There are two central dogmas in Islam namely the unity of God and the prophetic mission of Muhammad. These are enshrined in the brief and familiar creed of seven words: La ilaha illa Allah, Muhammad rasul Allah “There is no god but God; Muhammad is the Apostle of God.”
The whole of Muslim theology has been built up around, these two beliefs, and although there have been varying expositions of Islamic doctrine, and in consequence a great variety of sects, yet still all Muslims agree on these two fundamental dogmas of the faith, and repeat their belief in this brief form.
The words of this creed are whispered into the ear of the newborn baby; they form one of the first sentences taught to the growing child; pious Muslims love to recite them on all possible occasions, and desire that they shall be the last words to fall from their lips when they die.
It is from the Quran that this short creed is formulated. But its two parts nowhere occur there together; they are taken from separate chapters: “Know, therefore, that there is no god but Allah” (Muhammad 47:19) and “Muhammad is the messenger of Allah” (Al-Fath 48:29). This introductory fact serves to illustrate that the teaching of the Quran is in no way systematized. The task of drawing up the articles of faith, and arranging the doctrines of Islam scattered through its pages, was left to succeeding generations.
The Six Articles of Faith – these express what a Muslim must believe
1. Belief in Allah
1. Allah’s existence has neither beginning nor end. If He so wills, He can annihilate the world in a moment or recreate it in an instant. If all the infidels became believers, He would gain no advantage; if all believe became infidels He would suffer no loss.
2. Allah is omniscient. He has knowledge of all things, hidden or visible, in heaven or on earth. Events past and future are known to Him, He is free from all forgetfulness, negligence or error, His knowledge is eternal.
3. Allah is omnipotent. If He wills, He can raise the dead, make stones talk and trees walk, annihilate the heavens and earth and recreate them.
4. Allah can do what He wills, and whatever He wills comes to pass. Everything, good or evil, in this world exists by His will. He wills the faith of the believer, and the piety of the righteous; the unbelief of the unbeliever, and the irreligion of the wicked. All we do we do by His will.
5. Allah hears all sounds whether high or low. He he ars without an ear, for His attributes are not like those of men.
6. Allah sees all things, even the steps of a black ant on a black stone on a dark night. He sees without eyes.
7. Allah speaks, but not with a tongue as men do. He speaks to some of His servants without the intervention of another, even as He spoke to Moses. He speaks to others by means of Gabriel and this is the usual way in which He communicates His will to the prophets.
His name The name, Allah is called by Muslim theologians in Arabic as Ism-ul-that, the name of the essence or of the being of God. In this name we have the Muslim idea of the nature of God apart from His attributes. His essential character is impersonal and is therefore spoken of in negative forms. He is not a body; God is not a spirit, neither has God a body or a spirit. Dr. Zwemer wrote: “How far such negations come short of the sublime statements of revelation: God is Spirit; God is light; God is love”.
His attributes (sifat) The ninety-nine names of God taken from Traditions and the Quran are epithets applied to Allah: “The most beautiful names belong to Allah: so call on him by them” (Al-Ar’af 7:180). Behind each of these ‘beautiful’ names (Al Asma’ al Husna) is the abstract quality (sifat) which the name represents. For example behind the name Al Qadir (The Powerful One) is the attribute (qudrat) power; behind the name Al ‘Alim (The Knowing One) is the attribute ilm (knowledge)
His Unity (tawhid) The greatest possible stress is laid by the Muslim on this aspect of his belief in God. God is singular, without anything like Him; separate, having no equal. The Quran is never weary of reiterating the formula which expresses his unity (tawhid). The short sura 112 has this for its theme and is appraised as being equal to one-third of the whole book: “Say: He is Allah, the One and Only; Allah, the Eternal, Absolute; He begetteth not, nor is He begotten; And there is none like unto Him.”
His Greatness The Takbir is the name given to the Arabic expression Allahu Akbar which means ‘God is great.’ The Muslim repeats this name constantly, and it means that no matter what a man can think of, God is greater than that.
His Transcendence (Tanzih) The Muslim believes that God is really unknowable. Whatever man thinks of Him, he is something different. He does not exist in anything nor does anything exist in him.
2. Belief in angels
Muslims assert their belief in three species of spiritual beings: angels, jinn and devils. This belief is not theoretical, but is intensely practical, and touches everyday life at many points. The names of guardian angels are used in exorcism.
The Quran has much to say about angels, as do the Traditions.
1. God has angels whose great desire and business it is to carry out His will. They are sexless, and neither eat nor drink. Some are in heaven, some on earth.
2. Angels are very numerous, they were created from light while the devil was created from fire and men from clay.
3. Angels have life, speech and reason and have no carnal desire or anger. It is said that their food is celebrating God’s glory, their drink is proclaiming God’s holiness, their conversation is commemorating God and their pleasure is worshipping God.
4. Angels are thought to be inferior to human prophets, because they were commanded to prostrate themselves before Adam: “And behold, We said to the angels: “Bow down to Adam” and they bowed down” (Al-Baqarrah 2:34)
5. Every believer is attended by two recording angels, one of whom records his good actions, and the other his evil actions: “Behold, two (guardian angels) appointed to learn (his doings) learn (and noted them), one sitting on the right and one on the left” (Qaf 50:17 c/f Al-Infitar 82:11, 12). Muhammad enjoined his people not to spit in front, or on the right but on the left, as on that side stands the recording angel of evil (Mishkat Book four, Chapter eight)
6. Four of the angels are archangels :1) Jibra’il (Gabriel), the angel of revelation who reveals the truth; 2) Mika’il (Michael) is the patron of the Jews; 3) ‘Azra’il, who receives the souls of men when they die; 4) Israfil, who will blow the trumpet on the last day.
7.The chief angel in charge of hell is called Malik and he has 19 subordinates called Az Zabaniya (guards): “Over it are nineteen. And We have set none but angels as guardians of the Fire” (Al-Mudaththir 74:30,31).
8. There are two fierce black angels, by the name of Munkar and Nakir, who visit the corpse in the grave and interrogate the deceased, demanding answers to the question “Who is thy Lord?”, “What is thy religion?”, “Who is thy Prophet?” They mete out terrible blows to those whose replies prove them not to be Muslims. At a funeral, parting instructions are given to the deceased in the grave.
9) “Eighteen angels support the throne of God and eight will, that Day, bear the throne of thy Lord above them” (Al-Haqqah 69:17).
1. They are either good or evil.
2. They were created from fire, are of diverse shapes, marry and propagate, and are mortal.
3. The Quran and orthodox Muslim theology are full of teaching about their origin, office, power and destiny.
4. No pious Muslim doubts that they exist nor that Solomon sealed some of them up in brass bottles!
5. The chief abode of jinn is in the mountains of Qaf which encompasses the whole world; they also frequent baths, wells, ruined houses, etc. For fear of jinn many Muslims are subject to bondage throughout their lifetime.
7. The superstition regarding the jinn can never be abandoned without doing violence to the Quran. Read suras 46 and 72 which tell how the jinn listened to Muhammad’s preaching and were converted to Islam.
1. Known also as Shaitan or Iblis and has a proper name of Azazil.
2. He was expelled from Eden for refusal to prostrate before Adam when God commanded it (Al-Baqarrah 2:34b).
3. His demonic host is numerous and terrible. Noteworthy among them are Harut and Marut, two evil spirits which teach men sorcery at Babylon.
3. Belief in the Books of God
A Muslim is required to believe that various books of revelation have been sent by God through the instrumentality of Gabriel to the various prophets upon earth. There are said to be 104 books. The following are said to have received such books, though there is a difference of opinion as to how many each received:
Adam 10 books; Seth 50 books; Idris, (Enoch) 30 books; Ibrahim (Abraham) 10 books; all of these are totally lost. Although the books from Adam to Abraham are said to be lost all that is necessary for Muslims to know of these books is found in the Quran. The four books that remain are the Taurat which came to Musa (Moses), the Zabur (Psalms) which Daud (David) received, the Injil of Jesus, and the Quran.
The Quran is uncreated and eternal; to deny this is rank heresy. However, belief in the Bible is discounted on the grounds of the four following views;
(a) tarfi’ – lit “taking up”; that they were taken up again to heaven; e g., Jesus is supposed, by some, to have taken away the “Gospel” with Him at His Ascension.
(b) tahrif – “act of corrupting”; by which it is understood that the Old Testament and the New Testament have been tampered with. By this they attempt to justify the Quran’s opposing statements.
(c) tansikh – the Quran corrects and “abrogates” the previous books because it was revealed last.
(d) The Quran is itself a sort of compendium of all necessary teaching in the Scriptures of the Jews and Christians. This, in effect, reduces the professed “belief in the books of God” to belief in one book only.
4. Belief in the Prophets of God
Only a minority of individuals called prophets in the Quran are described as prophets in the Bible. Here are two examples of lists of prophets as given in the Quran.
1) “We gave to Abraham (to use) against his people: We raise whom We will, degree after degree: for thy Lord is full of wisdom and knowledge. We gave him Isaac and Jacob: all (three) guided: and before him, We guided Noah, and among his progeny, David, Solomon, Job, Joseph, Moses, and Aaron: thus do We reward those who do good: And Zakariya and John, and Jesus and Elias: all in the ranks of the righteous: And Isma’il and Elisha, and Jonas, and Lot: and to all We gave favour above the nations” (Al-An’am 6:83-87).
2) “We have sent thee inspiration, as We sent it to Noah and the messengers after him: we sent inspiration to Abraham, Isma’il, Isaac, Jacob and the Tribes, to Jesus, Job, Jonah, Aaron, and Solomon, and to David to whom We gave the Psalms” (An-Nisa 4:163).
Muhammad is said to have mentioned that there were 124,000 prophets (anbiya). The following twenty two biblical characters are designated as prophets in the Quran namely. Adam; Idris (Enoch); Noah; Methuselah; Abraham; Ishmael; Isaac; Jacob; Joseph; Lot; Moses Aaron; Zacharias; John the Baptist; Jesus; David; Solomon; Elias; Elisha; Job; Ezra and Jonah (the only literary prophet mentioned in the Quran). Three women are said to be prophetesses: Sarah because she was inspired to receive revelation of the news of Isaac’s birth; the mother of Moses who received by revelation the news of the birth of Moses; and Mary who received the news of Christ’s birth from an angel.
Muslim theologians observe a distinction between one who is a nabi and a rasul. A nabi, (prophet), receives the highest form of inspiration, wahi, but has not necessarily to deliver the message he receives. A rasul, apostle, having received this form of inspiration, is commanded by God to deliver the message to men. Thus every rasul is a nabi, but not every nabi is a rasul. The rasul, then, were messengers of God who had been sent to peoples of the past.
“To every people (was sent) a messenger: when their messenger comes (before them), the matter will be judged between them with justice, and they will not be wronged” (Yunus 10:47).
Muhammad was such a messenger sent to a people to whom Allah had not previously sent an apostle: “These are the signs of Allah: we rehearse them to thee in truth: verily Thou art one of the messengers” (Al-Baqarrah 2:252).
Other individuals who were given the distinguishing title of rasul in the Quran were Noah, Lot, Ishmael, Moses, Shu’aib, Hud, Salih and Jesus of whom it was said: “Christ Jesus the son of Mary was (no more than) a messenger of Allah” (An-Nisa 4:171).
The Quran states there is no distinction between the prophets: “Say: “We believe in Allah, and in what has been revealed to us and what was revealed to Abraham, Isma’il, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and in (the Books) given to Moses, Jesus, and the prophets, from their Lord: We make no distinction between one and another among them, and to Allah do we bow our will (in Islam).” (Al-Imran 3:84)
There does however, seem to be degrees of rank among the prophets: “We did bestow on some prophets more (and other) gifts than on others: and We gave to David (the gift of) the Psalms” (Al-Isra 17:55).
Muhammad it is claimed is the highest, last and best of all prophets: “Muhammad is not the father of any of your men, but (he is) the Messenger of Allah, and the Seal of the Prophets” (Al-Ahzab 33:40). Or according to Bukhari Volume 4, Book 56, Number 735: Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah’s Apostle said, “My similitude in comparison with the other prophets before me, is that of a man who has built a house nicely and beautifully, except for a place of one brick in a corner. The people go about it and wonder at its beauty, but say: ‘Would that this brick be put in its place!’ So I am that brick, and I am the last of the Prophets.”
Each rasul is said to have been sent down to his own tribe, whereas Muhammad was sent to all men. Narrated Jabir bin ‘Abdullah: “Every Prophet used to be sent to his nation only but I have been sent to all mankind.” (Bukhari Volume 1, Book 7, Number 33). Narrated Abu Huraira: “The Prophet said, “The Israelis used to be ruled and guided by prophets: Whenever a prophet died, another would take over his place. There will be no prophet after me, but there will be Caliphs who will increase in number.” (Bukhari Volume 4, Book 56, Number 661)
5. Belief in the Resurrection and the Day of Judgement
The Last Day
This subject occupies a large place in the Quran and Muslim orthodoxy asserts that anyone who doubts this fifth article of the creed is an infidel.
The Last Day has many names in the Quran amongst them are these: Yaum al Qiyama (Day of Uprising); Yaum al Fasl (Day of Sorting out or Decision); Yaum al Hisab (Day of Reckoning); Yaum al Ba’th (Day of Sending Forth or Awakening); Yaum ad Din (Day of Judgement); Yaum al Akhir (The Last Day) and As Sa’ah (The Hour).
The Last Day will be preceded by the sounding of the trumpet: “The Trumpet will (just) be sounded, when all that are in the heavens and on earth will swoon, except such as it will please Allah (to exempt). Then will a second one be sounded, when, behold, they will be standing and looking on!” (Az-Zumar 39:68)
Some say that Israfil will give three blasts: 1) At the first blast all creatures in heaven and earth will be struck by terror. 2) At the second blast all creatures in heaven and earth will die. 3) At the third blast, forty years later, all will be raised again for judgement.
Most graphic and terrible descriptions portray the terrors of that day. Muslims believe in a literal resurrection of the body from a living principle which resides in the os sacrum. This bone will be impregnated by forty days of rain before the resurrection takes place. The souls of martyrs for the faith, however, remain, after death, in the crops of green birds which eat of the fruits and drink of the rivers of Paradise.
Muslims are not agreed as to the state of the soul during the time when the body is dead, or concerning its revival. However, they do assert that Muhammad will come first in order at the resurrection, and will be the first also to enter Paradise.
The Day of Judgement
After the resurrection men will rise up naked and confused. The angels will keep them waiting for forty years as they assemble them together for judgement. Some will stand for those forty years looking up towards the heavens awaiting the books; they will perspire profusely through excess of sorrow.
The book of Deeds
There is no way of salvation in Islam other than by works. The Book of Deeds is kept for each person by two recording angels. An angel on man’s right side records his good deeds; an angel on man’s left side records his evil deeds. In Arabic these angels are called Kiram al Katibin:
“Or do they think that We hear not their secrets and their private counsels? Indeed (We do), and Our messengers are by them, to record” (Az-Zukhruf 43:80).
Nothing shall be omitted: “And the Book (of Deeds) will be placed (before you); and thou wilt see the sinful in great terror because of what is (recorded) therein; they will say, “Ah! woe to us! what a Book is this! It leaves out nothing small or great, but takes account thereof!” (Al Kahf 18:49).
Each person will be examined from his own book of deeds which will have all his words and deeds recorded: “Every man’s fate We have fastened on his own neck: On the Day of Judgment We shall bring out for him a scroll, which he will see spread open. (It will be said to him) “Read thine (own) record: Sufficient is thy soul this day to make out an account against thee.” (Al-Isra 17:13, 14) > “Whoever works any act of righteousness and has faith, His endeavour will not be rejected: We shall record it in his favour” (Al-Anbiya 21:94).
The righteous will receive their book in their right hand, but the unrighteous will be forced to take their books with their left hands which will be tied behind their backs: “But he who is given his Record behind his back, Soon will he cry for perdition, And he will enter a blazing Fire. Truly, did he go about among his people, rejoicing! Truly, did he think that he would not have to return “(Al-Inshiqaq 84:10-14)!
All deeds and words (or according to some, the books containing the record of those deeds and words) will be weighed in a balance scale. The good deeds are ‘heavy’ and the bad deeds ‘light.’ It is said that one balance will be over paradise the other over hell.
“We shall set up scales of justice for the Day of Judgement, so that not a soul will be dealt with unjustly in the least, and if there be (no more than) the weight of a mustard seed, We will bring it (to account): and enough are We to take account” (Al-Anbiya 21:47).
“The balance that day will be true: those whose scale (of good) will be heavy, will prosper Those whose scale will be light, will be their souls in perdition, for that they wrongfully treated Our signs” (Al-Araf 7:8,9)
Everlasting life: Delights in Paradise Agony in Hell
Muslims also believe in an everlasting life of physical joys, or physical tortures. The orthodox interpretation is literal, and so was that of Muhammad, because the traditions give minute particulars of sanitary laws of heaven, as well as of its sexual delights.
The Muslim paradise in the words of the Quran is “a garden of delight” with couches and vessels and a cup of flowing wine; they do not suffer from headaches caused by intoxication, nor do their senses fail.
According to Al-Ghazzali (A.H 450), Muhammad said: “The believer in Paradise will marry five hundred houries, four thousand virgins and eight thousand divorced women” No orthodox Muslim would dispute this statement of one of the greatest theologians of Islam.
The Muslim hell has seven sections and “each portal has its party.” All the wealth of Arabic poetry is exhausted in describing the terrors of the lost. It is terribly hot, its fuel are men and stones, its drink liquid pus, the clothes of the inhabitants burning pitch, while serpents and scorpions sting their victims.
6. Belief in the Predestination of Good and Evil (taqdir or qadar)
The last article is the keystone in the arch of Muslim faith and it has an effect on the everyday life of Muslims. While the terminology of this teaching is Calvanistic its practical effect is pure fatalism.
Most Muslim sects deny all free-agency in man, and say that man is necessarily constrained by the force of God’s eternal and immutable decrees. God wills both good and evil; there is no escaping from the caprice of His decree. He has engraved His divine purposes on a preserved tablet by His pen of fate: “Now Allah leaves straying those whom He pleases and guides whom He pleases” (Ibrahim 14:4).
A Muslim believes that God is not limited by any consideration whatsoever, moral or otherwise. It rests with God whether He forgives or damns. It is “Kama yasha’u” – as He wills, the phrase is constantly used in the Quran. Should any ask why God wills and produces evil one can only reply that He may have wise ends in view which man cannot comprehend.
Religion in Islam is resignation. Fatalism has paralysed progress. Hope perishes under the weight of this iron bondage; injustice and social decay are stoically accepted; no man bears the burden of another.
Omar Khayyam still voices the sentiments of millions of Muslims:
“Tis all a chequer board of nights and days
Where Destiny with men for pieces plays.
Hither and thither moves and mates and slays,
And one by one back in the closet lays.”
To the Muslim, God’s will is certain, arbitrary, irresistible, and inevitable before any event transpires. To the Christian God’s will is secret until He reveals it; when He does we feel the imperative of duty.
An archangel and a murderer, a devil and a gnat equally execute the will and purpose of Allah every moment of their existence. As Allah wills, and because He wills, they are what they are, and continue what they are!
The orthodox Muslim is inevitably a fatalist however, the whole subject has been hotly debated, giving rise to three well-defined schools of thought.
1) The Jabarians (from jabr, compulsion), who deny all free agency to man. God is responsible for all man’ s actions, both good and evil.
2) The Qadarians, who deny al-qadr or God’s absolute decree. They say that evil and injustice ought not to be attributed to God, but to man, who is altogether a free agent.
3) The Asharians hold that God has one eternal will, which is applied to whatsoever He wills, both of His own actions and those of men, and that He wills both good and evil. In this they agree with the Jabarians, nevertheless, they allow some power to man. They argue that man is bestowed with what they call kasb (acquisition) so that when God wills a thing man acquires (by a creative act of God) the power to do it.
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