Mainstream core doctrine. Islam is a 3 Dimensional Religion
Islam means to “surrender ones will or submit” to God. It has a root word in the Arabic which is “S-L-M.” This root word S-L-M is the word for Salaama, meaning “Peace.” So, as a religion called “Islam” it is descriptively called in Arabic, “Of those who surrender to God and gain peace.” The word “Muslim” also has the same root word, S-L-M. So the word Muslim descriptively means “the one who surrenders his/her will to God to gain peace.”
The religion of Islam has 3 dimensions.
- Islam – “Submission” to God, implying obedience to His laws and following the acts of worship that are prescribed for Muslims in the Qur’an. Islam tells us what is required of us to obey God as a Muslim, which are described as the “Five Pillars of Islam.” Of these 5 pillars, not obeying them (save the 1st pillar) does not take one out of Islam. It just makes one not a very observant Muslim. Committing sin, minor or major, does not take one out of Islam or make them a non-Muslim, except if it violates the 1st Pillar of Islam.
- Iman – Translated as “faith” in God and in his description of the realm of the unseen. These are summed up in 6 basic beliefs.
- Ihsan – Translated as “working towards perfection.” This level is attained by the one who lives his or her life as if they are actually standing in the presence of God, like a child when he is in the direct presence of a parent will do everything possible to do good. Ihsan is a level of moral character of the highest caliber in which one has overcome egotistical desires and promptings, such as envy, jealousy, rivalry, deceit, and other characteristics which degrade our moral character.
DIMENSION 1 – ISLAM; The 5 Pillars are:
- Shahaddah – Confession of faith. This is the entry point which, through repentance (tauba), makes one a Muslim and the only pillar that if one rejects or alters makes one a non-Muslim. This confession of faith is “I bear witness that there is no god except The One God and Muhammad is the Last (Final) Messenger of God.” (in a line of Prophets and messengers before the Day of Judgment).
- Salat – Prayer. 5 daily formal prayers. These are unlike informal prayers which are encouraged, but are “formal” prayers with specific recitations and movements that are required.
- Zakat – Mandatory charity. 2.5% of one’s residual wealth is required to give to the poor or needy. The Mosque or Islamic charity collection institutions cannot benefit from it, 100% of what one gives must go to the poor.
- Sawm – Fasting. Fasting for all able bodied persons for the 30 days of Ramadan.
- Hajj – Pilgrimage. Making journey to Makkah to pray at least once in one’s lifetime.
DIMENSION 2 – IMAN; The 6 Basic Beliefs are:
- Muslims believe that there is one true God, who is the Creator of the Universe(s) and everything in it. The Arabic word for God is Allah, which literally means “the One God” and directly refers to the God of Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, and Jacob (Israel). So, God’s name isn’t just a name but very descriptive and exclusive to Himself. Arab Christians also use the word Allah for God. The word Allah, however, unlike the word God, cannot be made plural. Muslims also never attempt to physically portray God.
- Muslims believe in the realm of what is called “the Unseen”, which includes the belief in the Angels. Angels are considered another form of creation, who unlike humans do not have the free will to obey or disobey God, but rather, carry out His commands on earth. The Angels are programmed to obey God’s commands or praise God for His greatness. When they are not being commanded they praise God indefinitely. Most famous among the angels is the Angel Gabriel, believed to have brought revelation to the Prophet Muhammad and previous prophets.
- Muslims believe that beginning with the first human being, Adam, God sent down prophets and messengers to convey His guidance to the rest of humankind. Muslims believe in many of the same prophets one may find in the Old Testament, including Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and Jesus the Messiah (Christ). Muslims view Jesus as one of the many prophets sent with the same basic monotheistic message, but that he was miraculously born to the Virgin Mary. There is actually an entire chapter in the Qur’an named after Mary which describes his birth and other miracles. Muhammad is of course considered to be the last and final prophet until the Day of Judgment.
- Muslims believe that some of these prophets were also messengers in that they received a divinely revealed scripture or book, including the Torah revealed to Moses, the Psalms revealed to David, the Gospel revealed to Jesus, and the Qur’an revealed to Muhammad, may peace be upon them all. The Qur’an confirms much of previous revelation and contains similar stories of prophets, injunction and commands.
- Muslims believe that this life is not the final destination for humans, but rather a temporary place that eventually will come to an end, at which point all of us will be brought back to life and held accountable before God for our individual actions in this life. The Day of Judgment is where those whose good acts outweighs their evil will be rewarded with paradise, and those whose evil outweighs their good will be punished with hell. Muslims believe in God’s infinite mercy and justice.
- Muslims believe in the “Foreknowledge” of God, called Al-Qadar. This is part of the belief that God is in charge of everything. Mankind has freewill to do good or bad and choose his destiny however,
- God knows everything, what will happen or has happened;
- God has recorded all that will happen and has happened;
- Whatever God wills to happen happens;
- God is the Creator of everything.
God has created us and knows what decisions we will make given a certain set of circumstances. For a Muslim it basically means that everything that happens to them has a purpose. Since God is in control and not bound by the limitations of time and space, this also gives a Muslim a sense of patience when something bad happens, that it is part of God’s plan, and they should be patient with bad events, prayerful and thankful for good events.
DIMENSION 3 – IHSAN; The characteristics of a Muslim
Muslims are asked to perfect their faith. Ihsan is what makes a Muslim the type of person everyone would want to live in their community.
This involves different levels:
- One’s spiritual relationship with God. Ishan improves and refines one spiritually to bring alive the saying of the Prophet Muhammad which is described as “worshipping God as if one sees Him.”
- It is the purification of one’s intentions. Good verses bad intentions are extremely important in Islam, and a Muslim should strive constantly to purify his or her intentions.
- It is perfecting moral character. One of the main purposes of Islam is the perfection of moral character, especially when interacting with others. This can be summarized by the basic precept of “doing unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
- Part of perfecting moral character is of course avoiding bad deeds and doing good.
One can find the same general precepts of most faiths such as, avoiding such vices as back-biting, lying, cheating, envy, in addition to the major sins such as stealing, killing, etc., and conversely encouragement for such recommended acts or qualities as generosity, kindness, honesty, forbearance, etc. Cultivating such qualities is the true goal of all faiths and is often, unfortunately the greater challenge for adherents to any religion.
In the Islamic community, you will find that Muslims are very generous (sometimes overly) and honest people who don’t drink alcohol, gamble, commit adultery and go through great extent to avoid even the appearance of wrongdoing.
The importance of doing good deeds can’t be understated. There are many who are less fortunate, who get themselves in a bad situation or in some other way need our help. While cultivating our inner qualities we could not have Ihsan without helping others whether they be individuals, entire communities or other nations. Law enforcement, as well as firefighters and relief organizations, in the United States (Muslim or not) is devoted to a large part of this aspect of Ihsan in America.
Article by BrJimC © 2016