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    What is a Muslim?

This is perhaps may be the most controversial Sunday Sermon I have written. A reader invited me to address this theme, which I have done without any commentary, using direct sections from two "official" web sites, without comment or editing.

I would like to preface this that one of my closest friends is a Muslim, born in Pakistan, raised in the United States, his brother's wife was chosen by the family, sight unseen, he fasts and is very religious, and I am told he is the patriarch of the family.  He has business investments in Pakistan.

On my office credenza is a picture of the two of use in our San Francisco 49er sweat shirts, winning an award for work we did at the high school together.  About fifteen years ago, he started giving me his 49er tickets when he could not go, got me hooked, then got another pair, and he and his wife and I and Sue would go together.  His wife and Sue still walk together every morning for exercise.  His company bought a sky box, and I started getting my own tickets and finally season passes. I like to yell and scream at games, plus Sue's tailgates, getting to the stadium early.  He is somewhat responsible along with Sue in turning me into a football  fan, and I turned him into a wine connoisseur, he says.

His daughter and Sue's are best friends. They vacation together, and he says they are together so much he wants to claim her as a dependent. His family and ours go to all weddings, funerals and events together, out to dinner, and to Las Vegas, where he likes to gamble, and to get me to stay up all night with him, he gives me money to play with while he wins.  He says I bring him good luck.  I have seen him win some really big money.  His only problem, he likes to pay for everything, and I like to pay for dinners as I order the wine.  He sold his electronics company about two years ago, has many investments, is very successful, and he tells me just like many religions, there are various "sects."  The Christian religion has Catholics, Episcopalians, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Mormon, Baptist, etc.  They Jewish has the reformed and various divisions of Orthodox.  So to say that all Muslims are alike is also to say that all Christians, Jews, Buddhists, etc. are the "same."  However, there is a fundamental concept behind each religion, and here is the Muslim, in the shortest definition I could find:

 What is a Muslim?   
American Muslim Alliance
( 6th National Meeting, October 13,2001,San Jose, California)

American Muslim Alliance Condemns Terrorist Attack

(Newark, California: 9/11/01) The American Muslim Alliance, a national civic education organization, condemned today's terrorist attacks in New York and Washington in the "strongest

Dr. Agha Saeed, the national Chair of the American Muslim Alliance, Stated:

"These attacks are against both divine and human laws and we condemn them in the strongest terms. The Muslim Americans join the nation in calling for swift apprehension and stiff punishment of the perpetrators, and offer our sympathies to the victims and their families." 

The Religious Beliefs


ALLAH - for Muslims the greatest and most inclusive of the Names of God, an Arabic word of rich and varied meaning, denoting the one who is adored in worship, who creates all that exists, who had
priority over all creation, who is lofty and hidden, who confounds all human understanding. It is exactly the same word which the Jews, in Hebrew, use for God (eloh), the word which Jesus Christ used in Aramaic when he prayed to God. God has an identical name in Judaism, Christianity and Islam; Allah is the same God worshipped by Muslims, Christians and Jews.

"He is God, the One God Independent and Sought by all; He begets not, nor is begotten, and there is none like unto Him" (The Holy Qur'an - Chapter on Sincerity of Faith) Islam teaches that all faiths have, in essence, one common message: the existence of a Supreme Being, the one and only God, whose Sovereignty is to be acknowledged in worship and in the pledge to obey His teaching and commandments, conveyed through His messengers
and prophets who were sent at various times and in many places throughout history.

Islam, An Arabic word, rich in meaning. One important dimension is the "commitment to submit and surrender to God so that one can live in peace"; Peace (salam) is achieved through active obedience

to the revealed Commandments of God, for God is the Source of all Peace. Commitment to Islam entails striving for peace through a struggle for justice, equality of opportunity, mutual caring
and consideration for the rights of others, and continuous research and acquisition of knowledge for the better protection and utilization of the resources of Creation.

Islam teaches that the objective of the Commandments of God is that peace should be established in the human societies of this world, in preparation for a further dimension of human existence in the world to come, the Afterlife. Islam's vision of peace is therefore truly universal; it transcends time and belongs to the order of God's eternity.

Islam does not regard itself to be a new teaching, different or separate from that of other world religions. It is the reaffirmation of the ancient yet living truth of all religions which can be
expressed in the following beliefs:
the Uniqueness of the one and only God who is Sovereign of the universe; the Revelation of the teaching and commandments of God through Angels in heaven to Prophets on earth, and written in sacred writings which all have the same transcendent source; these contain the will of God which marks the way of peace for the whole universe and all of humankind; the Day of Judgment which inaugurates the Afterlife, in which God rewards and punishes with
respect to human obedience and disobedience to His will.

Islam affirms these simple beliefs as the basis for the decent, civilized society towards which it strives. Its vision of society is, in essence, no different from that upheld by all monotheistic
religions. This is particularly true of Judaism and Christianity which share with Islam the direct spiritual lineage of the Prophet Abraham. Islam affirms the divinely-ordained missions of the
Prophet Moses, through whom God revealed the sacred scripture called the Torah, and of the Prophet Jesus, through whom God revealed the scripture known as the Gospel. The message of Islam is in essence the same as that which God revealed to all His prophets and messengers. The Prophet Muhammad (the peace and blessing of God be upon him) was commanded to recite in the Holy Qur'an:
"Say, we believe in God, and that which was revealed unto us, and that which was revealed unto Abraham and lshmael and Isaac and Jacob, and the tribes, and that which was vouchsafed unto Moses
and Jesus and the prophets from their Lord; We make no distinction between any of them, and unto Him we have surrendered " (The Holy Qur'an 3:84)

The success of civilizations and cultures is directly related to the extent of their practice of the righteous way of life revealed in the teaching and commandments of God, and set forth in the
monotheistic religions which are confirmed by Islam. God's revelation enshrines the highest values of humankind, and the divine commandments are essentially no different from the values which human beings have cherished and striven to maintain throughout history, regardless of cultural, racial,
linguistic and socioeconomic differences. Success in this life is directly related to the practice of these values.

The irreducible minimum of faith is to believe in God as the sole sovereign Lord of this world and the next, and to believe in the reality of the Afterlife for which human beings are to prepare by
living righteously in this world. God Alone is the Judge of human righteousness, and it is God Alone who rewards and punishes in this life and in the life hereafter.

Righteousness does not mean for you to turn your faces towards the East and towards the West, but righteousness means one should believe in God (Alone), the Last Day the angels, the Book and the prophets; and no matter how he loves it, to give his wealth away to near relatives, orphans, the needy, the wayfarer and the beggars, and toward the freeing of captives; and to keep up prayer and pay the welfare tax; and those who keep their word whenever they promise anything; and are patient under strain and hardship and in time of peril. Those are the ones who act loyally and perform their duty.
 (The Holy Qur'an 2:1 77)

                       UNIQUE FEATURES OF ISLAM

Among world religions, Islam enjoys a unique position. It has many distinctive elements, Some are dealt here to ponder on.

First, unlike other religions, Islam is the only religion which was given a name by its prophet and its holy book. Judaism is known after the region where the Jewish religion was born, and a Jew is
one who belongs to the Hebrew race. Christianity is the name given by the Jewish followers of Jesus who regarded him the 'Messiah'. The Greek word for 'Messiah' is 'Kristos' or Christ which came in vogue long after Jesus had died.

Buddhism is the religion supposedly preached by Gautama Buddha. At least two hundred years after his death, his followers came to be known by this name. Zorastrianism is known after its founder
Zoraster who is said to have lived sometime between 600 B. C. and 300 B. C.

The followers of Hinduism, who were split into a large number of groups, never gave a name to their own religion, for each group used to call its way of life dharma.
Only Islam, in the entire religious history of mankind, was given a specific name by Almighty God in the lifetime of its Prophet.


Second, no other religious denomination carries a meaning or conveys any sense of its outlook on life as does Islam Judaism, Buddhism, Zorastrianism, Hinduism and Christianity are known either
after their founders or after the place of their origin. None of them bears any specific meaning, whereas the word Islam not only has a meaning but carries in it the entire essence of its outlook
on life as propounded in the Qur'an and taught by the Prophet.
Islam means:

complete submission to the will of one God and acceptance of His commands as revealed in the Qur'an (tasleem).
peace and stability: peace of mind as well as peace between individuals and peace among nations leading to stability, progress, prosperity (salam).
A moderate and balanced life devoid of excesses (saleem).
These are Islam's three main principles which are embodied in its very name. This outstanding feature of Islam, absent in other religions, is of great import and calls for a deeper study.


Third, Islam alone, of all religions, has given the concept of a 'House of God on Earth,' which is a centralizing and binding force for its followers. The Ka'bah has conferred innumerable benefits
on Muslims: it has made them seekers of knowledge, and has created among them a consciousness of huma n heritage from Ibrahim (Abraham) onward leading to a firm belief in brotherhood as one of the bases of life. Perhaps nowhere else can one see the diversity of the human race as at Makkah during the hajj (annual pilgrimage). Islam alone, with its belief in the unity of mankind, has been able to bring mankind together to a degree not achieved by other religions.


Fourth, Islam alone of all religions has provided a multipurpose institution in the form of 'mosque' to serve the religious, social, educational and political needs of the community at the
grassroots. A unique feature of the mosque is that unlike the church in Christianity or the synagogue in Judaism, it is not governed or controlled by a religious hierarchy. It is grounded in
the people who make it work through mutual consultation. As a divine and democratic institution, it has no parallel, either in the past or the present.

Freedom movements, movements to revive the faith, or to safeguard the cultural values of the community have often been launched from mosques.

Jesus (peace be upon him) never envisioned the hierarchical structure of the church on the model of the Roman imperial institutions with a chain of command from the Pope downward through cardinals, bishops, fathers and other clerics. This rigid and inflexible edifice set up long after Jesus' death finally led many Christians to flee their native lands and establish Protestantism and its several denominations now common in North America. The prophet of Islam not only built the mosque but also demonstrated its uses. The mosque provides Muslims a means to remain vigilant 24 hours a
day, to keep an eye on the mores and manners of the community 12 months of the year and to always guard the ummah (people) from external as well as internal dangers. As a watch-tower, a permanent source of integration and a place of cultural and religious revival, it is a most useful institution that could be conceived of provided it is used for the objectives it was intended for. Clean in its environment, corporate in its character, constructive in its approach and creative in its essence, the mosque is an outstanding contribution of Islam to humanity.


Fifth, of all religious books, the Qur'an alone has remained unaltered, unedited, unchanged. Whether non-Muslim scholars accept the Qur'an as the word of God or as the work of the Prophet is immaterial. What is important is that they are unanimous in the view that its language and its wording have remained in their original form. This is unique to Islam. All other divine books have
been edited, rehashed and revised by their votaries with the passage of time. The followers of other religions do not deny this but claim that it was done by saintly persons under divine
inspiration. In this respect, the Western world has adopted a double standard. On the one hand, it prefers the original works of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle to the interpretations and translations
of later Muslim and non-Muslim thinkers. But on the other, when it comes to the Bible and the New Testament, it accepts all translations and interpolations as divinely inspired.

These few points distinguish Islam from other religions and philosophies and demonstrate the lasting character of its appeal, the practical nature of its teachings, the flexibility of its
legal system and the meaningfully successful life of its Prophet His life has enormous potentialities for every human being who wishes success and respect in life.
Islamic Propagation Centre
P.O. Box 471, Stn. A
Mississauga, Ontario, Canada L5A 2H2
For more information on Islamic services, please call:

( To learn more, you are invited to visited the two webs sites. Let me state it is foolish to try and describe any religious belief in this short time. Many men and women devote their lifetime to this study. The purpose was to give reader a fundlemental understanding from the muslim websites.
Kit Menkin. )


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