The Religion of Islam (A brief description of its beliefs and essential practices)
by Mr. Iqbal Ahmad, Salford, Justice of Peace Manchester (Written for the School Children in England)
The Light (Pakistan), 16th December 1976 Issue (Vol. 56, Nos. 46–47, pp. 24, 23)
Islam does not claim to be a new religion. It teaches that the same eternal truths have been taught by founders of all great religions. The difference that one notices among them now is due to human interpretation given to the original teachings of the founders. The followers of Islam are required not only to believe in Muhammad (571–632 AD), who was the founder of Islam, but also in the founders of other religions. Children in Muslim homes are taught to mention the names of the founders of other religions with a short prayer as a mark of respect.
Islam teaches that the Creator of the whole of mankind is the same. Muhammad, in his last sermon (equivalent in importance to Sermon on the Mount) said: No Arab should think he is superior to a non-Arab. Every man is a descendant of Adam and Adam was made from dust.
Islam is, therefore, against distinction between one man and other on the basis of race, colour, creed or sex. In the Quran, the sacred scripture of Islam (which is in Arabic) there are numerous references where men and women are mentioned together. On comes across references such as ‘believing men and believing women’, ‘pious men and pious women’ and that men and women will be rewarded or punished for their acts equally. There is a chapter of the Quran called Al-Nisa or Women. Islam also teaches that every child is born free of sin.
Briefly, Islam teaches that there is one God, referred to as Allah in the Quran, who created the whole mankind. In spite of linguistic, cultural and ethnic differences, the whole of mankind is one. Revealed messages have come to mankind, ever since the beginning of human creation, through various spiritually inspired people and they must all be respected alike.
The Fundamental Belief of Islam:
There are five of them:
- To become a Muslim, one has to publicly declare that he or she believes that the deity worthy of worship is the One God and profess belief in the prophethood of Muhammad.
- Prayer: Muslims are supposed to pray five times a day. The first prayer is just before dawn. The second soon after midday. The third in the afternoon. The fourth soon after sunset and the fifth is said late in the evening. There are some special prayers. Like Christians have special services on Sunday, Muslims have it on Friday after midday. But unlike Jews and Christians, Muslims have to work up to the time of this special service and then go back to work. There are also special services on two of their major festivals called Eid-ul-Fitr which marks the end of a whole month of fasting, and Eid-ul-Adha which is to commemorate the occasion when Abraham was asked to sacrifice his son. The difference between Christian and Muslim traditions is that Muslims believe that it was Ishmael and not Isaac who was supposed to be sacrificed. The largest mosque in Manchester is in Upper Park Road where you can see all these services held.
- Fasting: For a whole month, called Ramadan in the Muslim calendar, Muslims have to go without water, food or smoking from dawn to sunset.
- Zakat or Obligatory Tax: Every Muslim is required to pay 2.5% of his wealth or annual savings to the State. This money is to be spent on the poor, the widows, the orphans, insolvent debtors and for the general welfare of the community. Apart from this obligatory tax, Islam encourages its followers to spend from their earnings for the good of others.
- Hajj or Pilgrimage: Those who can afford it, are required to visit the Kabah (from which the word ‘cube’ is derived) an ancient place of worship in Mecca, at least once in their lifetime. About a million Muslims from all parts of the world gather there once a year on the occasion of the festival Eid-ul-Adha (referred to above) in one common act of worship which includes going round the Kabah seven times and running between two mounds Safa and Marwah, like Abraham and Hagar did. Every man and woman is dressed in two pieces of unsewn cloth and all distinctions of wealth, race, language and sex are obliterated. This year Hajj is taking place on Thursday 2nd of December 1976. BBC television are arranging to make a film of some pilgrims leaving for Hajj from Manchester and then showing what they do there and what their impressions are on their return. This will be shown later in one of their Open University
Note: The name of the religion is ‘Islam’. It means peace or submission to the will of God, without which inner peace can never be attained. The followers of the religion are called ‘Muslims’. They do not like to be called Mohamedans.