What is Islam?
The meaning of Islam indicates the readiness of a person to take orders from God and carry them out. It has also come to mean the message that was revealed to God's prophet, Mohammed. A Muslim was considered to be a person who was willing to hear God's command and carry it out. After the appearance of the Prophet Mohammed, Muslim came to mean a person who follows the message of Mohammed and believes that it is true.
Two other Arabic phrases have also been used to describe Islam. One is "Deen-Al-Touhid" that means the belief in the Oneness of God. Islam originated among Arabs who worshipped many gods and idols. Islam preached a single God in a clear and distinct manner. "Deen-Al-Fitrah" is another Arabic phrase and means a religion that is in accord with human nature. This is because Islam is reasonable and acceptable and is without illogical thinking or superstition.
Muhammed and the Koran
The Prophet Muhammed was inspired to write the holy book of Islam, the Holy Qur'an or Koran. It is divided into 114 chapters or suras with each sura divided into verses. Each sura has a name, sura 1 being called "The Opening," sura 2 is called "The Cow" (after the story of the yellow heifer in verses 67-71). Instead of using the sura names in references, the number of the sura is used; so verse 5 of "The Cow" would be referenced as 2:5. The Qur'an contains stories or parables, wise proverbs, laws, and prophecies. It is about as long as the New Testament.
Declaration of Faith
There are no initiation rights such as baptism required to become a Muslim and join the faith of Islam. One need only believe in the single God Allah, and believe that Mohammed was a prophet of Allah. One need only believe the Declaration of the Faith: "I bear witness that there is no God but the Almighty God and the Mohammed is a messenger of God." Thus, one must believe Mohammed and all that Mohammed presented in his teachings.
View of Christ
Islam and the Qur'an recognizes people such as Moses, Noah, Abraham, and Jesus as prophets of God. They do not recognize Jesus as God, but, only a prophet (2:136). They believe that Jesus was not crucified and that his followers were mistaken in their claims of Jesus' death and resurrection (4:157-158).
Afterlife in Islam
Islam teaches that the human soul is not extinguished at death, but continues to live between one's death and resurrection. The Qur'an does not provide details of the intermediate state of the soul between death and the resurrection. The resurrection again unites the soul with the body for life in the Hereafter. The purpose of the Hereafter is to reward those who have done good in the past and punish those who have done evil in the past. The Day of Judgment will come to render justice to each man.
Muslims believe that Allah is personally unknowable and is revealed only through his will and laws for mankind. Islam teaches that Allah holds each person responsible for the deeds that they themselves do. Each person bears their own burden (6:164, 53:38). One does not bear punishment for the sins or faults of one's parents, brothers, and children. Nor does one bear punishment for the sins of Adam and Eve. Each of us will receive what we have earned because of our past deeds.
Judgment in Islam
There is a cause and effect relationship between human deeds and their recompense in the next world. The eternal world after death is dependent on this current temporary world. Like a tape recorder, every word or deed done in this world is recorded in symbolic form in the Barzakh or World of the Grave, or the World of Representations. Each person has free will and has a choice of action during life. Because every deed will be fully revealed in the Day of Judgment, the events in the Hereafter depend only on what one freely does now.
When Earth is shaken with her [final] earthquake and Earth yieldeth up her burdens, and man saith: What aileth her? That day she will relate her chronicles, because thy Lord inspireth her. That day mankind will issue forth in scattered groups to be shown their deeds. And whoso doeth good an atom's weight will see it then, and whoso doeth ill an atom's weight will see it then. 99:1-8
There will come a day, variously called the Day of Reckoning, the Day of Judgment, or the Day of Resurrection. In this day people will be resurrected to life (56:47-50). The souls of the people will be reunited with their bodies. The earth will be shaken and the mountains will be ground to powder (56:1-9). It is a Hour of great fear (22:1). Every pregnant woman will deliver her child and every nursing mother will forget her nursling (22:2).
Nothing will be hidden from Allah as he judges between them and determines each person's eternal fate (2:113, 50:16, 53:30). The judgment will be based upon our actions (41:24). After the resurrection and judgment no people will live on the earth. They and everything on the earth will pass away (55:26-27).
Good Deeds in Islam
For the judgment, there are a number of earthly deeds that are considered especially beneficial as well as deeds that are very harmful. Those helpful deeds include acquiring divine knowledge through study and association with the Ulama (scholars), offering one's Fardh Salaat (obligatory prayers) five times each day, restraining from idle talk, performing the Muraqabh (review of past deeds) and the Muhasabh (examination of conscience), making Taubah (repenting) and Istighfaar (begging forgiveness of Allah), fasting during the month of Ramadan, and making a pilgrimage (Hajj) to Mecca.
Evil Deeds in Islam
Those especially evil deeds include backbiting or disparaging others needlessly, cruelty and injustice to others, vanity and pride in self, anger and other fits of passion, developing relations with Ghair Mahram (unrelated people of the opposite sex), and eating Haraam (unlawful) or doubtful food.
Afterlife in Islam
The Qur'an contains many descriptions of the fate of people after the judgment. Those who have done good deeds, have practiced what they preached, have warded off evil, and are faithful will enter the Gardens of Eden. Those who have done evil works, have maligned others needlessly, have practiced injustice, have lead others astray from the faith, or have not been faithful themselves will enter a fiery Hell.
The degree of one's rewards or punishments is also determined by one's deeds. The number of palaces one has in Paradise may depend on the number of times various passages from the Qur'an were recited; the length of one's garments may depend on the degree and purity of one's religion; or the weight of one's prisoner's collar in Hell may depend on the amount of contributions to the poor that were withheld.
The following are descriptions of the Gardens of Eden and Hell as found in numerous references in the Qur'an. Many Islamic philosophers, though believing in the survival of the soul, allegorize much or all of this description. The Islamic theologians adamantly insist in the literal accuracy of the text of this revelation.
Gardens of Eden in Islam
For those who believe and do good works, their reward is the Gardens of Eden (18:31-32). Beneath these Gardens run rivers of unpolluted water (47:15). Men will enter the Gardens with their wives and will be made glad (43:70).
Each person will be clothed in raiment of fine green silk with golden embroidery and will be given pearls with gold and silver bracelets (18:31-32, 22:23, 76:21). They will recline on the finest silk lined couches or thrones in areas with green carpets (55:76, 56:15).
Allah will remove all hatred between men so they can rest on their couches facing each other (15:47, 55:16).
The weather in the Gardens will be beautiful, neither too hot nor too cool will plenty of shade (73:13). There will be a serving staff of immortal youths who will bring all types of food and drink: pitchers of cool drinks including milk and wine, clear honey, every kind of fruit, date palms and pomegranates, and flesh of fowls (38:51-52, 43:73, 47:15, 55:52, 55:68, 56:21, 76:19). They will drink from goblets of silver, the size of which is according to their deeds (76:15-16).
This will be a relaxing place, a fair resting place, with no toil (15:48, 18:31-32). No one will desire to leave (18:108-109). Each person will be assigned a mansion (25:10). Enduring pleasure will belong to those in the Gardens (9:21).
Virgins, Lovers in the Additional Gardens
There are two additional Gardens for the duteious in achievement that are enclosed in vineyards and have maidens within for companionship (55:62, 56:22-24, 78:31-33). These maidens are the fair ones with wide, lovely eyes like pearls, reclining on couches on green carpets; no man or jinni [foreigner] has touched them (52:20,55:56,72-76).
These virgins, lovers, and friends are a new creation for those who have done well (65:35-38). These fair ones are to be given as brides to those who have done good deeds (52:20).
Hell in Islam
The wicked disbelievers who deny the revelations or scorn them have another fate. On the Day of Judgment these evil-doers will know their fate and bite and gnaw at their hands in fear (25:27). They will beg for another chance to live a better life on earth (7:53). They will be dressed in an iron prisoner's collar, manacles, and chains; they will be dragged by their hair or feet through boiling water and then thrust into the Fire (40:71-72, 55:41, 76:4).
As they approach the roasting Fire they will hear it roar and pray for their destruction (25:11-12, 41:94, 70:16). They will try to escape but realize that there is no way of escape (18:54). Their guards will drive them back with hooked rods of iron and say to them, "Taste the doom of burning in the Fire that you used to deny" (22:22, 32:20).
Every morning and every evening they will enter the Fire (40:46). After the Fire they will be drenched in boiling fluid that makes what is in the bellies and their skin to melt (22:19-20, 55:44). Between the Fire and boiling water they will eat the fruit of the Zaqqum tree that, like molten brass, causes a seething upset stomach and then they will gulp down large amounts of violently boiling water alternated with icy cold water (37:62-68, 38:58, 40:46,56:51-55).
The guilty will beg their Lord to kill them and make an end of this punishment, but the Lord will reply, "Here you must remain" (43:77). They will wish they were but dust (78:40). But, the guilty are immortal and will endure the torments forever (43:74).
Those in torment will then beg the guards to give them a day away from their punishment (40:49). But, the guards will tell them that they had their chance and have rejected all of Allah's messengers (40:50-54). They are not allowed to relax at all and are in great despair (43:75).
Those who dwell in the Garden will call to those in the Fire to say that "We have found the promises of our Lord to be true. Have you also found his promises to be true?" (7:44) Those in the Fire will cry to those in the Garden to "Pour water or whatever else Allah has provide you on us;" but the Garden dwellers will say that this is forbidden (7:53).
And what can a Muslim look forward to after death? The Islamic reward of the saved is a resurrection to a physical life of leisure because of a past life of good deeds. There will be no creativity required, no tasks of drudgery and no problems to solve. It is a life of being served all the good fruits, meats, and drinks one could imagine. It is a life of many pleasures. The resurrection of Islam restores one's body to an apparent physical, but everlasting, life.
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Copyright © 2009 Robert Sherman