Introduction to Islam

What is Islam?

Islam is the religion and the way of life of Muslims. There are over one billion Muslims spread across the globe with all nationalities, languages, and ethnic backgrounds. Islam was the religion of the first couple, Adam and Eve. It was also the religion of messengers of God like Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. The essence of their message was: Believe and obey the One true God and obey His messengers.

Islam presents human beings with a simple two-fold invitation (Shahada):

1. To witness that there is no God but God Almighty

2. To witness that Muhammad (peace be upon him) is the Messenger of God

This declaration is the door to a life of service, one of participation in a community of believers whose highest duty is to call on humanity to embrace what is righteous and good and to reject what is evil and degrading. Muslims are brothers and sisters of all people of good faith, and wish to strive with them for peace in this world.

Jesus (peace be on him) was the second-last prophet of God. He foretold the coming of the last Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him). While the message of the earlier messengers, including Jesus, was limited, Prophet Muhammad's message and mission is universal and will remain so until the end of this world.

What do Muslims believe in?

Belief in Islam means:

  • belief in One God
  • belief in all of God's messengers
  • belief in all the books sent down to His prophets. These books include Torah and Gospel
  • belief in the existence of angels
  • belief in the Day of Judgment and Life after Death, Heaven and Hell
  • belief in the Divine Decree or Predestination, its good and its bad.

Muslims are those who declare that there is no deity except Allah (Arabic for God) and that Muhammad is His messenger. They submit fully in obedience to Allah and mold their lives according to the teachings of the Holy Qur'an and Prophet Muhammad.

Who is Allah?

For Muslims, Allah is the greatest and most inclusive of the Names of God, an Arabic word of rich and varied meaning, denoting the one Who is adored in worship, Who creates all that exists, Who has priority over all creation, Who is lofty and hidden, and Who confounds all human understanding. It is exactly the same word that the Jews, in Hebrew, use for God (eloh), the word which Jesus Christ used in Aramaic when he prayed to God. God has an identical name in Judaism, Christianity and Islam; Allah is the same God worshiped by Muslims, Christians and Jews.

God is High and Supreme but He is very near to the pious thoughtful believers; He answers their prayers and helps them. He loves the people who love Him and forgives their sins. He gives them peace, happiness, knowledge and success. God is the Loving and the Provider, the Generous, and the Benevolent, the Rich and the Independent, the Forgiving and the Clement, the Patient and the Appreciative, the Unique and the Protector, the Judge and the Peace. God’s attributes are mentioned in the Qur'an.

What are the duties of a Muslim?

Muslims are enjoined to organize their lives on the basis of a series of ritual acts of worship which are ordained in the Qur’an as ways which discipline human beings to remember God constantly, accepting his Sovereignty and pledging to obey His commandments:

1. Declaration of belief (Shahada), this is the initial act of faith, expressed in a simple statement which testifies to one’s commitment to following the straight path of God’s guidance upon which Muslims seek to live their lives: I bear witness that there is no God but God; I bear witness that Muhammad is His servant and His prophet.

2. Prayer (Salat), offered five times a day, has the effect of reminding the faithful that “remembrance of God is indeed the greatest virtue,” and helps them adhere to the path of righteousness, and to restrain from indecency and evil.

3. Fasting (Sawm), observed through the daylight hours of the 29/30 days of the Islamic month of Ramadan, involves abstinence from eating, drinking, smoking and marital intercourse; this reminds the believers of their dependence upon God, as well as their kinship with, and responsibility for the millions of human beings in the world who experience involuntary fasting because of lack of food, or its unjust distribution.

4. Purification of wealth (Zakat), this requires the annual giving of a fixed amount of excess personal assets for the benefit of the poor, the incapacitated, the deprived, and the welfare of the community; it serves to remind Muslims that all beneficence comes from the bounty of God, and is enjoyed only through His mercy; sharing becomes an act of purification both of the wealth itself, and of the giver whose soul is disciplined against greed by the practice of selflessness.

5. Pilgrimage (Hajj), which all Muslims should perform at least once in a lifetime. They perform prescribed acts of worship at the Holy House of the Ka’ba in Makkah (Mecca).

Each of these prescribed acts of worship brings Muslims daily and repeatedly before God Almighty as the Creator, Sustainer and Judge of all humanity. Through these acts of worship, God helps Muslims to fulfill the obligation of striving which he has ordained for this life; the striving actively and freely to surrender one’s own will in obedience to the Will of God, inwardly in intention and outwardly in word and deed; individually in personal conduct and collectively in the improvement of society; the striving for peace in the world through the proclamation of true faith, and its defense against all that threatens it.

Who is Muhammad?

He is Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him), the last messenger of Allah. No doubt he possessed an excellent character and charming manners and was known to be highly cultured. Yet there was nothing so deeply striking and so radically extraordinary in him that would make men expect something great and revolutionary from him in the future. But when he came out of the Cave of Hira, with a new message, he was completely transformed. “Is it possible for a person known to possess an upright and unblemished character, to suddenly turn ‘an impostor’ and claim to be the Prophet of God?”

Muhammad (PBUH), was born about A.D. 570 into an Arabian tribe that worshipped idols. Orphaned at birth, he was always particularly solicitous of the poor and needy, the widow and the orphan, the slave and the downtrodden.

Like almost every major prophet before him, Muhammad fought shy of serving as the transmitter of God’s word, sensing his own inadequacy. But the angel commanded "Read." So far as we know, Muhammad (PBUH) was unable to read or write, but he began to dictate those inspired words which would soon revolutionize a large segment of the earth; “There is one God.”

As a matter of fact, Muhammad (PBUH), is the last link of Prophets sent in different lands and times since the beginning of the human life on earth.

What is the Quran?

It is the book that Allah has sent down to mankind. It is the word of God. From the heavens it has been sent down to Prophet Muhammad. It serves as the religious scripture that Muslims use to seek guidance. It contains stories of previous prophets, miracles (both scientific and historical), advise, and continuously proves that it is the word of God, and that Islam has no falsehood.

The Qur’an or "that which is often recited," a web of rhythm and meaning, the words of which throb through Muslim worship. The Qur’an represents the fountainhead of Divine guidance for every Muslim. Its revelation to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), and his practical implementation of the revelation, completed God’s blessing for humanity, in providing us with a belief and value system that is valid for all times.

The most sublime poetry in any language, and a rational message that directly appeals to the human heart, have caused this Divine book to move nations and civilizations. It will continue to guide those who turn to God with a sincere heart, for all times.

*Special thanks to UCI MSU* 

Your Islamic Dictionary

'adab: (n) Islamic manners and behavior

'aqidah: (n) belief or creed

'adl: (n) 1). Justice; 2). righteous conduct

ahad: (a) singular; a hadith whose narrators do not reach anywhere near the number for the mutawatir(continuous) hadith.

Ahkâm: "Orders". According to Islamic Law, there are five kinds of orders : 1. Compulsory (Wajib) 2. Order without obligation (Mustahab) 3. Forbidden (Muharram) 4. Disliked but not forbidden (Makruh) 5. Legal and allowed (Halâl)

Akhirah: the Hereafter; the life beyond this transitory one

Bid'ah: Innovation in the creed or in acts of worship

Da’if: (a) weak; a characterization of hadith in which there is some defect either in the chain of transmission or in perfect agreement with beliefs and practices

Fitnah: (n) temptation, discord, civil war, trial

Fitra: nature of humans as created by humans as created by Allah(swt)

Hadith (pl: ahadith): the recorded teachings, sayings and actions of Prophet Muhammad (saas) which explain and interpret the Qur’anic verses and Message of Islam

Hajj: (n) the pilgrimmage to Makkah; one of the Five Pillars of Islam

Haya: an attitude and behavior in which all indecency is avoided, therefore acting as a preventive measure against numberous sins; as such it serves to strengthen faith

Hijrah: (n) emigration; the hijrah to Madinah from Makkah took place in 622 a.d.

Ibadat: (n) acts of workship; a comprehensive word comprising deeds and words that Allah loves and is pleased with whether manifested or hidden; There are two conditions of Ibadah: 1. Sincerity to Allah, 2. Submission to Allah's Messenger i.e. to act according to his Sunnah. Some types of Ibadah are the prayers, the obligatory charity,fasting, the pilgrimage, fear of Allah, hope in His Mercy, Seeking His aid. and other acts of worship which Allah has commanded and enjoined.

Ihsân: The highest level of deeds and worship, (perfection i.e. when you worship Allah or do deeds, consider yourself as if you see Him and if you cannot achieve this feeling or attitude, then you must bear in mind that He sees you).

Ijtihad: Intellectual effort of Muslim jurists to reach independent religio- legal decisions, a key feature of modern Islamic reform; one who exercises ijtihad is a mujtahid

‘Ilm: Knowledge

Jihad: (n) striving in the way Allah (swt) 'We are a people of Jihad. Struggling for the cause of Allah (SWT) to bring down barriers of injustice that deprives humanity from realizing their true potential which is to be slaves to Allah (SWT).

Khutbah: (n) sermon

Khalifah: (n) caliph

Mujahid: (n) warrior; one who strives through jihad

Qadar: believe that everything — good or bad — happens or takes place according to what Allah has ordained for it. He has created everything in due proportion

Qudsi tradition: a hadith directly inspired by Allah (swt)

Rahmah: Mercy for Humans and Animals

Sabr: (n) to exercise self-control; will power; control over animal desires; patience; constancy

Sadaqah: (n) spending voluntarily in the cause of Allah (swt)

Sadaqah jariyah: (n) recurring charity

Sunnah: (n) 1). A practice, a way, a rule, a precedent; a manner of life; 2). Traditions and practices of the Prophet (saw) used as a complement to the Qur’an in understanding the laws of Allah

Sawm: (n) fasting

Shahid: (n) martyr

Tafsir: (n) exegesis or explanation into a subject (such as the Qur’an)

Tarbiyah: cultivation and education

Tasfiyah: cleansing and purification

Tauhid: declaring Allah to be the only God who deserves to be worshipped in truth and confirming all attributes with which He has qualified Himself or that are attributed to Him by His Messenger . There are three aspects of Tauhid: 1- Tauhid-ar-Rububiyah. 2- Tauhid-al-Uluhiyah, 3-Tauhid-al-Asma was-Sifat.

Tawakkul: Trust in Allah (swt)

Ulama’: (sing‘alim) (n) those learned in Islam

Ummah: (n) the Muslim community

Wudu’: (n) ablution; a special ritual of washing which precedes the Islamic prayers

Zakah: (n) the mandatory giving of alms or charity to the poor; it is calculated as two and a half percent of the one’s annual savings; one of the Five Pillars of Islam