|Who are the Muslims?|
In addition to the above-mentioned beliefs common to all the sects of the Muslims, the Shia Muslims believe also in the ‘Justice of God’ and the ‘Imamat’ i.e., the Twelve Imams after the prophet, as the fundamental principles of religion.
Muhammad (PBUH) was of a deeply religious nature, and had long detested the decadence of his society. It became his habit to meditate from time to time in the Cave of Hira near the summit of Jabal al-Nur, the ‘Mountain of Light’ near Makkah.
The position of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is much higher than that of Ali or any other Imam, and all the Imams rank equal. Ali and all the Imams are the followers of the religion of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). After Allah, there is no one equal to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
As soon as he began to recite the words he heard from Gabriel, and to preach the truth which God had revealed to him, he and his small group of followers suffered bitter persecution, which grew so fierce that in the year 622 God gave them the command to emigrate. This event, the Hijra, ‘migration’, in which they left Makkah for the city of Madinah some 260 miles to the north, marks the beginning of the Muslim calendar.
After several years, the Prophet and his followers were able to return to Makkah, where they forgave their enemies and established Islam definitively. Before the Prophet died at the age of 63, the greater part of Arabia was Muslim, and within a century of his death Islam had spread to Spain in the West and as Far East as China.
Within a few years, great civilizations and universities were flourishing, for according to the Prophet, ‘seeking knowledge is an obligation for every Muslim man and woman’. The synthesis of Eastern and Western ideas and of new thought with old, brought about great advances in medicine, mathematics, physics, astronomy, geography, architecture, art, literature, and history. Many crucial systems such as algebra, the Arabic numerals, and also the concept of the zero (vital to the advancement of mathematics), were transmitted to medieval Europe from Islam. Sophisticated instruments which were to make possible the European voyages of discovery were developed, including the astrolabe, the quadrant and good navigational maps.
This opening chapter of The Quran, the Fatiah, is central in Islamic prayer. It contains the essence of The Quran and is recited during every prayer.
The Book of Allah is like an ocean. The less learned, like children; collect pebbles and shells from its shores. The scholars and thinkers, like pearl divers, bring out from it the highest philosophy, wisdom and code of a perfect way of living.
Examples of the Prophet’s sayings:
The Prophet said:
God has no mercy on one who has no mercy for others.
None of you truly believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself.
He who eats his fill while his neighbor goes without food is not a believer.
Powerful is not he who knocks the other down, indeed powerful is he who controls himself in a fit of anger.
God does not judge according to your bodies and appearances but He scans your hearts and looks into your deeds.
A man walking along a path felt very thirsty. Reaching a well he descended into it, drank his fill and came up. Then he saw a dog with its tongue hanging out, trying to lick up mud to quench its thirst. The man saw that the dog was feeling the same thirst as he had felt so he went down into the well again and filled his shoe with water and gave the dog a drink. God forgave his sins for this action. The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was asked: Messenger of God, are we rewarded for kindness towards animals? He said, there is a reward for kindness to every living thing.
A. Usool-e-Deen (The Roots/Fundamentals of religion)
1. Tauheed: Oneness of God
Tauheed means God is one. He has neither a colleague nor a partner. He begets not, nor is He begotten; there is none like Him.
2. Adl: Justice of God
It means that God is just. He will reward or punish any person according to his deeds.
3. Nabuwat: Prophet hood
A Nabi (Prophet) excels all other persons for whom he is sent by Allah. He is Masoom (sinless). Prophet Muhammad Mustafa (blessings of Allah be on him and his Progeny) is the last of the Prophets sent by Him. The Prophets sent by Allah, including our Prophet, total one lakh twenty-four thousand.
4. Imamat: The institution of the twelve Imams after the Prophet
Nabuwat ended with Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Then Allah deputed Imams to guide us. They were Masooms (sinless). The Imam has his knowledge from God and his verdict is the verdict of God.
Imams are twelve and they are the only rightful Imams. There is no successor to the twelfth Imam. He is alive but invisible in accordance with the Will of Allah and will reappear when He commands, which will signify the coming end of the world.
5. Qiyamat: The Day of Judgment
One who does not believe in ‘Tauheed’, ‘Nabuwat’ and ‘Qiyamat’ is not a true Muslim; whereas in addition to the above-mentioned three items, Shia Muslims consider ‘Adl’ and ‘Imamat’ as also the fundamentals of Islam.
B. Furoo-e-Deen (The Branches/Doctrines of religion)
01. Namaz/Salat: Prayer
Salat, Namaz or prayer is Wajib (Obligatory) for a Muslim five times a day. The prayers are obligatory on those who have become “Baligh” (puberty). For the purpose of fulfillment religious obligation a boy becomes “baligh” on completion of his fifteen year, and a girl on completion of her ninth year.
Prayers are a direct link between the worshipper and God. There is no hierarchical authority in Islam, and no priests, so a learned person who knows the Quran, chosen by the congregation, leads the prayers. These five prayers contain verses from the Quran, and are said in Arabic, the language of the Revelation, but personal supplication can be offered in one’s own language.
Prayers are said at dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset and nightfall, and thus determine the rhythm of the entire day. Although it is preferable to worship together in a mosque, a Muslim may pray almost anywhere, such as in fields, offices, factories and universities.
The Holy Prophet has said: “If Allah accepts one’s Salat (Prayers), other good deeds of his will also be acceptable to Him. But if Allah rejects one’s Salat, his other good actions will be surely rejected.
02. Roza: Fasting
Observance of fasts becomes obligatory from the day following the appearance of the new moon of the month of Ramadan till the night when the new moon of the succeeding month appears.
Every year in the month of Ramadan, all Muslims fast from first light until sundown, abstaining from food, drink, and sexual relations. Those who are sick, elderly, or on a journey, and women who are pregnant or nursing are permitted to break the fast and make up an equal number of days later in the year. If they are physically unable to do this, they must feed a needy person for every day missed. Children begin to fast (and to observe the prayer) from puberty, although many start earlier.
Although the fast is most beneficial to the health, it is regarded principally as a method of self-purification. By cutting oneself off from worldly comforts, even for a short time, a fasting person gains true sympathy with those who go hungry as well as growth in one’s spiritual life.
03. Zakaat: Wealth Tax
One of the most important principles of Islam is that all things belong to God, and that wealth is therefore held by human beings in trust. The word zakat means both ‘purification’ and ‘growth’. Our possessions are purified by setting aside a proportion for those in need, and, like the pruning of plants, this cutting back balances and encourages new growth.
Each Muslim calculates his or her own zakat individually. For most purposes this involves the payment each year at the rate of one out of every forty, on the value of one’s capital possessions such as gold and silver coins, wheat, barley, dates, raisins, camels, cattle and sheep, after satisfying certain conditions.
A pious person may also give as much as he or she pleases as sadaqa, and does so preferably in secret. Although this word can be translated as ‘voluntary charity’ it has a wider meaning. The Prophet said ‘even meeting your brother with a cheerful face is charity.’
The Prophet said: ‘Charity is a necessity for every Muslim. ‘ He was asked: ‘What if a person has nothing?’ The Prophet replied: ‘He should work with his own hands for his benefit and then give something out of such earnings in charity.’ The Companions asked: ‘What if he is not able to work?’ The Prophet said: ‘He should help poor and needy persons.’ The Companions further asked ‘What if he cannot do even that?’ The Prophet said ‘He should urge others to do good.’ The Companions said ‘What if he lacks that also?’ The Prophet said ‘He should check himself from doing evil. That is also charity.’
“And offer prayers and pay Zakat and bow down with those who bow down (in worship)” Quran 2:43
04. Khums: One fifth levy
Paying one-fifth of the amount of a year’s saving (after deducting all legitimate expenses from the earnings of that year) is called Khums.
Sadaats (descendents of the Holy Prophet) have a right over half of this amount which should be paid to those amongst them who are poor and needy. The other half belongs to the Imam and should be paid to his Naaebs (Mujtaheds).
“And know that out of all wealth you may acquire, one fifth of it is for Allah, and for the messenger and for his Kinsmen, and the Orphans, the poor and the wayfarer.” Quran 8:41
05. Hajj: Pilgrimage to Makkah
The annual pilgrimage to Makkah – the Hajj – is an obligation only for those who are physically and financially able to perform it. Nevertheless, about two million people go to Makkah each year from every corner of the globe providing a unique opportunity for those of different nations to meet one another. Although Makkah is always filled with visitors, the annual Hajj begins in the twelfth month of the Islamic year (which is lunar, not solar, so that Hajj and Ramadan fall sometimes in summer, sometimes in winter). Pilgrims wear special clothes: simple garments, which strip away distinctions of class and culture, so that all stand equal before God.
The rites of the Hajj, which are of Abrahamic origin, include circling the Kaaba seven times, and going seven times between the mountains of Safa and Marwa as did Hagar during her search for water. Then the pilgrims stand together on the wide plain of Arafa and join in prayers for God’s forgiveness, in what is often thought of as a preview of the Last Judgment.
In previous centuries the Hajj was an arduous undertaking. Today, however, Saudi Arabia provides millions of people with water, modern transport, and the most up-to-date health facilities.
The close of the Hajj is marked by a festival, the Eid al-Adha, which is celebrated with prayers and the exchange of gifts in Muslim communities everywhere. This, and the Eid al-Fitr, a feast-day commemorating the end of Ramadan, is the main festivals of the Muslim calendar.
06. Jehad: Holy War
Means to strive or fight in the way of God. Jehad literally means “strive” and as striving can be of various kinds and in different ways, it includes also fighting when it becomes the only alternative to defend the faith and the faithful.
07. Amr bil Ma’aroof: (To enjoin virtue) & 08. Nahi unil Munkar: (To forbid vice)
“Let there arise out of you, a band of people inviting to all that is good, enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong. They are the ones to attain felicity.” Quran 3:104
09. Tawalla: To love divine persons
Means to love and respect the ahl-ul-bait and to be friendly with their friends.
10. Tabarra: To keep away from enemies of divine persons
Means to disassociate or keep aloof from the enemies of the Ahl-ul-bait.
It is one function of Islamic law to protect the privileged status of minorities, and this is why non-Muslim places of worship have flourished all over the Islamic world. History provides many examples of Muslim tolerance towards other faiths: when the caliph Omar entered Jerusalem in the year 634, Islam granted freedom of worship to all religious communities in the city.
Islamic law also permits non-Muslim minorities to set up their own courts, which implement family laws drawn up by the minorities themselves.
The Patriarch invited him to pray in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, but he preferred to pray outside its gates, saying that if he accepted, later generations of Muslims might use his action as an excuse to turn it into a mosque.
‘Behold!’ the Angel said, ‘God has chosen you, and purified you, and chosen you above the women of all nations. O Mary, God gives you good news of a word from Him, whose name shall be the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, honored in this world and the Hereafter, and one of those brought near to God. He shall speak to the people from his cradle and in maturity, and shall be of the righteous.’
She said: ‘O my Lord! How shall I have a son when no man has touched me?’ He said: ‘Even so; God creates what He will. When He decrees a thing, He says to it, “Be!” and it is.’ (Quran, 3:42-7)
Jesus was born miraculously through the same power, which had brought Adam into being without a father:
Truly, the likeness of Jesus with God is as the likeness of Adam. He created him of dust, and then said to him, ‘Be!’ and he was. (Quran, 3:59)
During his prophetic mission Jesus performed many miracles. The Quran tells us that he said:
I have come to you with a sign from your Lord: I make for you out of clay, as it were, the figure of a bird, and breathe into it and it becomes a bird by God’s leave. And I heal the blind, and the lepers and I raise the dead by God’s leave. (Quran, 3:49)
Neither Muhammad nor Jesus came to change the basic doctrine of the belief in One God, brought by earlier prophets, but to confirm and renew it. In the Quran Jesus is reported as saying that he came:
To attest the law which was before me. And to make lawful to you part of what was forbidden you; I have come to you with a sign from your Lord, so fear God and obey Me. (Quran, 3:5O)
The Prophet Muhammad said: Whoever believes there is no god but God, alone without partner, that Muhammad is His messenger, that Jesus is the servant and messenger of God, His word breathed into Mary and a spirit emanating from Him, and that Paradise and Hell are true, shall be received by God into Heaven. (Hadith from Bukhari)
Both men and women are expected to dress in a way, which is modest and dignified; the traditions of female dress found in some Muslim countries are often the expression of local customs.
The Messenger of God said: ‘The most perfect in faith amongst believers is he who is best in manner and kindest to his wife.’
In Islam, serving one’s parents is a duty second only to prayer, and it is their right to expect it. It is considered despicable to express any irritation when, through no fault of there own, the old become difficult.
The Quran says: Your Lord has commanded that you worship none but Him, and be kind to parents. If either or both of them reach old age with you, do not say ‘uff to them or chide them, but speak to them in terms of honor and kindness. Treat them with humility, and say, ‘My Lord! Have mercy on them, for they did care for me when I was little’. (17:23-24)
Fight in the cause of God against those who fight you, but do not transgress limits. God does not love transgressors. (2:190)
If they seek peace, then seek you peace. And trust in God for He is the One that heareth and knoweth all things. (8:61)
War, therefore, is the last resort, and is subject to the rigorous conditions laid down by the sacred law. The term jihad literally means ‘struggle’, and Muslims believe that there are two kinds of jihad. The other ‘jihad’ is the inner struggle, which everyone wages against egotistic desires, for the sake of attaining inner peace.
The Prophet said: ‘Ask God for certainty [of faith] and well-being; for after certainty, no one is given any gift better than health!’
The life and property of all citizens in an Islamic state are considered sacred whether a person is Muslim or not.
Racism is incomprehensible to Muslims, for the Quran speaks of human equality in the following terms:
O mankind! We created you from a single soul, male and female, and made you into nations and tribes, so that you may come to know one another. Truly, the most honored of you in God’s sight is the greatest of you in piety. God is All-Knowing, All Aware (49-13)
Muslims were early arrivals in North America. By the eighteenth century there were many thousands of them, working as slaves on plantations. These early communities, cut off from their heritage and families, inevitably lost their Islamic identity as time went by. Today many Afro-American Muslims play an important role in the Islamic community.
The nineteenth century, however, saw the beginnings of an influx of Arab Muslims, most of who settled in the major industrial centers where they worshipped in hired rooms. The early twentieth century witnessed the arrival of several hundred thousand Muslims from Eastern Europe: the first Albanian mosque was opened in Maine in 1915; others soon followed, and a group of Polish Muslims opened a mosque in Brooklyn in 1928.
In 1947 the Washington Islamic Center was founded, and several nationwide organizations were set up in the fifties. The same period saw the establishment of other communities whose lives were in many ways modeled after Islam. More recently, numerous members of these groups have entered the fold of Muslim orthodoxy. Today there are about eight million Muslims in America.