ARTICES OF FAITH
The basic beliefs of Muslims fall into six main categories, which are known as the “Articles of Faith”:
- Unity of God
- His Angels
- His Books
- His Prophets
- The Last Day
- Divine Decree
UNITY OF GOD
Monotheism is central to Islam—a belief in only One God, Unitary, Supreme and Eternal, Omnipotent and Mighty, Merciful and Compassionate. Belief in a plurality of gods or in the extension of God’s divinity to any person is emphatically rejected. Islam rejects the human attributes that the Jews and the Christians added to their doctrines such as God’s wrestling with his prophet or the incarnation of God. God created nature through a primordial act of mercy; otherwise there would be pure nothingness. God provided each element of his creation with its own proper nature, or laws governing its conduct, so that it follows a characteristic pattern. The result is a well ordered harmonious whole, a cosmos in which everything has its proper place and limitations.
Muslims believe in the Angels of God. They are purely spiritual and splendid beings, whose nature requires no food, drink or sleep. They have no physical desires of any kind nor material needs. They spend their whole time in the service of God. There are many of them and each one of them is charged with a specific duty. If we cannot see the Angels with our naked eyes, it does not necessarily deny their actual existence. There are many things in the world that are invisible to the eye or inaccessible to our senses, and yet we believe in their existence e.g. electricity and sound. Belief in the Angels originates from the Islamic principle that knowledge and truth are not entirely confined to the sensory knowledge or the sensory perception alone.
As a result of believing in all the messengers of God, Muslims also have to believe in all the scriptures and revelations of God. In the Quran, a special reference is made to the books of Abraham, Moses, David and Jesus. But long before the revelation of the Quran to Muhammad, all the holy books had been lost or altered. The Quran stands untainted for the past 14 centuries.
A Muslim has to believe in all the messengers of God without any distinction among them. Every known nation has at least one messenger from God. They were chosen by God to guide mankind and deliver His divine message that is submission to the Will and Laws of God. They were sent at different times and places. All prophets are human; they have no share in divinity, but they are the most perfect exemplars for humanity. The Quran mentions the names of twenty-five prophets, and Muslims accept them all. All prophets are considered national or local messengers, with the exception of Muhammad who is considered a prophet for all nations and all time. The message of all prophets was basically the same because it came from One God. Muhammad stands as the last messenger, and the crowning glory of the foundation of the prophethood. This is not an arbitrary attitude, nor is it just a convenient belief. Thus, the Quran describes Muhammad as the “Seal of all Prophets.” From this arises the Islamic belief that prophethood was accomplished and finished with him and that the Quran is the final and authentic perfect revelation of God, consummating and superseding all earlier holy books. The Quran acknowledges the miracles of earlier prophets (Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and others). Muhammad’s eternal miracle is the Quran, the like of which no human can reproduce.
Although right and wrong are inscribed in the human heart, the inability or refusal of many people to interpret that inscription has made prophetic guidance necessary. This guidance is universal; no one on earth has been left without it. Adam was the first prophet; after his expulsion from the Garden of Eden, God forgave him (for this reason Islam does not accept the doctrine of original sin). The messages of all prophets emanate from the same divine source. Religions are, therefore, basically one. They all call for worshiping One God.
THE LAST DAY
The divine activities of creation, sustenance, and guidance end with the final act of judgment. This world will come to an end some day, and the dead will rise to stand for their final and fair trial. On the Day of Judgment, all humanity will be gathered, and individuals will be judged solely according to their deeds. The “successful ones” will go to the Garden (heaven), and the “losers,” or the evil will go to hell. Because God is merciful, He will forgive those who deserve forgiveness. Only God knows the real nature of heaven and hell, and their exact descriptions.
If some people think that they are shrewd enough and can get away with their wrong doings in this life, they are wrong, for they will not be able to do so on the Day of Judgment. Also, if some pious people do good deeds to please God and seem to have no appreciation or acknowledgment in this temporary world, they will eventually receive their full reward on that day. Absolute justice will prevail for all.
Belief in the Day of Judgment is the final relieving answer to many complicated problems of our world. There are people who commit sins, neglect God, and indulge in immoral activities, yet they seem to be “superficially” successful in business and prosperous in life. And there are virtuous and God-minded people. Yet they seem to be getting fewer rewards and more suffering in this life. This may seem puzzling and incompatible with the Justice of God. If the guilty can escape the human laws unharmed and, in addition, be more prosperous, what is, then, left for the virtuous people? There must be some way to reward goodness and arrest evil. If this is not done here on earth, and we know that it is not done regularly or immediately, it has to be done some day. That day is the Day of Judgment. This is not to ignore injustice or tolerate mischief in this world. This is not to sedate the deprived or comfort the exploiters. Rather, it is to warn the deviants from the right path and remind them that the Justice of God shall run its full course sooner or later.
Besides the Last Judgment, which will be on individuals, the Quran recognizes another form of divine judgment, which happens to nations, peoples, and communities. Nations, like individuals, may be corrupted by wealth, power, and arrogance, and, unless they reform, these nations are punished by being destroyed or subjugated by more virtuous nations. This has been evident all over the history of humanity.
Muslims believe in the timeless knowledge of God and in His Power to plan and execute His Plans. God is not indifferent to His world nor is He neutral to it. His knowledge and power are in action at all times to keep order in His vast domain and maintain full command over His creation. He is Wise and Loving, and whatever He does must have a good motive and a meaningful purpose. If this is established in our minds, we should accept in good faith all that He does, although we may fail to understand it fully, or even think it is bad. We should have strong faith in Him and accept whatever He does because our knowledge is limited and our thinking is based upon individual or personal considerations, whereas His Knowledge is limitless and He plans on a universal as well as individual basis.
This does not in any way make man helpless. It simply draws the line between what is God’s concern and what is man’s responsibility. Because we are by nature finite and limited, we have a finite and limited degree of power and freedom. We cannot do everything, and He graciously holds us responsible only for the things we do. The things that we cannot do, or things that He Himself does, are not in the realm of our responsibility. He is Just and has given us limited power to match our finite nature and limited responsibility. On the other hand, the timeless knowledge and power of God to execute His plans do not prevent us from making our own plans in our limited sphere of power. As a matter of fact, God encourages us to think, to plan and to make sound choices, but if things do not happen the way we wanted or planned, we should not loose faith or surrender ourselves to mental strains and shattering worries. We should try again and again, and if the results are not still what we wanted, then we know that we tried our best and rest assured that we are not held responsible for the results. The important point is to try, and then leave the results to God. The Muslims call this article of faith: the belief in “Qadaa” and “Qadar”, which simply means, in other words, that the Timeless knowledge of God anticipates events, and that events take place according to the exact knowledge of God.