25 Most Frequently Asked Questions About Islam
The Arabic word “Islam” means peace and submission. Peace means to be at peace with ourselves and our surroundings, and submission means surrendering to the will of God. A broader meaning of the word “Islam” is to achieve peace within our hearts and society at large by obeying to the will of God.
This is a unique religion with a name that signifies a moral attitude and a way of life. Judaism takes its name from the tribe of Judah, Christianity from Christ, Buddhism from Goutam Buddha and Hinduism from Indus River. However, muslims derive their identity from the message of Islam, rather than the person of Muhammad (Peace be upon him), thus should not be called “Muhammadans”.
Allah is the Arabic word for “One God”. Allah is not the God of Muslims only, but also God of Jews, Christians and all humans. He is their Creator and Sustainer. An Arabic speaking Non Muslims also calls God by His Arabic name Allah.
The word “Muslim” means one who accepts Islam. This is done by declaring, “There is no god except one God and Muhammad (P) is the messenger of God.” All the prophets preceding prophet Muhammad are considered Muslims. The Qur’an specifically mentions Abraham who lived long before Moses and Jesus saying that, “he was not a Jew nor a Christian but a Muslim.” (Qur’an 3:67). One cannot judge Islam by looking at those individuals who have a Muslim name but who in their actions, are not living or behaving as Muslims. The extent of being a Muslim can be according to the degree to which one is surrendering to the will of God, in one’s beliefs and actions. One does not need to change his/her name to an Arabic name when he/she becomes a Muslim.
In brief, Muhammad (P) was born in a noble tribe of Mecca in Arabia in the year 570 AD. His ancestry goes back to the Prophet Ishmael (P), son of the Prophet Abraham (P). His father died before his birth and his mother died when he was six. He did not attend a formal school since he was raised first by a nurse as was the custom those days, and then by his grandfather and uncle. As a young man, he was known as a righteous person who used to meditate in a cave. At age 40, he was given the prophethood when the angel, Gabriel, appeared in the cave. Subsequently, the revelations came over 23 years and were compiled in the form of a book called the Qur’an which Muslims consider as the final and the last word of God. The Qur’an which Muslims consider as the final and the last word of God. The Qur’an has been preserved, unchanged, in its original Arabic language.
No. Muslims do not worship Muhammad (P) or any other prophets. Muslims believe in all prophets including Adam, Noah, Abraham, David, Solomon, Moses and Jesus. Muslims believe that Muhammad (P) was the last of the prophets. They believe that God alone is to be worshiped, not any human being. Muhammed is not divine or an incarnation of God.
Muslims hold Jesus (P) and his worthy mother, Mary in great esteem. The Qur’an tells us that Jesus was born miraculously without a father. “Lo! The likeness of Jesus with Allah is the likeness of Adam. He created him of dust, and then He said unto him: Be and he is” (Qur’an 3.59). He was given many miracles as a prophet. These include speaking soon after his birth in defense of his mother’s piety. God’s other gifts to him included healing the blind and the sick, reviving the dead, making a bird out of clay and most importantly, the message he was carrying. These miracles were given to him by God to establish him as a prophet. According to the Qur’an, he was not crucified but was raised into Heaven. ( Qur’an, Chapter Mary) Muslim do not consider Jesus a son of God or divine.
During life of Prophet Mohammad (P) there were no sects in Islam. Later, many years after his death, many schools of thought developed, according to teachings of later Imams (leaders). Shia follow Imam Jaffer and Sunni have 4 schools of thought (Hanafi, Maliki, Shaafi, and Hambali). Both Shia and Sunni follow the same book – Qur’an. They follow the same prophet Muhammad (P). Both offer their prayers five times a day. Both fast in the month of Ramadan. They both go on the jajj, pilgrimage to Mecca. Those who strictly follow Prophet Muhammad (P), in accordance with his sayings and actions, are called Sunni. Those who consider Ali (Muhammad’s son-in-law), as the rightful successor to Prophet Muhammad (P), are called Shia. Shia means a partisan (party of Ali). Most Shias live in Iran and Iraq while the rest of the Muslim world is mostly Sunni. Shias comprise about 16 percent of the Muslim population. Wahabis are sunni who follow strict Islamic laws and are mostly in Saudi Arabia.
The Black Muslim movement was started by Elijah Muhammad, founder of The Nation of Islam in 1930. In 1975, his son, Imam W.D. Mohammad, renounced his father’s racist teaching. As Islam does not discriminate against anyone because of skin color. Thus, the term Black Muslim is a misnomer.
A Sufi is a Muslim (Shia or Sunni) who has devoted his/her life to achieve God’s nearness with meditation and other acts of piety while adhering to rituals and Sharia. Prominent Sufi orders in the USA are The Bawa Mohyuddin Fellowship, Naqshbandi, and Mehlavi orders. International Association of Sufism (IAS) is an umbrella organization of sufi order (IAS.org)
There are five major pillars of Islam which are the articles of faith. These are 1) the belief (Iman) in the oneness of God and that Muhammad (P) is His messenger, 2) prayer (Salat/namaz) which is prescribed five times a day, 3) fasting (Siyam) which is required in the month of Ramadan, 4) charity (Zakat) which is the tax-due on the wealth of the rich Muslims, and 5) hajj which is the pilgrimage to Mecca once in a lifetime if one can afford it physically and financially. All the pillars should be of equal height and strength in a building in order to give the building its due shape and proportions. It is not possible that one would do hajj without observing fasting or without practicing regular prayers. A building with pillars only, cannot be called a building. A building has to have a roof, walls, doors and windows. These is Islam are the moral codes of Islam such as honesty, truthfulness, steadfastness and many other human moral qualities. Thus in order to be a Muslim, one should not only be practicing the pillars of Islam but should also have the highest possible attributes for being a good human being. Only then is the building complete and looks beautiful.
The purpose of worship in Islam is to be God conscious. Thus the worship, whether it is prayer, fasting, or charity, is a means to achieve God consciousness so that when one becomes conscious of God, in thought and in action, one is in a better position to receive His bounties both in this world and in the hereafter.
Muslims don’t hate the America or the American people. However many Muslims disagree with American policies in the Middle East because of American support of Israel and the oppressive regimes in the muslim countries as well as apathy towards the plight of Palestinians and other oppressed muslims. Once America is seen as their benefactor and liberator, this feeling may change to love.
Suicide is prohibited in Islam . Qur’an says “don’t kill yourselves as God has been very merciful to you “(4:29) and ” take not a life which is sacred except in course of justice ” (6:151). However , as to who will go to heaven or to hell, the final judgement is to God Himself (Qur’an 2:62).
Islam emphasizes modesty to protect individuals and society. No person should be perceived as a sex object. There are certain guidelines both for men and for woman so that their dress should neither be thin nor tight enough to reveal body forms, must at least cover the area from the knee to navel and as for women, their dress should cover all areas except the hands and face. The veil is not essential.
Muslims are told in the Qur’an not to eat pork or pork products, the meat of the animals who were dead before being slaughtered or the carnivorous animals (because they eat dead animals), nor drink blood or intoxicants such as wine or use any illicit drugs.
The word “Jihad” literally means constant inner struggle, or to be specific, striving in the cause of God. Any struggle done in day-to-day life to please God can be considered Jihad. One of the highest levels of Jihad is to stand up to a tyrant and speak a word of truth. Control of the self from wrong doings is also a great Jihad. One of the forms of Jihad is to take up arms in defense of Islam or of a Muslim country when Islam is attacked. This kind of Jihad has to be declared by the religious leadership or by a Muslim head of state who is following the Qur’an and Sunnah. Tools of Jihad (struggle against injustice) can be money, speech, writing, not just the sword.
The Islamic year started from the migration (Hijra) of Prophet Muhammad (P) from Mecca to Medina in 622 AD. It is a lunar year of 354 days. The first month is called Muharram. 2002 AD is in Islamic year 1423 AH. Muslim do not celebrate “New Year”.
Eidal Fitr, marks the end of fasting in the month of Ramadan and is celebrated with public prayers, feasts and exchange of gifts. Eidal Adha corresponds the Hajj or the annual pilgrimage to Mecca. After the public prayers, those who can afford it, sacrifice a lamb or a goat to signify Prophet Abraham’s obedience to God, shown by his readiness to sacrifice his son Ishmael.
Sharia is the eternal and comprehensive Muslim moral code derived form two sources, a) the Qur’an b) the Sunnah or traditions of Prophet Muhammad (P). It covers every aspect of daily individual and collective living. The purpose of Islamic laws is the protection of the individual’s basic human rights to include the right to life, property, political and religious freedom and safeguarding the rights of women and minorities.
According to the Qur’an, “There is no compulsion in religion” (2:256), thus, no one can be forced to become a Muslim. While it is true that in many places where Muslim armies went to liberate people or the land, they did carry the sword as that was the weapon used at that time. However, Islam did not spread by the sword because in many places where there are Muslims now, in the Far East like many places where there are Muslims now, in the Far East like Indonesia, in china, and many parts of Africa, there are no records of any Muslim armies going there. About ten-percent of all Arabs are Christians. If the non-Muslims under Muslim rule were to be converted by sword then no one would have been left Non-Muslim, but this did not happen. In India, where Muslims ruled for 700 years, they are only 15% of population. In the U.S.A., Islam is the fastest growing religion and has 8 million followers without any sword around.
Qur’an does not ask Muslims to kill all Jews, Christians or other non Muslims. Critics of Qur’an an which refer to verse 2:191, and 4:89 as being harsh, must know that these verses were directed against the terrorists )pagan Arabs) of those days who were persecuting prophet Mohammad(P) and his followers. Islam is the religion of peace and submission and stresses the sanctity of human life. We are told in the Qur’an (5:32), that “anyone who saves one life, it is as if he has saved the whole of mankind” Islam condemns the genocide by Christians in the Crusades, in Muslim Spain, the holocaust by Nazis or slaughter in Bosnia and Kosova by the Christian Serbs. There is a lot of terrorism and violence in areas where there is no Muslim presence. For example, in Ireland, South Africa, Latin America, and Sri Lanka. Sometimes the violence is due to a struggle between those who are oppressed and those who are oppressors. Palestinians regard their struggle to liberate occupied land as a freedom struggle. We need to find out why people use violence. Unfortunately, Palestinians are called terrorists, but not the armed Israeli settlers when they do the same. As it turned out to be in the case of the Oklahoma City bombing, sometimes Muslims are falsely blamed even if the terrorism is committed by non-Muslims. Wecondemn terrorism irrespective of the religion of the terrorist. Gandhi was killed by a militant Hindu, prime minister Rabin by a militant Jew and president Lincoln by a Christian. A terrorist can have a Muslim name but a practicing Muslim cannot be a terrorist.
There is no concept of “Fundamentalism” in Islam. The media has coined this term to brand those Muslims who wish to return to the basic fundamental principles of Islam and mould their lives accordingly. Islam is a religion of moderation and a practicing; God fearing Muslim should not be an extremist.
Only 4% of Muslims men worldwide have more than one wife. Polygamy in Islam is a permission not a injunction. Historically, all the prophets except Jesus, who was not married, had more than one wife. For Muslim men to have more than one wife is a permission which is given to them in the Qur’an, for the welfare of the widows and the orphans of the wars. In the pre-Islamic period, men used to have many wives. One person had 11 wives and when he became muslim, he asked the Prophet Muhammad (P), “What should I do with so many wives?” and he said, “Divorce all except the four.” The Qur’an says, “you can marry 2 or 3 and up to 4 women if you can equally just with all wives, in practice, most Muslim men do not have more than one wife. The Prophet Muhammad (P) himself from the age 24 to 50 was married to only one woman, Khadija. In western society, some men who have one wife have many extramarital affairs. Thus, a survey was published in “U.S.A. Today” (April 4, 1988 Section D) which asked 4,700 mistresses what they would like their status to be. They said that “they preferred being a second wife rather than the ‘other woman’ because they did not have the legal rights, nor did they have the financial equality of the legally married wives, and it appeared that they were being used by these men.
No. On the contrary, Islam elevated the status of women 1,400 years ago by giving them the right to divorce, the right to have financial independence and support and the right to be identified as dignified women (Hijab) when in the rest of the world, including Europe, women had no such rights. Woman are equal to men in all acts of piety (Qur’an 33:32). Islam allows women to keep their maiden name after marriage, and their earned money and property. The Qur’an asks men to be their protectors as women on the street can be molested. Prophet Muhammad (P) told Muslim men, “The best among you is the one who is best to his family.” Not Islam, but some Muslim men, do oppress women. This is because of their cultural habits or their ignorance about their religion. Female Genital Mutilations (Female Circumcision) has nothing to do with Islam. It is a pre Islamic, African custom, practiced also by non-Muslims, including Coptic Christians as well.
a. Dating and Premarital sex: Islam does not approve of intimate mixing of the sexes, and forbids premarital or extramarital sex. Islam encourages marriage as a shield to such temptations and as a means of having mutual love, mercy and peace.
b. Abortion: Islam considers the abortion of a viable fetus as murder and does not permit it except to save the mother’s life (Qur’an 17: 23-31, 6:151).
c. Homosexuality and AIDS: Islam categorically opposes homosexuality and considers it a sin However, Muslim physicians are advised to care for AIDS patients with compassion just as they would for other patients.
d. Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide: Islam is opposed to both suicide and euthanasia. However, Muslims do not believe in heroic measures to artificially prolong the misery of a terminally ill patient.
e. Organ transplantation: Islam stresses saving lives (Qur’an 5:32); thus, transplantation in general would be considered permissible provided consenting donor consent is available. The sale of the organ is not allowed.
f. Human Cloning: Islam is opposed to this as children should be born of an intact marriage between husband and wife, and each human has his/her unique individual features.
g. Stem Cell Research: is permitted using embryo only from spontneous abortion or miscarriage.
Islam was the first to recognize the other Abrahamic religions The Qur’an calls them “People of the Book”, i.e., those who received Divine scriptures before Muhammad (P). Muslims are told to treat them with respect and justice, and do not fight with them unless they initiate hostilities. The Muslims hope that they all will join them in worshipping one God and submit to His will.
“Say (O Muhammad): O people of the Book (Jews and Christians) come to an agreement between us and you, that we shall worship none but god, and that we shall take no partners with Him, and none of us shall take others for Lords beside God. And if they turn away then say: Bear witness that we are those who have surrendered (unto Him).” (Qur’an 3:64)
What about Hindus, Bahai, Buddhists and members of other religions?
They should also be treated with love, respect, and understanding and be invited to accept Islam.
The Ten Commandments
(Exodus 12: 1-17 & Deuteronomy 5: 6-21)
Confirmation in the Qur'an
(Chapter : Verse)
- Thou shall not take any God except one God.
- Thou shall make no image of God
- Thou shall not use God’s name in vain.
- Thou shall honor thy mother and father.
- Thou shall not steal.
- Thou shall not lie or give false testimony.
- Thou shall not kill.
- Thou shall not commit adultery.
- Thou shall not covet thy neighbor wife or possessions.
- Thou shall keep the Sabbath holy.
- There is no God except one God (47:19)
- There is none whatsoever like unto him (42:11)
- Make not God’s name an excuse to your oaths (2:224)
- Be kind to your parents if one or both of them attain old age in thy life, say not a word of contempt nor repel them but address them in terms of honor. (17:23)
- As for the thief, male or female, cut off his hands, but those who repent After a crime and reform shall be forgiven by God for God is forgiving and kind. (5:38-39)
- They invoke a curse of God if they lie. (24:7) Hide not the testimony(2:283)
- If anyone has killed one person it is as if he had killed the whole mankind. (5:32)
- Do not come near adultery. It is an indecent deed and way for other evils. (17:32)
- Do good to your parents, relatives and neighbors. (4:36) Saying of the Prophet Muhammad (P) “One of the greatest sins is to have illicit sex with your neighbors wife.”
- When the call for the Friday Prayer is made, hasten to the remembrance of God and leave off you business. (62:9)