Quran Project - Appendix - Frequently Asked Questions about Islam
- Brief Answers -
Q:What is Islām?
Islām means submission to the will of God. Islām teaches belief in only
one God, the Day of Judgment and individual accountability for actions.
One who submits to God is called a Muslim – this being the precondition
to enter Paradise.
Q:Who is Allah?
Allah is simply the Arabic word for God, the same God worshiped by
Christians and Jews. It is the God of Abraham and Moses, not a different
God. Christian Arabs also refer to God as Allah.
Q:What is the Qur’ān/Koran?
The Qur’ān is the holy book of Islām. Muslims believe that the Qur’ān
was divinely revealed and is the last testament of God. The Qur’ān is
preserved in its original Arabic form and is unanimously accepted that
it has never been altered – preserved both orally and in written form.
Q:What are the basic teachings of Islām?
A: There are five Pillars in Islām:
a. Declaration of the Faith: To testify there is no deity worthy of worship except God and Muhammad is the Messenger of God
b. Prayer: Pray towards Makkah five times each day
c. Charity: Donate a portion of your wealth to the poor
d. Fasting: Go without food, drink and having relations with your spouses from dawn until sunset during the month of Ramadan
e. Pilgrimage: Visit Makkah and perform the Hajj once in a lifetime, if you have the means to do so.These pillars are built on the Articles of Faith – which can simply be broken down into the following:
God: There is only one God with no associate or partner. All that
happened in the past, is happening now and is going to happen in the
future is by the will of God.
2) The Angels: Angels are created from light and execute the commands of God without question.
3) The Books of God: These include the Torah, the Psalms of David, The Gospel revealed to Jesus and the Qur’ān.
Prophets of God: There were thousands of prophets who preached God’s
message. Prophet Muhammad was the last prophet for all humanity and
completed the message of God.
Day of Judgment: On this day all mankind will be raised back to life
and judged by God. Those whose good deeds outweigh their bad deeds will
be allowed to enter Paradise and those whose bad deeds outweigh their
good deeds will be condemned to Hell except whom God has mercy on.
Divine Decree: God’s predestination of all things and events and His
Decree. Nothing in the universe can occur without the knowledge of God.
Whatever He desires, it occurs and whatever He does not desire, it
doesn’t occur. There is no power or any movement except by God.
Life after Death: The eternal life in Paradise where one will be
rewarded for living a right-eous life on Earth, or the fire of Hell
where one will be punished for the evil that one committed.Q: Why do Muslims pray five times a day?
Muslims pray five times a day because God prescribed it. For those who
do not know the values of prayer may think it is too much. For those who
practice the prayer, take solace in it as they are praising, glorifying
and talking to the Greatest. Hence at five times during the day no
matter what circumstances surround them they focus back to God and the
true realities of life. Indeed, some prefer to pray more in order to
attain happiness, peace and tranquillity.Q: In order to pray you perform the ablution. Why do you do such a ritual? Can’t you pray without ablution?
For every activity in life, there are rules and regulations. Sometimes
there are pre-requisites to the general requirements too. In Islām there
are also some rules and regulations for the systems that God has
legislated. In schools, each teacher has his requirements for every
course that he/she teaches. Through their knowledge and wisdom they have
designed the course and the requirement so that the students will be
able to pass the course. The prayer (salat) in Islām has its rules and
regulations. It has its spiritual and physical dimensions – spiritually
any minor sins that have been accumulated since the previous ablution
are cleansed and physically it removes and cleans the body from all
types of impurities. Islām also encourages the use of a toothstick to
clean our teeth and apply scent – all in preparation for the Believer to
presents him/herself before the King of kings, God himself.Q: Why do Muslims have to pray towards Ka’aba in Makkah?
The Ka’bāh is the first house built for the worship of God on earth. It
was originally built by Adam and then rebuilt by Abraham and his son
Ishmael. God has chosen the Ka’bāh as a focal point of unity of pray for
all the Believers all over the world.Q: What is a Mosque/Masjid?
A Mosque or Masjid is a place of worship for Muslims. Muslims pray in a
masjid in the same way that Christians pray in a church.Q: I know Muslims fast in Ramadhan. Why do you fast the whole month not eating and drinking anything during the day?
Fasting the whole month of Ramadan is the fourth pillar in Islām. This
month is the 9th lunar month of the Islāmic calendar and is the month in
which the Qur’ān was revealed. For the whole month Muslims fast from
dawn until sunset. During the Prophet’s life, the Angel Gabriel would
descend every night of the month and go over the verses that had been
revealed up to that point with him. In additional to the spiritual
cleansing of the soul, fasting has many religious, social, cultural,
economic and educational benefits to all – including the control of
egos, appetites and lusts. Fasting has also been prescribed on other
people before Islām too, like the Jews and Christians.Q: What is Hajj?
The pilgrimage to Makkah (the Hajj) is an obligation only for those who
are physically and financially able to do so. Nevertheless, over two
million people go to Makkah each year from every corner of the globe
providing a unique opportunity for those of different nations to meet
one another. The annual Hajj begins in the twelfth month of the Islāmic
year. Pilgrims wear special clothes: simple garments that strip away
distinctions of class and culture, so that all stand equal before God.
The rites of the Hajj, which are of Abrahamic origin, include going
around the Ka’bāh seven times and going seven times between the hills of
Safa and Marwa as did Hagar (Abraham’s wife) during her search for
water. The pilgrims later stand together on the wide plains of ‘Arafat
(a large expanse of desert outside Makkah) and join in prayer for God’s
forgiveness, in what is often thought as a preview of the Day of
Judgment. The close of the Hajj is marked by a festival, the Eid al
Adha, which is celebrated with prayers and the exchange of gifts in
Muslim communities everywhere. This and the Eid al Fitr, a festive day
celebrating the end of Ramadan, are the two holidays of the Islāmic
Q: Who was the Prophet Muhammad?
Prophet Muhammad was the last and final prophet sent by God. He
completed the lineage of prophets which included Adam, Noah, Abraham,
Ishmael, Isaac, Moses and Jesus. He was born in Makkah in the year 570
C.E., during the period of history Europeans call the Middle Ages. The
Prophet Muhammad was the son of Abdullah, a noble from the tribe of the
Quraysh. His father died before his birth and his mother, Aminah died
shortly afterwards. He was then raised by his uncle, Abu Talib. As he
grew up, Muhammad became known for his truthfulness, generosity and
sincerity, earning the title of al-Amin, the trustworthy one. He was of a
contemplative nature and had long detested the decadence of his
society. It became his habit to retreat from time to time in the Cave of
Hira’ near the summit of ‘Mountain of Light’ near Makkah.Q: How did Muhammad become a prophet and messenger of God?
At the age of 40, while engaged in a meditative retreat, he received
his first revelation from God through the Archangel Gabriel. This
revelation, which continued for twenty-three years, is known as the
Qur’ān. The Prophet Muhammad began to recite the words he heard from
Gabriel and to preach the truth which God had revealed to him. The
people of Makkah were steeped in their ways of ignorance and opposed him
and his small group of followers in every way. These early Muslims
suffered bitter persecution. In the year 622 C.E., God gave the Muslim
community the command to emigrate. This event, the hijrah or migration,
in which they left Makkah for the city of Madīnah, some 260 miles to the
North, marks the beginning of the Muslim calendar.
provided the Prophet Muhammad and the Muslims the safe and nurturing
haven in which the Muslim community grew and here he established the
Islāmic state. After several years, the Prophet and his followers
returned as conquerors. He was now supreme ruler of Arabia cleansing the
land from idolatry and dedicated the Ka’bāh to the worship of the One
God. He died at the age of 63 and within a century of his death, Islām
had spread to Spain in the west and as far east as China.Q: Is it true that Muslims worship Muhammad?
Not at all! Muslims only worship God alone. For this reason they are
not called Muhammadans. For example, Christians worship Christ and are
hence called Christians. It is the greatest sin in Islām to worship
anybody or anything else alongside God.Q: I thought that Muslims believe only in Muhammad as their Prophet. Is this true?
No! Muslims believe in all of the Prophets and Messengers that God sent
to mankind from the days of Adam to the days of the Prophet Muhammad.
God sent over 124,000 Prophets in the history of mankind. However, God
mentioned 25 names in the Qur’ān some of them being: Adam, Enoch, Noah,
Abraham, Lot, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Job, Moses, Aaron, King
David, King Soleman, Jonah, Zachariah, John the Baptist, Jesus and
Muhammad. Muslims believe in all of them and do not differentiate in
their missions – all of whom were calling to the worship of one God. Any
time any Prophet’s name is mentioned, Muslims say peace be upon him
(pbuh).Q: I was surprised to know that Muslims believe in Jesus and Mary?
Muslims are obligated to believe in Jesus and Mary. They deeply respect
them and consider them to be amongst the greatest of human beings with
Jesus being one of the greatest Messengers of God and His mother the
greatest of all women. In the Qur’ān there is one chapter (sūrah) in the
name of Mary herself – sūrah 19. No other woman’s name was revealed
explicitly in the Qur’ān except that of Mary.Q: I am also surprised to know that Muslims believe in Moses. I thought Moses was the Prophet of the Jews only.
Moses was not the Prophet of the Jews. He was the Prophet of God to the
children of Israel. He was sent to save them from the persecution of
Pharaoh of Egypt. However, Moses was a Muslim. He preached the Message
of God and taught them to believe in God, the Creator of the Universe.
He instructed them to pray, fast and pay charity as well. Muslims
believe in Prophet Moses in as much as they believe in all the other
Prophets and Messengers without any discrimination.Q:
Is it true that Muhammad is the last Prophet and the last Messenger? If
yes, how come?! Don’t you think that we need more Prophets today?
Yes! Muhammad is the last Prophet and the last Messenger of God to all
mankind. His teachings are meant for Christians, Jews, Bhudists, Hindus
and others. You may need another Prophet if his teachings were distorted
or lost. The originality, totality and authenticity of the Qur’ān are
well documented and proved to be intact. The teachings of Islām are
meant for all human beings. This was not true to the previous Prophets
who came for a particular tribe, nation, or even for a particular era
and area. The Qur’ān was revealed as the last testament to mankind.Q: Christians believe that we were born sinful and therefore we have to be baptised. What does Islām say about original sin?
In Islām, every person is born free of sin. It would be inhumane and
unjust that God would create us with sins. God is so merciful. He
created us as pure as crystal ice. It is only after the age of puberty
that one will be accounted for his deeds and actions preceded by
intention. At that time, we will be rewarded ten times for any good
deeds and we will be charged once for every bad deed. If we ask
forgiveness from God, He will forgive us. Because we are born free of
sins, we do not need to be baptised. We are already born as Muslims.Q: In Christianity, one must believe in Jesus as our personal Savior to enter Paradise. What does Islām say about Salvation?
Salvation in Islām does not depend on someone else to do it for us. We
are responsible for our deeds and actions preceded by our good
intentions. Therefore, everyone has to work hard with good intention.
Our intention as Muslims is to please the Creator. Whoever believes in
God; in all the Prophets and Messengers that God sent to mankind; in the
Day of Judgment; and do good deeds to all without personal ego or
without exploitation; then and only then God assures us eternal
Salvation. Through His Mercy, Forgiveness and Blessings, people will be
Once I was talking to a Muslim saying to him that Christians believe in
the Unity of God. He informed me that Muslims do not believe in the
Unity of God but in the Oneness of God. I got confused. Would you kindly
elaborate the difference for me?
Thank you very much for raising a very fundamental principle in Islām.
Muslims believe in the Oneness of God. They do not believe in the
concept of Unity of God. The word unity may give a wrong impression
about the concept of God. It may mean two gods in one, or three gods in
one. Christians believe in three gods in one: God the father, god the
son and god the holy spirit. Three in One. This is the concept of Unity
of God. Muslims do not subscribe to this concept. God is the only One.
He is One-in-One. He begets no one; and no one has begotten Him. He is
the Creator of the whole universe. No one shares with Him His
During Christmas, I realised that Muslims do not participate in this
celebration. Since Muslims believe in Jesus, why then do they not
Muslims believe in the Prophet Jesus. He was one of the five Mighty
Messengers of God. However, Muslims do not celebrate the birth of any
Prophet. Even those Prophets did not celebrate their own birthdays. Its
origins lie in the Pagan feast of the Roman Empire.Q: Does Islām consider Christians and Jews as Believers?
Jews and Christians are referred to in the Qur’ān as the ‘People of the
Book’ – meaning their orgins lie in scripture revealed by God. However,
these scriptures have not remained untouched by human insertions and
have been distorted. When each prophet was sent, the people of that era
were obliged to follow him and would be defined as people of the truth
or simply ‘Muslims’ – so when Moses came – people were obliged to follow
him and these Jews were Believers. When Jesus came, people were
obligated to now accept him as the Prophet of God and not doing so would
remove them from being defined as Believers – even though they may have
accepted Moses as a prophet. These Christians were now the Believers
till the time the Prophet Muhammad was sent. After which any person
claiming to submit to the will of God would have to accept the
prophethood of Muhammad and not doing so would excommunicate them from
being a true Believer in God.Q: If everything is pre-ordained and decided, where is the free will?
The question of ‘fate and freewill’ has baffled people for many
centuries; but Islām has given a clear answer. The first point to be
noted in this respect is that the Islāmic concept of Qadar and Qadha’ is
quite different from fatalism, determinism and predestination, as
understood by most people. In Arabic, the words Qadar and Qadha are
often used for fate and destiny. The word, Qadha means to decide; to
settle; to judge. A Qadhi is a judge who decides a matter between
disputants. From the Islāmic view, the events of the world take place
within God’s Knowledge and Will.
Read the following verses:
"And not an atom’s weight in the earth or in the sky escapes your Lord,
nor what is less than that or greater than that, but it is (written) in
a clear Book.” (Yunus 10:61)
“No disaster strikes upon the earth or among yourselves except that it
is in a register before We bring it into being – indeed that, for God,
is easy – In order that you not despair over what has eluded you and not
exalt [in pride] over what He has given you. And God does not like
everyone self-deluded and boastful.” (al-Hadid 57:22-23).
above verses speak of God Almighty’s power and control over His
creation, as well as of His will and plan. This is one aspect of His
Qadar. There is also another aspect of Qadar, which is concerned with
B: On human freedom and responsibility read the following verses:
“Corruption has appeared throughout the land and sea by [reason of]
what the hands of people have earned so He [i.e., God] may let them
taste part of [the consequence of] what they have done that perhaps they
will return [to righteousness].” (ar-Rum 30:41)
2. “…The truth is from your Lord, so whoever wills - let him believe; and whoever wills - let him disbelieve.” (al-Kahf 18:29)
above verses speak of the special status of humans as beings with a
role and mission. God’s power over His creation and His fore-knowledge
of all our actions and their results do not preclude that status. God’s
Qadar and Qadha – which could be loosely rendered as ‘Divine decree and
human destiny’ – include a certain amount of freedom for humans. We may
say that God Almighty has willed that we must have the freedom to choose
between good and bad and take the course of action we decide, i.e. to
the extent we are permitted. It is God Who created us with all our
talents and gifts and if we do not have the freedom to use them, what
would be the meaning of those blessings? And remember that God gave us,
not merely our intellectual faculties but also the power of moral
judgment. And what is more, He sent us His Guidance through His chosen
Prophets and Books, to help us make the right choices. So in Islām,
there is no contradiction between belief in Divine Preordainment on the
one hand and the freedom of man on the other.Q: Why do bad things happen?
First of all, God has not made this a permanent world. This is a
temporary world and everything here has a time limit. Neither the good
things of this world are forever, nor the bad things eternal. We are
here for a short time and we are being tested – those who pass the test
will find an eternal world that is perfect and permanent. “And when We
let the people taste mercy, they rejoice therein, but if evil afflicts
them for what their hands have put forth, immediately they despair.”
A number of reasons why bad things may happen:
As a punishment where the laws of God have been violated as in the
case of the people of Noah and Lot: “Has there not reached them the news
of those before them - the people of Noah and [the tribes of] ‘Aad and
Thamūd and the people of Abraham and the companions [i.e., dwellers] of
Madyan and the towns overturned? Their messengers came to them with
clear proofs. And God would never have wronged them, but they were
wronging themselves.” (sūrah at-Tawbah 9:70)
Sometimes God allows people to be afflicted by the consequences of
their actions as a sign and reminder in order that they have the
opportunity to repent and reform themselves. “Corruption has appeared
throughout the land and sea by [reason of] what the hands of people have
earned so He [i.e., God] may let them taste part of [the consequence
of] what they have done that perhaps they will return [to
righteousness].” (ar-Rum 30:41)
“And whatever strikes you of disaster - it is for what your hands have earned; but He pardons much.” [ash-Shura 42:30]
Suffering can also be a test and trial for some people. God allows
some people to suffer in order to test their patience and steadfastness.
Even God’s Prophets and Messengers were made to suffer. Prophet Job is
mentioned in the Qur’ān as a Prophet who was very patient. Through these
trials and tribulations, one has the opportunity to draw closer to God.
God sometimes allows some people to suffer to test others, how they
react to them. When you see a person who is sick, poor and needy, then
you are tested by God to test your charity and faith. God says in a
[hadith qudsi], ‘Verily, Allah will say to his slave when He will be
taking account of him on the Day of Judgement, ‘O son of Adam, I was
hungry and you did not feed me.’ He will answer: ‘How could I feed you?
You are the Lord of the worlds!’ He will say: ‘Did you not know that my
slave so and so who is the son of so and so felt hunger, and you did not
feed him. Alas, had you fed him you would have found that (i.e. reward)
with Me.’ ‘O son of Adam, I was thirsty and you gave Me nothing to
drink.’ He will reply: ‘How could I give You drink? You are the Lord of
the worlds!’ He will say: ‘Did you not know that my slave so and so, the
son of so and so felt thirsty and you did not give him drink. Alas, if
you had given him, you would have found that (i.e. reward) with me.’ ‘O
son of Adam, I became sick and you did not visit Me.’ He will answer:
‘How can I visit You? You are the Lord of the worlds!’ He will say: ‘Did
you not know that my slave so and so, the son of so and so became sick
and you did not visit him. Alas, had you visited him, you would have
found Me with him.”Q: How many Muslims are there?
There are currently 1.6 Billion Muslims in the world, with about 2-3
million living in the United Kingdom. Contrary to popular perception,
only 20% of Muslims are Arabs and live in the Middle East. The countries
with the largest Muslim populations are India and Indonesia with about
175 million Muslims each.Q: Is it true that all Arabs are Muslims, and that all Muslims are Arabs?
No! Any person who reads, writes and speaks the Arabic language is
called an Arab. There are about 1.6 billion Muslims in the world. 20%
are considered Arabs while the rest are non-Arabs. Among the Arab people
there are about 8% who are non-Muslims, such as Christians, Jews,
Assyrians, Atheists, Agnostics, etc. However, every Muslim has to study
and learn the Arabic language so that he/she will be able to pray daily
and to read Qur’ān and the Arabic language.Q: Are the Arabs superior to others?
The Prophet said in his farewell pilgrimage, ‘All mankind is from Adam
and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has
any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over a
black nor a black has any superiority over white except by piety and
good action. Learn that every Muslim is a brother to every Muslim and
that the Muslims constitute one brotherhood.’Q: What are the legal sources of Islām?
The sources of Islām are the Qur’ān, the hadith (sayings of the
Prophet) and the Unanimous decisions of the early Muslim scholars.Q: What is the difference between Hadith and Sunnah?
Hadith is the exact sayings of the Prophet with quote and unquote. The
Sunnah of the Prophet are his deeds, actions and his tacid approval,
i.e. actions done by others in his presence which he did not comment.Q: What does Jihād mean – linguistically and practically?
Jihād linguistically means the process of ‘exerting the best efforts,’
involving some form of ‘struggle’ and ‘resistance’ to achieve a
particular goal. In the Qur’ān this word has been used in different
connotations – entailing to struggle in the way of God, verbally,
monetarily and physically. In the context of war, the Qur’ān legislates
the performance of Jihād in order to make His word the highest in the
land, defend or establish the religion, remove oppression from weak men,
women and children and to remove turmoil and corruption. A point to
note – there are strict laws governing the engagement of the enemy and
the treatment of prisoners of war – all of which was laid down by God
and demonstrated by His Prophet.Q: What is a Fatwa?
A: A Fatwa is a religious ruling to a question based on Islāmic law and issued by Islāmic scholars.Q: In secular countries, the Pledge of Allegiance is to the flag of the country. How do Muslims look at such a pledge?
Any person who makes his Pledge of Allegiance to the flag of his
country, is legally responsible to defend that country according to what
the political leaders decide. The leaders may decide to invade other
countries and commit all types of injustices, atrocities, and crime. A
Muslim’s loyalty is to God. He will never obey political leaders unless
they themselves obey God. Invading other countries and killing other
people are among the biggest crimes. Therefore, the masses as well as
the leaders should make a Pledge of Allegiance to God, the Creator of
the whole universe.Q: Since the Pledge of Allegiance of Muslims is only to God, what is that Pledge, and what does it mean?
the Pledge of Allegiance of Muslims is only to God, the Creator of the
Universe. Muslims have to say daily the Pledge in the language of the
Qur’ān, i.e., Arabic. They have to recite it vocally individually and
collectively. They may pronounce it verbally, privately, and silently
The Pledge goes as follows:
"Ashhadu Anla ilaha Illa Allah...Wa Ashhadu Anna Muhammadan RasooluAllah."
bear witness that there is no one worthy of worship except God
(Allah)... And I bear witness that Prophet Muhammad is the Messenger of
God."Q: Can you explain the Shariah and secularism in Islām?
Islām teaches that the Believer cannot make any agreement with any
person or government to displease God; they cannot make any deal with
any group to decide any matter against what God has already decided. In
Islām, State and Religion are to abide their total life according to the
teachings of God. No one has the right to separate the state from
religion - otherwise, we are creating two gods: One god for our daily
life and one god for the spiritual life. This type of approach is
totally rejected and unacceptable. In Islām, God created the whole
universe. He is the Real Legislator of all systems of life for us and He
knows exactly what we need. He legislated the Shariah (Islāmic Law) -
that we should abide by. Then and only then we will live in peace and
harmony in this life and the hereafter.Q: I heard that there is something called Seerah. Would you kindly tell me what it is?
Generally speaking, Seerah means the life history of someone. Any time
Muslims talk about the Seerah, they mean the biography of Prophet
Muhammad. Muslims are to study the Seerah of the Prophet so that they
will be able to imitate him, emulate him, and benefit from his wisdom
and his teachings. The early followers of Islām have written a series of
books about the Seerah of the Prophet Muhammad to act as a guide to all
the new generations to come.Q: How does Islām view women?
Refer to article in the appendices, ‘Women in Islām’Q: Why do Muslim women cover themselves?
They do so in submission to God. He has asked them to hide their beauty
except to those whom He permits and any woman who does so fulfils the
command that God has placed on her. God has legislated for all members
of society and each individual will be judged according to commands that
were ordained for him or her. The rights a wife has on her husband, or a
son on his mother or a brother to his sister all vary – and although
they are different, quintessentially our submission to God is judged
according to how we observe them. In addition, however, their Hijab
(covering) protects them and demands respect from men who otherwise
would have judged them by their looks as opposed to what they say or do.
The concept of keeping a women’s beauty hidden is not unique to Islām
but exists in many other faiths including Christian Nuns who wear
similar attire to some Muslim women.Q: How does Islām view human rights?
Freedom of conscience is laid down by the Qur’ān itself: “There shall
be no compulsion in [acceptance of] the religion..” (2:256) The life,
honour and property of all citizens in an Islāmic state are considered
sacred whether the person is Muslim or not.
mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you
peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble
of you in the sight of God is the most righteous of you. Indeed, God is
Knowing and Acquainted.”
Qur’ān 49:13Q: Where can I learn more about Islām?
Online at www.quranproject.org - you will find relevant audio, video,
books and articles which will expand on all the above questions.