Islam is a way of life based on belief in God as an exclusive deity and acts of worship that enhance spiritual, emotional and social wellbeing. Adherence to standards of conduct outlined in the Holy Quran enable individuals and communities to achieve success both in this life and the next, eternal one. The foundations of this way of life – Islam – are outlined below.
Belief: Islam, or “submission to God” is based on belief in six major articles of faith.
- Belief in God, the Creator, the One and Only Deity. Although commonly referred to as “He,” God is genderless; there is nothing like Him.
- Belief in prophets, whom God sent to guide and remind mankind, including Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Muhammad and many more.
- Belief in all of the scriptures in their original form that were sent with the prophets, with the Quran being the last and final revelation.
- Belief in angels, who are created by God to carry out duties assigned to Him.
- Belief in Resurrection, Heaven and Hellfire; this is the time and place for judgment, final justice and God’s mercy. All unresolved issues will be addressed at this time.
- Belief that everything is decreed by God who has perfect knowledge, judgment and authority over human destiny. God created man with the propensity for good and evil, and granted him free will. Man exercises his free will unaware of what is destined for him since both his choice and its outcome are subject to God’s approval. While belief in God’s decree helps one accept things beyond his control, it does not absolve him from responsibility for his choices.
Practice: Belief in all of the above is essential to be Muslim, but not enough. Since a Muslim’s conduct is a reflection of his beliefs, the following prescribed acts of worship show his commitment to being Muslim, or “one who submits to God.”
- The declaration of faith: “I testify that there is no god but the (One) God and I testify that Muhammad is His messenger.” This statement acknowledges God’s exclusive divinity and the guidance sent through Muhammad. It is a pledge to submit to God and follow that guidance.
- Prayer five times a day, which establishes regular connection with God, cultivating a sense of awe, dependence and solace in God. The habit of prayer not only instills a strong sense of morality and accountability, but also fosters self-discipline and time management.
- Fasting the days of Ramadan, the month in which the Quran was revealed, ordained to increase ones awareness of and connection with God. The mental and physical exertion required for the process fosters a heightened God-consciousness, compassion for the poor and patience in hardship, lessons that are reinforced annually.
- Annual alms, which are considered a legal, moral and social duty rather than elective charity. The obligatory dues are 2.5% of cash savings that have not been used for one year and a portion of other assets such as crops, cattle, and precious metals. Giving such alms to the poor and needy hinders personal greed and promotes social welfare and cooperation.
- Pilgrimage to the Kaaba in Mecca, said to be the first house of worship on earth and the direction to which Muslims pray. While the rites of the pilgrimage commemorate Abraham’s complete submission to God’s commands, the performance of the rites with multitudes of Muslims from around the world promotes unity, equality and brotherhood.
The Quran and Hadith: The Quran is God’s final message to mankind that was transmitted through the final prophet, Muhammad, and has been preserved exactly as it was revealed until today. It informs the reader of a reality beyond his senses and perceptions of space and time. Through stories and instruction, it describes the beliefs and practices that are essential to ensure ultimate happiness and success both in this life and the next. The hadith are a record of Muhammad’s words and actions that were observed and recorded by his companions. They are separate from the Quran and serve as an example of the proper interpretation and application of the teachings of the Quran.
The Sharia: The Quran and Hadith are the two primary sources for the derivation of Islamic law which is called Sharia. This divinely based legislation ensures social stability and prosperity. A wholesome code of conduct is established with the objective of enabling not only individual citizens but also society at large to achieve their potential on earth, as well as their success in the next life. Sharia law covers spiritual, personal, social, political, economic, and legal areas of life. It comprises:
- Personal practices that protect faith, health, intellect and integrity.
- Family conduct that facilitates a just and wholesome lifestyle for each member.
- Social etiquette that promotes equality, good conduct and morality.
- Welfare measures that protect and provide for the weak and vulnerable.
- Civil and executive duties that ensure justice, prevent oppression and meet the needs of the people.
- Business guidelines that encourage economic development and wealth distribution.
- International relations and principles of defense to ensure peace and security in a multicultural, religiously diverse world.
Virtue: God is the source and perfection of all virtue; He is merciful, forgiving, truthful, just, knowledgeable, and so forth. People are encouraged and expected to adopt these qualities throughout their lives as they implement the requirements of their faith. We grow closer to our Creator when we emulate virtues that have their origin in Him. When correct belief, regular worship, social responsibility and virtuous qualities merge, man is at his best.
The Purpose of Life: God clearly states in the Quran that He has created us only to worship Him (51:56). The diverse experiences of life on Earth are “tests” (3:186) that give us the opportunity to refine and enhance our worship of God. For example, enjoying His many blessings leads us to worship Him with reverence and gratitude. Striving to earn God’s approval by following His teachings is worship through obedience. Making mistakes and realizing our deficiencies leads us to observe yet another form of worship: repentance. Hardship and adversities often result in worship expressed as greater reliance, submission and trust in God. Through all of life’s experiences, we learn to worship God with love, fear and hope. Therefore, we have endless opportunities to fulfill the purpose of our life – to worship God – the quality of which will affect our eternal life in the Hereafter.
Summary: Islam is not a new religion; all prophets came to teach mankind the same message of acknowledging and submitting to the Creator. This message is a way of life that is based on belief in one God, the Creator, a single, unique and exclusive deity, which is the foundation of a sound relationship with Him; practice that ensures spiritual, material and social wellbeing; and rules and guidelines that emanate from the wisdom of the Creator and which, if followed, elevate civilization to its greatest potential.