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dr_mohamed_mahmoud: ISLAMIC WORSHIP
There are five simple but essential observances that all practicing Muslims accept and follow. These “Pillars of Islam” represent the core that unites all Muslims.
1) The ‘Declaration of Faith’
A Muslim is one who testifies that “none deserves worship but Allah, and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.” This declaration is known as the “shahada” (witness, testimony). Allah is the Arabic name for God, just as Yahweh is the Hebrew name for God. By making this simple proclamation one becomes a Muslim. The proclamation affirms Islam’s absolute belief in the oneness of God, His exclusive right to be worshipped, as well as the doctrine that associating anything else with God is the one unforgivable sin as we read in the Koran:
“God does not forgive anyone for associating something with Him, while He does forgive whomever He wishes to for anything else. Anyone who gives God partners has invented an awful sin.” (Quran 4:48)
The second part of the testimony of faith states that Muhammad, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him, is a prophet of God like Abraham, Moses and Jesus before him. Muhammad brought the last and final revelation. In accepting Muhammad as the “seal of the prophets,” Muslims believe that his prophecy confirms and fulfills all of the revealed messages, beginning with Adam’s. In addition, Muhammad serves as the role model through his exemplary life. A believer’s effort to follow Muhammad’s example reflects the emphasis of Islam on practice and action.
2) The Prayer (Salah)
Muslims worship five times a day: at daybreak, noon, mid afternoon, sunset, and evening. It helps keep believers mindful of God in the stress of work and family. It resets the spiritual focus, reaffirms total dependence on God, and puts worldly concerns within the perspective of the last judgment and the afterlife. The prayers consist of standing, bowing, kneeling, putting the forehead on the ground, and sitting. The Prayer is a means in which a relationship between God and His creation is maintained. It includes recitations from the Quran, praises of God, prayers for forgiveness and other various supplications. The prayer is an expression of submission, humility, and adoration of God. Prayers can be offered in any clean place, alone or together, in a mosque or at home, at work or on the road, indoors or out. It is preferable to pray with others as one body united in the worship of God, demonstrating discipline, brotherhood, equality, and solidarity. As they pray, Muslims face Mecca, the holy city centered around the Kaaba - the house of God built by Abraham and his son Ishmael.
3) The Compulsory Charity (Zakah)
In Islam, the true owner of everything is God, not man. People are given wealth as a trust from God. Zakah is worship and thanksgiving to God by supporting the poor, and through it one’s wealth is purified. It requires an annual contribution of 2.5 percent of an individual’s wealth and assets. Therefore, Zakah is not mere “charity”, it is an obligation on those who have received their wealth from God to meet the needs of less fortunate members of the community. Zakah is used to support the poor and the needy, help those in debt, and, in olden times, to free slaves.
4) The Fast of Ramadan (Sawm)
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar which is spent in fasting. Healthy Muslims abstain from dawn to sunset from food, drink, and sexual activity. Fasting develops spirituality, dependence upon God, and brings identification with the less fortunate. A special evening prayer is also held in mosques in which recitations of the Quran are heard. Families rise before dawn to take their first meal of the day to sustain them till sunset. The month of Ramadan ends with one of the two major Islamic celebrations, the Feast of the Breaking of the Fast, called Eid al-Fitr, which is marked by joyfulness, family visits, and exchanging of gifts.
5) The fifth Pillar is the Pilgrimage or Hajj to Mecca
At least once in a lifetime, every adult Muslim who is physically and financially able is required to sacrifice time, wealth, status, and ordinary comforts of life to make the Hajj pilgrimage, putting himself totally at God’s service. Every year over two million believers from a diversity of cultures and languages travel from all over the world to the sacred city of Mecca to respond to God’s call.
Who are Muslims?
The Arabic word “Muslim” literally means “someone who is in a state of Islam (submission to the will and law of God)”. The message of Islam is meant for the entire world, and anyone who accepts this message becomes a Muslim. There are over a billion Muslims worldwide. Muslims represent the majority population in fifty-six countries. Many people are surprised to know that the majority of Muslims are not Arab. Even though most Arabs are Muslims, there are Arabs who are Christians, Jews and atheists. Only 20 percent of the world’s 1.2 billion Muslims come from Arab countries. There are significant Muslim populations in India, China, Central Asian Republics, Russia, Europe, and America. If one just takes a look at the various peoples who live in the Muslim World - from Nigeria to Bosnia and from Morocco to Indonesia - it is easy enough to see that Muslims come from all different races, ethnic groups, cultures and nationalities. Islam has always been a universal message for all people. Islam is the second largest religion in the world and will soon be the second largest religion in America. Yet, few people know what Islam is.
dr_mohamed_mahmoud: THE ORIGINS OF ISLAM
Description: The role of Islam among other world religions, specifically in relation to the Judeo-Christian tradition
But where does the message of Muhammad, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him, fit in with the previous messages revealed by God? A brief history of the prophets might clear this point.
The first human, Adam, followed Islam, in that he directed worship to God alone and none else and abided by His commandments. But through the passage of time and the dispersal of humanity throughout the earth, people strayed from this message and began directing worship to others instead of or along with God. Some took to worshipping the pious who passed away amongst them, while others took to worshipping spirits and forces of nature. It was then that God started to send messengers to humanity steering them back to the worship of God Alone, which accorded to their true nature, and warning them of the grave consequences of directing any type of worship to others besides Him.
The first of these messengers was Noah, who was sent to preach this message of Islam to his people, after they had started to direct worship to their pious forefathers along with God. Noah called his people to leave the worship of their idols, and ordered them to return to the worship of God Alone. Some of them followed the teachings of Noah, while the majority disbelieved in him. Those who followed Noah were followers of Islam, or Muslims, while those that did not, remained in their disbelief and were seized with a punishment for doing so.
After Noah, God sent messengers to every nation who had strayed from the Truth, to steer them back to it. This Truth was the same throughout time: to reject all objects of worship and to direct all worship without exception to God and none else, the Creator and Lord of all, and to abide by His commandments. But as we mentioned before, because each nation differed in regards to their way of life, language, and culture, specific messengers were sent to specific nations for a specific time period.
God sent messengers to all nations, and to the Kingdom of Babylon He sent Abraham – one of the earliest and greatest prophets – who called his people to reject the worship of the idols to which they were devoted. He called them to Islam, but they rejected him and even tried to kill him. God put Abraham through many tests, and he proved true to all of them. For his many sacrifices, God proclaimed that he would raise from amongst his progeny a great nation and choose prophets from amongst them. Whenever people from his progeny started to stray away from the Truth, which was to worship none but God alone and to obey His commandments, God sent them another messenger steering them back to it.
Consequently, we see that many prophets were sent amongst the progeny of Abraham, such as his two sons Isaac and Ishmael, along with Jacob (Israel), Joseph, David, Solomon, Moses, and of course, Jesus, to mention a few, may the peace and blessings of God be upon them all. Each prophet was sent to the Children of Israel (the Jews) when they went astray from the true religion of God, and it became obligatory upon them to follow the messenger which was sent to them and obey their commandments. All of the messengers came with the same message, to reject worship of all other beings except God Alone and to obey His commandments. Some disbelieved in the prophets, while others believed. Those that believed were followers of Islam, or Muslims.
From amongst the messengers was Muhammad, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him, from the progeny of Ishmael, the son of Abraham, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him, who was sent as a messenger in succession to Jesus. Muhammad preached the same message of Islam as the previous prophets and messengers – to direct all worship to God Alone and none else and to obey His commandments – in which the followers of the previous prophets went astray.
So as we see, the Prophet Muhammad was not the founder of a new religion, as many people mistakenly think, but he was sent as the Final Prophet of Islam. By revealing His final message to Muhammad, which is an eternal and universal message for all of mankind, God finally fulfilled the covenant that He made with Abraham.
Just as it was incumbent upon the those who were alive to follow the message of the last of the succession of prophets which was sent to them, it becomes incumbent upon all of humanity to follow the message of Muhammad. God promised that this message would remain unchanged and fit for all times and places. Suffice is it to say that the way of Islam is the same as the way of the prophet Abraham, because both the Bible and the Quran portray Abraham as a towering example of someone who submitted himself completely to God and directed worship to Him alone and none else, and without any intermediaries. Once this is realized, it should be clear that Islam has the most continuous and universal message of any religion, because all prophets and messengers were “Muslims”, i.e. those who submitted to God’s will, and they preached “Islam”, i.e. submission to the will of Almighty God by worshipping Him Alone and obeying His commandments.
So we see that those who call themselves Muslims today do not follow a new religion; rather they follow the religion and message of all prophets and messengers which were sent to humanity by God’s command, also known as Islam. The word “Islam” is an Arabic word which literally means “submission to God”, and Muslims are those who willfully submit to and actively obey God, living in accordance with His message.
dr_mohamed_mahmoud: THE CORE OF ISLAM
Description: The main message of Islam is the same basic message in all revealed religions, as they are all are from the same source, and the reasons for disparity found between religions.
God sent His Messengers to teach the people about their Creator Who they must worship. These Messengers also brought with them the details of how to worship God, because such details cannot be known except by way of revelation. These two fundamentals were the most important things that the Messengers of all the divine revelations brought with them from God. On this basis, all the divine revelations have had the same lofty objectives, which are:
1. To affirm the Oneness of God - the praised and glorified Creator – in His essence and His attributes.
2. To affirm that God alone should be worshipped and that no other being should be worshipped along with Him or instead of Him.
3. To safeguard human welfare and oppose corruption and evil. Thus, everything that safeguards faith, life, reason, wealth and lineage are part of this human welfare that religion protects. On the other hand, anything that endangers these five universal needs is a form of corruption that religion opposes and prohibits.
4. To invite the people to the highest level of virtue, moral values, and noble customs.
The ultimate goal of every Divine Message has always been the same: to guide the people to God, to make them aware of Him, and to have them worship Him alone. Each Divine Message came to strengthen this meaning, and the following words were repeated on the tongues of all the Messengers: “Worship God, you have no god other than Him.” This message was conveyed to humanity by prophets and messengers which God sent to every nation. All of these messengers came with this same message, the message of Islam.
All the Divine Messages came to bring the life of the people into willing submission to God. For this reason, they all share the name of “Islam”, or “submission” derived from the same word as “Salam”, or “peace”, in Arabic. Islam, in this sense, was the religion of all the prophets, but why does one see different variations of the religion of God if they all emanated from the same source? The answer is twofold.
dr_mohamed_mahmoud started a new conversation: Islam and Christianity the world most followed religions in Religion
dr_mohamed_mahmoud: Paul, believed to be the author of some thirteen or fourteen letters in the Bible, also believed that Jesus is not God. For Paul, God first created Jesus, then used Jesus as the agent by which to create the rest of creation (see Colossians 1:15 and 1 Corinthians 8:6)
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GirlofGod: Paul did believe in the trinity. 1 Corinthians 8:6 - But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by