Added 3.20.21

What are the basic tenants of Islam?

 

Alhamdulillaah, I will explain in four sections (essential beliefs, essential actions of worship, essential social values, and spirituality). I will provide a list of other important aspects of Islam. This article will be expanded over time beyond the original answer to move toward a more satisfactory introduction of each concept.

 

The six articles of faith entail firm belief in these:

  1. Allah, The One, The Unique (note: Allah has the same linguistic root as the Hebrew Elohim mentioned in the Bible and Alaha in Aramaic, one of the likely languages of Jesus, peace on him)

    • That Allah’s actions (like creating and sustaining) are for Him only; that neither anyone nor anything else shares in these actions in the ultimate sense.

    • That Allah’s names and attributes (like Most Gracious, The Loving, The Wise, The Generous, The Controller, The Living, etc.) are for Him only; that neither anyone nor anything else possesses these names or attributes in the manner in which Allah does.

      • Example 1: People are generous, but what they give is from what Allah gave them and they receive benefits for that by way of return and praise from people and reward from Allah. When The Generous gives, it is His creation which no one provided for Him, it does not limit His ability to give more (his wealth is unlimited), and His status and wealth is neither increased nor decreased (i.e., He is neither benefited nor harmed regardless how much as He gives).

      • Example 2: Allah mentions His Hand in al-Qur’an. We affirm this attribute because Allah mentioned it, but we refrain from making any claims about it that Allah did not say. We do not venture to imagine Allah’s Hand has any similarity to our human hands, for example.

    • That none but Allah is worthy of worship (highest love, devotion, sacrifice, seeking, ultimate trust, ritual actions, pious fear, consideration in decisions, obedience, etc.) such that a person who elevates something in the creation to equal or greater status as Allah or altogether replaces Allah’s position in their lives with something or someone else besides Allah, then this is going far astray—whereas singling Allah out for worship and remaining steadfast on that to death is the ultimate success. Worship of other than Allah (shirk, in Arabic) could include obvious things like sacrifice or singing for an idol, human, or multiple gods. Or it might be less obvious like undue devotion or elevation of normal things like money, jobs, a mate, etc. One person, for example, could be sad over losing a job but know that it had just been a means of sustenance for a time while Allah is ever The Provider. Someone else in the same situation might despair and lose hope, indicating the job itself had been inappropriately relied upon as the ultimate source of provision as if it were a god.

    • note: Though the pronouns he and him are used here, it should not be taken that Allah is male. Allah is neither male nor female and does not procreate. The Arabic pronouns in al-Qur’an, huwa or hu, are used in general for male, it, or non-gender/gender-unknown.

  2. The Angels

    • The main import of belief in angels is because while Allah spoke directly to humans in some cases, most of the revelation from Allah to humans was conveyed via angels.

    • The angels have rational minds, capable of understanding in the abstract, like those of humans, but they do not have desire. Thus, they do not stray from obedience to Allah and their understanding of reality is never corrupted.

  3. The Books

    • Allah sent down several revelations of His Speech, most famously including the Torah, Zaboor, the Injeel, and the Qur’an.

    • We believe in all the original revelations, but the only record that remains available to us unadulterated, just as Allah sent it to us, is al-Qur’an. The previous revelations were for various nations of the past and so they were not preserved, whereas al-Qur’an is the last revelation sent for this time period for all people until the end.

    • Allah has promised to preserve al-Qur’an for that purpose such that no one can corrupt it. Though people make competing texts and lie about the message, millions of copies remain spread throughout the earth and, obviously, it’s on the internet. We have clear records of its early preservation and copies today match those of the ‘Uthmani texts still available to this day, produced under the direction of a close companion of the Prophet, peace on him. Furthermore, millions have memorized the entire text and some can trace their teachers back, name by name, back to the mouth of the Prophet, peace on him (including our local Imam, Morsy Salem).

  4. The Prophets and Messengers

    • Allah does not leave his creation without guidance. He sends down messages via angels to specific humans He selects to spread that message to others. We call these humans prophets and messengers.

    • Each message is comprised of the revealed book combined with a sunnah (way), which is the implementation and explanation of a specific prophet or messenger. Both a book and the sunnah are revelation from Allah and a message is only complete with both (not just one or the other), but only the book portion is the literal Speech of Allah.

    • A messenger is a prophet who comes with a new book and sunnah, whereas a prophet either supports a messenger or re-conveys a book and sunnah that was sent down previously.

    • We believe in all of the prophets and messengers and do not differentiate between them as regards validity of the original messages they were sent with (though, as mentioned earlier, the messages sent to specific nations of the past have been lost or corrupted partially or completely).

    • However, there are five messengers who are called the greatly tested, which bore greater difficulty and responsibility than the other messengers and prophets. These are Nuh/Noah, Ibraheem/Abraham, Musa/Moses, Isa/Jesus, and Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon all of them.

    • All of the messages are in complete agreeance as regards creed (including the six articles of faith and more) as the ultimate reality of all things is unchanging; however, the details of how to implement those beliefs and religious laws differed for the circumstances of various nations and times according to Allah’s Wisdom.

    • This is why even if we had the previous messages, we would still cling to al-Qur’an and as-Sunnah of Muhammad, peace on him. Jabir Bin Abdullah reports that once Umar Bin al-Khattab read a book, which he had received from a Jew, to the Prophet who got angry and said: “O the son of al-Khattab, are you embarrassed? By the One in whose hands is my life, I have brought to you something which is pure and immaculate. Don’t ask them (the Jews) anything. There is a possibility that they tell you the truth and you refute it, or they tell you the false and you confirm it. By the One in whose hands is my life, even if Musa were alive today he would have followed me”​ (Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, Hadith no. 4736)​. When we encounter remnants of previous messages we do not deny them in case there is something true remaining and we do not confirm them, in case there is something false added.

  5. The Last Day

    • Everyone will die and cross barsakh, which is the barrier against returning to this life. This amounts to the time in the grave until such time that the Last Day, The Day of Judgement (it has many names) comes upon us. Anyone who remains to that point will die and Allah will remove more and more of the creation until nothing is left but Himself. And He will ask who is Lord and none will be in existence to answer Him, except himself.

    • And then Allah will bring back the creation and resurrect us by way of growing out of the earth like plants from the coccyx bone as if it were a seed.

    • And then we will be given our record of deeds, in our right hand if Allah has accepted us and granted us His Mercy or in our left hands if we have failed ourselves.

    • We believe that Jahanam, the Hellfire is real and eternal.

    • We believe al-Jannah, the Paradise is real and eternal.

  6. Divine Decree, the good and the bad of it

    • We should work hard to attain a good life for ourselves and other people, but our wisdom and control is limited.

    • By Allah’s Wisdom and beyond our control, we will receive and experience both good and bad, both ease and difficulty. Regardless of the results of our efforts in this life and the circumstances we find ourselves in, our ultimate purpose is to worship Allah in any and all conditions that we would have sweetness of faith, defend ourselves from misdirection, know and develop our character, and attain Allah’s forgiveness. On the authority of Abu Yahya Suhaib bin Sinan, it is related that the Prophet, peace on him, said, “How amazing is the affair of the believer. There is good for him in everything and that is for no one but the believer. If good times come his way, he expresses gratitude to Allah and that is good for him, and if hardship comes his way, he endures it patiently and that is better for him” (Muslim).

    • Constant Trust in Allah and seeking His Face in there hereafter as the ultimate goal of everything puts things in perspective and allows us peace and protection, wisdom and insight through all things we encounter in life.

 

The five pillars—to enact and maintain our faith in the above, we do these actions:

  1. as-shahadatayn, the two testimonies

    • The two testimonies encapsulate the creed of the believer and Muslims state these testimonies frequently as a remembrance and reminder. More specifically, they are the statements made by someone who intends to be a Muslim. Generally we can call that person a convert, but some prefer to say revert since it is a return to the natural state we had all been born into.

    • If a person wishes to “take shahadah,” they must know the meaning of what they are saying, have firm belief that what they are saying is true, sincerely intend to be a Muslim before Allah, and love these words that capture the breadth of all truth and reality.

    • The two testimonies are to say, “Ash-hadu an laa ilaaha illallaah wa ash-hadu anna Muhammadar-rasoolullaah,” which means, “I testify that none has the right to be worshiped except Allah, and I testify that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.”

    • Both testimonies are vital because even if someone says that none has the right to be worshiped except Allah, they must still define who Allah is and what worship entails in order for this statement to bear fruit. The only correct way to define them is as Allah defines Himself and as Allah commands and guides, and these are known by way of al-Qur’an and as-Sunnah sent to and through the prophet and messenger Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him.

  2. as-salah, obligatory prayer

    • Prayer in Islam can come in many forms and be done voluntarily in abundance. However, there are five specific obligatory prayers each day.

    • These prayers are the backbone of religious maintenance. Through them, Allah purifies us from sins, supports us, and guides us by way of nourishment of our faith.

    • And imagine that someone begins to go astray, but how far can they proceed off track before the time will come to turn to Allah in prayer? Abu Hurayrah said, “I heard Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) saying, ‘If there was a river at the door of anyone of you and he took a bath in it five times a day would you notice any dirt on him?" They said, "Not a trace of dirt would be left." The Prophet (ﷺ) added, "That is the example of the five prayers with which Allah blots out (annuls) evil deeds’" (Saheeh al-Bukhari; Muslim).

    • Establishing regular prayers is the main job of a youth or a convert and the greatest work of a Muslim as it sets the foundation for everything else. It was narrated from Abu Hurayrah that the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said, “The first thing among their deeds for which the people will be brought to account on the Day of Resurrection will be prayer. Our Lord will say to His angels, although He knows best, ‘Look at My slave’s prayer, is it complete or lacking?’ If it is complete, it will be recorded as complete, but if it is lacking, He will say, ‘Look and see whether my slave did any voluntary prayers.’ If he had done voluntary prayers, He will say, ‘Complete the obligatory prayers of My slave from his voluntary prayers.’ Then the rest of his deeds will be examined in a similar manner” (Abu Dawood, 864; classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh Abi Dawood, 770). 

    • As with other things in Islam and life in general, initial establishment of the prayers is difficult and sometimes awkward, but then Allah makes it easy and as natural as breathing.

    • Each of the five prayers can be performed in as little as around five minutes or extended much longer. Only the minimum is required, but there is great benefit to extending the prayers when possible.

    • Each payer has its fixed time range in which it is to be performed and these times are calculated and provided on many websites. As a matter of basic knowledge, the times are between dawn and sunrise, between the highest point of the sun and when an object’s shadow is equal to its height (or in another opinion till the shadow is double the height), from that point till sunset, from that point till dusk, and from that point till one third of the night has expired (which is one third of the time between sunset and dawn). Praying earlier in the time range is preferred except with the last prayer.

    • Each prayer has specific requirements and also must be performed in a state of ritual purity.

    • The obligatory prayer is as having a meeting with Allah or talking with Allah and can be the most powerful and enjoyable moments in this life.

    • Further, it prepares us for all that we do and experience between the prayers.

  3. as-saum, obligatory month of fasting

    • Ramadan is an amazing and powerful month of the year that heals us from the wear of the previous eleven months and prepares us for the eleven ahead. While it is spiritual and psychological, first some technical descriptions as background.

    • Fasting the month of Ramadan in the Hijri calendar each year is required on those who are able. Allah prescribed the fasting so that we would learn taqwah (awareness of Him in our thoughts and actions) and it is a thankfulness for the revelation of al-Qur’an, which was revealed over the course of 23 years, primarily in Ramadan.

    • For those who have a temporary condition preventing fasting during Ramadan, like an illness, pregnancy, breastfeeding, temporary need for frequent medication, and such as those, then they can break their fast and make the days up later in the year before the next Ramadan.

    • For those with a permanent condition, like frailty of old age, a chronic or terminal medical condition, and such as those, then they should feed a poor person for each day.

    • Because the lunar calendar is about 11 days shorter than the solar calendar, Ramadan moves backward over the years through the solar Gregorian calendar and also. Thus, it also moves through the seasons, with the fasting being short and cool in the years Ramadan is in the winter and long and hot in the years it is in the summer. Thus we, we end up fasting in all conditions as a test and a testament to our steadfastness.

    • The fasting entails nothing entering the throat from dawn until sunset each day. Nothing means no food, drink, medicine, or anything else. Sexual relations are also prohibited during the fast.

    • Additionally, every effort should be made to establish greater avoidance of bad actions and to better adhere to good actions. Extra time reading al-Qur’an and attendance of taraweeh prayers (extra voluntary prayers held during the month) are highly encouraged, whereas special attention to kind conduct, generosity, and avoidance of backbiting and foul language.

    • Allah helps us by chaining all or at least the strongest of the shayateen (something like demons but evil members of the jinn—there is no such thing as a fallen angel), which relieves us from evil whispers or influences.

    • When first learning to fast, it can be somewhat difficult and food and drink (especially drink, actually) can be the focus. There are many tips and means to make this easier, but ultimately, it is something to which Allah grants ease after persistence.

    • When the practice is better established, perhaps by the fourth Ramadan, the drive for food and drink become quiet from the start of the month or within a few days of the month. And when this shuts off, we feel an ironic freedom. Moreover, other things can be heard or paid attention to, things which we had been neglecting.

    • We examine our intentions. We find and fix unkempt or painful spots in our minds and hearts. We finally implement what we had been struggling with. We heal and grow and learn about ourselves and Allah. We are empowered and make it our goal to live better in the coming year than we had in the previous.

    • We gain self-control, purpose, and vision. Allah made us with needs, but we have to fulfill those needs in accordance with his law and in order to achieve even our own goals for ourselves. If desires grow too strong they can overpower the higher mind; it’s like the horse has gotten on the rider’s back. The month of fasting helps solidify our grasp on our own selves.

    • At the end of the month is a celebration called Eid al-Fitr. There is a large congressional prayer and sermon usually followed by food and fun. In the last days of Ramadan, zakat-ul-fitr is collected from everyone by way of food or money which equals to the value of about $10-$15 per person. While charity is collected at other times to provide aid all year, this charity is distributed to the poor specifically at the end of Ramadan in order to ensure that there is plenty and happiness for everyone at that time.

  4. az-zakat-ul-maal, the charity

    • Those who have held excess wealth equal to or greater than the value of 85 grams of gold (around 3 ounces) or 595 grams of silver (around 21 ounces) for one year—without using it (i.e., true capital wealth)—then it becomes obligatory to pay this charity to support those in need.

    • The gold and silver minimums are dramatically different in the current metals market. If a person prefers to wait until they have cleared both the silver and gold thresholds, then this is permissible. However, it will be safer and better to begin paying when the silver threshold is met.

    • If the charity is due, then it is paid yearly in the amount of 2.5% on excess wealth, not all wealth. A family or work car, primary home, open stores or shops, work equipment, and other items in regular use for living or earning have no charity due on them. To say it another way, the value of tools or means of earning should not be counted when calculating zakat; only count the capital holdings gained with those tools and means.

    • Zakat can be paid directly to those in need or it can be given to someone else or an organization to distribute it on the payers behalf.

    • Sadaqah (voluntary charity) may go to anyone (for example, the Masjid at-Tawheed food panty distributes food and sometimes money on a weekly basis to anyone in the neighborhood regardless of religion). However, zakah, specifically, is for Muslims only.

    • It can be distributed to eight causes or categories: 1) fuqaraa’, the exceedingly poor, 2) miskeen, those who have some wealth, but are still in need, 3) those who expend their time and energy in distributing and administering the zakat, 4) new Muslims and those inclined toward Islam, 5) slaves and captives, 6) the debt-ridden, 7) in the way of Allah to establish the Islamic institutions, and 8) travelers.

  5. al-hajj, the pilgrimage

    • Hajj is required only once and only if there is opportunity. If someone does not have a safe and affordable means of going or if they have pressing debts, then they are exempted until their situation changes.

    • The hajj must be performed at specific geographic cites which are in Makkah, Saudi Arabia. Many of the prophets and significant figures of Allah’s religion were there (including our Prophet Muhammad, peace on him) as well as important structures. Most important is the Ka’bah, which was likely constructed first by Adam and then reconstructed by Ibraheem, peace of Allah be upon both of them. It is like the masjid of the world in that we are unified by facing in its direction when we pray no matter where we are on the globe. It is also the place from which angels ascend and descend.

    • There is a specific time for Hajj in the month of Dhul-Hijjah. Umrah (a voluntary pilgrimage with lesser requirements) can be performed at any time of year, though it does not fulfill the obligation of performing hajj once in one’s lifetime.

    • Hajj may be repeated on a voluntary basis. It is exceedingly common for those who have gone to hajj to wish to go again because of the enjoyment of the peace and sense of wellbeing Allah provides with it.

    • There are difficulties involved, but there is an endless stream of testimonials explaining how Allah opened the door to go or made the path easy.

    • The hajj is life encapsulated in a small, manageable space. We leave our worldly life behind and focus our energies on Allah and our goal of achieving the Paradise.

    • We wear simple clothes which are similar to burial cloth. This reminds of the grave that is surely coming and it also equalizes everyone similar to how we will be equalized on the Last Day, without our worldly wealth and markers of status. Rather, our status is based on the contents of our hearts.

    • The status before Allah of someone whose hajj is accepted is as a newborn baby (i.e., without sin). It is an incredible renewal and peace and deflates the reactionary, petty self. Rather the person who performs hajj has aligned deeply with the true purpose of this life. Ameen.

Social values

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Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Whoever relieves the hardship of a believer in this world, Allah will relieve his hardship on the Day of Resurrection. Whoever helps ease one in difficulty, Allah will make it easy for him in this world and in the Hereafter. Whoever conceals the faults of a Muslim, Allah will conceal his faults in this world and in the Hereafter. Allah helps the servant as long as he helps his brother. Whoever travels a path in search of knowledge, Allah will make easy for him a path to Paradise. People do not gather in the houses of Allah, reciting the book of Allah and studying it together, but that tranquility will descend upon them, mercy will cover them, angels will surround them, and Allah will mention them to those near him. Whoever is slow to good deeds will not be hastened by his lineage.”

[Source: Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 2699]

Spirituality

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