Islam 101: Beliefs and Practices

Islam is more than a religion. It is a system of politics, religion, and culture. Muslims vary as to which of these is at the core.

“Each aspect of life is inseparable from the other. Religious and secular are not two autonomous categories; they represent two sides of the same coin. Each and every act becomes related to God and His guidance. Every human activity is given a transcendent dimension; it becomes sacred and meaningful and goal-centered.”

– Towards Understanding Islam

“It is most important to remember that Islam is not merely a faith but also a juridical and social system, an all-embracing way of life.”

– Islam, Dr. Fazlur Rahman

1. Shahada: Creed

  • The statement of belief:
    • “There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is his messenger”

2. Salat: Prayers

  • Five Prayers on specific times each day while facing the Kaaba in the city of Mecca:
    • Sunrise          Fajr (فجر)
    • Noon              Dhuhr (ظهر)
    • Afternoon     Asr (عصر)
    • Sunset           Maghrib (مغرب)
    • Bedtime        Isha’a (عشاء)
  • Prayer, preceded by ceremonial cleansing acts as a protection against defilement.
  • Different prayer postures, standing, bowing, kneeling, and prostrating express the worshiper feeling as a helpless slave before almighty God.

3. Zakat: Almsgiving

  • 2.5% of all income must be given to charity and the Mosque.
  • Any extra giving is optional, and extra merit with Allah is received for it.

4. Sawm: Fasting

  • During the month of Ramadan (the 9th month of the lunar calendar)
  • 30 days from sunrise to sunset
  • Feasting from sunset to sunrise

5. Hajj: Pilgrimage

  • If you can afford it, you must take a trip to Mecca once in your lifetime, preferably during the month of Ramadan.
  • Required acts include:
    • Circling the Kaaba 7 times
    • Drinking from a well called Zamzam
    • Kissing the black stone
  • Many elderly Muslims go at an old age, hoping to die in Mecca, because this gives assurance of salvation.

1. Allah

  • Allah is One, not Three
  • He is not bound by a moral code
  • Indescribable by human terms, although they have the 99 names for Allah
  • Allah’s will is supreme
  • His decisions are not understandable by us. and we should not question them

2. Angels

  • Angels can be good or evil.
  • Evil angels work on behalf of Allah.
  • Everyone is born with a Qarina, an evil demon that lives inside each person.
  • Jinn are created by fire.
  • An angel sits on each shoulder, each recording in a book the good and evil acts of each person. Their records will be weighed on the day of judgement.

3. Prophets

  • Around 124,000 prophets are recognized by Islam
  • Many Biblical prophets are recognized, 30 of which are mentioned in the Qur’an
  • Muhammad is the last prophet of Allah
  • There are six major prophets of Islam:
    1. Adam: The chosen of Allah
    2. Noah: The preacher of Allah
    3. Abraham: The friend of Allah
    4. Moses: The speaker of Allah
    5. Jesus: The word of Allah
    6. 6. Muhammed: The apostle of Allah

4. Books

  • Each Prophet of Allah has produced a book, although most are lost.
  • The approved holy books are the Tawrat, Injeel, Psalms, and Qur’an. The Qur’an is the best and the last.

5. The Day of Judgement

  • The books that are recorded by your two angels will be weighed by a scale, the heavier of the two determine your fate.
  • However, Allah does not have to honor this, he can choose to save or condemn anyone he choses.

6. Fate (Predestination)

  • God has preordained everything that has and will happen
  • Man has no choice or free will
  • What the Bible is to Christians, the Qur’an is to Muslims
  • The Qur’an was revealed by the angel Gabriel to Muhammad
  • The Bible is also God’s word, but it has been corrupted, so it is unreliable
  • The Qur’an has altogether replaced the Bible. While Muslims believe that the Bible is good, they do not read or study it
  • Stories of Muhammad’s sayings and doings
  • Commentary interpreting the Qur’an
  • Come second to the Qur’an in authority
  • Over 300,000 Hadiths;
    • 6,000 are considered correct
    • All others are questionable
  • In arguments, Muslims still refer to these Hadiths as if they were truth
  • Whatever was most recently revealed to Muhammad cancels out, or abrogates anything that came before.
  • This is very difficult to determine since the Qur’an is in no way chronological.
  • Nasikh overrules Mansoukh
  • This concept applies also to the Bible
  • Sharia is the only accepted code of law
  • The laws of the Sharia are derived from the Qur’an, Hadith, Ijma’ (consensus), and Qias (precedence).
  • Most Muslim countries do not practice Sharia
  • Currently, Sharia is practiced in:
    • Saudi Arabia
    • Iran
    • Afghanistan
  • Salvation is earned, not given freely:
    • At death, God will weigh your good and bad deeds. This will determine whether you will be sent to Fire or Paradise. But in the end, Allah decides your fate and can send anyone to heaven or to hell regardless of their record of sin or how they lived their life
  • Human beings should practice the pillars of Islam, and be obedient to the Sharia law
  • There is no assurance of Paradise except:
    1. If you die in battle for the cause of Allah*
      • The Qur’an says: “Let those (believers) who sell their life of this world for the Hereafter fight in the cause of Allah, and whoso fights in the cause of Allah, and is killed or gets victory, We shall bestow on him a great reward (heaven).” -Surah 4:47
      • This is Islamic Jihad. Jihad however is not limited to fighting. Jihad can also be working hard for Islam.
    2. If you die in Mecca during the pilgrimage
  • Islam does not agree with the view about the fallen and corrupted nature of mankind.
  • In Islam, the core of people’s nature remains good.
    • Why? Nothing can destroy what God has made.
  • The Qur’an describes humanity as weak, but not sinful.
  • Sins are the external acts of disobedience
  • Sin is not in the heart, only in actions.
  • It is possible for man to live a sinless life.
  • We are born sinless
  • Sin is an action
  • Thoughts cannot be sinful
  • It is impossible for God to come as a human, Jesus was not God
  • The concept of the Trinity is polytheistic and heretical
  • Has been changed and is no longer reliable
  • Is still considered to be a holy and good book • No Islamic law is biblically based
  • Allah can choose to be merciful, but it is quite arbitrary and we have no promise, only hope for mercy.
  • In Islam, Jesus was a prophet, but not the son of God
  • Muslims do not think that Jesus had the power to forgive sins by dying on the cross.
  • If Jesus was God, he could not die. Can God die?

“Muslims believe that Jesus was not crucified. It was the plan of Jesus’ enemies to crucify him, but God saved him and raised him up to Him. And the likeness of Jesus was put over another man. Jesus’ enemies took this man and crucified him, thinking that he was Jesus. God has said: ‘…They said: “We killed the Messiah Jesus, son of Mary, the messenger of God.” They did not kill him, nor did they crucify him, but the likeness of him was put on another man (and they killed that man)…’ (Quran, 4:157)”

  • Sharia Law
  • Islam is to be imposed (forced) on the unbelievers.
  • The balance of Church and State
  • In Islam, the church is the state
Original Content presented by Zef Houssney at Engaging Islam Institute