The religion of Islam provides a complete code of law and guidance. In this chapter, you will find a brief summary of the basic teachings and explanations of some terms. The very basic principles, the Articles of Faith, and the Pillars of Islam are briefly described, as are some other concepts in Islam. The status and mission of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) are introduced, and a description of the different sects in Islam is given. An explanation of the coming of the Promised Messiah and the Ahmadiyya Movement is presented.
As you become more involved with the study or practice of Islam, you will encounter many new words and principles and may wish to explore them further. The end of each chapter provides a list of books for more in-depth study of its contents. The final chapter of the book contains further references for future study.
It is important to note that practically all of the terminology used in Islam is in Arabic, as in the Holy Qur’an. For the purpose of your clear understanding, each term is listed both in Arabic and English.
Islam (an Arabic word meaning “peace and submission”) is the name given by God Almighty (Allah) to the religion revealed by Him to the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) through the Holy Qur’an. It means the attainment of peace through the surrender of one’s will to the Will of Allah. One who so submits and follows the laws of Islam is called a Muslim.
OBJECT OF HUMAN CREATION
Allah says in the Holy Qur’an:
“And I have not created the Jinn and men but that they may worship Me.” (51:57)
The true purpose of a human being’s life is the worship of God, the attainment of His understanding and complete devotion to Him. He should follow Him perfectly as a slave follows his master. Allah has created human beings with the faculties that are appropriate for this aim, and revealed the Qur’an so that he may seek Allah through it. Thus, a Muslim’s first duty is to His Creator; to worship Him and to follow His commands. This is known as “Haqu-Allah.” His second duty is to serve humanity, “Haqul-Ibaad,” for this is part of worship. A Muslim can show his love for His Creator by expressing love and compassion for all His creation.
THE ARTICLES OF FAITH (IMAN)
These are the six fundamental principles of faith which form the basis for a Muslim’s belief, practice and understanding of Islam. The Holy Qur’an states that one should believe in Allah, the Last Day, the Angels, His books and His prophets. It also states that Allah alone determines His Decree. (See Holy Qur’an, 2:178; 25:3)
Acknowledgment of the Oneness of Allah is the most important principle of Islam, being the cornerstone of the faith and the basis for salvation. The most emphasized aspect of Allah in Islam is His Unity. The Kalimah Tayyeba is the basic doctrine of Islam. It is:
“La ilaha ilAllaho Muhammadur rasoolAllah.”
There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is His messenger.
To deny Allah’s Oneness and to associate any other with Him (shirk) is the gravest sin in Islam. He is the sole Creator of the universe, and nothing can occur in it without His knowledge and His consent. One whole chapter of the Holy Qur’an (Sura Al-Ikhlas) is devoted exclusively to Allah’s Oneness:
“Say, He is Allah, the One; Allah, the Independent and Besought of all. He begets not, nor is He begotten. And there is none like unto Him.” (112:2-5).
Islam requires belief in angels. They are spiritual beings created by Allah to obey Him and carry out His commandments. Unlike man, angels have no free will and cannot act independently. They control the forces of nature by Allah’s command. Also by Allah’s command angels serve as intermediaries in carrying out His will. In this sense they are also referred to as messengers (rasool) of Allah. Indeed, amongst their tasks are: to bring divine revelations to the prophets; bring punishment on the prophets’ enemies; pray for and give glad tidings to believers; glorify Allah with His praise; and keep records of man’s deeds.
Four of the most well known angels are: Gabriel (Jibraeel), Michael (Mikaeel), Raphael (Israfeel) and Israel (Israeel).
Muslims believe that Allah revealed His laws in stages to mankind through His prophets, and therefore accept the Torah of Moses (peace be on him), the Psalms of David (peace be on him) and the Gospel (Injeel) of Jesus (peace be on him) as holy books, as well as the sacred scriptures of all other messengers of Allah. However, Muslims believe that all such revelations were limited to a specific time and people and are not preserved in their original purity, but subject to distortions. All the Holy Scriptures culminated in, and were perfected in, the Holy Qur’an (just as all religion was perfected in Islam). The Holy Qur’an says:
“This day have I perfected for you your religion and completed My favor on you and chosen for you Islam as a religion.” (5:30)
All of Allah’s prophets or messengers (rasool) are believed in and revered by Muslims. The Holy Qur’an states that Allah raised up prophets among the people of every nation, sending Divine messages and warnings through these holy men. It says:
“… and there is no people to whom a Warner has not been sent.” (35:25)
Some of the prophets specifically mentioned in the Holy Qur’an are: Adam, Elisha, Job, David, Ezekiel, Hud, Abraham, Elijah, Jesus, Isaac, Ishmael, Luqman, Noah, Salih, Solomon, Jonah, John the Baptist, Jacob, Joseph and Muhammad. There are many others as Allah says in the Holy Qur’an:
“And We did send messengers before thee; of them are some whom We have mentioned to thee, and of them there are some whom We have not mentioned to thee;…” (40:79)
Muslims are directed to make no distinction among these, and to accept them all. However, just as Muslims believe that the Holy Qur’an was sent to all mankind, encompassing the teachings of earlier scriptures, so also Muslims believe that the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) is the greatest and the Seal of all the prophets, having been sent not to just one nation but to all nations and thus to all mankind.
One of the most emphasized beliefs in the Holy Qur’an is the belief in the Day of Judgement. Islam teaches that physical death is not the end of man’s existence, rather it is the door to a higher form of life which can bring one closer to Allah, depending on one’s deeds in this life. According to the Holy Qur’an, on the Day of Judgement this entire universe will come to an end, and the dead will be resurrected. Their deeds will be judged and they will be rewarded accordingly. Those with good records will merit Heaven, while those with bad deeds will be punished in Hell. No intercession will be accepted, each soul will be rewarded according to what it earns. However, Hell is a temporary condition and eventually its inhabitants will leave it.
The Promised Messiah (peace be on him) has explained life in the hereafter in this way:
“The Holy Qur’an has repeatedly affirmed that the life after death is not a new phenomenon and all its manifestations are reflections of this life. It has also stated that in the Hereafter all the spiritual conditions of this world will be manifested physically, both in the intermediate state and in the resurrection. Further it has emphasized that there will be unlimited progress in the hereafter. In short, according to the Holy Qur’an, hell and heaven are both reflections of a man’s life, and are not something new that comes from outside,… and will be but reflections of the spiritual conditions of man in this life.” (The Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam)
Muslims believe that Divine Decree controls the eventual outcome of all actions in this universe. It is the law or measure of a thing with regard to its growth and development. In the Holy Qur’an the term is explained as a universal law of Allah which is working through the whole of creation, extending throughout the universe. (See Holy Qur’an 87:1-4). Within the boundaries of Divine Decree, man is given free will.
Other Important Beliefs of Muslims
Apart from the six fundamental beliefs already discussed, there are many other important beliefs in Islam. Some of them are:
- Muslims believe that every person is born innocent and free from sin. Only when he reaches maturity of understanding and can distinguish between right and wrong, does he become accountable for his actions.
- Muslims believe that Allah does not hold anyone responsible unless He has shown him the right way. Allah has always sent messengers and revelations before inflicting His punishment on people.
- Muslims are required to follow their faith with reasoning and understanding, not blindly. A person should use his powers of reasoning and reflect in his heart on Allah’s teachings.
The five pillars of Islam represent the principle acts of worship which are required to practice the faith. Observance and practice of these acts is obligatory for all Muslims. They are:
This is the first and foremost pillar of Islam and every other belief flows from it. A believer declares his acceptance of Islam by reciting:
“Ash-hado an-la ilaha ilAllaho wa ash-hado anna Muhammadan abdohu wa rasoolohu”
I bear witness that there is no god but Allah and I bear witness that Muhammad is His servant and His messenger.
Prayer is the basic and most important means by which man communicates with Allah and draws near Him. Its importance cannot be emphasized enough. The Islamic concept of prayer is a direct pouring forth of the soul by the supplicant before the Divine Majesty. There is no need for, nor does Islam tolerate an intermediary between God and man. Prayer brings solace and comfort to the human mind and soul, lifting them up from a lowly state to unsurpassed heights. Islam also assures the believer that his prayers are heard. The Holy Qur’an says:
“When My servants ask thee concerning Me, say: I am near. I answer the prayer of the supplicant when he prays to Me. So they should hearken to Me and have believe in Me, that they may follow the right way.” (2:187)
Prayer also rids the believer of the bondage of sin and purifies the heart. The Holy Qur’an says:
“Recite that which has been revealed to you of the Book and observe Prayer. Surely, Prayer restrains one from indecency and manifest evil, and certainly the remembrance of Allah is the greatest virtue.” (29:46)
The most important form of prayer in Islam is the salaat, the ritualistic daily prayer. Salaat has been prescribed five times a day, with set times for each prayer. Adherence to salaat with all its prescribed rituals is the most repeated injunction of the Holy Qur’an. The five daily prayers of salaat are:
- Morning (Fajr). This prayer should be offered in the morning about one hour before sunrise. It is forbidden to pray while the sun is rising, because that may give the appearance of sun worship.
- Midday (Zuhr). The time for this prayer is early afternoon, starting with the decline of the sun to mid afternoon.
- Afternoon (Asr). Prayer is said in late afternoon but no later than half an hour before sunset.
- Sunset (Maghrib). This prayer should be observed shortly after sunset. It must not be said while the sun is setting.
- Nighttime (Isha). Isha prayer should be offered after nightfall when it is dark. It can be said up to midnight.
These prayers should be performed at their appropriate times and preferably in congregation. However if it is impossible for the afternoon prayers to be offered at their proper times, it is permissible to combine the Zuhr and Asrprayer. The Maghrib and Isha prayers may also be combined if necessary. For more information on salaat in daily life, please see Chapter 4.
In addition to salaat which is compulsory for believers, Muslims may offer voluntary prayers (nawafil). The most important of these is Tahajjud, which literally means the giving up of sleep. It is offered during the latter part of the night, and Tahajjud is specifically mentioned in the Holy Qur’an as very beneficial for man’s spiritual development and a method to gain nearness to Allah. (See Holy Qur’an, 17:79). The Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) is reported to have gotten up regularly after midnight and to pass almost half the latter part of the night in Tahajjud prayers.
Islam also provides prayers for every need and occasion. Another form of prayer is remembrance of Allah throughout the day (Zikre-illahi). To remember Allah and ponder over His attributes brings one nearer to Him. In addition a Muslim may pray silently to Allah at any time. This is known as dua.
For further information on the form, parts and posture of salaat, see the Muslim Prayer Book or videotape on salaat.
The third act of worship in Islam is the fasting during the Islamic month of Ramadhan by all able adult Muslims. By fasting, a Muslim can purify himself spiritually and physically, elevate his soul and obtain nearness to Allah. To fast is to abstain from food, drink, smoking and conjugal relations from dawn to sunset. Sacrificing of physical needs increases a Muslim’s awareness of the suffering of the poor and needy. Ramadhan was appointed by God for this spiritual exercise. It was the month during which the Holy Qur’an was first revealed to the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him).
The Holy Qur’an allows exemption from fasting to the elderly, the chronically sick and children. They may make up for fasting by feeding the poor. Temporary exemption is permitted to those traveling, the sick, pregnant and nursing women and menstruating women. They are expected to make up the fasts at a later time.
As an additional effort, Muslims devote as much of their time as possible to the recitation of the Holy Qur’an and reflecting upon its meanings.
Zakaat is the fourth pillar of Islam, which can more appropriately be called the purification of wealth. It is a kind of tax which requires a Muslim to give up a certain amount of his possessions (2% rate on a yearly basis) for the upkeep of the poor and those who have no earning capacity; for the destitute; for travelers in need; for those serving in the way of Islam, for those fighting in the way of Allah; for slaves to buy their freedom; and for benevolent works. The amount varies according to the type of property owned. The tax can be levied on land, livestock, and liquid assets (gold, silver, stocks, and bonds etc.).
Hajj, the fifth pillar of Islam, is the pilgrimage to Mecca which a Muslim who is able bodied and has the means is required to perform at least once in his lifetime. It is an elaborate series of religious rites which extend over several days for their accomplishment, performed at the Holy Kaabahin Mecca (Arabia) and other special holy sites. The central feature of this pilgrimage is the Kaabah, which is believed by Muslims to be the first house built for the worship of One God. It was rebuilt by the Prophet Abraham (peace be on him) and his son Ishmael, and later by the Holy Prophet himself. The Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) himself performed this pilgrimage. Historical records show that prophets before the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) also performed pilgrimage.
The Hajj serves as a striking reminder of the Oneness of Allah and it emphasizes the brotherhood and equality of human beings, as well as the importance of man’s willingness to sacrifice himself for the sake of his Creator.
ISLAMIC LAW / JURISPRUDENCE (FIQAH)
Fiqah or Shariarefers to the religious laws which guide Muslims in the practical living of their daily lives. There are three sources of Islamic law: the Holy Qur’an, the Sunnah and the Hadith.
The Holy Qur’an is the Holy Word of Allah conveyed to the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) by Divine revelation, over a period of 23 years. It is the sacred scripture of Islam which opens up the true and perfect path to salvation. It contains a complete code of teachings and laws suitable to the needs of every age and provides the means for the spiritual and moral development of all mankind, as well as providing the remedy for its ills. The Holy Qur’an explains the true purpose for man’s existence, which is to worship and serve Allah, his Creator, and to attain nearness to Him.
The Holy Qur’an is organized into chapters and verses. There are one hundred and fourteen chapters. A chapter is called a “sura”; each one having a specific name and a varying number of verses. Verses are called “ayah.”Quotations from the Holy Qur’an are given as the chapter number followed by the verse number. For the purpose of completing the Qur’an during the holy month of Ramadhan it has been divided into thirty parts.
Sunnah is the transformation of the laws and teachings of the Holy Qur’an into action by the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be on him). By demonstrating the Word of God in a practical way, he simplified the problems of day to day living. He was the perfect exemplar of a true believer’s way of life; a perfect model for his followers and for all mankind.
Hadith means the words actually spoken by the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him), or words that describe an observed incident related to his life. Hadith, which encompass every aspect of Islamic teachings and philosophy, were narrated by his close companions and compiled for the benefit of his followers and posterity. There are many compilations of Hadith. However, six are considered to be the most genuine and authentic. These are the compilations by Bukhari, Muslim, Tirmidhi, Abu Daud, Ibn Majah and Nisai.
THE HOLY PROPHET MUHAMMAD
The Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) was the greatest of Allah’s prophets, and the last of the law-bearing prophets. The Holy Qur’an, the final revealed Book of Allah, was revealed to the Holy Prophet Muhammad over a period of 23 years. He was sent by Allah as a messenger to all of mankind, as stated in the Holy Qur’an:
“We have sent thee as a messenger to all mankind. Sufficient is Allah as a Witness.” (4:80)
Born in 570 A. D. in Mecca, Arabia, and orphaned at a very young age, Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) grew into manhood exhibiting such sterling qualities of truthfulness, integrity and piety that he became known throughout the land as the Trustworthy One (Al Ameen). When, at the age of forty, he was called to Prophethood by Allah, he immediately devoted his life to Allah’s service and to the universal spread of Islam. After enduring thirteen years of unimaginable suffering at the hand of the fledgling religion’s enemies, the Prophet and his followers left Mecca. Under Divine guidance he migrated to Medinah, where the first Muslim community (Ummah)was established. During the next ten years, the Holy Prophet’s enemies continued their efforts to wipe out the new faith and its adherents, but were completely unsuccessful. Islam spread rapidly, and when the Holy Prophet returned to Mecca ten years after his migration, it was in triumph with ten thousand followers. Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) forgave those who had opposed him and continued to propagate the teachings of Islam far and wide. At the time of his death in 632 A. D. in Medina, Islam had spread throughout Arabia.
The Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) left two legacies for mankind: the Holy Qur’an, from whose teachings the religion of Islam was established; and his life, which stands as the perfect model for all who seek nearness to their Creator. He perfectly demonstrated all the various phases of man’s life: a model for the young and old, for parents and children; for friends, kinsmen and neighbors; for ruler and citizen, and for commander and saint. The followers of other prophets have claimed them to be model men, but only the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) proclaimed himself to be a model for all mankind. Only he had a Divine proclamation declaring him to be as such. Allah says in the Holy Qur’an:
The word “Khalifa”means successor, vicegerent, substitute, or deputy. The Holy Qur’an has mentioned three types of Khalifa:
- Khalifasof Allah, who are prophets such as Hazrat Adam and Hazrat David, (2:31).
- Prophets who are the Khalifas of another and a greater prophet such as the Israelite Prophets who all were the Khalifas of Moses. (5:45)
- Non-Prophet Khalifasof a Prophet, with or without temporal powers, such as godly people learned in the Law. Their mission is to protect and preserve the law from being tampered with. (24:56)
After the death of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him), the third type of Khilafat was established by Allah. It was known as the Khilafate Rashida (the righteous Khilafat). The mission of these Khalifasis to protect the Law, and to bring people back to the right path. The special signs and characteristics of these Khalifas are:
- they are appointed Khalifas through God’s Decree in the sense that the hearts of the believers become inclined towards them and they voluntarily accept them as their Khalifas.
- the religion which their mission is to serve becomes firmly established through their prayers and missionary efforts;
- they enjoy peace of mind amidst hardships, privations and persecution which nothing can disturb; and
- they worship God alone, i.e., in discharging their great responsibilities they fear no one and they carry on their duties undaunted by the difficulties in their way.
The khalifa should fortify the spiritual organization set up by him and protect it from the enemies of Islam. Only a person whose life closely paralleled that of the Holy Prophet in terms of spirituality, piety and knowledge could be appointed his Khalifa. Accordingly, Hazrat Abu Bakr, the closest companion of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him), was named his first successor. Hazrat Abu Bakr was followed by three other close and worthy companions; Hazrat Umar, Hazrat Usman, and Hazrat Ali. These four khalifas are known as the “rightly guided successors” (Khalifate Rashideen). After the passing of Hazrat Ali, many factions sprung up among the Muslims, and the appointment of the khalifabecame a dynastic succession of the ruling families.
The institution of Khilafat was restored to its previous position in this century after the death of the Promised Messiah (peace be on him), with all the Divinely ordained conditions that accompanied the Righteous Khilafat. (See later in this chapter).
SECTS IN ISLAM
Anyone reading a newspaper or listening to the media today is aware that many different Islamic groups exist throughout the Muslim world. These groups, known as sects, differ with one another on the interpretation of some Islamic beliefs and their practice.
The development of sects within Islam began very early in Islamic history. In fact, upon the death of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) and the appointment of the first Khalifa, Hazrat Abu Bakr, differences in the community began to surface almost immediately. These differences and disagreements heightened to such a degree that the unity of the Islamic community was threatened. Indeed, within thirty years, the followers of Islam split and separated into two different sects. These are:
This is the main sect of Muslims today. About 85% of the world’s Muslims are Sunnis. They accept the authority of the Khilafate Rashideen (the rightly guided successors) and follow closely the custom and practice (sunnah) of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him). They adhere to the Islamic law (Sharia) as interpreted by the four well-known jurists and Imams: Malik bin Anas, Abu Hanifa, Muhammad bin Idries al Shafi and Ahmad bin Hanbal.
The Shias form a separate faction, originating from their belief that only Hazrat Ali was the legitimate successor to the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him). Hazrat Ali was the cousin and also son-in-law of the Holy Prophet, and Shias believe this blood relationship entitled only Ali and his descendants to inherit the spiritual “mantle” of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him). They disown the three other Khalifate Rashideen.
The Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) foretold of such divisions among his followers, and indeed, there are now seventy-three sects in Islam. Some important sects and their relationship with the two mainstream sects are:
Ahmadiyyat is a sect of Islam, and not a new religion. It is, in fact, the renaissance of Islam. It is a movement, entirely within the fold of Islam, founded by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian, India, in 1889. He claimed to be the Messiah and Mahdi whose coming was foretold by the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him). His followers are called Ahmadi Muslims.
Ahmadi Muslims strictly follow the orthodox religion of Islam and have not added or taken out anything as far as the fundamental beliefs and acts of worship are concerned. The most important distinction between Ahmadis and other Muslims is Ahmadi’s acceptance of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (peace be on him) as the Promised Messiah, and his Divine mission to revive faith in Allah, the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) and the Holy Qur’an.
Ahmadi Muslims have the same kind of enthusiasm for Islam as the early followers of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him). They are devoted to the service of Islam and the spread of its teachings throughout the world. Ahmadis believe that the Promised Messiah’s mission was also to cleanse Islam of the errors and superstitious customs that had crept in over fourteen centuries, and they practice Islam the way it was practiced at the time of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him).
There are three areas where the beliefs of Ahmadi Muslims differ from that of other Sunni Muslims. These are:
In the Holy Qur’an (see 33:41), Allah bestowed the title “Khatam-al-Nabiyyin”(the Seal of Prophets) on the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him). Non-Ahmadi Muslims interpret the verse to mean that there can be no prophet of any kind after Hazrat Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be on him), that the door of revelation has closed forever and that Allah will never speak directly to His servants again.
Ahmadi Muslims, on the other hand believe that Allah reveals Himself and speaks to His created beings and will continue to do so till the end of time. Ahmadis interpret “Seal of Prophets” as a mark of distinction which implies great perfection of prophethood. They believe that prophethood will continue, but that there will never be any new law-bearing prophet after the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him). Any prophet coming after him must be his follower and, therefore, come from the fold of Islam. This is what the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) himself prophesied, when he foretold the coming of Isa ibn Maryam from among his followers to rejuvenate Islam in the latter days. Ahmadis believe that this prophecy has been fulfilled in the coming of the Promised Messiah.Non-Ahmadi Muslims also believe this prophecy, but still await its fulfillment.
The differences between Ahmadi Muslims and non-Ahmadi Muslims regarding Jesus (peace be on him) are quite significant. Many non-Ahmadis believe that Jesus was never put on the cross and that his place was taken by someone who resembled him. According to them, Jesus was physically lifted up into the heavens where he waits for his return to earth as the second advent.
Ahmadis believe that Jesus was put on the cross, but did not die on it. He was unconscious when taken down from the cross, having been nailed to it for only a few hours. He was nursed back to health by his close companions, and then traveled east to Kashmir, a northern province of India. There, he fulfilled his actual mission which was to preach to the lost tribes of Israel. He died a natural death at a considerable old age and his tomb can be found in Srinigar, Kashmir, India.
All Muslims believe that in the Latter days a Reformer (Messiah and Mahdi) would appear and restore the religion of Islam to its former glory. There are many Hadithwhich refer to the coming of the Reformer, and present signs for his advent. This Reformer is referred to by various titles in the Hadith, such as “Messiah,” “Mahdi” and “Jesus, son of Mary.”
Non-Ahmadi Muslims have adopted the belief that as Jesus did not die but ascended bodily to heaven, he will return as the Messiah in the latter days of Islam. They also claim that the Mahdi (who they believe is a different person and would be from the fold of Islam) will spread Islam with a sword and wage war on all those who disbelieve.
Ahmadi Muslims reject this interpretation. They believe that Jesus has already died as all mortals must, and thus he cannot return. They interpret the second advent of Jesus (peace be on him) as a spiritual event, similar to the second coming of Elijah, as explained by Jesus himself. Just as John the Baptist had come fulfilling the prophecy of the second coming of Elijah, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (peace be on him) has come fulfilling the prophecy of the second advent of Jesus (peace be on him). Ahmadis believe the Mahdi and Messiah are one and the same person, and that person is Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian. He came to revitalize the religion of Islam and his sword was his pen, with which he asserted the truth and superiority of Islam.
Hazrat Ahmad (peace be on him ) was called “Jesus, son of Mary” because of many similarities in their missions: neither was a law-bearing prophet; Jesus followed Moses (peace be on him) after 1400 years and came to revitalize Judaism, while Hazrat Ahmad’s mission was to revitalize the teachings of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) after 1400 years; both were rejected by the scholars of their faith; and both emphasized the “jamali,” i.e, the gentler aspects of their religion.
THE PROMISED MESSIAH, HAZRAT MIRZA GHULAM AHMAD
Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (peace be on him) was the founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam and was the Promised Messiah of the latter days. Born in 1835 in Qadian, India, his life greatly mirrored that of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him). He became acclaimed from an early age for his truthfulness, piety and integrity. His knowledge of Islam and his devoted defense of it against all critics was renowned. However, when he declared himself to be the Promised Messiah under Divine guidance in 1889, those that had revered him now attacked him. Undaunted, he continued his claim to be the Messiah as foretold by the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him), and the prophecies of the Holy Qur’an and Bible. In fact, he fulfilled all the existing prophecies concerning the advent of a reformer in the latter days. He also emphasized that his purpose in being appointed by Allah was to bring new life to the religion of Islam, which had become polluted and corrupted over the ages, and to establish its supremacy over all other religions. He brought no new teachings, but was the most devoted follower and servant of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him).
The Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) had said:
“I swear by Him Who has power over my soul, a time shall come when the son of Mary shall appear among you. He will be a just judge and will break the cross and destroy the swine and will set aside a war.”
This hadithhas been fulfilled by Hazrat Ahmad (peace be on him). He broke the cross by showing that Jesus died a natural death and that the Christian doctrines of Atonement and Trinity have no foundation. He destroyed the “swine” by founding the Ahmadiyya Movement, whose members have sworn to lead pure and simple lives and to keep themselves away from all vices. His mission was to show the beauties of Islam by peaceful means, by learned discussion, arguments, and writings, not by the sword. To this end he wrote more than eighty books during his lifetime, in four different languages.
Khilafat after the Promised Messiah
The institution of Khalifat (successors) was reestablished after the death of the Promised Messiah in the same tradition as the Khilafate Rashida (the Righteous Successors). To the present day there have been four Khalifas. Today, the Supreme Head of the Ahmadiyya Movement is Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad (may Allah strengthen him), who was elected to the position by the Electoral College. He is a grandson of the Promised Messiah.
THE UNIVERSALITY OF ISLAM
This chapter has attempted to give you a brief outline of a Muslim’s basic beliefs and principles. Unfortunately, the western media often portrays Islam in an erroneous way and creates a picture of rigid and fanatical fundamentalists. This is, of course, far from the truth. Islam is a universal religion. It claims to be the true way to God for all peoples, for all time.
The concept of universality in a religion requires that it overcomes not only geographic and national boundaries, but also the boundaries of time. Only Islam is able to make this claim, because it is a religion whose teachings are related to the human psyche, i.e., its soul and spirit. Islam emphasizes that any religion which is rooted in the human psyche transcends time and space. As the human psyche is unchangeable, then the religion which is closely connected to it is unchangeable also. In other words, no matter how mankind progresses in material ways, man’s psychological needs will remain the same, and Islam will always have the means to fulfill them. Islam’s universality is demonstrated in many ways and on different levels:
Islam is the only religion that accepts previous teachings and their bearers as coming from God. It does stipulate however, that these teachings have been tampered with, and can no longer be relied on as true guidance. Islam teaches that the Holy Qur’an incorporates in itself the true meanings of these previous teachings, and that its own integrity will always be guarded by Allah Himself. This acceptance and incorporation of other scriptures makes Islam a truly universal religion.
For a religion to be truly universal, it has to appeal to people of all natures and cultures. Therefore it cannot be a teaching that is forced on others. Islam does not permit the use of force to spread its message. The Holy Qur’an says:
“There should be no compulsion in religion. Surely, right has become distinct from wrong…..” (2:257).
The word “jihad” is frequently interpreted to mean “wage holy war.” In fact, it means “a striving.” Islamic jihad does not consist in killing and being killed but in striving hard to win the pleasure of God. The highest form of jihad is the struggle of man with his own soul to rid it of vices and ties to the material world, and to elevate his spirit to attain nearness to Allah. Another type of jihad may take the form of preaching and dissemination of the teaching of Islam by peaceful means. A third type of jihad is defending Islam against unprovoked aggression and attempt to physically destroy Islam by its enemies.
3. Equality of Man
Islam carries with it a strong message of brotherhood and the equality of man. This is an essential ingredient of universality. Islam teaches love for all things. The Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) says:
“Whoever is kind to the creation, God is kind to him; therefore be kind to man on earth whether he be good or bad; and being kind to the bad, is to withhold them from badness.”
Islam teaches that in the sight of Allah, all men are equal regardless of race, status or wealth. He judges them only on their good deeds. The last sermon of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) contains these beautiful words:
“O ye men! your God is One and your ancestor is one. An Arab possesses no superiority over a non-Arab, nor does a non-Arab over an Arab. A white is no way superior to a red, nor for that matter, a red to a white, but only to the extent to which he discharges his duty to God and man. The most honored among you in the sight of God is the most righteous among you.”
“O men, what I say to you, you must hear and remember. All Muslims are as brethren to each other. All of you are equal. All men, whatever station in life they may hold, are equal.”
While he was saying this, the Prophet raised his hands and joined the fingers of the one hand with the fingers of the other hand and then said:
“Even as the fingers of the two hands are equal, so are human beings equal to each other. No one has any right, any superiority to claim over another. You are as brothers… What I command today is not meant only for today. It is meant for all time. You are expected to remember it and act upon it until you leave this world and go to the next to meet your Maker.”
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION
Holy Qur’an with commentary. Trans. & Ed. Malik Ghulam Farid. United Kingdom, 1994.
Holy Qur’an with commentary. 5 volumes. Trans. & Ed. Malik Ghulam Farid et al. U. K., 1988.
Ahmad, Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmood. Invitation to Ahmadiyyat. U. K., 1980.
—–The Life of Muhammad. U. K., 1990.
Ahmad, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. The Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam. U.K.
—–The Essence of Islam. 2 volumes, U. K., 1979.
Ahmad, Waheed. A Book of Religious Knowledge. Canada, 1988.
Ahmed, Tayyba Seema. A Study of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad’s Exposition of Jihad. U.K. 1993.
Chaudri, Rashid Ahmad. The Words of Wisdom and Purification. U. K., 1992.
Hadi, Sheikh Abdul. Basics of Religious Education. Canada, 1994.
Khan, Muhammad Zafrulla. Ahmadiyyat, the Renaissance of Islam. U. K., 1978.
—–Islamic Worship. U. K., 1980.
—–Muhammad, Seal of Prophets. U. K., 1980
Salaat, the Muslim Prayer Book. U. K. 1994.
See appendix for additional references.