An Overview of Islam

By Lucas Stoltz

Just to clarify, this article is an overview of Islam, and not an in-depth study!

The History of Islam

Now, Islam is a religious system which began in the seventh century by ‘The Prophet’ Muhammad. Muhammad (c. AD 570—632) was from Mecca. He was an orphan and was raised by an uncle, a man named Abu Talib! Muhammad was a religious man, often going on retreats to the mountains where he would pray. One day, during one of these retreats, he reported being visited by the angel Gabriel, who supposedly gave him a revelation from Allah, (the Muslim name for God).

Muhammad proclaimed that “God is One,” that is, there is no Trinity and Jesus was just another prophet, along with Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and, of course, Muhammad himself. He also taught that complete surrender is the only way to please Allah. Side note: the word islam means “surrender!”

The Writings within Islam

Muhammad claimed to have continued to receive revelations from Allah until his death, and there after Muhammad’s revelations were compiled and put together into what is now called the Qur’an! But that’s not their only resource to faith. The Hadith, which is a collection of teachings, deeds, and sayings of Muhammad; and the Tafsir, which is a commentary of sorts on the Qur’an, are used within the Islamic community. Additionally, as Muslims follow these teachings, they strive to keep the Five Pillars.

The Five Pillars of Islam

These five creeds compose the framework of obedience for Muslims:

  1. The testimony of faith (shahada): “la ilaha illa allah. Muhammad rasul Allah.” This means, “There is no deity but Allah. Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.” A person can convert to Islam by stating this creed. The shahada shows that a Muslim believes in Allah alone as god and believes that only Muhammad reveals Allah.
  2. Prayer (salat): This includes five ritual prayers must be performed every day. A Muslim turns towards Mecca, as he should face the Kaaba, (it is a house which is cube like). By doing this act, it supposedly unifies Muslims all over the world.

Fajar: Before sunrise (30 minutes before sunrise)

Dhuhar: After midday

Asar: One and half hour before sunset

Maghrib: After sunset

Esha: One and half hour after sunset

And on Fridays, instead of performing Dhuhar salaah, males perform the Jumma Salaah at the mosque.

  1. Giving (zakat): It is the religious duty for every Muslim who is prosperous enough to accumulate and retain a sufficient amount of saving to give a portion of his or her wealth to the needy, poor each year. A Muslim annually pays 2.5% of his net saving which he passes it on to the poor section of the Muslim community.

This is believed to purify the soul of the giver and reduces greed and promote generosity among humanity.

  1. Fasting (sawm): Muslims fast during Ramadan in the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. They must not eat or drink from dawn until sunset. The fast is obligatory. It does not start until a Muslim has seen the new moon. Muhammad taught that during this month the gates of paradise are open and the gates of hell are shut. Those who keep this fast will be pardoned of all their past sin.
  2. Pilgrimage (hajj): If physically and financially possible, a Muslim must make the pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia at least once. The pilgrimage is performed in the month of Dhu el Hijj which is the 12th Month. This duty is believed to have been initiated by the Prophet Abraham and was restored by Muhammad.

At Mecca the pilgrim must go around the Kaaba seven times and kiss the black stone that is built into the corner of the Kaaba. Interesting fact, it was worshipped by pagans before Islam began but it is now considered one of Islam’s most holy objects. More so, it is believed that every step in the direction of the Kaaba blots out sin and one who dies on his way to the Mecca is enrolled as one of the martyrs.

Everyone who completes the journey is allowed to put the title Al Hajj before his name, and highly respected by other Muslims.

(6). Jihad (Holy war)

Some Muslims regard Jihad as the sixth pillar of Islam. The Islamic sacred sources include many passages that glorify fighting for God and Islam in a holy war. The Sharia law says Jihad is one of the most basic religious duty. The Holy war is regarded as a divine institution and its purpose is to spread Islam and to defend it against the infidels.

It is expected of every Muslim to answer any legal and valid call to war against the infidels. If he loses his life in a holy war he will be directly admitted into paradise. Muslims divide the world into two: Place where Muslims rule (Dar al-Islam, the house of Islam) and places where Muslims do not rule (Dar al-Harb, the house of war)

A Muslim’s entrance into paradise hinges on obedience to these Five Pillars. Still, Allah may reject them. Even Muhammad was not sure whether Allah would admit him to paradise (Surah 46:9; Hadith 5.266).

The Doctrine of Islam

Additionally, Muslims summarize their doctrine in six articles of faith:

  1. Belief in one Allah: Muslims believe Allah is one, eternal, creator, and sovereign.
  2. Belief in the angels
  3. Belief in the prophets: The prophets include the biblical prophets but end with Muhammad as Allah’s final prophet.
  4. Belief in the revelations of Allah: Muslims accept certain portions of the Bible, such as the Torah and the Gospels. But they believe the Qur’an is the pre-existent, perfect word of Allah.
  5. Belief in the last Day of Judgment and the hereafter: Everyone will be resurrected for judgment into either paradise or hell.
  6. Belief in predestination: Muslims believe Allah has decreed everything that will happen. Muslims testify to Allah’s sovereignty with their frequent phrase, ‘inshallah,’ meaning, “if God wills.”

The Different Groups within Islam

Sunni Islam: the name is derived from Sunnah meaning tradition. This refers to Muhammad’s so called exemplary behaviour as found in the Hadith which are stories and teaching concerning Muhammad not found in the Quran.

Shia Islam: the name derived from Shia meaning follower.

Sufis Islam: refer to Islamic mysticism. It is not a sect but an esoteric, mystical movement within both the Sunnis and the Shites.

Folk Islam: this is the combination of Islam and traditional beliefs. It is dominated by fear of evil spirits and powers. It practices witchcraft, sorcery, spells, charms, and curses.

Progressive / Liberal Islam: They want Islam to separate from the government of any country. They believe in human rights and equality of everyone, men and women, Muslims and non-Muslims.

Traditional Islam: They hold on firmly to Muslim culture and tradition. They believe that Sharia should not be changed. They believe that anything coming from the west is evil.

Radical Islam: This is the group that intend to restore Islam to its strength and glory as it was before. They desire to conquer non-Muslim countries. Their aim is for every country to embrace Islam and be under Sharia law.

Differences between Islam and Christianity

  1. Islam denies the deity of Jesus
  2. Islam denies that Jesus is the Son of God
  3. Islam denies that Jesus died on the cross
  4. Islam denies the doctrine of the Trinity
  5. Islam promotes polygamy and divorce
  6. Islam does not emphasize the holiness of God
  7. It only welcome men in the mosque
  8. Islam is legalistic and emphasize good deeds for heaven

Similarities between Christianity and Islam

They share common geography and history (Abraham)

They proclaim a belief in one God

They all believe in the prophets

They also believe in the angels

They both share scriptural authority

They all share a belief in the day of judgement

They promote respect

They both speak of Jesus as born of a virgin, sinless, and as Messiah and Apostle

An Evaluation of Islam

Because of these essential differences and contradictions, Islam and Christianity cannot both be true. The Bible and Qur’an cannot both be God’s Word. The truth has eternal consequences.

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world” (1 John 4:1-4; see also John 3:35-36).