Beliefs Of Islam - Part Two
Since he believed that Allah was the one true God,
Muhammad was troubled by the idolatry of his countrymen.
At the age of forty, he began to have dramatic visions
accompanied by seizures.
He was not sure if the visions were divine or demonic,
but his wife encouraged him to accept the visions.
He believed they came from the angel Gabriel,
who instructed him to preach Allah's message to the world.
At first, few people were influenced by his preaching.
His first converts were his wife, Khadija, his nine-year old nephew,
and his adopted son, who had been a slave.
The first convert outside his family was Abu Bakr, a wealthy merchant.
There were a
meager fifty converts during the first three years of his ministry.
His public ministry drew strong opposition,
and he had to flee Mecca for his life.
His flight from Mecca in 622, the Hegira (Hijrah, or "flight"),
is one of the most important dates in Islam.
It marks the beginning of the Islamic calendar.
Muslims figure their calendars using the initials A.H.,
which means, "in the year of the Hegira".
Muhammad withdrew with all his followers
nearly two hundred by now--to the Arabian city of Medina.
Most of the people at Medina became his followers,
and he became a statesman, legislator, and judge.
He used "divine revelations" to establish
new laws and governmental policies.
He began to conquer other people militarily
and force them to submit to Islamic rule.
At first, Muhammad chose Jerusalem as the city
his converts should face when praying,
and he adopted some Jewish practices.
But when the Jews faded to recognize him as a true prophet,
Muhammad commanded that prayers be directed toward Mecca.
Muhammad warred almost continuously with Mecca
and eventually conquered it.
He tore down the idols and established Islam as the official religion.
By the time of his death in 632,
Muhammad and his armies had conquered most of Arabia.
By the eighth century~ Islam controlled parts of India,
all of North Africa, and parts of Europe.
If it had not been for Charles Martel's victory
over the Islamic armies at the Battle of Tours in 732,
Islam might have conquered all of Europe.
Today, Islam has approximately one billion followers,
up from five hundred million just twenty years ago.
The Qur'an (Koran)
The Qur'an is the recognized scripture of Islam.
Muslims believe it is the direct word of Allah
revealed to Muhammad by the angel Gabriel.
The Qur'an is about the same size as the New Testament,
and is divided into 114 surahs (or chapters).
Apart from the famous opening chapter of the Qur'an, the surahs are arranged according to size,
with the larger ones at the beginning.
The shorter chapters near the end of the Qur'ran
are from the earlier part of Muhammad's mission.
An important Muslim claim about the Qur'an is that it is an eternal book,
engraved in Arabic on tablets of stone located in the "seventh heaven."
The Arabic language is therefore considered
to have a status above all other languages.
Despite Muslim devotion to the Qur'an,
there are contradictions between parts of the Qur'an,
and legitimate questions to ask about the human origins
of the Qur'an in Muhammad himself.
The first surah is a prayer to Allah used daily by devout Muslims.
It has a place similar to the Lord's Prayer for Christians:
"Praise be to Allah,
The Lord of the worlds,
The Lord of the Day of Judgment.
It is you we serve,
And to you we call for help.
Guide us in the straight path,
The path of those on whom you have bestowed good,
Not on those on whom anger falls,
Or those who go astray."
Some people who are not well acquainted with Islam
incorrectly believe that Muhammad is worshiped.
Muslims dislike being called Muhammadans
because they are not worshippers of Muhammad but of Allah.
But the Qur'an commands obedience to Muhammad,
and his life is taken as a model of piety.
Devout Muslims revere the Qur'an and recite verses
from it five times a day in their prayers,
and they try to learn as much of it by memory as possible.
In fact, some Muslim clerics have memorized the entire book!
No devout Muslim would ever make a noise
while the Qur'an is being read aloud.
The Five Articles of Faith
This is what Muslims believe.
They believe that Allah is the one true God.
Muslims believe that since God is one
the Christian doctrine of the trinity is polytheistic.
Allah is omnipotent (all-powerful), omniscient (all-knowing),
and so beyond us that He is virtually unknowable.
Since we cannot know Him, the best we can do is obey Him.
Islam often interprets the Sonship of Jesus literally,
claiming that Jesus was the result of a physical union
between God and Mary.
Jesus is presented in the Qur'an as a great miracle worker
and one of the greatest prophets,
but they do not believe that He is the Son of God.
Since Allah cannot be known but only be obeyed,
judgment and justice are basic to Islam.
Allah demands obedience to all commands,
and all human actions are either rewarded or punished.
Most Muslims believe that Allah created heaven and earth in six days.
Adam and Eve were created in Paradise, in one of the heavens.
They were deceived by Satan, but God forgave them,
and they were sent to earth to begin the human race.
Children are born free of sin
and if they die as children they go to live in Paradise.
As to the Scriptures
Jews and Christians are regarded by Muslims as "people of the book."
They believe that the Law was revealed to Moses, the Psalms to David,
the Gospel to Jesus, and the Qur'an to Muhammad.
They believe that Jews and Christians
changed and corrupted their own Scriptures,
so Allah sent the Qur'an as the final revelation to humanity.
The Qur'an is believed to be eternal as is Allah.
As to Prophets
They believe that Allah has sent many prophets to guide them.
Some believe that there are as many as 10,000.
The Qur'an mentions 28, most of whom are found
in the Old and New Testaments.
One cannot deny the prophets and be a Muslim.
They believe that Jesus was the greatest of the prophets
until Muhammad came.
They also believe that Jesus was sinless, but not divine.
The role of the prophets was to remind people
of the day of judgment and to guide them in right and wrong,
so that they could go to Paradise and not to hell when they die.
As To Angels
Muslims believe that there are good angels and bad angels (demons),
and great importance is placed on them.
Anyone who denies them is an infidel.
Good angels are created out of light and serve Allah.
The greatest angel is Gabriel,
who revealed Allah and the Qur'an to Muhammad.
He strengthened Jesus during His temptations.
Muslims usually believe they are assigned two angels,
one to record his good deeds and one to record his sins.
Two angels visit every newly buried corpse in its grave.
They make the corpse sit up,
and they ask questions of it regarding the faith.
If the answers are satisfactory, the corpse is allowed to sleep in peace.
If the corpse does not confess Muhammad, they beat it.
Animals can hear the cries, but humans cannot.
Demons are created out of fire,
and good and bad angels battle for believers' souls.
As To Judgment Day
Judgment day is a fundamental theme of Islam.
On the last day, an angel will sound a trumpet
and people will be resurrected to heaven or hell,
with each person's total life deeds determining the place.
Some believers will be saved immediately;
others must suffer in hell for a while and then go to heaven.
According to the Qur'an, heaven is a place of sensual delights
where there are beautiful women, couches covered with beautiful fabrics,
and delightful food and drink.
This male version of heaven seems dominant in Islam,
but Muslim women are assured the wonders of paradise as well.
Some Muslims believe in a sixth article of faith,
"The Decrees of Allah," in which Allah has ordained everything
that will come to pass.
So there is a pervading sense of fate among Muslims.
The feeling that fate cannot be escaped has,
some believe, held Islamic nations back
from cultural, scientific, and technological advancement.