Saturday, February 24, 2018

Common Questions on Islam

Used with permission, The Clear Quran by Dr. Mustafa Khattab (


Islam did not start with Prophet Muhammad in the 7th century. Technically, Islam is the message that was delivered by all the prophets of God from Adam to Muhammad. Islam is neither named after a person or a tribe nor does it end with an -ism. Though each prophet had a relatively different law, the essence of the message of Islam was always the same: have faith in one God and do good. In the Bible, the first four of the Ten Commandments enjoin the worship of one God; the rest urge believers to avoid what is wrong and to do what is good. All prophets and their followers (including Jesus and his disciples) are simply called "Muslims" in the Quran. Hence, anyone who submits to God and strives to be a good person can be called a 'muslim' (with a small 'm') from a linguistic perspective.

Every human being is born with the innate will (fitrah) to submit to God, but parents and society change this nature, and in order to relate to the Almighty, many have put a face on God (mostly human or animal) throughout history. The process of restoring the fitrah is called reversion.

Islam is not only a religion, but a comprehensive way of life. Based on common sense and clear-cut teachings, Islam defines the rights and responsibilities of every individual in regards to their relationship with God and His creation. It balances the spiritual and material needs of its followers and helps them gain happiness in this life and salvation in the next

WHO Is A Muslim?

A 'Muslim' (with a capital 'M') is someone who practices Islam. Muslims follow the five pillars of Islam:
  • Shahddah, testifying that there is only One God and Mul;tammad is His last Prophet
  • Salah, praying five times a day
  • Sawm, fasting from dawn to sunset during the month of Ramadan
  • Zakah, paying alms-tax on savings worth 85 g of gold or more, if the amount is kept for a year
  • Hajj, performing pilgrimage to Mecca, if physically and financially able to.
Muslims also believe in the six articles of faith:
  • Almighty God 
  • His scriptures
  • His angels 
  • Free choice, fate, and destiny
  • His prophets -The Day of Judgment
Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world. Totalling 1.6 billion, Muslims make up one-quarter of the world's population. Muslims come from different ethnic, cultural, and social backgrounds. Contrary to the common belief, not all Muslims are Arab; not all Arabs are Muslim. Arabs make up less than 18% of the world's Muslim population. Indonesia (a single non-Arab Muslim country in Southeast Asia) has more Muslims than all Arab countries combined.

Islam should not be judged by what any Muslim does, but Muslims should be judged based on what Islam teaches. Islam is perfect; Muslims are not.

WHO Is Prophet Muhammad?

The Prophet was born in Mecca in the year 570 C.E. His father died before his birth and his mother died when he was six years old. As he grew up, he acquired the epithet 'the trustworthy.' Muhammad had long detested the idolatry, social injustice, and corruption found in society. At the age of forty, he received the first revelation of the Quran from God through Angel Gabriel. Since the Prophet could not read or write, he had scribes write down passages over the course of their revelation. The Quran was also memorized word for word by the Prophet and many of his companions. Although the Prophet performed many miracles, such as the splitting of the moon (see 54: 1 ), water gushing out from. between his fingers, multiplying food, still the Quran is his greatest miracle.

Just like many previous prophets, Muhammad and his early followers were persecuted-and some were even killed-for advocating revolutionary ideas such as social justice and women's rights. As the persecution grew fierce, the Prophet and many of his companions emigrated to the city of Medina, 260 miles to the north of Mecca. This emigration (Hijrah) marks the beginning of the Muslim calendar. After several years, Mecca ultimately surrendered peacefully to Muhammad who issued a universal amnesty.

Before the Prophet passed away at the age of sixty-three, the greater part of the Arabian Peninsula had become Muslim, and within a century of his death, Islam had spread to Spain in the west and as far east as China. The rapid spread of Islam (especially to territories previously occupied by the Byzantine and Persian empires) was mostly because of its simple teachings and social justice.

WHY Do Muslims Call God 'ALLAH'?

Arab Muslims, Christians, and Jews call God 'Allah.' The word 'Allah' is unique in the sense that it has no plural or gender. It literally means in Arabic "the One, True God." Allah has many attributes and beautiful names such as the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful, the All-Loving, the Judge, the Creator, and the Provider. In his native tongue of Aramaic, Jesus used Alaha to refer to God. Moses used, among other things, Eloh in Hebrew. Allah, Alaha, and Eloh come from three Semitic languages: Arabic, Aramaic, and Hebrew, respectively.

The proper name 'Allah' can be translated as God. Even though this is an imperfect translation, it leaves readers unfamiliar with Arabic with a better understanding and connection to the translation.


The Quran is the holy book of Islam. It is a collection of revelations that were received by the Prophet Muhammad over the course of twenty-three years in the 7th century C.E. There is only one version of the Quran, perfectly preserved in written and oral records around the world for nearly 1400

The Quran is the only book in history that has been memorized verbatim by millions of people. Chapters were written down separetly during the life of the prophet and were collected in 1 volume within 2 years of his death. Exact copies were later duplicated from from the original collection during the reign of 3rd Caliph, 'Uthman ibn Affan' and sent to major cities. Today, all copies of the Quran (called masahif, plural of mushaf) are perfect duplicates of the original.

Th Quran emphasizes universal ethics such as honesty, sincerity, mercy, generosity, and standing up for what is right even if it costs your life. It aims at humanizing humanity  and deifying God, and therefore condemns those who personify God and idolize their fellow created beings.


It is worth mentioning that the first Arabic translation of the Bible was done centuries after the Prophet's death. From an Islamic point of view, similarities between the Quran and the Bible (especially historical stories such as that of Joseph, Moses, and Jesus) stem from the fact that both scriptures came originally from the same source-divine revelation.

Because of differences in transmission and interpretation of the Bible, over time the stories changed. The Quranic narratives now appear slightly different, for example, unlike the Quran (20:120-122), in the book of Genesis, Eve was tempted to eat from the tree and therefore she is to blame for the Fall. Also, according to the Quran (Chapter 19), prophets are infallible of sin. But in the Bible, some prophets are guilty of shameful and even criminal acts. For example, David impregnated his neighbor's wife (Bathsheba) before conspiring to get her husband (Uriah) killed (II Samuel 11: 1-27), Lot had sex with his two daughters (Genesis 19:30-38), and Noah got drunk and naked (Genesis 9:20-21).

Some Biblical stories are not in the Quran and vice versa. For example, the Biblical story of Isaiah is not in the Quran, while the story of Moses and AlKhadir mentioned in Chapter 18 of the Quran is not in the Bible. Also, there are three miracles of Jesus in the Quran that are not in the Bible (see 5: 110-115). Although both scriptures emphasize global ethics (such as dignity, kindness, and charity), each revolves around a different theology. Both have contrasting views on the perception of God, Jesus, salvation, crucifixion, and the original sin.


Although the Quran is a book of signs, not a book of science, it is 100% consistent with science. There are many scientific references in the Quran such as the formation and developmental phases of an embryo in the uterus (23:12-14 and 22:5), the Big Bang (21:30), the constant expansion of the universe (51:47-8), spherical shape of the earth (39:5 and 79:3~), the earth's rotation (27:88), and many others that have become known only m the last two centuries.

According to an Arab proverb, "The ink of a scholar is holier than the blood of a martyr." Islam's emphasis on education galvanized learning and science in the Muslim world culminating in what is known as the Islamic Golden Age. For centuries, Muslims pioneered medicine, anatomy, mathematics, geography, astronomy, architecture, and many other sciences. Algebra, alchemy, and alcohol are all Arabic words. The Canon of Medicine by Avicenna (Ibn Sina, 980-1037 C.E.) was a primary medical text in medieval Europe for more than 700 years. Many surgical tools that are in use today were invented by Albucasis (Alzahrawi, 936-1013 C.E.). Mariam Al-Astrolabiya, a female Muslim scholar who lived in the 10th century in Syria, was famous for designing and constructing astrolabes. Arabic numerals (0, 1, 2, 3, etc.) are used worldwide.

Muslims invented numerous sciences and developed many others (which they had inherited from the Romans, Greeks, Persians, Indians, and others) and laid the foundations to the European industrial revolution. The invention of cameras, computers, and navigation systems could not have been possible without the contributions of Muslim scholars.

WHAT Is Sharia Law?

Linguistically, Sharia means a pathway. Technically, it is the Muslim law, derived mainly from the Quran and the teachings of Prophet Muhammad, governing every aspect of a Muslim's life. Sharia is made up of thousands of teachings and rulings covering theology, acts of worship, manners, human interactions, business transactions, family relations (marriage, divorce, inheritance, etc.), war and peace, belief in the unseen (God, angels, and the Hereafter), and criminal law.

Sharia mainly aims at protecting 5 things: 1) Life 2) Honour 3) Freedom to practice one's faith 4) Intellect 5) Property. Therefore, there are punishments in Islamic Law for violating any of these rights. Every country has punishments for offences--even though the penalty for the same crime may vary from one country to another. To say that Sharia is all about chopping people's hands off is like
saying that the American law is all about killing people with the electric chair! Sharia does not apply to non-Muslim minorities living in predominantly Muslim countries. Of the fifty-seven Muslim countries in the world, the great majority are secular, not Sharia-based.

Muslims living in the West follow the law of the land and maintain Sharia mainly in personal matters (such as prayers, marriage, and inheritance). Sharia also forbids the consumption of pork, alcohol, and drugs. Smoking is frowned upon.

Is ISLAM Compatible With Modern Democracy?

We have to make the distinction between what Islam teaches and how countries in the Muslim world are run. As pointed out earlier, many Muslim countries are secular-based, not fully subscribing to Islamic morals or western democratic values. Islam and modem democracies have many things in common. For example, the fundamental principles in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are acceptable Islamically. What makes Islamic values unique is that they do not change over time, what is right in the sight of God is always right and what is wrong is always wrong. On the other hand, many secular freedoms (which have been most adopted in the last few decades) are still subject to debate in western societies. For example, marijuana, same-sex marriage, abortion, incest, and prostitution are legal in some democracies and illegal  in some others. The same applies to euthanasia and the death penalty. Moreover, in a secular society, the majority's opinion prevails. In the Islamic concept of Shura, the truth prevails,  even it is held by a minority. For example, the segregation of black and white under the Jim Crow Laws would be prohibited under Sharia, since discrimination based on color goes against Islamic beliefs.


Life is sacred in Islam. The Quran (5:32) states, "Whoever takes a life ... , it will be as if they killed all of humanity; and whoever saves a life, it will be as if they saved all of humanity." Those who manipulate verses from the Quran by taking them out of context to justify violence against innocents contradict the Quran's call for tolerance and peaceful co-existence. Islam is unequivocally against terrorism (see 5:33).

Jihad means to strive for a better, more righteous life. The major jihad is to overcome one's desires (such as greed). Prophet Mul;lammad says, "The highest form of jihad is to speak a word of truth in the presence of a tyrant," ·"Kindness to parents is a form of jihad," and "Charity to orphans and widows is jihad." The minor jihad is fighting in self-defence. The Prophet set the etiquette of fighting as follows: "Do not ask God to meet your enemies in battle" and "Do not start a war. If you must fight, then strike only at those ·combatants' who attacked you. Do not attack women, children, the elderly, or those retreating in their places of worship. Do not cut down trees or kill animals."

We have to keep in mind that all violent passages in the Quran (including verses in chapters 2, 8, 9, 47, and 48) strictly concern conflicts between early Muslims and the pagans of Mecca over 1400 years ago. As such, all passages should be understood in their historical context. In Islam, fighting is allowed against aggressors regardless of their faith. Fighting against innocents is prohibited regardless of their faith. Overall, violent passages in the Quran talk about one of three things:
  • Fighting back in self-defence.
  • Making peace if attackers cease.
  • Or resuming the fight if a truce is violated.


No religion condones the killing of innocents, but some people manipulate religion to justify acts of violence. So, even if Islam and other faiths have never existed, humans would have come up with other excuses to fight for domination. We have seen notorious anti-religion, secularist ideologies, like those championed by Mao and Stalin (the top mass murderers in history), which were responsible for
over seventy million deaths in the 20th century.

Most victims of violence in the Muslim world are Muslims, who are either killed by unjustified wars, suicide bombs, or drone attacks. Over the last few decades, hundreds of thousands have been killed-most of them civilians-and many others wounded or displaced. Justice and education, two of the most fundamental aspects of a proper Muslim way of life, are the key to peace, dignity, and prosperity anywhere in the world.


The Quran makes it clear that men and women are equal before God and the Law (16:97 and 33:35). Abuses against some Muslim women (e.g., honour killing and forced marriages) are cultural practices in some Muslim countries that contradict Islamic teachings.

There are many prominent Muslim women in every field: education, science, business, etc. Several Muslim women have been elected president and prime minister in Muslim-majority countries like Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Turkey. The high status of women in Islam explains why 75% of reverts to Islam are women.

WHY Do Muslim Women Wear The Hijab?

The veil is deeply rooted in all Abrahamic traditions. Christian icons such as Mary and Mother Teresa are always depicted with veils. In the Quran and the teachings of the Prophet, both men and women are urged to be modest in their dress and behavior. Hijab is worn by adult Muslim women in the presence of adult males outside of their immediate family.


Islam guarantees the freedom of non-Muslims to practice their faith and protection for their places of worship. The Prophet said, "Whoever harms a non-Muslim under the protection of Islam, I shall be their opponent on Judgment Day and they will not even smell Paradise." The Quran teaches that there are three types of brotherhood: brotherhood in humanity (this includes all human beings), biological
brotherhood (one's siblings), and brotherhood in faith (fellow Muslims).

Islam allows giving charity to non-Muslims and exchanging gifts and visits with them. The Quran (60:8-9) exhorts Muslims to be kind and generous to non-Muslims. It forbids forcing non-Muslims to convert to Islam (2:256). For centuries, non-Muslim communities thrived under Muslim rule. Many Christians and Jews occupied prominent positions in the courts of some Muslim caliphs, serving as translators, physicians, and architects.

Do Muslims Believe In Other Prophets?

As listed on the next page, the Quran mentions twenty-five prophets by name of whom five are given the honorary title of 'the Messengers of Firm Resolve,' namely Abraham, Noah, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad. The Quran (12: 111) says, "In their stories there is truly a lesson for people of reason." Some of the most common names in the Muslim world include 'Isa (Jesus in Arabic), Musa (Moses), Mariam (Mary), Yusuf(Joseph), and Ibrahim (Abraham). Jesus is mentioned by name in the Quran twenty-five times, Mary thirty-one times (compared to eighteen times in the Bible), whereas Prophet Muhammad is mentioned by name only four times. Chapter 19 of the Quran is named after Mary. Muslims believe that Jesus is the Christ and the Messiah. They also believe in his virgin birth, ascension, and second coming.

Below is a list of all the prophets mentioned by name in the Quran, each followed by transliteration of the corresponding Arabic name:
1.      Aaron … Hârûn
2.      Abraham … Ibrâhîm
3.      Adam … Âdam
4.      David … Dâwûd
5.      Elias … Ilyâs
6.      Elisha … Al-Yasa’
7.      Enoch … Idrîs
8.      Hûd … Hûd
9.      Isaac … Isḥâq
10.    Ishmael … Ismâ’îl
11.    Jacob … Ya’qûb
12.    Jesus …’Îsa
13.    Job … Aiyûb
14.    John the Baptist … Yaḥya
15.    Jonah … Yûnus
16.    Joseph … Yûsuf
17.    Lot … Lûṭ
18.    Moses … Mûsa
19.    Muḥammad … Muḥammad
20.    Noah … Nûḥ
21.    Ṣâliḥ … Ṣâliḥ
22.    Shu’aib … Shu’aib
23.    Solomon … Sulaimân
24.    Zachariah … Zakariya
25.    Ⱬul-Kifl … Ⱬul-Kifl

As the Quran teaches Muslims not to exalt one prophet over others (2:285), it is customary to say  () “peace be upon him” when the name of any of the prophets is mentioned.