Islam, a name given by Allah to this religion (Quran 5:4), is an Arabic word which literally means obedience and peace. ISLAM is derived from the Arabic root “SALEMA”: peace, purity, submission and obedience. So ‘Islam’ would mean the path of those who are obedient to Allah and who establish peace with Him and His creatures. Its follower are called Muslims.
Islam is not a new religion. It is, in essence, the same message and guidance which Allah revealed to all prophets before Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him. Allah says in the Qur’ân:
“Say, `We believe in ALLAH and that which has been revealed to us, and that which was revealed to Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and the tribes, and in that which was given to Moses and Jesus and other Prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them and to HIM we submit.” (Qur’ân 3-85)
FAITH & PRACTICE
For the purposes of discussion and for teaching, Islam is studied under two broad headings, namely, the articles of faith and the acts of worship. Much is so interrelated in these two headings that they are really inseparable. However, they are perhaps the best way to study the religion and the Islamic system of life.
ARTICLES OF FAITH — BELIEFS
All Muslims profess acceptance of God Almighty (Allah) as the One and Only God and Mohammad as the last messanger of God. Muslims believe that angels are spiritual beings who carry out the will of God, that Qura’n is Allah’s eternal word, that prophets are messenger of God and that there will be a day of judgment and accountability with resurrection, at which time, those subservient to the will of God will be rewarded and those who failed to observe their obligations will be punished. Muslims also have an understanding of destiny as an essential belief.
TO BELIEVE IN THE ONENESS OF ALLAH.
This seems to be a rather simple and elementary concept. It should not be difficult for anybody to understand the oneness of God, and there the matter seems to rest. But in fact there is far more to this than meets the eye. When one examines the concept of Unity in depth, the entire world of religion seems to revolve around this pivotal point. This belief influences man’s life in all its aspects. It also implies the negation of all else but God. So belief in the oneness of God is not the end-all of belief, but all other beliefs spring from this fountain-head of eternal truth. This also delivers a message of liberation from all other yokes and releases man from all obligations except such as are born out of his submission to God. Read more
TO BELIEVE IN ALL HIS ANGELS.
The existence of angels is a universally accepted doctrine in different countries and different religions. However, they are sometimes discussed under other titles, the distinction being only one of nomenclature. Similarly, the nature of angels is understood differently among the followers of different religions. Islam speaks of angels as celestial beings of a spiritual nature who have their own entity as persons. The major role they play is the transmission of messages from God to human beings. But they are misunderstood by many, even within Islam, as having human shape or some shape and form, which in fact is an inseparable idea from that of material existence. Matter must have shape and a well defined boundary. But spirit lies beyond the five dimensions of man’s understanding. One can only believe in the existence of spirit if he is a religious person; otherwise it is beyond his reach to conceive the shape and form of spirits. Perhaps to resolve this problem and to make it easier for man to visualise angels, they are sometimes mentioned in religious books as appearing to holy people in the form of human beings. Not only that; they are also known to have appeared to some messengers of God in the form of certain birds. The Holy Ghost appeared to Jesus in the form of a dove:
As soon as Jesus was baptised, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. (Matthew 3:16)
These various references found in religious books were perhaps largely responsible for the misperceptions about the form and nature of angels prevailing among the adherents of various religions. Out of angels, in some religions, deyotas and gods were created, while the original books may have only mentioned them as agencies specifically created by God for performing certain tasks in the universe; of this we have ample evidence in many divine books. So, it is not unlikely that some people misunderstand the significance of these statements and start treating angels as junior partners of God. Read more
TO BELIEVE IN ALL HIS BOOKS.
Let us now turn to the third article of faith, which is the belief in the books. Muslims are required to believe not only in the divine scripture revealed to the Holy Founder of Islam, which is called the Quran, but it is essential for every Muslim to believe in all such divine revelations as were vouchsafed to other prophets, from wherever and whichever age. It is an essential part of a Muslim’s belief that if anyone professes belief only in the divine origin of the Quran, and refuses to acknowledge the divine origin of other books, such as the Old Testament and the New Testament etc., his profession of Islam would be invalidated. Read more
TO BELIEVE IN ALL HIS PROPHETS.
The fourth fundamental article of faith in Islam is belief in all the prophets. This article is in fact a logical conclusion to the third one. The same philosophy as underlies the belief in all books also necessitates belief in all the prophets. The Holy Quran speaks of the many prophets who mostly belong to the Middle Eastern line of prophethood, beginning with Adam upto the time of Muhammad, peace be upon him. Read more
TO BELIEVE IN THE DAY OF RESURRECTION.
After belief in One God, belief in the Day of Judgment is the most emphasized doctrine in the Quran. No other revealed book draws such a vivid picture of the Day of Judgment as does the Holy Quran. According to the Quran, on the Day of Judgment this entire universe will come to an end. Then the dead will be resurrected and accounts taken of their deeds. People with good records will be rewarded and welcomed into heaven while those with bad records will be punished and cast into hell. The concept of hell in Islam is more of a reformatory, where people will spend limited time before eventually entering heaven, which will last for ever. The Day of Judgment is referred to by many names in the Holy Quran. Read more
TO BELIEVE IN THE DECREE OF ALLAH
We have covered in detail the five fundamental beliefs in Islam. There are, however, many other beliefs which are also very important in Islam. Read more
SOME BOOKS ON ISLAM
- Islam – Peaceful Religion A Lecture by Hadhrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih V, Supreme Head of the Worldwide Ahmadiyya Muslim Community delivered at the University D’Abomey- C A L AVI Cotonou, Benin, During his successful visit to Ghana, Burkino Faso, Benin and Nigeria
- Why Islam is my choice? – Personal accounts of spiritual journeys (pdf)