Muslims constitute approximately one fifth of the world’s population, making Islam one of the largest religions. Belief in and worship of the One True God (Allah) is the purpose of life and cornerstone of Islam.
The Arabic word “Islam” literally means “submission” to the one true God (Allah) alone. Success is only attained in this life and the hereafter through Islam – the only religion accepted by God. Unlike some other religions, it is not named after a person or tribe. One who voluntarily surrenders their will to God is called a Muslim, who can be from any racial or ethnic background.
In a short pamphlet as this, space does not permit to cover all the intricacies of Islam: Islam as a complete way of life; the brotherhood and sisterhood that spans all races and nations; the importance of family and society; the universality of the message and its applicability to all nations and time. As such, this pamphlet focuses on the six main aspects of belief and five main acts of worship in Islam.
The Six Aspects (Articles) of Belief
Allah is the name of the One True God in Arabic.
1. Belief in Allah
“Allah” is the unique Arabic name of The One True God, Who is the only One worthy of worship, with no rivals, equals or partners. Allah is not like His creation, as nothing shares His divine essence and attributes, including: The Creator, The Provider, The Most Merciful, The All-Powerful, The Most Just, The All-Wise and The All-Knowing. Allah is without partner in His authority and actions. The world was created by Allah’s command alone, Who solely runs and controls it. Such a complex and balanced creation is not possible by any other than a superior being. It is therefore illogical to believe that the universe created itself, or was the result of random or coincidental events.
2. Belief in The Angels
Allah created angels from light, who never disobey His command. Details about some of the angels have been revealed, such as Gabriel, who delivers God’s message to the Prophets, and the Angel of Death, who takes the souls of people.
3. Belief in The Revealed Books
Allah revealed divine books to His Messengers as a guidance and mercy to mankind. These include the Torah and Gospel as originally revealed to Moses and Jesus respectively, and the Qur’an as revealed to Muhammad (peace be upon them all). Apart from the Qur’an, these revelations do not exist in their original form, as they have been distorted, changed or lost. Another miracle of the Qur’an is that it is free from any contradictions or errors. The Qur’an is the literal word of God and the final revelation to all of mankind. Together with the authentic sayings and actions of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), it is the primary source of Islamic knowledge.
4. Belief in The Prophets
Muslims believe that thousands of Prophets were sent by Allah, at least one to every nation, to convey God’s revelation. These Prophets include Adam, Noah, Abraham, David, Joseph, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad (peace be upon them all). Their mission was to return people to the worship of the One True God, to serve as practical examples of how to obey God, and to guide people to the path of salvation. Prophets do not share in any part of God’s divinity. As humans, it is forbidden to worship them or to use them as an intercessor to God. Any type of prayer or worship towards the Prophets, or to God through them, is strictly forbidden and considered a violation of God’s right to be worshipped alone.
– Prophet Jesus
Muslims believe that Jesus is an honourable prophet of God, born miraculously through his virgin mother Mary. He performed many miracles with the permission of God, such as healing the sick, curing the blind and speaking as a newborn defending his mother from accusations. Although Muslims respect and love Jesus, they do not worship him. He is not considered the son of God, nor part of a trinity, nor does he share in any of God’s perfect attributes. God says: “It is not befitting for Allah to take a son; exalted is He! When he decrees an affair, He only says, ‘Be’ and it is.”Qur’an 19:35
– Prophet Muhammad
Muhammad (peace be upon him) was the final Prophet sent to all of mankind. He came with the Qur’an to demonstrate how its teachings should be applied, and is a perfect example of an honest, just, merciful, compassionate, truthful and brave human being. As with Jesus, Muslim do not worship Muhammad.
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “Do not exceed bounds in praising me as the Christians praised Jesus, the Son of Mary. I am only God’s servant; so call me the Servant of God and His Messenger.”
5. Belief in The Day of Judgement
The Day of Judgment is an event when each person will stand before The Creator and be questioned about their good and bad deeds. Deeds will be shown in vivid detail, regardless of their size, and everyone will be judged accordingly.
On this momentous Day, Allah, the All-Just, will settle all matters fairly and no person will be wronged. Everyone’s rights will be returned. All will be treated justly, by either the reward of Paradise, or the punishment of the Hellfire. Without a Day of Judgement, life would be grossly unfair, as not everyone receives justice in this world.
6. Belief in The Divine Destiny
Allah knows everything from the past, the present, and everything that will happen in the future. Allah has power over all things – nothing occurs without His knowledge and permission. Every person has been given the free will to choose between right and wrong, and will be held to account accordingly. However, this excludes people unable to exercise their free will, such as the severely intellectually disabled. Free will does not contradict the fact that events can only occur with God’s knowledge and permission. Nor does it mean that God’s power over everything prevents or restricts people’s free will. God’s knowledge of people’s decisions does not mean that they are being forced to make such decisions, and God is not necessarily pleased with everything that He allows to occur.
The Five Pillars of Worship – (The foundation of a Muslim’s life)
1. The Declaration of Faith
The declaration of faith is bearing witness there is no God worthy of worship but Allah, and Muhammad is His Messenger. It must be uttered verbally and based on a sincere and firm belief in the heart, followed by action. With this declaration, a person rejects all false deities, asserts that Allah is the only One worthy of worship, and accepts His messenger, hence becoming a Muslim.
2. The Five Daily Prayers
The five daily prayers form the second pillar of Islam. Prayer establishes a personal and spiritual connection between the Muslim and their Creator, and is a constant and practical reminder of a person’s duty to surrender to God. They are prescribed once each at dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset and nightfall. Each prayer takes a few minutes to perform, consisting of recitation of the Qur’an, supplications, praising Allah, and various body postures. In preparation for prayer, Muslims wash certain parts of their body, such as the face and hands, to ensure spiritual and physical purity.
3. The Annual Charity (Zakat)
The annual charity is an obligation on every Muslim who meets certain criteria (e.g. has wealth above a certain threshold). A mere 2.5% of one’s annual wealth is donated to those who are eligible, such as the poor, the needy or travellers. It purifies one’s wealth and carries many benefits for both the giver and the receiver. One benefit is that it reduces the gap between the rich and the poor, ensuring that everyone has their basic needs met.
4. The Fasting (Ramadan)
Every year during the month of Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn until sunset, abstaining from food, drink and sexual relations. It serves as a spiritual purification, nurtures patience and self-restraint, and provides many health benefits. Fasting is obligatory upon every physically and mentally capable mature Muslim. Children, the sick, the mentally unfit, the elderly, menstruating women and travellers are exempt. Pregnant or breastfeeding women are also exempt, if fasting would bring harm to themselves or the child.
5. The Pilgrimage (Hajj)
Pilgrimage to the holy cities in Saudi Arabia must be performed once in a person’s life, if they are physically and financially able. It occurs annually in the 12th month of the Islamic calendar, unifying people of every colour, race, status and age, as they join in worship of the One True God. All pilgrims wear simple and similar clothing, which strip away distinctions of class and culture, so that all stand equal before God. This great journey consists of many components, including sacrifices, travelling and praying at various sites. Such an experience is life altering and humbles a person, making them more patient and thankful, as they realise all of life’s bounties they have taken for granted.
The Concept of Worship
Any action that Allah is pleased with.
Islam’s concept of worship is not restricted to the above mentioned rituals. Worship is an all-inclusive term for those actions that are pleasing to Allah. Everyday activities can become acts of worship by purifying one’s intention and ensuring one’s actions are in line with God’s guidelines. Examples include smiling, being good to one’s neighbours, supporting one’s family, honesty, and even removing rubbish from the road. It should be noted that Allah is not in need of anyone’s worship, rather, we are in need of Him and our worship is for our benefit.
The above mentioned aspects of faith and acts of worship make up the essence of Islam. When practised, Islam fulfils the spiritual, physical, psychological and social needs of all people, and is a practical and rational way of life. Furthermore, it is the only way of life which is accepted by God Almighty, and the only path that leads to Paradise.
For more information on why Muslims offer a Qurban (sacrifice):
What is Eid-ul Adha Qurban?
Qurban/Udhiya during Eid-ul Adha is an act to commemorate Prophet Ibrahim’s sacrifice as mentioned in the Quran. When Ishmael was about 13 (Abraham/Ibrahim being 99), God decided to test their faith in public. Abraham had a recurring dream, in which God was commanding him to offer up for sacrifice – an unimaginable act – his son, whom God had granted him off his second wife Hagar (Hājar), his Arabian (Adnan) wife after many years of deep prayer. Abraham knew that the dreams of the prophets were divinely inspired, and one of the ways in which God communicated with his prophets. When the intent of the dreams became clear to him, Abraham decided to fulfill God’s command and offer Ishmael for sacrifice.
Although Abraham was ready to sacrifice his dearest for God’s sake, he could not just bring his son to the place of sacrifice without his consent. Ishmael had to be consulted as to whether he was willing to give up his life in fulfilment of God’s command. This consultation would be a major test of Ishmael’s maturity in faith; love and commitment for God; willingness to obey his father; and readiness to sacrifice his own life for the sake of God.
Abraham presented the matter to his son and asked for his opinion about the dreams of slaughtering him. Ishmael did not show any hesitation or reservation even for a moment. He said, “Father, do what you have been commanded. You will find me, Insha’Allah (God willing), to be very patient.” His mature response, his deep insight into the nature of his father’s dreams, his commitment to God, and ultimately his willingness to sacrifice his own life for the sake of God were all unprecedented.
When Abraham attempted to cut Ishmael’s throat, he was astonished to see that Ishmael was unharmed and instead, he found a dead ram which was slaughtered. Abraham had passed the test by his willingness to carry out God’s command. Qurban in Islamic terms means the slaughtering of an animal with the intention of getting close to Allah (SWT) by giving some or all of the meat to the poor and destitute. Animals that can be sacrificed are goats, cows and camels. They are sacrificed on the day of Eid-ul-Adha and also on the three days after (the 11, 12 and 13th of Dhulhijjah).
What are the Benefits of Qurban?
Giving meat to the poor and destitute as required when doing Qurban spreads happiness so they may also enjoy the event of Eid-ul-Adha as it is a time of celebration and festivities for all Muslims.
Who should give Qurban?
Persons who possess Nisab (minimum amount of wealth requiring them to pay Zakat) should give Qurbani. It is not obligatory (fard) but is highly recommended (wajib)* according to the Hanafi school of thought. However, Qurban is a Sunnah act according to the Shafi, Hanbali, Maliki, and Jafari schools of thought.
What are the Requirements for Qurban?
The animals to be slaughtered must be a goat, sheep, cattle (cow, ox, water buffalo), or camel. The animals must be slaughtered in the appropriate humane ways. It has to be done by a Muslim adhering to the Islamic way of slaughtering the animal.
When Should Qurban be Performed?
The time for performing Qurban starts from sunrise after the performance of the Eid-ul-Adha prayers which falls on the 10th of Dhul-Hijjah until the sunsets on the 12th of Dhul-Hijjah. The best time is to perform the act of Qurban immediately after the completion of the Eid-ul-Adha prayers.
How should the Distribution of the Qurban Meat be Done?
It is preferable that the meat from Qurban be divided in three equal parts: one for the home, one for relatives and friends, and one for the poor and needy. The meat from qurban can be distributed to the poor, rich, Muslim or non-Muslim.