What is Islam?
In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. Islam actually began with the first man, the first human being, Adam; he was the first messenger of God; he brought to his children and grandchildren the message of worshiping God alone and this is Islam, submitting to God, worshipping God alone.
Abraham was the Original Prophet of Islam
A series of messengers after Adam brought the same message – worship God alone (21:25) – the first commandment in the bible, the message of Moses, the messenger of Jesus, the messages of all the prophets of Israel, David, Solomon and so on, is one and the same, the first commandment – worship God with all your heart, all your body, and all your soul – worship God alone. The Quran states very clearly that the religion as far as God is concerned is Islam (3:19). So, there is only one religion as far as God is concerned. If you want to be more specific, the original prophet of Islam is Abraham, because he brought all the religious practices in Islam, and we see this throughout the Quran. For example, in Surah 21, verse 73 tells us that Abraham was the original source of – of course God is the original source of everything – but Abraham delivered to us the Salat Prayer, the Contact Prayers and the Zakat Charity. And we see this also with the Fasting, the Hajj Pilgrimage, all the practices of Islam came to us through the prophet Abraham. The prophet Muhammad contributed the message, the scripture of Islam, which is the Quran.
Prophet Muhammad’s Role Was to Deliver God’s Final Message – the Quran
The prophet Muhammad contributed the message, the scripture of Islam, which is the Quran. God revealed the Quran to us through the prophet Muhammad. The prophet Muhammad was born in the year 570 AD, and when he was 40 years of age, he was appointed God’s final prophet. Prophet means he brought a new scripture, the final edition of God’s message to the world, and that is the Quran.
The Quran was given to the prophet Muhammad in one night as we see in the Quran in many verses – in Surah 17 verse 1, in Surah 44, verse 3, and in Surah 97. The release of the Quran from Muhammad’s soul to his mouth and his hand was done over a period of 23 years – from his age of 40 to the age of 63 – he died at the age of 63. So, over a period of 23 years, the Quran was being released after being placed in Muhammad’s heart on the Night of Power (in Arabic, Laylatul Qadr). The purpose of releasing the Quran over a 23-year period is to help the prophet and the believers at the time to memorize the Quran as it was being released and this is stated in the Quran. In the Quran it says, “to fix it in your memory” (25:32). So, the release was very slowly, very gradually, and it took 23 years.
God created the universe, and created the human race, and out of his mercy, He sent messengers and books to tell us about Him. All these messengers and all the books that God sent to us preach one and the same religion. The first messenger was Adam himself, the father of all humanity. After him came messengers, like Noah, Jesus, Moses, Muhammad. Muhammad was the last prophet, bringing the last scripture, the Quran, and in the Quran we find everything we need – all the duties, obligations, commandments, prohibitions in Islam. Quran is the final scripture. It is the completion of the message, because the previous scriptures were suited for that stage of human development, the Quran came to complete the picture, and now we have the final, the complete religion, Islam. The Quran is all you need, in fact, because God said that the Quran is complete perfect and fully detailed, if you go to any other source, you will be disobeying God, and disobeying the messenger of God, Muhammad, who brought this Quran, out of his mouth. God brought to us the Quran out of Muhammad’s mouth, and you would be disobeying God and disobeying Muhammad, if you follow any other sources besides the Quran, and specifically, I mean sources like Hadith, Sunnah and all the other books and things that the traditions and the customs invented. If you go to any source besides the Quran you will be disobeying God, because clearly God says in sura number 6 verse 114, for example, that the Quran is fully detailed – you don’t need anything else. God says in verse 19 of sura number 6 that the Quran is what was given to Muhammad to deliver to the world and it is the only source for religious guidance and religious education. The Quran tells us exactly what the essentials of Islam are, and they are very quickly – I’m going to go into details of this later on:
The First Pillar of Islam is: Worship God Alone
First, you should believe in God alone. You do not have any other idols. You are devoted to God alone, and this is represented by the Shahada, the first so-called pillar of Islam. Let us go along with that idea -the first pillar of Islam is the Shahada, and the Shahada is stated in the Quran in sura 3 verse 18. It says, “God bears witness that there is no God except He”, and also the angels and those who possess knowledge will make this Shahada, which is La ilaha ela Allah. This is the first pillar in Islam – sura 3, verse 18 – the Shahada, the first pillar of Islam is “La ilaha ela Allah”. If you want to make it complete, then you say, “I bear witness that there is no God except Allah, the one God. Now, don’t add anything else. Some people who imitate old inventions and old traditions will say Ashadu An La Ilaha Ila Allah and then they make another Shahada that Muhammad is a messenger of God. We know that Muhammad is a messenger of God, but if you inject this in the Shahada, this ruins everything, because now you don’t have God alone – you put an idol, Muhammad, next to God, and this, by the way, is a very strong prohibition in the Quran – to put any other name besides the name of Allah, the name of God. We find this in sura 39, verse 45 – you must devote yourself to God alone – you do not idolize Muhammad and put him next to God. This will be going against God and against Muhammad. So, the first pillar of Islam is Shahada, La Ilaha Ila Allah.
The Second Pillar of Islam is the Contact Prayers (Specific Actions and Words)
The second pillar is observing five Contact Prayers every day. This is the food for your soul. This is a favor that God is doing for you. You are not doing the favor to God. And the five Contact Prayers begin before sunrise; you must get up before sunrise in order to feed your soul, give your soul breakfast – your body will be lazy and will not want to get out of bed before sunrise, but for your sake, get out of bed before sunrise and do the morning Contact Prayer, whereby you contact your Creator and feed your soul. By the way, the details of the prayers are given on another video that we call Principles of Muslim Prayer where you can see how the contact prayers are performed the correct way, not the traditional innovations that we see in the Muslim world.
The second prayer is the Noon Prayer and it begins as soon as the sun declines from the highest spot in the sky. That is the Noon Prayer. It consists of four units. (The morning prayer is 2 units; the Noon Contact Prayer is 4 units).
The Afternoon Contact is done about three or four hours after the Noon Prayer in the mid-afternoon and the fourth Contact Prayer is the Sunset Prayer, and it is done immediately after sunset. And the final Contact Prayer, the night prayer, must be done about two hours after sunset. So, these are the five Contact Prayers, and they represent the second pillar of Islam.
The Third Pillar of Islam is Fasting During One Month (Ramadan)
The third pillar of Islam is fasting (in Arabic, “Seyam”) (2:183). God commands us to fast during one month of the year, and it is the ninth month of the lunar calendar (2:185). Now, I’m smiling because there is a tremendous test in this system where the lunar year is shorter than the solar year and this makes the month of Ramadan move about 10 to 15 days every year. So, it comes in the winter sometimes, when the day is nice and short, and fasting is very easy, and moves to the summer where the days are very long 16 hours or more, sometimes, and the day is hot and you can’t eat or drink during this long period, and a lot of people will drop out. They will they will not fast, even though nobody dies by not eating or drinking for 24 hours. But, some people will drop out, and you can see that the system is designed to show who will fast and would obey God’s commandment no matter how long the day is. This changing of the day from short and cold to long and hot days will show us who are the dropouts, who will fast only if the day is short and nice and cold. So, this is the third pillar of Islam, fasting during the month of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar.
As you see, the fasting of Ramadan is also designed to tame the wild horse, your body. See, your body wants to eat and drink, and you the real person or the soul dictates on the body saying, “No, you’re not going to eat or drink until sunset”, because the fasting consists of not eating or drinking or engaging in sexual intercourse from dawn to sunset. Dawn means about two hours before sunrise, to sunset. No eating, no drinking, no sex, and this is control of your wild horse. You are taming the wild horse, your body, and you can see that God is training you, is teaching you to be a person of strong will, and preparing you for the eternal life of the hereafter, the real life, because in the real life that comes after this life, God wants the people who are strong, who practiced and exercised, and know how to control themselves, I mean their bodies. This also causes your soul to feed, grow, and develop.
The Fourth Pillar of Islam is Zakat Charity
The fourth pillar of Islam is Charity (in Arabic “Zakat”) (2:43). There is an Obligatory Charity where you sit down and you calculate exactly what you possess, what your possessions are, and you give away a portion, a fixed portion of your net worth. You do this once a year, you pick out a specific day in the year, maybe the last day of Ramadan, or the first day of Ramadan, or the first day of January, one day, one fixed day in the year, and you sit down on that day, and you calculate how much you are worth. This means that you add up the market value of your house, your car, your clothes, anything that you possess. If you sell it all today, how much would it be worth, the fair market value, not the price of the new thing – but the present market value of everything you possess, and then you give away 2.5% of that. See it’s a small percentage, and you do it once a year, and it goes to specific people. The Quran lists them in this priority: first, your parents. If your parents are rich – and these are the recipients of your charity – if your parents are rich, the second in the list are your relatives – you give this 2.5%, you give it to your relatives. If they’re all rich, then you find some orphans, people who do not have support, parental support or other support or something, and you give this charity to them. After the orphans, you give to the alien, somebody who’s traveling, and is stranded and doesn’t have the money or the bus fare to go to his hometown. You help that person. So, the order in the Quran is: the parents, the relatives, the orphans, the traveling alien, the poor, the beggars, and so on. So, there is a specific order for giving these charities. However, there is also a general charity called “sadaka”, and this is an on the spot charity; you’re walking in the street and you see a poor person, and you want to help, then you help that person and this is called “sadaka” or charity. You’re supposed to be charitable the whole year, all the time, you must be charitable, but the Zakat is the Obligatory Charity where you give it to someone you personally know, you personally know that this fellow is poor and needs help, and you give your 2.5% to these people that you personally know. You cannot consider the taxes for example as Zakat charity, because you don’t know where the taxes will go. They can go to fix the street or something, or to the army or something, but the idea behind Zakat is that you give it to the people that you personally know are in need, and the Quran lists the parents first, the relatives, your own; you start with your own people and then you go to other strangers, in that order.
The Fifth Pillar of Islam is Pilgrimage – Hajj to Mecca
The fifth pillar of Islam is Hajj pilgrimage to the holy land in Mecca (2:196). And this is only, of course, for the people who can afford it. When you can afford it, you go to Mecca, and you observe Hajj, and this is commemoration of the prophet Abraham, not the man Abraham, but his exemplary submission to God. He thought, he saw a dream one time, and he thought that God was commanding him to sacrifice his only son, Ishmael, and he proceeded to carry out this command, even though, God did not order him to do it. He just thought in a dream that God was ordering him to do it, but he was willing to sacrifice his own son in submission to God, and, of course, God intervened to save Ishmael and Abraham from this tragedy and the God substituted a sheep to be sacrificed instead of Ishmael, and this is what you do when you go to Hajj. And Hajj consists of arriving in Mecca dressed only in untailored clothes – just a sheet or something – and seamless shoes or sandals – seamless clothes and seamless sandals – the women dress in a regular dress that is simple, so you cannot tell the rich from the poor.
To observe Hajj, you go to Mecca, dressed in seamless clothes, and seamless sandals – this is for the men. The women dressed modestly in regular modest dress (all white dress for example) so you cannot tell the rich from the poor. You get to Mecca, and you go around the Kaaba, in Mecca, seven times, then you go between Safa and Marwah, the knolls of Safa and Marwa, seven times, then you go to Arafat, mount Arafat, and you stand there the whole day. You spend that whole day on mount Arafat commemorating God, worshiping and praying, and then you go to Minna. It’s a little town near Mecca. You go to Minna for two or three days. Then, you go back to the Kaaba, go around it seven times, which is called “the farewell circumambulation” around the Kaaba, and this is it,
Now, my advice to you is: never to go to Medina, because people go to Medina and they ruin their Hajj. They go to the prophet Muhammad’s tomb, mausoleum, and they idolize the prophet, and this ruins everything, ruins the whole religion, not just Hajj (39:65). So, Hajj must be done only in Mecca where you go around the Kaaba seven times, between Safa and Marwa seven times, you go to Arafat for one day and to Minna for two or three days, and this is it. These are specific steps that are mentioned in the Quran.
All Our Work Would Be Nullified, If We Practice Idol-Worship. We Must Be Devoted to God Alone.
And, by the way, all these duties in Islam came to us through the prophet Abraham. If you look at Sura 22, the last verse, number 78, you will see that Abraham is the source, the father of Islam, and the father of Muslims, and if you look at sura 16 verse 123, you see that the prophet Muhammad followed the religion of Abraham. Islam is the religion of Abraham. He is the founder of Islam, and all the duties of Islam came from Abraham, not the prophet Muhammad. Muhammad brought the Quran; God brought the Quran through Muhammad. So, this is why some people become confused when you tell them that God says that the Quran is complete, perfect, and fully detailed. Some of the old traditionalists will say, “Ok, where is the number of raqqas for the Noon Prayer in the Quran”. See, they forget that the Contact Prayers, the Fasting of Ramadan, the Zakat charity, and the Hajj pilgrimage, all these duties came to us from Abraham, and the Quran says so. If you look at sura 21, verse 73, it tells you that Abraham started the Salat, and the Zakat. And in sura 22, entitled “Hajj”, you see that Abraham is the source of Hajj, and so on (22:26). The Quran says clearly that all duties and obligations came to us through the prophet Abraham and tells us in sura 22, verse 78, that this is the religion of Abraham. The prophet Muhammad simply contributed the Quran, and the Quran is God’s word that came through Muhammad (5:99). So watch for this point, and don’t let anyone trick you into thinking that the Quran is not complete. The most important principle in Islam is “God alone”. You must be devoted to God alone (21:25). You do not idolize the prophet Muhammad, like the Christians did with the prophet Jesus. You devote yourself completely to God alone, and you follow the word of God alone, the Quran alone, no other sources. If you follow other sources, you nullify all your work as we see in sura 39, where God says that if you fall in idol worship, all your works are nullified (39:65). You may do the Salat, the Zakat (the Charity), the Hajj, the fasting and all this, and it will be all in vain, unless you are devoted to God alone, and you declare your Shahada, “Ashadu An La Ilaha Ila Allah”. This is it. So, these are the basic essentials of Islam.
The prohibitions are also important. There are four meats that you cannot eat, for example, and these are (6:145):
- Animals that die of themselves without human interference.
- Pork, the meat of pigs.
- Running blood, running blood that you can put in a glass and cook or drink.
- Animals dedicated to other than God, that are specifically dedicated to Muhammad or Jesus or Ali or somebody.
These are forbidden. So, if you go to the market, you go to Safeway Market, for example, and you look at the meat, if you want to know if it is Halal (permitted) or Haram (prohibited), you ask yourself these four questions: (1) Is this meat pork? The answer is “no”, then (2) did these animals die of themselves without human interference? The answer is “no”. (3) Is this running-blood? The answer is “no”. (4) Was this meat dedicated to Jesus or to anyone else or Saint Francis? The answer is “no”. Therefore, this meat is Halal, it’s ok, you can eat it. If you make it Haram, if you prohibit it, then you are following some other religion. You’re not a Muslim, when you do that. So, it is very important to follow specifically what the Quran prohibits. If you prohibit anything else – some people go to funny lengths, like prohibiting soaps and brushes and shoes and things like that, and of course, this is a religion that is not Islam. It has nothing to do with Islam.
Also prohibited are all intoxicants – alcohol, marijuana, anything that will affect your mind, all intoxicants, anything that affects your capacity to think, and to have a healthy brain (5:90). So all intoxicating drugs, weeds, and alcohol, all these are prohibited. Also gambling is prohibited. Don’t play the lottery. It will cost you more, even if you win the jackpot, you will end up a loser. God is in control and He prohibited gambling, games of chance of any kind.
Of course, the major prohibitions are listed in the Quran: Adultery is prohibited, murder, stealing, cheating, lying. God wants you to be a perfect person, a nice person. Even breaking the promise is prohibited. You must be a person of your word, you must be a man of your word or a woman of your word. When you say something, you do it, and people must know you as such. This is what a Muslim is all about.
Some Hajj Advice
Now, some people are fascinated by Hajj pilgrimage, and they just want to do it right away. They’re fascinated by the exotic country, you know, Saudi Arabia, and the trip, and all that, but my advice to you is to perfect your religion first. Speaking from experience, it is not a very pleasant trip. There is a million and a half or two million people making pilgrimage, and it is an exacting trial. Instead of enjoying – you’re not going as a tourist – it is a difficult process and some people may become disillusioned when they go too early before the faith is strong enough. So, be sure you perfect your religion first, and then make the Hajj pilgrimage.
Another thing to guard against with regard to Hajj is that some people go and do the Hajj pilgrimage, like I said, before their faith is strong enough, and they come back puffed up and thinking, you know, “I’m perfect now, I’m cool, and nobody’s like me. I did Hajj.” You know, it goes to their head and it brings the reverse result. They become worse Muslims than better Muslims. So you want to go and do Hajj pilgrimage, after you perfect your religion, and this must make you humble, more humble. And I remember the proverb that says, “Don’t be humble. You’re not that great”.
The Usual Process of Hajj
Observing, the Hajj pilgrimage is very easy. All you do is get ready financially, and with your vacations and everything and then you travel to Saudi Arabia (Jeddah Airport). As soon as you land there, they will assign a guide to you and he and his assistants will tell you exactly what to do. But the main thing is that you memorize the statement, “Labbayka Allahumma Labbayk”, which means, “My Lord, I respond to your call.” “Labbayka La Shareeka Laka, Labbayk.” I respond to you. There is no partner with you.” And the whole statement will be taught to you by the guide. The main statement that you need to know throughout Hajj goes like this: “Labbayka Allahumma Labbayk”, which means, “My Lord, I respond to your call”. “Labbayka La Shareeka Laka, Labbayk.”, “I respond to You. You have no partner. There is no partner with you. I respond to your call”.
So, “Labbayka Allahumma Labbayk. Labbayka La Shareeka Laka, Labbayk.”. This is all you need, and you utter this statement, you memorize it and answer it all the time during Hajj – throughout Hajj, anytime you change direction, you climb a hill, down a hill, you meet friends, you say that.
The details of the Hajj will be given to you by the guide that we will be assigned to you as soon as you arrive in Saudi Arabia.
By: Rashad Khalifa, the Messenger of the Covenant