
No. Islam is religion of peace and submission and stresses on the
sanctity of human life. A verse in the Quran says, [Chapter 5, verse
32], that "anyone who saves one life, it is as if he has saved the
whole of mankind and anyone who has killed another person (except in
lieu of murder or mischief on earth) it is as if he has killed the
whole of mankind." Islam condemns all the violence which happened in
the Crusades, in Spain, in WW II, or by acts of people like the Rev.
Jim Jones, David Koresh, Dr. Baruch Goldstein, or the atrocities
committed in Bosniaby the Christian Serbs. Anyone who is doing
violence is not practicing his religion at that time. However,
sometimes violence is a human response of oppressed people as it
happens in Palestine. Although this is wrong, they think of this as a
way to get attention. There is a lot of terrorism and violence in
areas where there is no Muslim presence. For example, in Ireland,
South Africa, Latin America, and Sri Lanka. Sometimes the violence is
due to a struggle between those who have with those who do not have,
or between those who are oppressed with those who are oppressors. We
need to find out why people become terrorists. Unfortunately, the
Palestinians who are doing violence are called terrorists, but not the
armed Israeli settlers when they do the same sometimes even against
their own people. As it turned out to be in the Oklahoma City bombing,
sometime Muslims are prematurely blamed even if the terrorism is
committed by non-Muslims. Sometimes those who want Peace and those who
oppose Peace can be of the same religion.


20. What is "Islamic Fundamentalism"?
There is no concept of "Fundamentalism" in Islam. The western media
has coined this term to brand those Muslims who wish to return to the
basic fundamental principles of Islam and mould their lives
accordingly. Islam is a religion of moderation and a practicing God
fearing Muslim can neither be a fanatic nor an extremist.


21. Does Islam promote polygamy?
No, polygamy in Islam is a permission not an injunction. Historically,
all the prophets except Jesus, who was not married, had more than one
wife. For Muslim men to have more than one wife is a permission which
is given to them in the Quran, not to satisfy lust, but for the
welfare of the widows and the orphans of the wars. In the pre-Islamic
period, men used to have many wives. One person had 11 wives and when
he became Muslim, he asked the Prophet Muhammad (P), "What should I do
with so many wives?" and he said, "Divorce all except the four." The
Quran says, "you can marry 2 or 3 and up to 4 women if you can be
equally just with each of them" (4:3). Since it is very difficult to
be equally just with all wives, in practice, most of the Muslim men do
not have more than one wife. Prophet Muhammad (P) himself from age 24
to 50 was married to only one woman, Khadija. In the western society,
some men who have one wife have many extramarital affairs. Thus, a
survey was published in "U.S.A. Today" (April 4, 1988 Section D) which
asked 4,700 mistresses what they would like their status to be. They
said that "they preferred being a second wife rather than the 'other
woman' because they did not have the legal rights, nor did they have
the financial equality of the legally married wives, and it appeared
that they were being used by these men."


22. Does Islam oppress women?
No. On the contrary, Islam elevated the status of women 1,400 years
ago by giving them the right to divorce, the right to have financial
independence and support and the right to be identified as dignified
women (Hijab) when in the rest of the world, including Europe, women
had no such rights. Women are equal to men in all acts of piety (Quran
33:32). Islam allows women to keep their maiden name after marriage,
their earned money and spend it as they wish, and ask men to be their
protector as women on the street can be molested. Prophet Muhammad (P)
told Muslim men, "the best among you is the one who is best to his
family." Not Islam, but some Muslim men, do oppress women today. This
is because of their cultural habits or their ignorance about their
religion. Female Genital Mutilations has nothing to do with Islam. It
is a pre Islamic African Custom, practiced by non Muslims including
coptic Christians as well.


23. Is Islam intolerant of other religious minorities?
Islam recognizes the rights of the minority. To ensure their welfare
and safety, Muslim rulers initiated a tax (Jazia) on them. Prophet
Muhammad (P) forbade Muslim armies to destroy churches and synagogues.
Caliph Umer did not even allow them to pray inside a church. Jews were
welcomed and flourished in Muslim Spain even when they were persecuted
in the rest of Europe. They consider that part of their history as the
Golden Era. In Muslim countries, Christians live in prosperity, hold
government positions and attend their church. Christian missionaries
are allowed to establish and operate their schools and hospitals.
However, the same religious tolerance is not always available to
Muslim minorities as seen in the past during Spanish inquisition and
the crusades, or as seen now by the events in Bosnia, Israel and
India. Muslims do recognize that sometimes the actions of a ruler does
not reflect the teachings of his religion.


24. What is the Islamic view on-
a. Dating and Premarital sex:
Islam does not approve of intimate mixing of the sexes, and forbids
premarital or extramarital sex. Islam encourages marriage as a shield
to such temptations and as a means of having mutual love, mercy and
peace.


b. Abortion:
Islam considers abortion as murder and does not permit it except to
save the mother's life (Quran 17:23-31, 6:15 1).


c. Homosexuality and AIDS:
Islam categorically opposes homosexuality and considers it a sin.
However, Muslim physicians are advised to care for AIDS patients with
compassion just as they would for other patients.


d. Euthanasia and Suicide:
Islam is opposed to both suicide and euthanasia. Muslims do not
believe in heroic measures to prolong the misery in a terminally ill
patient.


e. Organ transplantation:
Islam stresses upon saving lives (Quran 5:32); thus, transplantation
in general would be considered permissible provided a donor consent is
available. The sale of the organ is not allowed.


25. How should Muslims treat Jews and Christians?
The Quran calls them "People of the Book", i.e., those who received
Divine scriptures before Muhammad (P). Muslims are told to treat them
with respect and justice and do not fight with them unless they
initiate hostilities or ridicule their faith. The Muslims ultimate
hope is that they all will join them in worshipping one God and submit
to His will.

"Say (O Muhammad): O people of the Book (Jews and Christians) come to
an agreement between us and you, that we shall worship none but Allah,
and that we shall take no partners with Him, and none of us shall take
others for Lords beside Allah. And if they turn away, then say: Bear
witness that we are those who have surrendered (unto Him)." (Quran
3:64)

What about Hindus, Bahai, Buddhists and members of other religions?
They should also be treated with love, respect, and understanding to
make them recipients of Invitations to Islam.



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