Muhammad, in full Abū al-Qāsim Muḥammad ibn ʿAbd Allāh ibn ʿAbd al-Muṭṭalib ibn Hāshim (born 570, Mecca, Arabia [now in Saudi Arabia]—died June 8, 632, Medina), founder of the religion of Islam, accepted by Muslims throughout the world as the last of the prophets of God.
Names and titles of the Prophet Muhammad
The most common name of Muhammad of Islam, Muhammad (“the Glorified One”), is part of the daily call to prayer (adhān); following the attestation to the oneness of God, the believer proclaims, “Verily, I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of God” (Ashhadu anna Muḥammadan rasūl Allāh). When this name is uttered among Muslims, it is always followed by the phrase ṣalla Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam (“may God’s blessings and peace be upon him”), just as, whenever Muslims mention the name of other prophets such as Abraham, Moses, or Jesus, they recite the words ʿalayhi al-salām (“upon him be [God’s] peace”). Muhammad also became widely known in Europe by diverse forms of the name such as Mahon, Mahomés, Mahun, Mahum, and Mahumet (all French), Machmet (German), and Maúmet (Old Icelandic). Moreover, Muhammad is the most popular male name in the Islamic world either by itself or in combination with other names such as ʿAlī and Ḥusayn.
Muhammad, however, has many other names, including “sacred names,” which Muslims believe were given to him by God and by which he is called in various contexts. Muslim tradition counts 99 names for Muhammad. Among the most often used and also central to the understanding of his nature is Aḥmad (“the Most Glorified”), which is considered an inner and celestial name for Muhammad. Over the centuries Muslim authorities have believed that, when Christ spoke of the coming reign of the Paraclete, he was referring to Aḥmad. Also of great importance are the names that identify Muhammad as the Prophet, including Nabī (“Prophet”) and Rasūl Allāh (“the Messenger of God”). Other names of the Prophet are Ṭaha (“the Pure Purifier and Guide”), Yāsīn (“the Perfect Man”), Muṣṭafā (“the One Chosen”), ʿAbd Allāh (“the Perfect Servant of God”), Ḥabīb Allāh (“the Beloved of God”), Dhikr Allāh (“the Remembrance of God”), Amīn (“the Trusted One”), Sirāj (“the Torch Lighting the True Path”), Munīr (“the Illuminator of the Universe”), Hudā (“the Guide to the Truth”), Ghiyāth (“the Helper”), and Niʿmat Allāh (“the Gift of God”). These and his many other names play a major role in daily Muslim piety and in the practice of Sufism. An understanding of their meaning is essential to gaining any serious knowledge of the Islamic view of Muhammad or what some have called Islamic prophetology.
We can now calculate the mean age of 14 of Muhammad’s wives at the time he married them.
Khadijah’s Median Age = 26 years and 10 months.
Sawdah’s Approximate Age = 40 years.
Aisha’s Median Age = 9 years and 3 months.
Hafsah’s Median Age = 19 years and 6 months.
Zaynab bint Khuzayma’s Median Age = 28 years and 4 months.
Hind’s Median Age = 28 years and 6 months.
Zaynab bint Jahsh’s Median Age = 37 years and 2 months.
Juwayriyah’s Median Age = 20 years and 0 months.
Safiyah’s Age = 16 years and 6 months.
Ramlah’s Median Age = 34 years and 7 months.
Maymunah’s Median Age = 35 years and 2 months.
Mulaykah’s Approximate Age = 13 years.
Asma’s Maximum Age = 20 years.
Amrah’s Approximate Age = 15 years.
Total Years = 343 years and 10 months.
Mean Age of Muhammad’s Brides = 24.56 years
The mean age of Muhammad’s brides was about 24½ years. Even by the historical Arabian standards, a woman of 24 was not quite “middle-aged”.
1- What is the meaning of Islam?In Arabic, when a warrior lays down his arms and surrenders because he knows he is defeated, we use the verb "aslama", which means "he submits." The word "Islam" comes from this verb and means "submission.".
So, in the widest sense, Islam means the religion of submission to God. A Muslim catechism says, "Islam is submission to God with all our being, with all our senses, with all our organs: the hands, the feet, the ears, the tongue, the stomach and the sexual organs. It is the submission of the inner life of each of us". (Cf. Qur'an: 2 Baqara 106/112).
But in particular, we use the word Islam to indicate all the belief and practices of the religion, of which Muhammad is the Prophet and the Qur'an the sacred scripture.*
2- What is the meaning of Muslim?The word Muslim is derived from the same verb "aslama", and means "one who practices Islam". As we have seen above, this can be interpreted in two ways. Firstly, anyone who submits himself to God might be called a Muslim. Thus, for example, the Qur'an refers to Noah, Lot and the disciples of Jesus as "Muslims", in the sense that they submitted themselves to God.
But secondly, in everyday speech we give the name "Muslim" to one who follows the religion proclaimed by Muhammad.
3- Who was the Prophet Muhammad?Muhammad is the name of the man who (Muslims believe) received a revelation from God, and in accordance with this revelation laid the foundation of Muslim belief and practice. He is also called "an-nabi", which means "the Prophet".
4- Of what nationality was he?Muhammad was a native of Arabia, a Semite by race, a "white man", though of dark complexion. Tradition says that he was of medium height, his head was strong, his beard thick, his feet and his hands were rough; his bony frame indicated vigour, his face was ruddy. He is also said to have had black eyes, straight hair and smooth cheeks. He dyed himself with henna.
5- When and where did Muhammad live?Muhammad was born about the year 570 of the Christian era (A.D.). At that time North Africa, Europe, the Middle East and part of Asia including India and China, constituted the well-traveled "civilized world", and it was within this region, at Mecca in Central Arabia, that Muhammad was born. He died in the year 632 A.D. His life's work was done, therefore, in the 7th Century after Christ, and about 800 miles to the south of Jerusalem.
6- What were the names of his father and mother?Muhammad belonged to one of the Quraish families, that of Banu Hashim. His grandfather was Abd-al-Muttalib, his father was Abdu'llah, his mother was Amina, daughter of Wahib.
7- What do you know of the life of Muhammad?Muhammad was an orphan from very early childhood. He was placed under the guardianship of his grandfather, and was entrusted to some Bedouin until weaning, then to one of his uncles, Abu Tali'o. During this last period Muhammad joined his cousin Ali, who was later to become one of his close collaborators and even his son-in-law. (Q.77).
As a young man of great honesty and a serious reputation, he entered the service of a rich widow, Khadija, who conducted an important business concern. In the service of Khadija Muhammad made repeated journeys as far as to Palestine and probably to Jerusalem. On his return from one of these journeys, Khadija's admiration for her employee led her to marry him. Soon after, Muhammad was drawn towards spiritual retreats. He went alone to a cave far from the markets and crowds in order to meditate. He already hated the kind of idolatry which he saw displayed in his town. One day he was convinced by a kind of vision that he was called to reform his people. Tradition tells that the angel Gabriel (Jibril) appeared to him and gave him the command to preach. "But what must I preach?" replied Muhammad. "Preach in the name of Thy Lord, who created man…" replied the Angel (96, 'Alaq 1-5).
Not long afterwards Muhammad began to proclaim that the day of judgment was near, that each man must live justly and honestly in gratitude for the goodness of God; each must render an account of his life, and woe to him who does not prepare to meet his God. This vision occurred in the year 610; after twelve years of preaching at Mecca the opposition became so fierce that Muhammad with his 60 followers emigrated to the city of Yathrib, some 280 miles north of Mecca. This emigration (Hijra)* took place on the 24th September 622. Yathrib was later renamed Medina ("the City"), and Muhammad lived there up to his death on the 8th June 632.
This period at Medina (622-632) was very important for Muhammad. During the first years he was settling down gradually and organising his community. Some of the townspeople showed themselves friendly to him, and he called them the Helpers (Ansar). Others did not like the arrival and growing authority of this stranger, and he called these the Hypocrites (Munafiqun). Soon the Muslims began to attack the Meccans, especially by raiding their caravans. No doubt the emigrants who had lost their homes and possessions in Mecca were in economic need; but the primary aim was to free Mecca and its holy places from the power of the idolaters (see Q.70).
A succession of victories made Muhammad a feared and respected chief. Many submitted to him; some in sincere faith, others in order to benefit from his protection and to live at peace. After a battle interrupted by long parleys and ending in a surprise attack, Muhammad captured the very city of Mecca, demolished pagan altars, and reformed the pagan pilgrimage so that it might express the worship of the One God. A little later, on his return from a pilgrimage, he got a fever and died.
8- Where was he buried?Muhammad was buried where he had been living at Medina. Up until today many pilgrims, after their visit to Mecca, go to see the tomb of the Prophet at Medina.
9- What religions existed in Arabia before Muhammad?As in traditional African religions, the Arabs before Muhammad regarded certain springs, trees and stones, as the abode of good or evil spirits. Their religious practice was directed towards gaining the protection and support of the good spirits and defending themselves from the misdeeds of the evil spirits. Some of the Arabs also venerated the stars. Among the many divinities there was one called Allah, the creator of the worlds. At Medina and elsewhere there were important Jewish communities.
By this time the Christian faith had spread through Northern Europe, and had reached Asia, India and China. There were Christian kingdoms in Ethiopia and Southern Arabia. But there were few Christians in the region of Mecca and Medina, and these were mainly foreigners.
10 Did Muhammad know the Gospel?Muhammad had no direct access to the Bible, which was perhaps just beginning to be translated into Arabic at that time but was not widely available in that language. The Christians whom Muhammad is likely to have met were largely ignorant of the Bible, and based their faith rather on the false "Apocryphal Gospels"; and the Qur'an itself says that Jews (? And Christians) who spoke to Muhammad about their scriptures, misrepresented them to him (4, Nisa, 48/46; 3, Ali 'Imran, 72/78).
So it is generally agreed by Muslims and non-Muslims that Muhammad did not obtain any clear knowledge of the Gospel from the Bible or from Christian informants. But Muslims believe that God revealed directly to Muhammad what the teaching of the previous prophets had been, and that God gave Muhammad the same message in perfected form. So Muslims will answer , "Yes, Muhammad knew the Gospel".
Non-Muslims, observing that what the Qur'an says about Jesus and the Gospel is substantially different from the teaching of the Bible are compelled to answer, "No, Muhammad did not know the Gospel, he was misinformed by the ignorant Christians whom he met. (See also Q. 23 & 80).
WHAT MUSLIMS BELIEVE
11-What do Muslims believe?The Muslim faith can be summarized in a sentence from the Qur'an (4, Nisa 135/136): "O ye who believe! Believe in Allah and His Messenger, and the scripture which He has sent down to His Messenger, and the Scripture which He sent down previously. Whoever disbelieves in Allah and His angels and His scriptures and His messengers and the Last Day, he has wandered far astray" (To the five beliefs mentioned in the last sentence, Muslim teachers add a sixth, predestination).
A shorter summary is the "Shahada" -- Q.39.
12- What are the principal titles of God?According to Muslim faith, Allah (God) is beyond all description and knowledge. However, the Qur'an gives him many titles, traditionally numbering 99. He is first the Creator, the Judge, the Rewarder of good and evil. He is unique, He has no partner or equal, He is all-powerful and merciful. He is the one who does whatever He pleases and gives no account of His actions to anyone. He exercises justice towards those He approves, and shows Himself ready to pardon those who do what is needed to obtain pardon…
13- Do Muslims believe that God is Father, that God is Love?(i) In Muslim faith God is regarded as the Master, and believers are his servants or slaves. These terms emphasize the greatness of God, and the humility and obedience which man must display in God's presence. The Muslim feels it a position of great honor to be a "slave of God". Muslims reject the idea that God is Father, out of fear that this would diminish the greatness of God; they suspect that those who call themselves "sons of God" are proudly exalting themselves as God's favorites (5, Ma'ida 21/18). CF. Q. 80, 91.
(ii) The Qur'an calls God "the loving" (Al Wadud), but the meaning is rather different from the Christian idea of God's love. It implies "approval"; thus the Qur'an says that God loves (approves of) the good, but does not love (approve of) the evil-doers (3, Ali "Imran 29/32, 70/76 etc). The Qur'an speaks much of God's goodness in creation and in sending prophets, but nowhere says that God loves the world, nor that God loves sinners, nor that "God is love" (cf. John 3; 16; Romans 5: 8 1John 4:8).
14- What are the meanings of Bismillah, Al-hamdu li-llah, Insha-llah, Allahu Akbar, Allah karim, As-salaam 'aleikum, Salla-llahu 'aleihi wa-sallam?
Bismillah means "in the name of God". It is a kind of invocation much used to call down blessing on oneself or to drive away an influence thought to be harmful.
Al-hamdu li-llah means "praise (returns) to God". By this phrase the believer declares that God is the source of everything worthy of praise, and it is to God that everything must return.
Insha-llah means "if God so wills". By this the believer wishes to express his dependence, his submission to God. Sometimes it is a form of modesty to reply in this way to congratulation or flattery. Allahu Akbar means "God is most great". The phrase is constantly repeated in the ritual prayer, and at other times e.g. to express admiration or surprise. It implies that God is the supreme being, He knows what He wishes, He is the Master, and everything He does is to be accepted by man as good.
Allah karim means "God is generous"; it is He who supplies what is lacking and gives abundantly to whom He pleases. The phrase is frequently on the lips of beggars, who use it to appeal to the generosity of passers-by, reminding them that God will recompense them.
As-salaam 'aleikum is the common greeting "peace be upon you (plural)" -- to which the answer is wa 'aleiku-ssalaam, "and upon you, peace". Some Muslims believe that the greeting should only be used by one Muslim to another.
Salla-llahu 'aleihi wa-sallom means "may the blessing of God and peace be upon him", and is said by Muslims after any mention of Muhammad.
15- What is the Qur'an?After his first vision in 610 A.D., up until his death in 632, Muhammad prophesied from time to time in a kind of trance. These pronouncements, in the Arabic language, dealt with many subjects such as: God's prophets and scriptures, God's mercy and punishment, death, the Last Day, good and evil spirits, laws of marriage, divorce, warfare, and so on. When Muhammad prophesied, his followers learnt the words by heart, or wrote them down on stones, bones, palm leaves, etcetera (for paper was scarce in those days). Finally all these pronouncements were collected and edited in a single book -- there is some difference of opinion among Muslims as to whether this editing was completed before or after the death of the Prophet. It is this collection of pronouncements which we know as the Qur'an -- the word "Qur'an" literally means proclamation or recitation.
But Muslims go much further than this. They believe that these are the words of God Himself, spoken through the lips of His Prophet, but not in any way coming from the mind and experience of Muhammad. They believe that the "mother of the Qur'an" (ummu-l-kitab) is in heaven, written by God Himself on a "guarded tablet" (lawhu-l-mahfuz); and that the angel Gabriel brought the tablet down to Muhammad -- so that the Qur'an which we have today is a copy of the "guarded tablet" in heaven. (cr. Q. 81).
But other Muslims, especially in modern times, would say that there is no Qur'an or tablet literally existing in heaven, but that these words are metaphors to show that God knew beforehand what He was going to reveal to Muhammad.
16- What is the meaning of Sura and Aya?Sura means a "chapter" of the Qur'an. There are 114 suras, and Muslims generally refer to them by the name given to each one, rather than by number.
Aya means literally a "sign", and so a part of the Qur'an, generally one verse. Estimates differ, but there are commonly said to be 6,247 verses, 77,934 words and 323,621 letters in the Qur'an. To give an idea of its length, the Qur'an is a little shorter than the New Testament.
For recitation the Qur'an is divided into 60 sections, known as "hizb", which do not correspond at all with the chapter divisions.
17- What is in the amulets which some Muslims wear?Because of their belief that each word of the Qur'an comes directly from God, many Muslims feel that the word itself is stamped with divine power. So words from the Qur'an (especially the names of God) are written on paper and sewn in a small leather pouch, and sold. Those who buy feel that the power of God is somehow contained in the pouch, and will protect them from sickness, barrenness, the fire of hell, etcetera. Other amulets contain, not words of Qur'an, but magical signs from astrology and geomancy.
18- Do these amulets actually protect those who wear them?Islam teaches that God protects whom He will and saves whom He will -- there is no other protection than He. Therefore some Muslim authorities have attacked the use of amulets. For example the theologian Ibn Khaldun said that it is not the power of God which dwells in amulets, but a magic power which comes from the spirit of man; therefore to trust in them is to put your trust in something else beside God. Similarly in modern times, the Ahmadiyya (Q.78), and the Wahhabi of Saudi Arabia forbid the use of amulets. But other Muslims reply that it is God Himself who has provided amulets to be a protection for man.
A Christian will say that definitely God alone is sufficient for all things, therefore we must not put our trust in anything that human hands have made. Human hands can make a "reminder" (e.g. verses of scripture on the walls of our house to remind us to look to God always. But this is a means of strengthening our trust in God. We do not think there is any power in the mere written word, whether on the wall or in an amulet.
19- What are the wooden boards which children recite from in Quranic schools?Since there are not enough copies of the Qur'an (and children might misuse them), Qur'an teachers write sections of the Qur'an on the boards, and use these to teach children to read and recite from memory.
20- Why do they wash the boards and drink the water?As with amulets (Q. 17), they believe that each word of the Qur'an written on the board is a direct "word of God", and full of God's power. So they wash the board with water to dissolve the ink that has written the words; it is felt that the mixture has a divine healing power. But, as with amulets, many Muslims oppose the practice, regarding it as idolatrous.
21- Do Muslims believe in other scriptures previous to the Qur'an?According to the Traditions (sayings attributed to Muhammad), God has sent down 313 scriptures to men, among them being the Tawrat (law of Moses), the Zabur (Psalms of David), and the Injil (Gospel of Jesus). The Qur'an confirms the truth of these previous scriptures (2, Baqara 83/89; 3, Ali "Imran 2/3), it calls Jews and Christians to observe their own Tawrat and Injil (5, Ma'ida 72/68). Belief in all these scriptures is an article of Muslim faith (Q. 11: cf. 10, Yunus 94).
Accordingly, many Muslims are inclined to accept the Bible as containing previous scriptures and being the word of God. But other Muslims suspect that the original Tawrat, Zabur and Injil have all been lost or corrupted , and that the Law, Psalms and Gospels of the Bible are not the same as the scriptures mentioned in the Qur'an. Or they may say that the previous scriptures (even if they do exist in the Bible) have been summed up and so superseded by the Qur'an.
A Christian Comment: It is true that the original manuscripts of the Law and Gospels no longer exist (just as the original manuscripts of the Qur'an no longer exist). But we possess very early copies which were already in the hands of Jews and Christians in Muhammad's time, and these agree in all essentials with the Bible we use today. In several ways the Qur'an bears witness to those scriptures which were then actually in the hands of Muslims and Christians.
The Qur'an does seem, therefore, to give Muslims a special reason to study the Bible with great reverence.
For the Christian, there are two main reasons for believing in the Bible :- (I) the immense labour of scholars studying the ancient copies has proved it to be a faithful copy of the original manuscripts; (ii) the Bible gives a consistent message (see Q. 80 & 90) which has convinced our hearts and brought us to forgiveness and peace with God.
22- Do Muslims believe in other prophets before Muhammad?Tradition says that God had sent many prophets (nabi) and messengers (rasul) to the word before Muhammad; they are said to number at least 8,000. Among those mentioned in the Qur'an are Abraham, Issac, Jacob, Noah, David, Solomon, Job, Moses, Aaron, Zechariah and his son John the Baptist, Jesus, Ishmael, Elijah, Elisha, Lot and Jonah. But, apart from the last named, there is no mention of the great prophets whose books are in the Bible -- Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, etcetera.
23- What do Muslims think of Jesus?In accordance with the teaching of the Qur'an, Muslims are bound to show the greatest respect for "Jesus, son of Mary" (in Arabic, Isa ibn Maryam). According to the Qur'an, Jesus was indeed born in an extraordinary manner, by the miraculous intervention of God. He was a prophet and messenger of God, upright and near to God, called "the word of God" (though in a different sense from John 1:1). He healed the sick, opened the eyes of the blind and raised the dead. The Jews of his time would not obey his message and determined to kill him …..all of this is similar to the teaching of the Bible. But contrary to the teaching of the Bible, Muslims say that God did not allow the Jews to crucify Jesus, God saved him from them and raised him up to Himself so that he never knew death. So, for orthodox Muslim belief, there is no Cross of Jesus and no Resurrection. Again, Muslims deny the Biblical teaching that Jesus is the Son of God, that he is the Saviour who atoned for the sins of mankind, or that he should be worshipped. (See Q. 81-82, 87-90).
For the different beliefs about Jesus held by Ahmadis, see Q. 78.
24- How is the "second coming" of Jesus envisaged by Muslims?Muslim Traditions give divergent accounts of the return of Jesus. According to some Traditions, the Mahdi (often identified with Jesus Christ) will appear just before the Last Day. He will perform the Muslim ritual prayer and go to Mecca as a pilgrim (Q. 59-66); he will restore Islam to perfection and wipe out Judaism and Christianity, destroying all crosses and killing all pigs. The Muslims will enjoy a wonderful prosperity where the earth will yield its fruits without the need for man to do any work. Jesus will live a long life as a married man with a family, and will then be buried in the tomb of the Prophet Muhammad in Medina.
However, not all Muslims would accept the validity of these Traditions, none of these details appear in the Qur'an.
25- Has the Virgin Mary any place in Muslim devotion?The Qur'an gives its own version (very similar to certain apocryphal gospels) of the visit of the angel to the Virgin Mary and the miraculous conception of her son, Jesus. Mary is depicted as a perfect Muslim (cf. Q 1-2). She is highly respected but in no sense worshipped.
We should notice that certain Christian groups in the time of Muhammad went to such lengths in their veneration of Mary as to give the impression that the Christian Trinity consisted of Jesus and Mary worshipped as two gods beside God; cf. 5, Ma'ida 116 and Q. 84.
26- Do Muslims worship Muhammad?Not at all; Muslims would regard this suggestion as blasphemous, and Muhammad himself insisted that no one must worship him, only God must be worshipped.
However, later Muslim piety has gone very far in its reverence for Muhammad, regarding him as an infallible teacher, a perfect example, a sinless man whose intercession can bring us to Paradise. The degree of reverence is sometimes hard to reconcile with the teaching of the Qur'an; where Muhammad is instructed to say, "I am only a man like yourselves" and is instructed to ask God's forgiveness for his sin (18, Kahf 110/111; 40, Mu'min 57/55; cf. 46, Ahqaf 8/9).
27- Can there be other prophets after Muhammad?Muslims believe that Muhammad was the last of the prophets, "the seal of the prophets". He continued and perfected the work begun by Moses and Jesus; he brought God's final revelation, which can never be added to.
However, the founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement (Q. 78) claimed to be another prophet after Muhammad. Some Ahmadis today do not accept that claim, while others accept Ahmad as a prophet, but not a law-giving prophet.
28- What are the angels and spirits spoken of in the Qur'an?Angels are represented in the Qur'an as special messengers of God. As intermediaries, they transmit God's commands to mankind. The Qur'an and Traditions speak of Jibril (Gabriel) who brought the word of God to Muhammad; Mika'il (Michael who watches over the world; Israfil who will sound the trumpet at the last judgment; 'Azra'il the archangel of death, and Iblis (Satan) cursed by God because he refused to prostrate before Adam. The spirits (in Arabic, "jinn") may be evil (demond) or good spirits. Believers seek refuge with God against evil spirits, especially by repeating the two final suras, "Falaq" and "Nas".
29- How is the Last Judgment described?By combining teaching of the Qur'an with Traditions, we get the following picture: At the first trumpet-sound, all living things will die. At the second trumpet, the angel Israfil will call men back to life; then will come the Last Judgment, and every soul will be weighed. "On that day shall men come forward in throngs to behold their works, and he who has done an atom's weight of good shall see it, and he who has done an atom's weight of evil shall see it". (99, Zilzal 6-8). In order to reach Paradise, the elected ones will, without any difficulty, cross over a bridge as narrow as a thread and as sharp as a razor. Sinful Muslims may manage to cross, but it will be a painful ordeal for them; the time they spend in crossing will be according to the number of their sins; the terror of this ordeal will have a purifying effect on them. The unbelievers, as soon as they mount the bridge, will fall into hell, gehenna (aljahannam).
30- What is the weighing of souls?Men's deeds will be weighed in a kind of balance, and woe to him whose good deeds weigh lighter than his evil deeds; he is lost!
31- In the Muslim view, who are the damned?The supreme sin, according to Islam, is "Shirk", that is, "associating" someone else with God, believing in more than one God. Next, he who does not know the distinction between "pure" and "impure", and so disobeys the prohibitions of the Qur'an, he also is lost. The Qur'an gives to unbelievers the name "Kafirun" or "Kuffar". (cf. Q. 33, 37).
32- What is sin, according to the Muslim view?Sin, to the Muslim, is either a saying which blasphemes against God, or an act which breaks the Muslim rules of prohibition. In short, sin is any word or act which breaks the law, for which God may punish us or demand penance. This differs from the Christian idea of a condition or state of sinfulness, in which man is immersed (like a fish in the sea) and from which he can never extract himself. Again, Christians regard sin as something that grieves God and breaks the communion between man and God (Isaiah 59: 2; 1 John 1:6, Psalm 78: 40; Ephesians 4:30). But Muslims do not normally think of sin in this way, for they feel that the infinitely great Creator is in no way affected or hurt by the actions of His creatures. Christians and Muslims often misunderstand one another's religious language, when they are not aware of these different usages of the word "sin".
33- Are there major and minor sins?Traditions distinguishes between different sins. The most serious are "Shirk" (Q. 31--the only sin which the Qur'an declares God will not pardon; 5, Nisa 51/48); then, apostasy (i.e. abandonment of Muslim faith), refusal to be converted to Islam, declaring the Prophet to be a liar, killing a Muslim, committing adultery, ill-treating father or mother, and running away in battle.
34- How do Muslims think of God's forgiveness?As the Muslim idea of sin is different from the Christian's, so the ideas of forgiveness are different. To Christians, God's forgiveness means that He removes the barrier between man and Himself (especially, through the atonement He provided in Jesus Christ), and reconciles us, brings us back here and now into fellowship and peace with Him. But to Muslims, God's forgiveness is that in the Last Judgment He will pardon or "overlook" sins for which He might have exacted a penalty. As a great King who can do whatever He pleases and no one can question, God punishes whom He will and pardons whom He will (3, Ali 'Imran 124/129: 5, Ma'ida 118). Even though souls are weighed in the Last Day, our deeds cannot affect God's decision. Therefore no Muslim can declare that he has already earned or received forgiveness--it is at the Last Day that we shall know. Nevertheless, Muslims do commonly assume that the righteous Muslim will go to Paradise, God overlooking his minor sins; and that the unrighteous Muslim who repents will also reach Paradise, his sins being either pardoned, or cleansed by punishment. But (they say) we cannot know the fate of the unrighteous Muslim who does not repent; while unbelievers will certainly perish in the fire, unless they are converted to Islam.
35- Why is it said that a man remains in the grave according to the number of his sins?According to Tradition, as soon as a man is buried in the grave, two angels appear and the dead man stands up in the tomb to undergo an examination. This applies both to believer and unbeliever. When the Muslim believer is questioned, he declares that Allah is the One God and Muhammad is the Prophet of God, then he can lie down peacefully to await the Last Day. Those who cannot make this reply are severely beaten, for as long as God pleases.
36- Are there people predestined to heaven or hell?Since the final decision is with God, who from all eternity knows each of his creatures, Islam believes that He has predestined some to Paradise and some to hell. Man cannot know in advance which side he will be on; but at the Last Day he will be given his "book of destiny", either into the right hand or into the left hand. Those receiving it in the right hand are those destined to salvation, those of the left hand are the ones who were destined to perdition. This doctrine of predestination does not however exclude all human responsibility. Theologians explain that man must by his own will "acquire" the actions which God has predestined for him (cf. Q. 29, 34, 89).
37- What is "pure" and "impure" in Islam?The question of ritual purity plays a most important part in the religious education given to Muslims, and the details are extremely subtle. In general, defiling objects are as follows:-
1. Wine and other alcoholic drinks (strictly forbidden in the Qur'an);
2. Dogs (which may be kept only for hunting, or to guard house or flocks);
3. Pigs (Q. 76);
4. "Mayta" (i.e. an animal that has died other than by ritual throat-cutting,--Q. 74);
6. Excreta (i.e. all that comes out of the body of men or animals, except saliva, sweat, tears and mucous);
7. In certain regions, a corpse, or the living body of a non-Muslim.
Also, certain acts cause a man to be in a stage of ritual impurity:-e.g. urination and excretion, sexual relations, and menstruation. (See also Q. 41).
38- How does the Muslim practice his religion?The Muslim practices his religion primarily by obeying the prohibitions laid down in the Traditions, and by observing what are called the "pillars of Islam". There are five pillars:- 1. The Shahada, or confession of faith (Q. 39). 2. The Salat, or Ritual Prayer (Q. 40-52). 3. The Zakat, or Ritual Almsgiving (Q. 53-55). 4. The sawm, or Fast in the month of Ramadhan (Q. 56-58). 5. The Hajj, or Pilgrimage to Mecca (Q. 59-68).
39- What is the Shahada?The Shahada (Confession of faith) consists in declaring "I bear witness that there is no divinity but God; I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of God". In Arabic, "Ashhadu an la ilaha illa'llaj; ashhadu an-na Muhammada-r-rasulu'llah". This formula must be repeated frequently, especially on conversion to Islam, on hearing the call to Prayer, in the Prayer itself, and at the point of death.
40- What is the meaning of the Call to Prayer?God is most great (twice or four times); I bear witness that there is no divinity but God (twice); I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of God (twice); Hasten to the Prayer (twice); Hasten to well-being (twice); The Prayer is better than sleep (morning only; twice); God is most great (twice); There is no divinity but God.
41- What is the purpose of Ablutions?Tradition records that Muhammad said, "Ritual purity is the half of faith and the key of Prayer". The acts and objects which cause ritual defilement (Q. 37) make one unfit to perform the Prayer. Therefore a Muslim must know how to purify himself before Prayer. For some defiling acts and objects, a "lesser ablution" is sufficient; this is done by touching with water the face, the hands and arms up to the elbows, the head (rubbed with a wet hand), and the feet up to the ankles, etcetera. All this must be done exactly according to rule. In some other cases the "greater ablution" is necessary; for this a complete bath is needed, so that every part of the body may be touched by water. Pure or running water should be used, but if this is not available the worshipper may purify himself with sand or dust, first making a declaration of his intention.
42- What are the actions of the Prayer?There are four main postures in the Ritual Prayer; standing (Arabic, iqama); bowing (ruku') with hands resting on the knees; prostration (sujud) in which the knees first touch the ground, the worshipper sits on his hells, then bends forward so that hands and first nose then forehead touch the ground; and sitting (julus) on the hells, the body upright, hands on thighs, fingers slightly apart (not together), eyes lowered (but not shut). There are many other complicated details, and a mistake in the actions or in the words may nullify the whole prayer, so that the worshipper must start again at the beginning…..There is also ablution before the Prayer, and at the beginning a declaration of the intention to offer a certain number of prayer-cycles.
43- What are the words of the Prayer?The words of the Prayer must be recited in Arabic, and consist of praise to God and request for God's blessing. Here is the meaning of some parts of it:-"God is most great…holiness to Thee, O God and praise to Thee…I seek refuge with god from the cursed Satan…God hears him who praises Him…O God, have mercy on Muhammad and on his descendents, as Thou didst have mercy on Abraham and his descendents…O God, bless Muhammad and his descendents…O God, our Lord, give us the blessings of this life and also the blessings of the life to come, save us from the torments of fire…The peace and mercy of God be with you". Some short passages of the Qur'an are recited, always including the 1st Sura (Fatiha) and often the 112th (Ikhlas). Note that there is no "Confession of Sin" and Declaration of Forgiveness, as these are found in Christian worship; also in the Ritual Prayer there is no idea of intimate communion with God, listening to Him and telling Him our personal hopes and wants. However, after the end of the Ritual Prayer there is a place where quiet personal supplication may be offered in the vernacular. Compare Q. 91.
44- What are the times of Prayer?1. Between the first light and sunrise (Arabic: Subh or Fajr); 2. After midday, but before the sun has declined half way (Zuhr); 3. After Zuhr, till just before sunset (Asr); 4. After sunset, till nightfall (Maghrib); 5. After nightfall, till midnight ('Isha). The Prayer must not be performed at the moment of sunrise or sunset, to avoid any impression that the sun is the object of worship.
45- Is the Prayer performed only five times a day?No, these five times are obligatory, but the zealous Muslim may add Prayers at other prescribed times, and this is recommended as meritorious.
46- What is the direction of the Prayer?The worshipper faces Mecca, and in particular the shrine Kaaba (Q. 62-63). Anyone who performs the Prayer in this direction is recognized as a Muslim, and the direction is taken up in many other circumstances--an animal being sacrificed is turned towards Mecca; the dead are buried with the face towards Mecca.
47- Who leads the Prayer?In principle, any respected Muslim who knows how to do so may lead the Prayer. The Leader is called the Imam, but this is not a "priesthood" or "order" to which he is ordained. The Imam is in no sense an intermediary between God and the believer; his function is merely to say the Prayer aloud and clearly, so that all may perform the actions and repeat the words in unison. However, in practice there is generally one particular man, well-trained in the Qur'an, who is appointed to lead the Prayer at a particular mosque, and he may be paid for his services.
48- Where may the Prayer be performed?It may be performed in any place that is ritually pure, not defiled by one of the objects or creatures pronounced unclean (Q.37). Any space set aside for Prayer becomes a Mosque--it is not necessary to have a building. No dogs may enter, no blood must be spilt, and humans must not relieve themselves there. But there is generally no prohibition on resting, talking, eating and even sleeping in a mosque.
49- Why is it necessary to remove the shoes before entering a Mosque?Since a mosque must be ritually pure, it is advisable not to enter with shoes which may have touched something impure. Therefore it is customary to leave footwear at the door and enter bare-footed.
50- Why are women (or young women) generally excluded from the mosque?Women must not enter the mosque during their menstrual period; therefore they are often strongly discouraged from entering the mosque at all, in case they might carelessly come in a state of impurity. However, their presence is not actually forbidden by Muslim law--women pilgrims do enter the Sacred Mosque at Mecca. A woman past the age of childbearing may be made responsible for cleaning the mosque, and may occupy a modest place at the back to join in the Prayer.
51- Why do Muslims go to the Mosque on Friday?Every Friday the men of the Muslim community should perform the noon Prayer all together and hear a sermon. This corporate Prayer demonstrates the solidarity of the community, and is considered to have great merit in God's sight. It is prescribed by 62, Jumu'a 9; according to Tradition Adam both entered and left Paradise on a Friday, and the Day of Resurrection will be a Friday! However, in Muslim law Friday is not a day of rest, like the Jewish Sabbath.
52- What is the Muslim Rosary (Subha or Tasbih)?The Rosary is not peculiar to Islam, but was adopted by Islam from other religions. It helps the worshipper to count the number of his invocation or prayers. For example, it is recommended to recite 100 times the formula "There is no god but Allah, without partner; to Him the kingdom, to Him praise, and He is over all; the power". The Rosary often has 100 beads--one for "Allah" and 99 for His "excellent names". It is used especially during Ramadhan, when God is thought to take special account of men's good deeds.
53- What is Zakat?This is the third pillar of Islam. "Zakat" means "purification"; it is a kind of ritual tax or alms, the paying of which is held to purify" the rest of a Muslim's possessions and to expiate his sins. Apparently it was at first a free-will offering, but it rapidly became a legal requirement. In theory, only Muslims are required to pay it. As opposed to this prescribed tax, "sadaqa" is more like a free-will offering, an act of charity and kindness.
54- What must the Muslim pay, according to the law?Zakat may be paid either in goods or in cash. The tax is imposed on produce of the soil, fruits, cattle, gold and silver (including money) and upon merchandise. There are complicated rules for calculating it; generally it is a tithe (tenth part) on fruits and produce of the soil, but a fortieth part on money and merchandise. But a poor man who has less than five camel loads of property need not pay!
55- To whom must the Zakat be paid?There are eight classes of people who may benefit from the tax: 1. Those in need; 2. The very poor (teachers of the law are regarded as being in these classes--so may receive Zakat); 3. The tax-collector may keep part as his "salary"; 4. Those whose hearts are to be reconciled (those converted to Islam who need help in adapting to the new community); 5.slaves, who have arranged to buy their freedom, to help them find the necessary sums of money; 6. Debtors who have voluntarily, for the love of God, undertaken to pay off their debt; 7. "in the way of God", those volunteering to fight in Holy War, or for the building of mosques; 8. Travelers who are in need. In many lands today, government taxation seems to have replaced the Zakat; however, beside this traditional Zakat, the term is applied to alms given to the poor at the end of Ramadhan, to mark the end of the fast (zakat al-fitr).
56- What is the month of Ramadhan?Fasting has been known in all ages as a religious practice, and had existed before the time of Muhammad. At the beginning of his ministry Muhammad fasted, as the Jews did, on the 10th day of the first month. Later he fixed instead the whole month of Ramadhan (the ninth month). During this month occurs the Laylatu-l-qadr (night of power) on which the Qur'an is believed to have been brought down to the lowest heaven, ready to be revealed to Muhammad. During this month, from the first light of dawn till darkness falls, it is forbidden to eat, drink, smoke or have sexual relations; it is forbidden to swallow saliva, if this can be avoided; the letting of blood by leeches or cupping is inadvisable. But the fast is only considered to have been broken by a premeditated, free and willing action of infringement. Thus everything entering the body breaks the fast, but not if the action was done accidentally or under compulsion. Refreshment may be taken in the night, when there are often lavish feasts. Three kinds of fasting should be distinguished: (I) the Ramadhan fast, one of the pillars of Islam; (ii) fasting in expiation of a sin; (iii) fasting as a result of a vow, to acquire more merit with God.
57- Who are obliged to fast in Ramadhan?Every adult Muslim who is sound in body and mind and physically capable of enduring the fast, must observe it. It is recommended that children be trained to fast beginning from 10 years old.
58- Who are excused from fasting?The feeble-minded, the sick, the elderly, pregnant and nursing women, travelers or those engaged in hard labour--these are exempted in prescribed circumstances. It is actually forbidden to fast when in danger of death, when faced by the enemy and (for women) during the menstrual period and for 40 days after childbirth. But the days of fast which have not been observed must, in most cases, be compensated by subsequent fasting or by some other kind of expiation.
59- What is the Pilgrimage?The Pilgrimage or "Hajj" is the fifth pillar of Islam. It is obligatory for every Muslim who is healthy in body and mind and who can afford to go, to go on the Pilgrimage to Mecca once in his lifetime. (Further visits are voluntary). He will visit the shrine called the Kaaba, and perform prescribed rites.
60- What is an "alhaji"?One who has performed the pilgrimage is honoured with the title "alhaji" or "alhajj"; if a woman, "alhaja". The title indicates the pilgrim's prestige among fellow Muslims; he is presumed to be endowed with special blessings from God. But the Alhaji has, as such, no special duty or office in the Muslim community.
61- Is Mecca the centre of the world?Muslims have said that Mecca is the centre or "navel" of the world, and that the Kaaba lies just under the throne of God. A glance at the map--remembering that the world is round like a ball!--will show that no place is literally at the world's centre; this is just a way of expressing how important Mecca is in Muslim faith.
62- Who built the shrine at Mecca?Muslims say that Adam and Even (Hawwa) first built the Kaaba--a flat roofed stone "house", estimated to be 50 feet high, and 35 feet broad by 40 feet deep. Adam and Even had met at Mecca after being driven from Paradise. Later (Muslims believe) the shrine was restored by Abraham and Ishmael, and maintained by other prophets. Non-Muslims presume the shrine to be an ancient place of worship no different in its origin from other shrines which existed in Arabia; they believe the traditions about its origin to be legendary.
63- What is the Black Stone (al-hajaru-l-aswad)?Set into the south-eastern corner of the Kaaba, at four or five feet above ground level, is a stone, reddish black with red and yellow particles. It seems to have been originally one stone, but to have been broken when it was once carried off. The three large pieces and several fragments are held together by a silver band. The stone thus joined together is about 7 inches in diameter. Traditions say that the stone came down from God, and was originally white, but was turned black because of man's sin. Muhammad found the Meccans worshipping the stone as an idol; he (in Muslim belief) restored it to the worship of the One God for which it had originally been dedicated. Going round the Kaaba (3 times running, four times walking) is one of the most important rites of the Pilgrimage, and each time round the pilgrim does his best to kiss it, or at least to touch it with his fingers and touch his fingers to his lips. He feels he obtains divine blessing by doing this. Christians are often disturbed, and some Muslims are too, at the thought that people who worship One God should kiss a stone which was previously used in idolatry. But it is untrue to suggest that Muslims worship this stone as a god. This is clearly shown by the saying of the Caliph "Umar, "I know that you are a stone, which can neither help me nor harm me; if the Prophet had not kissed you, I would not have done so".
64- What is the water which Pilgrims bring home from Mecca?According to Tradition, when Abraham sent away Hagar and her son Ishmael, they lost their way in the desert, and Hagar ran back and forth looking for water for her child to drink. God took pity on her and caused a spring to gush forth at Ishmael's feet. The two hills Safa and Marwa are said to be the points between which Hagar ran back and forth--so pilgrims run between them seven times. The spring Zamzam (now piped) which flows within the area surrounding the Kaaba, is believed to be the spring which God created for Hagar. Many pilgrims bring home water from this spring.
65- Does the water of Mecca wash away sins?In the world of Islam this spring is venerated, and its water is considered rich in blessings. According to widespread popular belief in Africa, the water has an almost magical power, and can wash away men's sins. So some pilgrims bring back little bottles of the water which they intend to drink before they die. This belief is emphatically rejected by Muslim theologians; it is not derived from the Qur'an nor from reliable Tradition, and it is opposed to the doctrine that only on the Last Day will God forgive or punish, according to His predestinating decree (Q. 34, 36).
66- Why do the pilgrims throw stones?This is one of the obligatory rites of the pilgrimage. Five miles from Mecca, in the region of Mina (or "Muna"), there are three stone pillars, fairly broad and about five feet high. The Pilgrim must throw stones, especially at the one nearest to Mecca. He has collected his seven pebbles that morning or the night before, and he throws them a distance of a few yards, flicking them with the thumb and forefinger of the right hand. This ceremony is said to be in memory of Abraham, who was tempted by Satan at this spot and drove him away with stones.
67- What are the principal Muslim festivals?There are two essential festivals in Islam: 'Idu-l-adha (or 'Idu-l-kabir, Greater Bairam) at which animals are sacrificed all over the Muslim world, at the same time as the sacrifice which concludes the Pilgrimage proper at Mecca; and 'Idu-l-fitr (Lesser Bairam), the festival of the breaking of the fast. Each of these annual festivals lasts generally for three days, and is a time of popular merrymaking. Other festivals have been added, among them the Mawlidu-n-Nabi (birthday of the Prophet) on the 12th day of the 3rd month.
68- Why are sheep, etc. sacrificed?At the'idu-l-adha, it is desirable to offer a sacrifice, in the ratio of a sheep or goat per person, or a camel or cow for seven persons. The sacrifice is obligatory only for those who can afford it and who have made a vow to do it. The sacrifice is regarded as a memorial to Abraham's willingness to offer his son in obedience to God's command--but Muslim Tradition says that the son was Ishmael, not Isaac. There is a popular belief among African Muslims that the killing of this animal is an atonement for sin or a propitiation to avert evil. But in orthodox teaching the sacrifice is a commemoration, an act of obedience to God and of charity to those who share the feast; it is not any kind of blood atonement. "Their flesh and their blood will not reach God, but your piety will reach Him". Again, although the sacrifice is made in the direction of the Kaaba, it is quite untrue to say that it is offered to the Kaaba or Black Stone; it is considered to be offered to the One God. (22, Hajj 38/37; 34/33).
69- Who laid down all these laws?Not all of these laws (above and following: the five pillars, warfare, sacrifice, circumcision, etc.) are written in the Qur'an. Many are based on the Sunna, i.e. the teaching and example of Muhammad as recorded in the Traditions (Hadith). In the many points of conduct where there is no specific teaching or example from Qur'an and Sunna, the law has been laid down according to Qiyas (analogy) and to Ijma' (the consensus of learned Muslims). Four slightly different systems of law are equally recognized as orthodox. In North and West Africa, Maliki law is commonly observed; Shafi'I law is the commonest in East Africa, Egypt and southern India; Hanafi law in Pakistan and Turkey; while Hanbali law is the least popular. As an example of the differences, Maliki law (W. Africa) prescribes that the arms should drop to the sides during the standing position of the Prayer; while in Shafi'I law (and in the Ahmadiyya movement and some Tijaniyya) the arms are folded, hand to elbow. See also Q. 74, 75. Many Muslims regard the whole law as coming from God, and to be kept without change or question. But other Muslims feel that some of the laws which were appropriate in the ancient world and among Arabs, can no longer be applied in modern times and in other lands. They would claim the right to amend the law, provided that any amendment does not conflict with the Qur'an and Sunna. A few Muslims even refuse to be bound by the Sunna, and seek to base their belief and conduct essentially on the Qur'an.
70- Why have Muslims propagated their religion by warfare?We must say first that Muslims are by no means the only people to have propagated their religion by warfare! But in Muslim law, "Holy War" (Jihad) has been considered as an obligation imposed by God and his Prophet (9 Tawba 5). The religion of Islam must be spread to all the world, by force if need be. Idolatry is the greatest evil that exists, so warfare is considered legitimate as a means to rid the world of this evil. Idolators may be forced to convert to Islam, on pain of death or enslavement. It is an act of piety (in Islam) to make converts in this way, and the Muslim who dies fighting "in the way of God" is thought to go straight to Paradise. However, there are two important qualifications to this traditional Muslim outlook. Firstly, the followers of the "religions of the Book", Christians and Jews, should be granted a certain measure of toleration within the Muslim community, e.g. it is contrary to Muslim law to convert a Jew or Christian by force, or to destroy their places of worship. Secondly, Muslims have frequently been more tolerant than their law suggests. Mystics have said that the only true "Jihad" is an inward spiritual battle aiming at moral perfection; while increasingly, Muslims today are saying that the command to use force applied only to the circumstances of Muhammad's time, or only to self-defense and not to the making of converts (2 Baqara 186/190; 257/256). Both Muslims and Christians have, at various times in their history, practiced conversion by force. In the modern world, so torn by suspicion and violence, it is to be hoped that "men of God" will be men of peace, and will spread their faith only by peaceful persuasion and good example.
71- Why do Muslims kill an apostate (one who changes from Islam to another religion)?The Qur'an gives no authority for punishing an apostate in this world. But many Traditions (e.g. the 40 Hadith of AnNawani), and all the schools of law, say that a male apostate should be killed. Even if he is not killed in practice, he has often been driven out and his family and possessions taken away--thus he was treated as though he were dead. The reason is that in ancient times anyone who changed his religion used to be considered a traitor and rebel against his country. This was true not only of Islam but of many other religions too. However, surely we are more enlightened today than the people of long ago: we realize that religious observance performed under compulsion is not pleasing to God. If we compel someone to profess what he does not sincerely believe, we are compelling him to act as a hypocrite. Increasingly Muslims are realizing the value of religious toleration. The United Nations Charter, to which nearly all Muslim nations have assented, prescribes toleration in religion, with freedom for the individual to change his religion or belief.
72- What is the authority for a Muslim having several wives?The Qur'an and Traditions authorize the Muslim to marry only four wives; i.e. he may divorce one of the four and take another, but he may not at any one time have more than four legitimate wives. However the great majority of Muslims in the world today have only one wife at a time, and some Muslims have reinterpreted the statement of the Qur'an, saying that the verse really upholds monogamy as the ideal form of marriage. (4, Nisa 3 with 128/129).
73- What is Purdah?Purdah is the seclusion of women "for God". The Qur'an commanded that Muhammad's wives should remain in their houses and be seen by no adult males other than slaves and close relatives. (33 Ahzab 33: 55). Many Muslims have secluded their women-folk in order to follow the example of Muhammad. But other Muslims take this as a command to Muhammad only, or as an ancient custom unsuited to modern times. A majority of Muslim women are not now secluded. Again, many Muslims consider that 33, 59 means that a woman's face should be completely covered when she goes outside the house; others take it to mean simply covering the head and body.
74- Why do Muslims refuse to eat meat slaughtered by a pagan?Muslims are forbidden to eat the flesh of an animal which has not been ritually slaughtered; the name of God must be called over it and its throat must be completely cut so that all blood drains from the body. Since the pagan is presumed not to know the correct method and not to know the difference between pure and impure (Q. 37), the Muslim is advised not to eat his food. It is lawful for the Muslim to share in food and drink prepared by Jews and Christians (excluding of course pork and fermented drink)--5, Ma'ida 5/7; however, the Maliki law followed in North and West Africa prescribes that the meat must have been slaughtered in accordance with Muslim law. Muslims living in the West often prefer to eat Jewish "kosher" meat.
75- Is circumcision a distinctive mark of Islam?In some regions circumcision and abstaining from pork are popularly regarded as the marks of a Muslim. But circumcision is not a specifically Muslim practice. Many non-Muslim peoples of Asia and Africa also practice it. Circumcision is not mentioned in the Qur'an, but is generally considered obligatory for all male Muslim children. Under Maliki law however, it is "customary" (sunna) rather than obligatory.
76- Why are Muslims forbidden to eat pork or take alcoholic drink?The Qur'an forbids them--5, Ma'ida 92/90; 16 Nahl 116/115. Anyone taking them is ritually defiled, and so unfit to perform the Prayer or recite the Qur'an. The story is often told in African Islam that a pig saved Muhammad from death, and therefore the pig must not be eaten; another story is that a pig helped Hagar and Ishmael to find water in the desert. These are legends which have no foundation in the Qur'an or Traditions.
77- Are there sects in Islam, as there are in Christianity?Muhammad said (in Hadith) that his people would be divided into 73 sects, and all but one of these would go to hell! About 40 years after the death of Muhammad, the Muslim community divided into two parts, each of which considers itself to be the true Islam and the other a sect. The majority belong to "Sunni" Islam, which is that described in this book. But some 10% of the Muslims of the world belong to "Shi'a" Islam, found mainly in Iran, Iraq and India. Shi'ites believe that 'Ali (Q. 7) was the true successor to Muhammad, and some regard him as a kind of incarnation of the divine; they regard 'Ali's son Husain as a martyr, whose death has an almost atoning significance and is celebrated in the Muharram festival. Shi'a Islam accepts a different series of Traditions (Q. 69), and so has minor differences of ritual and major differences of law. Shi'a is itself divided into many sects, of which the most famous is the Isma'ili (in India and East Africa), of which the Aga Khan is one of the spiritual heads. There are however many groups or societies in Islam which should not be regarded as sects, so long as they recognise one another as Sunni Muslims. Among these are the religious brotherhoods (tariqa) which originated when a saintly teacher gathered disciples and established rules and rituals additional to the ordinary worship of Islam. Such are the Qadiriyya and Tijaniyya brotherhoods. Sometimes the leader was thought to possess powers of healing and of intercession in the day of judgment, and after his death his tomb became a shrine and pilgrims would come to pray there e.g. the Muridiyya (Senegal), venerating their founder Ahmad Bamba. There are also educational and welfare societies such as Ansarud-Din, which are not normally to be regarded as sects.
78- What are the Ahmadiyya and Baha'I Movements?Ahmadiyya: This movement was founded by Ghulam Ahmad in India about 1889 A.D. Ahmad called himself the Mahdi (Q. 24) and the Messiah, and claimed the same inspiration that former prophets had received from God; he said he was the Comforter (John 14: 16f & 26; 15; 26; 16; 13f) and the "Praised One" (61, Saff 6). He also opposed the traditional Muslim belief about the end of Jesus' life on earth (Q. 23); he claimed that Jesus was actually crucified and nailed to the cross, but did not die there! Instead (he said) Jesus was taken down unconscious, buried alive, revived in the tomb, traveled to India, and died there at the ago of 120 years (See references in ("Ahmadiyya", Fisher, p. 38, 44 etc.). After Ghulam Ahmad died, the Ahmadiyya movement split into two. The Qadiani (Rabwah) group say that Ahmad was another allegiance and obedience to Ahmad's descendant as Caliph. They say that they alone practice "the true Islam"; an Ahmadi should therefore not give his daughter in marriage to a non-Ahmadi. The second group (Lahori) do not regard Ahmad as a Prophet and have drawn very close to Sunni Islam except in their belief about Jesus. Unlike the Qadianis, they deny that Jesus was born of a virgin, and do not accept that he performed miracles. But like the Qadianis, they follow Ahmad's teaching about the crucifixion of Jesus. The Qur'an translation and commentary of Muhammad Ali represent Lahori Ahmadiyya; the translation of Sher Ali represents Qadiani. (There is also a quite different "Ahmadiyya" brotherhood in East Africa). The Baha'I Movement, though arising from Islam, is not now recognisably Muslim. There is no public ritual; sacred scriptures of any religion may be read, and prayer may be offered (three times a day) in any language.
79- Is a Muslim permitted to enter a Christian place of worship?There is no law in Islam which forbids the Muslim to enter a Christian place of worship; and Christians, for their part, will welcome anyone who enters in a spirit of reverence. The only difficulty is that a Muslim might, by misunderstanding; think that Christians were worshipping two gods, and he could then be seriously offended, since it is the supreme sin in Islam to associate any second divinity with God. Cf. Q. 84-85.
FOOTNOTES* Some Muslims however explain "Islam" as meaning "entering into peace"…It is wise to avoid the terms Muhammedan and Muhammedanism. Muslims feel that these terms might falsely suggest that Muhammad is worshipped by "Muhammed-ans", as Christ is worshipped by "Christians". See Q. 26.
The word "Hijira" means emigration, and does not mean "flight". It is unwise to speak of Muhammad's "flight from Mecca", since this may suggest untruly that he left Mecca in fear; in fact he showed great courage.
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