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Islam

by Swami Sivananda

Introduction

Islam is the name given by Mohammed, the Prophet of Arabia, to the religion which he founded. Islam is an Arabic word, which means peace. It means submission to the will of God. It means surrender, acceptance of the revelation and commands of God. The personal name of God is Allah. The aim of Mohammed's preaching was the establishment of the religion of one God, Allah. Islam is a religion of universal brotherhood like Theosophy. Firm, unswerving belief in one God is the essence of true religion according to Islamic faith. It makes no distinction between caste and caste, creed and creed.

"There is no God but Allah and Mohammed is the Messenger of Allah." This is the fundamental teaching of the Prophet of Islam. This is the cardinal tenet or doctrine of Islam. The religion of Islam is expressed shortly in this short formula. Mohammed preached the unity of God. He taught the love of God, respect for parents and the aged, reverence to women and a noble standard of life. Alms-giving or charity was a religious duty. He said: "Every good act is charity. Your smiling in your brothers face is charity. Putting a wanderer in the right path is charity."

The religion taught by the Prophet of Arabia is plain, simple and direct. The beauty of this religion is marred by the un-Islamic behaviour of some of the followers of Islam. It is clearly said in Quran, "No man is a true believer unless he desireth for his brother that which he desires for himself. God will not be affectionate to that man who is not affectionate to Gods creatures. Assist any person oppressed whether he is Muslim or non-Muslim. Love your fellow-being first."

Islam recognizes brotherhood of man. A Muslim is expected to treat a non-Muslim as a brother and with as much generosity and friendliness as possible. Islam is a religion of service. The service of man and the good of humanity constitute the service and worship of God.

Prophet Mohammed taught to the people more of ethics than deep philosophy, as they had no proper culture.

A Muslim believed in God, His Angels, His books and His messengers, the Last day, the Resurrection from the dead, Predestination by God, good and evil, the Judgment, the Balance, Paradise and Hell fire, the divine inspiration of Mohammed, the origin of the Quran as divine inspiration, the future state. He is ready to enter into the religious war (Jihad) when so ordered by the divine as a religious duty.

The first principle of Islam is "God has sent messengers to mankind throughout the ages to teach them that all messengers and all holy books are true," thereby emphasizing the universality of faith.

Teachings

The five cardinal tenets of Islam are:

Oneness of God and the revelation of Gods will to man through a series of Prophets, the last being Mohammed,
Prayer (Salat),
Fasting,
Alms-giving or charity (Zakat) and
Haj (pilgrimage to Mecca).
These are the five pillars of Islam.

The sacred book of the Muslims is the Quran. This book deals with many different subjects, doctrines, morals, legal enactments, matters of State, manners and matters of private import. They have been collected into Surahs or chapters. To the Muslim it is the word of God eternal and uncreated conveyed by the angel Gabriel. The Holy Quran is divided into 114 chapters. The word Surah literally means eminence or high degree. The total number of verses is 6,247. The Quran was revealed bit by bit during a period of 23 years. Of the twenty-three years over which the revelation of the whole book is spread, thirteen years were passed by Mohammed at Mecca and ten years at Medina.

Islam is a religion of peace. It is submission to the will of God. A true Mussalman must be tolerant. Islam teaches that every religion is true. Islam teaches that God has sent Prophets and religious teachers to mankind to bring them to the path of goodness, to teach them the noble things of life, to be kind, to be noble, to be merciful, to be good and to be just. Islam teaches to regard not only human beings with kindness and tolerance, but also to treat animals with kindness.

Quran says: "Any man may attain liberation by his faith and good actions. The flesh and blood of the animals that are sacrificed shall never reach God, but your purity shall reach God. The flesh and blood of the animals you kill, shall not bring salvation for you. Kill this ego. Serve the suffering humanity. Sacrifice your money, time and energy in the service of the poor, the oppressed. This will give you salvation or freedom."

In Quran, the brotherhood of man and the equality of woman with man socially, economically and spiritually are emphasized. Man is a member of a great fraternity. Woman is the counterpart of man.

Selflessness and service are the ideals which a Muslim is enjoined to follow. The essence of Islam is the service of the suffering humanity. The sacred Quran says: "Woe to those who pray, who are unmindful of their prayers, who make a show and refuse to help the needy."

The Prophet of Islam also was a great lover of the doctrine of Ahimsa. Injuring people in any way or destroying any living creature is reprehensible. He taught that men would be specially judged on the day of judgment with regard to their cruel treatment of dumb creatures.

Prophet has enjoined on his followers full and broad toleration of the views and beliefs of people other than their own. Quran says: "Let there be no compulsion in religion."

There is no asceticism in Islam. The rigorous austere practices which cause torture to human body are strictly prohibited. What is wanted is a contrite heart, sincere repentance and serious continuous effort to avoid evil and practice virtue.

The great Muslim fast is that of Ramadhan. It is a fast for one month. Eating and drinking are forbidden during the day, but are allowed at night.

Jihad is exerting oneself for the cause of religion. It is not taking part in war against unbelievers. Islam strictly prohibits application of force for its observance. There is no compulsion in religion.

Islam teaches that the followers of it should acquire the manifold attributes of Allah. No on can be a Muslim and none can attain Allah without acknowledging the essential truths of all religions.

There is no such thing in Islam that a Muslim should fight in order that religion should live. Islam forbids fighting. Islam says: "You shall not take up arms except in the cause of self-defence." In every sentence of the Quran those who are tyrants have been told: "If you tyrannise over people, if you are cruel to them, you shall be punished."

The Muslims believe in the immortality of the Soul. There will be a day of resurrection when the dead will rise to receive the rewards and punishment of their deeds in life in accordance with their merits and demerits.

Conclusion

The Prophet of Islam taught the great orders of Angels who carry out Gods Will; four Archangels-Michael, the Angel who protects; Gabriel, the Angel who bears Gods messages; Azrael, the Angel of death and Israfil, the Angel of the last trumpet.

At a time when Europe was covered in ignorance and darkness, the early Mussalmans kept alive the burning torch of Science and learning. They were thinkers, philosophers and seekers of knowledge. From the eighth century till the fourteenth of our era, the children of Islam were the torch-bearers in the West. Universities were established in Cairo, Baghdad, in Cordova in Spain. Christian Europe learnt its earliest lessons in science, in astronomy, in chemistry, in mathematics from the Mussalmans.

There have been in the history of Islam many women who have contributed enormously not only to literature, but also to science. Read the history of the Arabs in Spain and Baghdad. You will be amazed to read therein that women have sat as High Court Judges, have written books and poems, have been scientists and mathematicians, have run schools and hospitals and had under their care thousands of males of every age. They had no Purdah system. The Purdah system in India is of foreign growth. It had its origin in Greece. From Greece it went to Iran and from Iran it was brought by the early Mussalman invaders into India.

Such was the splendid development of the Religion which the Prophet of Arabia founded. Its philosophical side too was very noble. It taught that all is from God, that there is no beauty in the world that is not His beauty, that there is no love in the heart of man that is not a breath of His love.


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