Islamic Civilization and Beliefs

Video #8 (Muhammad)

Islam states that Muhammad is a prophet and the last Messenger of God who sent thousands of Messengers before him, including Jesus, Moses, Abraham, and Noah. According to Islamic beliefs, the angel Gabriel gave messages to Muhammad. The Quran affirms that God is one in all Abrahamic religions and mentions the events of the Old and New Testaments, but denies the divinity of Christ and anyone but Allah. In Islam, only God is divine and worthy of worship, everything else is His creation. Muhammad was receiving the Quran by pieces for 23 years of his life and passed this message to his people.

The distinctive feature of Islam is that Muslims memorize the text of the Quran from their early childhood. The first verse of the Quran, called IQRA, commands one to read in the name of Allah (Khan, 2012a). For this reason, reading and reciting the Quran is of such significance to Muslims, who can read the sacred text almost every day. In Islam, it is believed that the previous messages of God were distorted, and therefore preserving the text and meaning of the Quran is a highly responsible mission. The Quran was originally written in Arabic, which is why its memorization is preferable in Arabic, although it has been translated into different languages.

The compilation of the whole text of the Quran was completed by 633 AD. It prescribes to worship the only God, “follow Mohammed, learn from history and be a good human being,” and states that “God will judge people for their actions” (Khan, 2012a). Sharia, that is, Islamic law, is based on the Quran as well as Hadith and the Sunnah. Hadith narrates about what the prophet said, and Sunnah describes examples from his life. Muhammad’s talks and actions were reported by his family members, companions, and disciples. However, while the Quran was compiled during the prophet’s lifetime, Hadith was preserved mainly orally and was compiled into six collections more than a hundred years after the prophet’s death. Therefore, Hadith is categorized through a chain of transmitters, people who memorized and passed it on, as authentic (Qawi) or weak (Zaeef) depending on the continuity and character of the transmitters.

Muhammad was both a prophet and a politician who managed people’s affairs. Therefore, in Islam, the mosque and the state are strongly connected. According to Khan (2012a), Sharia covers life “from the cradle to the grave” and combines divine revelations and human rationalism. It regulates both religious and secular affairs, including administration of justice, family law, hygiene, diet, dress, and funerals. Fiqh is the knowledge of Sharia describing the Fard, obligatory religious practices, as well as Halal and Haraam, that is, permissible and impermissible actions. Fiqh’s production is based on previous cases, which is called imitation and interpretation of the law through consensus, analogy, and discretion.

Video #9 (The Shahada)

The Shahadah is the central affirmation of Islam, which states that there is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is His Messenger. A person is converted into a Muslim when he/she pronounces Shahada with sincere faith. This provision is elaborated in the belief of Muslims in the existence of Allah, the existence of angels, holy books, messengers, and the last day of judgment. The word “Allah” existed before Islam appeared in Arabia, and to this day, Arab Jews and Christians use it to refer to God in their religions. Allah has 99 other descriptive names and is considered the only divine creator. It is believed that Allah is eternal, and He neither begets, nor is He begotten.

Angels in Islam are God’s invisible creatures who take care of the universe. However, people are considered more superior creatures because, unlike the angels, they have the right to choose to obey or disobey God. Angels are also “honorable recorders” who compose a book of good and bad deeds for every Muslim (Khan, 2012b). Well-known angels are Gabriel, who transmitted the Quran to Muhammad, Azrael, the angel of death, and Israfeel, who will announce Armageddon to the world.

Holy books such as the Torah, the Psalm of David, and the Gospel are honored in Islam because the Quran mentions events from both Testaments and refers to early prophets as messengers of God. At the same time, Muslims believe that these messages were distorted, and therefore they practice only the Quran, God’s last Word. Adam, Noah, Abraham, Solomon, David, Moses, and Jesus are mentioned in the Quran as prophets or messengers, but Mohammed is considered the last of them. The Quran mentions the legends of Noah’s Ark, Joseph’s dreams of the stars, Moses, and Abraham, the father of Ishmael, who is the ancestor of the Arabs and Isaac, who is the ancestor of the Jews. God had sent various messengers through whom He demonstrated His power. Thus, Islam has a common ground with Judaism and Christianity. Islam is not considered a new religion, but the restoration of principles of monotheism and morality which have been distorted. Therefore, the scriptures of Judaism and Christianity are respected by Muslims.

Muslims believe in the last day of judgment when God will judge all humans for their deeds. According to Islamic beliefs, no one died for people’s sins, but every person is responsible for his or her own actions. However, the prophets led by Muhammad will be able to intercede for all Muslim sinners. Allah will judge people based on the book of deeds and will be able to forgive or punish anyone. According to Khan (2012b), people are imperfect, but they should try to be kind to people and worship God properly. Muslims know that especially harmful acts, like murdering an innocent, are fraught with agony in hell, while good deeds lead to salvation and eternal life in heaven.

Personal Thoughts

The fact that Muslims memorize the Quran has several significant implications. First, it enhances the cultural and ideological unity of Muslims around the world who share values and faith in the same sacred text. Secondly, it ensures that Muslims are familiar with the primary source of Islamic law, which regulates most religious and secular affairs in Muslim countries. Thus, Muslims always know what behavior is expected of them and are never left without proper instructions. It may be noted that the Islamic community lives like a single organism that shares the belief in one God and follows the unified rules of conduct.

Islam brings together the concepts, beliefs, commandments, and rules of all Abrahamic religions while enriching them with new content. Muslims respect and accept all the prophets and messengers of God in Judaism and Christianity, which facilitates friendly and mutually beneficial intercultural and interconfessional dialogue. At the same time, Muslims remain faithful to their religion and practice only the Quran, as they perceive it as the restoration of the divine truths of monotheism. A particularly important principle of Islam is personal responsibility before God for one’s actions. Due to this principle, Muslims endeavor to diminish their vices and enhance their virtues by cultivating self-control and willpower.

References

  1. Khan, A. K. (2012a). Islamic Civilization-Part08-Muhammad [Video file]. Web.
  2. Khan, A. K. (2012b). Islamic Civilization-Part09-Islamic Beliefs [Video file]. Web.