Articles of Faith
Islam’s most fundamental concept is a rigorous monotheism. Allāh is the term that Muslims use to refer to God. In Islam, God is beyond all comprehension and Muslims are not expected to visualize God. God is described and referred to by certain names or attributes, the most common being Al-Rahmān, meaning “The Compassionate” and Al-Rahī m, meaning “The Merciful” (See Names of God in Islam). Muslims believe that the creation of everything in the universe was brought into being by God’s sheer command, ” ‘Be’ and so it is, ” and that the purpose of existence is to worship God.
Belief in angels is fundamental to the faith of Islam. The Arabic word for angel (malak) means, “messenger.” According to the Qur’an, angels do not possess free will; they worship and obey God in total obedience. Angels’ duties include:
- Communicating revelations from God
- Glorifying God
- Recording every person’s actions
- Taking a person’s soul at the time of death
Muslims believe that angels are made of light.
Muslims believe that the verses of the Qur’an were revealed to Muhammad by God through the Archangel Gabriel (Jibrīl) on many occasions between 610 CE until his death on June 8, 632 CE. While Muhammad was alive, all of these revelations were written down by his companions (sahabah), although the prime method of transmission was orally through memorization.
The Qur’an is divided into 114 suras, or chapters, which combined, contain 6,236 āyāt, or verses. The chronologically earlier suras, revealed at Mecca, are primarily concerned with ethical and spiritual topics. The later Medinan suras mostly discuss social and moral issues relevant to the Muslim community. The Qur’an is more concerned with moral guidance than legal instruction, and is considered the “sourcebook of Islamic principles and values.” Muslim jurists consult the hadith, or the written record of Prophet Muhammad’s life, to both supplement the Qur’an and assist with its interpretation. The science of Qur’anic commentary and exegesis is known as tafsir. Rules governing proper pronunciation are called tajwid.
Muslims usually view “the Qur’an” as the original scripture as revealed in Arabic and that any translations are necessarily deficient, which are regarded only as commentaries on the Qur’an.
Muslims identify the prophets of Islam as those humans chosen by God to be his messengers. According to the Qur’an, the descendants of Abraham were chosen by God to bring the “Will of God” to the peoples of the nations. Muslims believe that prophets are human and not divine, though some are able to perform miracles to prove their claim. Islamic theology says that all of God’s messengers preached the message of Islam—submission to the will of God. The Qur’an mentions the names of numerous figures considered prophets in Islam, including Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus, among others.
In Islam, the “normative” example of Muhammad’s life is called the Sunnah (literally “trodden path”). This example is preserved in traditions known as hadith (“reports”), which recount his words, his actions, and his personal characteristics.
Resurrection and Judgment
Belief in the “Day of Resurrection,” Yawm al-Qiyāmah is also crucial for Muslims. They believe the time of Qiyāmah is preordained by God but unknown to man. The trials and tribulations preceding and during the Qiyāmah are described in the Qur’an and the hadith, and also in the commentaries of scholars. The Qur’an emphasizes bodily resurrection, a break from the pre-Islamic Arabian understanding of death.
On the Day of Resurrection, Muslims believe all mankind will be judged on their good and bad deeds. The Qur’an lists several sins that can condemn a person to hell, such as disbelief in God, and dishonesty; however, the Qur’an makes it clear God will forgive the sins of those who repent if he so wills. Good deeds, such as charity, prayer and compassion towards animals, will be rewarded with entry to heaven. Muslims view heaven as a place of joy and bliss, with Qur’anic references describing its features and the physical pleasures to come. Mystical traditions in Islam place these heavenly delights in the context of an ecstatic awareness of God.
Making images of human beings and animals is frowned on in many Islamic cultures with image-makers receiving punishment in the Day of Resurrection. However this rule has been interpreted in different ways by different scholars and in different historical periods, and there are examples of paintings of both animals and humans in Mughal, Persian, and Turkish art. The existence of this aversion to creating images of animate beings has been used to explain the prevalence of calligraphy, tessellation, and pattern as key aspects of Islamic artistic culture. (45)