Chapter 1: What is Islam by Dr. Muhammad Sharif Chaudhry



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What is Islam

By Dr. Muhammad Sharif Chaudhry



Islam is the religion of those who believe in Allah, the one God of the whole of universe, and who follow Muhammad (peace be upon him) of Arabia (571-632 A.D.) the last of the Prophets of God. Islam is one of the three great monotheistic religions being the youngest among them. The other two monotheistic religions are Judaism and Christianity which are predecessors of Islam. On the basis of numerical strength of its followers, Islam is the second big religion. Christianity with 30% of total world population is number one, whereas Islam with 20% of human population is number two. Today there are more than 55 Muslim countries and there are more than 1.3 billion Muslims in the world. Although Muslims are found in every country of the world but majority of them live in Pakistan, Indonesia, Bangladesh, India, China, Middle East, North Africa, Central Asian Republics of former Soviet Russia and Eastern Europe.

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What is Islam and Who are Muslims?

The name ‘Islam’ is an Arabic word which means ‘peace’, ‘security’, ‘submission’ or ‘surrender’. For humanity, Islam is ‘peace’ and ‘security’. Before God of the universe Islam is complete surrender and submission of man to His will. Thus Islam defines true relationship between man and man on the one hand and between man and God on the other hand. Followers of Islam are called Muslims as they are those who submit or surrender to the will of God. The Muslims believe in one God of the whole of the universe who is Allah beside Whom there is no other God. They believe in and equally respect all the Prophets sent by God to the mankind for guidance, right from Adam (the first human and the first Prophet) to Muhammad (the last Prophet), the other famous among them being Noah, Abraham, Ismael, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, Solomon and Jesus Christ (may Allah’s peace be upon all). The Muslims also believe in all revealed books which were given to the Prophets by God such as Sahifas (scrolls) given to Prophet Abraham, Torah given to Prophet Moses, Zabur (Psalms) given to Prophet David, Injeel (Gospel or New Testament) given to Jesus Christ and the Qur’an given to Prophet Muhammad. They respect all the religions and also hold in respect the followers of all religions. Above all, the Muslims consider all the mankind as members of one human family, being children of one parents – Adam and Eve – and thus eligible for equal human rights without any distinctions like race, caste, nationality, blood, colour or creed.

The followers of Muhammad (PBUH), however, like to be called ‘Muslims’ and not ‘Muhammadans’ and their religion to be called ‘Islam’ and not ‘Muhammadanism’. Because the expressions ‘Muhammadans’ and ‘Muhammadanism’ imply as if Muslims worship Muhammad or assign him some type of divinity while they worship only one God and consider Muhammad as God’s messenger and a mortal human being. Further more, the name ‘Islam’ for the religion of Muhammad was chosen by Almighty God Himself. The Qur’an affirms this fact: “This day have I perfected your religion for you and completed My favour unto you and have chosen for you as religion Al-Islam”- (5:3). Similarly it is God Almighty who gave the name "Muslims" to the followers of Muhammad. This fact, the Qur’an tells us when it says: “He hath named you Muslims of old time and in this (scripture) ….” (22:78)

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Islam the same religion which was given to previous Prophets

According to the Qur’an, Islam is not the new religion and neither Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) invented or founded this religion. Islam is in fact the same religion which all the Prophets of God before Muhammad (PBUH) preached, right from Adam to Jesus, whether mentioned in the Qur’an or not. God gave to Muhammad the same religion which He had given to Prophets like Noah, Abraham, Ismael, Isaac, Jacob, Moses and Jesus. It is the same religion which Abraham commended to his sons and later on Jacob enjoined upon his sons saying: “O my sons !Lo! Allah has chosen for you the true religion; therefore die not save as Muslims” (Al-Qur’an 2: 130-132). The Qur’an tells us that Abraham who was the forefather of the Prophets like Moses and Jesus and Muhammad, was neither a Jew nor a Christian but an upright Muslim (3: 67-68). The source of revelation is the same God who sent messages through Angel Gabriel to all the Prophets and the mission of all the Prophets was the same i.e. to proclaim to the mankind Oneness of God and bring them to the worship of God alone assigning no partners unto Him. Since religion of every previous Prophet was corrupted either with the passage of time or deliberately by its followers, so Muhammad (PBUH) was sent as last Prophet, in whose hands Islam was completed, to rid Islam of all corruptions and distortions. These truths have been brought into light by the Holy Qur’an in many of its verses, some of whom are:

  • Abraham was not a Jew, nor yet a Christian; but he was an upright man who had surrendered (to Allah), and he was not of the idolaters. Lo! those of mankind who have the best claim to Abraham are those who followed him, and this Prophet and those who believe (with him): and Allah is the Protecting friend of the believers. (3: Al-Imran: 67-68)

  • Naught is said unto thee (Muhammad) save what was said unto the messengers before thee. Lo! thy Lord is owner of forgiveness, and owner (also) of dire punishment. (41:Ha Mim As-Sajdah:43)

  • He hath ordained for you that religion which He commended unto Noah, and that which We inspire in thee (Muhammad). and that which We commended unto Abraham and Moses and Jesus, saying: Establish the religion, and be not divided therein. (42:Ash-Shura:13)

The Qur’an further tells us that even the name given to the followers of all the previous Prophets was ‘Muslim’:

  • And strive for Allah with the endeavour which is His right. He hath chosen you and hath not laid upon you in religion any hardship; the faith of your father Abraham (is yours). He hath named you Muslims of old time and in this (Scripture), that the messenger may be a witness against you, and that ye may be witnesses against mankind. (22:77)

In a way Islam can be called a new and updated edition or version of all previous religions and its book al-Qur’an confirms all the previous revelations. Islam has attained perfection and reached its pinnacle under Muhammad and it will prevail up to Doomsday as no other religion will be revealed after it.

The above mentioned facts have been beautifully highlighted by the Encyclopedia Americana as under: “The  Qur'an presents Mohammed as the Seal of the Prophets. According to developed Islamic theological thought, God in His Mercy bestowed prophecy upon the first man, Adam, so that he and his descendants might have guidance for the proper way to live. Sadly, this guidance was first ignored and then corrupted and lost by successive generations, so God found it necessary to send other prophets to renew it. Among the prophets whom the Qur'an mentions are some known from the Bible, such as Abraham, David, and Jesus, and others unknown, such as Salih and Hud. The revelations to Mohammed were a renewal of the message of the prophets before him and like theirs, came in the form of a divine book. Mohammed was the last of this prophetic tradition but also its confirmation, climax, and proof”.

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No Priesthood in Islam

There is no organized church or priesthood in Islam, neither there is any religious hierarchy even in the ordinary sense. To lead the prayer service or to recite and interpret the Qur’an is not monopoly of any individual or group. Any practicing layman with basic necessary knowledge of Islam can lead the prayers and can approach the Qur’an and Hadith (traditions of the Prophet) for guidance. Like Jews and unlike Christians, the Muslims do not believe in asceticism. Hence there are no monks and nuns.

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Islam to prevail over all other religions 

The Holy Qur’an says:

  • He it is Who hath sent His messenger with the guidance and the Religion of Truth, that He may cause it to prevail over all religion, however, much the idolaters may be averse. (9:At-Taubah:33)

  • And who doth greater wrong than he who inventeth a lie against Allah when he is summoned unto Al-Islam? And Allah guideth not wrongdoing folk. Fain would they put out the light of Allah with their mouths, but Allah will perfect His light however much the disbelievers are averse. He it is Who hath sent His messenger with the guidance and the religion of truth, that He may make it conqueror of all religion however much idolaters may be averse. (61:As-Saff:7-9)

Al-Islam, the religion of Muhammad (rather of all the earlier prophets also) will prevail as it is ordained to prevail, over all the pagan faiths. It is the promise of God and it is the proclamation of God’s last revealed book, the Qur’an. Islam has attained its perfection and completion in the reign of Muhammad (PBUH) the last Prophet of God and it will prevail up to the Last Day.

The prophesy of the Qur’an about the victory of Islam against all other faiths has, in fact, been already fulfilled. Prophet Muhammad established Islam on strong footing after his migration from Makkah to Madinah in the year 622 A.D. when he established the Islamic state. Before his death in 632 A.D., all Arabia had embraced Islam and the Muslim armies of the powerful Islamic state of Madinah aided by powerful ideology were knocking at the doors of Iranian and Roman empires which were two super powers of those days. Within a decade after the demise of Muhammad (PBUH) his followers had added Iraq, Syria, Iran, Palestine, Egypt to the Islamic state founded by the Prophet. No doubt the process stopped for some time after the death of Umar, the second right guided caliph of Islam, on account of some internal problems, but it started again with its full force during the period of Umayyid caliphs. Very soon all the central Asia, Northern Africa, part of India and even Spain (a European country) were conquered and included in the great Islamic empire. Thus within a century of the death of their prophet, the Muslims had established the biggest and the most powerful empire of the then world. The Islamic empire had established its foothold in all the three continents of the then known world and Islam had under its control not less than one third area of the glob. The message of Muhammad (PBUH) had reached almost every nook and corner of the world, almost to every human being. Although the Muslims are on the decline since the seventeenth century as they failed to withstand onslaught of European nations which had awakened during renaissance and which are equipped with modern knowledge of science and technology, yet Islam as a religion is keeping its march on the road of progress. Islam is expanding every day as it is attracting more converts into its fold than any other faith.

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Islam an easy and practical religion

Islam is a religion of nature and of humanity. It is very easy to practice. Whenever there is any difficulty or hardship in performing any devotional act or any religious duty, Islam removes that difficulty and hardship to make things easy by relaxing the rigours of law.

In Islam, the sanction behind the principle of ease is provided by the Qur’anic verses which state “Allah desires for you ease; He does not desire hardship for you” (2:185) and “He has not laid upon you in religion any hardship” (22:78).

Under the principle of ease, the Qur’an and the Sunnah provide certain concessions to the sick, old persons, travelers, persons engaged in Jihad, etc. in matters of performance of certain obligatory acts of devotion like performance of ablution for prayer, offering of prayers, fasting in the month of Ramadan, performance of certain rituals in pilgrimage, etc. Similarly, certain items of food which have been strictly forbidden by the Qur’an are allowed in case of dire necessity when there is imminent danger of death and life cannot be saved except taking the same. Following few verses of the Qur’an and Traditions of Prophet Muhammad bring out this point:

  • He hath forbidden you only carrion, and blood, and swineflesh, and that which hath been immolated to (the name of) any other than Allah. But he who is driven by necessity, neither craving nor transgressing, it is no sin for him. Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. (2:Al-Baqarah:173)

  • And whosoever of you is present, let him fast the month, and whosoever of you is sick or on a journey, (let him fast the same) number of other days. Allah desireth for you ease; He desireth not hardship for you; (2:Al-Baqarah:185)

  • Allah tasketh not a soul beyond its scope. For it (is only) that which it hath earned, and against it (only) that which it hath deserved. (2:Al-Baqarah:286)

  • Allah would make the burden light for you, for man was created weak.  (4:An-Nisa:28)

  • And when ye go forth in the land, it is not sin for you to curtail (your) worship if ye fear that those who disbelieve may attack you. In truth the disbelievers are an open enemy to you. (4:An-Nisa:101)

  • Ayesha reported: The Apostie of Allah was never asked to choose between two things except that he chose the easier of the two so long as it was not sinful. If it was sinful, he used to keep farther from it than all the people…….  (Bukhari, Muslim)

  • Anas reported that the Prophet said: Give ease and not trouble, give tranquility and not oppression.  (Bukhari, Muslim)

  • Abu Hurairah reported that the Messenger of Allah said: When one of you leads the prayer for men, let him be short, because among them there are the sick, the weak and the old; and when one of you says prayer for himself, let him prolong it as he please.  (Bukhari, Muslim)

  • Abu Hurairah reported that the Messenger of Allah said: The religion is easy, and nobody must ever make the religion a rigour except that it will overcome him. So be steadfast and seek nearness and give good news and seek help at morn and at dusk and some part of a late night.  (Bukhari)

  • Ibn ‘Umar called the adhan for prayer on a cold, windy night, then added: “Pray in your dwellings.” Then he said: When it was a cold, rainy night, God’s Messenger used to command the Mu’adhdhin to say: “Pray in your dwellings.”  (Bukhari, Muslim)

  • Ibn ‘Umar reported God’s Messenger as saying: “When one of you is served with his supper and the time for prayer comes, he should first have his supper and not hasten till finished it.” When Ibn ‘Umar’s food was served and the time for prayer came, he did not go to the prayer till he finished it; and he could hear the imam’s recitation.  (Bukhari, Muslim)

  • Abdullah b. Arqam said that he heard God’s Messenger say: “When the  time for prayer comes and one of you needs to relieve himself, he should do that first.”  (Tirmizi, Malik, Abu Daud)

  • Anas said: I never prayed behind an imam who was more brief or more perfect in his prayer than the Prophet. If he heard a boy crying he would shorten the prayer for fear that his mother might be distressed. (Bukhari, Muslim)

Tolerant of other Faiths          

The Qur’an enjoins upon the followers of Islam to be tolerant of other faiths as there is no compulsion in religion and the basic principle is “unto you your religion and unto me my religion.” The Qur’an exhorts:

  • Say: O disbelievers! I worship not that which ye worship; Nor worship ye that which I worship. And I shall not worship that which ye worship. Nor will ye worship that which I worship. Unto you your religion, and unto me my religion.  (109:Al-Kafirun:1-6)

  • There is no compulsion in religion. (2:Al-Baqarah:256)

The Qur’an forbad the Prophet (and so his followers) not to say any harsh word about the faith of the other people even against the gods of the pagans:

Revile, not those unto whom they pray beside Allah lest they wrongfully revile Allah through ignorance. Thus unto every nation have we made their deed seem fair. Then unto their Lord is their return, and He will tell them what they used to do. (6:Al-An’am:108)

Acting upon the instructions of the Qur’an the Prophet of Islam and his followers not only abstained from saying any thing bad about other religions but also they gave full freedom of religion to the non-Muslims living among them. It is an undisputed matter of record in history that followers of the prophet of Arabia besides giving religious freedom to the non-Muslim minorities also protected their places of worship. The non-Muslims living in the Islamic state are called Zimmis (protected people) as their lives, honour, and properties are protected by the Islamic state like those of its Muslim citizens. They are allowed to preserve their rituals, customs, language, dress, etc. Cultural, social and judicial autonomy is also given to the people of other faith living in the Islamic state. The tolerance shown and the kind treatment given to the adherents of other faiths by the followers of Muhammad (PBUH) is unparalleled and it forms a golden chapter in the annals of man.

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Islam a moderate religion and Muslims a nation of middle path

      “The best of affairs is their mean” is the golden principle of Islam. Al-Qur’an, the revealed book of Islam, calls the followers of Islam a middle nation. The Muslims are middle nation between other two nations – the Jews and the Christians – who believe in revealed religions, because the Muslims avoid extremes and follow middle path. Let us explain it with some solid examples. The Bible as well as the Qur’an tells us that the Jews disobeyed their prophets and even some of them they killed. On the other hand the Christians raised the status of their prophet to that of God and started worshipping him as divine. But the Muslims avoid both the extremes. They hold their prophet, unlike Jews, in high esteem and unlike Christians, they consider him a human being and the messenger of God. Take another example. The Jews believe in the extreme form of retaliation and their principle is “eye for eye and tooth for tooth”. On the contrary, the Christians remember the advice of Jesus: “If someone slaps on left side of your face turn to him your right side also”. But the Muslims avoid both these extremes. Their religion permits them to take full revenge but they have been enjoined to show mercy and pardon the offender because pardoning is much better than taking revenge. Take yet another example. The Jews are very materialistic and money-minded while Christians believe in monasticism and indulge in ascetic practices. But the Muslims avoid both these extremes and follow middle path. They have been enjoined to abstain from materialism as well as monasticism. They are directed to give due time to worldly affairs and also faithfully discharge their religious obligations. All this justifies the title of moderate nation bestowed upon the Muslims by the Qur’an which is the word of God.

Let us explain the principle of moderation and balance as held by Islam a little further.

      Islam enjoins upon its believers to follow middle way and act upon the principle of moderation and balance. The two extremes of every thing and every action are bad according to Islam and the believers should, therefore, strike balance between the two. The Qur’an, the holy scripture of Islam, and Muhammad (PBUH), the Prophet of Islam, have recommended the Muslims to follow policy of moderation and balance in every walk of life, for example:

1.      Islam condemns monasticism and materialism and exhorts its followers to adopt middle path between these two extreme ways of life. A monastic lays all the emphasis on moral and spiritual aspect of life and ignores completely material aspect. According to him, all economic activity is a sinful act and acquiring of wealth and comforts of worldly life is a sin. A materialist is on the other extreme. He lays the entire stress on the material aspect of life ignoring moral and spiritual aspects. He devotes all his time and energy to the attainment of material ends. He justifies every mean – right or wrong – to acquires wealth and comforts of life. The Qur’an disapproves the actions of those Christians who adopt monasticism and condemns the Jews who are very materialistic and greedy for wealth.

2.      The principle of moderation carries paramount importance especially in the economic field. This principle is followed by the true believers in the production of wealth, as well as in the consumption and spending of wealth. Although earning of wealth through permitted (Halal) means is allowed, yet the piety demands that a Muslim should not become mad after amassing wealth like a greedy materialist. He should exercise restraint and earn wealth to meet his lawful needs. Extra wealth, if at all is earned by him somehow, may be spent in the path of Allah on charity and relief of the poor. Similarly, in the consumption and spending of wealth, the believer is recommended to strike balance avoiding miserliness and extravagance. Miser is he who does not even provide for the legitimate needs of himself and his family let alone spending on charitable and noble causes. Extravagant or spend thrift is a person who squanders his wealth in luxury, gambling, drinking, and on lavish expenditure, on festivities, weddings, day to day living. Islam condemns both miserliness and extravagance and enjoins upon a believer to exercise moderation. The Qur’an appreciates those who exercise moderation in spending when it says: “And those who when they spend, are neither prodigal nor grudging; and there is ever a firm station between the two;” (25:67)

3.      Islam advises moderation in the performance of religious acts also. One must not be hard on himself in the matters of worship like prayer, fasting etc. Once the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) learnt that some companions had taken a vow to fast during the day, pass the night in worship, abstain from meat and fat and renounce intercourse with women. Thereupon he (peace be on him) delivered a sermon in the course of which he observed: “This is not my creed. Your body has rights over you. You should fast, but eat and drink also. Pray at night, but sleep also. Look at me. I sleep and I pray also. I both keep and omit fasts. I eat both meat and fat. So whoso does not subscribe to my way, he is not of me”.

He (peace be on him) then said, “what has happened to people that they have renounced women, good food, perfume, sleep and worldly pleasure? I have never taught you to be a monk or a priest. In my deen (Creed) there is no provision for renunciation of women or meat nor for abandoning the world. For self-control, I enjoin fast. All the advantages of asceticism can be had from the jihad of Islam”.

4.      Even in matters of everyday life, Islam calls upon its followers to avoid extremes and follow principle of balance. In matter of food one should neither take too much nor too less, rather one should eat and drink, just according to his bodily needs to keep himself hale and hearty. In matter of speaking, one should neither speak too loudly nor too low to be heard. Loud voice has been likened by the Qur’an to that of an ass. In the matter of walking, one should show humility and avoid pride. In matter of charity, one should be neither extravagant so as to squander all wealth nor one should be miserly so as to hoard wealth out of channel of circulation. In matter of clothes one must spend according to means.

Let us now glance through the following Verses of Al-Qur’an and Traditions of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) which exhort the believers to adopt principle of moderation and balance in every activity.

  • Thus We have appointed you a middle nation, that ye may be witnesses against mankind, and that the messenger may be a witness against you….. (Al-Qur’an 2:143)

  • O ye, who believe! Forbid not the good things, which Allah hath made lawful for you, and transgress not. Lo, Allah loveth not transgressors. (Al-Qur’an 5:87)

  • O Children of Adam! Look to your adornment and every place of worship and eat and drink, but be not prodigal. Lo! He loveth not the prodigals. (Al-Qur’an 7:31)

  • And let not thy hand be chained to thy neck nor open it with a complete opening, lest thou sit down rebuked, denuded.  (Al-Qur’an 17:29)

  • ...... And thou (Muhammad) be not loud voiced in thy worship not yet silent therein, but follow a way between. (Al-Qur’an 17:110)

  • And those who, when they spend, are neither prodigal nor gruding; and there is ever a firm station between the two;  (Al-Qur’an 25:67)

  • Be modest in thy bearing and subdue thy voice. Lo! The harshest of all voices is the voice of the ass. (Al-Qur’an 31:19)

  • Good manners, delay and moderation form a part out of twenty-four parts of Prophethood. (Mishkat-ul-Masabih)

  • Abu Hurairah reported that the messenger of Allah said: Moderation in expenditure is half of livelihood, and love for people is half of wisdom, and good questioning is half of learning. (Bukhari)

  • Matref-b-Abdullah reported that the messenger of Allah said: The best of affairs is their mean. (Baihaqi)

  • Abdullah-bin-Amr reported that the Messenger of Allah said: When four things are in you, there is nothing against you in the world which may cause your loss; guarding of trust, truthfulness in speech, beauty in conduct, and moderation in food. (Ahmad, Baihaqi)

  • Anas reported that three persons came to the wives of the Holy Prophet to enquire about acts of piety of the Prophet. When they were informed of them, they considered them little as it were and said: I fast all the day long and will not break. And another said: Where are we in comparison with the Holy Prophet while Allah has forgiven his past sins and what will be in future. One of them said: as for me, I pray all night long. And another man said: I keep aloof from women and shall never marry. Then the Holy Prophet came to them and said: Are you the persons saying such and such things? Behold! By Allah, I fear Allah more than your selves and I am most dutiful among you to Him, but still I keep fast and break it, and keep up prayer and keep awake at night and take wives, So whoever turns away from my way is not of me. (Bukhari, Muslim)

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Islam provides complete code of life

Islam, unlike other religions, is not a mere bundle of dogmas and rituals. It is a perfect religion, and a way (deen) of life. It is an all-embracing faith, a complete code of life. It provides divine guidance in all activities of human life, be they individual or collective, private or public, moral or political, social or economic, legal or constitutional.

Islam is perfect and complete religion. The Holy Qur’an says: “…….This day have I perfected your religion for you and completed My favour unto you, and have chosen for you religion Al-Islam …….” (5: 3)

Thus Islam has been perfected by Almighty Allah Himself and this religion has been completed with the last messenger of Allah.

The fact that Islam is an organized religion and it provides guidance to its followers in every conceivable activity of human beings has been beautifully brought home by the authors of the famous book “Great Religions by which men live” as under:

“Most modern world religions became organized religions by an accident of history. In many cases, their roots are buried so deep in time that we cannot know the incidents that helped them to develop. But Islam was distinguished by two facts from the start. First, it became a religion as the result of deliberate planning and well-considered efforts. Second, its whole development took place after world history had begun to be carefully recorded.

In a short span of years, Mohammed had lifted himself to a unique position of leadership among his people. He had the time and the opportunity to plan thoroughly to meet all the social and spiritual needs of his fellow men. Mohammed, convinced that he spoke for Allah, had given rules for beliefs, for religious duties, and for proper conduct. As a result, Muslims found themselves with a guide to almost every activity or situation undertaken by human beings.”

In this book you would see for yourself how great religion of Allah, al-Islam, provides adequate guidance to the mankind in various fields of life.

Since the religion has been completed and made way of life in the form of Islam, so there is no need for any other religion. That is why, the Qur’an tells us that religion with God is only Islam (3:19) and whoso seeks as religion other than Islam, it will not be accepted from him and he will be a loser in the Hereafter (3:85). It further tells us whomsoever it is Allah’s will to guide, He expands his bosom unto Islam (6:125).

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Islam spread through preaching not through sword

The Qur’an declares in unequivocal terms that there is no compulsion or coercion in religion (2:256) and has laid down the principle, “unto you your religion and unto me my religion (109:6). Thus there is full freedom of faith and none can be forced to accept Islam. Islam cannot be thrust upon any body as forced conversion is not the rule.

 The Qur’an also emphasizes this fact that Muhammad (PBUH) was sent by Allah as His messenger to show right path to the mankind. He was a mercy for the mankind and was charged to convey message of God to the people. It was not his duty to convert the people forcibly to Islam. He was a messenger and a warner and not a warder over men. Following are some of the verses of the Holy Book which plainly highlight this fact:

  • The duty of the messenger is only to convey (the message). Allah knoweth what ye proclaim and what ye hide. (5:Al-Ma’idah:99)

  • And if thy Lord willed, all who are in the earth would have believed together. Wouldst thou (Muhammad) compel men until they are believers? (10:Yunus:99)

  • Say: (It is) the truth from the lord of you (all). Then whosoever will, let him believe, and whosoever will, let him disbelieve. Lo! We have prepared for disbelievers Fire. Its tent encloseth them. If they ask for showers, they will be showered with water like to molten lead which burneth the faces. Calamitous the drink and ill the resting-place!  (18:Al-Kahf:29)

  • We are best aware of what they say, and thou (O Muhammad) art in no wise a compeller over them. But warn by the Qur’an him who feareth My threat.  (50:Qaf:45)

  • Remind them, for thou art but a remembrances, Thou art not at all a warder over them. (88:al-Ghashiyah:21-22)

Instead of compelling or coercing the people into Islam, the Prophet and his companions were rather enjoined to preach the religion of truth to others through wisdom and fair exhortation. Thus says the Holy Qur’an:

  • Ye are the best community that hath been raised up for mankind. Ye enjoin right conduct and forbid indecency; and ye believe in Allah. And if the people of the scripture had believed it had been better for them. Some of them are believers; but most of them are evil-livers. (3:Al-Imran:110)

  • Call unto the way of thy Lord with wisdom and fair exhortation, and reason with them in the better way. Lo! thy Lord is best aware of him who strayeth from His way, and He is best aware of those who go aright.  (16:An-Nahl:125)

  • And argue not with the people of the Scripture unless it be in (a way) that is better, save with such of them as do wrong; and say: We believe in that which hath been revealed unto us and revealed unto you; our God and your God is One, and unto Him we surrender.  (29:Al-Ankabut:46)

The Prophet of Islam and his followers have faithfully acted upon the advice of the Qur’an. There have been no forced conversions to Islam. Muhammad Asad, a great scholar and commentator of the Qur’an while explaining the meaning of verse 256 of chapter 3 of the Qur’an, speaks for the Muslim community when he dispels the false impression that Islam spread through sword. The great scholar says: “On the strength of the above categorical prohibition of coercion (ikrah) in anything that pertains to faith or religion, all Islamic jurists (fuqaha), without any exception, hold that forcible conversion is under all circumstances null and void, and that any attempt at coercing a non-believer to accept the faith of Islam is a grievous sin: a verdict which disposes of the widespread fallacy that Islam places before the unbelievers the alternative of “conversion or the sword.” “The other great religions,” writes Lothrope in his book ‘New World of Islam’ “won their way slowly, by painful struggle, and finally triumphed with the aid of powerful monarchs converted to the new Faith. Christianity had its Constantine, Buddhism its Ashoka and Zoroastrianism its Cyrus, each lending to his chosen cult the mighty force of secular authority. Not so Islam. Arising in a desert land sparsely inhabited by a nomad race, previously undistinguished in human annals, Islam sallied forth on its great adventure with the slenderest human backing and against the heaviest material odds. Yet, Islam triumphed with seemingly miraculous ease”.

History bears witness to the truth that Islam spread through propagation and preaching and not through the use of force or sword. Muslims ruled India for more than seven long centuries but at the time of partition of the sub continent in the year 1947, the Muslim population was not more than 20%. Hindus and other non-Muslim communities always remained in majority and the rulers of the country, the Muslims, always in minority. Had the Muslims used force there would have been not even a single Hindu left in the country. Look at Spain. Muslims conquered this country in 711 A.D. and remained its rulers for more than 700 years up to 1492 A.D. They remained in minority and never tried to convert the Christians forcibly into Islam. The Christians overthrew their rule in 1492 A.D. The Muslims were mostly put to sword. Very few could escape to North Africa. Those who remained behind had no choice but to embrace death or Christianity. Today there is hardly any Muslim in that country.

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Sources of Islamic Teachings

The Qur’an which is the Holy Scripture of Islam, and the Sunnah or Hadith which comprises sayings and traditions of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) are the basic sources of the Islamic teachings. The Qur’an is composed of manifest revelations as were made to Muhammad in the very words of God, but the Sunnah (comprising precepts and practices) of the Prophet of Islam is mainly composed of internal revelations or hints from Gabriel or by inspiration[1] The importance of the Qur’an and the Sunnah as the primary sources of Islamic teachings has been underlined by the following verses of the Qur’an and the traditions of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH):

  • O Ye who believe! Obey Allah, and obey the messenger and those of you who are in authority; and if ye have a dispute, refer it to Allah and the messenger if ye are (in truth) believers in Allah and the Last Day. (Qur’an 4:59)

  • And it becometh not a believing man or a believing woman, where Allah and His messenger have decided an affair (for them), that they should (after that) claim any say in their affair……. (Qur’an 33:35)

  • Jaber reported that the Messenger of Allah said: As for what follows next, the best discourse is the Book of Allah and the best guidance is the guidance of Muhammad. The worst of affairs is their innovations and every innovation is misleading. (Muslim)

  • Jaber reported that the Messenger of Allah said in the Farewell Pilgrimage: And I have left among you a thing which if you adhere to, you will never be misguided after this- The Book of Allah and what you get from me by questions (Hadith).  (Muslim)

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Five Articles of Islamic Faith

The edifice of Islam is built upon five pillars called five fundamental articles of Islamic faith. First is the profession of belief in God, in Muhammad (PBUH) the prophet of Islam, in all other Prophets of God, in all the revealed books of God including Al-Qur’an the last such book, in the Angels of God, in the Day of Judgment and the Destiny (Taqdir). Second is the establishing of prayers, third is the paying of Zakat, fourth is keeping of fast for the month of Ramadan and last is the performance of pilgrimage to Makkah.

These articles of Islamic faith would be discussed in detail in a separate chapter in this book. 

[1] Sir Abdul Rahim: Principles of Muhammadan Jurisprudence.

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