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Frequently Asked Questions about Islam

- Brief Answers -


Q: What is Islām?


A: Islām means submission to the will of God. Islām teaches belief in only one God, the Day of Judgment and individual accountability for actions. One who submits to God is called a Muslim – this being the precondition to enter Paradise.


Q: Who is Allah?


A: Allah is simply the Arabic word for God, the same God worshiped by Christians and Jews. It is the God of Abraham and Moses, not a different God. Christian Arabs also refer to God as Allah.


Q: What is the Qur’ān/Koran?


A: The Qur’ān is the holy book of Islām. Muslims believe that the Qur’ān was divinely revealed and is the last testament of God. The Qur’ān is preserved in its original Arabic form and is unanimously accepted that it has never been altered – preserved both orally and in written form.


Q: What are the basic teachings of Islām?


A: There are five Pillars in Islām:


a.                          Declaration of the Faith:  To testify there is no deity worthy of worship except                                      God and Muhammad is the Messenger of God

b.                         Prayer:   Pray towards Makkah five times each day

c.                          Charity: Donate a portion of your wealth to the poor

d.                         Fasting: Go without food, drink and having relations with your spouses from                          dawn until sunset during the month of Ramadan

e.                                            Pilgrimage: Visit Makkah and perform the Hajj once in a lifetime, if you have the means to do so.


These pillars are built on the Articles of Faith – which can simply be broken down into the following:


1)       God: There is only one God with no associate or partner. All that happened in the past, is happening now and is going to happen in the future is by the will of God.

2)       The Angels: Angels are created from light and execute the commands of God without question.

3)       The Books of God:  These include the Torah, the Psalms of David, The Gospel revealed to Jesus and the Qur’ān.

4)       Prophets of God: There were thousands of prophets who preached God’s message. Prophet Muhammad was the last prophet for all humanity and completed the message of God.

5)       Day of Judgment: On this day all mankind will be raised back to life and judged by God. Those whose good deeds outweigh their bad deeds will be allowed to enter Paradise and those whose bad deeds outweigh their good deeds will be condemned to Hell except whom God has mercy on.

6)       Divine Decree: God’s predestination of all things and events and His Decree. Nothing in the universe can occur without the knowledge of God. Whatever He desires, it occurs and whatever He does not desire, it doesn’t occur. There is no power or any movement except by God.

7)       Life after Death:  The eternal life in Paradise where one will be rewarded for living a righteous life on Earth, or the fire of Hell where one will be punished for the evil that one committed.


Q: Why do Muslims pray five times a day?


A: Muslims pray five times a day because God prescribed it. For those who do not know the values of prayer may think it is too much. For those who practice the prayer, take solace in it as they are praising, glorifying and talking to the Greatest. Hence at five times during the day no matter what circumstances surround them they focus back to God and the true realities of life. Indeed, some prefer to pray more in order to attain happiness, peace and tranquillity.


Q: In order to pray you perform the ablution. Why do you do such a ritual? Can’t you pray without ablution?


A: For every activity in life, there are rules and regulations. Sometimes there are pre-requisites to the general requirements too. In Islām there are also some rules and regulations for the systems that God has legislated. In schools, each teacher has his requirements for every course that he/she teaches. Through their knowledge and wisdom they have designed the course and the requirement so that the students will be able to pass the course. The prayer (salat) in Islām has its rules and regulations. It has its spiritual and physical dimensions – spiritually any minor sins that have been accumulated since the previous ablution are cleansed and physically it removes and cleans the body from all types of impurities. Islām also encourages the use of a toothstick to clean our teeth and apply scent – all in preparation for the Believer to presents him/herself before the King of kings, God himself.


Q: Why do Muslims have to pray towards Ka’aba in Makkah?


A: The Ka’bāh is the first house built for the worship of God on earth. It was originally built by Adam and then rebuilt by Abraham and his son Ishmael. God has chosen the Ka’bāh as a focal point of unity of pray for all the Believers all over the world.


Q: What is a Mosque/Masjid?


A: A Mosque or Masjid is a place of worship for Muslims. Muslims pray in a masjid in the same way that Christians pray in a church.


Q: I know Muslims fast in Ramadhan. Why do you fast the whole month not eating and drinking anything during the day?


A: Fasting the whole month of Ramadan is the fourth pillar in Islām. This month is the 9th lunar month of the Islāmic calendar and is the month in which the Qur’ān was revealed. For the whole month Muslims fast from dawn until sunset. During the Prophet’s life, the Angel Gabriel would descend every night of the month and go over the verses that had been revealed up to that point with him. In additional to the spiritual cleansing of the soul, fasting has many religious, social, cultural, economic and educational benefits to all – including the control of egos, appetites and lusts. Fasting has also been prescribed on other people before Islām too, like the Jews and Christians.


Q: What is Hajj?


A: The pilgrimage to Makkah (the Hajj) is an obligation only for those who are physically and financially able to do so. Nevertheless, over two million people go to Makkah each year from every corner of the globe providing a unique opportunity for those of different nations to meet one another. The annual Hajj begins in the twelfth month of the Islāmic year. Pilgrims wear special clothes: simple garments that strip away distinctions of class and culture, so that all stand equal before God. The rites of the Hajj, which are of Abrahamic origin, include going around the Ka’bāh seven times and going seven times between the hills of Safa and Marwa as did Hagar (Abraham’s wife) during her search for water. The pilgrims later stand together on the wide plains of ‘Arafat (a large expanse of desert outside Makkah) and join in prayer for God’s forgiveness, in what is often thought as a preview of the Day of Judgment. The close of the Hajj is marked by a festival, the Eid al Adha, which is celebrated with prayers and the exchange of gifts in Muslim communities everywhere. This and the Eid al Fitr, a festive day celebrating the end of Ramadan, are the two holidays of the Islāmic calendar.


Q: Who was the Prophet Muhammad?


A: Prophet Muhammad was the last and final prophet sent by God. He completed the lineage of prophets which included Adam, Noah, Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Moses and Jesus. He was born in Makkah in the year 570 C.E., during the period of history Europeans call the Middle Ages. The Prophet Muhammad was the son of Abdullah, a noble from the tribe of the Quraysh. His  father died before his birth and his mother, Aminah died shortly afterwards. He was then raised by his uncle, Abu Talib. As he grew up, Muhammad became known for his truthfulness, generosity and sincerity, earning the title of al-Amin, the trustworthy one. He was of a contemplative nature and had long detested the decadence of his society. It became his habit to retreat from time to time in the Cave of Hira’ near the summit of ‘Mountain of Light’ near Makkah.


Q: How did Muhammad become a prophet and messenger of God?


A: At the age of 40, while engaged in a meditative retreat, he received his first revelation from God through the Archangel Gabriel. This revelation, which continued for twenty-three years, is known as the Qur’ān.  The Prophet Muhammad began to recite the words he heard from Gabriel and to preach the truth which God had revealed to him. The people of Makkah were steeped in their ways of ignorance and opposed him and his small group of followers in every way. These early Muslims suffered bitter persecution. In the year 622 C.E., God gave the Muslim community the command to emigrate. This event, the hijrah or migration, in which they left Makkah for the city of Madīnah, some 260 miles to the North, marks the beginning of the Muslim calendar.


Madīnah provided the Prophet Muhammad and the Muslims the safe and nurturing haven in which the Muslim community grew and here he established the Islāmic state. After several years, the Prophet and his followers returned as conquerors. He was now supreme ruler of Arabia cleansing the land from idolatry and dedicated the Ka’bāh to the worship of the One God. He died at the age of 63 and within a century of his death, Islām had spread to Spain in the west and as far east as China.


Q: Is it true that Muslims worship Muhammad?


A: Not at all! Muslims only worship God alone. For this reason they are not called Muhammadans. For example, Christians worship Christ and are hence called Christians. It is the greatest sin in Islām to worship anybody or anything else alongside God.


Q: I thought that Muslims believe only in Muhammad as their Prophet. Is this true?


A: No! Muslims believe in all of the Prophets and Messengers that God sent to mankind from the days of Adam to the days of the Prophet Muhammad. God sent over 124,000 Prophets in the history of mankind. However, God mentioned 25 names in the Qur’ān some of them being: Adam, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Lot, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph,  Job, Moses, Aaron, King David, King Soleman, Jonah, Zachariah, John the Baptist, Jesus and Muhammad. Muslims believe in all of them and do not differentiate in their missions – all of whom were calling to the worship of one God. Any time any Prophet’s name is mentioned, Muslims say peace be upon him (pbuh).


Q: I was surprised to know that Muslims believe in Jesus and Mary?


A: Muslims are obligated to believe in Jesus and Mary. They deeply respect them and consider them to be amongst the greatest of human beings with Jesus being one of the greatest Messengers of God and His mother the greatest of all women. In the Qur’ān there is one chapter (sūrah) in the name of Mary herself – sūrah 19. No other woman’s name was revealed explicitly in the Qur’ān except that of Mary.


Q: I am also surprised to know that Muslims believe in Moses. I thought Moses was the Prophet of the Jews only.


A: Moses was not the Prophet of the Jews. He was the Prophet of God to the children of Israel. He was sent to save them from the persecution of Pharaoh of Egypt. However, Moses was a Muslim. He preached the Message of God and taught them to believe in God, the Creator of the Universe. He instructed them to pray, fast and pay charity as well. Muslims believe in Prophet Moses in as much as they believe in all the other Prophets and Messengers without any discrimination.


Q: Is it true that Muhammad is the last Prophet and the last Messenger? If yes, how come?! Don’t you think that we need more Prophets today?


A: Yes! Muhammad is the last Prophet and the last Messenger of God to all mankind. His teachings are meant for Christians, Jews, Bhudists, Hindus and others.
The originality, totality and authenticity of the Qur’ān are well documented and proved to be intact. The teachings of Islām are meant for all human beings. This was not true to the previous Prophets who came for a particular tribe, nation, or even for a particular era and area. The Qur’ān was revealed as the last testament to mankind.


Q:  Christians believe that we were born sinful and therefore we have to be baptised. What does Islām say about original sin?


A: In Islām, every person is born free of sin. It would be inhumane and unjust that God would create us with sins. God is so merciful. He created us as pure as crystal ice. It is only after the age of puberty that one will be accounted for his deeds and actions preceded by intention. At that time, we will be rewarded ten times for any good deeds and we will be charged once for every bad deed. If we ask forgiveness from God, He will forgive us. Because we are born free of sins, we do not need to be baptised. We are already born as Muslims.


Q: In Christianity, one must believe in Jesus as our personal Savior to enter Paradise. What does Islām say about Salvation?


A: Salvation in Islām does not depend on someone else to do it for us. We are responsible for our deeds and actions preceded by our good intentions. Therefore, everyone has to work hard with good intention. Our intention as Muslims is to please the Creator. Whoever believes in God; in all the Prophets and Messengers that God sent to mankind; in the Day of Judgment; and do good deeds to all without personal ego or without exploitation; then and only then God assures us eternal Salvation. Through His Mercy, Forgiveness and Blessings, people will be given Salvation.


Q: Once I was talking to a Muslim saying to him that Christians believe in the Unity of God. He informed me that Muslims do not believe in the Unity of God but in the Oneness of God. I got confused. Would you kindly elaborate the difference for me?


A: Thank you very much for raising a very fundamental principle in Islām. Muslims believe in the Oneness of God. They do not believe in the concept of Unity of God. The word unity may give a wrong impression about the concept of God. It may mean two gods in one, or three gods in one. Christians believe in three gods in one: God the father, god the son and god the holy spirit. Three in One. This is the concept of Unity of God. Muslims do not subscribe to this concept. God is the only One. He is One-in-One. He begets no one; and no one has begotten Him. He is the Creator of the whole universe. No one shares with Him His Sovereignty.


Q: During Christmas, I realised that Muslims do not participate in this celebration. Since Muslims believe in Jesus, why then do they not celebrate Christmas?


A: Muslims believe in the Prophet Jesus. He was one of the five Mighty Messengers of God. However, Muslims do not celebrate the birth of any Prophet. Even those Prophets did not celebrate their own birthdays. Its origins lie in the Pagan feast of the Roman Empire.


Q: Does Islām consider Christians and Jews as Believers?


A: Jews and Christians are referred to in the Qur’ān as the ‘People of the Book’ – meaning their orgins lie in scripture revealed by God. However, these scriptures have not remained untouched by human insertions and have been distorted. When each prophet was sent, the people of that era were obliged to follow him and would be defined as people of the truth or simply ‘Muslims’ – so when Moses came – people were obliged to follow him and these Jews were Believers. When Jesus came, people were obligated to now accept him as the Prophet of God and not doing so would remove them from being defined as Believers – even though they may have accepted Moses as a prophet. These Christians were now the Believers till the time the Prophet Muhammad was sent. After which any person claiming to submit to the will of God would have to accept the prophethood of Muhammad and not doing so would excommunicate them from being a true Believer in God.  


Q: If everything is pre-ordained and decided, where is the free will?


A: The question of ‘fate and freewill’ has baffled people for many centuries; but Islām has given a clear answer. The first point to be noted in this respect is that the Islāmic concept of Qadar and Qadha’ is quite different from fatalism, determinism and predestination, as understood by most people. In Arabic, the words Qadar and Qadha are often used for fate and destiny. The word, Qadha means to decide; to settle; to judge. A Qadhi is a judge who decides a matter between disputants. From the Islāmic view, the events of the world take place within God’s Knowledge and Will.


Read the following verses:


1. "And not an atom’s weight in the earth or in the sky escapes your Lord, nor what is less than that or greater than that, but it is (written) in a clear Book.” (Yunus 10:61)


2. “No disaster strikes upon the earth or among yourselves except that it is in a register before We bring it into being – indeed that, for God, is easy – In order that you not despair over what has eluded you and not exalt [in pride] over what He has given you. And God does not like everyone self-deluded and boastful.” (al-Hadid 57:22-23).


The above verses speak of God Almighty’s power and control over His creation, as well as of His will and plan. This is one aspect of His Qadar. There is also another aspect of Qadar, which is concerned with human freewill.


B: On human freedom and responsibility read the following verses:


1. “Corruption has appeared throughout the land and sea by [reason of] what the hands of people have earned so He [i.e., God] may let them taste part of [the consequence of] what they have done that perhaps they will return [to righteousness].” (ar-Rum 30:41)


2. “…The truth is from your Lord, so whoever wills - let him believe; and whoever wills - let him disbelieve.” (al-Kahf 18:29)


The above verses speak of the special status of humans as beings with a role and mission. God’s power over His creation and His fore-knowledge of all our actions and their results do not preclude that status. God’s Qadar and Qadha – which could be loosely rendered as ‘Divine decree and human destiny’ – include a certain amount of freedom for humans. We may say that God Almighty has willed that we must have the freedom to choose between good and bad and take the course of action we decide, i.e. to the extent we are permitted. It is God Who created us with all our talents and gifts and if we do not have the freedom to use them, what would be the meaning of those blessings? And remember that God gave us, not merely our intellectual faculties but also the power of moral judgment. And what is more, He sent us His Guidance through His chosen Prophets and Books, to help us make the right choices. So in Islām, there is no contradiction between belief in Divine Preordainment on the one hand and the freedom of man on the other.


Q: Why do bad things happen?


A: First of all, God has not made this a permanent world. This is a temporary world and everything here has a time limit. Neither the good things of this world are forever, nor the bad things eternal. We are here for a short time and we are being tested – those who pass the test will find an eternal world that is perfect and permanent.  “And when We let the people taste mercy, they rejoice therein, but if evil afflicts them for what their hands have put forth, immediately they despair.” [ar-Rum 30:36]


A number of reasons why bad things may happen:


  1. As a punishment where the laws of God have been violated as in the case of the people of Noah and Lot: “Has there not reached them the news of those before them - the people of Noah and [the tribes of] ‘Aad and Thamūd and the people of Abraham and the companions [i.e., dwellers] of Madyan and the towns overturned? Their messengers came to them with clear proofs. And God would never have wronged them, but they were wronging themselves.” (sūrah at-Tawbah 9:70)


  1. Sometimes God allows people to be afflicted by the consequences of their actions as a sign and reminder in order that they have the opportunity to repent and reform themselves. “Corruption has appeared throughout the land and sea by [reason of] what the hands of people have earned so He [i.e., God] may let them taste part of [the consequence of] what they have done that perhaps they will return [to righteousness].” (ar-Rum 30:41)


“And whatever strikes you of disaster - it is for what your hands have earned; but He pardons much.” [ash-Shura 42:30]


  1. Suffering can also be a test and trial for some people. God allows some people to suffer in order to test their patience and steadfastness. Even God’s Prophets and Messengers were made to suffer. Prophet Job is mentioned in the Qur’ān as a Prophet who was very patient. Through these trials and tribulations, one has the opportunity to draw closer to God.


  1. God sometimes allows some people to suffer to test others, how they react to them. When you see a person who is sick, poor and needy, then you are tested by God to test your charity and faith. God says in a [hadith qudsi], ‘Verily, Allah will say to his slave when He will be taking account of him on the Day of Judgement, ‘O son of Adam, I was hungry and you did not feed me.’ He will answer: ‘How could I feed you? You are the Lord of the worlds!’ He will say: ‘Did you not know that my slave so and so who is the son of so and so felt hunger, and you did not feed him. Alas, had you fed him you would have found that (i.e. reward) with Me.’ ‘O son of Adam, I was thirsty and you gave Me nothing to drink.’ He will reply: ‘How could I give You drink? You are the Lord of the worlds!’ He will say: ‘Did you not know that my slave so and so, the son of so and so felt thirsty and you did not give him drink. Alas, if you had given him, you would have found that (i.e. reward) with me.’ ‘O son of Adam, I became sick and you did not visit Me.’ He will answer: ‘How can I visit You? You are the Lord of the worlds!’ He will say: ‘Did you not know that my slave so and so, the son of so and so became sick and you did not visit him. Alas, had you visited him, you would have found Me with him.”


Q: How many Muslims are there?


A: There are currently 1.6 Billion Muslims in the world, with about 2-3 million living in the United Kingdom. Contrary to popular perception, only 20% of Muslims are Arabs and live in the Middle East. The countries with the largest Muslim populations are India and Indonesia with about 175 million Muslims each.


Q: Is it true that all Arabs are Muslims, and that all Muslims are Arabs?


A: No! Any person who reads, writes and speaks the Arabic language is called an Arab. There are about 1.6 billion Muslims in the world. 20% are considered Arabs while the rest are non-Arabs. Among the Arab people there are about 8% who are non-Muslims, such as Christians, Jews, Assyrians, Atheists, Agnostics, etc. However, every Muslim has to study and learn the Arabic language so that he/she will be able to pray daily and to read Qur’ān and the Arabic language.


Q: Are the Arabs superior to others?


A: The Prophet said in his farewell pilgrimage, ‘All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over a black nor a black has any superiority over white except by piety and good action. Learn that every Muslim is a brother to every Muslim and that the Muslims constitute one brotherhood.’


Q: What are the legal sources of Islām?


A: The sources of Islām are the Qur’ān, the hadith (sayings of the Prophet) and the Unanimous decisions of the early Muslim scholars.


Q: What is the difference between Hadith and Sunnah?


A: Hadith is the exact sayings of the Prophet with quote and unquote. The Sunnah of the Prophet are his deeds, actions and his tacid approval, i.e. actions done by others in his presence which he did not comment.


Q: What does Jihād mean – linguistically and practically?


A: Jihād linguistically means the process of ‘exerting the best efforts,’ involving some form of ‘struggle’ and ‘resistance’ to achieve a particular goal. In the Qur’ān this word has been used in different connotations – entailing to struggle in the way of God, verbally, monetarily and physically. In the context of war, the Qur’ān legislates the performance of Jihād in order to make His word the highest in the land, defend or establish the religion, remove oppression from weak men, women and children and to remove turmoil and corruption. A point to note – there are strict laws governing the engagement of the enemy and the treatment of prisoners of war – all of which was laid down by God and demonstrated by His Prophet.


Q: What is a Fatwa?


A: A Fatwa is a religious ruling to a question based on Islāmic law and issued by Islāmic scholars.


Q: In secular countries, the Pledge of Allegiance is to the flag of the country. How do Muslims look at such a pledge?


A: Any person who makes his Pledge of Allegiance to the flag of his country, is legally responsible to defend that country according to what the political leaders decide. The leaders may decide to invade other countries and commit all types of injustices, atrocities, and crime. A Muslim’s loyalty is to God. He will never obey political leaders unless they themselves obey God. Invading other countries and killing other people are among the biggest crimes. Therefore, the masses as well as the leaders should make a Pledge of Allegiance to God, the Creator of the whole universe.


Q: Since the Pledge of Allegiance of Muslims is only to God, what is that Pledge, and what does it mean?


A:Yes, the Pledge of Allegiance of Muslims is only to God, the Creator of the Universe. Muslims have to say daily the Pledge in the language of the Qur’ān, i.e., Arabic. They have to recite it vocally individually and collectively. They may pronounce it verbally, privately, and silently too.


The Pledge goes as follows:


"Ashhadu Anla ilaha Illa Allah...Wa Ashhadu Anna Muhammadan RasooluAllah."


"I bear witness that there is no one worthy of worship except God (Allah)... And I bear witness that Prophet Muhammad is the Messenger of God."


Q: Can you explain the Shariah and secularism in Islām?


A: Islām teaches that the Believer cannot make any agreement with any person or government to displease God; they cannot make any deal with any group to decide any matter against what God has already decided. In Islām, State and Religion are to abide their total life according to the teachings of God. No one has the right to separate the state from religion - otherwise, we are creating two gods: One god for our daily life and one god for the spiritual life. This type of approach is totally rejected and unacceptable. In Islām, God created the whole universe. He is the Real Legislator of all systems of life for us and He knows exactly what we need. He legislated the Shariah (Islāmic Law) - that we should abide by. Then and only then we will live in peace and harmony in this life and the hereafter.


Q: I heard that there is something called Seerah. Would you kindly tell me what it is?


A: Generally speaking, Seerah means the life history of someone. Any time Muslims talk about the Seerah, they mean the biography of Prophet Muhammad. Muslims are to study the Seerah of the


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