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    Islam: Introduction to Belief

Presentation by

Mark Hamza Dougherty

Blacksburg, VA  --  Dzul-Qa'idah 1420 A.H. - February 2000 C.E.

In the Name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful - Peace be upon him who is rightly guided.

Our objective this evening is to introduce some things about the system of belief called Islam. The intent of my talk, God willing, is to pass along to you some of the things I have been exposed to concerning the topic at hand, "Islam: An Introduction to Belief." This is a topic I knew virtually nothing about ten years ago. In fact, the only "credentials" I have for being in front of you tonight is that I was once a Christian and now I am a Muslim. As a Christian, I read the Bible in search of eternal life from a truthful source, Jesus, peace and blessings be upon him. Now, as a Muslim, I read from the Qur'an about the mission and life of prophet Jesus and of another prophet who came after him, Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon them both.

I hope all of us recognize that any honest talk given by even a partly sincere person will reflect his or her ideology - what he or she believes. Our job tonight is only to say a few words. We hope to engage your mind as well as your heart in a good way, not to convert you, or to change you. Our intent is only to increase in a very small way your familiarity with this way of life, this system of belief called Islam.

Since I am am not a scholar of either Christanity or Islam, I will be citing both Muslim and non-Muslim sources for most of my talk. The first of whom is…

Dr. Maneh Al-Johani (from his article "The Truth about Jesus (peace be upon him)"), which is available on the internet:

"Despite the Western bias against Islam [which began during the very birth of Modern Europe], there have been many Westerners who have submitted to the truth as claimed by Islam. The Islamic point of view about Jesus (pbuh) and other major issues strikes many as something which makes a lot of sense and something which they hold inherently without even being aware of it."

This was my own experience, as I was neither dissatisfied with the religion of my upbringing, nor was I looking for a new religion when I was introduced to Islam.

Dr. Al-Johani continues, "This and other characteristics have made Islam the fastest growing religion in the world throughout history. Islam appeals even to many faithful Christians because they discover that:

  • Islam does not abolish Jesus (pbuh), anymore than Jesus abolished the work of those sent by God before him; it claims to put him in the right position in the long line of men who brought salvation to humanity, …[and as a consequence] bringing a new dimension to their understanding of God, prophet-hood, and revelation.
  • When Christianity and Judaism (or for that matter any religion) are looked at from the Islamic perspective, they fit in neatly in the universal framework of the Oneness of God and His plans for mankind."

Because of the prevalence of mis-information about Islam in the Western media, it may be good to begin this presentation by dispelling some of the blatantly incorrect stereotypes about Islam and Muslims by presenting the words of …

    Some who have seen the good in Islam

James Mitchener (in a 1955 Reader's Digest article entitled, "Islam-the Misunderstood Religion"):
"No other religion in history spread so rapidly as Islam… The West has widely believed this surge of religion was made by the sword. But no modern scholar accepts that idea, and the Qur'an is explicit in support of the freedom of conscience."

H.G. Wells (author of the eight-volume work "Outline of History", 1926):
"It is Islam which was pitted against the corrupted Christianity of the seventh century and against the decaying tradition of the Zoroastrians. Islam from the outset was fair proof against the theological elaborations that have perplexed and divided Christianity and smothered the spirit of Jesus."

Mr.Wells continues,. "Insistence upon kindliness and consideration in the daily life is one of the main virtues in Islam, but it is not the only one. Equally important is the uncompromising monotheism, void of any Jewish exclusiveness, which is sustained by the Qur'an. And its source of strength has been in the meticulous prescription of methods of prayer and worship. What appealed to Muslims was that God, Allah, was by the test of the conscience in their hearts a God of righteousness, and that the honest acceptance of His doctrine and method opened the door wide, in a world of uncertainty, treachery and intolerable divisions, to a great and increasing brotherhood of trustworthy men on earth, and to a paradise not of perpetual exercises in praise and worship, in which saints, priests, and anointed kings were still to have the upper places, but of equal fellowship and simple and understandable delights such as their souls craved for. Without any ambiguous symbolism, without any darkening of altars or chanting of priests, Muhammad (pbuh) had brought home those attractive doctrines to the hearts of mankind."

A.J. Toynbee (from "Civilization on Trial," 1958):
"Two conspicuous sources of danger – one psychological and the other material – in the present relations of…. our modern Western society are race consciousness and alcohol; and in the struggle with each of these evils the Islamic spirit has a service to render which might prove, if it were accepted, to be of high moral and social value."

The three previous quotes were from persons not known to be Muslims, at least to my knowledge. Now let's hear the words of two Muslims, one from America and one from Austria, regarding their experience of Islam.

Malcolm X ("Autobiography of Malcolm X," 1964):
"America needs to understand Islam, because this is the one religion that erases from its society the race problem. Throughout my travels in the Muslim world, I have met, talked to, and even eaten with people who in America would be considered 'white' – but the 'white' attitude was removed from their minds in the religion of Islam. I have never before seen sincere and true brotherhood practiced by all colors together, irrespective of their color."

Muhammad Asad (formerly Leopold Weiss, an Austrian statesman, journalist and author) writes:
"Islam appears to me like a perfect work of Architecture. All its parts are harmoniously conceived to complement and support each other. Nothing is superfluous and nothing lacking, with the result of an absolute balance and solid composure." Mr. Asad continues a little further on in his book, "Islam at the Crossroads", written in 1934. "I spent over five years in the Hijaz and Najd (present day Saudi Arabia), mostly in al-Madinah, so that I might experience something of the original surroundings in which this religion was preached by the Arabian Prophet. As the Hijaz is the meeting centre for Muslims from many countries, I was able to compare most of the different religious and social views present in the Islamic world in our days. Those studies and comparisons created in me the firm conviction that Islam, as a spiritual and social phenomenon, is still, in spite of all the drawbacks caused by the deficiencies of the Muslims, by far the greatest driving force mankind has ever experienced."

    Historical setting of Islam

    The state of the world in 600 C.E.

I feel it is important to place my introduction of Islam within the Western historical framework, which, irrespective of the country we were raised in these days, has probably become the reference datum for many of us. Since I have no more than an amateur historian's ability in the subject, I will rely on the words of the author previously quoted, Muhammad Asad, from his book "Islam at the Crossroads" for a comparison of Islam and the West by virtue of comparing the Islamic State and the Roman Empires of history.

"…we observe a vast difference between the Islamic [State] and Roman Empires. It took the Roman Empire nearly one thousand years to grow to its full geographic extent and political maturity; while the Islamic [State] sprang up and grew to its fullness within the short period of about eighty years. As regards their respective decay, the difference is even more enlightening. The downfall of the Roman Empire, finally sealed by the migrations of the Huns and Goths, was effected during one single century – and was effected so completely that nothing of it remained but works of literature and architecture. The Byzantine Empire, commonly supposed to have been the direct heir of the Roman Empire, was an heir only in so far as it continued to rule over some of the territories which once had formed part of the latter. The Islamic [State], on the other hand, as embodied in the Caliphate, underwent, no doubt, many.….changes in the course of its long existence, but its structure remained essentially the same. …. In contrast with the one century….needed to destroy the Roman Empire, the Islamic [State] of the Caliphs needed about a millenium of slow decay until its ultimate political breakdown, represented by the extinction of the Ottoman Caliphate [early in the present century]."

Mr. Asad continues, "..Even Chinese civilization, which has undoubtedly shown similar powers of resistance through many centuries, cannot be used as a comparison here. China lies on the edge of a continent, and was until half a century ago (that is, until the rise of modern Japan) beyond the reach of any rival power. But the Islamic [State] stretched over three continents and was all the time surrounded by inimical super powers of considerable strength and vitality. It was the religious teaching of the Qur'an that gave a solid foundation and life-example of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) that became a band of steel around that grand social structure. The Roman Empire had no such spiritual element to keep it together; and therefore it broke down rapidly."

"But there was yet further difference between the two…. While in the Islamic [State] there was no privileged nation…the idea underlying the Roman Empire was conquest of power and the exploitation of other nations for the benefit of the mother country alone. The famous "Roman Justice" was justice for Romans alone. The Romans never in reality knew religion. Their traditional gods were a pale imitation of Greek mythology. In no way those gods were allowed to interfere with "real" life. This was the soil out of which Western civilization grew. It undoubtedly received many other influences… [and modifications], ….but the fact remains that all that is real today in Western ethics and outlook on life is directly traceable to the old Roman civilization. Western civilization….has made a virtue out of an intellectual difficulty of man – his inability to grasp the totality of life."

As this subject of the limitations of the intellect will be taken up in more detail in later presentations, God willing,, I will leave you with a powerful paradigm, also from Asad's book, "There can be no greater error than to consider Western civilization as an outcome of Christianity. The real intellectual foundations of the modern West are to be found in the old Roman conception of life….that can be expressed as follows: "As we do not know anything definite – that is, by means of scientific experiments and calculations – about the origin of human life and its destinies after the bodily death, it is better to concentrate all our energies on the development of our material and intellectual possibilities without allowing ourselves to be hampered by [such things as] transcendental ethics and moral postulates [which are] based on presumptions which defy scientific proof."

Muhammad Asad then states rather emphatically that, "There can be no doubt that this attitude, so characteristic of modern Western civilization, is as unacceptable to Christianity as it is to Islam or any other religion, because it is irreligious in its very essence. To ascribe, therefore, the practical achievements of modern Western civilization to the supposed efficacy of Christian teachings, is extremely ridiculous."

The reason I have read such a lengthy quote is because I found that these words made a great deal of sense to me personally, especially having grown up in the West. I believe Mr. Asad makes an important statement in de-linking the worldly achievements of the West with the teachings of Christianity.

Recognizing that spiritual matters do have a place in the life of the common man and woman, I would like to introduce a rough religious timeline which chronicles the history of monotheistic worship both before and after the time of Muhammad (pbuh). My sources for the dates of early Christian theology and doctrine are the book "Early Christian Doctrines," published in 1977, and used in at least one Catholic seminary. Other references include an article written by John Catoir, director of the Christophers, the book "Jefferson's Extracts from the Gospels," and the book "The Five Gospels, The Search for the Authentic Words of Jesus."

Table 1. Rough Religious Timeline of Monotheistic Faith
2000 B.C. Abraham (pbuh) is prepared to sacrifice his son as a sign of his total submission to God. 
950 B.C. Solomon (pbuh) builds the first temple in Jerusalem.
587 B.C. King Nebuchandnezzar of Babylon conquers Jerusalem and burns the Temple.
541 B.C. Some Hebrews are allowed to return to Jerusalem from Babylon. They build a second Temple.
167 B.C. Greco-Syrian King Antiochus drives Jews out of the Temple and turns it into a pagan shrine.
165 B.C. Two years later, the Maccabees rise in rebellion and retake the Temple, restoring rituals.
0 C.E. Birth of Jesus (pbuh).
30 C.E. Jesus (pbuh) teaches God's message to the sons of Israel.
33 C.E. Jesus (pbuh) is taken up to heaven by God.
70 C.E. The Romans destroy the Temple.
Gospel attributed to Mark written (author unknown).
85 C.E. Gospel attributed to Matthew written (author unknown).
90 C.E. As Christian era begins, a new ritual develops, the Eucharist, which serves as a memorial of the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. 
Gospel attributed to Luke written (author unknown).
100 C.E. Gospel attributed to John written (author unknown).
325 C.E. Nicean Council convened by Emperor Constantine
Nicean Creed (stating that Jesus is one "substance" with the Father) is drafted and adopted. Arianism, which held that Jesus was a creature of God, with a beginning, is declared heretical. *
367 C.E. First official list of 27 books in the New Testament.
381 C.E. Council of Constantinople – Doctrine of "One God in Three Persons" formally ratified.
418 C.E. Council of Carthage – Doctrine of "Original Sin" formally ratified
430 C.E. Council of Ephesus – canonizes Nicene Creed.
446 C.E. Doctrine of Roman primacy as "bishop of Rome" is given final shape by Pope Leo the Great.
451 C.E.. Council of Chalcedon – single faith required throughout the Empire.
529 C.E.. Council of Orange – Doctrine of Baptism formally ratified.
570 C.E. Muhammad (pbuh) born in Mecca..
589 C.E. First private penance instituted by the Roman church.
610 C.E. Muhammad (pbuh) claims to receive first revelation of Qur'an. 
623 C.E. (0 A.H.) Muhammad (pbuh) and his Companions emigrate from hostile Makkah to Madinah.
633 C.E. Muhammad (pbuh) dies in Medina.
661 C.E. Islamic State stretches from Morocco to the borders of Indian sub-continent.
731 C.E. Islamic State reaches its largest geographical extent.
-------------------------------------
so-called Middle or Dark Ages
-------------------------------------
1536 C.E. The Protestant Reformation claims that Scripture is the sole authority for Christians.
1611 C.E. Authorized King James Version of the Bible in English
1637 C.E. Galileo found guilty of "vehement suspicion of heresy" for maintaining the earth revolved around the sun.
1819 C.E. Thomas Jefferson, an unwavering monotheist, takes scissors to the Gospel accounts of the life of Jesus in his four-language compilation called "The Life and Morals of Jesus." 
1870 C.E. The First Vatican Council condemns the 19th century Rationalists, affirming that there are truths of faith which are entirely beyond powers of reason to comprehend.
1929 C.E. Collapse of the Islamic State (Ottoman Khilafah).

*  "Anyone who affirms that the Father pre-existed the Son, or that the Son is a creature produced out of nothingness, or is subject to moral change or development is formally declared a heretic."

At the time of Muhammad, the two great superpowers in the region were Byzantium and Persia. The Arabian Peninsula, inhabited by the direct descendants of Abraham, through his son Ishmael (peace be upon them both), remained unconquered by either of the two superpowers. Now that we know at least something of the state of the world at the time of Muhammad (pbuh), let us learn something about his personality.

    Description of Muhammad (pbuh)

M.K. Gandhi, the Indian leader (from his book, "Young India," 1924):
"…I became more than ever convinced that it was not the sword that won a place for Islam in those days in the scheme of life. It was the rigid simplicity, the utter self-effacement of the prophet, the scrupulous regard for his pledges, his intense devotion to his friends and followers, his intrepidity, his fearlessness, his absolute trust in God and in his own mission. These, and not the sword carried everything before them and surmounted every trouble."

To help understand the Islamic spirit in this regard, history teaches us that he withstood hostility beyond imagination for about 13 years in Makkah, before ever defending the Muslims in battle. He never declared hostile or assaulting wars, and he treated prisoners of war with far more humane treatment than any law stated in his time or in our time.

Jeffrey Lang writes about Muhammad (pbuh) in his 1994 book, "Struggling to Surrender: Some Impressions of an American Convert to Islam":
"But to have been the elect of God, to have won the love of his disciples so effortlessly, to change society and history, he was surely much greater than the Arab ideal. He must have possessed the kind of concern, compassion, and spirituality that we can only poorly approximate in our selves. To be sure, he was no flower child: he would dispense God's law swiftly and impartially. When some of his Companions pleaded that he make a exception in the law for a noble woman who committed theft, he responded that if his most cherished daughter Fatimah had done the same, he would see to it personally that her hand was amputated. On the other hand, when there was the smallest room for doubt or a way open to forgiveness, he would seize it, as when he gave an adulterer three opportunities to withdraw his confession or when he declared general amnesty after his conquest of Makkah."

Jeffrey Lang continues, "Muhammad (pbuh) also had the sensitivity to know when and how to upraise and humble those around him, including himself, with perfect honesty. After the victory at Hunayn, it came to the Prophet's (pbuh) attention that the Ansar, who had given refuge and support to him when no other community would and who risked their lives defending his message during the critical years, felt slighted when the Prophet (pbuh) "bypassed" them, in favor of the newly converted Makkans who had been his most implacable foes, in the distribution of spoils. The feeling spread among them that after this final victory, Muhammad's (pbuh) attention and affection would return completely to his kinsmen. He called immediately for a private meeting with the Ansar and addressed them thus:

    "I have been told that you are dissatisfied at my ostensible partiality towards the Quraish chiefs." "Yes," they replied, "there are some amongst us who are talking like that." Then the Prophet (pbuh) said: "Is it not true that I came in your midst while you were misguided; so God guided you to the right path. You were indigent; and God made you prosperous. You were ever at daggers drawn with each other; and God created mutual affection in your hearts." Lowering their heads in embarrassment, they replied that all that was true. The Prophet (pbuh) continued: "You could also reply differently and you would be justified. You could say that I came over to you when I was belied and rejected by my own people and you accepted me. I came to you when no one would help me, and you stood by me. I was turned out of my home, and you gave me shelter. O Ansar! Did it make you suspicious that I gave a portion of worldly riches for the purpose of conciliation, thinking that Islam was already ample reward for you? O Ansar! Are you not satisfied to take home with you the Messenger of God, while others drive home goats and camels? By God, in whose hands is my soul, if all the people go one way and the Ansar another, I will tread the path of the Ansar!" Needless to say, the moment he finished, there was a spontaneous outburst of joy and tears in the audience."

    First Khutba of Muhammad (pbuh)

    " Oh men, send forward (good works) for yourselves. You know, by God, that one of you may be smitten and will leave his flock without a shepherd. Then his Lord will say to him, 'There will be no intermediary to veil him from Him. Did not My Messenger come to you with a message and did not I give you wealth and show you favor? What have you sent forward for yourself?' Then will he look to the right and left and see nothing; he will look in front of him and see nothing but hell. He who can shield his face from the fire even with a small piece of date, let him do so; and he who cannot find that, then, with a good word; for the good deed will be rewarded ten-fold, yea, to twice seven hundred-fold. Peace be upon you and God's mercy and blessing.'"

    Second Khutba

    "Praise be to God whom I praise and whose aid I implore. We take refuge in God from our own sins and from the evil of our acts. He whom God guides none can lead astray; and whom He leads astray none can guide. I testify that there is no God but He alone. He is without partner. The finest speech is the Book of God. He to whom God has made it seem glorious and made him enter Islam after unbelief, who has chosen it above all other speech of men, does prosper. It is the finest speech and the most penetrating. Love what God loves. Love God with all your heart and weary not of the Word of God and its mention. Harden not your hearts from it. Out of everything that God creates, He chooses and selects. The actions He chooses He calls good deeds; the people He chooses He calls 'the chosen'; and the speech He chooses He calls good words. From everything that is brought to man, there is the lawful and the unlawful. Worship God and associate nothing with Him. Fear Him as He ought to be feared. Carry out loyally towards God with what you say with your tongues. Love one another in the Spirit of God. Verily God is angered when His covenant is broken. Peace be upon you."

    Final Khutba (selected sections)

    "Oh people, listen to my words. I do not know whether I shall ever meet you again in this place after this year. Your blood and your property are sacred until you meet your Lord. As this day and this month are sacred, you will surely meet your Lord and He will ask you of the words I have told you. He who has a pledge, let him return it to him who entrusted him with it. All usury is abolished, but you have your capital. Do not oppress others nor be oppressed. God has decreed that there is to be no usury and the usury of Abbas ibn Abd al-Muttalib is abolished, all of it. All bloodshed in the pagan period is to be left unavenged. The first claim on blood I abolish is that of ibn Rabi'ah ibn al-Harith ibn Abd-al-Muttalib. It is the first bloodshed in the pagan period that I overlooked."

    "Oh people! Satan despairs of ever being worshipped in your land, but if he can be obeyed in anything short of worship, he will be pleased in matters you may be disposed to think of little account, so beware of his presence in your way of life."

    "Oh people! Postponement of a sacred month is only an excess of disbelief whereby those who disbelieve are misled; they allow it one year and forbid it another year that they may make up the number of months which God has made sacred, so that they permit what God has forbidden, and forbid what God has allowed. Time has completed its cycle and it is as if it was on the days that God created the heavens and the earth. The number of months with God are twelve; four of them are sacred, three consecutive and Rajab of Mundar which is between Jumada and Sha'aban."

    "Oh people! You have rights over your wives and they have rights over you. You have the right that they shall not commit adultery and that they should not behave with open unseemliness. If they do, God allows you to put them in separate rooms and discipline them. If they refrain from these things, give them food and clothing with kindness. You have taken them as a trust from God and made them permissible through the Words of God. Understand, then, oh people, what I am saying."

    "Oh people! As I have told you, I have left something to which if you will hold fast, you will never fall into error - a clear Sign – the Book of God and the practice of His Prophet, so heed well what I say."

    "Oh people, know that every Muslim is another Muslim's brother and all Muslims are brothers. It is only lawful to take from a brother what he gives you willingly, so do not oppress yourselves."

    At this moment under the burning sun, while it seemed as if he has just completed his mission, he raised his eyes to the heavens and asked, "Oh God, have I conveyed it?"

    The people said, "Oh God, yes," and the Messenger said, "Oh God, bear witness." Then he said…..

    "I have left amongst you that which, if you hold fast to it, shall preserve you from all error, a clear indication, the Book of God and the word of His Prophet. Oh people, hear my words and understand." It was at that time, according to Muslim belief, that the Prophet (pbuh) received one of the last of the direct revelations from God, verses 5:3 of the Qur'an.

    'This day the unbelievers despair of prevailing against your religion, so fear them not, but fear Me! This day have I perfected for you your religion and fulfilled My Favor not you, and it has been My good pleasure to choose Islam for you as your religion'.

    Sources of Islam

The main sources of Islamic belief are the Qur'an together with the authentic words and practices of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), called Hadith.

    Qur'an

For Muslims, the Qur'an is the divine word of God revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) by the Angel Gabriel over a 23-year period some 600 years after Prophet Jesus (pbuh). It is for Muslims of every school, the unquestioned main source and final authority for all laws – religious, civil, and criminal. The reading of the Qur'an is considered a pious duty of every Muslim man, woman, and child.

The whole text of the Qur'an is divided into 30 equal parts, called juzu. The whole of the Qur'an is divided into 114 chapters, called surahs, of unequal size. The most convenient form of quotation is to cite the Surah (chapter) and Ayat (verse).

Jeffrey Lang (from his book "Struggling to Surrender") writes:
"A reader who comes from a Jewish or Christian background, as most western converts do, initially is faced with three significant features of the Qur'an that contrast sharply with what he has come to regard as scripture. The first is that the Qur'an is a personal revelation, in the sense that, outside of the first seven verses that form a petition for divine guidance, the perspective of the Qur'an is always God addressing humanity……Another feature is that the Qur'an, unlike the Bible, has no specific chronology. While the Bible contains history and biography, it is virtually impossible to date or place Qur'anic passages without referring to outside sources [consequently] one can read the Qur'an in nearly any order and, as long as all of its contents are covered, a thorough understanding of its major precepts can be obtained…..[Thirdly] As Islam does not divide reality into "sacred" and "secular" compartments, the Qur'an interweaves diverse facets of the human experience throughout its discourse ….It is as if all history, life, and creation is a witness to and convergence towards a single supreme reality, that God is the Sustainer, Regulator, and Master of it all. This is a major departure from the scriptures of all other religions."

Reynold Nicholson (from his book "Literary History of the Arabs", 1969) states:
"The Koran is an exceedingly human document, reflecting every phase of Muhammad's personality and standing in close relation to the outward events of his life; so that there we have materials of unique and incontestable authority for tracing the origin and early development of Islam, such materials as do not exist in the case of Buddhism or Christianity or any other ancient religion."

Jeffrey Lang, later in his book, makes another interesting observation regarding the Qur'an:
"It is accepted universally that the Prophet's principal objective was to rid Arabia of idolatry …..Yet the Qur'an itself contains very few explicit references to actual pagan beliefs and practices (53:19)." He continues, "It would seem more natural that one engaged in a life-and-death struggle with an enemy would direct all of his resources against the immediate danger. But from the early years in Makkah……the Judeo-Christian religious tradition would be the main target of the Qur'an's attack on other faiths….Whether one attributes it to coincidence, Muhammad's (pbuh) genius, or divine wisdom, the importance the Qur'an gives to Judaism and Christianity fits well with history's unfolding."

    Hadith (or Sunnah)

The following information has been taken from the preface (written in 1983 by S.M. Madni Abbasi) to the well-known book of hadith called, "Riyadh-us-Saleheen." "[For Muslims] Specific points not covered in the Qur'an are explained by referring to Muhammad's authentic words, actions, approvals, and disapprovals. For this reason, Muslims are required [in accordance with their ability] to supplement their knowledge of Qur'an by the sayings of the Prophet (pbuh). A believer may question the authenticity of a particular saying, but once the genuineness of a Hadith or Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad has been established, it is as binding upon him as any verse in the Qur'an."

Mr. Abbasi continues in his preface, "Formal compilations of Hadith were begun about 100 years after the death of Muhammad (pbuh) by the order of the Caliph Umar bin Abdul Aziz. At this time, strict rules for determining and verifying sources of hadith were laid down, with the chain of narrators subject to the most exacting tests of historicity and verification. This objective and scientific textual research has since been called Islamic criticism or enquiry. It is unique in world history."

Jeffrey Lang (from his book "Struggling to Surrender") offers his insights on the Hadith literature:
"…through a lot of digging and some good luck, I also came to appreciate the immensity of the Muslim effort in collating great volumes of material on the Prophet (pbuh) and his Companions (may Allah be pleased with them) and to respect the statement that the authenticated hadith are, after the Qur'an, the most faithful source of information on the life of any prophet or teacher of any of the great world religions……But more importantly, I discovered that the claim of the early Muslim experts was not to have arrived at a flawless record of Muhammad's (pbuh) sayings and deeds, but rather to have collected a body of information whose authority for deriving rules of Muslim conduct is second to Qur'an."

Abdullah Yusuf Ali (from his commentary introducing his highly regarded English translation of the Qur'an, 1934) describes the early history of Hadith literature:
"The need for explanation of the verses of the Qur'an arose quite early. Even before the whole of the Qur'an was revealed, people used to ask the Prophet (pbuh) all sorts of questions as to the meaning of certain words in the verses revealed, or of their bearing on problems as they arose, or details concerning historical or spiritual matters on which they sought more light. The Prophet's (pbuh) answers were carefully stored in the memory of his Companions and were afterwards written down…..Subsequent generations always went back to establish a chain of evidence [to each saying or action, which….grew into the] science of Hadith."

Mr. Abbasi, quoted previously, reports that, "The Indian leader M.K. Gandhi, wrote in the forward to the book "The Sayings of Muhammad (pbuh)" by Abdullah Al-Mamun Al-Suhrawardy, "They (the sayings) are among the treasures of mankind, not merely Muslims." Mr. Abbasi also states that Leo Tolstoy, the famous Russian writer and thinker always carried the book "The Sayings of Muhammad (pbuh)" with him, and that a copy of this book was found in the large over-coat Tolstoy was wearing when he died.

The most common form of quoting Hadith is to cite the original narrator of the hadith, as well as the name of the collection where the hadith was found. The six main collections of hadith, named after the scholars who compiled them are:

  • Sahih al Bukhari
  • Sahih Muslim
  • Sunan Abu Daud
  • Jami al Tirmidhi
  • Sunan al Nasai
  • Sunan Ibn Majah.
  • Some Examples of Hadith and Qur'an

    Hadith Qudsi (#17) – All are astray except who I have guided

This hadith is of those which are of a very special category, which are the words of Muhammad (pbuh) where he relates the words of His Lord directly, not as part of the Qur'an, but as a revelation apart.

The following hadith, called Hadith Qudsi, is from the book "Forty Hadith Qudsi", selected and translated by Ezzeddin Ibrahim and Denys Johnson-Davies:

On the authority of Abu Dharr al-Ghifari (may God be pleased with him) from the Prophet (pbuh) is that among the sayings he relates from his Lord (may He be glorified) is that He said:

    "O My servants, I have forbidden oppression for Myself and have made it forbidden amongst you, so do not oppress one another. O My servants, all of you are astray except those I have guided, so seek guidance of Me and I shall guide you. O My servants, all of you are hungry except those I fed, so seek food of Me and I shall feed you. O My servants, all of you are naked except for those I have clothed, so seek clothing of Me and I shall clothe you. O My servants, you sin by night and by day, and I forgive all sins, so seek forgiveness of Me and I shall forgive you. O My servants, you will not attain harming Me so as to harm Me, and you will not attain benefiting Me so as to benefit Me. O My servants, were the first of you and the last of you, the human of you and the jinn of you to be as pious as the most pious heart of any man of you, that would not increase My kingdom in anything. O My servants, were the first of you and the last of you, the human of you and the jinn of you to be as wicked as the most wicked heart of any one man of you, that would not decrease My kingdom in anything. O My servants, were the first of you and the last of you, the human of you and the jinn of you to rise up in one place and make a request of Me, and were I to give everyone what he requested, that would not decrease what I have, any more than a needle decreases the sea if put into it. O My servants, it is but your deeds that I reckon up for you and then recompense you for, so let him who finds good, praise God and let him who finds other than that blame no one but himself."
    It was related by Muslim (also al-Tirmidhi and ibn Majah)

    Man created in toil; Surah 90, Ayat 4-20 ("The Noble Qur'an")

Abdullah Yusuf Ali (from his commentary on the Qur'an) advises us:
"The Qur'an, indeed every religious book, has to be read, not only with the tongue and voices and eyes, but with the best light that our intellect can supply, and even more, with the truest and purest light which our heart and conscience can give us."

    Surat Al-Balad "The City" Surah 90, Ayat 4-20 ("The Noble Qur'an")

    In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
    Verily, We have created man in toil
    Thinks he that none can overcome him?
    He says (boastfully): "I have wasted wealth in abundance!"
    Thinks he that none sees him?
    Have We not made for him a pair of eyes?
    And a tongue and a pair of lips?
    And shown him the two ways (good and evil)?
    But he has made no effort to pass on the path that is steep.
    And what will make you know the path that is steep?
    (It is ) Freeing a neck (slave, etc.)
    Or giving food in a day of hunger (famine),
    To an orphan near of kin.
    Or to one poor, afflicted with misery.
    Then he became one of those who believed, and recommended one another to perseverance and patience, and (also) recommended one another to pity and compassion.
    They are those on the Right Hand (the dwellers of Paradise).
    But those who disbelieved in Our Ayat (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.), they are those on the Left Hand (the dwellers of Hell).
    The Fire will be shut over them (i.e. they will be enveloped by the Fire without any opening or window or outlet).
     

    Last 11 verses of Surah Al-Imran 3:190-200 (Yusuf Ali translation)

A comment on the use of the word, "Allah" used in the Qur'an as the name of God. It is important to note that the word "Allah" is used throughout the Near East by Arabic-speaking Muslims and Christians alike and does not in any way denote a God separate from the God of Abraham, Moses or Jesus, peace be upon them all.

Surah Al-Imran 3:190-200 (Yusuf Ali translation of the meanings of the Holy Quran)

In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
Behold! In the creation
Of the heavens and the earth,
And the alternation
Of Night and Day
There are indeed Signs
For men of understanding -

Men who celebrate
The praises of Allah,
Standing, sitting,
And lying down on their sides,
And contemplate

The (wonders of) creation
In the heavens and the earth,
(With the thought):
"Our Lord! Not for naught
Hast Thou created (all) this!
Glory to Thee! Give us
Salvation from the Penalty
Of the Fire.

"Our Lord! any whom Thou
Dost admit to the Fire,
Truly Thou coverest with shame,
And never will wrongdoers
Find any helpers!

"Our Lord! we have heard
The call of one calling
(Us) to Faith, 'Believe ye
In the Lord,' and we
Have believed. Our Lord!
Forgive us our sins,
Blot out from us
Our iniquities, and take
To Thyself our souls
In the company of the righteous

"Our Lord! Grant us
What Thou didst promise
Unto us through Thy Messengers
And save us from shame
On the Day of Judgment;
For Thou never breakest
Thy promise."

And their Lord hath accepted
Of them, and answered them:
"Never will I suffer to be lost
The work of any of you,
Be he male or female:
Ye are members, one of another;
Those who have left their homes,
And were driven out therefrom,
And suffered harm in My Cause,
And fought and were slain –
Verily, I will blot out
From them their iniquities,
And admit them into Gardens
With rivers flowing beneath-
A reward from the Presence
Of Allah, and from His Presence
Is the best of rewards."

Let not the strutting about
Of the Unbelievers
Through the land
Deceive thee:

Little is it for enjoyment:
Their ultimate abode
Is Hell; what an evil bed
(To lie on)!

On the other hand, for those
Who fear their Lord,
Are Gardens, with rivers
Flowing beneath; therein
Are they to dwell (forever)-
A gift from the Presence
Of Allah; and that which is
In the Presence of Allah
Is the best (bliss)
For the righteous.

And there are, certainly,
Among the People of the Book,
Those who believe in Allah,
In the revelation to you,
And in the revelation to them,
Bowing in humility to Allah:
They will not sell
The signs of Allah
For a miserable gain!
For them is a reward
With their Lord,
And Allah is swift in account.

O ye who believe!
Persevere in patience
And constancy; vie
In such perseverance;
Strengthen each other;
And fear Allah;
That ye may prosper.

The Gabriel hadith

>From the book, "The Reliance of the Traveller – A Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law," compiled in the 14th century by Ahmed Ibn Naqib Al-Misri.  An authenticated hadith from Sahih Muslim, which is full of concise teachings that sumarize the beliefs of Islam better than any of us could hope to do.

Umar ibn Khattab (Allah be well pleased with him) said:

"As we sat one day with the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace), a man with pure white clothing and jet black hair came to us, without a trace of travelling upon him, though none of us knew him. He sat down before the Prophet (pbuh) bracing his knees against his, and resting his hands on his legs, said: 'Muhammad, tell me about Islam.' The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said: 'Islam is to testify there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, and to perform the prayer, give zakat, fast in Ramadan, and perform the pilgrimage to the House if you can find a way.' He said, 'You have spoken the truth.' And we were surprised that he should ask and then confirm the answer. Then he said: 'Tell me about true faith (iman),' and the Prophet (pbuh) answered: 'It is to believe in Allah, His Angels, His inspired Books, His messengers, the Last Day, and in destiny, its good and evil.' 'You have spoken the truth,' he said, 'Now tell me about the perfection of faith (ihsan),' and the Prophet (pbuh) answered: 'It is to adore Allah as if you see Him, and if you see Him not, He nevertheless sees you.' 'Tell me about the Hour,' said the visitor, and he was told: 'The one questioned knows no more about it then the questioner.' 'Then tell me of its portents,' he said, and the Prophet (pbuh) replied: 'That the slave woman shall give birth to her mistress, and that you shall see barefooted, naked, penniless shepherds vying in constructing high buildings.' Then the visitor left. I waited a while, and the Prophet (pbuh) said to me, 'Do you know, Umar, who was the questioner?' and I replied, 'Allah and His messenger know best.' He said, 'It was Gabriel, who came to teach you your religion.'"(Sahih Muslim), (1.37-38)
 

Afterword:  I ask Allah to forgive any mistakes in this writing, which are my own; and I thank Allah for any good in this writing, which is from Him, and from His Wisdom, with which He guides men.
 

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