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بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

In the Name of God; the True, the most merciful.
Praise be to God, Lord of all worlds.
The Sovereign on the Day of Judgment.
The True, the most compassionate.
We worship none but You and we seek no assistance but Yours.
Guide us to the Straight Path.
The Path You have shown to those You have blessed from before. Except the ones who earned Your anger and those who have gone astray.
Amen

Al-Fatiha 1 - 7
(Chapter 1: The Opening)


Introduction



The Bible says in James 4:7, "Submit yourselves to God, and resist the devil and he shall flee from you." And that is precisely what Islam means in Arabic: Submission. It calls upon all of humanity to submit to no one but the one true God, Lord of all worlds.

In the Islamic worldview, every human being with a rational mind would eventually deduce that this universe could not have possibly come to exist on its own with such mind-blowing details a million times more sophisticated than a microchip. The rational mind, Muslims believe, is predisposed to figure out this truth through contemplation -- the truth that this creation must have a creator, and that this creator has to be just one, and that He must be invisible, for if He was visible then he would be an object made of matter, which would negate His role as creator of matter.

Quran - The Devotion (Ch. 112): "Say: God is One (1) God is unchanging (2) He was not born nor does He give birth (3) He has no equal (4)".

And in the same way that a chair's features are under the complete and absolute control of the carpenter who made it, we too are the slaves (servants) of this God that created us. Even the trees and the birds, even the angels, are in constant worship of God, in ways we cannot understand but can nevertheless deduce. But unlike the chair and the birds and the angels, He also put in us the substance of His spirit, which means we can make choices, like He does. That is the truth revealed to all the prophets from Abraham to Muhammad. Accepting this truth would bring us peace and tranquility, which would become our spiritual basis to lead a healthy and happy life.

This spiritual basis, however, must be coupled with good works (الأعمال الصالحة). These two elements (belief and good works) fortify one another: believing in God would lead one to be good and do good works, and doing good works for the sake of being good could not come about without truly understanding the purpose of life, namely, believing in the invisible hand that rewards these good works, in this life or the next.

Quran - The Cave (Ch. 18): "Those who believe and do good works shall dwell in the gardens of paradise (107)"

Allah



Allah is an Arabic word which literally means: "the god." And "the god" in English is simply written as "God." Thus it is a very accurate translation. Note that in Hebrew it is Eloh, and in Aramaic it is Alaha (the language that Christ and all Palestinians and Syrians spoke), and Arabic came from Aramaic, just as the northern Arabs have descended from Aramo-Syriac ancestors.1

Does God Have a Description?

"God cannot be perceived no matter how far you sought; no matter how deep you thought. His description has no known limit, and no description or time-frame can be attributed to him. The basis of religion is to know him, and the perfection of knowing him is to believe in him, and the perfection of believing in him is to believe he is One, and the perfection of believing in his Oneness is to be sincere to him. And to be sincere to him is to refrain from describing him, because a description cannot be the described, and the described cannot be the description itself, so if you describe God then you have associated him with something, and to associate him with something is to create duality in him, and to create duality in him is to separate him, and to separate him is to not know him, and who does not know him will try to locate him, and to locate him is to limit him, and to limit him is to define him, and to say "he's in..." would be to contain him, and to say "he's over..." would be to reduce him. He is a being that was not caused by anything, nor caused by nothing. He cannot be compared to anything and he is not like anything."

Ali bin Abi Talib, Nahj al-Balaghah

We can figure out what God is inasmuch as Pac-Man can figure out what a human being is. Simply put, our brains have not been equipped with the tools to know God, only to know that His existence is inevitable. Nevertheless, God does not shy away from telling us what He is in metaphor, and reminding us incessantly that it is only a metaphor:

Quran - The Light (Ch. 24): "God is the light of the heavens and the earth. The parable of his light is like a lamp inside a niche. The lamp is placed within a crystal. The crystal looks like a sparkling planet being lit by a holy olive tree neither from the East nor from the West. Its oil barely shines although no fire ignites it. Light upon light. God guides to his light whomever He wants. God sets parables for people. Know that God is omniscient (35)".


The Holy Quran



The Quran (a.k.a. Koran) is Islam's Holy Book. It was dictated by God to His messenger, prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) through revelation (divine inspiration) in his own tongue: Arabic. The very first word revealed to the prophet was the commandment: "Read (iqra)", and it is from this root word "qara'a" (which means: to read; to study, to gather, to deduce)" that we get the word Qur'an.

The Quran contains 114 chapters, each chapter containing a different number of verses. The chapters themselves have been re-arranged based on the size of the chapter in a descending order. It is said that no book on earth has been more read and thoroughly studied than the Quran, trying to unlock the mystic parables, philosophies, and sciences embedded within. But that's not all. To Muslims, the Quran itself is an ever-lasting miracle.

"The language in which it was proclaimed, Arabic, provides an initial clue. "No people in the world," writes Philip Hitti, "are so moved by the word, spoken or written, as the Arabs. Hardly any language seems capable of exercising over the minds of its users such irresistible influence as Arabic." Crowds in Cairo, Damascus, or Baghdad can be stirred to the highest emotional pitch by statements that, when translated, seem banal. The rhythm, melodic cadence, [and] rhyme produce a powerful hypnotic effect. Thus the power of the koranic revelation lies not only in the literal meaning of its words but also in the language in which this meaning incorporated, including its sound. The Koran was from the first a vocal phenomenon.... Because content and container are here inseparably fused, translations cannot possibly convey the emotion, the fervor, and the mystery that the Koran holds in the original. This is why, in sharp contrast to Christians, who have translated their Bible into every known script, Muslims have preferred to teach others the language in which they believe God spoke finally with incomparable force and directness."

Huston Smith, The World's Religions

The words of the Quran are often described to non-native Arabic speakers as being poetry or poetic. This, of course, is a common fallacy, for the Quran itself states that it is not poetry.

Quran - Yasin (Ch. 36): "And We did not give him the knowledge of poetry, nor is it befitting for him. These are but the clear words of the Quran (69)"

Indeed, to Arab Muslims, it is beyond poetry; a form of literature that no human has been able to duplicate. The Quran is relatively concise and absolutely precise, so much so that even the slightest error in printing or copying one letter is considered a great offense. The Quran was dictated on the spot, and the prophet had checked and double-checked it before he died. Muslims also believe that the Quran is the final message as it is written in such a way to fit all places and all eras. This belief, of course, is not supposed to make the Quran appear superior to the preceding Holy Books, for the Quran tells its readers that it has come in full confirmation of the message contained within those previous Holy Books, and that to discard or disregard them is an equal offense to discarding or disregarding the Quran.

Quran - The Cow (Ch. 2): "Proclaim: We believe in God and the Scriptures we have been given and what was given to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and what was given to Moses and to Jesus and to all the prophets. We don't distinguish among them or favor one over the other, and we all submit to Him; the one God' (136)".


Muhammad



Muhammad (bin Abdullah bin Abdul-Muttalib bin Hashem bin Abdu-Manaf bin Qusay bin Quraysh) is a true messenger and prophet of God, peace be upon him. This is a core belief in Islam. The Quran stresses in several verses that aside from him receiving revelations (divine inspiration) from God, he was just another man like all of us. He ate food and drank water and copulated, he fell in love and had children and got ill and suffered the loss of loved ones; he lived and died.

He was born in 570 AD in Mecca; already an orphan as his dad died while his mother was pregnant with him. A few years later his mother died and he was looked after by his grandfather, Abdul-Muttalib, then by his uncle, Abu Talib. His first profession was tending sheep in the desert, and at the age of 25 he was employed by a forty-year-old wealthy, Arab woman, Khadeejah (whom he married soon after), as a caravan trader, traveling to Syria and Yemen, as Mecca was the transit town between those two great civilizations under the control of the Persians and Byzantines.

As he grew older and wiser, Muhammad began to prefer seclusion in a nearby cave where he sat for hours, and later on for days, in complete darkness and silence, meditating. It was during one of these meditations, said to have lasted for three days straight, that the first words of God had been revealed to him, at the age of 40. He ran back home and lied in bed, shaking and shivering, and asked his wife to cover him and comfort him, as he was unsure what had happened to him. Khadeejah, being the mature and loving wife that she was, comforted him and told him she would consult her uncle, a Christian priest, about what had happened. After she told her uncle what had happened to her husband, he smiled and said: "go back and tell him the good news. He has been chosen."

This was the beginning of the message of God, the message of Islam -- (there is only one God; all people are equal regardless of religion, race, color, or gender; free slaves and help the poor, the orphans, the waferers, and the weak). At first they ridiculed him; turned him into a laughing stock. They accused him of being a poet, but they had heard poetry before and what Muhammad was reciting did not sound like poetry. They accused him of losing his mind, but they have seen what crazy people look like, and Muhammad was not acting like a crazy person. And as more people began to believe in him and in his message, especially among the young sons and daughters of Mecca's wealthy elders, as well as their black slaves, they began to accuse him of being a sorcerer who casts spells on people.

None of these lies worked, nor could they escalate the situation into murder, because Muhammad belonged to one of the leading tribes of Mecca, and in a tribal society, one murder turns into a 100-year war. So instead they made him an offer, through his tribal chief, namely his uncle Abu Talib:

"Tell your nephew that if he wants money, we can make him the richest among us. If he wants position, we shall make him our lord. If it was women he was after, we shall give him the most beautiful women of Arabia. If it was possessions he was seeking, we shall make him our King. If he wants power, we shall hand hand him the keys to the temple."

Abu Talib relayed this message to Muhammad, who felt that Abu Talib was turning against him. So he replied:

"Uncle, I swear to God, if they offer to put the sun in my right hand and the moon in my left in exchange for abandoning delivering the message, I will refuse, and I will continue to preach until God reveals the entire message or I die while preaching."

Indeed, Muhammad spent the rest of his life in perpetual agony and suffering. He survived several assassination plots, a campaign of starvation, and was almost killed in the second battle - of Uhud - where he lost two of his frontal teeth and got struck on his head so hard that so many Muslims thought he had really died.

Quran - Al-Imran (Ch. 3): "Muhammad is but a messenger, like many messengers that have preceded him. So if he was to die or be killed, would you turn your backs on your heels [i.e. renege your belief]? He who does so will not harm God at all. And God shall reward the grateful ones (144)"

Before any battle had begun, Muhammad and his few followers had fled Mecca to Medina (340 km northward) to settle there among two powerful tribes (Aws and Khazraj) that had converted to Islam wholesale. This event was the game changer: Muhammad and his message found a powerful and secure base which allowed them to live in relative peace while still preaching the message of Truth throughout the peninsula. With the elders of Mecca unable to annihilate the Muslims, they entered into a peace treaty, the terms of which will have had ultimately given Muhammad his decisive victory, in particular the term that stated: "anyone on either side who wishes to convert into or out of Islam may do so." In a couple of years, the Muslim converts outnumbered the disbelievers (their non-Muslim compatriots), and when those disbelievers broke the peace in violation of the treaty, Muhammad took that opportunity to assemble an army that Arabia had never seen its like before, and marched onto Mecca.

The Muslim army entered Mecca, under the shouts of the brigade commanders: "Do not harm any child. Do not harm any woman. Do not harm any elderly. Do not harm any man whose sword is unsheathed. Do not cut down any trees. Do not break into anyone's home. Whoever stays inside his home, your safety is guaranteed...."

There was no fighting, aside from a few skirmishes at one of the gates to the city. Muhammad and his 10,000 strong took over Mecca peacefully. And when he cornered the tribal elders of Mecca, he asked them: "what do you presume I'm going to do with you now?" And they answered: "We always knew you to be a man of integrity and mercy. We presume you would let us go free." And Muhammad replied: "You are free to go."

Muslim relatian and revenge ceased, because aggression and injustice had ceased. Those were God's rules of engagement, as stated in the Quran:

Quran - The Cow (Ch. 2): "And fight in God's Way those who fight against you, and do not transgress for God does not favor the transgressors (190)."

The Spoils of War (Ch. 8): "And if they incline towards peace, then do likewise and depend on God. He is all-hearing and all-knowing (61)"

The Tested (Ch. 60): "God does not forbid you from befriending those who did not fight against you and persecute you for your religion; who did not expel you from your homes. Nay, you shall respect them and be kind and treat them justly, for God loves the just ones (8)"

Muhammad died at the age of 63 from fever, peace and blessings be upon him. And what he left behind was God's message: the Quran

"That book which, no doubt, contains guidance and mercy for the righteous (2)" The Cow (Ch. 2)


The Third Testament



Both Christianity and Islam have manifested from Judaism, and both uphold the Torah as the true message of God upon which their Scriptures only came to confirm, as their respective Holy Scriptures unequivocally testify:

Matthew 5: "(17) Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law [Torah] or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. (18) I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. (19) Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commandments will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (20) That's why I am telling you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven"

Quran - The Opening (Ch. 1): "Show us the Straight Path (6) the Path you have shown the people whom You have blessed, except those who evoked your anger and those who have gone astray (7)"

Quran - The Cow (Ch. 2): "O Sons of Israel remember the blessing I have bestowed upon you and fulfill My Covenant and I shall fulfill yours, and fear no one but Me (40)... O Sons of Israel remember the blessing I have bestowed upon you and remember that I have chosen you over the worlds (47)"

Quran - The Queue (Ch. 61): "And Jesus son of Mary said: "O Sons of Israel I am God's Messenger to you, confirming the Torah in my hands... (6)"

Quran - The Supper (Ch. 5): "Why should they [the Jews] come to you [Muhammad] for judgment when they have the Torah which already contains the commandments of God? ...(43) We have bestowed the Torah in which there is guidance and light. The prophets (sent to the Jews), the rabbis, and the scholars, all who submitted to God, judge by it; they have been entrusted with God's Book and they were witnesses.... Whoever does not rule by what God has bestowed are the rejectors of truth (44)"

Thus, Islam can be summarized by the Opening Chapter, shown at the top of this article. There is but One True God who is most merciful, and there is only one religion: the religion of Adam, Noah, Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, the Tribes, Solomon, David, and Jesus, namely, the religion of submission to God. And Muhammad (peace be upon him) was sent to confirm that same religion; not to alter it, but to get humanity back onto God's way: the Straight Path.

 

Oday Baddar

 


^ 1 - Since the beginning of the wave of blind religiousity that has spread throughout the world in the 1980s, many Muslim clerics (certified by Arab governments) began to protest translating the Arabic name of Allah into God (and other words in different languages), sending the wrong message to both Muslims and the world, as if to say: God had an actual name like people do, and that His name is Allah. It also gave non-Arabs the notion that "Allah" was the god of Muslims alone, or that the god that Christians and Jews worshipped was not the same God that Muslims worshipped. With all due respect, it was a mistake to refuse to translate the word Allah into God, as was done officially before the 1980s.

 


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