(The following response addresses some of the issues mentioned in Sequel 1)
There are many religions in the world and there are quite a few of them
with a large number of believers. For example, number of Hindus are about
800 million - just about half of the number of Christians. The majority
of the world's 5.5 billion people believe neither in Christianity nor in
Islam, the world's two largest religions. These figures are important to
keep in mind if we are to engage in discussion about comparative
religion. It is also important to bear in mind that each individual
considers his or her religion to be the true religion and likes to quote
from his or her own scripture considering that this is the only authentic
scripture and everything else is false. If a Christian or a Muslim says
that his is the true religion, so will say a Hindu. With such a
standing, it is obvious that one will not be able to engage in an
objective analysis of "other" religions. For an objective study, what
is needed are 1) A mind free from pre-conceived notions 2) Application
of intellect, logic, reasoning, and so on.
With this preamble, I will now address - God willing - some of your
inquiries based on my limited knowledge in Islam. I will address them
in sequels, for it is not practical to address them all at once in one
email. I will be brief in my explanation so as not to vex you by having
you to read too much. But if I fall short in my explanation, I will be
happy to do further clarification if you let me know.
What Is Islam?
The word "Islam" has two meanings. The primary meaning is "submission to
the will of God". Those who submit to the will of God are called "Muslims".
Thus a Muslim is that person who obeys the commandments of God.
In that sense, all the prophets preached "Islam" for they invited people
to submit to the will of God. They were all "Muslims" for they lived in
accordance to the will of God. Islam, therefore, is not a new religion
but the continuation of the same religion preached by all Prophets. That
would make sense, for it is the same God who created the whole humanity
and thus His message to the humanity should essentially be the same. That
message is: believing in One and Only God, worship Him only and no other
deity, living a righteous life, accountability of actions, life after
death, and so on.
Thus "Islam" as a religion is not associated with a particular land or a
particular historical person, as in the case of "Judaism" (tribe of Judah),
"Christianity" (Jesus Christ), "Hinduism" (land of Hind), "Buddhism"
(Gautama Buddha), etc. It is rather an ideological conviction.
The second meaning of the word "Islam" is "peace". If one lives in
accordance with the will of God, then the inevitable result will be that
he will achieve peace. Thus both meanings - submission to the will of God
and peace - are fulfilled in the word "Islam".
Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are considered the three "Abrahamic"
faiths as they all go back to the prophet Abraham (peace be upon him).
Arabs, like the Jews, are direct descendents of Abraham (p).
Muslims, therefore, are supposed to believe in all the prophets and their
messages. One ceases to be a Muslim if he does not belie in a particular
prophet. Further, a Muslim is not supposed to make any distinction between
one prophet and another. This is mentioned in several places of the
Qur'an, for example:
Say: "We believe in Allah and in what has been revealed to us and what
was revealed to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob and the Tribes and in
(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 submission)." (Qur'an 3:84)
In another verse,
"In matters of faith, He has ordained for you what He had enjoined upon
Noah - and into which We have given you insight through revelation - as
well as that which We had enjoined on Abraham, and Moses, and Jesus: be
steadfast in upholding the [true] faith, and do not break up your unity
therein." (Qur'an 42:13)
Who Is Allah?
"Allah" basically means "The God". By "Allah", Muslims call upon the same
God as believed in by Jews and Christians. It is the same God who created
the whole universe and the whole humanity. Christian Arabs who live in the
Middle East also says "Allah" for God.
Since God is infinite, it is impossible to comprehend Him in our finite
mind. But we can know Him by knowing His attributes. His attributes appear
throughout the whole Qur'an, repeatedly, literally every few verses. A
total of 99 attributes are mentioned in the Qur'an. I will mention here
the first 20 -
Allah - The God; there is no other god but He
Ar-Rahmaan - The Compassionate, The Beneficient
Ar-Raheem - The Merciful
Al-Malik - The King, The Sovereign
Al-Quddus - The Holy; the One who is pure from any imperfection
As-Salaam - The Source of Peace
Al-Mu'min - The Guardian of Faith
Al-Muhaimin - The Protector
Al-Azeez - The Almighty, The Strong
Al-Jabbaar - The Compeller
Al-Mutakabbir - The Majestic
l-Khaaliq - The Creator; the One Who can create anything from non-existence
Al-Bari' - The Evolver, The Maker
Al-Musawwir - The Fashioner; the One who forms His creatures
Al-Ghaffaar - The Forgiver
Al-Qahhaar - The Subduer; the One Who has the perfect Power and is not unable over anything
Al-Wahhaab - The Bestower; the One who is Generous in giving
Al-Razzaaq - The Sustainer, The Provider
Al-Fattaah - The Opener, The Reliever
Al-Aleem - The All-knowing; nothing is absent from His knowledge
These 99 attributes of God is called "Asma ul Husna", meaning the "Most
- Mushfiqur Rahman, 21 October 2001
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