Islam simply means to achieve peace - peace with God, peace with oneself, and peace with the creations of God - through wholly giving oneself God and accepting His guidance.
Islam is not a new faith. Muslims believe that it is the same truth that God revealed through all His prophets to every people. For a fifth of the world's population, Islam is not just a personal religion, but a complete way of life.
Muslims come from all races, nationalities and cultures across the globe. They have varied languages, foods, dress, and customs; even the way they pr acti ce Islam may differ. Yet they all consider themselves to be Muslim.
Islam is a qualitative term - the quality of accepting God's supreme authority above one's own. As such, being a Muslim does not mean having to give up one's culture or traditions; rather it means adopting the simple and logical principles of Islam to better one's life and attain peace.
Less than 15% of Muslims live the Arab world; a fifth are found in Sub-Saharan Africa; and the world's largest Muslim community is in Indonesia . Substantial parts of Asia , and almost all the Central Asian republics, are Muslim. Significant Muslim minorities are found in China , India , Russia , Europe , North America and South America .
Muslims believe in the One, Unique, Incomparable, Merciful God - the Sole Creator, Sustainer and Cherisher of the Universe; in the Angels created by Him; in the prophets through whom His revelations were brought to humankind; in the Day of Judgment, and in individual accountability for acti ons; in God's complete authority over destiny, be it good or bad and in life after death.
Muslims believe that God sent His messengers and prophets to all people. Biblical prophets mentioned in the Qur'an include: Adam, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Lot , Ishmael, Isaac, Job, Ezekiel, Jacob, Joseph, Jonah, Jethro, Moses, Aaron, Elijah, Elisha, David, Solomon, Zechariah, John the Baptist, and Jesus; peace be upon them all.
God's final message to humanity was revealed to the last prophet, Muhammad (peace be upon him), through the Archangel Gabriel. It confirmed and finalized all previous revelations that were sent to humankind through God's messengers.
One becomes a Muslim by believing and proclaiming that, "There is no deity except God, and that Muhammad is the messenger of God." By this declaration the believer announces his or her faith in all of God's messengers, and in the scriptures revealed to them.
Allah is the proper Arabic name for God. Muslims believe in and worship the same One God that the Jews and Christians worship. God says in the Qur'an:
"And do not debate with the People of the Book, unless in the best of manners, but not with those who are unjust, and say: "We believe in the Revelation that has come down to us and in that which has come down to you; Our God and your God is One, and to Him do we wholly give ourselves." (Qur'an 29:46)
Allah is a unique term with no plural an no gender. It predates Muhammad and was also used in the form of El, Elah or Elohim by David, Moses, Jesus and other messengers of God, peace be upon them all.
"He is God, the One that there is no deity but He; the Knower of the unseen and the apparent; He is the Source of All Mercy, the Merciful.
He is God, the One that there is no deity but He; the King, the Holy, the Source of All Peace, the Guardian of Faith, the Preserver, the Mighty, the Compeller, the Majestic; Glory to God, beyond their associations (of partners with Him)!
He is God, the Creator, the Maker, the Fashioner. To Him belong the most beautiful names. All that is in the heavens and the earth magnifies Him; He is the Mighty, the Wise." (Qur'an 59:22-24)
Do Islam, Christianity, and Judaism have different Origins?
No. Muslims believe that the original, unchanged message given to Muhammad, Jesus, Moses and all other prophets came from the One same God. This common origin explains their similarities in many beliefs and values.
"Say: We Believe in God and what has been revealed to us, and what was revealed to Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and the tribes, and what was given to Moses and Jesus and to the prophets from their Lord; we do not make any distinction between any of them, and to Him (God) do we wholly give ourselves." (Qur'an 3:84)
Jews, Christians and Muslims all consider Abraham their Patriarch. Abraham is mentioned in the Qur'an as one of the great prophets. He was blessed by God to be the father of many nations. From his second son, Isaac, descended the tribes of Israel , and through them, Moses and Jesus; and from his first son, Ishmael, came Muhammad (peace and blessings of God be upon all of His messengers).
Abraham was commanded by God to rebuild the place of worship that Adam first built - the Ka'bah, in Makkah ( Mecca ). The Ka'bah is a simple stone structure, erected as a sanctuary for the worship of the One God. Muslims do not worship the Ka'bah; the cubical building is simply the unified direction toward which all Muslims face in Prayer to God, Almighty.
Muhammad (peace be upon him) was born in Makkah in the year 570, during the period of history Europeans called the Middle Ages. Muhammad was the son of Aamenah and Abdullah , from the tribe of Quraysh. He was a direct descendant of Ishmael, the eldest son of prophet Abraham. Muhammad's father died just before he was born, and his mother passed away when he was six. He was raised by this grandfather, the chief of Makkah; and upon his grandfather's death, Muhammad came under the care of his uncle, Abu Talib.
Muhammad was a shepherd in his youth. As he grew up, he became known for his truthfulness, generosity, and sincerity; earning the title of al Amin, the trustworthy one. Muhammad was frequently called upon to arbitrate disputes and counsel his fellow Makkans.
At age 25, Muhammad married Khadijah, an honorable and successful businesswoman. They were blessed with two sons and four daughters. It was an ideal marriage and they lived a happy family life.
Muhammad was of a contemplative nature and had long detested the decadence and cruelty of his society. It became his habit to meditate from time to time in the cave of Hira ' near the summit of Jabal an-Nur, the " Mountain of Light " on the outskirts of Makkah.
At the age of 40, while engaged in a meditative retreat, Muhammad received his first revelation from God through the Archangel Gabriel. This revelation, which continued for twenty three years, is known as the Qur'an
Muhammad began to share the revelations he received from God with the people of Makkah. They were idol worshippers, and rejected Muhammad's call to worship only One God. They opposed Muhammad and his small group of followers in every way. These early Muslims suffered bitter persecution.
In 622, God gave the Muslim community the command to emigrate. This event, the hijrah or migration, in which they left Makkah for the city of Madinah , some 260 miles to the North, marks the beginning of the Muslim calendar.
Madinah provided Muhammad and the Muslims a safe and nurturing haven in which the Muslim community grew. After several years, the Prophet and his followers returned to Makkah and forgave their enemies. Then, turning their attention to the Ka'bah (the sanctuary that Abraham built), they removed the idols and rededicated it to the worship of the One God. Before the Prophet died at the age of 63, most of the people of Arabia had embraced his message. In less than a century, Islam had spread to Spain in the west, as far east as China .
The Muslim community constituted to grow after Prophet Muhammad's death. Within a few decades, vast numbers of people across three continents - Africa , Asia , and Europe - had chosen Islam as their way of life.
One of the reasons for the rapid and peaceful spread of Islam was the purity of its doctrine - Islam calls for faith in only one God. This, coupled with the Islamic concepts of equality, justice and freedom, resulted in a united and peaceful community. People were free to travel from Spain to China without fear, and without crossing any borders.
As millions of people embraced Islam, they brought with them the heritage of ancient civilizations like Egypt , Greece, India , Persia , and Rome . Muslims cherished these cultures' knowledge and took great pains to preserve their libraries and honor and the scholars residing in their cities.
Many Muslim scholars traveled to these cities seeking knowledge. They translated into Arabic volumes of philosophical and scientific works from Greek and Syriac languages (the languages of Eastern Christian scholars), from Pahlavi (the scholarly language of Pre-Islamic Persia), and from Sanskrit (an ancient Indian language). As a result, Arabic became the language of worldly scholarship, and people migrated from all over the world to study in the Muslim Universities.
By 850, most of the philosophical and scientific works of Aristotle; much of Plato and Pythagorean school; and the major works of Greek astronomy, mathematics and medicine such as the Almagest of Ptolemy, the Elements of Euclid, and the works of Hippocrates and Galen, were all rendered into Arabic. Furthermore, important works of astronomy, mathematics and medicine were translated from Pahlavi and Sanskrit. For the next 700 years, Arabic became the most important scientific language of the world and the repository of much of the wisdom and the sciences of antiquity.
The achievement of scholars working in the Islamic tradition went far beyond translation and preservation of ancient learning. These scholars built upon the ancient heritage with their own scientific advances. These advancements were a direct cause of the Renaissance in Europe .
Muslims excelled in art, architecture, astronomy, geography, history, language, literature, medicine, mathematics, and physics. Many crucial systems such as algebra, the Arabic numerals, and the very concept of zero (vital to the advancement of mathematics), were formulated by Muslim scholars and shared with medieval Europe . Muslims invented sophisticated instruments that made future European voyages of discovery possible: the astrolabe, the quadrant, and detailed navigational maps and charts.
Who were some of the great Muslim scientists and thinkers?
Like many of their later Renaissance counterparts, most Muslim scientists and thinkers were multidisciplinary, and produced remarkable works of in many fields. A few of the more famous scholars include:
Ibn Hayyan (Geber, 738-813) - known as the father of chemistry.
Al-Khawarizmi (Algorizm, 750-850) - invented algebra and was instrumental in the development of trigonometry, calculus, and the use of algorithms.
Ibn Firnas (died 888) - developed the mechanics of flight before DaVinci; he also built a planetarium.
Al-Razi (Rhazes, 864-930) - a great physician who identified and treated smallpox.
Al-Zahravi (Albucasis, 936-1013) - recognized as the father of modern surgery.
Ibn Sina (Avicenna, 981-1037) - a very well known physician, authored the "Cannon of Medicine" and the "Book of Healing." His writings were considered the authority of medicine for over five hundred years.
Al-Idrisi (Dreses, 1099-1166) - made the first world maps that clearly showed North, Central, and South America .
Ibn Rushd (Averroes, 1128-1198) - a great philosopher, astronomer, and physician.
Ibn Batuta (1304-1378) - an avid world traveler, writer and geographer; he visited most of then-known world from Spain , to parts of Africa , to China .
Muslims believe that the Qur'an is the very word of God Almighty: a complete record of the exact words revealed by God through the Archangel Gabriel to Prophet Muhammad (may the peace and blessings of God be upon him).
The Qur'an was memorized by Prophet Muhammad and his followers, dictated to his companions, and written down by scribes, who cross-checked it during the Prophet's lifetime. Not one word of its 114 surahs (chapters) has been changed over the centuries. The Qur'an is in every detail the same unique and miraculous text that was revealed to Muhammad over fourteen centuries ago.
The Qur'an is the principle source of every Muslim's faith and pr acti ce. It deals with all subjects that concern us as human beings, including wisdom, doctrine, worship and law; but its basic theme is the relationship between God and His creatures. At the same time, the Qur'an provides guidelines for a just society, proper human conduct and equitable economic principles.
"He (God) has sent down to you the Book (the Qur'an) with truth, confirming what was revealed before; And He sent down the Torah (of Moses) and the Gospel (of Jesus) before this as a guide in humankind; and He sent down the Criterion (the Qur'an)." (Qur'an 3:3-4)
Apart from the Qur'an is there any other Sacred Source?
Yes, the sunnah - the practice and example of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) is the second source of inspiration and instruction for Muslims. Belief in the sunnah is part of the Islamic faith. The Prophet's sunnah and sayings were documented extensively by his contemporaries and are known as hadith. Here are a few examples of hadith from the Prophet:
"None of you truly believe until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself."
"He who eats his fill while his neighbor goes without food is not a believer."
"God does not judge you according to your bodies and appearances, but He looks into your hearts and observes your deeds."
"Whoever does not express his gratitude to people shall never grateful to God."
"Show mercy to those on earth, the One in Heaven will show mercy to you."
"God is gentle and loves gentleness."
"The world is green and beautiful and God has appointed you His guardians over it."
"Forgive him who wrongs you; join him who cuts you off; do good to him who does evil to you; and speak the truth even if it be against yourself."
" 'A man walking along a path felt very thirsty. Reaching a well he descended into it, drank his fill and came up. Then he saw a dog with its tongue hanging out, trying to lick up mud to quench its thirst. The man saw that the dog was feeling the same thirst as he had felt, so he went down into the well again and filled his shoe with water and gave the dog a drink. God forgave his sins for this action.' The Prophet was asked: 'Messenger of God, are we rewarded for kindness towards animals?' He said, 'There is a reward for kindness to every living being.' "
"O People, listen to me in earnest, worship God Almighty, perform your five daily prayers, fast during the month (of Ramadan), give regular charity and perform the pilgrimage if you can afford to…
Know that every Muslim is the brother of another Muslim. You are equal. Nobody has superiority over others, except by piety and good actions…
I leave behind two things, if you follow these you will never go astray: the Book of God (the Qur'an) and my example."
The "five pillars" of Islam are the basis of Muslim life. Prophet Muhammad is reported to have said:
"Islam is founded on 5 pillars; to testify that 'there is no deity except God, and Muhammad is the messenger of God;' to establish the ritual prayers; to give charity (to the needy); to perform the pilgrimage to the House (of worship in Makkah); and to fast during the month of Ramadan."
A practicing Muslim's life is centered on these pillars. The first and foremost of these is the testimony.
"There is no deity except God; Muhammad is the messenger of God."
This simple declaration of faith is required of all those who accept Islam as their chosen way of life. The words have to be uttered with sincere conviction and under no coercion. The significance of this testimony is the belief that the only purpose of life is to serve and obey God; and this is achieved through following the example of Prophet Muhammad.
Muslims believe that throughout history, God sent His chosen messengers to guide humankind. The testimony that these prophets taught was similar. The first commandment found in the Bible is "I am the Lord, thy God; thou shalt not have other gods before Me." This belief in the Oneness of God is central to Islam and permeates all of Muslim life.
A key element of Muslim life is the obligatory, ritual prayer. These prayers are performed five times a day, and are a direct link between the worshipper and God. This very personal relationship with the Creator allows one to fully depend, trust and love God; and to truly achieve inner peace and harmony, regardless of the trails one faces.
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: "Indeed, when one of you prays, he speaks privately with his Lord."
Prayers are performed at dawn, mid-day, late-afternoon, sunset and nightfall; reminding one of God throughout the day. Regular prayer helps prevent destructive deeds and gives one the opportunity to seek God's pardon for any misgivings.
The Prophet once asked his companions: "Do you think if there was a river by the door and one of you bathed in it five times a day; would there remain any dirt on him?" The Prophet's companions answered in the negative. The Prophet then said: "That is how it is with the five (daily) prayers; through them God washes away your sins."
Friday is the day of congregation for Muslims. The mid-day prayer on Friday is different from all other prayers in that it includes a sermon. Prayer at other times are relatively simple, they include verses from the Qur'an and take only a few minutes to complete.
Muslims are greatly encouraged to perform their five daily prayers in congregation, and in the Mosque. A Mosque, in its most basic form, is simply a clean area designated for prayers. Mosques throughout the world have taken on various architectural forms, reflected local cultures. They range from detached pavilions in China to elaborate courtyards in India ; from massive domes in Turkey to glass and steel structures in the United States . However, one unique and obvious feature remains - the "call to prayer."
The first person to call Muslims to prayer was a freed African slave from Abyssinia , Bilal ibn Rabah. He was a beloved companion of Prophet Muhammad. Bilal's rich and melodious voice called the Muslims of Madinah to prayer five times a day.
A translation of the call to prayer:
God is Greater, God is Greater;
God is Greater, God is Greater.
I testify that there is no deity except God;
I testify that there is no deity except God.
I testify that Muhammad is the messenger of God; I testify that Muhammad is the messenger of God.
An important principle of Islam is that everything belongs to God; wealth is therefore held by human beings in trust. Obligatory charity or zakah means both "purifications" and "growth." Our possessions are purified by setting aside a proportion for those in need and for society in general. Like the pruning of plants, this cutting back balances and encourages new growth.
Each Muslim calculates his or own zakah individually. This involves the annual payments to those in need of 2.5% of one's assets, excluding such items as primary residence, car and professional tools. Zakah is a unique concept, compare to other forms of giving, in that it redistributes the wealth of society; when applied correctly, it effectively eliminates poverty.
God places great emphasis on taking care of the needy in society; He says in the Qur'an: "Those who spend of their wealth (in charity) by night and by day, and in secret and in public have their reward with their Lord, on them there shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve." (Qur'an 2:274)
Giving beyond the obligatory charity is expected upon every Muslim and may take many forms. The Prophet said, "Even meeting your brother with a smile is an act of charity." The Prophet further said that when one has nothing to give, he can stay away from evil; that too is charity.
Fasting in the month of Ramadan is an essential part of being a Muslim. Muslims fast from dawn until sundown - abstaining from food and drink, and guarding themselves from destructive behavior.
Those who are sick, elderly, or on a journey, and women who are pregnant or nursing, are permitted to break the fast and make up an equal number of days later in the year. Children begin to fast (and to observe prayers) from puberty, although many start earlier.
God states in the Qur'an: "O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed to those before you that you may achieve greater awareness (of God)." (Qur'an 2:183)
Fasting is not only beneficial to health, but it also allows one to truly empathize with those less fortunate. However, fasting is mainly a method of self-purification and self-restraint. By cutting oneself from worldly comforts, even for a short time, a fasting person focuses on his or her purpose in life by constantly being aware of God.
Ramadan is a special time for Muslims everywhere; a time for reflection and greater spirituality. The end of Ramadan is observed by a holiday - Eid al Fitr. On this day, Muslims all over the world celebrate with prayers and an exchange of gifts.
The pilgrimage to Makkah (the Hajj) is a once-in-a-lifetime obligation for those who are physically and financially able. Over two million people, from all corners of the globe, go for Hajj each year making it the largest gathering for peace. Hajj provides a unique opportunity for people from different nations meet one another.
The annual Hajj begins in the twelfth month of the Islamic year. The Islamic year is lunar, consequently Hajj occurs throughout all seasons during one's lifetime.
Pilgrims enter a state of sacredness where arguing and fighting, cutting a plant or even harming a fly is prohibited. They wear simple garments that strip away distinctions of class and culture, so that all stand equal before God.
The rites of the Hajj go back to Abraham and his family. They include visiting the Ka'bah and standing together on the wide plains of 'Arafat (a large expanse of desert outside of Makkah). Here pilgrims pray for God's forgiveness, in what is often considered a preview of the Day of Judgment. The Hajj provides a unique opportunity for Muslims to reflect on their lives, to refocus on God, and to return to their families and homes spiritually rejuvenated.
The close of the Hajj is marked by the Festival of Sacrifice, Eid al Adha. Pilgrims sacrifice a sheep or goat, commemorating Abraham's readiness to sacrifice his own son. The sacrificial meat is distributed to the needy. Muslims around the world celebrate this day with prayers, ritual sacrifice, and an exchange of gifts.
"There is no compulsion in religion. Truth stands out clearly from falsehood…" (Qur'an 2:256)
Freedom of conscience is an essential tenant of Islam. Truth can only be seen if it is not clouded by coercion. Protection of the rights of non-Muslims is an intrinsic part of Islamic law. The Prophet Muhammad is reported to have said:
"He who hurts a non-Muslim citizen of a Muslim State - I am his adversary and I shall be his adversary on the Day of Judgment."
"Beware on the Day of Judgment, I shall, myself, be the accuser against him who wrongs a non-Muslim citizen (of a Muslim State) or Lays on him a responsibility greater than he can bear, or deprives him of anything that belongs to him."
History provides many examples of Muslims' respect towards other faiths. For instance, prior to the Spanish Inquisition, Jews and Christians lived and prospered in Spain for centuries under Muslim rule. Another well known example is when Omar, the second successor to Prophet Muhammad, entered Jerusalem . He refused to pray inside the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. He was concerned that some overzealous Muslim in the future might destroy the Church and build a Mosque in his honor.
The earliest interfaith dialogue between Christians and Muslims occurred near the beginning of Muhammad's prophethood. The Prophet and his companions were greatly oppressed by the polytheists of Makkah. Muhammad sent some of his followers to seek refuge with the Negus of Abyssinia - a righteous and just Christian king. He listened to the Prophet's emissary with great respect and awe, especially the Qur'anic description of Mary and Jesus. This description led the king and his subjects to affirm that this indeed was God's revelation, and gladly grant the Muslims asylum they sought.
The Prophet recognized Christians as one of the "People of the Book." He treated them with respect and kindness, contracted treaties with the various Christian tribes, and he assured them the freedom to practice their faith and determine their own affairs while living under Islamic law.
One noteworthy example is when a large delegation of Christians from Najran visited the Prophet in Madinah. He received them with great hospitality, and they stayed at the Prophet's Mosque. When they wanted to leave the Mosque and go outside to perform their church services, the Prophet surprised them by offering the use of his Mosque.
Although they did not reach an agreement on all matters of faith, they left Madinah with a treaty of peace and cooperation given to them by the Prophet. This, and similar incidents, are the examples for Muslims and Christians to emulate in the pursuit of better interfaith relations.
Muslims love and respect Jesus. They consider him one of the greatest of God's prophets and messengers to humankind. A Muslim never refers to him simply as "Jesus," but always adds the phrase "may the peace and blessing of God be upon him." The Qur'an confirms his virgin birth, and a special chapter of the Qur'an is entitled "Mary." The Qur'an describes the Annunciation as follows:
"The Angels said, 'O Mary! God has chosen you, and purified you, and chosen you above all the women of all nations…'
'O Mary, God gives you good news of a word from Him, whose name is the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, honored in this world and in the Hereafter, and one of those brought near to God. He shall speak to the people in infancy and in old age, and shall be of the righteous.'
She said: ' O my Lord! How shall I have a son when no man has touched me?' He said: 'Even so; God creates what he wills. When He decrees a thing, he says to it, "Be!" and it is."' (Qur'an 3:42, 45-7)
Just as God created Adam without a mother or a father, He caused Jesus to be conceived without a father:
"Truly the example of Jesus in relation to God is as the example of Adam. He created him from dust and then said to him, "Be!" and he was." (Qur'an 3:59)
During his prophetic mission, Jesus performed many miracles. The Qur'an tells us that he said: "I have come to you with a sign from your Lord: I make for you out of clay, as it were, a figure of a bird, and breathe into it and it becomes a bird by God's leave. And I heal the blind, and the lepers, and I raise the dead by God's leave." (Qur'an 3:49)
Jesus, like Muhammad, came to confirm and renew the basic doctrine of the belief in One God brought by earlier prophets. In the Qur'an, Jesus is reported as saying that he came: "To attest the Torah that was before me. And to make lawful to you part of what was forbidden to you; I have come to you with a sign from your Lord; so be conscious of God and obey me." (Qur'an 3:50)
The Prophet Muhammad said: "Whoever believes that there is no deity except God, alone without partner, that Muhammad is his messenger, that Jesus is the servant and messenger of God; His word which he bestowed on Mary and a spirit proceeding from Him, and that Paradise and Hell are true, shall be received by God into Heaven."
In today's turbulent world, Islam is often on the front page - mostly for the wrong reasons. Islam means peace; yet some have taken this peaceful way of life and hijacked it into a violent way, and distorted their ideology for personal and political gains. Seeing a faith through explosive world events, and judging it by the actions of a misguided few, is the primary reasons why Islam is often misunderstood.
Islam is sometimes, intentionally misrepresented. Some politicians, religious leaders and media have found an ideal scapegoat in Islam. By associating Islam with the inhumane acts of a handful, they have been successful in driving larger numbers of people to vote for them; to donate towards their ministries; and to read their newspapers, watch their television programs and listen to their radio shows.
However, with an increasing number of Muslims speaking out against this falsehood; the true and peaceful nature of Islam is becoming more evident. Muslims are standing up against terrorism, against the persecution and killing of innocent people, and against those who perpetrate such injustice in the name of any faith.
The very word "Islam" means peace. A fifth of the world's population is reclaiming this peace as their chosen way of life.
Islam permits fighting in self-defense, in defense of one's faith, or on the part of those whose basic rights have been violated. It lays down strict rules of combat that include prohibitions against harming civilians and against destroying crops, trees, and livestock. As Muslims see it, injustice would be triumphant in the world if good people were not prepared to fight for a righteous cause.
God says in the Qur'an: "Permission (to defend) has been granted to those who are being fought against; that they have been oppressed. Verily, God has the power to help them. Those who were unjustly expelled from their homes for no other reason than their saying: 'God is our Lord.' If God were not to repel some human beings through others, monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques, wherein the name of God is mentioned, would have certainly been destroyed. God will definably help those who will help Him. Verily, God is Immensely Strong, Mighty." (Qur'an 22:39-40)
War is the last resort, and is subject to the rigorous conditions laid down by the sacred law. The often misunderstood and overused term jihad literally means "struggle" and not "holy war" (a term not found anywhere in the Qur'an). Jihad, as Islamic concept, can be on a personal level - inner struggle against evil within oneself; struggle for decency and goodness on the social level; and struggle on the battlefield, if and when necessary.
According to the Qur'an, God has created all of humankind equal, and has given each the right to pursue their own destiny. The life, honor and property of all people in a Muslim society are considered sacred, whether the person is Muslim or not. Racism, sexism and prejudice of any sort are unacceptable in Islam. The Qur'an speaks of human equality in the following terms:
"O humankind! We created you from a male and female, and made you into nations and tribes, so that you may come to know one another. Truly, the most honored of you in God's sight is the greatest of you in piety. God is All-Knowing, All-Aware." (Qur'an 49:13)
The right to life is the most basic of human rights; the Qur'an equates the unjust killing of a single person to killing all of humankind: "And whoever kills a soul…, should be as though he has killed all of humankind." (Qur'an 5:32)
Dealing equitably and protecting the rights of every individual is the cornerstone of a Muslim society. God further states in the Qur'an: "O you who believe! Stand up firmly for God, as witnesses to fair dealing, and let not hatred of a people invite you to act inequitably; act justly, that is nearer to piety, and be conscious of (your duty to) God, surely God is aware of all that you do." (Qur'an 5:8).
The family is the foundation of Islamic society. The peace and security offered by a stable family unit is greatly valued and seen as essential for the spiritual growth of its members. It is quite common in the Muslim community to find large, extended families living together; providing comfort, security and support to one another.
Parents are greatly respected in the Islamic tradition. Mothers, in particular are greatly honored. God says in the Qur'an: "And we have enjoined upon man to be good to his parents. With difficulty upon difficultly did his mother bear him, and wean him for two years. Show gratitude to Me and to your parents; to Me is your final goal!" (Qur'an 31:14)
Marrying and establishing a family is very strongly encouraged. "And among His signs is that He created for you mates from among yourselves; that you may find peace with them. And He put between you love and compassion. Surely in this are signs for people who reflect." (Qur'an 30:21)
A Muslim marriage is both a sacred act and a legal agreement, in which either the groom or the bride is free to include legitimate conditions. Marriage customs vary widely from country to country.
Prophet Muhammad is reported to have said: "When a servant of God marries, he completes half his faith." Marriage is the institution upon which families are based.
According to the Qur'an, men and women are equal before God; both created for the sole purpose of worshipping god through faith and good deeds.
"O humankind! Be conscious of your Lord Who created you from a single soul, and out of it created its mate, and out of the two spread countless men and women. Be conscious of your Lord through Whom you demand your mutual rights and honor the wombs; God always watches over you." (Qur'an 4:1)
Islam recognizes women as individuals with specific rights. Among these are: the right to life, the right to learn; the right to earn, own and dispose property; the right to choose a husband; the right, as a wife, to her pre-marriage standard of living; the right to be treated equally; and the right to inherit. Women, like men, are rewarded by God for a righteously led life.
Muslim women dress in a way that is modest and dignified. The purpose of clothing is not only to protect oneself from physical elements, but also to protect oneself from immorality and pride. Some traditions of dress, and more generally, the treatment of women in some Muslim countries and societies, are often a reflection of culture. This is very often inconsistent and even contrary to Islam teachings. Prophet Muhammad said: "The most perfect in faith among you believers is he who is best in manner and kindest to his wife."
How do Muslim view the elderly, death, and the afterlife?
Muslims, by faith, are expected to respect and care of the elderly. It is quite common to find children, parents, grandparents and sometimes great grandparents all living together in one large home.
In Islam, serving one's parents is a duty second only to worshipping God. It is considered despicable to express any irritation when, through no fault of their own, the old become difficult to handle.
God says in the Qur'an: "Your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him, and be kind to your parents. If either or both of them reach old age with you, do not even say 'uff' to them or scold them, but speak to them in terms of honor and kindness. Lower to them the wing of humility, and say, 'My Lord! Have mercy on them, for they did care for me when I was young.'" (Qur'an 17:23-4)
When a Muslim dies, he or she is washed, usually be a family member, wrapped in a clean white cloth, and buried with a prayer, preferably the same day.
Muslims believe that the present life is only a trial for the Hereafter. God says in the Qur'an: "Every soul shall taste death. And you will be given your dues on the Day of Judgment. Only the one who is removed from the brink of Hellfire and admitted into Paradise has ultimately won; and life of this world is nothing but a material illusion." (Qur'an 3:185)