IslamThe Arabic word Islam means “submission,” and it derived from the word Salaam meaning “peace.” In a religious context it means complete submission to the will of God. Allah is the Arabic name for God, which is used by Muslims and Arab Christians alike.
In our Holy Book, the Qur’an, the word of God as it was revealed to Muhammad, we read: Say ye: “We believe in Allah, and the revelation given to us, and to Abraham, Isma'il, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and that given to Moses and Jesus, and that given to (all) prophets from their Lord: We make no difference between one and another of them: And we bow to Allah (in Islam).” (Al-Baqara 2:136)
Consequently, we believe that Islam is the original religion of Adam, Noah, and Abraham, essentially all the prophets who came before Muhammad, including Jesus. This is what we call “general Islam.” With the advent of revelations sent to Muhammad, we were given the “specific Islam.” God’s message was then reaffirmed and finalized through Prophet Muhammad. In the Qur’an we read: “This day have I perfected your religion for you, completed My favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion.” (Al-Ma’idah 5:3) So, from a Muslim’s perspective, Islam is the oldest religion.
Jesus in IslamJesus is mentioned more times than Muhammad in the Qur’an. And we consider him to be the Messiah (which simply means “anointed” in either Hebrew or Arabic). In Surat-Aal Imran we read: Behold! the angels said: "O Mary! Allah giveth thee glad tidings of a Word from Him: his name will be Christ Jesus, the son of Mary, held in honour in this world and the Hereafter and of (the company of) those nearest to Allah. (3:45)
One Hadith (saying of the Prophet Muhammad) tells us just how unique Jesus is.
The Prophet said, “When any human being is born. Satan touches him at both sides of the
body with his two fingers, except Jesus, the son of Mary, whom Satan tried to touch but
failed, for he touched the placenta-cover instead.”
MonotheismMuslims, like most Jews, do not believe that God can take on human form, despite God’s characteristic of being omnipotent. We believe that this would change his nature, reducing him to a frail creature like ourselves. For the Muslim, the Everlasting cannot die. The Creator cannot become the created. It would mean He would be in need of a creator. The concept of God in Islam is unique amongst all other religions. Islam is the only religion that never gives attributes of God’s might and glory to his creation, nor does it give the attributes of things created to the Creator. Allah is without any human needs like rest, sleep, hunger, etc. Likewise, prophets are not omnipotent, omniscient, or in anyway divine. They are simply the best examples of how to worship God in the way He has prescribed for us through their teachings.
To use modern scientific terms, if it is matter or energy, then it is part of our universe, thus it is part of creation, and therefore cannot be God, or part of God. In our faith, God resides on His throne high above (or beyond) this universe, (the creation), in a manner befitting His majesty. He is infinite, yet he is not omnipresent. He sees ever act we commit, yet He does not reside in everything around us. To think that Allah is physically in every single atom in every corner of the universe is to reduce him to that which he created. Such a belief is foreign to Islam since it would imply that He could be found in excrement or other unholy substances/places.
Islamic monotheism is centered around the worship of God and God alone, without any partners, be they saints, martyrs, dead pious men, etc. When we pray, we never ever pray to Muhammad. To do such a thing would be to commit the only sin, which Allah has told us he will never forgive. This would be a one-way ticket to the Hell-fire. To worship our Lord, we are in no need of a human intermediary.
Likewise, as mentioned above, our religion has been perfected by God Almighty. To allow a cleric or scholar of our religion to change it, or make innovations in our religion, would be considered an act of the unforgivable sin. By allowing such a thing, we would then be worshipping that person who made the innovation. It would be to acknowledge that the innovator has more knowledge and wisdom than Almighty God. Consequently, Islam represents the oldest, unchanged religion among humans today. Great effort is expended among Islamic scholars and clerics to avoid any form of worship that people might try to add out of ignorance, thus the significance of the Arabic word Sunnah, which means the way of the Prophet. Muslims today worship God in exactly the same way as they did over 1400 years ago.
Moses foretells the coming of the Prophet MuhammadAnd the Lord said unto me, they have well spoken that which they have spoken, I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him.
Five PillarsThese are the framework for Muslim life:
Who are the Muslims?People who follow the Islamic faith come from all over the world. No more than 20% of Muslims live in the Arabic-speaking world. The country with the largest Muslim population is Indonesia. Here in the U.S., the majority of Muslims come from the Indian subcontinent, from countries like Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh. Consequently, our sermons are either delivered in English, or translated into English from Arabic, since only a minority of our community is from Arabic-speaking countries.
Terrorism and ViolenceObviously the Qur’an doesn’t condone terrorism, though Muhammed was the leader of a military force and therefore used violence. “In the West,” writes scholar Karen Armstrong in her book, Muhammad, “we often imagine Muhammad as a warlord, brandishing his sword in order to impose Islam on a reluctant world by force of arms. The reality was quite different. Muhammad and the first Muslims were fighting for their lives, and they had also undertaken a project in which violence was inevitable.”
It is true, she says, that unlike Christianity, Islam's leader was not a pacifist. “Islam fights tyranny and injustice. A Muslim may feel that he has a sacred duty to champion the weak and the oppressed,” she writes. “Fighting and warfare might sometimes be necessary, but it was only a minor part of the whole jihad or struggle. A well-known tradition (hadith) has Muhammad say on returning from a battle, ‘We return from the little jihad to the greater jihad,’ the more difficult and crucial effort to conquer the forces of evil in oneself and in one's own society in all the details of daily life.”
While there are passages in the Qur’an, like the Old Testament of the Bible, that celebrate military victory, the overall gestalt of the Qur’an promotes a more restrained view. Chapter 5, verse 32, for instance, states: “On that account: We ordained for the Children of Israel that if any one slew a person – unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land--it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people.”
That passages places a great value on the sanctity of a single life. “If you kill one person it’s as if you kill all humanity,” says Imam Hendi.
Indeed, Hendi says, the Qur’an goes one step further in chapter 8, verse 61, “But if the enemy incline towards peace, do thou (also) incline towards peace, and trust in Allah.”
The Role of Women in IslamFirst of all, lets look at the theological viewpoint of Judaism, since our discussion is about religion, not about secular humanism or the permissiveness of atheist cultures. Israeli author, Naomi Ragen, states in her article, “Wifebeating and the Halacha – Time for a Change”:
But only after reading Prof. Naomi Graetz’s compelling book: “Silence is Deadly, Judaism Confronts Wifebeating,” did I realize how valid. The case Prof. Graetz makes, based on sources in the Talmud, the Mishnah and centuries of responsa of rabbinic authorities, is that, indeed, many Halachic authorities have not only done nothing to punish wifebeaters, but have actually condoned wifebeating, spelling out conditions in which it is not only permissible, but a mitzvah. Moreover, in our own day, current Halachic thinking makes it extremely difficult for an abused wife to get out of her husband’s clutches if he persists in refusing her a divorce.
Christianity has long been known to view the role of women as being subservient to men. One need only look at the scriptures:
Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee. (Genesis 3:16)In Islam, God tells us to be kind to our women:
O you who believe! You are forbidden to inherit women against their will, and you should not treat them with harshness, that you may take away part of the dowry you have given them, unless they commit open illegal sexual intercourse. And live with them honourably. If you dislike them, it may be that you dislike a thing and Allâh brings through it a great deal of good. (4. An-Nisâ' 19)One often hears about the the head-covering and attire of Muslim women as a sign of their oppresssion. Interestingly enough, the dress code for Muslim women is very similar to that of Catholic nuns, yet no one in the West seeks to help them out of their oppression! In fact, if you read the Bible, it seems that the majority of Christian women are not following their religion:
But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven. (1 Corinthians 11:5)