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Aboo Mohammad

What Is Islam & Who Are Muslims?
By Jamal Dookhy (Aboo Mohammed)
Dec 23, 2004 - 11:48:00 AM

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Introduction

I can imagine some people who, while reading this article, might say, "We already know what Islam is and who the Muslims are. It is the religion that beheads people, kills innocent civilians, terrorists that force people with the gun (or sword) to accept their religion." I don’t blame you. After seeing in the media about Muslim terrorists and Killers like Saddam Hussein, Osama Bin laden, Che Guevara and McVeigh (Oops, Sorry! The last two are not Muslims terrorists).

Please allow me to introduce myself. I am Aboo Mohammad; born and bred in London, UK, but currently living and working in Qatar in the Arabian Gulf. I am a Muslim. Since I am a student of Religion and have a bit of knowledge of Islam and other religions namely: Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism and so on, I will attempt to the best of my ability to acquaint with the basics of this religion. I will start first with the first part “What is Islam”.

What is Islam?

The name Islam is derived from the Arabic root word SALAMA, which means Peace, submission, surrender, among many definitions. Islam is the total submission to the will of the one and only GOD Allah and obedience to his laws. The achievement of real peace of mind and body only through the total submission and obedience to the one GOD. Islam is not a new religion, but the same truth that God revealed through all His prophets to every people. For a fifth of the world's population, Islam is both a religion and a complete way of life. Muslims follow a religion of peace, mercy, and forgiveness, and the majority have nothing to do with the extremely grave events which have come to be associated with their faith. Unlike other religions Islam is not just a religion but a way of life. The basic message of Islam would be the same for all messengers: “God is one! Worship Him alone!” Islam is based upon 5 pillars which are the fundamentals of the religion. These five pillars are:

  1. Testimony of Faith (shahada)
  2. Prayers
  3. Fasting
  4. Zakah( Almsgiving)
  5. Hajj (Pilgrimage to Mecca)

Testimony of Faith

The first of the pillars (testimony of faith) known in Arabic as Eeman. The full conviction that there is only one GOD and that his messenger is Mohamed (peace be upon him).the Muslims Belief the, Eeman is based upon the Testimony that “There is no deity worthy of worship except Allah and Mohammed ( peace be upon him) is the messenger of Allah”. This means that we ascribe no partners to Allah, that he is alone and the only one to be worshipped. A person in order to become a Muslim just has to recite this, but it has to be in the heart too.

Allah mentions in the Quran (the book of the Muslims as revealed to the prophet Mohamed (peace be upon him):

The Noble Quran

Chapter 112

1. Say (O Muhammad ): "He is Allâh, (the) One.
2. "Allâh-us-Samad (The Self-Sufficient Master, Whom all creatures need, He neither eats nor drinks).
3. "He begets not, nor was He begotten;
4. "And there is none co-equal or comparable unto Him."

This concept of the oneness of Allah is the cornerstone of Islam, the essence of the Islamic teachings. This means that Allah is the Creator, he is the omnipotent sustainer of the universe. This oneness of Allah is known in Arabic as the Tawheed.

There 6 prerequisites which accompany this pillar of faith.

  1. Belief in Allah.
  2. Belief in Angels.
  3. Belief in the Books (sent by Allah with other prophets).
  4. Belief (n All the other)prophets.
  5. Belief in the day of Judgement.(also referred to as the hour).
  6. Belief in fate (good and bad  comes form Allah).

A  muslim must believe in these pillars and these pre- requisites.

Prayers (Worship)

The second pillar of Islam is Prayers (worship) called Salaat in Arabic. Muslims pray five times daily, obligatory prayers in congregation in a mosque (called Masjid in Arabic), however prayers can be held anywhere, In a school, at work, out in the field, led by an imam, one who is well versed in the reading of the Quran. The Imam recites verse from the Quran in the original language of Arabic. Supplication (individual prayers to Allah)can be made in any language. Prayers are said at dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset and nightfall. However, although women are allowed to pray in mosques and the fact that there are millions of mosques that have space for women to pray, it is not incumbent on her to pray with the congregation in the mosque. Nevertheless the 5 times prayer sare still obligatory for her too.

Worship too plays an important part in the life of a Muslim as Allah stated in the Quran the reason why he created man: Chapter 51:56 I created the jinn and humankind only that they might WORSHIP ME. (the Noble Quran)

Below is are examples of some Masjids in various countries (most muslims do no like the name mosque as it has other connotations)

Washington, D.C. Masjid
Birmingham Central Mosque UK
Inside the Masjid in Singapore
Singapore Masjid

These are examples of the interior of masjids, as you can see there are no Idols or Objects of worship since Muslims pray directly to Allah.

All masjids have, what is known as a pulpit (Mimbar in Arabic) from where the imam addresses his congregation. Inscriptions on the wall are verses from the Holy Quran.

Fasting

The Third pillar of Islam is Fasting. Fasting is defined as the refraining from food, drink, smoking and sexual intercourse from sunrise to sunset in the holy month of Ramadhan. Although this is the literal meaning, we cannot restrict it to that alone. Fasting in Ramadhan has more spiritual meaning than that. By fasting one develops more love and closeness to Allah because he is fasting for love of Allah. It increases ones piety and righteousness.

Allah says in the Holy Quran  [2:183]

183. O you who believe! Observing As-Saum (the fasting) is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become Al-Muttaqun (the pious - see V.2:2).

Fasting instills endurance and patience and develops affection towards the poor since one is experiencing how it feels to be hungry. Fasting also humbles a person's character and helps one control one’s desires as eating and drinking are restrained and so too is sexual intercourse during the day. It is also very healthy since it helps one to refrain on overindulging.

It is obligatory on those:

  1. Who are of mental and physical ability (i.e. those who are fit and sane).
  2. Mature at the age of Puberty. In Islam that prescribed from about 9-10 years of age.
  3. Who Are not too old or sick, or under constant medication that is for a serious condition.
  4. Who is fixed (resident in one location and not traveling long distances).

Dates are of usual preference for breaking fast.
The rewards for Fasting In the month of Ramadhan and voluntary fasts outside of Ramadhan is incomparable as fasting In Ramadhan expiates all previous sins. In Ramadhan, Muslims believe that the doors of hell are locked and the doors of Paradise and that Allah frees people from the fire of hell until Ramadhan ends. The purpose of Ramadhan is to fast by day and worship by night. There are congregational prayers held in the nights of ramadhan (called Tarawih in Arabic) where the Quran is recited and during the whole month the recital of the whole Quran is done by people who have committed the Quran to memory. Ramadhan is there fore to commemorate the revelation of the Whole Quran.

The waking up and eating food at sunrise is called Sahoor in Arabic and the breaking of the fast at sunset is called the Fatoor or (iftar) in Arabic. Ramadhan is usually a month of sharing too when friends, neighbors and relatives share food they will break the fast with. Very often it is the opportunity to gather and get together to break the fast. Many community centres and masjids and charities organised collective gatherings for breaking the fast in Ramadhan. After the fasting in the month of Ramadhan there is the celebration called the Eid. That too is a moment of Sharing presents, get togethers and since the fast ends there then Muslims rejoice with food and drink and new clothes.

Breaking fast In Riyadh Saudi Arabia, offered by a Medical charity.
Muslims in the Middle East breaking fast.

Canadian Muslims in Ottawa breaking fast in Ramadhan.

Zakaah (obligatory charity)

The fourth fundamental pillar of Islam. There is no equivalent of this word Zakaa in any other language. It is an annual duty enjoined by Allah upon those Muslims who own property or any wealth for the interest of the society.

"The meaning of Zakat is to increase and to become pure. Because the Payment of Zakaa leads to an increase in wealth and considered to be a reason for its cleansing. This obligation has been named Zakaa (Zakat) by the Shari'a (Islamic law). Zakaa was declared an obligation in the 2 (hijri) {Islamic calendar year} Prior to the ruling concerning fasting. ( Bulugh al Maram, By Ismail al Sanani, Book of Zakat page 206)

It purifies ones wealth since Allah has ordained for Muslims in order to give in charity so he will increase their sustenance. Zakat is obligatory on the rich among the Muslims to provide financial assistance to poor Muslims and it is understood that Zakaa Originating from a certain city should be distributed to the poor of the same city itself. It also lightens the burden of a Muslim who owes money since it helps him to pay his debts.

The Muslims have agreed indisputably that Zakaa is obligatory, whoever denies it after knowing this is a (disbeliever) out of the fold of Islam. And whosoever is miserly, withholding some or all of it, then he is an unjust oppressor befitting of punishment. (The Pillars of Islam and Iman and whatever every Muslim must know about his religion by Muhammad Bin Jamil Zeno, Zakaa and its importance, page 159)

Allah states in the Holy Quran:

Chapter 2:

43. And perform As-Salât (Iqâmat-as-Salât), and give Zakât, and Irka' (i.e. bow down or submit yourselves with obedience to Allâh) along with ArRaki'űn.
110. And perform As-Salât (Iqâmat-as-Salât), and give Zakât, and whatever of good (deeds that Allâh loves) you send forth for yourselves before you, you shall find it with Allâh. Certainly, Allâh is All-Seer of what you do.

Zakaa is mandatory on four things.

1. The produce of the earth of grains and fruit
Chapter 6:

141. And it is He Who produces gardens trellised and untrellised, and date palms, and crops of different shape and taste (its fruits and its seeds) and olives, and pomegranates, similar (in kind) and different (in taste). Eat of their fruit when they ripen, but pay the due thereof (it’s Zakât, according to Allâh's Orders 1/10th or 1/20th) on the day of its harvest, and waste not by extravagance. Verily, He likes not Al-Musrifűn (those who waste by extravagance), (Holy Quran)

2. Gold silver and Money.
Chapter 9:

34 And those who hoard up gold and silver [Al-Kanz: the money, the Zakât of which has not been paid], and spend it not in the Way of Allâh, -announce unto them a painful torment.

3. Business or Merchandise for sale.

4. Livestock. There are certain amount of animals possessed on which a certain amount has to be given in Zakaa.

It is all clear laid down and made mandatory and it all has to be deposited into a fund, the Zakaa fund. It should be distributed to the destitute who possesses half his minimum needs or less. Also to the poor but better of than the destitute who possesses 70 or 80% of his needs and to free slaves.

It is authentically reported that there were times in the History of Islamic administration when there were no person eligible to receive Zakaa; every subject, Muslim, Christian and Jew of the vast Islamic empire had enough to satisfy his need, and the rulers had to deposit the Zakaa   collections in the public treasury. This shows that when the zakaa law is enacted properly it minimizes the needs of the citizens and enriches the Public treasury to an extent that there will be no needy or poor and that enormous surpluses are available ( Islam in focus by Hammudah Abd al 'Ati page 95).

The last but not least pillar of Islam is the Hajj (Pilgrimage to Mecca) is obligatory, at least once in a lifetime for the Muslim, male or female who has the means and can afford it, are sane and physically fit and has reached the age of puberty in Islam. By being financially able here means to be able to cover one's own expenses, and those left behind (dependents) and having paid all of one's debts off and earns a legal earning. Allah explains this in the Holy Quran:

Chapter 3:
97 And Hajj (pilgrimage to Makkah) to the House (Ka'bah) is a duty that mankind owes to Allâh, those who can afford the expenses (for one's conveyance, provision and residence); and whoever disbelieves [i.e. denies Hajj (pilgrimage to Makkah), then he is a disbeliever of Allâh], then Allâh stands not in need of any of the 'Alamîn (mankind and jinns).

The one who performs Hajj properly is said to be rewarded with all his sins forgiven as if he has just been born sin in Islam every child is born sinless.

The Hajj is the rite of spiritual enrichment and it is largest annual Muslim gathering denoting the universality of Islam. It purifies the soul and nurtures noble qualities such as generosity and modesty. The pilgrimage is to commemorate the divine rituals observed by Prophets Abraham and Ishmael, who are known to have been the first pilgrims to the first house of GOD on earth .i.e. the Kaaba at Mecca (Islam in focus, By Hammuda Abd al Ati, page 98)

The Kaaba made by the prophet Abraham and his son Ismael as a house of GOD which was commanded to him by Allah in the Holy Quran it says:

Chapter 2:
127 And remember abraham and Isma'il raised the foundations of the House (With this prayer): "Our Lord! Accept (this service) from us: For Thou art the All-Hearing, the All-knowing.

125 Remember We made the House a place of assembly for men and a place of safety; and take ye the station of abraham as a place of prayer; and We covenanted with abraham and Isma'il, that they should sanctify My House for those who compass it round, or use it as a retreat, or bow, or prostrate themselves (therein in prayer).

Chapter 22:

26 Behold! We gave the site, to Abraham, of the (Sacred) House, (saying): "Associate not anything (in worship) with me; and sanctify My House for those who compass it round, or stand up, or bow, or prostrate themselves (therein in prayer).

The Kaaba is the sacred house in the Middle of the Mosque the first time it was built was by the angels then it was rebuilt by Prophet Adam where by it was jus a stone. Below is an illustration of how it would have looked at that time, the next is an illustration of when it was built by Prophet Abraham.

The first and second time at the time of Adam.

At the time of prophet Abraham and Ismail.

According to Islam when the prophet Ismael was born to Hajar (Hagar) (may peace be upon them), Sarah became intensely Jealous of here and asked Ibrahim (Abraham) to take here away from her. Allah revealed to Ibrahim to take her and her son to Makkah, so prophet  Ibrahim took here and her child and traveled until he left them in a place where Makkah (Mecca) stands today.

After leaving hajar and her son there, he used to visit and keep check on them. On one of his visits he found Ismael sharpening an arrow beneath a tree, close to Zamzam( a  natural spring that Allah provided that is sill there today). When Ismael saw him he stood up and they greeted one another as father and son do. The Ibrahim said "O, Ismael Allah has ordered me to do something “Ismael said “Do what your lord has commanded you to do”, Ibrahim said “will you help me?” He said” I will help you.” He said “Allah has commanded me to build a house here,”____ he pointed to the Small rise in the land that was higher than the land around it (See the first Drawing above).So they laid the foundations of the house, the Ismael started to bring the stones and Abraham started to build. Then when the structure got higher he brought this stone (Al Maqam)* and put it down for him. Ibrahim stood on the stone and carried on the building work with Ismael handing the stones to him, and they were both saying while they were going around the House. (History of Makka, by Safiur-Rahman Mubarakpuri pages 31-32)

Chapter2
127 Our lord! accept (this service) from us. Verily you are the all Hearer, the all Knower (Holy Quran)

The Maqam (The Station of Ibrahim) this is the stone the prophet Ibrahim stood one to build the Kaaba. This stone was made soft by Allah in order to save the footprints of prophet Ibrahim because this action was very dear to Allah and Allah preserved it as a reminder for the believers and others. This is where it has been preserved near the Kaaba for people to see in a glass cabinet. At the time of the prophet Ibrahin it was attached to the kaaba but was later moved and put in the cabinet because people were touching it.

This is how it looked after it was constructed by the prophet Abraham and Ismael (Peace be upon them) which remained like this until it was rebuilt by the (Quraish) the clan that lived in the area before the mission of the prophet Mohamed (peace be upon him).The treasures which they were hiding inside had been stolen so the Quraish ( who were Pagans at that time , before the advent of Islam) wanted to rebuild it.

This is how it looked at the time of the Quraish before the prophet Mohamed’s prophet hood and after it had been rebuilt. To note that Mecca was the birth place of the prophet Mohamed (peace be upon him) where he lived for 53 years approximately. At the age of 40 he was given his prophet hood and spent the next 13 years in Mecca before migrating to Medina.

The structure had been rebuilt several times after due to damage and floods etc. I would like to remind you that Muslims do not worship the Kaaba nor the Black stone which is on there. It is only a direction where Muslims all over the world have to face in order to pray. After over 1400 years since the Advent of Islam and the Muslim calendar the Kaaba which is in the Middle of the Grand Masjid in Mecca (Known as the Haram) looks like this.

This is one view of the Haram in Mecca where Millions of Muslims gather each year to perform the Hajj Pilgrimage; as you can see it is full of people performing the (Tawaf ) which is the circumambulating of the Kaaba. This is one of the rituals of hajj. All the men are dressed in white 2 piece garment called the Ihram this is only for the men. The women are usually in Islamic dress they feel comfortable in. Most of them wear black or white.

This one is a bird’s eye view of the Haram Masjid in Mecca =====č Mecca Aerial PIC In this picture you can see at the top end a long corridor type. This is the distance between two mountains that used to be there called mount Safa and mount Marwa. This is the place between which Hajar crossed in search of water for her son Ismael. This is when Allah provided them with spring of Zamzam.

The Hajj involves much more than this and there are other places I haven’t mentioned which are as important, but I suppose we can cross that bridge some other time. Let us take a look at a few more pictures of the inside of the Haram Masjid in Mecca. In the picture below and to the left we can see the interior of the gigantic haram Masjid in Mecca, this picture is of a time when it is empty otherwise throughout the year it is always full of people. In the picture below it, we can see the pilgrims performing the ritual of what did, she walked from one mountain to another seven times looking for water.

Also in Saudi Arabia was the place the prophet Mohamed and his people migrated to after a lot of Persecution in Mecca there  he built a  mosque which stands today as the second holy place of the muslims. The third being Al Aqsa masjid in Jerusalem.


Here are a few pictures of the Haram in Medina where the prophet Mohamed(peace be upon him) also lived and his companions too bearing in mind it wasn’t that size originally but as years went long it was added to due to demand as more people performed the Hajj. This is the outside and the second picture too The prophet Mohammed lived the rest of his life, he died and was buried in Madina. The picture below shows the area inside the Masjid in Madina where the prophet Mohamed (peace be upon him) and 2 other companions who took over after him Abu Bakr and Umar. After his death no other prophet came. Those who took over were leaders (Amirs). As part of the hajj or the lesser pilgrimage a Muslim has to pay visit to the Prophet’s masjid in Medina and pay tribute to the Prophet (peace be upon him) and his companions.

Related Article:

Aboo Mohammad may be reached at aboofatimah@hotmail.com.


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