An Introduction to Islam
The literal meaning of Islam is peace; surrender of one’s will i.e. losing oneself for the sake of God and surrendering one’s own pleasure for the pleasure of God. The message of Islam was revealed to the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings on him) 1, 400 years ago. It was revealed through angel Gabriel (on whom be peace) and was thus preserved in the Holy Quran. The Holy Quran carries a Divine guarantee of safeguard from interpolation and it claims that it combines the best features of the earlier scriptures.
The prime message of Islam is the Unity of God, that the Creator of the world is One and He alone is worthy of worship and that Muhammad (peace and blessings on him) is His Messenger and Servant. The follower of this belief is thus a Muslim - a Muslim’s other beliefs are: God’s angels, previously revealed Books of God, all the prophets, from Adam to Jesus (peace be on them both), the Day of Judgement and indeed the Decree of God. A Muslim has five main duties to perform, namely; bearing witness to the Unity of God and Muhammad (peace and blessings on him) as His Messenger, observing the prescribed prayer, payment of Zakat, keeping the fasts of Ramadhan and performing the pilgrimage to Mecca.
Islam believes that each person is born pure. The Holy Quran tells us that God has given human beings a choice between good and evil and to seek God’s pleasure through faith, prayer and charity. Islam believes that God created mankind in His image and by imbuing the attributes of God on a human level mankind can attain His nearness. Islam’s main message is to worship God and to treat all God’s creation with kindness and compassion. Rights of parents in old age, orphans and the needy are clearly stated. Women’s rights were safeguarded 1,400 years ago when the rest of the world was in total darkness about emancipation. Islamic teachings encompass every imaginable situation and its rules and principles are truly universal and have stood the test of time.
In Islam virtue does not connote forsaking the bounties of nature that are lawful. On the contrary one is encouraged to lead a healthy, active life with the qualities of kindness, chastity, honesty, mercy, courage patience and politeness. In short, Islam has a perfect and complete code for the guidance of individuals and communities alike. As the entire message of Islam is derived from the Holy Quran and indeed the Sunnah and Hadith (the traditions and practices of the Holy Prophet, peace and blessings on him) it is immutable in the face of change in time and place. It may appear rigid to the casual eye, in actual fact it is most certainly an adaptable way of life regardless of human changes.
Islam teaches that the path to spiritual development is open to all. Any individual who searches the One Creator can seek nearness to God through sincere and earnest worship; it is central to establishing a relationship with the Almighty. This positive message for humanity fills hearts with hope and courage.
At present there are 1.5 billion Muslims worldwide and they form the majority in more than 50 countries of the world. Today Islam is the fastest growing faith in the world - its beautiful message is reaching millions in the far corner of the earth.
Attributes of Allah
Allah is the proper name of God, however, we know Him generally through His attributes. These attributes describe how Allah manifests Himself to us. God's attributes are innumerable since human intellect cannot possibly comprehend every aspect of the Supreme Being. A Hadith of the Holy Prophet (peace be on him) makes mention of Ninety Nine names of Allah commonly known as al- Asmaul Husna, the Most Names. In the Holy Quran we read: "And to Allah alone belong all perfect attributes. So call Him by these. And leave alone those who deviate from the right way with respect to His Attributes." (7:181).
"Allah - there is no God but He, the Living, the Self-Subsisting and All-Sustaining. Slumber seizes Him not, nor sleep. To Him belongs whatsoever is in the heavens and whatsoever is in the earth. Who is he that will intercede with Him except by His permission? He knows what is before them and what is behind them; and they encompass nothing of His knowledge except what He pleases. His knowledge extends over the heavens and the earth; and the care of them burdens Him not;and He is the High, the Great." (2:256)
Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The similitude of His light is a lustrous niche, wherein is a lamp. The lamp is in a glass. The glass is as it were a glittering star. It is lit from blessed tree - an olive - neither of the east nor of the west, whose oil would well-nigh glow forth even though fire touched it not.Light upon light! Allah guides to His light whomsoever He will. And Allah sets forth parables to men, and Allah know all things full well.This light is now lit in houses with regard to which Allah has ordained that they be exalted and that His name be remembered in them, Therein is He glorified in the mornings and the evenings (24:36-37)
"He is Allah, and there is no God beside Him, the Knower of the unseen and the seen. He is Gracious, the Merciful.He is Allah, and there is no God beside Him, the Sovereign, the Holy One, the Source of Peace, the Bestower of Security, the Protector, the Mighty, the Subduer, the Exalted. Holy is Allah far above that which they associate with Him.He is Allah, the Creator, the Maker, the Fashioner. His are the most Beautiful Names. All that is in the heavens and the earth glorifies Him, and He is the Mighty the Wise.(59: 23-25)
Abu Huraira (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated: The Holy Prophet (Peace and Blessings of Allah be upon him) said, "Allah has ninety nine Names, one hundred less one; and who memorized them all by heart will enter Paradise." (Bukhari, The Book of Tauhid
Salat - The Prayer
The human being is the only creature who has been distinguished from other creatures with the instinct of knowing right from wrong. He is, therefore, the only one who is expected to be the perfect image of his Creator. That is why the objective of his life is to know his Creator and become a perfect image of his attributes, as Allah says in the Holy Qur'an:
"I have not created jins and humans but, for my worship"
SALAT or the method of worship is the main media through which a human can establish a relationship with his Creator and it is one of the main doors which leads to his complete submission to Allah's will.
Salat also prevents him from wrongdoings. Allah says:
"Surely prayer restrains one from indecency and manifest evil." Which shows that Salat or prayer is a guarantee from Allah that if a worshipper observes prayer with all its conditions, he will be safe from evils, manifest or hidden, small or great. The Holy Prophet (peace be on him) asked to the companions, "if one of you had a stream running by his door and he takes a bath in it five times a day, would any dirt be left on him?." They replied! "No dirt would be left on him". The Holy Prophet said: "This is the case with Salat (the five daily prayers) Allah makes the Salat wipe out his sins".
When we reflect on the creation of the universe and the law that governs it and the design and variety that pleases our eyes, we naturally are convinced of existence and greatness of Allah.
Allah says in the Holy Quran:
"In the creation of the heavens and the earth and in the alternation of the night and the day there are indeed signs for men of understanding;" Those who remember Allah while standing, sitting, and lying on their sides, and ponder over the creation of the heavens and the earth: "Our Lord, Thou hast not created this in vain; nay, Holy art Thou; save us, then, from the punishment of the Fire." (Aal-e-Imran, v19l-192)
This verse beautifully tells us that when a worshipper reflects upon the structure of the Universe he becomes overwhelmed with the greatness of its Creator. The ENTITY Who created such an awe-inspiring structure with such detailed arrangement and accuracy. He is alone to be worshipped and so right for protection.
There are five daily prayer services participation in which is obligatory. This may seem a little too much, but it is all a matter of comparative values. Those who realize the true value of prayer through experience are convinced that time spent in it is occupied much more beneficially than that spent in other pursuits.
There is no ordained priesthood in Islam. Every Muslim can be Imam (who leads congregational prayer) and can deliver a sermon. The members of the congregation may select, and for this purpose, they should choose one from among themselves who knows the Holy Quran better than the others. No vestment is prescribed for the Imam nor any special dress for the congregation. All that needed is the body and the head should be decently and cleanly covered.
This article is a reproduction from Tammy's Somali Home