On September 11, 2001 the world changed. A band of criminals attacked the World Trade Center Twin Towers in New York killing thousands of innocent civilians and themselves. Since that day, the United States government and most of the nations in the world have pinned the blame on Al-Qaida terrorist group, which happens to be made up of and run by Muslims. However, the unfortunate result of this is the backlash of hate and violence that has fallen on the innocent men, women and children who had nothing to do with this attack, who are Muslim or look like Muslims. I am writing this article to inform my fellow Americans and the World about what Islam is and what the Muslims believe so that we can stop the hate and violence. Islam is not as foreign as it is made out to be. Peace is the foundation of Islam, not violence.
A Way of Life
Islam is a way of life for 1.2 billion humans. The word itself means submission or surrender. The etymological roots of that word stem from the Arabic verb salima, which means to be peaceful. The submission that Islam refers to is the submission to the Will of God. A Muslim is someone who submits to the Will of God. This submission is coupled with the belief that if one submits to God and does what God commands, then that person will find peace in this life and in the life after death. This way of life is composed of three main categories, Islam, Iman, and Ihsan.
Islam is the outward act of submission itself. It is composed of five things, known as the Five Pillars of Islam. They are: Testifying that there is nothing worthy of worship except God and that Muhammad is the Messenger of God, Prayer to God five times a day, Fasting in the month of Ramadan, Paying 2.5% of ones excess wealth as an Alms to the poor annually and making a Pilgrimage to Mecca for God’s Sake once in life if able. These five pillars if practiced with sincerity to God will have a profound effect on the individual and the society at large. Proof of this comes from the 800 years of historical records of how the Islamic Civilization, during its Golden Age, excelled as the most prolific and beneficial society that has ever existed on Earth. The actions encompassed by these five pillars are all in and of themselves righteous actions. These righteous actions when coupled with Iman, or Faith, according to the teachings of Islam, are what will bring success to humans in this life and the next.
A Way of Thinking
Iman, or Faith, is the second category within the way of life known as Islam. It is comprised of Six Pillars. Those pillars are: Belief that God is One and Indivisible, Belief in God’s Angels,
Belief in God’s Revelations, Belief in God’s Messengers, Belief in a final Day of Judgement before God, and Belief in Fate and the Divine Decree of God. The belief that God, Allah in the Arabic language, is One is the very crux of Iman. In Islam, the worse possible crime that a human can commit is disobedience to God, and the worse disobedience is not recognizing who God is. Namely that God is One, God is Absolute, God is not the child of anyone, nor did God give birth to anything, and that Nothing in the creation resembles God. These make up the basic understanding of God.
God then commissioned the Angels with many tasks. Unseen to humans, they perform such tasks as bringing revelation to the messengers, acting as guardians, and distributing sustenance to creatures on Earth. Furthermore, each person is assigned two angels that record the deeds of that person in a ledger that will be presented to him or her on the Day of Judgement at the end of this world. Each person will be held accountable for the actions committed in this life, rewarded for their belief and righteous actions in Paradise and punished for their disbelief and evil actions in Hell.
The Messengers were all humans like you and me, although they were chosen by God to receive Divine Revelation and to relate that revelation to the rest of humanity. Muslims believe in all the messengers sent and all are held with the highest regard. Every messenger and prophet mentioned in the Old and New Testaments are considered Messengers, from Adam, to Noah, from Abraham, to David, and Moses, Jesus and Muhammad, peace be upon them all. You may not have known that Muslims do believe that Jesus, peace be upon him, was born to the Virgin Mary. He also spoke to the Children of Israel as an infant in the cradle, was given the miracles of raising the dead, healing the blind and curing the leper. Muslims also believe that Jesus will have a Second Coming in which he will defeat the Anti-Christ and right the wrongs of the world. However, Muslims believe that Muhammad, peace be upon him, was the last and final messenger, and he was given the last and final revelation known as the Quran.
A Way of Acting
The third category within the Islamic way of life is Ihsan, or Moral Excellence. Ihsan is comprised of two pillars that govern how a Muslim behaves.
These pillars are stated, according to the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, “Worship God as if you see God in front of you, and if you can’t do that, then know that God sees everything that you do.” These two pillars amount to the old adage, “don’t do anything you wouldn’t do in front of your mother.” However, Muslims take this very seriously and expend great effort, or Jihad, to instill in their selves a high Moral Character. They struggle in removing bad qualities such as arrogance, envy, anger, and love of material wealth from their heart. They also embellish themselves with good qualities such as love, generosity, kindness, and charity. All the while aware that God is in front of them or that God is watching them.
This is Islam. It is what governs a Muslim’s life. It is what guided an entire civilization to lay the very foundation of our modern world in every aspect. And it just might be that you have the same beliefs.