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.
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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.
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.
ISLAM, THE ORIGINAL NAME
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.
THE NAME WITH AN OUTLOOK
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
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
complete submission to the will of one
God and acceptance of His commands as revealed in the Qur'an (tasleem).
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.
BINDING ALL TOGETHER
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
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.
THE MOSQUE, A REVOLUTIONARY
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.
movements, movements to revive the faith, or to safeguard the cultural values
of the community have often been launched from mosques.
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
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
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
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. )