What is Islam?
The word Islam (Arabic: إسلام, IPA: [alʔɪsˈlaːm]) is an Arabic word which literally means ‘submission (to the Will of God)’. Islam is a strictly monotheistic religion teaching that there is only one God, that God is flawlessly powerful – requiring nothing and needing no assistance, and that Muhammad is the messenger of God. It is the second largest religion on Earth, and is the fastest growing religious group. Islam teaches that God is merciful, all-powerful, and unique, and that he uses prophets, revealed scriptures, and natural signs to guide mankind.
Who is Allah?
Put succinctly, Allah is the God of Abraham – the same God of the Old and New Testaments, including the Pentateuch. The word Allah (Arabic: الله, translit. Allāh, IPA: [ɑɫˈɫɑː(h)]) is the Arabic word for God in Abrahamic religions, including Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The word is commonly thought to be based on the contraction al-ilāh, which means “the god”, and is related to El and Elah, the word God in the Hebrew and Aramaic languages, respectively. A common interpretation in Islam, in alignment with Islam’s strictly monotheistic interpretation of revealed scripture, is that the contraction formalizes the otherwise indefinite article god, rendering it The God – as in The One and Only God.
What is the Quran About?
Consisting of 144 chapters (called Surah /ˈsʊərə/; spelled as Surah; Arabic: سورة sūrah, plural سور suwar), the Quran is considered by Muslims to be the divine revelation of God to the Prophet Muhammad (عليه السلام), via the archangel Gabriel. Revealed incrementally over the course of 23 years, concluding with the death of The Prophet in the year 632, the Quran addresses a great deal of what it means to live as a human being in relation to other people and in relation to God. Much of the Quran assumes a previous knowledge of scripture, or is a retelling of well-known stories from the scriptures of other Abrahamic traditions.
There are 24 prophets from the Judeo-Christian tradition spoken of in the Quran. Mary, the mother of Jesus, is spoken of extensively, as is the immaculate conception and birth of Jesus. The revelation of the Psalms to David, the Torah being given to Moses, and the Gospel of Jesus are all spoken of, and are regarded as essential scripture.
Perhaps as important is what is not in the Quran, as much misconception surrounds this:
The Quran does not promote killing non-believers
In fact, the killing of innocent people is a serious crime in Islam, potentially punishable by death (not to mention eternal damnation).
Allah Almighty says: “For that cause We decreed for the Children of Israel that whosoever killeth a human being for other than man slaughter or corruption in the earth, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind, and whoso saveth the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind. Our messengers came unto them of old with clear proofs (of Allah’s sovereignty), but afterwards lo! many of them became prodigals in the earth.” (Al-Ma’idah: 32)
The Quran does not encourage the mistreatment of women
On the contrary, the Quran established the rights of women in the Arabian peninsula for the first time in history, and at a time when women had been essentially considered chattel property as a matter of custom. The Quran provides that women may sue for divorce, and that they are entitled to take their property with them when they leave a marriage.
“God has indeed heard (and accepted) the statement of the woman who pleads with thee concerning her husband and carries her complaint (in prayer) to God: and God (always) hears the arguments between both of you: for God hears and sees (all things).” (Al-Mujadila: 1)
The Quran does not say that all non-believers must convert to Islam, or that non-Muslims are ineligible for admittance to Paradise
The Quran repeatedly states that a person’s religion is a deeply personal thing, and is specifically stated that there should be no compulsion in religion.
We see all too often, within Islam and without, that people approach the Quran with their own ideas of what they want it to say, and that they will twist the meanings of what they find to reinforce their own beliefs. The Quran actually warns of precisely this:
“He [Allah] it is Who has sent down to thee the Book: In it are verses basic or fundamental (of established meaning); they are the foundation of the Book: others are allegorical. But those in whose hearts is perversity follow the part thereof that is allegorical, seeking discord, and searching for its hidden meanings, but no one knows its hidden meanings except Allah. And those who are firmly grounded in knowledge say: “We believe in the Book; the whole of it is from our Lord:” and none will grasp the Message except men of understanding.” (Al-Imran: 7)