Islam is the second largest religion in the world with 1.9 Billion adherents called Muslims. As with the other religions I have researched and shared, I will do my best to clearly and accurately represent Islam. I will use the name Allah as this name for God is unique, as far as I can tell, to Islam. Most of what I will share can be found in the booklet What is Islam? Who are the Muslims? by The Institute of Islamic Knowledge. Additional information can be found at many internet sources, both Islamic and non-sectarian. In my research, these varied sources support one another well.
Islam is considered the third and last of the Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Based upon messages transmitted to the prophet Muhammad through the angel Gabriel, Islam is said to build upon the other two religions and correct mistakes that have come into the religious texts. Muhammad received these messages from AD 610 until he died in 632. These messages were first memorized and passed on orally. Later, they were written down by his followers and have been compiled into the Qur’an.
Along with the Qur’an, the books of Hadith (narrations), a collection of sayings, actions, and tacit approval of the prophet Muhammad(Sunnah), are used to help interpret and apply the Qur’an.
Allah – The God
‘Allah’ is the combination of two Arabic words ‘AL Ilâh’ meaning ‘The God’ or ‘The One’. It is used as the proper name of the Creator of all that exists. Allah is a singular, unique being Whom we can never fully comprehend. To a Muslim, Allah is the Almighty, Creator and Sustainer of the universe, Who is similar to nothing and nothing is comparable to Him. He is the First and the Last. He has the power to do whatever He wills. He is Ever-Living (eternal) and the Giver of life. The Love of God for His creatures is immense and beyond human imagination.
Islam rejects the notion of a personal God (One Who relates to His creation in a personal manner) because it is seen as demeaning to the transcendence of God. Anthropomorphism (characteristics similar to humans) and anthropopathism (emotions similar to humans) are strictly rejected. Therefore the Christian concept of the Incarnation is blasphemous. The love of Allah may appear to contradict the concept of anthropopathism, however, love is not necessarily a feeling. It was difficult to find a clear explanation in the literature. As best I can understand it, the love of Allah may be seen as the Greek word agapé emphasizing the self-sacrificing actions towards someone.
Quoting from the Qur’an, “Indeed, Allah loves those who are constantly repentant and loves those who purify themselves.” (Quran 2:222) “Within it [a mosque] are men who love to purify themselves; and Allah loves those who purify themselves.” (Quran 9:108) And Allah loves the doers of good.” (Quran 3:148) “Indeed, Allah loves those who act justly.” (Quran 5:42) Many other verses indicate that the love of Allah toward mankind is based on the Muslim’s allegiance to Allah and their righteous actions towards others.
“According to mainstream Muslim theologians, God is described as Qadim (Eternal, timeless, and infinite, which literally means: “ancient”), having no first, without beginning or end; absolute, not limited by time or place or circumstance, nor is subject to any decree so as to be determined by any precise limits or set times, but is the First and the Last. He is not a formed body, nor a substance circumscribed with limits or determined by measure; neither does he resemble bodies as they are capable of being measured or divided. Neither do substances exist in him; neither is he an accident, nor do accidents exist in him. Neither is he like to anything that exists, nor is anything like to him; nor is he determinate in quantity, nor comprehended by bounds, nor circumscribed by differences of situation, nor contained in the heavens, and transcends spatial and temporal bounds, and remains beyond the bounds of human comprehension and perceptions.” [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God_in_Islam]
As mentioned above, the Qur’an is considered the final and correct revelation of Allah to mankind. As we will see, prophets recognized by Islam include Moses who wrote the Torah (the first five books of the Jewish Bible), King David who wrote most of the Psalms, and Jesus from whom the Christian gospels arose.
However, “Because of not preserving in original languages in written form and translating them in various languages from oral narrations through centuries, human words were mingled with Divine Words, therefore, they lost their pure forms.” [p. 8, What is Islam? Who are the Muslims?; The Institute of Islamic Knowledge]
Therefore, only parts of the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures that agree with or are supported by the Qur’an are considered Divinely given. And since the Qur’an says, “Say, ˹O believers,˺ “We believe in Allah and what has been revealed to us; and what was revealed to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, and his descendants; and what was given to Moses, Jesus, and other prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them. And to Allah we all submit.” So if they believe in what you believe, then they will indeed be ˹rightly˺ guided. But if they turn away, they are simply opposed ˹to the truth˺. But Allah will spare you their evil. For He is the All-Hearing, All-Knowing.” [Al-Qur’an 2:136-137]
Six Articles of Faith
These beliefs are comparable to a religious creed. Quoting from alislam.org:
- To believe in the Oneness of God: The word Allah is used in Islam in the personal name of God and literally means The One.
- To believe in the Angels: Allah created the angels so that they could worship Him and follow His orders.
- To believe in the Books of Allah: Muslims believe that Allah revealed His laws in stages to mankind through His prophets, and therefore accept the Torah of Moses (peace be upon them), the Psalms of David (pbuh) and the Gospel of Jesus (pbuh) as Holy books, as well as the sacred scriptures of all other messengers of Allah. However, Muslims believe that all such revelations were limited to a specific time and people and are not preserved in their original purity, but subject to distortions. All the Holy Scriptures culminated in, and were perfected in, the Holy Quran (just as all religions were perfected in Islam).
- To believe in all the Prophets: The Prophets of Allah are chosen from among human beings. They set the best examples of moral and spiritual conduct.
- To believe in the Day of Judgment: One of the most emphasized beliefs in the Holy Quran is the belief in the Day of Judgment. Islam teaches that physical death is not the end of man’s existence, rather it is the door to a higher form of life which can bring one closer to Allah, depending on one’s deeds in this life.
- To believe in the Divine Decree: Divine Decree means the Will of Allah. Muslims believe that Divine Decree controls the eventual outcome of all actions in this universe. [https://www.alislam.org/question/six-articles-of-faith-islam/]
Life of Devotion
The Five Pillars of Islam (Hadith) These items are considered mandatory for each able-bodied Muslim.
- Profession of Faith (Shahada): “There is no God but Allah; Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.”
- Prayer (Salat): These are prescribed five times a day as a duty towards God. Salat is the direct link between the worshiper and God.
- Almsgiving (Zakat): “Wealth is purified through setting aside a specific portion [2.5% annually*] for the poor, needy, those who suffer losses from incidents beyond their control and the general welfare to establish economic balance and social justice in the society.” [p. 16, What is Islam?] * “a minimum of 2.5% of a person’s “extra” wealth.” [https://www.learnreligions.com/islamic-almsgiving-zakat-2004665]
- Fasting (Sawm) “during the month of Ramadan: This means abstention from food, beverages, and sex from dawn to sunset and curbing evil intentions, desires and actions.” [p. 17, What is Islam?]
- Pilgrimage (Hajj): to Makkah, once in a lifetime.
[Huda. “Five Pillars of Islam.” Learn Religions, Feb. 8, 2021, https://learnreligions.com/five-pillars-of-islam-4008936]
Character and Conduct
Muslims believe in a life of purity and justice for all people in submission to Allah. Unlike Christianity, the concept of ‘Original Sin’ is rejected. Instead sin, or evil thoughts and actions, is something that comes about through one’s cultural environment and by personal choice.
The Prophet Muhammad once said, “Righteousness is good character, and sin is that which wavers in your heart and which you do not want people to know about.” In Islam, committing a sin doesn’t eternally separate a person from the Almighty. The Quran reassures us that Allah is prepared to forgive us. “Say: Oh, my servants who have transgressed against their own souls! Do not despair of Allah’s mercy. Indeed Allah forgives all sins, for Truly He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful” (Quran 39:53). [Huda. “What Islam Teaches About Sin.” Learn Religions, Aug. 26, 2020, https://learnreligions.com/sin-in-islam-2004092.]
In Islam it’s difficult to know what is lawful, and even discerning between right and wrong is hard. As Samuel Zwemer states, “Nothing is right or wrong by nature, but becomes such by the fiat of the Almighty. What Allah forbids is sin, even should He forbid what seems to the human conscious right and lawful. What Allah allows is not sin and cannot be sin at the time he allows it, though it may have been before or after.” [Samuel Zwemer, The Moslem Doctrine of God, 51. from https://www.zwemercenter.com/guide/sin-according-to-muslims/]
Revelation / Prophets
While Muhammad is considered the final “Prophet of God appointed for the guidance of the whole of mankind”, throughout time, “in every known nation one or more Prophets were appointed”. The Prophets “help mankind realize the true purpose of their existence and to help them in living their lives in a purposeful way. It is on this basis that the Muslims make no distinction among any of the Prophets and accept their teachings as consistent and complementary to each other.”
The list of prophets that I found is not presented in any order: Adam, Enoch, Noah, Job, Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Elijah, Elisha, Dhul-Kifl [possibly Ezekiel], Lot, Jonah, Noah, Saleh [ca 720 BC prophet to Tamud – NW Arabian Peninsula along Red Sea], Solomon, Hud [prophet of Arabia prior to Muhammad], Jethro [Moses’ father-in-law], Moses, Aaron, David, Zachariah, John the Baptist, Jesus, Muhammad. [https://myislam.org/prophet-stories/ and Wikipedia for clarification of names and places.]
End Times & After Death
Islam views the end times in a similar way to Judaism and Christianity. “The dead will rise on the Day of Judgment to stand for their final and fair trial.” “Everything we do in this world, every intention we have, every move we make, every thought we entertain, and every word we say, are all counted and kept in accurate records. On the Day of Judgment, they will be brought forth. People with good records will be generously rewarded and warmly welcomed to the Paradise of God, and those with bad records will be punished and cast into Hell.”
“It should be borne in mind that there will not be a nook or corner of life that will remain untouched with the effects of Imam Mahdi’s reappearance. Then, not only the earth, but the shape of the entire universe will undergo visible and tangible alteration. Everything will appear new.” [p. 17, https://www.islamicmobility.com//pdf/HE%20WILL%20COME%20FOR%20SURE.pdf]
“The Mahdi is a messianic figure in Islamic eschatology (study of end times) who is believed to appear at the end of times to rid the world of evil and injustice.” [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahdi]
The Way to Eternal Life
There are two requirements for a Muslim to attain eternal life. First, Faith (Iman), encompasses the immaterial, metaphysical beliefs of God’s existence and nature. Second, Deeds, specifically, faithfully keeping the Five Pillars of Faith and living for the benefit of all mankind.
A Final Thought
Because of certain world events, many people in the Western world believe Muslims are focused on taking over the world by force. Just as history tells us that Christians tried to retake the Holy Land from the Muslims during The Crusades, there are recent events that put intent and blame on all Muslims. At the same time, there are present-day Christian groups that engage in violent actions.
Based on my research I believe most Muslims are living their lives to peacefully demonstrate their faith to their neighbors. Muslims believe Islam is the one true religion just as devout Christians believe Christianity is the one true religion.