Islam is a fast-growing religion, especially in the Western world. Christians increasingly need to be aware of Islam and, most importantly, how to engage its adherents with the gospel of Jesus Christ.“Islam” means “surrender” or “submission”. “Salam” (which means “peace”) is the root word of “Islam”. In a religious context, the word “Islam” means “the surrendering of one’s will (without compulsion) to the true will of God to achieve peace”. Allah says:
إِنَّمَا الْمُؤْمِنُونَ الَّذِينَ إِذَا ذُكِرَ اللَّهُ وَجِلَتْ قُلُوبُهُمْ وَإِذَا تُلِيَتْ عَلَيْهِمْ آيَاتُهُ زَادَتْهُمْ إِيمَانًا وَعَلَىٰ رَبِّهِمْ يَتَوَكَّلُونَ
“Only the believers (are) those who when Allah is mentioned feel fear their hearts, and when are recited to them His Verses, they increase them (in) faith, and upon their Lord they put their trust.” (Surah Al-Anfal, 8:2)
In the post-Christian West, where thinking people, including scientists themselves once more, are seeking solutions to the difficulties created by the Christian divorce between religion and science, the Qur’an offers a way to explore an attitude that fully embraces the quest for knowledge and understanding that is the essence of science, while at the same time, and indeed for the same reasons, fully embraces the awe, humility, reverence, and conscience. Allah says:
إِنَّمَا الصَّدَقَاتُ لِلْفُقَرَاءِ وَالْمَسَاكِينِ وَالْعَامِلِينَ عَلَيْهَا وَالْمُؤَلَّفَةِ قُلُوبُهُمْ وَفِي الرِّقَابِ وَالْغَارِمِينَ وَفِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ وَابْنِ السَّبِيلِ فَرِيضَةً مِّنَ اللَّهِ وَاللَّهُ عَلِيمٌ حَكِيمٌ
“Only the charities (are) for the poor, and the needy and those who collect them, and the ones inclined their hearts, and in the (freeing of) the necks, and for those in debt and in (the) way (of) Allah, and the wayfarer – an obligation from Allah. And Allah (is) All-Knowing, All-Wise.” (Surah At-Tawbah 9:60)
Even for the secular Westerner, apart from any question of religious belief or faith, there are immediate benefits to be found in reading the Quran. First, given the sacredness and vital importance of the Quran to approximately one-fifth of all humanity, a thinking citizen of the world can hardly develop a rational and mature social consciousness without considering the message of the Quran and its meaning for the Muslim community. Allah says:
قُلْ هَلْ تَرَبَّصُونَ بِنَا إِلَّا إِحْدَى الْحُسْنَيَيْنِ وَنَحْنُ نَتَرَبَّصُ بِكُمْ أَن يُصِيبَكُمُ اللَّهُ بِعَذَابٍ مِّنْ عِندِهِ أَوْ بِأَيْدِينَا فَتَرَبَّصُوا إِنَّا مَعَكُم مُّتَرَبِّصُونَ
“Say, “Do you await for us except one (of) the two best (things) while we [we] await for you that Allah will afflict you with a punishment from [near] Him, or by our hands? So wait, indeed, we with you (are) waiting.” (Surah At-Tawba, 9:52)
Non-Muslims due to various political and social motivations are also learning about Islam, therefore, it is more than imperative that they are aware of the basic facts about Islam so that they can have a real sense of the religion contrary to the contemporary projection.
Here are some facts about Non-Muslim know:
1. “Muslim” and “Arab” are not the same thing.
“Muslim” is a religious term. A Muslim is someone who adheres to the religion of Islam. “Arab,” on the contrary, is an ethnolinguistic term. An Arab is a member of the people group who speaks the Arabic language. Islam indeed originated among the Arabs, and the Quran was written in Arabic. However, some Arabs have historically been part of the ancient Orthodox Christian churches. Allah says:
فَإِن تَوَلَّوْا فَقُلْ حَسْبِيَ اللَّهُ لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ عَلَيْهِ تَوَكَّلْتُ وَهُوَ رَبُّ الْعَرْشِ الْعَظِيمِ
“But if they turn away, then say, “Sufficient for me (is) Allah. (There is) no god except Him. On Him, I put my trust. And He (is the) Lord (of) the Throne, the Great.” (Surah At-Tawba, 9:129)
On the other hand, Islam spread far beyond the Arab world, and today most Muslims are not Arabs. This includes the Turks, the Kurds, the Iranians, the Pakistanis, other South Asian Muslims, the Malaysians, and the Indonesians, almost all of whom are Muslim but none of whom is Arab.
2. The word “Islam” means submission.
A Muslim is someone who submits to God. The Islamic conception of who God is, and how he is to be worshipped and served, is based on the teaching of Muhammad. Thus the Islamic creed is: “There is no God but God, and Muhammad is his prophet.”
3. There are two major denominations of Muslims.
The two major denominations of Muslims are Sunni and Shi’a. Sunnis are the vast majority, at 85 per cent of all Muslims. The split occurred in the first generation after Muhammad’s death and was based on a dispute over who should succeed him as the leader of the Islamic community.
4. Islamic theology could be summarized as a belief in one God, his prophets, his books, his angels, his decrees, and the final judgment.
Islam teaches that humans are born spiritually neutral, perfectly capable of obeying God’s requirements completely and that they remain this way even after they’ve personally sinned. The need of humanity, therefore, is not salvation but instruction; hence Islam has prophets, but no saviour.
5. Islam teaches that Jesus was a great prophet.
Islam affirms that Jesus was born of a virgin, that he lived a sinless life, that he performed mighty miracles, and that he will come again at the end of history. It even calls him a word from God.
However, it explicitly denies the deity of Christ and repudiates the title “Son of God” as blasphemous. It also (according to the majority view) denies he died on the cross, claiming that Jesus’ visage was imposed on someone else, who was then crucified, and that Jesus was taken up into heaven without tasting death. Islam explicitly denies the possibility of substitutionary atonement.
6. Islamic practice can be summarized by the Five Pillars of Islam.
These are composed of the confession of faith (“There is no God but God, and Muhammad is his prophet”), prayer (the ritual prayers said in Arabic five times a day while facing Mecca and performing the prescribed set of bowings, kneeling, and prostrations), alms (taken as a tax in some officially Islamic countries), fasting (the lunar month of Ramadan, during which Muslim believers fast during daylight hours but can eat while it’s dark), and pilgrimage (the Hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca, which every Muslim believer should make once in his or her lifetime).
7. The vast majority of Muslims are not terrorists.
Normal Islamic religious law forbids the intentional killing of non-combatants in battle. It also forbids suicide. It’s a small minority view that allows these things, and it’s a small minority who engage in terrorist activities.
8. Muslims can be some of the friendliest, most hospitable people on earth.
They make great neighbours and great friends. No Christian should be afraid to build a relationship with a Muslim.
9. Muslims need salvation through Jesus Christ.
They are lost exactly like any other non-Christian—neither more nor less than anyone else. Furthermore, Muslims do come to faith in Jesus Christ. It usually takes time and extended exposure to the Word of God and the lives of Christians, but more Muslims are coming to faith today than at any other point in history.
10. God loves Muslims, and so should we—even those few who are our enemies.
We should love them enough to befriend them, love them enough to make them welcome in our homes, and love them enough to share the gospel with them.
11. Islam is not a new religion or cult.
It is a universal way of life and civilization. Studies show that between 1.5 and 1.8 billion people in the world identify their religion as Islam. Along with Judaism and Christianity, it traces its roots through Prophet Abraham and back to the first humans Adam and Eve.
12.The concept of God.
The Islamic concept of God is that He is loving, merciful and compassionate. Islam also teaches that He is all-knowing and the perfect judge of affairs, and will punish (or forgive) accordingly. However, Allah once said to Muhammad, “My mercy prevails over my wrath”. So Islam teaches a balance between fear and hope, protecting one from both complacency and despair.
13. Muslims believe in all of the true Prophets.
Muslims believe in all of the true prophets that preceded Muhammad, from Adam to Jesus. Muslims believe they brought the same message of voluntarily surrendering to God’s will (Islam, in a generic sense) to different peoples at different times.
Muslims also believe they were “Muslims” (again, in a generic sense) since they followed God’s true guidance and surrendered their will to Him. Muslims neither worship Muhammad nor pray through him. Muslims worship the Unseen, Omniscient Creator, Allah.
Pillars Of Islam:
The structure or building of Islam stands on five pillars. These pillars are rudimentary to the existence of Islam and if any of the pillars are not followed or practised, the building of Islam might collapse for a Muslim.
- The first pillar is the declaration of faith in which a Muslim proclaims Allah being the only God and Muhammad (PBUH) being His Prophet.
- The second pillar of Islam is the Salat. It is the daily prayers that a Muslim has to perform five times a day. The prayers are a sign of the submission of a Muslim to Allah and when it comes to offering prayer, there is no excuse accepted from a Muslim and it has to be offered under any circumstance.
- The third pillar of Islam is Sawm, which is the obligatory fasting which Muslims undertake in the month of Ramadan. During the whole month Muslims fast from dawn till dusk and refrain from all sorts of eating, drinking and sexual activity.
- The fourth pillar of Islam is Zakat. It is an obligatory charity that the Muslims have to give an annual basis, only if they have sufficient wealth that makes them eligible for offering it.
- The fifth pillar is the Hajj. It is the pilgrimage to the House of Allah that a Muslim is to perform. It is obligatory on Muslims who have the health and wealth of performing the pilgrimage.
These pillars need to be observed by every Muslim and there is very little excuse accepted with regards to offering them.
Attributes of Allah:
Although there is the element of linguistic incompetence that cannot explain the attributes of Allah, however, all the attributes that a person can associate with Supreme Being are to be associated with Allah. He is the One, the Just, the Lord, the Sustainer, the Provider, the Best Friend, the Merciful, the Beneficent and so on.
Contemporary people associate only the wrath attributes with Allah, however, the fact of the matter is that the mercy and love of Allah supersede His wrath by long margins.
The common impression is that Quran is a book of dogmas that contains religious instructions for Muslims. This is just a single aspect of the Quran, it is much more than just a set of dogmas. Quran contains in itself a complete code of life. It discusses, religion, politics, sociology, economics, laws and so on. Allah says:
وَمَا لَنَا أَلَّا نَتَوَكَّلَ عَلَى اللَّهِ وَقَدْ هَدَانَا سُبُلَنَا وَلَنَصْبِرَنَّ عَلَىٰ مَا آذَيْتُمُونَا وَعَلَى اللَّهِ فَلْيَتَوَكَّلِ الْمُتَوَكِّلُونَ
“And what (is) for us that not we put our trust upon Allah, while certainly, He has guided us to our ways? And surely we will bear with p on what harm you may cause us. And upon Allah so let put (their) trust the ones who put (their) trust.” (Surah İbrahim, 14:12)
Therefore, reciting Quran for religious benefits is one of the purposes for Muslims while the rest of it is also equally important and enlightening as well. But to be able to understand this fact, one needs to learn and understand Quran with its true spirit.
Rights Of Women:
Another misconception that the non-Muslims have with regards to Islam is that Islam is a religion that oppresses women. This is a misconception and Islam is perhaps the only religion that talks of the rights of women and gives them equal rights as men. In the eyes of Allah, it is not the gender that makes the difference, rather it is the deeds that a person commits that make one superior to the other. Allah says:
وَتَوَكَّلْ عَلَى الْحَيِّ الَّذِي لَا يَمُوتُ وَسَبِّحْ بِحَمْدِهِ وَكَفَىٰ بِهِ بِذُنُوبِ عِبَادِهِ خَبِيرًا
“And put your trust in the Ever-Living, the One Who does not die, and glorify with His Praise. And sufficient is He regarding the sins (of) His slaves, All-Aware.” (Surah Al-Furqan, 25:58)
Moreover, in Islam women have all sorts of rights whether they are related to their standing in the family, in politics, in the society or their contribution to the religious circles. Therefore, Islam in no way is a women-oppressing religion, rather it emancipates them from the cultural oppression that women across different cultures of the world face.
Commonalities With Other Religions:
People think that Islam is some kind of a cult religion that rose out of the blue and has nothing to do with the world or the other religions present in it. This conception is wrong because Islam shares quite a few commonalities with the other Abrahamic religions of the world. Like Christians and Jews, Muslims believe in one God, the arrival of Judgment day and the existence of life hereafter are some of the major commonalities which Islam shares with other religion. Allah says:
إِن يَنصُرْكُمُ اللَّهُ فَلَا غَالِبَ لَكُمْ وَإِن يَخْذُلْكُمْ فَمَن ذَا الَّذِي يَنصُرُكُم مِّن بَعْدِهِ وَعَلَى اللَّهِ فَلْيَتَوَكَّلِ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ
“If Allah helps you, none can overcome you: If He forsakes you, who is there, after that, that can help you? in Allah, then, Let believers put their trust.” (Surah Al-Imran, 3:160)
Therefore, Islam is not as isolated as the people think of it to be, rather it is as or even more natural compared to the rest of the religions of the world.
Islam is against asceticism and wants its followers to live in a society as humans are supposed to do, however, Muslims in society has certain obligations and rights. The presence of these rights and obligations is what lays the foundation of a just society where peace and prosperity prevail. Islam gives rights and obligations of rich, poor, the labourer, the hungry people, and everyone in the society by stressing on the establishment of justice in the society.
No Room For Violence:
The religion that has the word ‘peace’ for its name can surely not encourage violence. Islam is against the use of violence especially when it comes to spreading the religion. Quran has numerous verses in it in which Allah Almighty condemns the use of violence, aggression or force for subjugating people. A Muslim is never to be the first in violence and aggression, rather a Muslim can only resort to the use of force when defending him or herself. Therefore, the contemporary image of violence that people have with regards to Islam is a misinterpretation of the teachings of Islam. Allah says:
وَقَالَ مُوسَىٰ إِن تَكْفُرُوا أَنتُمْ وَمَن فِي الْأَرْضِ جَمِيعًا فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ لَغَنِيٌّ حَمِيدٌ
“And said Musa, “If you disbelieve, you and whoever (is) in the earth all, then indeed, Allah certainly (is) Free of need, Praiseworthy.” (Surah İbrahim, 14:8)
In a nutshell, there are numerous misconceptions about Islam that are propagated by biased people. It doesn’t matter whether a non-Muslim is learning about Islam for converting or not, he or she should have an objective approach towards the preaching of Islam and weigh them on the bases of what they are and not what other people think them to be.