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The chief designation for Muhammad is Rasul Allah, the "Messenger of Allah." The Muslims
have always considered the message to be of greater significance than Muhammad the
Messenger. Muhammad is not central to Islam as Jesus is to Christianity. Strictly speaking,
Muslims are not the people of Muhammad in the way that Christians are the people of Christ.
Rather, they are the people Of the Book the Quran, which is the message of Allah.
This message is called Islam and those who accept it are called Muslims. The word "Islam" is
derived from the three consonant root slm, which means "submission." Another meaning of the
word is peace because peace follows the surrender (submission) of the enemy in war. Hence the
Arabic greeting in Islamic countries, salam alaykum, means "Peace be until you." Some
ultramodern Muslims of the twentieth century claim that the meaning of Islam is "the religion of
peace." Historically, however, the meaning of Islam has been "the religion of submission."
submission to the will of Allah. The grammatical .construction Islam, based on the root slm,
means "the submitting." Muslim means "he who has submitted," muslima means "she who has
submitted." In non-Arab Islamic countries the term mosalman is used instead of muslim.
By this definition, anyone who has submitted to the will of God is a Muslim, for the word simply
means that he has submitted. According to Islamic tradition, the first person who submitted was
Abraham. In one sense, for example, a Jew is a "muslim" and so also is a Christian. This broad
definition of Islam is perfectly legitimate and may, someday, become an instrument of
ecumenicity. Up to now, however, only a small number of individuals throughout the history of
Islam, mainly the Sufis, have thought in such inclusive terms. The narrower definition of Islam is
the more historically accurate one. Islam, therefore, is surrender to the will of Allah as revealed
to Muhammad the Messenger of Allah and the head of the state.
The religion which goes by the name of Islam contains the terms of the surrender of the
individual to the will of Allah. Man agrees to live under the jurisdiction of Allah as revealed
through His Messenger, which means that all his actions are regulated by the laws promulgated
by Allah. Before Islam became involved in theology and philosophy, it dealt with law. As a
theocracy, Islam has always considered law as the most important factor in religion. The study of
the laws of Allah, Sharia, is the most important discipline in the world of Islam. In the
beginning, a simple theology provided a background for the law. The outlines of the simple
theology and rules of conduct had taken shape before the death of Muhammad and may be found
in the pages of the Quran.
The terms of the "submission" contain at least ten articles. Five of these are articles of belief, or
iman, and the other five are articles of practice or religious duties, ibadat.


1. Doctrine of the Unity of God. The first and the greatest dogma of Islam is la ilaha illallah,
there is (absolutely) no god save Allah. The unity of God is the cornerstone of Islamic faith.
Without this everything falls apart and is devoid of meaning. The Quran (chapter 112, cited
above) rejects the Christian Trinity as blasphemy. Indeed, shirk, or the idea that God might have
a partner, is considered the unforgivable sin. Allah is the supreme creator, lawgiver, judge,
sustainer, provider, and ordainer. Allah has many attributes, sifat. He is cornpassionate and
merciful, but these seem to be overshadowed by his majesty, might, and power. Allah is best
known through His names, asma al-hasna, which seem to be synonymous with His attributes.
The Muslim rosary has 99 beads which represent as many names of Allah. Some of these names
are nasir "victor," fattah "opener," qahhar "subduer," and wahhab "bestowcr." .,There is no doubt
that this uncompromising belief in one powerful and transcendent God is the main source of the
strength of Islam. The Quran, like the scriptures of other religions, contains its share of
contradictions about God. Later Muslim theologians wrestled with these problems and they still
do in Islam, however, such discussions have been considered as intellectual pastimes and are not
so vital to everyday life. The believer, no matter how intellectually alert, has a sense of
resignation (Islam) and is content with things as they are, or appear to be.
2. The Doctrine of Prophethood. Islam is basically dispensational. It believes that: in each era
(dispensation) of human history God has sent someone to teach the people and to warn them of
the impending judgment. These men are usually referred to in the Quran as nabi "prophet," or
rasul "messenger." It is :significant to 'note that since Allah is the same as the "Yahweh" of the
Jew's and the "Heavenly Father" of the Christians, the prophets whom He sent are all in the
Judeo-Christian tradition, beginning with Adam and ending with Muhammad. Similarly, the
history of mankind is considered within the context of the Judeo-Christian tradition. The rest of
humanity is not considered at all in the history except for those who have already or will in the
future attach themselves to the last phase of tins "real" history, namely Islam. Neither are their
prophets and sages genuine messengers of God nor are their books valid texts of God's will.
God sent prophets from time to time. Adam is the first. Abraham is not only a prophet, but also
the first Muslim, for he submitted to the will of God and went to where he was commanded.
Similarly, Moses, David, Jesus, and all the prophets of the Old and New Testaments are prophets
in the Islamic sense. Of the scores of prophets, however, only 28 are mentioned in the Quran,
four of whom are Arabs not mentioned in the Bible. One, curiously enough, is "the two-horned
one" whom the commentators believe to be Alexander the Great! The latter's exploits in the
Middle East have made him a legendary figure with superhuman attributes.
Muhammad is considered to be the last of the Prophets. He is sometimes referred to as the "seal,"
or more commonly as the khatim ul nabi'in, the "finisher of the prophets." After him there will be
no other prophets. Assuming that God sent so many prophets at short intervals lbr the guidance
of man, it seems rather odd to conclude that He would not send another one for over 1,300 years.

This assumption has presented problems to the Muslims. The Shi'a sect, even though professing
the finality of Muhammad, believes that there arc twelve imams who are both temporal and
spiritual successors of Muhammad. The modern Bahai faith, which is an offshoot of the Shi'a
sect, has picked up the basic dispensational character of Islam and has rejected the idea that
Muhammad is the last of the prophets.
Perhaps most Muslims believe Muhammad to he the greatest of all prophets. Such a belief,
however, has no scriptural basis in the Quran. Muhammad repeatedly disclaims any superhuman
powers, or even a miracle save that of the Quran, and is told to ask forgiveness for his sins. He
has the same position as Abraham, Moses, and Jesus, who with him are considered to be the
major prophets. Being the last, he is the most important simply because he has the latest message
from God. In the Quran, the four major prophets have special titles. It speaks for the personal
humility of Muhammad in that his title is the most modest. In the Quran Abraham is called
khalilullah, "the friend of God"; Moses is called kalimullah, "the spokesman of God" Jesus is
called ruhullah, "the spirit of God" and kalimatullah, "the word of God." Muhammad is called
rasulullah, "the messenger of God," and sometimes simply nabi, "prophet."
3. The Doctrine of the Book. Next to the doctrine of the unity of God, this is by far the most
important doctrine in Islam. In Christianity, the New Testament is important mainly because it
contains the biography of' jesus Christ who is at the center of the faith. On the other hand, in
Islam Muhammad is important mainly because he is the bearer of the Book (Quran) which is at
center of the faith.
When God sent prophets He gave each one a Book. Each book contained practically all that man
needed to know for his guidance in that age. Sometimes God had one of His angels dictate the
book to the prophet. It is believed that the Angel Gabriel dictated the last Book of God, the
Quran, to the last prophet, Muhammad. The Quran, according to orthodox Muslims, is the
uncreated word, kalam, of God. In other words, the Quran existed before God created the
universe, and in this sense the Muslims believe that the Book is the uncreated word of God.
Being the incarnate Word of God, the Quran cannot be duplicated, either in the perfection of its
contents or in the excellence of its language. Indeed, about the only miracle attributed to
Muhammad is the i'jaz, the miracle of the Quran. According to orthodox Islam, the Quran may
be studied but not investigated critically. It must be followed without reservation or criticism. As
shirk, "polytheism," is a mortal sin, so is bida', "revision," of the laws of the Quran or deviation
from them, a capital crime.
All ideas and institutions, beliefs, and practices, must conform to the Quran. The Muslims speak
of the Quran as having "descended," nazala, to Muhammad from time to time. Muhammad,
therefore, is not the author of the Quran. God is the author and Muhammad, as it were, is the
recorder. The importance of Muhammad is only a reflection of the Quran. The Muslims are
followers of the Quran, the Book, in which the terms of Islam, the submission, are in scribed.
They are not followers of Muhammad and, in that sense, do not like to be called Muhammadans.

Since the Quran was dictated to Muhammad in the Arabic language, the orthodox have always
frowned at the idea of translating it. The vast majority of the Muslims of the world do not
understand Arabic. But since almost all of the Muslims have adopted the Arabic alphabet for
their language, they are at least able to read the Quran even though they don't understand most
of it. It is believed that there is merit in repeating the actual words of Allah.
According to Muslims, the Old and New Testaments also have "descended" from Heaven and
were given to Moses, the prophets, and Jesus. In as much as the Quran is the last and the latest
Word of God, it supersedes all others and -more relevant to the problems of modern man.
The Doctrine of the Book has contributed to both tolerance and rigidity in Islam. It made the
Muslims tolerant of Jews and Christians and, later, of other religions. According to this doctrine,
Islam has divided all humanity into two categories-people with a book and people without a
book. Jews and Christians are ahl al-kitab, "people of the book." These people are not to be
forced to accept Islam. If persuasion does not avail, they should be allowed to remain in their
own faiths under the protection of Islam. As a result of this doctrine, Jews and Christians have
lived among Muslims with a good deal of religious freedom. In fact, whenever Jews were
persecuted in Christian Europe, they went to the Muslim countries and there lived in peace. The
Doctrine of the Book is the basis for what became known as the "millet" system, or a system of
autonomous "communities" in the Ottoman Empire. It must be noted that "millet" is a term
applied to religious groups, although among non-Arabs it is sometimes used to denote political
Furthermore, this doctrine has allowed a certain degree of accommodation. Zoroastrians of Iran
used to be regarded as "people without a book." As such they did not have a place in the Islamic
hegemony. When it became evident to the early conquerors, however, that all could not be
converted, killed, or Banished, some accommodation had to be made. Accordingly, Zoroastrians
were also regarded as "people of the book." Although such recognition has not been officially
extended to the adherents of Hinduism and Buddhism, Muslim kings of India, such as Akbar
(1556-1605), and countless ordinary individuals have stretched the point and treated Hindus and
Buddhists as though they were "people of the book."
For the modern Muslim, however, the millet system has been vexing as well as a source of
embarrassment. It is rather evident that the idea of "nationality," imported from the west, is
political in nature and makes it possible for people different religions to belong to the same
nation, but it also clashes with the Islamic idea of religion as the base of nationality. The Muslim
countries of the twentieth century which, on the one hand, want to be democratic and extend
equality to all citizens, and at the same time be Muslims, have found them-selves tangled in
inconsistencies. For example, in a number of Muslim countries the millet system is preserved
side by side with a modern constitution which declares equality for all. Indeed, in some countries
non-Muslims cannot aspire so high positions and, even with all the good intentions of the
modern Muslim, the non-Muslim groups are second-class citizens.

It was stated above that the Doctrine of the Book has also contributed to the rigidity of Islam.
The Quran, being the uncreated Word of God, has become a closed book. No one may question
its authority or study it critically. Any at-tempt to try to trace the development of religious and
legal ideas in the Quran is considered sacrilegious. Nevertheless, it is doubtful that all of the
Quran was written during Muhammad's lifetime. Moreover, there is no certainty that all the
Quran was originally contained in one volume. In 651, there were enough variations of the
different sections of the Quran to induce the then Caliph Uthman to appoint a commission to
produce an authorized version. The result was that Uthman canonized one version and reputedly
destroyed all others. Apparently he was not successful in destroying all, for by 933, which is the
daft tithe last canonization, there were admittedly seven different readings. Further more, one
may legitimately doubt whether a people of such a meager cultural background as the Arabs
were conversant with some of the concepts recorded in the Quran. The only pieces of preIslamic literature (which are believed, by some, to be of doubtful origin) do not contain any
theological or philosophical concepts. Indeed, the first grammar for the Arabic language was
written over a century after the death of Muhammad and that by a non-Arab. Given these
considerations, one wonders what would happen if the Quran were studied as critically as the
Bible has been. It would be interesting to discover whether or net scholars would reach the
conclusion presently held, in the absence of such a critical study, that the words of the Quran as
we have it today were all recorded by Muhammad.
4. The Doctrine of the Final Judgment. The most eloquent verses of the Quran deal with
eschatological topics such as heaven, hell, day of judgment, resurrection, and also a faint idea of
purgatory and limbo. In these concepts the Muslims have practically the same views as the
Christians. It must be noted, however, that Muhammad is not considered as an intercessor. Only
"those who repent and believe and are righteous in act" and those who are martyrs for the faith
will go to paradise.
5. The Doctrine of Angels and Jinns., These are mentioned in the Quran as populating heaven
and earth. Angels are creatures of God who continuously worship Him and do His bidding. Their
duties are to record men's actions, be witnesses on the Day of Judgment, hold God's throne, and
generally be useful so those whom God favors. Jinns are also created by God and some of them
are believers. There are some jinns who have rebelled and have turned into shaytans, "satan." In
this form they try to lead people astray and to oppose the Prophet. Their leader is Iblis, who was
an angel but fell from grace by refusing to pay homage to Adam.
To the Muslim, these are more important than the articles of faith. Although the above articles,
especially the unity of God and the Book, set the tone, the articles of practice are considered the
arkan, or pillars of Islam.

1. The Witness. Every Muslim must make a profession of his faith or bear witness, shadada, to
his beliefs. This, in fact, is the creed of Islam in one sentence : la ilaha illallah, Muhammadun
rasulullah, "There is no God except Allah ; Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah". This states
the unity of God and is a reminder of the terms of submission brought by the Messenger of
Allah. This is the most of repeated sentence in the world of Islam. It is whispered in the ear of
the newborn child, it is repeated by him throughout his life, and it is the last sentence uttered
when he is laid in the grave. It is used to call the faithful to prayer and it has served as the battle
cry of Muslim soldiers in all the wars of Islam. The utterance of this sentence will admit a
nonbeliever into the fold of Islam.
2. Prayer. A Muslim, male or female, must pray five times a day morning, noon, midafternoon,
sunset, and night. The prayer must be in Arabic and it must be performed toward Mecca. The
prescribed prayer from beginning to end is called a rak'ah. The noon, midafternoon, and night
prayers have each four rak'ahs, while the sunset prayer has three and the morning prayer two.
The muezzin calls the faithful to prayer five times a day from the minaret of the mosque. In
modern times a loudspeaker from the minaret sometimes plays a tape recording of the call. The
person who prays must be clean, the act for which has been ritualized by washing the hands and
face in the prescribed manner. This is followed by anointing the head and feet with water. In the
Absence of water the whole ritual may be performed with sand. There are certain postures which
the individual assumes during prayer, such as standing erect, bowing with hands on knees, sitting
on haunches, and prostrating oneself, It is preferable .to pray in a mosque, but it is not
mandatory. In the early islamic period women would attend the mosque for prayer, but this is no
longer the custom. One has to pray wherever convenient, at home, place of work, or mosque.
Most of the prayers in mosques are performed individually. There is very little corporate worship
in Islam. There is no such thing as "membership" in a mosque. Islam does not have a priesthood,
there is no ordination rite, nor is there a well-defined hierarchy. The religious leaders who
perform marriage, conduct funerals, and sometimes preach are called imam in Arabic. speaking
countries, mullah in Iran, and hojja in Turkey. The more educated ones are called ulama,
"learned." They usually teach in schools and theological seminaries. In the Muslim world
seminaries train not only preachers, but also lawyers and teachers of Arabic, the language of the
3. Giving. "Giving," not specifically almsgiving, as Zakah is commonly translated, is the third
pillar of Islam. There are two types of giving in Islam. The first is Sadaqa, the voluntary
almsgiving which is common to all religious. The other is Zakah, an obligatory offering
tantamount to a tax levy. During the time when the Islamic supranational state was in power, this
tax was collected from all Muslims. It was used by the government both for war and peace.
Customarily, two and a half per cent of a person's income was expected, though this was never
uniformly enforced.
Zakah was an obligation imposed only on the Muslims. The "people of ti,! book" paid a different
type of tax called jizya, or poll tax. This was paid liar protection. Since all wars in Islam were

theoretically for the expansion and propagation of Islam, non-Muslims would not be recruited for
the army. In place of military service the non-Muslims had to pay this special tax. In the absence
of any mosque organization or community, all voluntary giving was collected by the government.
These offerings which were collected in the form of real estate as well as cash, were and still are
kept in a special account called waqf, "religious endowment," by the government. All modern
Muslim states have a bureau or a ministry of religious endowments, awqaf.
4. Fasting. This is carried out during the month of Ramadan, the ninth of the Muslim calendar,
which was holy for the Arabs before Islam and continued as such perhaps because Muhammad
received his call in this month. The fasting begins at dawn usually after a meal and ends at dusk
every day when the fast is broken. The nights should be spent in keeping vigil and in the reading
of the Quran. In most Muslim countries all offices are closed in the morning during this month
and sometimes no restaurants are permitted to remain open.
5. Pilgrimage. Every Muslim is enjoined, if he can afford it, to go to Mecca at least once in his
lifetime. The person who has made the pilgrimage or hajj is given the title of al-hajj and in non,
Arab countries, haji. The rituals of pilgrimage in and around Mecca are the same as they used to
be long before Islam. Hundreds of thousands of Muslims from all parts of the world make this
pilgrimage every year. There is no question that the experience is very uplifting for the faithful
and the spectacle very impressive. Furthermore, the hajj has given and continues to give a sense
of solidarity to the Muslims of the world.
6. Holy War. Some Muslims, especially the adherents of the Kharijite sect, have elevated holy
war, jihad, as the sixth pillar of Islam. There are numerous references in the Quran to war and
the Muslim's duty to fight. "Warfare is ordained for you, though it is hateful to you; but it may
happen that ye hate what is good for you." (K. 2: 216) "Then when the sacred months have
passed, slay the idolaters wherever ye find them, and take them [captive], and besiege them, and
prepare for them each ambush. But if they repent and establish worship and pay the poor-due,
then leave their way free. Lo! Allah is forgiving, merciful." (K. 9: 5) To these and other verses
like them Islam owes its great expansion. Indeed, all land not within the domain of Islam, dar alsalam, was considered dar al-harb, or the domain of war. In more recent years, however, the
faithful have not responded to the call. The last time it was invoked was in the fall of 1914, when
the Ottoman Sultan who was also the Caliph of Islam, proclaimed a jihad in all its solemnity
against the British and the French. Not many paid attention to it. Indeed, the Muslim Arabs
fought against the Caliph himself. The word jihad means "striving" and many a modern
nationalist uses it in the sense of striving against poverty, disease, ignorance, as well as
colonialism and imperialism.
Good Works. In addition to the above articles on faith and practice there is a general category in
Islam called ihsan, which may be translated as "good works." There are laws against gambling,
usury, using alcohol, and eating pork. Muslims are enjoined to take care of the orphans, to be
kind, to deal honestly, and to forgive. In general, a Muslim is encouraged, wherever he is, to do

that which is halal, "permitted," and to refrain from that which is haram, ''forbidden," and leave
the rest to "Allah the Compassionate and the Merciful."