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Islam FAQ (Part 4/15): God & Worship

( Part1 - Part2 - Part3 - Part4 - Part5 - Part6 - Part7 - Part8 - Part9 - Part10 - Part11 - Part12 - Part13 - Part14 - Part15 )
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Archive-name: islam-faq/part4
Posting-Frequency: monthly
Last-modified: 1995/3/27
Version: 3.3
Organization: Alumni Association, Caltech, Pasadena, California

See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge
        Copyright 1993,1994,1995  Asim Mughal (mughal@caltech.edu) 

        Redistribution  for  profit,    or   in  altered  content/format
        prohibited without explicit  written  permission  of the author.
        Any other redistribution must  include this copyright notice and
        attribution. 



                       Frequently Asked Questions: Part 4
                       __________________________________
        

        This message  is  automatically  posted  to 'soc.religion.islam'
        every  month  and  when  updated.  This  lists  answers  to most
        commonly asked questions on  the  forum. Contributions & changes
        are requested and should be directed to: mughal@caltech.edu 



        OVERVIEW:  The   Frequently   Asked   Questions   document   for
        Islam  has  been  divided  in  parts.  Below is the index. 

       
        Part 1 - Welcome & Index
        Part 2 - Info on Islamic News Groups
        Part 3 - Introduction to Islam
        Part 4 - God & Worship
        Part 5 - Islam, Quran & Muhammad (PBUH)
        Part 6 - Marriage Laws in Islam
        Part 7 - Women In Islam
        Part 8 - Life after Death, Moral System & Human rights in Islam
        Part 9 - Islam: Prophethood, Jesus & Trinity
        Part 10 - Islam: Farrakhism & Malcom X
        Part 11 - Islamic Internet Guide: Islamic Resources on Internet
        Part 12 - Other Islamic Resource Guides on Internet
        Part 13 - Islamic Literature: Books & Video
        Part 14 - Islamic Calendar & Prayer Time Table for 1994
        Part 15 - Misc: List of Halal Foods


            ________________________________________________________

                             PART 4: God & Worship
        

				    Contents				    

				 --Articles--
 1. CONCEPT OF GOD IN ISLAM ........................................ from III&E 
 2. God's Attributes ............................................... from III&E 
 3. The Oneness of God ............................................. from III&E 
 4. The Believer's Attitude ........................................ from III&E 
 5. CONCEPT OF WORSHIP IN ISLAM .................................... from III&E 
				--Announcements--
 6. Archive Info .............................................................. 
 7. Credits ................................................................... 



 Articles .....................................................................


 1. CONCEPT OF GOD IN ISLAM ........................................ from III&E 


    It is a known fact that every  language  has  one or more terms that are
    used in reference to God and  sometimes  to  lesser deities. This is not
    the case with Allah. Allah is  the  personal  name  of the One true God.
    Nothing else can be called Allah. The term has no plural or gender. This
    shows its uniqueness when compared  with  the word god which can be made
    plural, gods, or  feminine,  goddess.  It  is interesting to notice that
    Allah is the personal name of God in  Aramaic, the language of Jesus and
    a sister language of Arabic. 

    The One true God is  a  reflection  of  the  unique  concept  that Islam
    associates with God. To a  Muslim,  Allah  is  the Almighty, Creator and
    Sustainer of the universe, Who  is  similar  to  nothing  and nothing is
    comparable to Him. The Prophet Muhammad  was asked by his contemporaries
    about Allah; the answer came directly  from God Himself in the form of a
    short chapter of the Quran, which is considered the essence of the unity
    or the motto of monotheism. This is chapter 112 which reads: 

    "In the name of God, the Merciful,  the  Compassionate. Say (O Muhammad)
    He is God the One God, the Everlasting Refuge, who has not begotten, nor
    has been begotten, and equal to Him is not anyone." 

    Some non-Muslims allege that God  in  Islam is a stern and cruel God who
    demands to be obeyed fully. He is  not  loving  and kind. Nothing can be
    farther from truth than this allegation. It is enough to know that, with
    the exception of one, each of the 114  chapters of the Quran begins with
    the verse: "In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate." In one
    of the sayings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)  we are told that "God is more
    loving and kinder than a mother to her dear child." 

    But God is also Just. Hence evildoers  and sinners must have their share
    of punishment and the virtuous, His  bounties and favors. Actually God's
    attribute of Mercy has full  manifestation  in His attribute of Justice.
    People  suffering  throughout  their  lives  for  His  sake  and  people
    oppressing and  exploiting  other  people  all  their  lives  should not
    receive similar treatment from  their  Lord. Expecting similar treatment
    for them will amount to negating  the  very belief in the accountability
    of man in the Hereafter and  thereby  negating  all the incentives for a
    moral and virtuous life in this world.  The following Quranic verses are
    very clear and straightforward in this respect: 

    "Verily, for the Righteous are  gardens  of  Delight, in the Presence of
    their Lord. Shall We then treat  the  people of Faith like the people of
    Sin? What is the matter with you? How judge you?" (68:34-36) 

    Islam rejects characterizing God  in  any human form or depicting Him as
    favoring certain individuals or nations on the basis of wealth, power or
    race. He created  the  human-beings  as  equals.  They  may  distinguish
    themselves and get His favor through virtue and piety only. 

    The concept that God rested in  the  seventh  day  of creation, that God
    wrestled with one of  His  soldiers,  that  God  is  an  envious plotter
    against mankind, or  that  God  is  incarnate  in  any  human  being are
    considered blasphemy from the Islamic point of view. 

    The unique usage of Allah as a  personal  name of God is a reflection of
    Islam's emphasis on the purity of the belief in God which is the essence
    of the message of all God's messengers. Because of this, Islam considers
    associating any deity or personality  with God as a deadly sin which God
    will never forgive, despite the fact He may forgive all other sins. 

    The Creator must be of  a  different  nature  from  the  things  created
    because if he is of the same nature as they are, he will be temporal and
    will therefore need a maker. It follows that nothing is like Him. If the
    maker is not temporal, then he must be eternal. But if he is eternal, he
    cannot be caused, and if nothing  outside  him causes him to continue to
    exist, which means that he must be self-sufficient.  And if the does not
    depend on anything for the  continuance  of his own existence, then this
    existence can have  no  end.  The   Creator  is  therefore  eternal  and
    everlasting: 'He is the =46irst and the Last.' 

    He is Self-Sufficient  or  Self-Subsistent  or,  to  use a Quranic term,
    Al-Qayyum. The Creator does  not  create  only  in the sense of bringing
    things into  being,  He  also  preserves  them  and  takes  them  out of
    existence and is the ultimate cause of whatever happens to them. 

    "God is the Creator of everything.  He  is the guardian over everything.
    Unto Him belong the keys of the heavens  and the earth." (39:62, 63) "No
    creature is there crawling on the earth, but its provision rests on God.
    He knows its lodging place and it repository." (11:6) 





 2. God's Attributes ............................................... from III&E 

    

    If the Creator is Eternal and Everlasting, then His attributes must also
    be eternal and everlasting. He should not lose any of His attributes nor
    acquire new ones. If this is so,  then  His attributes are absolute. Can
    there be more than one Creator with  such absolute attributes? Can there
    be for example, two  absolutely  powerful  Creators?  A moment's thought
    shows that this is not feasible. 

    The Quran summarizes this argument in the following verses: "God has not
    taken to Himself any son, nor is  there  any god with Him: For then each
    god would have taken of that  which  he  created  and some of them would
    have risen up over others."  (23:91)  And  Why, were there gods in earth
    and heaven other than God, they  (heaven  and  earth) would surely go to
    ruin." (21:22) 




 3. The Oneness of God ............................................. from III&E 


    The Quran reminds us of the falsity of all alleged gods. 

    To the worshippers of man-made  objects,  it  asks: "Do you worship what
    you have carved yourself?" (37:95)  "Or  have  you taken unto you others
    beside Him to be your protectors, even  such as have no power either for
    good or for harm to themselves?" (13:16) 

    To the worshippers of  heavenly  bodies  it  cites the story of Abraham:
    "When night outspread over  him  he  say  a  star  and said, 'This is my
    Lord.' But when it set he said, 'I  love  not  the setters.' When he saw
    the moon rising, he said, 'This is  my  Lord.'  But when it set he said,
    'If my Lord does not guide  me  I  shall  surely  be  of the people gone
    astray.' When he say the sun rising,  he said, 'This is my Lord; this is
    greater.' But when it set he  said,  'O  my  people,  surely I quit that
    which you associate, I have  turned  my  face  to Him Who originated the
    heavens and the earth; a man of pure faith, I am not of the idolaters.'"
    (6:76-79) 




 4. The Believer's Attitude ........................................ from III&E 


    In order to be a Muslim,  i.e.,  to  surrender  oneself  to  God,  it is
    necessary to believe in the  oneness  of  God, in the sense of His being
    the only Creator, Preserver, Nourisher,  etc. But this belief - later on
    called "Tawhid Ar-Rububiyyah is not  enough." Many of the idolaters knew
    and believed that only the Supreme  God  could do all this. but that was
    not enough to make them Muslims.  To  tawhid  ar-rububiyyah one must add
    tawhid al'uluhiyyah, i.e., one  acknowledges  the fact that is God alone
    Who deserves to be worshipped, and  thus  abstains  from worshipping any
    other thing or being. 

    Having  achieved  this  knowledge  of  the  one  true  God,  man  should
    constantly have faith in Him, and should  allow nothing to induce him to
    deny truth. 

    When faith enters a  person's  heart,  it  causes  certain mental states
    which result in certain actions. Taken  together these mental states and
    actions are the proof for the true  faith.  The  Prophet said, "Faith is
    that which resides firmly in the heart and which is proved by deeds." 

    Foremost among those mental states  is  the feeling of gratitude towards
    God, which could be said to be the essence of 'ibada' (worship). 

    The feeling of gratitude is so  important  that a non-believer is called
    'kafir,' which means  'one  who  denies  a  truth'  and also 'one who is
    ungrateful.' 

    A believer loves, and is grateful  to  God  for the bounties He bestowed
    upon him, but being aware  of  the  fact  that  his  good deeds, whether
    mental or physical, are far from being  commensurate with Divine favors,
    he is always  anxious  lest  God  should  punish  him,  here  or  in the
    Hereafter. He,  therefore,  fears  Him,  surrenders  himself  to Him and
    serves Him with great  humility.  One  cannot  be in such a mental state
    without being almost all the  time  mindful  of  God. Remembering God is
    thus the life force of faith, without which it fades and withers away. 

    The Quran tries to promote this  feeling  of  gratitude by repeating the
    attributes of God very  frequently.  We  find  most  of these attributes
    mentioned together in the following verses of the Quran: 

    "He is God; there is no god but  He,  He is the Knower of the unseen and
    the visible; He is the  All-Merciful,  the All-Compassionate. He is God,
    there is no God but He. He is the King, the All-Holy, the All-Peace, the
    Guardian of Faith, the All-Preserver, the All-Mighty, the All-Compeller,
    the All-Sublime. Glory be to God,  above  that they associate! He is God
    the Creator,  the  Maker,  the  Shaper.  To  Him  belong  the Names Most
    Beautiful. All that is in the heavens and the earth magnifies Him; He is
    the All-Mighty, the All-Wise." (59:22-24) 

    "There is no god but He, the Living, the Everlasting. Slumber seizes Him
    not, neither sleep; to Him belongs  all  that  is in the heavens and the
    earth. Who is there that shall intercede  with Him save by His leave? He
    knows what lies before them and what  is after them, and they comprehend
    not anything of  His  knowledge  save  such  as  He  wills.  His  throne
    comprises the heavens and earth;  the  preserving  of them oppresses Him
    not; He is the All-High, the All-Glorious." (2:255) 

    "People of the Book, go not beyond the  bounds in your religion, and say
    not as to God but the truth. The  Messiah,  Jesus  son of Mary, was only
    the Messenger of God, and His  Word  that  He  committed  to Mary, and a
    Spirit from Him. So believe in  God  and  His  Messengers,  and say not,
    'Three.' Refrain; better is it for you. God is only one God. Glory be to
    Him - (He is) above having a son." (4:171) 





 5. CONCEPT OF WORSHIP IN ISLAM .................................... from III&E 



    The concept of worship  in  Islam  is   misunderstood  by  many  people
    including some Muslims. Worship  is  commonly  taken  to mean performing
    ritualistic acts such as prayers,  fasting,  charity,  etc. This limited
    understanding of worship is only  one  part of the meaning of worship in
    Islam. That is why the traditional  definition  of worship in Islam is a
    comprehensive  definition  that   includes   almost  everything  in  any
    individual's  activities.  The  definition  goes  something  like  this:
    "Worship is an all inclusive term for all that God loves of external and
    internal sayings and actions of a  person."  In  other words, worship is
    everything one says or does for the  pleasure of Allah. This, of course,
    includes rituals as well  as  beliefs,  social  activities, and personal
    contributions to the welfare of one's fellow human-beings. 

    Islam looks at the individual  as  a  whole.  He  is  required to submit
    himself completely  to  Allah,  as  the  Quran  instructed  the  Prophet
    Muhammad to do: "Say (O Muhammad)  my  prayer, my sacrifice, my life and
    my death belong to Allah; He has no partner and I am ordered to be among
    those who submit, i.e.;  Muslims."  (6:162,  163)  The natural result of
    this submission is that  all  one's  activities  should  conform  to the
    instructions of the one to whom the person is submitting. Islam, being a
    way of life, requires that its  followers  model their life according to
    its teachings in every aspect, religious or other wise. This might sound
    strange to some people who  think  of  religion  as  a personal relation
    between the individual and  God,  having  no  impact on one's activities
    outside rituals. 

    As a matter of fact Islam does not think  much of mere rituals when they
    are performed mechanically and  have  no  influence on one's inner life.
    The Quran addresses the  believers  and  their  neighbors from among the
    People of the Book who were  arguing  with  them about the change of the
    direction of Qibla in the following verse: 

    "It is not righteousness that you turn your faces toward the East or the
    West, but righteous is he who believes in Allah and the Last Day and the
    Angels and the Book and  the  Prophets,  and  gives his beloved money to
    this relatives and the orphans and  the  needy  and for the ransoming of
    captives and who observes prayer  and  pays  the poor-due; and those who
    fulfill their promises  when  they  have  made  one,  and the patient in
    poverty and affliction and the steadfast in time of war; it is those who
    have proved truthful and it is those who are the God-fearing." (2:177) 

    The deeds in the above verse are the deeds of righteousness and they are
    only a part of worship. The  Prophet  told  us about faith, which is the
    basis of worship, that it "is made  up  of  sixty and some branches; the
    highest of which is the belief in  the  Oneness of Allah, i.e., there is
    no God but Allah and the lowest  in  the  scale  of  worship is removing
    obstacles and dirt from people's way." 

    Decent work is considered in Islam a  type of worship. The Prophet said:
    "Whoever finds himself at  the  nightfall  tired  of  his work, God will
    forgive his sins."  Seeking  knowledge  is  one  of the highest types of
    worship. The Prophet told his  companions  that  "seeking knowledge is a
    (religious) duty on every Muslim."  In  another saying he said: "Seeking
    knowledge for one hour is better than praying for seventy years." Social
    courtesy and cooperation are part  of  worship when done for the sake of
    Allah as the Prophet told us:  "Receiving  your friend with a smile is a
    type of charity, helping a person  to  load  his animal is a charity and
    putting some water in your neighbor's bucket is a charity." 

    It is worth noting that  even  performing  one's  duties is considered a
    sort of worship. The Prophet told  us  that  whatever one spends for his
    family is a type of charity; he  will  be rewarded for it if he acquires
    it through legal means. Kindness to members of one's family is an act of
    worship as when one puts a piece of food in his spouse's mouth. Not only
    this but even the acts we enjoy doing very much, when they are performed
    according to the instructions of the  Prophet, are considered as acts of
    worship. The Prophet told his companions that they will be rewarded even
    for having sexual intercourse  with  their  wives.  The  companions were
    astonished and asked:  "How  are  we  going  to  be  rewarded  for doing
    something we enjoy very much?"  The  Prophet  asked  them:  "Suppose you
    satisfy  your  desires  illegally;  don't  you  think  that  you will be
    punished for that?" They replied,  "Yes."  "So," he said, "by satisfying
    it legally with your wives you are rewarded for it." This means they are
    acts of worship. 

    Thus Islam does not consider sex a dirty thing that one should avoid. It
    is dirty and sinful only when it is satisfied outside marital life. 

    It is clear, from the previous discussion that the concept of worship in
    Islam is  a  comprehensive  concept   that  includes  all  the  positive
    activities of the individual. This  of  course  is in agreement with the
    all inclusive nature of Islam as a way  of life. It regulates human life
    on all levels: individual, social,  economic,  political  and spiritual.
    That is why Islam  provides  guidance  to  the smallest details of one's
    life on all these levels.  Thus  following  these  details  is following
    Islamic instructions in  that  specific  area.  It is a very encouraging
    element when one realizes that all his  activities are considered by God
    as acts of worship. This  should  lead  the  individual  to seek Allah's
    pleasure in his actions and always  try  to do them in the best possible
    manner whether he is watched by  his  superiors or he is alone. There is
    always the permanent supervisor, who knows everything, namely, Allah. 

    Discussing  the  non-ritual   worship  in  Islam  first  does  not  mean
    undervaluing the importance of the ritual ones. Actually ritual worship,
    if performed in true spirit,  elevates  man  morally and spiritually and
    enables him to carry on his activities in all walks of life according to
    the Guidance of God.  Among  ritual   worships,  Salah  (ritual  prayer)
    occupies the  key  position  for  two   reasons.  Firstly,  it  is  the
    distinctive mark of a believer. Secondly, it prevents an individual from
    all sorts of abominations and  vices  by providing him chances of direct
    communion with his  Creator  five  times  a  day,  wherein he renews his
    covenant with God and seeks His guidance  again and again: "You alone we
    worship and to You alone we  turn  for  help.  Guide  us to the straight
    path." (1:5,6) Actually Salah is  the  first  practical manifestation of
    Faith and also the foremost of the  basis  conditions for the success of
    the believers: 

    "Successful indeed are the  believers  who are humble in their prayers."
    (23:1-2) 

    The same fact has been emphasized  by  the Prophet (PBUH) in a different
    way. He says: 

    "Those who offer their Salah with great  care and punctuality, will find
    it a light, a proof of their Faith  and  cause of their salvation on the
    Day of Judgment." 

    After Salah, Zakah (poor-due) is  an  important  pillar of Islam. In the
    Quran, Salah and Zakah mostly have  been  mentioned together many times.
    Like Salah, Zakah is a  manifestation  of faith that affirms that God is
    the sole owner of everything  in  the  universe,  and what men hold is a
    trust in their hand over which God made them trustees to discharge it as
    He has laid down: 

    "Believe in Allah and His messenger and spend of that over which He made
    you trustees." (57:7) 

    In this respect Zakah is an act of  devotion  which, like prayer, brings
    the believer nearer to his Lord. 

    Apart from this, Zakah is a means  of  redistribution of wealth in a way
    that reduces differences  between  classes  and  groups. It makes a fair
    contribution to social stability.  By  purging the soul of the rich from
    selfishness and the soul of the  poor  from  envy and resentment against
    society, it stops up the channels  leading  to class hatred and makes it
    possible for the springs of  brotherhood  and  solidarity to gush forth.
    Such stability is not merely based on the personal feelings of the rich;
    it stands on a firmly established  right  which,  if the rich denied it,
    would be exacted by force, if necessary. 

    Siyam (fasting during the day time  of  the month of Ramadan) is another
    pillar of Islam. The main function of fasting is to make the Muslim pure
    from "within" as other aspects of Shariah  make him pure from "without."
    By such purity he responds to what  is  true  and good and shuns what is
    false and evil. This is what we  can  perceive  in the Quranic verse: "O
    you who believe, fasting is prescribed  for you as it was prescribed for
    those before you, that you  may  gain  piety."  (2:183)  In an authentic
    tradition, the Prophet reported  Allah  as  saying: "He suspends eating,
    drinking, and gratification of his sexual passion for My sake." Thus his
    reward is going to be according to God's great bounty. 

    Fasting, then, awakens  the  conscience  of  the individual and gives it
    scope for exercise in a  joint  experience  for  all society at the same
    time, thus adding further strength to each individual. Moreover, fasting
    offers a compulsory rest  to  the  over-worked  human  machine  for  the
    duration of one full month.  Similarly  fasting reminds an individual of
    those who are deprived of  life's  necessities  throughout  the  year or
    throughout life. It makes him realize  the suffering of others, the less
    fortunate brothers  in  Islam,  and  thus  promotes  in  him  a sense of
    sympathy and kindness to them. 

    Lastly, we come to Al-Hajj  (pilgrimage  to the House of God in Makkah).
    This very important pillar of Islam manifests a unique unity, dispelling
    all kinds of differences. Muslims from  all corners of the world wearing
    the same dress, respond to the  call  of Hajj in one voice and language;
    LABBAIK ALLAHUMMA LABBAIK (Here I  am  at your service O Lord!). In Hajj
    there is an exercise of  strict  self-discipline  and  control where not
    only sacred things are revered, but even the life of plants and birds is
    made inviolable  so  that  everything  lives  in  safety:  "And  he that
    venerates the sacred things of God,  it shall be better for him with his
    Lord." (22:30) "And he that venerates  the waymarks of God, it surely is
    from devotion of the heart." (22:32) 

    Pilgrimage gives an opportunity to all Muslims from all groups, classes,
    organizations, and governments  from  all  over the Muslim world to meet
    annually in a great congress. The  time  and  venue of this congress has
    been set by their One God. Invitation to attend is open to every Muslim.
    No one has the  power  to  bar  anyone.  Every  Muslim  who  attends  is
    guaranteed full safety  and  freedom  as  long  as  he  himself does not
    violate its safety. 

    Thus, worship  in  Islam,  whether  ritual  or  non-ritual,  trains  the
    individual in such a way that  he  loves  his  Creator  most and thereby
    gains an unyielding will and spirit  to wipe out all evil and oppression
    from the human society and make the word of God dominant in the world. 





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 6. Archive Info .............................................................. 


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 7. Credits ................................................................... 


    The author wishes to thank all those who contributed in any capacity for
    the original one part FAQ or this multi-part FAQ. 


                                 -- SOURCES --
    

    The basic  introduction  and  literature  presented  in  the FAQ is from
    brochures on Islam distributed  by  Institute  of  Islamic Information &
    Education (III&E). These  brochures  were  typed  in  electronic form by
    Ms.M.Ahmed. 

    The  information  on   soc.religion.islam  forum  (in  Part  2) has been
    compiled  from   USENET   archives   and  administrative  logs  of
    Soc.Religion.Islam moderator panel. 

    What is III&E? 

    III&E is an acronym for the Institute of Islamic Information & Education
    which was  established  in  Chicago,  Illinois  in  1985.  The  III&E is
    registered in the  State  of  Illinois  and  recognized  by the Internal
    Revenue Service (IRS) as a not-for-profit religious organization. 

    More information can be obtained by  contacting Dr. M. Amir, III&E, P.O.
    Box 41129, Chicago,  IL  60641-0129,  U.S.A.;  Fax:  (312)  777-7199; or
    or Tel: (312) 777-7443. 



                                  -- FORMAT --
    

    The format of the FAQ series  has  been  done  by utilizing resources of
    Islamic Information & News  Network  (IINN).  A  custom program, Nebula,
    written by editors of IINN for generating newsletters has been used. 


    What is IINN? 

    Islamic Information & News Network  is  a forum dedicated to educate the
    network community on issues relating to Islam and Muslims in an academic
    & non-political environment.  Weekly  digest is available on internet by
    subscribing to  MUSLIMS@ASUACAD.BITnet  (A  Bitnet listserv list) and on
    USENET: bit.listserv.muslims. 



                               -- Permissions --
    

    Permission to  post  this  multi-part  FAQ  has  been  obtained  by  the
    following: 

	o	Institute of Islamic Information & Education (III&E)
	o 	Islamic Information & News Network (Muslims@PSUVM.bitnet) 
	o 	Moderator(s) of News.Answers (Thomas Khoenig & P.Huang)


# End of Islam FAQ Part 4 #

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Last Update March 27 2014 @ 02:11 PM