Q & A on Islam and Muslims
FAQ ON ISLAM AND THE MUSLIMS
What is Islam?
Islam is not a new religion, but the same truth that God
revealed through all His prophets to every people. For a
fifth of the world's population, Islam is both a religion and
a complete way of life. Muslims follow a religion of peace,
mercy, and forgiveness, and the majority have nothing to do
with the extremely grave events which have come to be
associated with their faith.
Who are Muslim?
One billion people form a vast range of races, nationalities
and cultures across the globe, from the southern Philippines
to Nigeria, are united by their common Islamic faith. About
18% live in the Arab world; the world's largest Muslim
community is in Indonesia; substantial parts of Asia and most
of the Africa are Muslim, while significant minorities are to
be found in the Soviet Union, China, North and South America,
What do Muslims Believe?
Muslims believe in One, Unique, Incomparable God' in the
Angels created by Him, in the prophets through whom His
revelations were brought to mankind; in God's complete
authority over human destiny and in life after death. Muslims
believe in a chain of prophets starting with Adam and
including Noah, Abraham, Ishmael, Issac, Jacob, Joseph, Job,
Moses, Aaron, David, Solomon, Elias, Jonah, John the Baptist
and Jesus, peace be upon them. But God's final message to
man, a reconfirmation of the eternal message and a summing-up
of all that has gone before was revealed to the Prophet
Muhammad peace be upon him through Gabriel.
How does someone become a Muslim?
Simply by saying "there is no god apart from God, and
Muhammad is the Messenger of God." By this declaration the
believer announces his or her faith in all God's messengers,
and the scriptures they brought. What does `Islam" mean? The
Arabic word `Islam' simply means `submission,' and drives
from a word meaning `peace.' In a religious context it means
complete submission to the will of God. `Mohammedianism' is
thus a misnomer because it suggests that Muslims worship
Muhammad peace be upon him rather than God. `Allah' is the
Arabic name for God, which is used by Arab Muslims and
Christians alike. Why does Islam often seem strange? Islam my
seem exotic or even extreme in the modern world. Perhaps this
is because religion does not dominate everyday life in the
West today, whereas Muslims have religion always uppermost in
their minds, and make no division between secular and sacred.
They believe that the Divine Law, the Shari'a, should be
taken very seriously, which is why issues related to religion
are still so important.
Do Islam and Christianity have different origins?
No. Together with Judaism, they go back to the prophet and
patriarch Abraham, and their three prophets are directly
descended form his son--Muhammad `peace be upon him' from the
eldest, Ishmael, and Moses and Jesus `peace be upon them'
from the Issac. Abraham established the settlement which
today is the holy city of Makkah, and built the Ka'ba towards
which all Muslims turn when they pray.
What is the Ka'ba?
The Ka'ba is the place of worship which God commanded Abraham
and Ishmael to build cover four thousand years ago. The
building was constructed of stone on what many believe was
the original site of a sanctuary established by Adam. God
commanded Abraham to summon all mankind to visit this place,
and when pilgrims go there today they say ` At The service, O
Lord', in response to Abraham's summons.
Who is Muhammad?
Muhammad `peace be upon him' was born in Makkah in the year
570, at a time when Christianity was not yet fully
established in Europe. Since his father died before his
birth, and his mother shortly afterwards, he was raised by
his uncle from the respected tribe of Quraysh. As he grew up,
he became known for his truthfulness, generosity and
sincerity, so that he was sought after for his ability to
arbitrate in disputes. The historians describe him s calm and
Muhammad `peace be upon him' 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.
How did he become a prophet and a messenger of God?
At the age of 40, while engaged in a meditative retreat,
Muhammad `peace be upon him' received his first revelation
from God through the Angel Gabriel, this revelation, which
continued for twenty-three years, is known as the Quran.
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 `peace be upon him' and his
followers were able to return to Makkah, where they forgave
their enemies and established Islam definitively. Before the
Prophet `peace be upon him' 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 the West and as far East
What is the Quran?
The Quran is a record of the exact words revealed by God
through the Angel Gabriel to the Prophet Muhammad `peace be
upon him.' It was memorized by Muhammad `peace be upon him'
and then dictated to his Companions, and written down by
scribes, who cross-checked it during his lifetime. Not one
word of its 114 chapters, Suras, has been changed over the
centuries, so that the Quran is in every detail the unique
and miraculous text which was revealed to Muhammad `peace be
upon him' fourteen centuries ago.
What is Quran about?
The Quran, the last revealed Word of God, is the prime source
of every Muslim's faith and practice. It deals with all the
subjects which concern us as human beings: wisdom, doctrine,
worship and law, but its basic theme is the relationship
between God and His creatures. At the same time it provides
guidelines for a just society, proper human conduct and an
equitable economic system.
Are there any other sacred sources?
Yes, the `sunna,' the practice and example of the Prophet
`peace be upon him,' is the second authority for Muslim. A
hadith is a reliably transmitted report of what the prophet
`peace be upon him' said, did, or approved. Belief in the
`sunna' is part of the Islamic faith.
Examples of the Prophet sayings:
The Prophet `peace be upon him' 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.'
`The truthful and trusty businessman is associated with the
prophets, the saints, and the martyrs.'
`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 `peace be upon him,' was asked: `Messenger of God,
are we rewarded for kindness towards animals?' He said,
`There is a reward for kindness to every living thing.'
(From the hadith collections of Bukhari, Muslim, Tirmidhi and
What are the `Five Pillars' of Islam?
They are the framework of the Muslim life: faith, prayer,
concern for the needy, self-purification, and the pilgrimage
to Makkah for those who are able.
Does Islam tolerate other beliefs?
The Quran says: "God forbids you not, with regards to those
who fight you not for [your] faith nor drive you out of your
homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them; for God
loves those who are just." (Quran, 60:8)
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 he city.
Islamic law also permits non-Muslim minorities to set up
their own courts, which implement family laws drawn up by the
What do Muslims think about Jesus?
Muslims respect and revere Jesus `peace be upon him,' and
await his Second Coming. They consider him one of the
greatest of God's messengers to mankind. A Muslim never
refers to him simply as `Jesus', but always adds the phrase
``peace be upon him.' The Quran confirms his virgin birth (a
chapter of the Quran is entitled `Mary'), and Mary is
considered the purest woman in all creation. The Quran
describes the Annunciation as follows:
"`Be hold!' 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 shall speak to the people from his
cardle 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.'
Jesus `peace be upon him,' was born miraculously through the
same power which had brought Adam `peace be upon him,' into
being without 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. (3:59)
During his prophetic mission Jesus `peace be upon him,'
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 the 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
Neither Muhammad `peace be upon him,' nor Jesus `peace be
upon him,' cam to change the basic doctrine of the belief in
on God, brought by earlier prophets, but to confirm and renew
it. In the Quran Jesus `peace be upon him,' 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 form your Lord, so fear God and
obey Me." (3:50)
The prophet Muhammad `peace be upon him,' said: "Whoever
believes there is no god but God, alone without partner, that
Muhammad `peace be upon him,' is His messenger, that Jesus is
the servant and messenger of God, His word breathed into Mary
and a spirit emanating form Him, and that ~Paradise and Hell
are true, shall be received by God into Heaven. (Hadith from
See also Christ In Islam
What about Muslim women?
Islam sees a woman, whether single or married, as an
individual in her own right, with the right to own and
dispose of her property and earnings. A marriage dowry is
given by the groom to the bride for her own personal use, and
she keeps her own family name rather than taking her
husband's. 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
The Messenger of God `peace be upon him,' said: "The most
perfect in faith amongst believers is he who is best in
manner and kindest to his wife."
Can a Muslim have more than one wife?
The religion of Islam was revealed for all societies and all
time and so accommodates widely differing social
requirements. Circumstances may warrant the taking of another
wife but the right is granted, according to the Quran, only
on condition that the husband is scrupulously fair.
Is Islamic marriage like Christian marriage?
A Muslim marriage is not a `sacrament', but a simple, legal
agreement include conditions. Marriage customs thus vary
widely from country to country. As a result, divorce is not
common., although it is not forbidden as a last resort.
According to Islam, no Muslim girl can be forced to marry
against her will: her parents will simply suggest young men
they think may be suitable.
* Source: "Understanding Islam and the Muslims," published
by: The Embassy of Saudi Arabia, Washington DC, 1989