Saturday, 27 December 2014

Grave Worship

The Prophet (peace & blessings be upon him) repeatedly condemned grave-worshipping in the authentic Hadith:

“Beware of those who preceded you and used to take the graves of their prophets and righteous men as places of worship, but you must not take graves as mosques; I forbid you to do that.” (Sahih Muslim)

“May Allah’s curse be on the Jews for they built the places of worship at the graves of their Prophets.” (Sahih Bukhari)

“May Allah curse the Jews and Christians for they built the places of worship at the graves of their Prophets.” (Sahih Bukhari)

“If any religious man dies amongst those people they would build a place of worship at his grave and make these pictures in it. They will be the worst creature in the sight of Allah on the Day of Resurrection.” (Sahih Bukhari)

“Do not sit on the graves and do not pray facing towards them.” (Sahih Bukhari)

The first time in human history that people commited the sin of idol-worship was around the time of Prophet Nuh (عليه السلام). A very pious man passed away. Shaytan whispered in the ears of the townspeople: he urged them never to forget this pious man lest the townspeople abandon his example and be lost to sin. Once Shaytan had convinced them of the necessity to revere the memory of this pious dead man, he then then convinced them to erect a shrine over the grave of this man. Eventually, the people started praying in the shrine, and soon thereafter Shaytan convinced them to pray to the deceased man.

It was in this step by step fashion that Shaytan was able to misguide people into Shirk. He convinced them that they were doing a good thing by respecting a pious man, and he allowed them to add one Bidah (evil innovation) after another, infusing polythiestic practise in their belief.

Shaykh Muhammad Salih al-Munajjid says:

“Islam forbids erecting structures over graves, and commands that any such structures should be knocked down. But it is permitted to put a marker on the grave so that the family and friends of the deceased will know where it is (and nothing more than this). However, this marker should not be a structure or anything else that is not allowed in sharee’ah.”

With regard to the prohibition on erecting structures over graves, it was narrated that Jabir said: “The Messenger of Allah forbade plastering over graves, sitting on them and erecting structures over them.” (Sahih Muslim, 970)

Al-Shawkani said:

“The phrase ‘erecting structures over them’ indicates that it is Haram to build anything over a grave.”

Al-Shafi’i said:

“I saw the imams in Makkah ordering that what had been built (over graves) was to be knocked down.”

Shaykh Muhammad Salih al-Munajjid says:

“With regard to the command to knock down structures that have been built over graves, that is proven in the Sunnah.”

It was narrated that Abu’l-Hayaaj al-Asadi said: Ali ibn Abi Talib said to me: “Shall I not send you on the same mission as the Messenger of Allah sent me? Do not leave any statue without erasing it, and do not leave any raised grave without leveling it.” (Sahih Muslim, 969).

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Prophet (Pbuh) Foretold in Indian, Buddhist and Parsi Scriptures

Before commencing creation, Allah gathered the souls of Prophets He would send down to earth and told them that He gave them scripture and wisdom; after all of them an Apostle (i.e. Muhammad (Pbuh) will come and confirm their scriptures and that they must believe in him and help him. [Al Imran 3:81]
As they evidently could not be his contemporaries, they helped him only by saying and writing about his advent, such that their posterity could have an introduction of him and so trust him.
Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) was commanded by God to inform that he was not the only Messenger of God to the world [Al Qur’an 46:9]. Scholars say that there had been some 124,000 Prophet sent to the world who preached in the language of the respective people [A Qur’an 14:4]. The true religion they preached and their scriptures got corrupted with passage of time (with the exception of Al Qur’an). However, the message on the last and greatest Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) is retained till date in the scriptures of all major world religions.
We are presenting here some interesting information from these Books so that adherents to these religions (as also Muslims) come to know that Messenger e is not alien to them, get rid of unfounded prejudices against Islam and the Messenger (Pbuh) and that they may take interest in the scripture and religion he brought. The reason is that Islam as given to him is the true religion of the world brought to ultimate perfection [Al Qur’an 5:3]
These scriptures identify the greatest Prophet to come mentioning details of his birth, events of his life, his followers, etc. Some even give his Arabic name or its equivalents! This article will help creating right belief (Iman) in other religionists. Further, it will help Muslims appreciate yet another facet of greatness of Prophet (Pbuh) and deepen their Iman. We will see here only a sample of the overwhelming evidences!
Prophet (Pbuh) Foretold in Hindu scriptures:

There is no doubt that God sent Prophets (Pbuh) to people of India. There is no mention of any Indian Prophet or scripture in Holy Qur’an. But Bukhari records Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) as saying he was enjoying breeze wafting from India laden with fragrance of Tawhid (unity of God). The four Vedas (scriptures) of Hindus and their epics are said to be 5000-10,000 years old. They contain a great deal of monotheistic ideas, and of course, prophecies on Hadrath Muhammad (Pbuh).

(1) Atharva Veda

A chapter called Kuntapa Sukt of Atharva Veda is said to be very obscure in meaning and its theme, inscrutable. But it readily makes sense if looked at with history of Prophet (Pbuh). One verse as translated from Sanskrit language reads; Hear O people! Narashans will be praised.

O Kaurama! We got 60,090 people from our enemies.

The word Narashans means the ‘Praised one’ and the sentence ‘praised one will be praised’ is peculiar. Here Narashans is a proper noun, Muhammad in Arabic! Kaurama means emigrant muhajir that Prophet (Pbuh) was. It also means spreader of peace - peace in Arabic is being salam or Islam! 60,000+ was the population of Makkah who eventually embraced Islam.

The first line of the next verse is translated as;

O Chanter (or Praiser)! Enjoy like a bird on a tree full of fruits.

Praiser in Arabic is Ahmad, the other name of Prophet (Pbuh). The verse compares beautifully with the Qur’anic verses 14:24,25 describing Kalima Tayyiba (“There is no god but Allah”) as a tree firmly rooted (in the earth), with branches reaching to heavens, capable of bearing fruit in all seasons (i.e. the world and the hereafter).

The Veda talks about a great sage named Mamaha that means; honoured or famed Muhammad, again. The Veda mentions a mysterious set of numbers are associated with objects that the sage would possess. They are simply incomprehensible. These are; 100 gold coins 10 garlands, 300 horses and 10,000 cows. They can very well be approximate references respectively to the first batch of Mekkan emigrants to Abyssinia; 10 companions who were designated by Prophet (Pbuh) as sure entrants to paradise; 313 companions of Battle of Badr and 10,000 companions at the invasion on Makkah.

(2) Bhavishya Puran

This is a Sanskrit work of prophecies. The title means ‘Book of the Future’. Since Hinduism is based in India it was, and still is, taken for granted that its sages will be born in India itself. Contrary to this belief the Book says that a great master will appear in a foreign country (mlechcha acharya) and live in a sandy region (marusthal). His name will be Mahaaamad. Within a short span of 18 couplets Mahaamad is mentioned five times.

One couplet enumerates the main identification points of Mahaamad’s followers; They will be circumcised (unknown in India); cut hair of their heads short (as against the Indian practice of long uncut hair knotted into a bun), keep beards call out at top voice (for prayers - Azan) and will be omnivorous (i.e. eat vegetarian as well as meat). The class of Hindu religious masters are strict vegetarians). They will be known as Musalay! These details will completely dispel any suspicions of coincidence in the matters between Mahaamad and Muhammad (Pbuh)!

There is an interesting information in Bhavishya Purana that Mahaamad would appear to Bhoj, ruler of Dhar, and say that he would establish the religion of meat eaters, by the command of Ishwar i.e. God. There is a tradition that long afterwards, Bhoj got terrified on seeing the full moon split into two. Learned men consulted holy books and told him that it was one of the signs of the Universal Master to be born in a country to the West. Bhoj sent his minister to Prophet (Pbuh) in Arabia, who named the king Abdullah. The Tomb of Abdullah is still there at Dhar.

(3) Mahabharat

This is a Hindu epic describing the struggle and triumph of good against evil. It was written by sage Vyas who also authored Bhavishya Purana. Mahabharata says that in the last eon called Kali Yug (in which we now live) a great sage will appear with name Mahaamad. He would preach about unity of God. He will be driven away from his native place by his own folk. By him the world would get peace. (Islam means peace).

Mahabharat further says that cloud will provide him shade. It is recorded in history that Buhaira, the Christian priest of Syria observed this sign with Muhammad e in his boyhood and identified him as the last Prophet anticipated for millennia.

Kalki Puran

This is a holy book of Hindus describing the advent of the last, the tenth Avtar to come. An Avatar is considered an incarnation of God, who appears on earth whenever religion declines and evil abounds, and corrects the situation. He is of high character and miraculous powers but subject to predestination and morality. If the term ‘human representative of God’ is substituted for ‘incarnation of God’ this description will fit the Islamic concept of Prophet (Pbuh). The signs and events of the final Avatar Kalki point out to final Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh). They fit those of Muhammad (Pbuh) neatly and perfectly. They are as follows;

* Kalki will appear in the last on Kali Yug and will be the guide for the entire world.

* He will be born on the 12th day of the month. Prophet (Pbuh) as born on 12th Of Rabiyyul Awwal).

* His parents will be : Vishnu Bhagat and Soomati meaning servant of God (the Cherisher) and peace. (Messenger’s (Pbuh) father’s name was Abdullah, God’s servant and mother was Amina refuge giver which includes the idea of ‘peace’.)

* He will be with a beauty par-excellence. His body will be fragrant.

* He will get wisdom on a mountain. (Messenger (Pbuh) was conferred Prophethood on Mt.Hira)

* He will receive a horse from God, which will be faster than lightning. Riding it he will go around the earth and seven skies. (During Mi’raj Prophet (Pbuh) got Buraq meaning lightning and toured the entire universe.)
Kalki will split the moon.

Like Bhoj, Cheraman (Zamorin) Perumal the ruler of Indian kingdom of Kerala, witnessed splitting of the moon performed by Prophet (Pbuh). After gathering the facts he sailed to Arabia and became Muslim at Prophet’s (Pbuh) hand. His Tomb is near the city of Salala in Oman (Refer Fig.1).

The word ‘Kalki is considered to be a basic word, a noun without a meaning, as against attribute - based or action - based ones. The preceding Hindu Books either give attribute based name in sanskrit to the Last Prophet (Pbuh) or Arabic name, which is also attribute based. The author thinks that ‘Kalki’ is the Sanskrit transliteration of the Arabic ‘Khalqi’ meaning creation (concrete noun). He is celebrated by Muslims as being;

(1) Awwal ul Khalki
First of creations

(2) Khair il Khalki
Best of creations

(3) Awf al Khalki
Foremost out of creations

(4) Akram al Khalki
Greatest of creations

Prophet (Pbuh) Foretold in Buddhist Scriptures

Buddhism is older than Christianity. It originated in India but is prevalent in entire South Asia and far East. Gautama Buddha, its founder is supposed to be an agnostic but this is disputed. The word Buddha means enlightened. Scriptures of Buddhism are available in Sanskrit, Pali, Sinhalese, Burmese, Chinese, Tibetan and Japanese languages. We could get the following information collectively from them;

At his death bed his grief-stricken disciples asked him who will provide them guidance after him. The Buddha consoled them by saying; “Do not think I am the only Buddha. There had been many before me and will be many after me. (Compare this with the Qur’anic Verse 26:9 “say (O Muhammad): I am no new thing among Messengers (of Allah....). At appropriate time a great Buddha will come.”

* He will be born in a country to west ( and not in India) Refer Fig.1

* He will migrate from his homeland.

* He will look at the Universe face to face. (Compare this with Mi’raj).

* His countrymen cannot be reformed until his advent.

* He will preach the same religion as mine but its perfection and success will reach peak stage only in his time (Compare this with the Qur’anic Verse 5:3 “..... I have perfected your religion for you.. . and have chosen Al Islam for you as religion... “).

* While my disciples are in hundreds, his will be in thousands.

The Chief disciple Ananda asked him how to identify the great Buddha when he eventually comes. Gautama told them,

* “His name will be Maitreya.”

The word maitreya means love, kindness, compassion, mercy, and so on. The Arabic for mercy is rahmat. Rahmat is title given to the Sayyidul Mursaleen e Leader of Prophets, by Allah in Qur’an ! He refers to him as;

Rahmatan lil Alameen Mercy unto the worlds (21:07)

Rahshatun lilladeena amanu minkum Mercy unto the believers (9:61)

Rahmatan min Rabbika Mercy from thy Lord (28:46)

We can see that the Indian scriptures refer to the Ultimate Prophet (Pbuh) ultimate both in time and greatness in clear, direct terms. No stretch of imagination, playing with words and linguistic nuances or involved, artificial interpretations are needed to grasp the point. No complicated inductive or deductive logic is required for drawing the conclusion. On the other hand, the facts are recorded in a straightforward manner and are available for all to verify. No hearsay need be believed uncomfortably. The plain truth is inescapably evident that it is Hadhrat Muhammad (Pbuh), the chosen one (Mustafa) to be the greatest of Prophets for all people of the world and awaited by all of them since time immemorial.

Incidentally, we find that in these scriptures statements implying plurality of God have been interpolated causing confusion with Monotheistic concept that is La ilaha il Allah in Arabic). But the statements amounting to Apostleship of Muhammad (Pbuh) “Muhammadur Rasoolullah” is miraculously left intact!

Prophet (Pbuh) Foretold in Parsi Scriptures

Parsi religion or Magianism was established in Persia in ancient times by Prophet Zoroaster and hence also known as Zoroastrianism. The suggestion by some that he was a Prophet of Islam cannot be ascertained or denied for lack of direct evidence in Qur’an and Hadeeth. Their scripture Avezda is in Zend (old Persian) language and foretells of the advent of Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh). The Parsi religion at Rasoolullah’s time suffered, and still does, from two main deviations Tawheed (monotheism).

(1)    It divided good and evil between two gods - god of evil was not worshipped, though
(2)    Parsis worship fire as God’s manifestation.

Besides Avezda, Dasatir is also a holy book of Parsis. These two give the details of the appearance of Prophet of Arabia (Pbuh) in the following terms;
   A great sage will appear in a sandy region to the west.
   His name will be Astvat-ereta or Soeshyant.
   Astvat-ereta means the Praised one Muhammad in Arabic. Soeshyant means mercy to the worlds, Rahmat lil Alameen in Arabic.
At his time the Parsis will abandon fire worship and will turn towards a temple which will be purified by removal of idols.

On conquering Makkah, Prophet (Pbuh) went straight to the Ka’abah, the oldest ever Mosque on earth, and eradicated the 360 idols, reciting the Qur’anic Verse; “Truth has come and falsehood vanished. Falsehood is ever bound to vanish” (Al Qur’an 17:81).

Despite clear prophecies when Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) appeared these three great communities of the world missed him for various reasons;

(1)    Hindus because scriptural knowledge was not disseminated but kept confined to the priestly class;
(2)    Buddhists because of information barriers due to geographical distances and
(3)    Parsis because of jealousy and prejudices even though Prophet (Pbuh) and his followers were in touch with Persia. However, Persians eventually embraced Islam, the Prophet’s (Pbuh) religion except for a minuscule minority.

20 to 25% of people of Indian subcontinent converted to Prophet’s (Pbuh) faith. Conversions of Buddhists of Asia to Islam is to a much lesser degree. But due to today’s information and communication revolutions and current economic prominence of the Arab land the message of Prophet (Pbuh) is reaching the Asians, and also all other peoples of the world on a much wider scale. But this phenomenon is almost totally independent of the prophecies. They are therefore joining the faith he preached in a fresh series of waves.

Allahu A’lam. God alone knows the truth of everything, including the above mentioned prophecies in these three faiths. By M.I.Liaqath Ali

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Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Every Soul Must Taste Death

Death is a harsh and fearful reality faced by everyone who lives.No one has the power to avoid it, nor does anyone around the dying person have the ability to prevent it. It is something which happens every moment and is encountered by the old and the young,the rich and the poor, the strong and the weak. They are all the
same in that they have no plan or means of escaping it, no power, no means of intercession, no way to prevent it, nor to delay it, which shows that indeed it comes from One having tremendous power-so that the human is helpless in this regard and can only submit to it.

Indeed, when a loved one dies, the affair of death is given more attention and the world becomes tasteless for some time. This is the way it should be whether someone dies or not, in order that we may make more effort in preparing for the meeting with our Lord.
Buraidah reported that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, " I forbade you to visit the graves, but now visit them for that makes you mindful of the hereafter." Narrated by Imams Ahmad and Al-Tirmithi, and the latter also declared it sahih (authentic). And let us not be deceived by this worldly life and its glitter.
Allah says:
'O you who believe! Let not your properties or your children divert you from the remembrance of Allaah. And whosoever does that, then they are the losers. And spend (in charity) of that with which We have provided you, before death comes to one of you and he says: "My Lord! If only You would give me respite for a little while (i.e.return to the worldly life), then I should give Sadaqah (i.e.Zakaat) of my wealth, and be among the righteous [i.e. perform Hajj (pilgrimage to Makkah)]. And Allaah grants respite to none when his appointed time (death) comes. And Allaah is All-Aware of what you do.'
Qur'an 63:9-11 (Surat Al-Munāfiqūn)
So the return of all is to Allah, and they will be raised up before Him, having no place of return except that, and no destiny but this one.
The only difference between people will be their deeds and intentions. But, with regard to their physical death, then it is one, death at the appointed time after the decreed span, and resurrection on the Day of Gathering of mankind when we will all face Allah. Then Forgiveness and Mercy, or His displeasure and punishment will be dealt out justly according to His will.
As Allah says in the Qur'an:"Everyone shall taste death. And only on the Day of Resurrection shall you be paid your wages in full. And whoever is removed away from the fire and admitted to Paradise, he indeed is successful. The life of this world is only the enjoyment of deception (a deceiving thing)."(Qur'an Al-Imran 3:185)

Life After Death

The question of whether or not there is life after death does not fall under the field of science, because science is only concerned with the classification and analysis of recorded data. Moreover, man has been busy with scientific enquiries and research, in the modern sense of the term, only for the last few centuries, while he has been familiar with the idea of life after death since times immemorial.  
All the prophets of God called their people to worship God and to believe in life after death. They laid so much emphasis on the belief in life after death that even a slight doubt in it meant denying God and made all other beliefs meaningless. The very fact that all the prophets of God have dealt with this metaphysical question so confidently and uniformly - the gap between their ages in some cases, being thousands of years - goes to prove that the source of their knowledge of life after death, as proclaimed by them all, was the same, that is, Divine revelation.
We also know that these prophets of God were greatly opposed by their people, mainly on the issue of life after death, as their people thought it is impossible. But in spite of that opposition, the prophets won many sincere followers. The question arises, what made those followers forsake the established beliefs, traditions and customs of their forefathers, notwithstanding the risk of being totally alienated from their own community? The simple answer is that they made use of their faculties of mind and heart and realized the truth.
It is this consciousness that guides man regarding realities that he cannot see. That is why all the prophets of God while calling people to believe in God and life after death, appeal to the aesthetic, moral and rational consciousness of man.
For example, when the idolaters of Makkah denied even the possibility of life after death, the Qur'an exposed the weakness of their stand by advancing very logical and rational arguments in support of it: "And he makes comparison for Us and forgets his own (Origin and) Creation: he says" Who can give life to (dry) bones and decomposed ones (at that)?" Say" He will give them life Who created them for the first time! For He is well-versed in every kind of creation! " The same Who produces for you the fire out of the green trees when behold! Ye kindle therewith (your won fires)!"Is not He Who created the heavens and the earth able to create the like thereof?" Yea indeed! For He is the Creator Supreme of skill and knowledge (infinite") (Al-Qur'an, chapter 36, verse 78-81)
At another occasion, the Qur'an very clearly says that the disbelievers have no sound basis for their denial of life after death. It is based on pure conjectures: "They say: There is nothing but our present life; we die, and we live, and nothing but Time destroys us. Of that they have no knowledge; they merely conjecture. And when Our revelations are recited to them, their only argument is that they say: Bring us our father, if you speak truly" (Al-Qur'an, chapter 45: verses 24-25).

Surely God will raise all the dead. But God has His own plan of things. A day will come when the whole universe will be destroyed and then again the dead will be resurrected to stand before God. That day will be the beginning of the life that will never end, and that Day, every person will be rewarded by God according to his good and evil deeds.
The explanation that the Qur'an gives about the necessity of life after death is what the moral consciousness of man demands. Actually, if there is no life after death, the very belief in God becomes irrelevant or even if one believes in God, it would be an unjust and indifferent God, having once created man only to be unconcerned with his fate.
Surely, God is just. He will punish the tyrants whose crimes are beyond count: having killed hundreds of innocent persons, created great corruptions in the society, enslaved numerous persons to serve their whims, and so forth. Man, having a very short span of life in this world, and as this physical world is not eternal, punishments or rewards equal to the evil or noble deeds of persons are not possible here. The Qur'an very emphatically states that the Day of Judgment must come and God will decide about the fate of each soul according to his or her record of deeds:" Those who disbelieve say: The Hour will never come unto us. Say: Nay, but most surely, by my Lord, it will come unto you. (He is) the Knower of the Unseen. Not an atom's weight, or less than that or greater, escapes Him in the heavens or in the earth, but it is in a clear Record. That He may reward those who believe and do good works. For them are pardon and a rich provision. But those who strive against our revelations, challenging (Us), theirs will be a painful doom of wrath" (Al-Qur'an, chapter 34: verses 3-5).

The Day of Resurrection will be the Day when God's attributes of Justice and Mercy will be in full manifestation. God will shower His mercy on those who suffered for His sake in the worldly life, believing that an eternal bliss was awaiting them. But those who abused the bounties of God, caring nothing for the life to come, will be in the most miserable state. Drawing a comparison between them the Qur'an says: "Are (those two) alike?- One to whom We made a goodly promise, and who is going to reach its (fulfilment), and one to whom We have given the good things of this life, but who, on the Day of judgment, is to be among those brought up (for punishment)?"(Al-Qur'an, Chapter 28: verse 61).
The Qur'an also states that this worldly life is a preparation for the eternal life after death. But those who deny it become slaves of their passions and desires, and make fun of virtuous and God-conscious persons. Such persons realize their folly only at the time of their death and wish to be given a further chance in the world but in vain. Their miserable state at the time of death, and the honor of the Day of Judgment, and the eternal bliss guaranteed to the sincere believers are very clearly mentioned in the following verse on the holy Qur'an
"Until, when death comes unto one of them, he says: My Lord, send me back, that I may do right in that which I have left behind!. But nay! It is but a word that he speaks; and behind them is a barrier until the day when they are raised. And when the Trumpet is blown there will be no kinship among them that day, nor will they ask of another. Then those whose balance (of good deeds) is heavy,-they will be successful. But those, whose balance is light, will be those who have lost their souls; in Hell will they abide. The fire will burn their faces, and they will therein grin, with their lips displaces" (Al-Qur'an, chapter 23: verses 99-104).
The belief in life after death not only guarantees success in the Hereafter, but also makes this world full of peace and happiness by making individuals most responsible and dutiful in their activities.

Think of the people of Arabia before the arrival of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Gambling, over drinking, tribal feuds, plundering and murdering were just a few of their main traits when they had no belief in the life hereafter. But as soon as they accepted the belief in One God and life after death, they became the most disciplined nation of the world. They gave up their vices, helped each other in hours of need, and settled all their disputes on the basis of justice and equality. Similarly, the denial of life after death has its consequences not only in the Hereafter, but also in this world. When a nation as a whole denies it, all kinds of evils and corruptions become rampant in that society and ultimately it is destroyed.

Thus, there are very convincing reasons to believe in life after death:

1. All the prophets of God have called their people to believe in it.
2. Whenever a human society is built on the basis of this belief, it has been the most ideal and peaceful society, free of social and moral evils.
3. History bears witness that whenever this belief is rejected collectively by a group of people in spite of the repeated warning of the Prophet, the group as a whole has been punished by God, even in this world.
4. Moral, aesthetic and rational facilities of man endorse the possibility of life after death.
5. God's attributes of Justice and Mercy have no meaning if there is no life after death.

What Does Islam Mean?

The word Islam means voluntary "submission" or "surrender" to the Will of God. It derives from the root word "salam" meaning peace.
In the Quran, God defines that the only purpose for which He created mankind is to Worship Him.Islam recognizes that humankind has free choice in whether to obey or disobey God, but ultimately we will be held accountable to God in the next life for the choices that we make in this life.God sent Prophets to teach mankind how to worship Him; starting with Adam, including Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and the last of the Prophets, Muhammad, peace be upon them all. The Islamic position is that all of these prophets came with the same message, that there is no deity worthy of worship except the One True God, known in Arabic as Allah.
Islam recognizes the close relationship between the body and soul. Whereas the body originates from the earth and has a defined period of life on this earth, the soul originates from God and does not die. Islam encourages the individual to focus on keeping the soul healthy, through the remembrance, obedience and worship of God. There should be a correct balance in strengthening the soul and not over-indulging with the pleasures of the body.
Islam is a natural way of life that encourages one to give due attention to their relationship with God and His creation. Islam teaches that it is through the doing of good deeds and seeking the pleasure of God that souls find true happiness and peace. It is in this context that the word Islam derives from the root word salam, or peace.
The fundamental message of Islam is simple: To worship God (Allah) alone. The Quran (the revealed scripture of Islam) states: “Say, He is Allah , (who is) One, Allah , the Eternal Refuge. He neither begets nor is born, Nor is there to Him any equivalent.” [Quran chapter 112]
The first part of the Muslim testament of faith forms the basis for the concept of God in Islam. Muslims bear witness that: “There is no Deity worthy of worship but Allah”. The concept of deity is strictly monotheistic and Unitarian. God alone has absolute being, totally independent and totally self-sufficient. Whatever exists or ever could exist does so by His will. He has no ‘partner’ either in creating the universe or in maintaining it in existence. He is not only the ‘First Cause’ but also ultimately, the Only cause and He is Himself uncaused.
The second part of the testament of faith is: “Muhammad (peace be upon Him) is the final Messenger.”
Muslims hold in high esteem all the previous Prophets and messengers including Adam, Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Isaac, Ishmael, Moses, David, Solomon, Jesus and many more (peace be upon them all); all of whom submitted and surrendered themselves to the One God who created them and chose them to be the bearers of His message. As the Quran states: “Say, (O believers), “We have believed in Allah and what has been revealed to us and what has been revealed to Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and the Descendants and what was given to Moses and Jesus and what was given to the Prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and we are Muslims (in submission) to Him.” [Quran chapter 2 verse 136]

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Exactly What is The Quran?

The Quran is the literal, spoken Word of Allah revealed to the last Prophet Muhammad through Gabriel, the Angel of Revelation, transmitted to us by numerous channels, both verbally and in written form. Inimitable and unique, it is divinely protected from corruption. 

God says:
'Indeed, it is We who sent down the message [i.e., The Qur'an] and indeed, We will be its guardian.' (Quran 15:9)

The Basics: The first thing for a beginner to understand about the Quran is its form. The Arabic word, 'Quran,' literally means both 'recitation' and 'reading'. Similarly, the Quran was both recited orally and written down in book form. The true power of the Quran remains in the oral recitation, as it is meant to be read aloud and melodiously, but still the verses were written down on available materials as an aid to memorizing and guarding it, and these were collected and arranged in book form both privately and, at a later stage, institutionally. The Quran was not meant to tell a chronological story, and thus, the Quran should not be viewed as a sequential narrative like the book of Genesis.

The Quran often repeats certain verses and themes, shifting topics between them, and often relates narratives in summarized form. We can see two reasons for this. First, it serves a linguistic purpose and is one of the powerful rhetorical techniques of classical Arabic. Second, all themes of the Quran, no matter how varied, are wrapped around one common thread running through the entire book: there is no true god but Allah, and Muhammad is His messenger. The Quran, unlike the Bible, is not concerned with genealogies, chronological events, or minute historical details, many of which don't suit an oral discourse. The purpose is to use events, from past and present, to illustrate this central message. So when the Quran is discussing the healing properties of honey or the life of Jesus, neither topic is an end in itself, but each is related in one way or another to the central message – the Oneness of God and unity of the prophetic message.
Another important point to keep in mind is that the Quran was not revealed in one sitting, but rather it was revealed in parts over a span of 23 years. Many passages were in response to specific events. Often, Quranic revelation would come from the angel Gabriel (peace be upon him) to Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) as a response to questions raised by unbelievers. The Quran addresses these unbelievers, the People of the Scripture (a term used by the Quran for Jews and Christians), humanity at large, believers, and, finally, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) himself - commanding him what to do in a certain situation or solacing him in the face of ridicule and rejection. Knowing the historical and social context of revelation clarifies the meanings contained in the text itself.

How is The Quran Organized?
The Quran is composed of 114 parts or chapters of unequal length. Each chapter is called a surah in Arabic and each sentence or phrase of the Quran is called an aayah, literally 'a sign.' Like the Bible, the Quran is divided into discrete units, referred to as 'verses' in English. These verses are not standard in length and where each begins and ends was not decided by human beings, but dictated by God. Each one is a discrete act of locution of closed signification, or 'sign', denoted by the word aayah in Arabic. All surahs, except one, begin with Bimillah hir-Rahman nir-Rahim, 'I begin with the Name of Allah, the Most-Merciful, the Compassionate.' Each Surah has a name that usually relates to a central theme within it. For example, the longest surah, Surah al-Baqara, or "The Cow", is named after the story of Moses (peace be upon him)commanding the Jews to offer a sacrifice of a cow, which begins by God saying:
"And remember Moses said to his people: 'Allah commands that you sacrifice a cow.'" (Quran 2:67)
Since the various chapters are of various lengths, the Quran was divided by scholars of the first century after the death of the Prophet into thirty roughly equal parts, each part is called a juz' in Arabic. This division of the Quran was done in order for people to memorize or read it in a more organized fashion, and it has no influence on the original structure, as they are mere marks on the sides of the pages denoting the part. In the month of fasting, Ramadan, one juz' is usually recited every night, and the entire Quran is completed by the end of the month.

Style of the Quran:
What topics does the Quran discuss? It covers various subjects. Most importantly, it talks about the Oneness of Allah and how to live a life pleasing to Him. Other topics include religious doctrine, creation, criminal and civil law, Judaism, Christianity and polytheism, social values, morality, history, stories of past prophets, and science. The most important features of Quran's style in discussing these themes are:
(1) The use of parables to stir curiosity of the reader and explain deep truths.
(2) More than two hundred passages begin with the Arabic word Qul - 'Say' - addressing Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) to say what follows in reply to a question, to explain a matter of faith, or to announce a legal ruling. For example:
"Say: 'O People of the Scripture! Do you disapprove of us for no other reason than that we believe in Allah, and the revelation that has come to us and that which came before (us), and because most of you are rebellious and disobedient?'" (Quran 2:59)
(3) In some passages of the Quran, Allah takes oaths by His marvelous creation, both to strengthen an argument or to dispel doubts in the mind of the listener:
"By the sun and its brightness,
By the moon when it follows it,
By the day when it displays it,
By the night when it covers it,
By the sky and He who constructed it,
By the earth and He who spread it,
By the soul and He who proportioned it..." (Quran 91:1-7)
Sometimes Allah takes an oath by Himself:
"But no, by your Lord, they will not (truly) believe until they make you, (O Muhammad), judge concerning that over which they dispute among themselves, and then find within themselves no discomfort from what you have judged and submit in (full, willing) submission." (Quran 4:65)
(4) Lastly, the Quran has what is called 'the disjointed letters,' composed of letters of the Arabic alphabet which, if taken together, do not have a known meaning in the Arabic lexicon. This was one of the ways that Allah challenged the Arabs, who were the most eloquent of people in speech, to bring forth something to the Quran, which consisted of the likes of these disjointed letters. They appear at the beginning of twenty nine surahs. For example, the first aayah of Surat ul-Baqara appears in different translations as:
Yusuf Ali: A.L.M.
Pickthal: Alif. Lam. Mim.
Muhsin Khan: Alif-Lam-Mim.

Translations of Quran
A beginner should know a few points about Quran translations
First, there is a distinction between the Quran and its translation. In Christian view, the Bible is the Bible, no matter what language it may be in.But a translation of the Quran is not the word of Allah, for the Quran is the exact Arabic words spoken by God, revealed to Prophet Muhammad through Gabriel. The word of God is only the Arabic Quran as Allah says:
"Indeed, I revealed it as an Arabic Quran." (Quran 12:2)
A translation is simply an explanation of the meanings of the Quran. The translated text loses the inimitable quality of the original so be aware of the degree to which a translation reflects the original message at every level of meaning, and that it will probably not match it. For this reason, all which is regarded as recitation of the Quran is to be done in Arabic, such as the recitation of the Quran in Salah.
Second, there is no perfect translation of the Quran and being human works, each almost always has errors. Some translations are better in their linguistic quality, while others are noted for their exactness in portraying the meaning. Many inaccurate, and sometimes misleading, translations that are generally not accepted as reliable renditions of the Quran by mainstream Muslims are sold in the market.
Third, while a review of all the English translations is out of the scope of this article, some translations are recommended over others. The most widely read English translation is by Abdullah Yusuf 'Ali, followed by that of Muhammad Marmaduke Pickthall, the first translation by an English Muslim. Yusuf 'Ali's translation is generally acceptable, but his footnote commentary, useful at times, can be odd and unacceptable. Pickthall, on the other hand, has no footnotes or commentary and that makes it difficult for a beginner. The language of both tends to be archaic and difficult to understand for some people. Another widespread translation is done by Dr. Hilali and Muhsin Khan called 'Interpretation of the Meaning of The Noble Quran.' Although it is the most accurate, the many transliterated Arabic terms and endless parentheses makes it hard to follow and confusing for a beginner. A newer version with more flowing text has been published by Saheeh International, and this is probably the best translation yet, as it combines both exactness in translation and readability.

Exegesis (Tafseer in Arabic)
Although the meanings of the Quran are easy and clear to understand, one must be careful to make assertions about the religion without relying on an authentic commentary. Not only did Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) bring the Quran, he also explained it to his companions, and these sayings have been collected and preserved till this day. Allah, the Exalted, says:
"And We have sent down to you (O Muhammad) the message that you may explain clearly to men what is sent for them." (Quran 16:44)
In order to understand some of the deeper meanings of the Quran, one should rely upon commentaries which mention these statements of the Prophet as well as his companions, and not upon what they understand from the text, as their understanding of it is limited to their prior knowledge.
A specific methodology exists for exegesis of the Quran in order to extract the proper meaning. The Quranic sciences, as they are called, are an extremely specialized field of Islamic scholarship which requires mastery in multiple disciplines, like exegesis, recitations, script, inimitability, circumstances behind revelation, abrogation, Quranic grammar, unusual terms, jurisprudential rulings, and Arabic language and literature. A person new to the exploration of Quran should approach it with humility.
According to scholars of tafseer, the proper method of explaining the verses of Quran are:
(i) Tafseer of the Quran by Quran.
(ii) Tafseer of the Quran by the Sunnah of the Prophet.
(iii) Tafseer of the Quran by the statements of the Companions.
(iv) Tafseer of the Quran by Arabic language.
(v) Tafseer of the Quran by scholarly opinion if it does not contradict the above four sources.
a word of advise to the beginner: keep notes, write down what questions arise during your reading, and turn to those who have proper knowledge about the religion and accept their explanation if it is based on evidence.

Every Muslim should make a habit to read the Quran on a regular basis, as the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said:
"Recite the Quran, for it will come as an advocate for its companion on the Day of Resurrection." (Saheeh Muslim)
For a new Muslim, it is especially important to read a good Quran translation to keep him firm in faith, to grow spiritually, and to receive guidance from the Quran. The concern should not be to finish the complete translation as quickly as possible, but rather to understand and ponder over its meaning. Read as much as you are able, even if it be a little, but do it regularly.

How Should I Approach The Quran?
(1) Read Quran with Proper Intention
In order to be guided by the Quran and to receive reward, a Muslim must read it solely for the sake of Allah's pleasure – to be guided by the Quran. First, it should not be to win praise of people. Second, it should be a sincere reading to find and follow the truth,
(2) Choose Good Time and Place, Read Attentively, and Ponder
The Quran must be read with a clear mind and in a proper setting. Choose the best time to read the Quran. One which is conducive to contemplation. Allah says in the Quran:
"Indeed, in this [Quran] is a reminder for those who have a heart or give ear while they are heedful." (Quran 50:37)
First, a person must have a receptacle ready to receive the message – the 'heart.' If this receptacle is not open to the message, it will not 'receive' anything even if the lips move. Second, 'give ear' is one who listens intently, trying to comprehend what is being said. Third, 'heedful' means that his heart is present and in tune with what is being said. If all conditions are present, the person will benefit from the Quran and it will guide him. It must be kept in mind that pondering in itself is not the goal; it is a means to apply the teachings of the Quran in one's life.
(3) Let the Quran Decide True and False
Allow the Quran to guide you. Let it show you the straight path. Approach it with an open mind. If a person has their mind already made up, they will look to the Quran to find support for their views, and the Quran will never guide them, for it never had the opportunity. A new Muslim needs to change their views and attitudes according to the Quran, not to interpret it to suit one's preconceived notions. Approach with humility, consciously setting aside what you have been inculcated with from your culture and traditions, taking on the new text as something fresh and new. Allow it to lead you, rather than try and mould it to your previously learned patterns of belief.
(4) Realize Everything in Quran is True
"And whose word can be truer than Allah's." (Quran 4:87)
Whatever the subject, Allah says the truth. Whether it is related to the Unseen World, life after death, history, natural law, sociology, or anything else, it all comes from our Lord. Sometimes a person may read something and feel that it is contrary to what occurs around him. In such a case, the beginner should realize that they either misunderstood what the Quran is saying, requiring them to seek a better understanding, or that their perception of what they are reading is skewed by their upbringing. It is essential for a new believer not to doubt a verse due to their lack of comprehension, and be confident of their religion and its truth. Grow with the Quran, seek the explanation from genuine Islamic scholars, the men and women of learning, and consult recognized commentaries (tafseer) such as that of ibn Katheer..
(5) The Quran Addresses You
Realize the Quran has been revealed for you. Allah is talking to you directly. The Quran was not just revealed for Prophet Muhammad and his companions, but rather for every person till Judgment Day. It is the word of the Ever-Living God, eternally valid, and addresses people of all times. When Allah issues a command, it is addressed to you. It is your personal guide, a healing for the diseases of your soul. Every single passage has a message for you. Every attribute of Allah asks you to build a corresponding relationship. Every description of life after death asks you to prepare for it. Every description of Paradise encourages you to aspire for it, every description of Hell impels you to seek protection from it. Every character is a model to either emulate or avoid. Every dialogue involves you. Every legal injunction, even if inapplicable to your situation, has some message for you. This realization will keep your heart awake. The famous companion, Abdullah bin Masood, said:
"When it says, 'O you who believe...,' you must listen closely, as it is either ordering you to what is good for you or prohibiting you what is bad for you."
(6) Release the Text from Constraints of Time and Space
The Quran is a living text with relevance to modern life. Without doubt many verses in the Quran have a historical context; they refer to certain people or a specific incident. The historical context is important to understand some verses correctly. But the examples and moral lessons are relevant to our lives and provide guidance for our own time and context. The realization will make the person realize that even though the Quran is talking about an ancient nation, its moral lessons apply to current events.

The Testimony of Faith (The Shahada)

The core of the religion of Islam is the attestation to two phrases:
(i) La ilaha illa Allah (meaning 'There is no god rightfully worshipped except Allah')
(ii) Muhammad rasoolu Allah (meaning 'Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah')
These two phrases are known as the shahadah, or Testimony of Faith. Through the belief and attestation of these two phrases one enters the fold of Islam. It is the central belief that a believer maintains throughout his life, and is the basis for all his beliefs, worship and existence in this world.
Every Muslim, including someone new to Islam, has to understand the meanings of these two phrases, and try to live his life accordingly.This Testimony is by far the most important aspect of the religion of Islam, upon which the whole religion is built. Islam is the only true monotheistic religion, stressing that no worship should be directed to any other except Allah. It is a way of life in which a person obeys and worships the orders of Allah and none else.
This Testimony of Faith (shahadah) reminds us of our purpose in life, which is the worship of Allah alone. Allah says in the Quran:
"And I have not created neither jinn nor humans, except to worship Me Alone." (Quran 51:56)
The message of the Oneness of God (Tawheed) found in the testimony was not particular to the message of Prophet Muhammad (may God praise him). It was the universal message of all Prophets of Allah. Since the dawn of humanity, Allah sent Messengers to every people and nation, commanding them to worship Him Alone, and to reject all false deities. Allah says:
"And indeed We have raised amongst every nation a Messenger, [commanding them] 'Worship Allah, and reject all false deities." (Quran 16:36)
The Meaning of La Ilaha illa Allah:
The meaning of each word in the phrase is-
La: There is; La:no ilaha: god (diety); illa: except; Allah: Allah (God)
And therefore the literal meaning of this phrase is "There is no god (deity) except Allah"
First Part of this phrase: Rejection
'There is no god (diety)'... Here, god with a small case 'g' is anything which is worshipped. Many people have taken things in creation as their gods and deities, but they are all false and are wrongfully worshipped, meaning that they have no right to that worship, nor do they deserve it. This rejection extends to all superstitions, ideologies, ways of life, or any authority figures who claim divine devotion.
Some people imagine the Divine Kingdom of God to be like earthly kingdoms. Just as a king has many ministers and trusted associates, they imagine 'saints' and minor deities to be our intercessors to God. They take them as agents through whom God is approached. In truth, there are no intercessors in Islam, nor any class of clergy to whom one must 'confess' their sins to be forgiven. A Muslim prays directly and exclusively to God. We also reject superstitious practices such as astrology, palm reading, good luck charms, and fortune-telling.
Second Part of this phrase: Affirmation
'Except Allah'... After denying the right of any created being to be worshipped, the Testimony affirms divinity for Allah alone, with '...except Allah.'
Allah, in the Quran, mentions in many places that all things which people take as objects of worship besides Allah do not deserve any worship, nor do they have any right over it, as they themselves are creations and have no power to bring any benefit.
Yet they have taken besides Him other gods that created nothing but are themselves created, and possess neither hurt nor benefit for themselves, and possess no power (of causing) death, nor (of giving) life, nor of raising the dead. (Quran 25:3)
Thus, la ilaha illa Allah means, "There is no true god except Allah" or "There is no god rightfully worshipped except Allah."
The Meaning of Muhammad rasoolu Allah:
The meaning of each word in the phrase is-
Muhammad: Prophet Muhammad; rasoolu: Messenger; Allah: Allah (God)
And therefore this phrase means, "Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah".
By testifying to this fact, one affirms that Prophet Muhammad (may God praise him) is in fact a Prophet and Messenger raised by God, amongst mankind to deliver the message of God, as were other Prophets and Messengers. Attesting to this fact implies a multitude of meanings. These include:
1. To believe that he was the last Prophet and Messenger.
"Muhammad is not the father of any man among you but he is the Messenger of Allah and the last of the Prophets and Allah is Ever All-Aware of everything" (Quran 33:40)
2. To believe that he delivered the message of Allah faithfully just as he received it without any deficiency. Allah says:
"...This day, I have perfected your religion for you, and completed My Favor upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion..." (Quran 5:3)
3. To believe that he was a Prophet to all mankind. Allah says:
"Say: O humanity! I am Allah's Messenger to you all..." (Quran 7:158)
4. To believe that everything he said about the religion was revealed from Allah. He is to be taken as an example and obeyed without reservation as he speaks in the Name of Allah and obeying him is obeying Allah.
"He does not speak from his own desire, it (his speech) is only a revelation inspired [to him]. (Quran 53:3-4)
"He who obeys the Messenger, obeys Allah..." (Quran 4:80)
5. We must worship Allah according to the law brought by him. He abolished all previous laws including the Mosaic Law.
"And whoever desires a religion other than Islam, it shall not be accepted from him, and in the Hereafter he shall be one of the losers." (Quran 3:85)
6. Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) is to be loved and honoured. Knowing about his morals, his sacrifices for spreading monotheism, and patience with his opponents all increase one's appreciation of him. The more we learn about his life and characteristics, the more we will increase in our love for him.
In summary, the testimony Muhammad rasoolu Allah means obeying Prophet Muhmmad in what he commands, believing him in what he informs, shunning what he has prohibited, and worshipping Allah alone the way he instructed us. These matters are not restricted to a certain people or to a specific time.

Where Is Allah?

The Merciful Creator describes Himself in the Quran, and the Prophet has described His Lord in the Sunnah, because human intellect is limited and cannot fathom the limitless scope of the divine. Allah tells us what is necessary for us to know about Himself, helping to prevent confusion about His being, actions and location. After all, how can we love someone we do not know? Therefore, the Quran and Sunnah tell us everything we need to know in order to worship our Creator.
The divine attribute 'Uluw' (highness or transcendence) means Allah is above His creation, and nothing is above Him. He is neither within His creation, nor part of His creation. Creation cannot encompass Him. The Creator is completely separate and distinct from His creation.
Before Islam, Hindus believed God resided in animals, human beings and countless idols. The Jewish scripture stated that God came to earth in the form of a man and wrestled with Prophet Joseph who defeated Him (Genesis 32:24-30). Christians have claimed that God became flesh and came down to earth in the form of a man to be crucified. Some heretics also brought such ideas into Islam. For example, Hallaj, a deranged mystic, openly claimed he and Allah were one. These deviant ideas have become so widespread that if someone were to ask many Muslims today, 'Where is Allah?' they will say that He is everywhere.
The main danger of this thought is that it opens the door to the worship of creation. If God is everywhere, it means He is in His creation. If that is true, then why not worship the creation itself? It becomes especially easy for people to start saying God is in their own souls and accept worship. Countless kings, ordinary individuals like the Pharaohs of Egypt and Jesus were so worshipped, though Jesus (peace be upon him) did not accept being worshipped by his followers.
The Evidence
Allah is not everywhere. There are five main proofs for it:
(1) Islam states that every human being is born with certain tendencies that are not the result of his environment. Human beings are born with a natural realization of a Creator who is separate and above His creation. The mere thought of God being in places of filth, which would be a natural consequence of God being everywhere, is repulsive to human nature.
(2) The salah prayer must be offered in a place clear of pictures or statues. A Muslim is forbidden to bend or prostrate in worship to any creation.If Allah were everywhere and in everything, people could worship other people or themselves.
(3) Two years before the Prophet (may Allah praise him), migrated to Medina from Mecca, he was taken on a miraculous journey from Mecca to Jerusalem, and from Jerusalem up beyond the seven heavens to meet Allah. Allah spoke directly to Prophet Muhammad (may Allah praise him). There would have been no need for him to go up beyond the seven heavens to meet Allah if He were present everywhere.
(4) Many verses of the Quran tell us clearly that Allah is above His creation.
The Quran speaks of the angels rising up to Allah:
"They ascend up to Him in a day whose length is like a thousand years by your reckoning." (Quran 32:5)
Prayers also rise up to Allah:
"Every good saying goes up to Him." (Quran 35:10)
Allah describes Himself as above His servants:
"He is the Irresistible One above His creation." (Quran 6:18, 61)
He describes His worshippers as:
"Those who fear their Lord who is above them." (Quran 16:50)
One of Allah's beautiful names is al-Aliy which means, 'The Most High'; nothing is above Him.
(5) A companion of the Prophet, may Allah praise him, named Ibn al-Hakam had a slave who used to tend his sheep. One day, he came to see her and found out that a wolf had eaten one of the sheep from the flock she cared for. Learning this, he got angry and slapped her in the face, but later regretted doing so. So he came to Allah's Messenger and told him the story, upon which the Messenger asked him to bring her.
When she came, the Prophet asked her, 'Where is Allah?' She answered, 'Above the sky.' The Prophet asked her, 'Who am I?' She said, 'You are the Messenger of Allah.' He said, 'Free her, for she is a believer.'[Saheeh Muslim]
Here, the Prophet affirmed her statement that Allah was above the sky. Had Allah not been, the Prophet would have indeed reproached her as he reproached other false beliefs.
Is Allah Detached From His Creation?
Allah's being above His creation does not mean He is isolated from His creation. He is aware of all that happens in the universe. Nothing escapes His vision, hearing, power, and ability.
The following verses should be understood in this context:
"And We are closer to Him than his jugular vein." (Quran 50:16)
"Be aware that Allah comes between a man and his heart." (Quran 8:24)
These verses do not mean Allah is inside a man. They simply mean that nothing escapes Allah's knowledge. He knows even the most innermost thoughts of man, as Allah says in another verse in the Quran:
"Do they not realize Allah knows what they hide and what they expose?" (Quran 2:77)
In summary, based on the Quran and Sunnah, Allah is above the universe in a manner befitting His greatness; the creation is not in Him, nor is He contained by His creation.

Concept of God in Islam

Every language has one or more terms that are used in reference to God and sometimes to lesser deities. This is not the case with the word "Allah." Allah is the personal name of the One True God. Nothing else can be called Allah. The term has no plural or gender. This shows its exclusivity when compared to the word 'god' which can be made plural, i.e. 'gods' or feminine, i.e. 'goddess.' It is interesting to note that Allah is the personal name of God in Aramaic, the language of Jesus, peace be upon him. The word Allah is a reflection of the unique concept that Islam associates with God. To a Muslim, Allah is the Almighty, Creator and Sustainer of the universe, who is similar to none and nothing is comparable to Him.
The Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, was asked by his contemporaries about Allah. The answer came directly from God Himself in the form of a short chapter of the Quran that is considered the essence of the Unity of God or the motto of monotheism:
Say: He is Allah, the One; Allah, the Eternal, Absolute; He begets not, nor is He begotten, and there is none like unto Him. [Surah Al-Ikhlas 112:1-4]
Some non-Muslims allege that the concept of God in Islam is that of a stern and cruel God who demands to be obeyed fully. He is not loving and kind. Nothing can be farther from the truth than this allegation. It is enough to know that with the exception of one, each of the 114 chapters of the Qur'an begins with the verse: In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
In one of the sayings of Prophet Muhammad we are told: God is more loving and kinder than a mother to her dear child. [Sahih Bukhari, Book 73, Number 28]
Besides being Merciful, God is Just too. Hence evildoers and sinners must have their share of punishment and the virtuous their rightful reward. Actually, God's attribute of Mercy has full manifestation in His attribute of Justice. People suffering throughout their lives for His sake and people oppressing and exploiting other people all their lives should not receive similar treatment from their Lord. Expecting similar treatment for them will amount to negating the very belief in the accountability in the Hereafter and thereby negating all the incentives for a moral and virtuous life in this world.
The following verses from the Qur'an are very clear and straightforward:
Verily, for the righteous are Gardens of delight in the Presence of their Lord. Shall we then treat the people of Faith like the people of Sin? What is the matter with you? How judge you? [Surah Al-Qalam 68:34-36]
Islam rejects characterizing God in any human form or depicting him as favoring certain individuals or nations on the basis of wealth, power or race. He created the human beings as equals. They may distinguish themselves and earn His favor through virtue and piety alone.
The concept that God rested on the seventh day of creation, that God wrestled with one of His soldiers, that God is an envious plotter against mankind, or that God is incarnate in any human being are considered blasphemy from the Islamic point of view.
The unique usage of Allah as the personal name of God is a reflection of Islam's emphasis on the purity of the belief in God. This belief in the Unity of God, is the essence of the message of all the Prophets of God. Because of this, Islam considers associating any deity or personality with God as a grave sin that God will never forgive if the person dies without repenting.
The Creator must be of a different nature from the things created because if He is of the same nature as they are, He will be temporal and will therefore need a maker. It follows that nothing is like Him. If the maker is not temporal, then He must be eternal. But if he is eternal, He cannot be caused, and if nothing caused Him to come into existence, nothing outside Him causes Him to continue to exist, which means that He must be self-sufficient. And if He does not depend on anything for the continuance of His own existence, then this existence can have no end. The Creator is therefore eternal:
He is the First and the Last, the Evident and the Immanent: and He has full knowledge of all things. [Surah Al-Hadid 57:3]
He is self-sufficient or self-subsistent or, to use a Qur'anic term, He is Al-Qayyum. The Creator does not create only in the sense of bringing things into existence. He also preserves them and takes them out of existence and is the ultimate cause of whatever happens to them.
Allah is the Creator of all things, and He is the Guardian and Disposer of all affairs. To Him belong the keys of the heavens and the earth: and those who reject the Signs of Allah,- it is they who will be in loss. [Surah Az-Zumar 39:62-63]
There is no moving creature on earth but its sustenance depends on Allah: He knows the time and place of its definite abode and its temporary deposit: All is in a clear Record.[Surah Hud 11:6]
God's Attributes
If the Creator is Eternal and Everlasting, then His attributes must also be Eternal and Everlasting. He should not lose any of His attributes nor acquire new ones. If this is so, then His attributes are absolute. Can there be more than one Creator with such absolute attributes? Can there be for example, two absolutely powerful Creators? A moment's thought shows that this is not feasible.
The Qur'an summarizes this argument in the following verses:
No son did Allah beget, nor is there any god along with Him: if there were many gods, behold, each god would have taken away what he had created, and some would have lorded it over others! Glory to Allah! He is free from the things they attribute to Him! [Surah Al-Muminun 23:91]
The Oneness Of God
The Qur'an reminds us of the falsity of all alleged gods. To the worshippers of man-made objects it asks: Do you worship that which you have carved? But Allah has created you and your handwork. [Surah As-Saffat 37:95-96]
Say: Do you then take for worship protectors other than Him, such as have no power either for good or for harm to themselves? [Surah Ar-Ra'd 13:16]
To the worshippers of heavenly bodies it cites the story of Abraham:
When the night covered him over, He saw a star: He said: "This is my Lord." But when it set, He said, "I love not those that set." When he saw the moon rising in splendor, he said, "This is my Lord." But when the moon set, He said: "Unless my Lord guide me, I shall surely be among those who go astray." When he saw the sun rising in splendor, he said, "This is my Lord; this is the greatest of all." But when the sun set, he said, "O my people! I am indeed free from your making partners with Allah. For me, I have set my face, firmly and truly, towards Him Who created the heavens and the earth, and never shall I give partners to Allah." [Surah Al-An'am 6:76-79]
The Believer's Attitude
In order to be a Muslim (to submit oneself to God), it is necessary to believe in the Oneness of God, in the sense of His being the only Creator, Preserver, Nourisher, etc. But this belief, later on called Tawhid Ar-Rububiyyah, is not enough. Many of the idolators knew and believed that only the Supreme God could do all this. To acquire Tawhid Ar-Rububiyyah one must add Tawhid Al-Uluhiyyah, i.e. one acknowledges the fact that it is God alone who deserves to be worshipped, and thus abstains from worshiping any other thing or being. Having achieved this knowledge of the One True God, man should constantly have faith in Him, and should allow nothing to induce him to deny the truth. When true faith enters a person's heart, it impacts the person's outlook and behavior.
One of the striking results of faith is the feeling of gratitude towards God, which could be said to be the essence of Ibada (worship). The feeling of gratitude is so important that anyone denying the Truth is called kafir, "one who is ungrateful." A believer loves, and is grateful to God for the bounties He bestowed upon him. He is aware of the fact that his good deeds are far from being commensurate with Divine favors, and therefore he is always anxious to please God. He remembers God often. The Qur'an promotes this feeling of gratitude by repeating the attributes of God very frequently.
Allah is He, than Whom there is no other god; Who knows all things both secret and open; He, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. Allah is He, than Whom there is no other god; the Sovereign, the Holy One, the Source of Peace, the Guardian of Faith, the Preserver of Safety, the Exalted in Might, the Irresistible, the Supreme: Glory to Allah! Exalted is He above the partners they attribute to Him. He is Allah, the Creator, the Evolver, the Bestower of Forms . To Him belong the Most Beautiful Names: whatever is in the heavens and on earth, doth declare His Praises and Glory: and He is the Exalted in Might, the Wise. [Surah Al-Hashr 59:22-24]
Allah! There is no god but He, the Living, the Self-subsisting, Eternal. No slumber can seize Him nor sleep. His are all things in the heavens and on earth. Who is there can intercede in His presence except with His permission? He knows what appears to His creatures before or after them. Nor shall they compass anything of His knowledge except as He wills. His Throne extends over the heavens and the earth, and He feels no fatigue in guarding and preserving them for He is the Most High, the Supreme. [Surah Al-Baqarah 2:255]
O People of the Book, commit no excesses in your religion, nor say of Allah aught but the truth. Christ Jesus the son of Mary was no more than a Messenger of Allah, and His Word, which He bestowed on Mary, and a spirit proceeding from Him: so believe in Allah and His messengers. Say not "Trinity," Desist, and it will be better for you: for Allah is one God. Glory be to Him. Far exalted is He above having a son. To Him belong all things in the heavens and on earth. And enough is Allah as a Disposer of affairs. [Surah An-Nisa 4:171]
[Source : World Assembly of Muslim Youth, Series on Islam]