Islam: Meaning and Concept
Source




What is Islam?
Islam: Continuity of Divine Message
The Five Pillars of Islam
The Shahada (Declaration of the Islamic Faith)
Important Note
Meaning of Islam, Iman and Ihsan
 

What is Islam?


The word Islam is an Arabic word meaning peace, submission and obedience. In the religious context the word Islam means total submission to the Will of Allah and obedience to His Law. The connection between the original and the religious meanings of the word is strong and obvious. Only through submission to the will of Allah and by obedience to His Law can peace be achieved.

The proper name of the religion is Islam and its followers are properly called Muslims. The proper name of God, in Arabic, is Allah, and it is a unique term because it has no plural or feminine gender. Hence Islam points to the fundamental religious creed which dictates that a Muslim should submit to the will of Allah, conforming inwardly and outwardly to His Law.

The Will of Allah, as defined in His Revealed Guidance to all His Prophets, is good and compassionate, and His Law is the most beneficent and equitable. The religion of Islam is the complete acceptance of and compliance with the teachings and guidance of Allah as revealed in His Last sacred Book, the Qur'ân, to His last Messenger Muhammad - The Prophet of Islam.

The religion of Islam lays great emphasis on uncompromising monotheism and strict adherence to certain creeds and acts of worship. It enjoins submitting to the Will of Allah and following the exemplary way of life of Muhammad, peace be upon him.

A Muslim, accordingly, is one who believes in Allah and strives for total reorganization of his life according to His Revealed Guidance and the Sunnah (Legal ways, orders, acts of worship statements) of the Prophet. He also works for building human society on the same basis.



Islam: Continuity of Divine Messages

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 (O Muhammad) peace be upon him: We believe in Allah and in what has been sent down to us, and what was sent down to Ibrahim (Abraham), Ismail (Ishmael), Ishaq (Isaac), Yaqub (Jacob) and Al-Asbat (the offspring of the twelve sons of Yaqub (Jacob) and what was given to Musa (Moses), Isa (Jesus) and the Prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction between one another among them and to Him (Allah) we have submitted (in Islam)" (Qur’ân 3-84)



The Five Pillars of Islam (Declaration of the Islamic Faith)

In order to enter into the fold of Islam i.e. to be Muslim, one has to know, believe, accept totally and sincerely apply the five basic principles (Pillars) on which Islam is based: Ibn Umar narrated that the Messenger of Allah - Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) said: Islam is based on the following five pillars (principles).

1. To testify Kalima "La Ilaha Illallah Wa Anna Muhammadan Rasul Allah" (none has the right to be worshiped but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.

2. To perform (Iqamat) As-Salat (prayers), {five times a day at the prescribed times and according to the way that the Prophet Muhammad used to perform it with all its rules and regulations}.

3. To pay Zakat {obligatory fixed proportion of the wealth and of every kind of property liable to Zakat of a Muslim to be paid yearly for the benefit of the poor in the Muslim community}.

4. To observe Saum (fasting) during the month of Ramdan - i.e. not to eat or drink or have sexual relations from before Adhan (call) of the Fajr (dawn) prayer till sunset.

5. To perform Hajj (i.e. pilgrimage to Makkah at least once in his life-time on condition that he is capable of doing so physically and financially).



The Shahadah: the first Pillar of Islam (Declaration of the Islamic Faith):


However, the most important and fundamental principle of truth in Islam and all religions is the First Pillar of Islam as embodied in the Belief and Confession of Islam. This needs further clarification as stated below.

The Meanings of Shahadah - Confession of a Muslim:

"La Ilaha Illallah Wa Anna Muhammadan Rasul Allah" (none has the right to be worshiped but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.

It is noticed that most of mankind, who embrace Islam, do not understand the reality of the meaning of the First fundamental Principle of Islam, i.e. "La Ilaha Illallah Wa Anna Muhammadan Rasul Allah" (none has the right to be worshiped but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah. So it is considered essential to explain something of the meanings of this great principle in some detail:

"La Ilaha Illallah Wa Anna Muhammadan Rasul Allah" (None has the right to be worshiped but Allah and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah) has three aspects: A, B and C.

A. It is that, you have to pledge a covenant with “Allah”, the Creator of the heavens and earth, the Ruler of all that exists, the Lord of Majesty and Highness on four points (or conditions):

Point I: A confession with your heart that the Creator (of everything) is Allah; it is that you have to say: "I testify that the Creator of all the universe including stars, the planets, the sun, the moon the heavens, the earth with all its known and unknown forms of life, is Allah. He is the Organizer and Planner of all its affairs. It is He Who gives life and death, and He (i.e. Allah Alone) is the Sustainer, and the Giver of Security". And this is called (your confession for the “Oneness of the Lordship of Allah," - Tauhid-ar-Rububiyyah.

Point II: A confession with your heart that: I testify that none has the right to be worshiped but Allah Alone," The word "Worship" (i.e. Ibadah) carries a great number of meanings in the Islamic terminology: it conveys that all kinds of worship are meant for Allah Alone and none else, whether it be an angel, Messenger, Prophet 'Isa (Jesus) - son of Maryam (Mary), Uzair (Ezra), Muhammad, saint, idol, the sun the moon and all other kinds of false deities. So pray to none but Allah, invoke none but Allah, ask for help from none (unseen) but Allah, swear by none but Allah, offer an animal as sacrifice to none but Allah,…etc.. And that means, - all that Allah and His Messenger Muhammad (P.B.U.H) order you to do, (in the Qur’ân and in the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) you must do, and all that Allah and His Messenger Muhammad (P.B.U.H) forbid you, you must not do. And this is called (your confession for the) "Oneness of the worship of Allah," - Tauhid-al-Uluhiyyah. And that you (mankind) worship none but Allah.

Point III: A confession with your heart that: "O Allah! I testify that all the best of names and the most perfect qualities with which You have named or qualified Yourself in Your Book (i.e. the Qur’ân) or as Your Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) has named or qualified You with his statement, I believe that all those (names and qualities) are for You without changing their meanings or neglecting them completely or likening them (giving resemblance) to others." As Allah says:

"There is nothing like unto Him and He is the All-Hearer, the All-Seer." (V.42:11).

This noble verse confirms the quality of hearing and quality of sight for Allah without likening them (giving resemblance) to others, and He also says:

"To one whom I have created with Both My Hands," (V.38.75)

and He also says:

" The Hand of Allah is over their hands." (V.48.10).

This confirms two Hands for Allah, but there is no similarity for them. Similarly Allah says:

"The Most Gracious (Allah) rose over (Istawa) the (Mighty) Throne." (V.20:5).

So He rose over the Throne really in a manner that suits His Majesty. And Allah is over His Throne over the seventh heaven, as the slave-girl pointed towards the heavens, when Allah's Messenger (Muhammad (P.B.U.H) asked her as to where Allah is. He only comes down over the first (nearest) heaven to us during the last third part of every night and also on the day of Arafah (Hajj, i.e. the 9th of Dhul-Hijjah), as mentioned by the Prophet (P.B.U.H), but He is with us by His Knowledge only, not by His Personal-self (Bi-Dhatihi). It is not as some people say that Allah is present everywhere - here, there, and even inside the breasts of men. He sees and hears all that we do or utter. And this is called (your confession for the) Oneness of the Names and Qualities of Allah" - Tauhid-al-Asma Was-Sifat and this is the right Belief, the Belief which was followed by the Messengers of Allah {from Nuh (Noah), Ibrahim (Abraham), Musa (Moses), Dawud (David, Sulaiman (Solomon), 'Isa (Jesus) to Muhammad (P.B.U.H) and the Companions of Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) and righteous followers of these Messengers,(P.B.U.T).

Point IV: A confession with your heart: "O Allah! I testify that Muhammad (P.B.U.H) is Your Messenger." That means that none has the right to be followed after Allah, but Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) as he is the last of His Messengers. As Allah says:

"Muhammad (P.B.U.H) is not the father of any man among you, but he is the Messenger of Allah and the last (end) of the Prophets. And Allah is Ever All-Aware of everything." (V.33:40).

"And whatsoever the Messenger (Muhammad (P.B.U.H) gives you, take it and whatsoever he forbids you, abstain from it." (V.59:7).

And Allah says:

"Say (O Muhammad (P.B.U.H) to mankind): 'If you (really) love Allah, then follow me (i.e. accept Islamic Monotheism, follow the Qur’ân and the Sunnah).' " (V.3:31).

As for others than Muhammad (P.B.U.H) their statements are to be taken or rejected as to whether these are in accordance with Allah's Book (i.e. the Qur’ân) and with the Sunnah (legal ways, orders, acts of worship, statements) of the Prophet (P.B.U.H) or not. As the Divine Revelation has stopped after the death of Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) and it will not resume except at the time of the Descent of Isa (Jesus) - son of Maryam (Mary) and he (i.e. Jesus) will rule with justice according to the Islamic laws, during the last days of the world as it has been mentioned in the authentic Hadith (i.e. narration of Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) Sahih-Al-Bukhari, Hadith No. 2222).

B. It is essential to utter: "La Ilaha Illallah Wa Anna Muhammadan Rasul Allah" (none has the right to be worshiped but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah). As it has come in the statement of Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) to his uncle Abu Talib at the time of the latter's death: "O Uncle, if you utter it "La Ilaha Illallah Wa Anna Muhammadan Rasul Allah" (none has the right to be worshiped but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah) then I shall be able to argue on your behalf before Allah, on the Day of Resurrection." Similary, when Abu Dharr Al-Ghifari embraced Islam, he went to Al-Masjid-al-Haram (i.e. the Holy Mosque in Makkah.) and he proclaimed it loudly in front of the Quraish infidels until he was beaten severely.

C. It is essential that the limbs and all other parts and organs of one's body testify to it, and this is very important as regards its meaning (i.e. the meaning "La Ilaha Illallah Wa Anna Muhammadan Rasul Allah" (none has the right to be worshiped but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah). So whoever has confessed this (to his Lord), he shall not commit sins like robbing, killing, stealing, illegal sexual intercourse, eating pig meat, drinking alcoholic beverages, taking undue advantage of orphan's property, cheating in trade, bribery and earning money through illegal means, telling lies, backbiting etc., or otherwise the limbs and all the other parts and organs of his body will testify against him that he was a liar in his words which he pledged to Allah. In case he commits the above sins, he should know that it is a sin that obliges him to repent to Allah, and ask His forgiveness, as (his) body (i.e. skin, private parts, hands, tongue, ears, etc.) will testify to the above mentioned crimes (i.e. actions) against himself on the Day of Resurrection.

And with the confession this great sentence (i.e. principle) a person enters in the fold of the Islamic religion. Accordingly, it is essential for him to believe in all the Messengers of Allah and not to differentiate between them. As it is mentioned in His Book, Allah says:

"Say (O Muhammad) peace be upon him: We believe in Allah and in what has been sent down to us, and what was sent down to Ibrahim (Abraham), Ismail (Ishmael), Ishaq (Isaac), Yaqub (Jacob) and Al-Asbat (the offspring of the twelve sons of Yaqub (Jacob) and what was given to Musa (Moses), Isa (Jesus) and the Prophets from their Lord We make no distinction between one another among them and to Him (Allah) we have submitted (in Islam)". (Qur’ân:3/84).



Important Note:

This confession of Islamic faith and the acceptance of the righteous deeds depends on the following two basic conditions which must be fulfilled:

1. The intentions while doing such deeds must be totally for Allah's sake only without any show-off or gaining praise or fame etc.

2. Such a deed must be performed in accordance with Sunnah (legal ways, orders, acts of worship, statements) of Allah's Messenger Muhammad bin Abdullah, the last (end) of all the Prophets and the Messengers (P.B.U.T.).

This introduction is necessary for anyone who wishes to embrace Islam. After this confession he (or she) should take a bath (i.e. Ghusl) and then offer a two Rak’at prayer and act upon the five principles of Islam, as narrated by Ibn ‘Umar in the Book, Sahih Al-Bukhari, Hadith No. 8 (See the Five pillars of Islam above).



The meaning of Islam, Iman, (faith) and Ihsan (perfection):

Umar (May Allah be pleased with him) narrated: “One day while we were sitting with Allah’s Messenger (P.B.U.H) a man suddenly appeared before us, wearing a very white dress and having very black hair, without any signs of journey upon him, and none of us knew him. He approached until he sat before the Prophet (P.B.U.H) with his knees touching the Prophet’s knees and he placed his hands on his thighs and said: “O Muhammad inform me about Islam.” Allah’s Messenger (P.B.U.H) said:

Islam: is to bear witness that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah, and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, to offer the Salat, Pay Zakat, fast during the month of Ramdan and to make Hajj (the pilgrimage to Makkah) if you are able and have the means to make the journey.” The man said, “You spoke the truth.” We were surprised at his asking and confirming at the same time. He said, “inform me about Iman.” The Prophet (P.B.U.H) said:

Iman: is to believe in Allah, His angels, His Books and Messengers, the Last Day and to believe in the Divine Preordainment of all that is good and evil.” He again said, “You spoke the truth.” He said, “Inform me about Ihsan.” He (P.B.U.H) said:

Ihsan (perfection) is to worship Allah as if you see Him; if you can not see Him, surely He sees you.” He said “Inform me about the Hour (Doomsday).” He (P.B.U.H) said, “The one asked has no more knowledge of it than the questioner.” He said, “Inform me about its signs.” He said, “(Its signs are) the slave-girl will give birth to her mistress and you will see the barefooted, naked, impoverished shepherds competing with each other in tall buildings.” Then the stranger left. The Prophet (P.B.U.H) remained seated for quite a while, then he asked me, “O ‘Umar, do you know who the questioner was?” I said, “Allah and His Messenger know best.” He said, “That was Jibrael, he came to teach you your religion.” (Muslim).



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