What is Islam?

Islam is a universal religion at the same time. It was sent for all the nations of the world and for all times. This special trait is tied to Islam’s rules not being limited by local characteristics and details not included in the essence. Islam is an easy religion that all of mankind can practice anytime and everywhere. It contains no extremes.

Definition

The dictionary meaning of Islam is peace and being in peace; surrender, submission and sincerity; and giving salaam. In every case Islam comes from the root salaam and salaamed.

In its specific meaning in the Quran the word religion (deen) meant Islam (Al-i Imran 3/99). Islam and religion were used with exactly the same meaning and Islam was used as the religion that all prophets brought (Al-i Imran 3/85; Nisa 4/125; Maida 5/3; Shura 42/13).

The verses, "The Religion before God is Islam" (Al-i Imran 3/19; Baqara 2/193) and "Whoever turns from Islam to another religion, his religion will not be accepted and he will be among the losers in the next life" (Al-i Imran 3/185), emphasize that in essence the true religion is Islam and that religions that have been altered in time are no longer valid.

In the language of the Quran, Islam expresses devotion and submission to Allah. Devotion to things other than Allah and the truth means rebellion against Him. Born from devotion to Allah, things coming from Allah, and the truth, the conscience can be summarized in another way as worship of the truth. Such a conscience gives worth to the truth, not from its own perspective and taking itself as a center, but according to its value before Allah. In hearts where such a love of the truth has settled there will be no trace of bigotry.

The word Islam also means peace and salvation. For this reason, Islam is the religion of love and mercy that encompasses all creatures. Respecting the rights of others and refraining from harming any other created thing is a condition of being a real believer.

Characteristics

At the same time, Islam is a religion compatible with the characteristics of human creation, because man and Islam come from the same source. Islam is for human beings. It is the name of the system that relates the belief, morality and rules of life that have been seen suitable for man by his Creator, who knows well all the internal and external aspects of man. It shows the ways how human beings can be happy in both worlds. It is a universal religion based on divine knowledge that explains as much as man needs to know about the truths belonging to the unknown, which a human being cannot know if it remains up to him.

Islam is not a new religion; it is the primordial religion revealed anew since the time of the first human being. It is used in the Quran as the common name (and attribute) for the religions sent to the first person to the present time. The existence of Allah's primordial religion is a reality regardless of whether or not people recognize it. Just as it is not in man's interest to resist accepting the truth as truth, and just as it is possible to benefit from truth only if you recognize it, acknowledging divine guidance from God is also to the benefit of man. Just as ignorance does not eliminate scientific truths, but just prevents people from benefiting from them, it is the same in regard to Islam. Regardless of what everyone says, Allah is one and the creator and director of everything.

Islam is the last religion sent by Allah Most High. No religion will come after it and its authority will continue until Doomsday. The most important proof of this is that the holy book of Islam, the Quran, has come down to us from its first revelation without being distorted and that people living in every age have a firsthand opportunity to learn what Allah desires from man. In addition, the life of the last prophet, Hz. Muhammad (pbuh), has reached us in full detail with a clarity and certainty that was not given to any other historical figure, and together with the book brought by such a prophet, interpretation and practice regarding that book have been preserved as knowledge that people of every age can access.

Due to these characteristics, Islam is a universal religion at the same time. It was sent for all the nations of the world and for all times. This special trait is tied to Islam's rules not being limited by local characteristics and details not included in the essence. Islam is an easy religion that all of mankind can practice anytime and everywhere. It contains no extremes. Just as the rules and principles it brought do not contradict life, recommendations for virtue and superior morality do not require abandoning life and are not contrary to human nature.

Its General Content and Rules

Creating the universe from nothing, Allah worked the rules related to the functioning of created things into the nature of each thing. Only did He create human beings with the ability to choose along with natural instincts. Treading a road between biological instincts and moral choices based on justice and equity heads man's eternal responsibilities. The religions sent by Allah from the first day of man's existence are to enable him to walk a balanced path between his physical and spiritual desires and fulfill them without sacrificing one for the other, and to protect him from going to extremes and every kind of deviation that can result from this.

The essence of Islam is the tawhid belief that means man does not see any power except Allah as an authority and a power to take refuge in. As long as this belief does not permeate his whole being, his behavior will have no value before Allah (because it cannot have a true purpose and direction).

Man's being able to see Allah's path is only possible by his being able to distinguish it from other deviant roads and his sincerely following it, before anything else his recognizing his Creator as the one and only God, and not seeing any power greater than Him. For this reason, the religion of Islam is fully based on the principle of Allah's unity. The essence of Islam is the tawhid belief that means man does not see any power except Allah as an authority and a power to take refuge in. As long as this belief does not permeate his whole being, his behavior will have no value before Allah (because it cannot have a true purpose and direction). According to Islam, just as religion is not something invented by man, the divinity of prophets is also incorrect. Prophets do not establish religion; they are people who convey and call others to Allah's religion.

Faith in Allah and the system of belief surrounding this forms the basis of the Islamic religion. Worship, the second element of religion, is considered a formal indicator of obedience to Allah. It is not enough for belief in Allah to remain hidden in the mind; this belief must be shown with behavior (this is a necessary result of the two-way nature of man). Allah taught man by means of prophets how this behavior should be, i.e., how servant-hood to Him should be, and He commanded us to worship him in this manner. The man-God relationship established by means of the third element of religion -virtue, belief and worship- is evaluated as the reflection in the worldly plan of every kind of attitude and behavior.

In a sense, belief, which is an essential element of religion, comprises the dimension of knowing and recognizing God (marifetullah), worship comprises the dimension of obedience and virtue comprises the dimension of loving God (mahabbetullah). Faith's stemming from intelligence and knowledge, worship from belief and opinion, and virtue from the heart and emotions are the necessity of the content of each.

Laws determining what a believer must believe before anything else are called "laws of belief." Laws unrelated to belief which show the value of human behavior from a point of truth are called "laws of action/sharia." Finally, laws related to moral habits that are born from belief and support belief and enable success in the direction Allah has commanded are called "moral laws."

Those who do not accept "the feeling of responsibility towards Allah" from man's inner world and divine laws that result from this take refuge in practices based on only powers external to man in order to establish social order and peace. This eventually destroys the sense of law and justice in man's internal world. For this reason, Islamic laws are categorized according to Allah's rights, a servant's rights and situations where both are found.

There is no law among Islamic laws that can be rejected by human intelligence and logic. The biggest difference from laws produced by man is that even if in time it is possible to reach the same laws, it is impossible for them to penetrate the people's hearts as much as religious laws do.

Fatiha Sura: The Essence of Islam

This sura includes all the goals of the Quran and the essence of all the laws it brought.

The basic aim of the Quran is to put man's life in order and enable him to attain what is good and beautiful in both worlds. In order to reach this goal, first there is a need for rules that will form a system. One of the most important conditions in implementing these rules is its being known that they were laid down by Allah and the promise that in the end man will receive punishment or reward as divine recompense. The Fatiha sura expresses in summary servant-hood, responsibility and awareness of consequences, and it keeps this consciousness alive by being recited in every rakah of daily prayer (this means an average of 40 times a day). 

The basic aim of the Quran is to put man’s life in order and enable him to attain what is good and beautiful in both worlds. In order to reach this goal, first there is a need for rules that will form a system.

A summary of the basic principles of Islam with all these characteristics, the Fatiha sura first reminds us of our duty of praise and thanks to our lord, Allah. Praise and gratitude are the source of all the blessings man is and will be recipient of. It is the first and most important of our duties of servant-hood to Allah.

Then it shows how and with what emotions servant-hood is possible. Just as servant-hood (worship) is a result of previously given blessings, it comprises the reason for future blessings. This is for the worldly-otherworldly expectations of average people who have not attained the degree of perfection of doing something good for the sake of goodness. Guaranteeing that they will turn only to Allah, it gives them a certain station by saving them from serving (worshiping) other servants.

At the end it concludes with a prayer that collects together all the goodness a person can ask from his Lord. Stating that the greatest benefit religion can provide human beings is taking them to the blessings of Allah, it gives the good tidings that the servant-hood they have shown will be rewarded.

Fatiha's meaning:

"In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

Praise be to God, the Cherisher and Sustainer of the Worlds,

 Most Gracious, Most Merciful;

Master of the Day of Judgment.

Thee do we worship, and Thine aid we seek.

Show us the straight way,

The way of those on  whom Thou hast bestowed Thy Grace,

Those whose (portion) is not wrath, and who go not astray."

Islam and Other Religions

{mosimage}The religion of Islam confirms all the prophets and divine books that came before it. Pointing out the matters spoiled by people over time, it corrects them.

It is possible to indicate the basic characteristics of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, which are accepted today as religions based on a divine source, and the aspects of Islam that are different from the other two religions as follows:

Islam corrected the mistakes and extreme views regarding belief in God that both Jews and Christians fell into later on. It rejected the humanization of God or the deification of human beings. Reminding about the real messages of Hz. Moses and Hz. Jesus on this point, it emphasized that Allah is one and unique.

Rejecting the claim that angels are the sons and daughters of God and their being depicted in human shapes, Islam showed the mistake fallen into by Jews and Christians and emphasized the sublimity of Allah.

Neither the Jews nor Christians were able to preserve in their original form the sacred books given by God to Hz. Moses and Hz. Jesus. The Torah and the Gospels were either lost over time and re-written or were subject to various additions and omissions.  The Holy Quran, on the other hand, by being written down as it was revealed and by being memorized, has come down to us today in a form that is compatible with its origin and essence.

While as a result of later distortions Judaism and Christianity made various claims and slander in regard to later prophets, Islam demands acceptance of all prophets and mentions them with beautiful attributes worthy of them.

While Judaism gives precedence to worldly life and Christianity gives more precedence to spiritual life, Islam struck a balance between the two. In respect to material-spiritual and worldly-otherworldly balances, Islam is the most moderate and easy to live; in respect to easiness being given priority in various commands and laws, Islam is also the easiest religion.

Islam removed some of the heavy religious responsibilities that are found in other religions and gave rules most suitable to the creation of man that are sustainable. Thus, it gave an important warning to interpreters of religion who make religion burdensome and difficult to practice.

In respect to explaining the essence of basic principles of Islam related to belief, worship and morality, the famous dialogue in the Gabriel event can be mentioned. In this dialogue the angel of revelation, Gabriel, came to Hz. Muhammad (pbuh) one day to teach him the religion. He asked what belief, Islam and benevolence meant, and then he answered the question himself. Gabriel explained belief as believing in Allah, Doomsday, the prophets, angels, sacred books and fate; Islam as worshipping Allah without taking any other gods before Him, performing salah, fasting, giving alms and making pilgrimage; benevolence as worshiping as if one is seeing God (Buhari, "Iman," 1).

 

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