In the Name of Allah (God Almighty), Most Gracious, Most Merciful

The Basic Tenets of Islam


INTRODUCTION

The true Muslim believes that Faith is not complete when it is followed blindly or accepted unquestioningly unless the believer is reasonably satisfied. If Faith is to inspire action, and if Faith and action are lead to salvation, then Faith must be founded on unshakeable convictions without any deception or compulsion. In other words, the person who calls himself a Muslim because of his family traditions, or accepts Islam under coercion or blind imitations is not a complete Muslim in the sight of Allah. A Muslim must build his Faith on well-grounded convictions beyond any reasonable doubt and above uncertainty. If he is not certain about his Faith, he is invited by Allah to search in the open book of Nature, to use his reasoning powers, and to reflect on the teaching of the Qur'an. He must search for the indisputable truth until he finds it, and he will certainly find it, if he is capable and serious enough (See, for example, the Qur'an 2:170; 43:22-24).

This is why Islam demands sound convictions and opposes blind imitation. Every person who is duly qualified as a genuine and earnest thinker is enjoined by Islam to employ his faculties to the fullest extent. But if a person is unqualified or uncertain of himself, he should pursue his thinking only as far as his limits can take him. It will be quite in order for such a person to rely only on the authentic sources of religion, which are sufficient in themselves, without applying to them any critical questioning of which he is incapable. The point is that no one can call himself a true Muslim unless his Faith is based on strong conviction and his mind is clear from doubts. Because Islam is complete only when it is based on strong convictions and freedom of choice, it cannot be forced upon anybody, for Allah will not accept this forced Faith. Nor will He consider it a true Islam if it does not develop from within or originate from free and sound convictions. And because Islam insures freedom of belief many non-Muslim groups lived and still live in the Muslim countries enjoying full freedom of belief and conscience. The Muslims take this attitude because Islam forbids compulsion in religion. It is the light which must radiate from within, because freedom of choice is the cornerstone of responsibility.

Once a person out of his/her own free will has chosen Islam as a true religion, then it is important that he/she announces his/her intention publicly so that he/she may be granted the same rights given to other Muslims. The channels used in this country to announce that, is simply to go to the Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs and declare your intention. The following text of the sermon is the one given by the Grand Mufti of Oman, His Eminence Shaikh Ahmed bin Hamed Al-Khalily to those who wish to embrace the Islamic religion out of their own free will. The text is meant to explain briefly the basic tenets of Islam, which every individual is required to know in more details and to have firm belief and practice them per the Islamic teachings.

Mohamed bin Salim Al-Busaidy

THE BASIC TENETS OF ISLAM

FIRST PILLAR - FAITH IN ALLAH

WITNESS THAT THERE IS NO DIVINITY
EXCEPT ALLAH AND MOHAMMED PEACE BE UPON HIM,
IS THE MESSENGER OF ALLAH

All praise is for Allah, the Lord of the worlds. Blessings on our Master Mohammad (peace be upon him). There is no power and strength, except Allah, the Lofty and the Great.

First of all, Islam is based on a strong faith in the presence of Allah who has created man and everything which is in existence.

The indications of the presence of Allah are manifest in this entire universe. Every atom in the universe bears testimony to the presence of Allah - the Pious and the Exalted. The presence of man provides sufficient proof of His existence. It is a universally recognised fact that everything that is made requires a manufacturer.

If a person looks at a building, he realises immediately that it must have been constructed by someone although the materials used in construction existed before. No one would believe that these materials joined together automatically to form the building.

Likewise if a person looks at a book, he knows that it must have been written by some writer. This is the situation in respect of articles which existed in the form of raw material before. How about man who had no entity at all ?

A forty-year old man had no existence before these forty years. A man who is now fifty did not exist in any shape before this fifty-year period. In the same way, thirty years ago, there was no existence of a man who is now thirty years old.

Now how is it possible for a man to take himself out of a state of non-existence and bring himself into a state of existence?

Similarly this whole universe has been created after a phase of non-existence. Certainly, it was impossible for such a universe to have brought itself into existence and to create itself.

CHARACTERISTICS OF ALLAH

The creator who has created both man and the universe has a large number of characteristics. These are :

Unity
The Unity of the system of universe provides evidence of the unity of God with its delicate combinations and its operations as a single system. It would not have been possible for the universe to operate if it had emanated from more than one single authority.

Timelessness
The proof of the Timelessness of Allah is that if He had been recently created (Allah is above such things); He would, like other novelties, require a producer to bring Him into existence. In this case, such a producer will have a greater entitlement to divinity.

Permanent
Allah is permanently in existence. The non-existence of something in existence is beyond possibility if its timelessness has been established.

Capability
The proof of the capabilities of the Almighty Allah is the creatures of this universe and its consolidation. Had He been incapable, it would not have been possible for Him to create this universe.

Knowledge
Absence of knowledge makes one ignorant. Had the Almighty Allah been ignorant, He would not have been able to create this universe so skilfully and then perfect it with such an exactitude.

Life
Absence of life makes one dead. Had the Almighty been lifeless, He would neither possess any knowledge nor any capability.

Hearing
Those who are unable to hear and see are deaf and blind..

Seeing
This universe must certainly have been produced by someone who has the full power of hearing and seeing.

Speech
Allah is fully capable of speaking as absence of such a power would render Him incapable of creation.

NOTHING RESEMBLES ALLAH

There is nothing which resembles the Almighty Allah nor vice versa in respect to his entity, characteristics and actions. Similar terminology may be used to describe Allah and His creatures. But its connotation are different.

For instance, Allah may be described as powerful and the same word may used to describe the creatures. But that does not mean that the capabilities of the creatures are similar to those of Allah. The powers of the creatures are proportional and extremely limited as compared to His; the powers of the creator are absolute and have no limitations. The capabilities of human beings have limited scope. What man is able to do is very little if it is compared to what he is unable to do. As against this, the Almighty Allah can do each and everything. There is nothing that is beyond the scope of His power.

Similarly, the creatures may be described as being knowledgeable, and so may be the Almighty Allah. But that does not denote that the creatures knowledge is equal to that of Allah by any standards. The knowledge of the creatures is relative and extremely restricted, while that of the creator is absolute and unlimited. The Almighty Allah has no wife, nor does He have a son.

BELIEF IN PROPHETS AND SCRIPTURES

After creating man, Allah has not left him alone to govern his affairs according to the dictates of his reason and pursuant to his desires. This is due to the fact that human mind is not capable of providing satisfactory guidance. Man's thinking keeps on being influenced by a large variety of factors, psychological and social. That is why many things which are liked by a particular society are disliked in another. The standards of liking and disliking are different even among individuals who are members of the same society. Providing adequate guidance is therefore beyond the scope of human mind.

In view of this, Allah the Almighty sent messengers to His creatures to encourage people to do good acts and to warn them against bad deeds. These messengers are from among the human beings. They have all the general human habits. They eat, drink and go for the calls of nature like other human beings. They are delighted and grieved, they get angry and are satisfied, like other people.

These messengers are, however, distinguished from other human beings by the fact that they are the most intelligent of them all, most righteous and possess the best character and highest standard of morality. This is so because Allah has prepared them to carry the torch of His light and to transmit His guidance to people.

None of these messengers should be described as the son of Allah. Nor should it be believed that any of them has the slightest element of divinity in himself. These messengers are also not the associates of Allah in his creations. All of them are the slaves of the Omnipotent Lord. At the end of all these messengers came the Prophethood of the last prophet : Mohammad (Peace be upon Him). After him, there will be no prophet.

The Almighty Allah revealed scriptures to these messengers. At the end of these scriptures came the Holy Qur'an, revealed to the Last Prophet Mohammad (Peace be upon Him).

As Muslims we must have faith in all these messengers and in all these scriptures. We are not permitted to differentiate among these messengers and scriptures by believing in some and disbelieving others. A general faith in all of the Prophets and the scriptures is a must.

It is however, necessary for us to specifically identify our Prophet Mohammad (Peace be upon Him) and the Holy Qur'an. As we have been ordained to devote ourselves fully to the service of the Holy Prophet and the Qur'an. We must also have a personal faith in all the Prophets mentioned to us by name in the Qur'an.

THE QUR'AN CHALLENGES THE WHOLE WORLD

The Almighty Allah has given these Prophets the power of performing miraculous acts which are beyond the power of man. Since the messengership of the previous Prophets was for a temporary period of time, the miracles they were empowered to perform were also temporary. However since the Prophethood of Prophet Mohammed (Peace be upon Him) is everlasting, his miracle is also immortal.

The miracle of the Holy Prophet was not a material miracle, like those of the previous Prophets. His miracle is contained in the very scriptures that was revealed to him.

The entire humanity with its enormous power, has miserably failed to produce something similar to the Holy Qur'an.

The Qur'an itself challenged the whole world to bring something that resembles ten of its chapters. But no one could accept the challenge. The Holy Book then gave a concession asking humanity to produce a single chapter similar to that of the Qur'an but everyone failed to accept this challenge, too.

The Holy Qur'an is inimitable both in respect of its contents and, its linguistic beauty. Revealed in immaculately chaste Arabic it remains the masterpiece of Arabic literature.

During the days of the Holy Prophet, Arabic literature had reached the peak of its glory. The Arab world of that time produced innumerable orators and poets who were the masters of the language. But despite their outstanding literary skills they miserably failed to write anything that could be compared with even the smallest chapter of the Holy Qur'an.

The inimitability of the Holy Qur'an is also manifest in its contents. The set of unique laws for mankind and the wealth of scientific information contained in the Qur'an makes it an outstanding book the imitation of which is beyond human power.

BELIEF IN ANGELS

As Muslims, we must also believe in the presence of angels, who are the creatures of the Almighty Lord. These angles are, however, different from the remaining creatures of Allah, in that they do not require food and water, do not go for the call of nature, and do not sleep, get tired or produce children. Throughout the day and night, they are engaged in the glorification of the name of the Almighty Allah. They always carry out the commands of Allah and are never disobedient to Him.

BELIEF IN THE DAY OF JUDGEMENT

We must also have a firm faith in the Day of Judgement. This means that we must believe in death and the life hereafter. We must have full faith in the fact that every creature has to die. Only Allah has and will always remain alive. Death is not an eventually in itself. It does not bring man to a final end. It is simply a phase through which he passes.

After death, there will be resurrection. Life will be re-instilled in the body. After resurrection, every one will have to be accountable for all his acts in this world. Rewards and punishments will then follow. Those who are believers and have done noble acts in this world will be assigned paradise, while the unbelievers and perpetrators of bad acts will go to hell. Life in both the paradise and the hell is everlasting.

BELIEF IN FATE

We must also believe in fate being it a pleasant or unpleasant. After creating this universe, the Almighty Allah has not renounced it. All that happens in the world is predestined by the Lord.

DECLARATION OF FAITH

In order to declare one's faith in all these facts which have been enumerated above, one has to pronounce two phrases.

ASH-HADU ANNA LA ILAHA ILLALLAH. WA ASH-HADU ANNA
MUHAMMADAN RASOOLULLAH

(I witness that there is no divinity except Allah and Mohammad, Peace be upon him, is the messenger of Allah).

The person who recites this affirmation wholeheartedly had declared his faith in all the fundamental teachings mentioned above and thus, becomes a Muslim. His rights and duties then become exactly similar to those of any other Muslim.

The recitation of the above affirmation (Shahadah) is the first of the five pillars of Islam.

THE SECOND PILLAR - ESTABLISHING REGULAR PRAYERS

A Muslim must be regular in saying his prayers an act of worship which models the body, mind and soul to the invisible prototype of awakened consciousness, or of the individual aware of Allah. The performance of the five prayers daily at prescribed times is obligatory (fard) beginning at the age of adolescence.

These prayers, and a simple method of determining their time, are the following:

  • Salat al Fajr or morning prayer; its time is between the moment of dawning when, 'a thread' of light appears on the horizon, until the rising of the sun. This period of time is called al-Fajr.
  • Salat al Dhuhr, the noonday prayer
  • Salat al Asr, the late afternoon
  • Salat al Maghrib, or sunset prayer
  • Salat al Isha, or night prayer.

In the prayers it is not the individual who prays, but rather it is man as such, a representative of the species of all mankind recognising his relationship to the Absolute or again it is Creation with the voice of man as a universal patriarch, praying to the Creator. The Takbir i.e. Allahu Akbar (Allah is greatest) which opens it, is the door into the Divine Presence and the subsequent Takbirs are the acknowledgement that all activity, that all power, is Allah's alone.

The prayer must be performed in Arabic, which is at once a sacred and liturgical language, that is, a language which has preserved in its forms and sounds, a close correspondence to the metaphysical prototype of the reality it designates, and not merely a convention which subsists after a process of phonetic and linguistic decay.

THE THIRD PILLAR - ALMSGIVING (ZAKAH)

Zakah is the giving up of a portion of the wealth one may possess in excess of what is needed for sustenance to purify or legitimise what one retains. One of the five pillars, Zakah may be paid directly to the poor as alms or to travellers or to the state. Zakah may be used for the upkeep of the poor, for those who own less than that prescribed for the paying of Zakah and who have no earning capacity, for the destitute, Muslims in debt through pressing circumstances, travellers in need, those serving the cause of Islam and struggling in the way of Allah, for slaves to buy themselves out of bondage and for benevolent works.

Those who collect the Zakah on behalf of the state for disbursement are also allowed to take the needs of their livelihood from it. 2.5% of the value of capital holdings which remain in one's possession for a complete period of one year is to be paid.

Zakah is also payable in gold, silver, liquid assets and financial instruments. There are regulations which govern the payment of Zakah on land, livestock and grains.

THE FOURTH PILLAR - FASTING THE MONTH OF RAMADHAN

Fasting during Ramadhan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, is one of the five pillars of Islam, and Islam has prescribed fasting as a spiritual discipline.

The Qur'an says : "O you who have attained to faith! Fasting is ordained for you as it was ordained or those before you, so that you might remain conscious of Allah : (fasting) during a certain number of days. But whoever of you is ill, or on a journey, [shall fast instead for the same] number of other days; and [in such case] it is incumbent upon those who can afford it to make sacrifice by feeding a needy person. And whoever does more good than he is bound to do does good unto himself thereby; for to fast is to do good unto yourselves - if you but knew it".
AL-BAQARAH 2:183/184

Ramadhan, marking the end to indulgence or imposing a clear limit to it day after day for a month, offers an unmistakable spiritual lesson. It constitutes a purification and a kind of sacrifice, which like the pruning of trees, leads to renewal and fresh strength. On the moral plane, it also brings a direct understanding of the suffering of the hungry - the needy.

The Qur'an was revealed in one of the last nights of Ramadhan, the Lailat-al-Qadr, the holiest night in the Islamic calendar. During Ramadhan, supplementary prayers, called 'Tarawih' are performed after the Isha prayer. The month is the occasion for intensive reading of the Holy Qur'an and exalting in good deeds.

THE FIFTH PILLAR - PILGRIMAGE

Pilgrimage is an elaborate series of rites performed at the Grand Mosque of Mecca and in the immediate environs of the city. The Hajj is obligatory upon those who can make their way to Mecca. The requirement is not absolute, but incumbent, once in lifetime, upon those whose health and means permit it and who in doing so, do not compromise their responsibilities towards their families.

The yearly flood of pilgrims from remotest places of Islam has been a remarkable means of spiritual renewal for distant communities which are thus brought closer to the manifest centre of Islam.

ISLAMIC CODE OF CONDUCT

A Muslim must abstain from all the acts which have been declared unlawful by Allah. Complete abstinence is a must from eating pork, drinking alcohol and committing adultery or involving oneself in acts that might lead to adultery.

Telling lies, backbiting, disseminating discord among people, using obscene language, abusing and mistreating others. These habits must be given up, as Islam is strongly opposed to them. Jealousy, intrigues, arrogance, self-praise and ill-will, these run counter to the spirit of Islam.

A Muslim must also keep himself away from all fraudulent acts, theft, usury and betrayal. All good acts must be done with the intention of seeking the pleasure of Allah.

NO INTERMEDIARY

A significant point which must be stressed is that there are no intermediaries in Islam. No one has the right to act as a middleman between God and His creatures, as no such institution exists in Islam, a religion which believes in unadulterated monotheism. If a man commits a sin, he must seek pardon from Allah directly and apologise to Him directly, without anyone mediating between the two.

EQUALITY

Islam does not give importance to any territorial or racial differences. All men are equal in the eyes of Allah. The Holy Prophet has explicitly said that no white is superior to a non-Arab, as all of us are from Adam who was made of clay. The best of you, the Prophet declared, in the view of Allah, is the one who is the most righteous.


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