Introduction To Islam


Islamic Affairs Department

The Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia


• Allah (God)

• Cleanliness

• Contribution

• Definition

• Human Rights

• Jesus

• Knowledge

• Main Pillars

• Muhammad

• Other Religions

• Peace

• Relevance

• Sources

• Tolerance

• Universality

• Women.Allah

Islam is the complete submission and obedience to Allah (God). The

name Allah (God) in Islam never refers to Muhammad (pbuh), as many

Christians may think; Allah is the personal name of God.

What do Muslims believe about Allah?

• He is the one God, Who has no partner.

• Nothing is like Him. He is the Creator, not created, nor a part of His


• He is All-Powerful, absolutely Just.

• There is no other entity in the entire universe worthy of worship

besides Him.

• He is First, Last, and Everlasting; He was when nothing was, and will be

when nothing else remains.

• He is the All-Knowing, and All-Merciful, the Supreme, the Sovereign.

• It is only He Who is capable of granting life to anything.

• He sent His Messengers (peace be upon them) to guide all of mankind.

• He sent Muhammad (pbuh) as the last Prophet and Messenger for all


• His book is the Holy Qur'an, the only authentic revealed book in the

world that has been kept without change.

• Allah knows what is in our hearts.

These are some of the basic guidelines Muslims follow in their knowledge

of God:

• Eliminate any anthropomorphism (human qualities) from their

conception of Allah. His attributes are not like human attributes, despite

similar labels or appellations.

• Have unwavering faith in exactly what Allah and Prophet Muhammad

(pbuh) described Allah to be, no more, no less.

• Eradicate any hope or desire of learning or knowing the modality of His

names and attributes.

• Belief totally in all the names and attributes of Allah; one cannot believe

in some and disbelieve the others.

• One cannot accept the names of Allah without their associated attributes,

i.e. one cannot say He is Al-Hayy - 'The Living' and then say that He is

without life.

• Similarity in names (or meanings) does not imply similarity in what is

being described (referents). As a robotics arm differs from a human.arm, so the "hand" of Allah is nothing like a human hand, His speech is

nothing like human speech, etc.

• Certain words are ambiguous or vague in their meanings, and thus may

be susceptible to misinterpretation. Only those meanings that are in

accordance with what is specified by Allah and His Prophet (pbuh) are



Islam places great emphasis on cleanliness, in both its physical and spiritual

aspects. On the physical side, Islam requires the Muslims to clean their

bodys, clothes, houses, and the whole community, and they will be

rewarded by God for doing so. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said, for


"Removing any harm from the road is charity (that will be

rewarded by Allah)." [Bukhari]

While people generally consider cleanliness a desirable attribute, Islam

insists on it, making it an indispensable fundamental of the faith. A Muslim

is required to be pure morally and spiritually as well as physically.

Through the Qur'an and Sunnah Islam requires sincere believers to sanitize

and purify their entire way of life.

In the Qur'an Allah commends those who are accustomed to cleanliness:

"Allah loves those who turn to Him constantly and He loves those

who keep themselves pure and clean." [2: 22]

In Islam the Arabic term for purity is Taharah. Books of Islamic

jurisprudence often contain an entire chapter with Taharah as a heading.

Allah orders the believer to be tidy in appearance:

"Keep your clothes clean." [74:4]

The Qur'an insists that the believer maintain a constant state of purity:

"Believers! When you prepare for prayer wash your faces, and your

hands (and arms) to the elbows; rub your heads (with water) and

(wash) your feet up to the ankles. If you are ritually impure

bathe your whole body..." [5: 6].Ritual impurity refers to that resulting from sexual release, menstruation

and the forty days after childbirth. Muslims also use water, not paper or

anything else to clean after ejecting body wastes.

Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) advised the Muslims to appear neat and tidy in

private and in public. Once when returning home from battle he advised

his army:

"You are soon going to meet your brothers, so tidy your saddles

and clothes. Be distinguished in the eyes of the people." [Abu


On another occasion he said:

"Don't ever come with your hair and beard disheveled like a

devil." [Al-Tirmidhi]

And on another:

"Had I not been afraid of overburdening my community, I would

have ordered them to brush their teeth for every prayer." [Bukhari]

Moral hygiene was not ignored, the Prophet (pbuh) encouraged the

Muslims to make a special prayer upon seeing themselves in the mirror:

"Allah, You have endowed me with a good form; likewise bless me

with an immaculate character and forbid my face from touching the

Hellfire." [Ahmad]

And modesty in dress, for men as well as for women, assists one in

maintaining purity of thought.

Being charitable is a way of purifying one's wealth. A Muslim who does

not give charity (Sadaqah) and pay the required annual Zakah, the 2.5%

alms-tax, has in effect contaminated his/her wealth by hoarding that which

rightfully belongs to others:

"Of their wealth take alms so that you may purify and sanctify

them." [9: 103]

All the laws and injunctions given by Allah and His Prophet (pbuh) are

pure; on the other hand, man-made laws suffer from the impurities of

human bias and other imperfections. Thus any formal law can only be.truly just when it is purified by divine guidance - as elucidated by the

Qur'an and the Sunnah - or if it is divinely ordained to begin with - the


Muslims Contribution To Science

Muslims have always had a special interest in astronomy. The moon and the

sun are of vital importance in the daily life of every Muslim. By observing

the moon, Muslims determine the beginning and the end of the months in

their lunar calendar. By observing the sun the Muslims calculate the times

for prayer and fasting. It is also by means of astronomy that Muslims can

determine the precise direction of the Qiblah, to face the Ka'bah in

Makkah, during prayer. The most precise solar calendar, superior to the

Julian, is the Jilali, devised under the supervision of Umar Khayyam.

The Qur'an contains many references to astronomy.

"The heavens and the earth were ordered rightly, and were made

subservient to man, including the sun, the moon, the stars, and

day and night. Every heavenly body moves in an orbit assigned to

it by God and never digresses, making the universe an orderly

cosmos whose life and existence, diminution and expansion, are

totally determined by the Creator." [Qur'an 30:22]

These references, and the injunctions to learn, inspired the early Muslim

scholars to study the heavens. They integrated the earlier works of the

Indians, Persians and Greeks into a new synthesis. Ptolemy's Almagest (the

title as we know it is Arabic) was translated, studied and criticized. Many

new stars were discovered, as we see in their Arabic names - ALGOL,

Deneb, Betelgeuse, Rigel, Aldebaran. Astronomical tables were compiled,

among them the Toledan tables, which were used by Copernicus, Tycho

Brahe and Kepler. Also compiled were almanacs - another Arabic term.

Other terms from Arabic are zenith, nadir, albedo, azimuth.

Muslim astronomers were the first to establish observatories, like the one

built at Mugharah by Hulagu, the son of Genghis Khan, in Persia, and they

invented instruments such as the quadrant and astrolabe, which led to

advances not only in astronomy but in oceanic navigation, contributing to

the European age of exploration..Geography

Muslim scholars paid great attention to geography. In fact, the Muslims'

great concern for geography originated with their religion. The Qur'an

encourages people to travel throughout the earth to see God's signs and

patterns everywhere. Islam also requires each Muslim to have at least

enough knowledge of geography to know the direction of the Qiblah (the

position of the Ka'bah in Makkah) in order to pray five times a day.

Muslims were also used to taking long journeys to conduct trade as well as

to make the Hajj and spread their religion. The far-flung Islamic empire

enabled scholar-explorers to compile large amounts of geographical and

climatic information from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

Among the most famous names in the field of geography, even in the West,

are Ibn Khaldun and Ibn Batuta, renowned for their written accounts of

their extensive explorations.

In 1166, Al-Idrisi, the well-known Muslim scholar who served the Sicilian

court, produced very accurate maps, including a world map with all the

continents and their mountains, rivers and famous cities. Al-Muqdishi was

the first geographer to produce accurate maps in color.

It was, moreover, with the help of Muslim navigators and their inventions

that Magellan was able to traverse the Cape of Good Hope, and Da Gama

and Columbus had Muslim navigators on board their ships.

• Humanity

Seeking knowledge is obligatory in Islam for every Muslim, man and

woman. The main sources of Islam, the Qur'an and the Sunnah (Prophet

Muhammad's traditions), encourage Muslims to seek knowledge and to be

educated, since this is the best way for people to know Allah (God), to

appreciate His wondrous creations and be thankful to Him. Muslims were

therefore eager to seek knowledge, both religious and secular, and within a

few years of Muhammad's mission, a great civilization sprang up and

flourished. The outcome is shown in the spread of Islamic universities; Al-Zaytunah

in Tunis, and Al-Azhar in Cairo go back more than 1,000 years

and are the oldest existing universities in the world. Indeed, they were the

models for the first European universities, such as Bologna, Heidelberg,

and the Sorbonne. Even the familiar academic cap and gown originated at

Al-Azhar University..Muslims made great advances in many different fields, such as geography,

physics, chemistry, mathematics, medicine, pharmacology, architecture,

linguistics and astronomy. Algebra and the Arabic numerals were

introduced to the world by Muslim scholars. The astrolabe, the quadrant,

and other navigational devices and maps were developed by Muslim

scholars and played an important role in world progress, most notably in

Europe's age of exploration.

Muslim scholars studied the ancient civilizations from Greece and Rome to

China and India. The works of Aristotle, Ptolemy, Euclid and others were

translated into Arabic. Muslim scholars and scientists then added their own

creative ideas, discoveries and inventions, and finally transmitted this new

knowledge to Europe, leading directly to the Renaissance. Many scientific

and medical treatises, having been translated into Latin, were standard text

and reference books as late as the 17th and 18th centuries.

• Mathematics

It is interesting to note that Islam so strongly urges mankind to study and

explore the universe. For example, the Holy Qur'an states:

"We (Allah) will show you (mankind) Our signs/patterns in the

horizons/universe and in yourselves until you are convinced that

the revelation is the truth." [Qur'an, 14:53]

This invitation to explore and search made Muslims interested in

astronomy, mathematics, chemistry, and the other sciences, and they had a

very clear and firm understanding of the correspondences among

geometry, mathematics, and astronomy.

The Muslims invented the symbol for zero (The word "cipher" comes from

Arabic sifr), and they organized the numbers into the decimal system - base

10. Additionally, they invented the symbol to express an unknown quantity,

i.e. variables like x.

The first great Muslim mathematician, Al-Khawarizmi, invented the

subject of algebra (al-Jabr), which was further developed by others, most

notably Umar Khayyam. Al-Khawarizmi's work, in Latin translation,

brought the Arabic numerals along with the mathematics to Europe,

through Spain. The word "algorithm" is derived from his name..Muslim mathematicians excelled also in geometry, as can be seen in their

graphic arts, and it was the great Al-Biruni (who excelled also in the fields

of natural history, even geology and mineralogy) who established

trigonometry as a distinct branch of mathematics. Other Muslim

mathematicians made significant progress in number theory.

• Medicine

In Islam, the human body is a source of appreciation, as it is created by

Almighty Allah (God). How it functions, how to keep it clean and safe,

how to prevent diseases from attacking it or cure those diseases, have been

important issues for Muslims.

Prophet Muhammad himself urged people to "take medicines for your

diseases", as people at that time were reluctant to do so. He also said,

"God created no illness, but established for it a cure, except for

old age. When the antidote is applied, the patient will recover

with the permission of God."

This was strong motivation to encourage Muslim scientists to explore,

develop, and apply empirical laws. Much attention was given to medicine

and public health care. The first hospital was built in Baghdad in 706 AC.

The Muslims also used camel caravans as mobile hospitals, which moved

from place to place.

Since the religion did not forbid it, Muslim scholars used human cadavers

to study anatomy and physiology and to help their students understand how

the body functions. This empirical study enabled surgery to develop very


Al-Razi, known in the West as Rhazes, the famous physician and scientist,

(d. 932) was one of the greatest physicians in the world in the Middle Ages.

He stressed empirical observation and clinical medicine and was unrivaled

as a diagnostician. He also wrote a treatise on hygiene in hospitals. Khalaf

Abul-Qasim Al-Zahrawi was a very famous surgeon in the eleventh

century, known in Europe for his work, (Kitab al-Tasrif).

Ibn Sina (d. 1037), better known to the West as Avicenna, was perhaps the

greatest physician until the modern era. His famous book, Al-Qanun fi al-.Tibb, remained a standard textbook even in Europe, for over 700 years.

Ibn Sina's work is still studied and built upon in the East.

Other significant contributions were made in pharmacology, such as Ibn

Sina's Kitab al-Shifa' (Book of Healing), and in public health. Every major

city in the Islamic world had a number of excellent hospitals, some of them

teaching hospitals, and many of them were specialized for particular

diseases, including mental and emotional. The Ottomans were particularly

noted for their building of hospitals and for the high level of hygiene

practiced in them.


The word ISLAM has a two-fold meaning: peace, and submission to God.

This submission requires a fully conscious and willing effort to submit to

the one Almighty God. One must consciously and conscientiously give

oneself to the service of Allah. This means to act on what Allah enjoins all

of us to do (in the Qur'an) and what His beloved Prophet, Muhammad

(pbuh) encouraged us to do in his Sunnah (his lifestyle and sayings

personifying the Qur'an).

Once we humble ourselves, rid ourselves of our egoism and submit totally

to Allah, and to Him exclusively, in faith and in action, we will surely feel

peace in our hearts. Establishing peace in our hearts will bring about peace

in our external conduct as well.

Islam is careful to remind us that it not a religion to be paid mere lip

service; rather it is an all-encompassing way of life that must be practiced

continuously for it to be Islam. The Muslim must practice the five pillars

of the religion: the declaration of faith in the oneness of Allah and the

prophethood of Muhammad (pbuh), prayer, fasting the month of Ramadan,

alms-tax, and the pilgrimage to Makkah; and believe in the six articles of

faith: belief in God, the Holy Books, the prophets, the angels, the Day of

Judgment and God's decree, whether for good or ill.

There are other injunctions and commandments which concern virtually all

facets of one's personal, family and civic life. These include such matters as

diet, clothing, personal hygiene, interpersonal relations, business ethics,

responsibilities towards parents, spouse and children, marriage, divorce

and inheritance, civil and criminal law, fighting in defense of Islam,

relations with non-Muslims, and so much more..Human Rights

Islam has been from its inception very concerned with issues of human

rights. Privacy, freedom, dignity and equality are guaranteed in Islam.

The holy Qur'an states clearly:

"There is no compulsion in religion."

And there are no reliable reports to confirm the old accusations that when

the Muslim armies were expanding into Asia, Africa and Europe the people

were put to the sword if they failed to convert to Islam. The best proof is

that not only did the Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians and Hindus in those

areas not perish or otherwise disappear, they actually flourished as

protected minority, and many individuals rose to prominent positions in the

arts, sciences, even in government.

The lives, property and privacy of all citizens in an Islamic state are

considered sacred, whether or not the person is Muslim. Non-Muslims

have freedom of worship and to practice their religions, including their

own family laws and religious courts. They are obliged to pay a different

tax (Jizyah) instead of the Zakah, and the state is obligated to provide both

protection and government services. Before the modern era it was

extremely rare to find a state or government anywhere in the world that

was as solicitous of its minorities and their civil rights as the Islamic states.

In no other religion did women receive such a degree of legal and moral

equality and personal respect. Moreover, racism and tribalism are

incompatible with Islam, for the Qur'an speaks of human equality in the

following terms:

"Mankind! We created you from a single soul, male and female, and

made you into nations and tribes, 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."


Islam honors all the prophets who were sent to mankind. Muslims respect

all prophets in general, but Jesus in particular, because he was one of the

prophets who foretold the coming of Muhammad. Muslims, too, await the

second coming of Jesus. They consider him one of the greatest of Allah's.prophets to mankind. A Muslim does not refer to him simply as "Jesus,"

but normally adds the phrase "peace be upon him" as a sign of respect.

No other religion in the world respects and dignifies Jesus as Islam does.

The Qur'an confirms his virgin birth (a chapter of the Qur'an is entitled

"Mary"), and Mary is considered to have been one of the purest women in

all creation. The Qur'an describes Jesus' birth as follows:

"Behold!' the Angel said, God has chosen you, and purified you,

and chosen you above the women of all nations. 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 in the

Hereafter, and one of those brought near to God. He shall speak to

the people from his cradle and in maturity, and he shall be of the

righteous. She said: "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." [3:42-47]

Muslims believe that Jesus was born immaculately, and through the same

power which had brought Eve to life and Adam into being without a father

or a mother.

"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."


During his prophetic mission, Jesus performed many miracles. The Qur'an

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." [3:49]

Muhammad and Jesus, as well as all other prophets, were sent to confirm

the belief in ones God. This is referred to in the Qur'an when 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." [3:50].Prophet Muhammad emphasized the importance of Jesus by saying:

"Whoever believes there is no god but Allah, alone without

partner, that Muhammad is His messenger, that Jesus is a 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. [Bukhari]


Islam urges people to read and learn on every occasion. The verses of the

Qur'an command, advise, warn, and encourage people to observe the

phenomena of nature, the succession of day and night, the movements of

stars, the sun, moon, and other heavenly bodies. Muslims are urged to look

into everything in the universe, to travel, investigate, explore and

understand them, the better to appreciate and be thankful for all the

wonders and beauty of God's creations. The first revelation to Muhammad

showed how much Islam cares about knowledge.

"Read, in the name of your Lord, Who created..." [96:1]

Learning is obligatory for both men and women. Moreover, education is

not restricted to religious issues; it includes all fields of knowledge,

including biology, physics, and technology. Scholars have the highest status

in Islam, second only to that accorded to prophets.

Almost from the very beginnings of the Islamic state Muslims began to

study and to master a number of fields of so-called secular learning,

beginning with linguistics and architecture, but very quickly extending to

mathematics, physics, astronomy, geography, medicine, chemistry and

philosophy. They translated and synthesized the known works of the

ancient world, from Greece, Persia, India, even China. Before long they

were criticizing, improving and expanding on that knowledge. Centuries

before the European Renaissance there were Muslim "Renaissance" men,

men who were simultaneously explorers, scientists, philosophers,

physicians and poets, like Ibn Sina (Avicenna), Umar Khayyam, and others..Main Pillars

• Shahadah

The first pillar of Islam is that a Muslim believe and declare his faith by

saying the Shahadah (lit. 'witness'), also known as the Kalimah:

La ilaha ila Allah; Muhammadur-rasul Allah. 'There is no god but

Allah; Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.'

This declaration contains two parts. The first part refers to God Almighty,

the Creator of everything, the Lord of the Worlds; the second part refers

to the Messenger, Muhammad (pbuh) a prophet and a human being, who

received the revelation through the Archangel Gabriel, and taught it to


By sincerely uttering the Shahadah the Muslim acknowledges Allah as the

sole Creator of all, and the Supreme Authority over everything and

everyone in the universe. Consequently the Muslim closes his/her heart and

mind to loyalty, devotion and obedience to, trust in, reliance on, and

worship of anything or anyone other than Allah. This rejection is not

confined merely to pagan gods and goddesses of wood and stone and

created by human hands and imaginations; this rejection must extend to all

other conceptions, superstitions, ideologies, ways of life, and authority

figures that claim supreme devotion, loyalty, trust, love, obedience or

worship. This entails, for example, the rejection of belief in such common

things as astrology, palm reading, good luck charms, fortune-telling and

psychic readings, in addition to praying at shrines or graves of "saints",

asking the dead souls to intercede for them with Allah. There are no

intercessors in Islam, nor any class of clergy as such; a Muslim prays

directly and exclusively to Allah.

Belief in the prophethood of Muhammad (pbuh) entails belief in the

guidance brought by him and contained in his Sunnah (traditions of his

sayings and actions), and demands of the Muslim the intention to follow his

guidance faithfully. Muhammad (pbuh) was also a human being, a man

with feelings and emotions, who ate, drank and slept, and was born and

died, like other men. He had a pure and upright nature, extraordinary

righteousness, and an unwavering faith in Allah and commitment to Islam,

but he was not divine. Muslims do not pray to him, not even as an

intercessor, and Muslims abhor the terms "Mohamedan" and

"Mohamedanism"..• Salah (Prayer)

Prayer (Salah), in the sense of worship, is the second pillar of Islam.

Prayer is obligatory and must be performed five times a day. These five

times are dawn (Fajr), immediately after noon (Dhuhr), mid-afternoon

('Asr), sunset (Maghrib), and early night (Isha'). Ritual cleanliness and

ablution are required before prayer, as are clean clothes and location, and

the removal of shoes. One may pray individually or communally, at home,

outside, virtually any clean place, as well as in a mosque, though the latter

is preferred. Special is the Friday noon prayer, called Jum'ah. It, too, is

obligatory and is to be done in a mosque, in congregation. It is

accompanied by a sermon (Khutbah), and it replaces the normal Dhuhr


There is no hierarchical clerical authority in Islam, no priests or ministers.

Prayers are led by any learned person who knows the Qur'an and is chosen

by the congregation. He (or she, if the congregation is all women) is called

the imam. There is also no minimum number of congregates required to

hold communal prayers. Prayer consists of verses from the Qur'an and

other prayers, accompanied by various bodily postures - standing, bowing,

prostrating and sitting. They are said in Arabic, the language of the

revelation, though personal supplications (Du'ah) can be offered in one's

own language. Worshippers face the Qiblah, the direction of the Ka'bah in

the city of Makkah.

The significance of prayer lies in one's maintaining a continuous link to

God five times a day, which helps the worshipper avoid misdeeds if he/she

performs the prayers sincerely. In addition it promotes discipline, God-consciousness

and placing one's trust in Allah alone, and the importance of

striving for the Hereafter. When performed in congregation it also

provides a strong sense of community, equality and


• Sawm (Fasting)

The fourth pillar of Islam is fasting. Allah prescribes daily fasting for all

able, adult Muslims during the whole of the month of Ramadan, the ninth

month of the lunar calendar, beginning with the sighting of the new moon.

Exempted from the fast are the very old and the insane. On the physical

side, fasting is from first light of dawn until sundown, abstaining from

food, drink, and sexual relations. On the moral, behavioral side, one must

abstain from lying, malicious gossip, quarreling and trivial nonsense..Those who are sick, elderly, or on a journey, and women who are

menstruating, pregnant, or nursing are permitted to break the fast, but

must make up an equal number of days later in the year. If physically

unable to do so, they must feed a needy person for each day missed.

Children begin to fast (and to observe the prayers) from puberty, although

many start earlier.

Although fasting is beneficial to the health, it is regarded principally as a

method of self-purification. By cutting oneself off from worldly pleasures

and comforts, even for a short time, the fasting person gains true sympathy

for those who go hungry regularly, and achieves growth in his spiritual

life, learning discipline, self-restraint, patience and flexibility.

In addition to the fast proper, one is encouraged to read the entire Qur'an.

In addition, special prayers, called Tarawih, are held in the mosque every

night of the month, during which a whole section of the Qur'an (Juz') is

recited, so that by the end of the month the entire Qur'an has been

completed. These are done in remembrance of the fact that the revelation

of the Qur'an to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was begun during Ramadan.

During the last ten days - though the exact day is never known and may not

even be the same every year - occurs the Night of Power (Laylat al-Qadr).

To spend that night in worship is equivalent to a thousand months of

worship, i.e. Allah's reward for it is very great.

On the first day of the following month, after another new moon has been

sighted, a special celebration is made, called 'Id al-Fitr. A quantity of staple

food is donated to the poor (Zakat al-Fitr), everyone has bathed and put on

their best, preferably new, clothes, and communal prayers are held in the

early morning, followed by feasting and visiting relatives and friends.

There are other fast days throughout the year. Muslims are encouraged to

fast six days in Shawwal, the month following Ramadan, Mondays and

Thursdays, and the ninth and tenth, or tenth and eleventh of Muharram, the

first month of the year. The tenth day, called Ashurah, is also a fast day for

the Jews (Yom Kippur), and Allah commanded the Muslims to fast two

days to distinguish themselves from the People of the Book.

While fasting per se is encouraged, constant fasting, as well as monasticism,

celibacy, and otherwise retreating from the real world, are condemned in

Islam. Fasting on the two festival days, 'Id al-Fitr and 'Id al-Adha, the feast

of the Hajj, is strictly forbidden..• Zakah (Charity)

The third pillar of Islam is the alms-tax (Zakah). It is a tax on wealth,

payable on various categories of property, notably savings and investments,

produce, inventory of goods, salable crops and cattle, and precious metals,

and is to be used for the various categories of distribution specified by

Islamic law. It is also an act of purification through sharing what one has

with others.

The rationale behind this is that Muslims believe that everything belongs to

God, and wealth is held by man as a trust. This trust must be discharged,

moreover, as instructed by God, as that portion of our wealth legally

belongs to other people and must be given to them. If we refuse and hoard

this wealth, it is considered impure and unclean. If, for example one were

to use that wealth for charity or to finance one's pilgrimage to Makkah,

those acts would also be impure, invalid, and of course UN-rewarded.

Allah says:

"Of their wealth, take alms so you may purify and sanctify them."


The word Zakah means purification and growth. Our possessions are

purified by setting aside that portion of it for those in need. Each Muslim

calculates his or her own Zakah individually.

For most purposes this involves the payment each year of 2.5% of one's

capital, provided that this capital reaches a certain minimum amount that

which is not consumed by its owner. A generous person can pay more than

this amount, though it is treated and rewarded as voluntary charity

(Sadaqah). This amount of money is provided to bridge the gap between

the rich and the poor, and can be used in many useful projects for the

welfare of the community.

Historically the pillar of Zakah became mandatory on Muslims form the

second year after the Hijrah, 622 CE. It is mentioned more than thirty

times in the Qur'an, usually in the same breath as Salah. So important is

this pillar that one is not considered a part of the Islamic brotherhood if

one ignores this obligation.

• Hajj (Pilgrimage)

The fifth pillar of Islam is to make a pilgrimage (Hajj) to Makkah, in Saudi

Arabia, at least once in one's lifetime. This pillar is obligatory for every.Muslim, male or female, provided that he/she is physically and financially

able to do so. Prerequisites for performing the Hajj are to be a Muslim, to

be free, to be an adult or mature enough, to be of sound mind, and to have

the ability to afford the journey and maintain one's dependents back home

for the duration. The reward for the Hajj is nothing less than Paradise.

The Hajj is the ultimate form of worship, as it involves the spirit of all the

other rituals and demands of the believer great sacrifice. On this unique

occasion, nearly two million Muslims from all over the globe meet one

another in a given year. Regardless of the season, pilgrims wear special

clothes (Ihram) - two, very simple, UN-sewn white garments - which strips

away all distinctions of wealth, status, class and culture; all stand together

and equal before Allah (God).

The rites of Hajj, which go back to the time of Prophet Abraham who built

the Ka'bah, are observed over five or six days, beginning on the eighth day

of the last month of the year, named Dhul-Hijjah (pilgrimage). These rites

include circumambulating the Ka'bah (Tawwaf), and going between the

mountains of Safa and Marwah, as Hajjar (Abraham's wife) did during her

search for water for her son Isma'il. Then the pilgrims stand together on

the wide plain of Arafah and join in prayers for God's forgiveness, in what

is often thought of as a preview of the Last Judgment. The pilgrims also

cast stones at a stone pillar which represents Satan. The pilgrimage ends

with a festival, called 'Id al-Adha, which is celebrated with prayers, the

sacrifice of an animal, and the exchange of greetings and gifts in Muslim

communities everywhere.


Muhammad (pbuh) was an illiterate but wise and well-respected man who

was born in Makkah in the year 570 C.E., at a time when Christianity was

not yet fully established in Europe. His first years were marked by the

deaths of his parents. Since his father died before his birth, his uncle, Abu

Talib, from the respected tribe of Quraysh, raised him. As Muhammad

(pbuh) grew up, he became known for his truthfulness, generosity and

sincerity, so that he was sought after for his ability to arbitrate in disputes.

His reputation and personal qualities also led to his marriage, at the age of

twenty-five, to Khadijah, a widow whom he had assisted in business.

Thenceforth, he became an important and trusted citizen of Makkah.

Historians describe him as calm and meditative..Muhammad (pbuh) never felt fully content to be part of a society whose

values he considered to be devoid of true religious significance. It became

his habit to retreat from time to time to the cave of Hira', to meditate near

the summit of Jabal al-Nur, the "Mountain of Light", near Makkah.

At the age of 40, while engaged in one such meditative retreat, Muhammad

(pbuh) received his first revelation from God through the Angel Gabriel.

This revelation, which continued for twenty-three years, is known as the

Qur'an, the faithful recording of the entire revelation of God. The first

revelation read:

"Recite: In the name of your Lord Who created man from a clot (of

blood). Recite: Your Lord is Most Noble, Who taught by the pen,

taught man what he did not know." [96:1-5]

It was this reality that he gradually and steadily came to learn and believe,

until he fully realized that it is the truth.

His first convert was Khadijah, whose support and companionship provided

necessary reassurance and strength. He also won the support of some of his

relatives and friends. Three basic themes of the early message were the

majesty of the one, unique God, the futility of idol worship, the threat of

judgment, and the necessity of faith, compassion and morality in human

affairs. All these themes represented an attack on the crass materialism and

idolatry prevalent in Makkah at the time. So when he began to proclaim the

message to others the Makkans rejected him. He and his small group of

followers suffered bitter persecution, which grew so fierce that in the year

622 C.E., God gave them the command to emigrate. This event, the Hijrah

(migration), in which they left Makkah for the city of Madinah, some 260

miles to the north, marked the beginning of a new era and thus the

beginning of the Muslim calendar. During his suffering, Muhammad

(pbuh) drew comfort from the knowledge revealed to him about other

prophets, such as Abraham, Joseph, and Moses, each of whom had also

been persecuted and tested.

After several years and some significant battles, the Prophet and his

followers were able to return to Makkah, where they forgave their enemies

and established Islam definitively. By the time the Prophet died, at the age

of 63, the greater part of Arabia had accepted Islam, and within a century

of his death, Islam had spread as far west as Spain and as far east as China.

It was clear that the message was not limited to Arabs; it was for the whole

of humanity..The Prophet's sayings (Hadith), are also believed to be revelation. The

number of sayings collected by his followers and scholars is about 10,000.

Some typical examples of his sayings are as follows:

"To pursue knowledge is obligatory on every believing (man and

woman)." [Ibn Majah]

"Removing a harmful thing from the road is charity." [Bukhari,


"Those who do not show tenderness and love cannot expect to have

tenderness shown to them." [Bukhari]

"Adore Allah (God) as though you see Him; even if you do not see

Him, He nonetheless sees you." {Bukhari, Muslim]

Although Muhammad is deeply loved, revered and emulated by Muslims as

God's final messenger, he is not an object of worship.

Other Religions

Islam is the religion of all prophets. Muslims believe that all the prophets

were sent to their respective peoples from God (Allah). They all had the

same mission and message - guiding people to the right path.

The three revealed, monotheistic religions, Islam, Christianity, and

Judaism, go back to Abraham. The prophets of these religions were

directly descended from him - Moses, Jesus and others from Isaac, but

Muhammad from Isma'il. It was Prophet Abraham who had established

the settlement which today is the city of Makkah, and with his son Isma'il

built the Ka'bah, which Muslims all over the world face when they pray.

Christians and Jews hold a special place in Islam. They are called the

People of the Book (Ahl al-Kitab), since the original Torah and Gospel

were also divinely revealed and they shared in the prophetic tradition.

Islamic states have nearly always shown their religious minorities tolerance

and respect and those communities flourished under Islamic rule. God says:

"...[T]hose who believe (in the message of Islam), and the Jews,

the Sabaeans, and the Christians - all those who believe in Allah

and the Last Day, and act righteously - no fear shall come upon

them..." [5:69].Setting up the Islamic state in Madinah, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) further


"Whoever oppresses any Dhimmi (non-Muslim citizen of the Islamic

state), I shall be his prosecutor on the Day of Judgment."

In setting up the Islamic state, Prophet Muhammad made it inclusive of the

Arabian Jews and Christians. Their persons, properties, churches and

synagogues were protected, freedom of worship was guaranteed, and they

controlled their own community affairs with their own civil and religious

laws and courts. For most of the first century of the Islamic state, in fact,

the majority of the citizens were Christians, enjoying peace and liberty

such as they had not had even under Christian Rome or Byzantium.

The Jews, from the very beginning in Madinah, and later everywhere else,

were lifted from the burden of being clients of individual Arab tribes to

being citizens of the state, thus freeing them to focus on their Jewishness.

When the Islamic state expanded outside Arabia the Jews of other lands

were treated for the first time as liberated citizens. Judaism flourished as

never before, with Jews even serving in Muslim armies and administrations

while their culture bloomed in the arts, sciences, medicine and philosophy.

This knowledge they transmitted to their brethren in the hostile climate of

Christian Europe. Even Jewish mysticism originated under the influence of

sufism and spread to northern Europe.

When Islam reached Persia the concept of People of the Book was extended

to the Zoroastrians as well. Later, when the Muslims conquered parts of

India and encountered Buddhists and Hindus, who appeared to worship

idols, the question was referred to the ulema (council of scholars), who

judged that even they could have the same protected status as the Jews and

Christians, so long as they did not fight Islam and they paid the Jizyah tax.


"Peace" is the most common word on a Muslim's tongue. Whenever two

people meet, they exchange greetings, wishing each other peace: "Peace be

upon you." But peace cannot prevail except through justice. Since the

concept of justice may differ from one man to another, or from one society

to another, Muslims believe that real justice is that which is specified by

Allah (God)..Islam permits fighting in self-defense, in defense of the religion, or by

those who have been expelled forcibly from their homes. At the same time,

Islam requires one to treat one's enemy mercifully. It lays down strict rules

of combat which include prohibitions against harming civilians and against

destroying crops, trees, and livestock. Islam also requires that if an enemy

declares his desire to end hostilities and seek peace, the Muslims must do

the same.

The concept of Jihad (struggling in the cause of Allah) is stated in the

Qur'an. Allah said: "Fight in the cause of God those who fight you, but do

not transgress limits. God does not love transgressors." [2:19] Jihad is

never to be waged to force anybody to choose a particular religion. On the

contrary, it is to waged to protect his right to choose freely. Therefore, if

there is a force in the world that tries to prevent a person from practicing

this right, Jihad may lead to fighting the force that is trying to prevent him

from exercising free will.


Since Islam is the last religion revealed by Allah, it possesses some

elements that make it unique. One of these is its relevance for human

beings regardless of place and time.

This means that Islam - submission to God - is a comprehensive institution

which includes all the guidelines necessary for all aspects of life.

Therefore, the best way to understand Islam is to look at it as more than a

religion - as a complete way of life. In other words, it is a system which

regulates every aspect of life, dealing with all issues - social, economic,

educational, judicial, health, and even military. Thus, it is suitable for all

human beings and for all times, since it is the final religion. Islamic law

aims to achieve five goals for human beings in life: protecting the religion,

protecting one's self, protecting one's possessions, protecting one's mind,

and protecting one's offspring.

Therefore, God (Allah) decided on two main domains of law:

1. If the domain always requires change and progress, Allah

legislated comprehensive yet flexible rules and gave people the

chance to create and develop the necessary laws to satisfy the

specific needs of a certain period of time. For example, in the.rule of consultation (Shura), Allah decided that it should be the

general rule for any government; however, its form and style are

left open for people to choose and decide according to their


2. If the domain does not require or lend itself to change or

progress, Allah legislated fixed and detailed laws that govern all

issues related to a specific area. Thus, there is no way for man

to change or develop those laws, which were made for the welfare

of all mankind. For example, the area of worshipping God contains

fixed details which cannot be changed at all. These regard prayer,

fasting, making pilgrimage, etc. Another example is in family

matters, such as the laws of marriage, divorce, and inheritance.

To show how Islam cares for the environment, one can cite the many laws

that protect the environment. About fourteen hundred years ago. Prophet

Muhammad (pbuh) said:

"The world is green and beautiful, and Allah has appointed you as

His stewards over it. He sees how you acquit yourselves."

Muhammad showed how important plants and trees are by saying:

"Whoever plants a tree and looks after it with care until it matures

and becomes productive will be rewarded in the Hereafter."

Even in the territory of an enemy, Islam's care for plants, animals, and

trees is profound. Abu Bakr, the first Caliph, or successor, to Muhammad

(pbuh), instructed his troops that he was sending into battle not to cut down

any trees or kill any animals except for food.

These are but a few examples of how Islam remains relevant in the modern


Two Sources

• Qur'an

The ultimate manifestation of God's grace for man, the ultimate wisdom,

and the ultimate beauty of expression: in short, the word of God. This is

how the German scholar, Muhammad Asad, once described the Qur'an. If

one were to ask any Muslim to depict it, most likely they would offer.similar words. The Qur'an, to the Muslim, is the irrefutable, inimitable

Word of God. It was revealed by God Almighty, through the instrument of

Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). The Prophet (pbuh) himself had no role in

authoring the Qur'an, he was merely a human secretary, repeating the

dictates of the Divine Creator:

"He (Muhammad) does not speak of his own desire. It is no less

than an Inspiration sent down to him." [53:3-4]

The Qur'an was revealed in Arabic, to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), over a

period of twenty-three years. It is composed in a style so unique, that it

cannot be deemed either poetry or prose, but somehow a mixture of both.

The Qur'an is imimitable; it cannot be simulated or copied, and God

Almighty challenges mankind to pursue such an endeavor if he thinks he


"Or do they say he forged it? Say: Bring then a chapter like unto

it, and call (to your aid) anyone you can, beside God, if it be

you speak the truth." [10:38].

The Qur'an's language is indeed sublime, its recitation moving, as one non-Muslim

scholar noted, it was like other cadence of my heartbeat. Due to its

unique style of language, the Qur'an is not only highly readable, but also

relatively easy to remember. This latter aspect has played an important role

not only in the Qur'an's preservation, but in the spiritual life of Muslims as

well. God Himself declares,

"And We have indeed made the Qur'an easy to understand and

remember; then is there anyone that will receive admonition?"


One of the most important characteristics of the Qur'an is that it remains

today, the only holy book which has never changed; it has remained free

from any and all adulterations. Sir William Muir noted, "There is probably

in the world no other book which has remained (fourteen) centuries with

so pure a text." The Qur'an was written down during the lifetime and

under the supervision of the Prophet, who himself was illiterate, and it was

canonized shortly after his death by a rigorous method which scrutinized

both written and oral traditions. Thus its authenticity is unblemished, and is

its preservation is seen as the fulfillment of God's promise:

"We have, without doubt, sent down the Message, and We will

assuredly guard it from corruption." [15:9].The Qur'an is a book which provides the human being the spiritual and

intellectual nourishment he/she craves. Its major themes include the oneness

of God, the purpose of human existence, faith and God-consciousness, the

Hereafter and its significance. The Qur'an also lays a heavy emphasis upon

reason and understanding. In these spheres of human understanding, the

Qur'an goes beyond just satisfying the human intellect; it causes one to

reflect on implications. There are Qur'anic challenges and prophecies. One

of the most exciting fields in recent years has been the discovery that, of

the significant amount of scientific information in the Qur'an, including the

event of the Big Bang, embryological data, and other information

concerning astronomy biology, etc., there is not a single statement that has

not been borne out by modern discoveries In short, the Qur'an fulfills the

heart, the soul, and the mind.

Perhaps the best description of the Qur'an was given by Ali, the cousin of

Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) when he expounded upon it as,

"The Book of God. In it is the record of what was before you, the

judgment of what is among you, and the prophecies of what will

come after you. It is decisive, not a case for levity. Whoever is

a tryant and ignores the Qur'an will be destroyed by God. Whoever

seeks guidance from other than it will be misguided. The Qur'an is

the unbreakable bond of connection with God; it is the remembrance

full of wisdom and the straight path. The Qur'an does not become

distorted by tongues. nor can it be deviated by caprices; it never

dulls from repeated study; scholars will always want more of it.

The wonders of the Qur'an are never ending. Whoever speaks from

it will speak the truth, whoever rules with it will be just, and

whoever holds fast to it will be guided to the straight path."


• Sunnah

The term Sunnah comes from the root word sanna, which means to pave

the way or make a path easily passable, such that it becomes a commonly

followed way by everyone afterwards. Thus sunnah can be used to describe

a street or road or path on which people, animals, and cars travel.

Additionally, it can apply to a prophetic way, i.e. the law that they brought

and taught as an explanation or further clarification of a divinely revealed

book. Normally, the prophetic way includes references to his sayings,

actions, physical features and character traits..From the Islamic standpoint, Sunnah refers to anything narrated or related

about the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), authentically traced to him

regarding his speech, actions, traits, and silent approvals, before and after

the revelation.

Each narration is composed of two parts: the isnad and the matn. The isnad

refers to a chain of people who narrated a particular narration. The matn is

the actual text of the narration. The isnad must comprise upright and

sincere individuals whose integrity is unquestionable.

The Speech of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)

The speech of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) refers to his sayings. For

example, he said:

"Actions are judged by their intentions; everyone will be rewarded

according to his/her intention. So whoever migrates for the sake

of Allah and His Prophet then his migration will be noted as a

migration for the sake of Allah and His Prophet. Conversely, one

who migrates only to obtain something worldly or to marry a

woman, then his migration will be worth what he had intended."


The Prophet (pbuh) also said: "Whoever believes in Allah and the

Last Day, should say something good or keep quiet.

The above two accounts clearly show that the Prophet (pbuh) spoke these

words. Consequently, these are known as his speech.

The Actions of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)

His actions pertain to anything he did, as authentically reported by the

Sahabah (Companions). For instance, Hudhayfah reported that whenever

the Prophet (pbuh) got up at night, he would clean his teeth with a tooth-stick.

Also A'ishah reported that the Prophet (pbuh) loved to do

everything starting with the right side - putting on shoes, walking, cleaning

himself, and in all his affairs generally.

The Silent Approvals of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)

His silent approvals on different issues meant his not opposing or minding

what he saw, heard or knew of the actions or sayings of his Companions..On one occasion, for example, the Prophet (pbuh) learned of actions of

some of his Companions from other Companions. Soon after the battle of

Khandaq, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) gave the order to the Companions to

move quickly to surround the tribe of Banu Quraydah, encouraging them

to hurry so that perhaps they would pray 'Asr (the late afternoon prayer)

there. Some of the Companions of the Prophet (pbuh) responded

immediately and left without praying 'Asr. They arrived after sunset,

pitched camp and prayed 'Asr- after sunset. At the same time another

group of Companions formulated their judgment differently. They thought

that the Prophet (pbuh) was merely encouraging them to hasten to their

destination, rather than to delay 'Asr until after sunset. Consequently, they

decided to stay in Madinah until they had prayed 'Asr. Immediately

thereafter, they hastened towards the tribe of Banu Quraydhah. When the

Prophet (pbuh) was told of how each group responded differently to his

announcement, he (pbuh) affirmed both judgments.

Physical and Moral Traits of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)

Everything authentically narrated concerning the Prophet's complexion and

the rest of his physical features is also included in the definition of sunnah.

Umm Ma'bad described what she saw of the great Prophet (pbuh). She


"I saw a man, his face radiant with a bright glow, not too thin or

too fat, elegant and handsome. His eyes had a deep black hue with

long eyelashes. His voice was pleasant and his neck long. He had a

thick beard. His long black eyebrows were beautifully arched and

connected to each other. In silence, he remained dignified,

commanding utmost awe and respect. When he spoke, his speech was

brilliant. Of all people he was the most handsome and the most

pleasant, even when approaching from a distance. In person, he was

unique and most admirable. Graced with eloquent logic, his speech

was moderate. His logical arguments were well organized as though

they were a string of gems. He was not too tall or too short, but

exactly in between. Among three, he appeared the most radiant and

most vibrant. He had companions who affectionately honored him.

When he spoke, they listened to him attentively. When he gave

orders, they were quick to execute them. They rallied around him

guarding him. He never frowned or spoke frivolously." [Hakim]

Along with his physical features, his Companions also described his habits

and behavior with people. Once Anas reported:."I served the Prophet of Allah (pbuh) for ten years. Never once

did he so much as express any bit of displeasure nor did he ever

ask 'Why did you do it?' for something I did or 'Why didn't you do

it?' for something I didn't do."

From the above we can clearly see that when the term sunnah appears in a

general context referring to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) it comprises

anything narrated about the Prophet (pbuh) and authentically traced to him.

Once a Muslim learns of the authenticity of any narration, he/she is obliged

to follow and obey it accordingly. Such obedience is mandated by Allah as

He declares

"...and obey Allah and His Prophet and do not turn away when you

hear (him speak)." [8:20]

At times, some Muslims are perplexed when people say that sunnah is

something only recommended and is not mandatory. Thus they conclude

that we are only required to follow the Qur'an and not the Sunnah. Such an

argument results from a gross misunderstanding. Scholars of Islamic

jurisprudence use the term sunnah to denote what is authentically

established of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in deeds which were not

subsequently made mandatory by Allah.

They further hold that this includes any saying of Prophet Muhammad

(pbuh) where he encourages Muslims to do a particular task and

compliments those who imbibe such attributes. Thus to them, the term

sunnah denotes what is authentically established of Prophet Muhammad

(pbuh) in deeds which he did voluntarily and which were not subsequently

made mandatory by Allah. They further hold that this includes any saying

of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) where he encourages Muslims to do a

particular task and compliments those who imbibe such attributes. Thus to

them, the term sunnah refers to what is "recommended" and is not

mandatory (fard or wajib).

From the above, we can clearly see that the term sunnah takes on different

meanings when used by different Islamic disciplines.


Freedom of belief is guaranteed in Islam. It should be very clear that Islam

tolerates not only other faiths but even its enemies. This is stated clearly in

the Qur'an:."God forbids you not with regard 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." [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. Islamic law also permits non-Muslim minorities

to set up their own courts to implement family laws drawn up by the

minorities themselves and to govern their own affairs.

History provides many examples of Muslim tolerance towards other faiths.

When the great leader and second Caliph, Umar, entered Jerusalem in the

year 634, Islam guaranteed freedom of worship to all religious

communities in the city. In fact, so careful was Umar in setting an example

for his people that he not only went to a church to pray, he prayed outside

in the courtyard, lest his followers after his death be tempted to convert the

church into a mosque.

Islam teaches that the closest to Allah and the most beloved of Allah are

those who are the best in piety. Thus all people, male and female, and

regardless of race, color, nationality or ethnicity, are considered and

treated as equal before Allah and before the law. This concept of tolerance

did not reach the West even in theory until the 18th century, and in

practice not until the 20th century.


In the Qur'an, Allah says:

"We have sent you (Muhammad) as a mercy for all nations."


Thus Islam is not restricted to any particular race or nation, as many other

religions are, but is universal, meaning that its message applies to all

humanity, at all times, in all places.

Since Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was the last prophet and messenger, his

message applies to all future generations. All previous prophets, from

Adam, Noah and Abraham to Moses and Jesus, were also Muslims:."Not a single messenger did We send before you without this

inspiration sent by Us to him - that there is no god but I,

therefore worship and serve Me." [21:25]

Since the Qur'an is the final testament, with every word and every letter

unadulterated and unchanged, and protected by Allah from any change or

tampering, it is the final revelation, and no other law will ever supersede


It applies, moreover, to every aspect of one's daily life, including personal,

social, legal, economic, political, even military. Furthermore, Islam affects

every part of the individual - physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.


At a time when the rest of the world, from Greece and Rome to India and

China, considered women as no better than children or even slaves, with no

rights whatsoever, Islam acknowledged women's equality with men in a

great many respects. The Qur'an states:

"And among His signs is this: that He created mates for you form

yourselves that you may find rest, peace of mind in them, and He

ordained between you love and mercy. Lo, herein indeed are signs

for people who reflect." [30:21]

Prophet Muhammad said:

"The most perfect in faith amongst believers is he who is best in

manners and kindest to his wife." [Abu Dawud]

Muslims believe that Adam and Eve were created from the same soul. Both

were equally guilty of their sin and fall from grace, and both were

forgiven by Allah. Many women in Islam have had high status; consider the

fact that the first person to convert to Islam was Khadijah, the wife of

Muhammad, whom he both loved and respected. His favorite wife after

Khadijah's death, A'isha, became renowned as a scholar and one of the

greatest sources of Hadith literature. Many of the female Companions

accomplished great deeds and achieved fame, and throughout Islamic

history there have been famous and influential scholars, jurists and mystics..With regard to education, both women and men have the same rights and

obligations. This is clear in Prophet Muhammad's saying:

"Seeking knowledge is mandatory for every believer." [Ibn Majah]

This implies men and women.

A woman is to be treated as God has endowed her, with rights, such as to

be treated as an individual, with the right to own and dispose of her own

property and earnings, enter into contracts, even after marriage. She has

the right to be educated and to work outside the home if she so chooses.

She has the right to inherit from her father, mother, and husband. A very

interesting point to note is that in Islam, unlike any other religion, a

woman can be an imam, a leader of communal prayer, for a group of


A Muslim woman also has obligations. All the laws and regulations

pertaining to prayer, fasting, charity, pilgrimage, doing good deeds, etc.,

apply to women, albeit with minor differences having mainly to do with

female physiology.

Before marriage, a woman has the right to choose her husband. Islamic law

is very strict regarding the necessity of having the woman's consent for

marriage. A marriage dowry is given by the groom to the bride for her

own personal use. She keeps her own family name, rather than taking her

husband's. As a wife, a woman has the right to be supported by her

husband even if she is already rich. She also has the right to seek divorce

and custody of young children. She does not return the dowry, except in a

few unusual situations.

Despite the fact that in many places and times Muslim communities have

not always adhered to all or even many of the foregoing in practice, the

ideal has been there for 1,400 years, while virtually all other major

civilizations did not begin to address these issues or change their negative

attitudes until the 19th centuries, and there are still many contemporary

civilizations which have yet to do so.

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