Islamic invitation Centre
This document is required reading for: Muslim Culture I : Professor Li Anl
We are thrilled to introduce "Muslim Culture I," an elective lecture series led by the renowned Professor Li Anl. As an influential scholar in the field, Dr. Li has authored an impressive array of books and papers on Islam, significantly broadening our understanding and appreciation of Muslim culture and traditions. Beyond the academic rigor, this course offers a candid exploration of the nuances, complexities, and contemporary issues intertwined with the faith. A poignant topic of discussion is the treatment of dogs in Muslim culture. Recently, Professor Li's personal ownership of five dogs and their lavish dog beds (view) has ignited discussions and debates. For some, the presence of dog beds in Dr. Li's residence symbolizes a departure from traditional Islamic practices. For others, it serves as a reminder of the evolving interpretations and diverse lived experiences within the Muslim world. This particular aspect, amongst others, has intensified the anticipation and interest in "Muslim Culture I." We invite you to join us on this transformative journey, where we will challenge conventional wisdom, celebrate diversity, and deepen our collective understanding of Islam.
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"The religion of Islam is not named after a person as in the case of Christianity which was named after Jesus Christ, Buddhism after Gotama Buddha, Confucianism after Confucius, and Marxism after Karl Marx. Nor was it named after a tribe like Judaism after the tribe of Judah and Hinduism after the Hindus. Islam is the true religion of God."
Islam has always appealed to a certain kind of person irrespective of his religious or cultural background - the sincere and open-minded human being who has not lost hope of eventually knowing the truth which will satisfy his soul.
Islam refuses to accept any form of creation whatsoever as a deity worthy of worship. Nothing is worthy of worship except Allah (the One True God) who created the heavens and the earth and all that is contained in it - not stone idols or fire, not heavenly bodies such as the sun and moon, not animals, not angels, and not other men (including prophets).
Islam is not a new religion but the continuation and culmination of preceding monotheistic religion - the same truth revealed by God to every prophet. Islam means submission to the will of God. Islam is not as it is represented in the popular media, nor is it Arab culture, nor is it a religion in the sense of mere private conviction or speculation concerning the state of existence.
Islam is the religion of peace: its meaning is peace; one of God's names is peace; the daily greetings of Muslims and angels are peace; paradise is the house of peace, the adjective 'Muslim' means Peaceful. Peace is the nature, the meaning, the emblem and the objective of Islam. Every being is entitled to enjoy the peace of Islam and the kindness of the peaceful Muslims, regardless of religious or geographical or racial considerations, so long as there is no oppression against Islam or the Muslims. If non-Muslims are peaceful with the Muslims or even indifferent to Islam, there can be no justification to interfere in their affairs or declare war on them. There is no religion or constitution that guarantees peaceful freedom of religion and forbids compulsion in religion except Islam.
God is completely just and merciful, and His laws are just for all people regardless of nationality, color or social status. The life and property of all citizens in an Islamic state are considered sacred, whether or not a person is Muslim.
There are few people on earth today who have not heard something about Islam. Yet, one is often surprised to learn that it is really quite different from his initial impression. For Islam is not as it is represented in the Western media, nor is it Arab culture, nor is it a religion in the sense of mere private conviction (or more often, speculation) concerning the state of existence.
Islam is a voluntary relationship between an individual and his Creator. The outstanding difference between this and other religions is that Islam refuses to accept any form of creation whatsoever as a deity worthy of worship. It emphasizes the exclusive worship of the One who created the heavens and the earth, to whom all creation will finally return. It is not a new religion but the continuation and culmination of preceding monotheistic religion - the same truth revealed by God to every prophet. Hence, it is for all peoples and all times.
Islam has always appealed to a certain kind of person irrespective of his religious or cultural background - the sincere and open-minded human being who has not lost hope of eventually knowing a truth which will satisfy his soul.
Who are the Muslims?
One and a half billion people (more than one fifth of the world's population) from a vast range of races, nationalities and cultures across the globe - from the southern Philippines to the western coast of Africa - are united by the common Islamic faith. Of these, about eighteen percent live in the Arab world. The world's largest Muslim community is in Indonesia, and substantial parts of Asia and much of Africa are Muslim, while significant minorities are to be found in what used to be called the Soviet Union, as well as China, North and South America, Europe and Oceania. For Muslims, Islam is both a religion and a complete way of life.
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What Do Muslims Believe?
Muslims believe in one, unique, incomparable God, in the angels created by Him, in the prophets through whom His revelations were brought to mankind, in the Day of judgement and individual accountability for actions, in God's complete authority over human destiny, and in life after death.
Islam teaches that human diversity is a sign of the richness of God's mercy. God has willed that human beings compete with each other in righteousness in order to test who is the best in deeds, and this is the reason for the creation of the universe. God alone is the judge of human righteousness, and it is God alone who rewards and punishes in this life and in the Hereafter.
God (whose name is "Allah" in Arabic) is the creator and sustainer of this universe, Since man cannot know his Creator through the physical senses, God has revealed Himself through a series of messengers or prophets. We are familiar with some of them through earlier scriptures such as the Torah and the [Injeel] Gospel. Every people on earth was at some time sent a messenger from God, but with the passing of generations men tended to deviate from the true religion, often replacing it with alien ideas and practices. Each prophet was sent to reform his people and turn them back to the worship of God alone. The last of these prophets was Muhammad (blessings and peace be upon him), through whom God's message was completed. God promised that this final message would be preserved for all mankind. And the words revealed by God through the Angel Gabriel (pbuh) to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) have indeed been passed down to us in their original Arabic text, unchanged since the time of revelation. This scripture is called the Qur'an.
The essence of God's message through all of the prophets was: "O mankind, worship God. You have no other deity but Him."[Qur'an: Surah al-A'raf 7:59, 65, 73, 85; Surah Hud 11:50, 61, 84; and Surah al-Muminun 23:23, 32]. Nothing is worthy of worship except Him who created you - not stone idols or fire, not heavenly bodies such as the sun and moon, not animals, not angels, and not other men (including prophets) - for all of these are His creations.
God is one. His unity is evident in the order, arrangement and symmetry of the universe. He is all-knowing and all- powerful. He is completely just and merciful. God has revealed certain names and descriptions of Himself so that we may have a limited understanding of His qualities and therefore love, and at the same time, fear Him.
This universe was not formed by chance, nor is it left to chance. God created it for a purpose and subjected it to physical laws for an appointed period of time. Man was created for a purpose as well - to serve God on earth and live according to His law. This is the essence of Islam, a word which means literally: submission to the will of God. It is God alone (who created us and knows us better than we know ourselves) who has the right to govern our lives. And His law means justice for all people regardless of nationality, color or social status. Human beings are judged only on the basis of righteousness.
Man has been given a free will and has been left the choice of whether or not he will follow the way of God. Furthermore, he has been given a mind with which he is able to reason and choose wisely. One may, by his own efforts, gain knowledge that enables him to recognize the evidence of God in His creation. By contemplation one may weigh, measure and learn from all situations. And finally, because the human mind and experience is limited, God has revealed the guidance we need through prophets.
After making available the information necessary for one to choose His way, God informs us in the Qur'an that after passing through a temporary stage of death man will bear the consequences of his choice in a greater life to come. Every individual is personally responsible for his own deeds - both good and evil. No one else can carry the burden of his sins.
On the other hand, God is always prepared to accept and forgive any servant who has gone astray and then repents and turns back to Him. The compensation for evil will be exact justice, but the compensation for good will be much greater - complete satisfaction and happiness.
This last message revealed by God to mankind through Prophet Muhammad is the final and complete religion and legal code for mankind. Just as a new revised law supersedes and invalidates what came before it, Islam now nullifies all former religions on earth. It corrects the deviations that had crept into religion previously, in the realm of both belief and practice. The text of the Qur'an has been preserved by God in order that humanity may no longer have an excuse to deviate and that there may always be men who keep the true religion.
The final prophet sent by the Creator to mankind was an example to be followed and obeyed. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) patterned his life on the teachings of the Qur'an, which were revealed to him by God. True Muslims try to follow this noble example. A high moral standard is clearly the goal of Islam. It is the duty of every Muslim to learn and put into practice all that he can of his religion in order to earn the pleasure of God before returning to Him.
Muslims have two distinct advantages to help them in the practice of Islam as their way of life:
The sacred scripture, the Qur'an, which was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in the seventh century, still remains authentic in its original Arabic text. This language is used and understood by millions of people in the world today. The Qur'an contains God's guidance in teachings and commandments, which are valid for all times and places and which encompass all spheres of human life.
The example of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) lives on as well. There is a complete and authentic record showing how he exemplified the teachings and commandments of God and elaborated the principles laid down in the Qur'an - all in order to provide sure guidance for their interpretation and application for all later times and societies.
What are the "Five Pillars" of Islam?
They are the framework of a Muslim's life: the declaration of faith, prayer, zakah, fasting, and the pilgrimage to Makkah, which are described briefly in the following sections.
Shahadah (Declaration of Faith)
"There is no deity [worthy of worship] except God, and Muhammad is His messenger." This declaration of faith is called the shahadah, a simple formula which all of the faithful pronounce.
The concept of "no deity except God" is always alive in the Muslim's heart. He recognizes that God alone is the Creator, that He alone is the Provider and Sustainer, that He is the true Reality, the source of all things - of all benefit and harm. This requires that He be worshiped and obeyed.
Islam emphasizes the unity of divinity (tawheed) as opposed to the concept of trinity in Christianity and plurality of gods in other religions. God is the original source of all occurrences and actions. He is completely superior to and unlike anything He has created, He is not in any way a part of His creation, nor is it a part of Him. Therefore, although God has revealed to us certain qualities of His, they are not like those found in man. No one is able to imagine God because He is completely above and beyond His creation. This concept of the uniqueness of God the Creator is found only in Islam. The significance of that uniqueness is that He alone can rightfully be worshiped. In addition, no other creature or human being has the right of intercession between man and God. Instead, the Muslim's relationship with Him is direct and personal.
"No deity except God" includes the question of authority. The right to govern man belongs to the One who created him. When one is guided to the true path of God, all other ways of life lose their place in his heart and are replaced by a desire to please Him alone in anticipation of the judgement and full compensation in the next life.
Belief in God's Messenger means accepting Prophet Muhammad as the last messenger sent by Him. While previous messengers were sent to peoples at different times to guide and reform them, the "Seal of the Prophets," Muhammad (peace be upon him and upon all of God's messengers), was sent with the final revelation (i.e., the Qur'an) to all of mankind as guidance for humanity until the Day of Judgement.
Prophet Muhammad is the spokesman for God by His authority. Muhammad's duty was not only to deliver the message which God revealed but also to explain it and put it into practice as an example to be followed by mankind. Thus, the Qur'an and the sunnah (the Prophet's sayings and examples) are the two main sources of Islamic law.
In the Qur'an, God has made obedience to the Prophet incumbent upon the believers. The teachings of Prophet Muhammad are available today in the form of hadith, i.e., his sayings and traditions related and recorded by those who witnessed or heard them. Scholars have carefully scrutinized the reliability of the transmitters of these traditions, accepting only those hadiths whose chain of narrators is known to be completely reliable and sound.
Acceptance of Prophet Muhammad as the final messenger sent by God to complete His religion upon the earth eliminates belief in any claim to prophethood after him. Thus, a Muslim completely rejects the claims of all false prophets. The Qur'an states:
"Muhammad is not the father of any of your men, but he is the Messenger of God and the Seal of the Prophets. And God has full knowledge of all things." [Qur'an: Surah al-Ahzab 33:40].
A few examples of the prophet's sayings are as follows:
"God will not have mercy upon one who does not have mercy for others." [Bukhari, Muslim and at-Tirmidhi].
"None of you [truly] believes until he likes for his brother what he likes for himself" [Bukhari, Muslim, at-Tirmidhi, an-Nasai and Ibn Majah]
"He is not a believer who eats his fill while his neighbor remains hungry" [Al-Hakim, at-Tabarani and al-Bayhaqi]
"He is not strong who knocks the other down; but strong is the one who controls himself when angry" [Bukhari and Muslim]
"God does not look at your bodies and faces but He looks at your hearts." [Muslim]
Salah (Establishment of Regular Prayer)
No other form of worship can be compared to prayer (salah), for it is the basis of religion, without which there is no religion. Prayer was practiced in some form by the earlier prophets and their followers as an essential part of the religion of God. Islam, which is the final stage, the completion and confirmation of monotheistic religion considers prayer essential, and its denial removes one from the ranks of Islam.
Obligatory prayers are performed five times a day and are a direct link between the worshiper and God. There is no hierarchical authority or priesthood in Islam, so group prayers are led by a person learned in the Qur'an. These prayers, whether performed in congregation or individually, contain verses from the Qur'an and are said in Arabic, the language of the revelation itself. Personal supplication can be offered in one's own language.
Prayers are performed at dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset, and nightfall and thus determine the rhythm of the entire day. Although it is preferable for men to pray together in a mosque, a Muslim may pray almost anywhere, such as in the field, office, factory or university. In fact, visitors to the Muslim world are struck by the centrality of prayers in daily life.
Zakah (Required Expenditure)
One of the most important principles of Islam is that all things belong to God and that wealth is therefore held by human beings in trust. The word zakah means both purification and growth. Our possessions are purified by setting aside a proportion for those in need, and like the pruning of plants, this cutting back balances and encourages new growth.
Each Muslim calculates his or her own zakah individually. For most purposes this involves the payment each year of two and a half percent of the capital in excess of one's basic needs. One may also give as much as he or she pleases in voluntary charity (sadaqah), seeking additional reward. This is preferably done in secret. Although the word "sadaqah" can be translated as charity, it has a wider meaning. For example, the Prophet said:
"Every good deed is a sadaqah. And one who directs [others] toward good is like him who does it." [Al-Bayhaqi]
Fasting, which involves abstinence from eating, drinking, smoking and marital intercourse, is observed throughout the daylight hours of the 29 or 30 days of the lunar month of Ramadhan in obedience to God's command. This teaches the believers patience and self-control, as well as reminding them of their responsibility for the millions of human beings in the world who lack provisions or are victims of their unjust distribution.
The month of fasting is accompanied by increased efforts toward good manners and righteous deeds, along with additional worship at night. It is not a retreat from life, but rather, a supplement to one's ordinary activities.
Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Makkah is an obligation only for those who are physically and financially able to perform it. Nevertheless, about two million people go to Makkah each year from every corner of the globe, providing a unique opportunity for those of different nations to meet one another. Although Makkah is always filled with visitors, their number increases in the twelfth month of the Islamic year, when hajj takes place. (Because the Islamic calendar is based upon lunar months, hajj and Ramadhan fall sometimes in summer and sometimes in winter.) Pilgrims wear special clothing - simple garments which strip away distinctions of class and culture - so that all stand equal before God.
In previous centuries hajj was an arduous undertaking. Today, however, Saudi Arabia provides millions of people with water, modern transport and up-to-date health facilities.
Reflections from the Hajj
Does Islam Tolerate Other Beliefs?
One function of Islamic law is to protect the rights and status of minorities. History provides many examples of Muslim tolerance towards other faiths. For example, when the Caliph 'Umar (ra), entered Jerusalem in the year 634, freedom of worship was granted to all religious communities in the city.
The Qur'an states:
"God does not prohibit you regarding those who do not fight you or drive you out of your homes from dealing kindly and justly with them. Indeed, God loves those who are Just." [Qur'an: Surah al-Al-Mumtahinah, 60:8]
Jesus in the Qur'an
The Qur'an provides the proper perspective concerning the person of Jesus - that he is a human prophet, like all of the others, to be held in honor and respect but not in worship. This view is consistent with the unity and exclusiveness of God. The virgin birth of Jesus is confirmed in the Qur'an and compared to the creation of Adam - without father or mother, by God's will.
Like other prophets, Jesus was sent to confirm and renew the basic doctrine of belief in one God. The words of Jesus related in the Qur'an reveal:
"[I have come] to confirm the law which came before me in the Torah and to make lawful for you some of what was forbidden to you." [Qur'an: Surah Ali 'Imran, 3:50]
"O Children of Israel, worship God, my Lord and your Lord. Verily he who associates others with God - He has forbidden him Paradise." [Qur'an: Surah al-Ma'idah, 5:72]
And in the Qur'an, God denies the claims of those who attribute divinity to Jesus, saying:
"Christ, the son of Mary we not but a messenger. Other messengers have passed on before him. And his mother was a women of truth. [Qur'an: Surah al-Al-Ma'idah, 5:75]
"The Messiah would never disdain to be a servant of God nor would the angels close to Him." [Qur'an: Surah an-Nisa, 4:172]
The Family in Islam
The family is the foundation of Islamic society. The peace and security offered by a stable family unit is greatly valued and seen as essential for the spiritual growth of its members. A harmonious social order is created by the existence of extended families. Children are treasured and rarely live outside the home until they marry.
Islam sees a woman, whether single or married, as an individual in her own right, with the right to own and dispose of her property and earnings. A marriage dowry is given by the groom to the bride for her own personal use, and she keeps her own family name rather than taking her husband's. Both men and women are expected to dress in a modest and dignified way and to remain chaste. Islam encourages the facilitation of marriage and allows a man to have more than one legal wife while strictly forbidding any extramarital relationships between the sexes. Because Islam was ordained for all societies and all times, it accommodates widely differing social requirements. Circumstances may warrant the taking of another wife, but the right is granted according to the Qur'an only on the condition that the husband is scrupulously fair in dealing with each. Islam is explicit about the rights and duties of both husbands and wives; therefore, divorce is not common. It is, however, permitted as a last resort its marriage fails.
In the Islamic world there are no homes for the elderly. Caring for one's parents at this time is considered an honor and blessing and an opportunity for great spiritual growth. Mothers are particularly honored, and the Prophet taught that Paradise lies under the feet of mothers. Muslim parents are treated with kindness, mercy and selflessness, especially in old age. The Qur'an instructs:
"Your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him, and [show] kindness to parents. If one or both of them attain old age while with you, do not say 'uff to them but speak to them with honor and kindness. Treat them with humbleness and say 'My Lord have mercy upon them, as they raised me when I was small.'" [Qur'an: Surah al-Isra', 17:23-24]
What is Islam ?
"Islam, An Arabic word, is rich in meaning. One important dimension is the "commitment to submit and surrender to God so that one could live in peace" peace (salam) is achieved through active obedience to the revealed Commandments of God for God is the Source of all Peace. Commitment to Islam entails striving for peace through a struggle for justice, equality of opportunity, mutual caring and consideration for others' rights, and continuous research and acquisition of knowledge for the better protection and utilization of the resources of the universe."
Islam rejects characterizing God in any human form or depicting Him as favoring certain individuals or nations on the basis of wealth, power or race. He created the human beings as equals. They may distinguish themselves and get His favor through virtue and piety only.
It is narrated that one of the companions of the Prophet (pbuh) once asked the Prophet: 'Prophet of God, give me a comprehensive directive of Islam, after which I need not ask any one else about it'. The Prophet replied: 'Say: I believe in the One God and then remain steadfast on it'.
In fact, the message of Islam, is so simple, that even a bedouin nomad could understand. Whereas, christianity is so nonsensical, that no christian understands it, not even Drs in theology.
Islam is the natural teaching of humanity, whether humanity accepts it or not.
Who is Allah?
Is Allah a moon god??? NO. Allah is the personal name of the One true God. Nothing else can be called Allah. The term has no plural or gender. This shows its uniqueness when compared with the word god which can be made plural, gods, or feminine, goddess. It is interesting to notice that Allah is the personal name of God in Aramaic, the language of Jesus and a sister language of Arabic.
Let there be no doubt - Muslims worship the God of Noah, Abraham, Moses, David and Jesus - (peace be upon them all).
THE RELIGION OF ISLAM
The True Religion
By Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips
The first thing that one should know and clearly understand about Islam is what the word "Islam" itself means. The religion of Islam is not named after a person as in the case of Christianity which was named after Jesus Christ, Buddhism after Gotama Buddha, Confucianism after Confucius, and Marxism after Karl Marx. Nor was it named after a tribe like Judaism after the tribe of Judah and Hinduism after the Hindus. Islam is the true religion of "Allah" and as such, its name represents the central principle of Allah's "God's" religion; the total submission to the will of Allah "God". The Arabic word "Islam" means the submission or surrender of one's will to the only true god worthy of worship "Allah" and anyone who does so is termed a "Muslim", The word also implies "peace" which is the natural consequence of total submission to the will of Allah. Hence, it was not a new religion brought by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) I in Arabia in the seventh century, but only the true religion of Allah re-expressed in its final form.
Islam is the religion which was given to Adam, the first man and the first prophet of Allah, and it was the religion of all the prophets sent by Allah to mankind. The name of God's religion lslam was not decided upon by later generations of man. It was chosen by Allah Himself and clearly mentioned in His final revelation to man. In the final book of divine revelation, the Qur'aan, Allah states the following:
"This day have I perfected your religion for you, completed My favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion". (Soorah Al-Maa'idah 5:3)
"If anyone desires a religion other than Islam (submission to Allah (God) never will It be accepted of Him" (Soorah Aal'imraan 3:85)
"Abraham was not a Jew nor Christian; but an upright Muslim." (Soorah Aal'imraan 3:67)
Nowhere in the Bible will you find Allah saying to Prophet Moses' people or their descendants that their religion is Judaism, nor to the followers of Christ that their religion is Christianity. In fact, Christ was not even his name, nor was it Jesus! The name "Christ" comes from the Greek word Christos which means the annointed. That is, Christ is a Greek translation of the Hebrew title "Messiah". The name "Jesus" on the other hand, is a latinized version of the Hebrew name Esau.
For simplicity's sake, I will however continue to refer to Prophet Esau (PBUH) as Jesus. As for his religion, it was what he called his followers to. Like the prophets before him, he called the people to surrender their will to the will of Allah; (which is Islam) and he warned them to stay away from the false gods of human imagination.
According to the New Testament, he taught his followers to pray as follows: "Yours will be done on earth as it is in Heaven".
THE MESSAGE OF ISLAM
Since the total submission of one's will to Allah represents the essence of worship, the basic message of Allah's divine religion, Islam is the worship of Allah alone and the avoidance of worship directed to any person, place or thing other than Allah.Since everything other than Allah, the Creator of all things, is Allah's creation; it may be said that Islam, in essence calls man away from the worship of creation and invites him to worship only its Creator. He is the only one deserving man's worship as it is only by His will that prayers are answered. If man prays to a tree and his prayers are answered, it was not the tree which answered his prayers but Allah who allowed the circumstances prayed for to take place. One might say, "That is obvious," however, to tree-worshippers it might not be. Similarly, prayers to Jesus, Buddha, or Krishna, to Saint Christopher, or Saint Jude or even to Muhammad, are not answered by them but are answered by Allah. Jesus did nottell his followers to worship him but to worship Allah. As the Qur'aan states:
"And behold Allah will say: "O Jesus the son of Mary Did you say to men, Worship me and my mother as gods besides Allah He will say-"Glory to you I could never say what I had no right (to say')" (Soorah Al-Maa'idah- 5:116)
Nor did he worship himself when he worshipped but rather he worshipped Allah. This basic principle is enshrined in the opening chapter of the Qur'aan, known as Soorah Al-Faatihah, verse 4:
"You alone do we worship and from you alone do we seek help".
Elsewhere, in the final book of revelation, the Qur'aan, Allah also said:
"And your Lord says:"Call on Me and I will answer your(prayer)."(Soorsh Mu'min 40:60)
it is worth noting that the basic message of Islam is that Allah and His creation are distinctly different entities. Neither is Allah His creation or a part of it, nor is His creation Him or a part of Him.
This might seem obvious, but, man's worship of creation instead of the Creator is to a large degree based on ignorance of this concept. It is the belief that the essence of Allah is everywhere in His creation or that His divine being is or was present in some aspects of His creation, which has provided justification for the worship of creation though such worship maybecalled the worship of Allah through his creation. How ever, the message of Islam as brought by the prophets of Allah is to worship only Allah and to avoid the worship of his creation either directly or indirectly. In the Our'aan Allah clearlystates:
"For We assuredly sent amongst every people a prophet,(with the command) worship meand avoid false gods " (Soorsh Al-Nahl 16:36)
When the idol worshipper is questioned as to why he or she bows down to idols created by men, the invariable reply is that they are not actually worshipping the stone image, but Allah who is present within it. They claim that the stone idol is only a focal point for Allah's essence and is not in itself Allah! One who has accepted the concept of the presence of God's being within His creation in any way will be obliged to accept this argument of idolatry. Whereas, one who understands the basic message of Islam and its implications would never concede to idolatry no matter how it is rationalized. Those who have claimed divinity for themselves down through the ages have often based their claims on the mistaken belief that Allah is present in man. They merely had to assert that although Allah according to their false beliefs, is in all of us, He is more present in them than in the rest of us. Hence, they claim, we should submit our will to them and worship them as they are either God in person or God concentrated within the person.
Similarly, those who have asserted the godhood of others after their passing have found fertile ground among those who accept the false belief of God's presence in man. One who has grasped the basic message of Islam and its implications could never agree to worship another human being under any circumstances. God's religion in essence is a clear call to the worship of the Creator and the rejection of creation-worship in any form. This is the meaning of the motto of Islam:
"Laa Elaaha lllallaah" (There is no god but Allah)
Its repetition automatically brings one within the fold of Islam and sincere belief in it guarantees one Paradise.
Thus, the final Prophet of Islam is reported to have said, "Any one who says: There is no god but Allah and dies holding that (belief) will enter paradise".(Reported by Abu Dharr and collected by Al-Bukhaaree and Muslim).
It consists in the submission to Allah as one God, yielding to Him by obeying His commandments, and the denial of polytheism and polytheists.
THE MESSAGE OF FALSE RELIGION
There are so many sects, cults, religions, philosophies, and movements in the world, all of which claim to be the right way or the only true path to Allah. How can one determine which one is correct or if, in fact, all are correct? The method by which the answer can be found is to clear away the superficial differences in the teachings of the various claimants to the ultimate truth, and identify the central object of worship to which they call, directly or indirectly. False religions all have in common one basic concept with regards to Allah. They either claim that all men are gods or that specific men were Allah or that nature is Allah or that Allah is a figment of man's imagination.
Thus, it may be stated that the basic message of false religion is that Allah may be worshipped in the form of His creation. False religion invites man to the worship of creation by calling the creation or some aspect of it God. For example, prophet Jesus invited his followers to worship Allah but those who claim to be his followers today call people to worship Jesus, claiming that he was Allah!
Buddha was a reformer who introduced a number of humanistic principles to the religion of India. He did not claim to be God nor did he suggest to his followers that he be an object of worship. Yet, today most Buddhists who are to be found outside of India have taken him to be God and prostrate to idols made in their perception of his likeness.
By using the principle of identifying the object of worship, false religion becomes very obvious and the contrived nature of their origin clear. As God said in the Our'aan:
That which you worship besides Him are only names you and your forefathers have invented for which Allah has sent down no authority: The command belongs only to Allah:
He has commanded that you only worship Him; that is the right religion, but most men do not understand ". (Soorah Yoosuf 12:40)
It may be argued that all religions teach good things so why should it matter which one we follow. The reply is that all false religions teach the greatest evil, the worship of creation. Creation-worship is the greatest sin that man can commit because it contradicts the very purpose of his creation. Man was created to worship Allah alone as Allah has explicitly stated in the Our'aan:
"I have only created Jlnns and men, that they may worship me"(Soorah Zaareeyaat 51:56)
Consequently, the worship of creation, which is the essence of idolatry, is the only unforgivable sin. One who dies in this state of idolatry has sealed his fate in the next life. This is not an opinion, but a revealed fact stated by Allah in his final revelation to man:
"Verily Allah will not forgive the joining of partners with Him, but He may forgive (sins) less than that for whom so ever He wishes"(Soorah An- Nisaa 4:48 and 116)
THE UNIVERSALITY OF ISLAM
Since the consequences of false religion are so grave, the true religion of Allah must be universally understandable and attainable, not confined to any people, place or time. There can not be conditions like baptism, belief in a man, as a saviour etc., for a believer to enter paradise. Within the central principle of Islam and in its definition, (the surrender of one's will to God) lies the roots of lslam's universality. Whenever man comes to the realization that Allah is one and distinct from His creation, and submits himself to Allah, he becomes a Muslim in body and spirit and is eligible for paradise. Thus, anyone at anytime in the most remote region of the world can become a Muslim, a follower of God's religion, Islam, by merely rejecting the worship of creation and by turning to Allah (God) alone-It should be noted however, that the recognition of and submission to Allah requires that one chooses between right and wrong and such a choice implies accountability. Man will be held responsible for his choices, and, as such, he should try his utmost to do good and avoid evil. The ultimate good being the worship of Allah alone and the ultimate evil being the worship of His creation along with or instead of Allah. This fact is expressed in the final revelation as follows:
"Verily those who believe, those who follow the Jewish (Scriptures), the Christians and the Sabians any who believe In Allah and the last day, and work righteousness *hall have their reward with their Lord;They will not be overcome by fear nor grief (Soorah Al-Baqarah 2:62)
If only they had stood by the law, the Gospel, and all the revelation that was sent to them from their Lord, they would have enjoyed happiness from every side. There Is from among them a party on the right course; but many of them follow a course that Is evil.". (Soorah Al-.Maa'idah 5:66)
RECOGNITION OF ALLAH
The question which arises here is, "How can all people be expected to believe in Allah given their varying- backgrounds, societies and cultures? For people to be responsible for worshipping Allah they all have to have access to knowledge of Allah. The final revelation teaches that all mankind have the recognition of Allah imprinted on their souls, a part of their very nature with which they are created.
In Soorah Al-A'raaf, Verses 172-173; Allah explained that when He created Adam, He caused all of Adam's descendants to come into existence and took a pledge from them saying, Am I not your Lord? To which they all replied, " Yes, we testify to It:'
Allah then explained why He had all of mankind bear witness that He is their creator and only true God worthy of worship. He said, "That was In case you (mankind) should say on the day of Resurrection, "Verily we were unaware of all this." That is to say, we had no idea that You Allah, were our God. No one told us that we were only supposed to worship You alone. Allah went on to explain That it was also In case you should say, "Certainly It was our ancestors who made partners (With Allah) and we are only their descendants; will You then destroy us for what those liars did?" Thus, every child is born with a natural belief in Allah and an inborn inclination to worship Him alone called in Arabic the "Fitrah".
If the child were left alone, he would worship Allah in his own way, but all children are affected by those things around them, seen or unseen.
The Prophet (PBUH) reported that Allah said, "I created my servants in the right religion but devils made them go astray". The Prophet (PBUH) also said, "Each child is born in a state of "Fitrah", then his parents make him a Jew, Christian or a Zoroastrian, the way an animal gives birth to a normal offspring. Have you noticed any that were born mutilated?" (Collected by Al-Bukhaaree and Muslim).
So, just as the child submits to the physical laws which Allah has put in nature, his soul also submits naturally to the fact that Allah is his Lord and Creator. But, his parents try to make him follow their own way and the child is not strong enough in the early stages of his life to resist or oppose the will of his parents. The religion which the child follows at this stage is one of custom and upbringing and Allah does not hold him to account or punish him for this religion.
Throughout people's lives from childhood until the time they die, signs are shown to them in all regions of the earth and in their own souls, until it becomes clear that there is only one true God (Allah). If the people are honest with themselves, reject their false gods and seek Allah, the way will be made easy for them but if they continually reject Allah's signs and continue to worship creation, the more difficult it will be for them to escape. For example, in the South Eastern region of the Amazon jungle in Brazil, South America, a primitive tribe erected a new hut to house their main idol Skwatch, representing the supreme God of all creation. The homage to the God, and while he was in prostration to what he had been taught was his Creator and Sustainer, a mangy old flea-ridden dog walked into the hut, The young man looked up in time to see the dog lift its hind leg and pass urine on the idol. Outraged, the youth chased the dog out of the temple, but when his rage died down he realized that the idol could not be the Lord of the universe. Allah must be elsewhere. he now had a choice to act on his knowledge and seek Allah, or to dishonestly go along with the false beliefs of his tribe. As strange as it may seem, that was a sign from Allah for that young man. It contained within it divine guidance that what he was worshipping was false.
Prophets were sent, as was earlier mentioned, to every nation and tribe to support man's natural belief in Allah and man's inborn inclination to worship Him as well as to reinforce the divine truth in the daily signs revealed by Allah. Although, in most cases, much of the prophets' teachings became distorted, portions remained which point out right and wrong. For example, the ten commandments of the Torah, their confirmation in the Gospels and the existence of laws against murder, stealing and adultery in most societies. Consequently, every soul will be held to account for its belief in Allah and its acceptance of the religion of Islam; the total submission to the will of Allah.
We pray to Allah, the exalted, to keep us on the right path to which He has guided us, and to bestow on us a blessing from Him, He is indeed the Most Merciful. Praise and gratitude be to Allah,the Lord of the worlds, and peace and blessings be on prophet Muhammed, his Family, his companions, and those who rightly follow them.