A true, faithful Muslim believes in the following main articles of faith:
1. He believes in One God, Supreme and Eternal, Infinite and Mighty, Merciful and Compassionate, Creator and Provider. This belief, in order to be effective, requires complete trust and hope in God, submission to His Will and reliance on His aid. It secures man's dignity and saves him from fear and despair, from guilt and confusion. The reader is invited to see the meaning of Islam as explained above.
2. He believes in all the messengers of God without any discrimination among them. Every known nation had a warner or messenger from God. These messengers were great teachers of the good and true champions of the right. They were chosen by God to teach mankind and deliver His Divine message. They were sent at different times of history and every known nation had one messenger or more. During certain periods two or more messengers were sent by God at the same time to the same nation. The Holy Qur'an mentions the names of twenty-five of them, and the Muslim believes in them all and accepts them as authorized messengers of God. They were, with the exception of Muhammad, known as "national" or local messengers. But their message, their religion, was basically the same and was called ISLAM, because it came from One and the Same Source, namely, God, to serve one and the same purpose, and that is to guide humanity to the Straight Path of God. All the messengers with no exception whatsoever were mortals, human beings, endowed with Divine revelation, and appointed by God to perform certain tasks. Among them Muhammad stands as the Last Messenger and the crowning glory of the foundation of prophethood. This is not an arbitrary attitude, nor is it just a convenient belief. Like all the other Islamic beliefs, it is an authentic and logical truth. Also, it may be useful to mention here the names of some of the great messengers like Noah and Abraham, Ishmael and Moses, Jesus and Muhammad, may the peace and blessings of God be upon them all. The Qur’an commands the Muslims thus:
We believe in God, and the revelation given to us, and to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob and the Tribes; and that which was given to Moses and Jesus, and that which was given to all prophets from their Lord. We make no discrimination between one and another of them, and we bow to God (2:136, cf. 3:84; 4:163-165; 6:84-87).
3. The true Muslim believes, as a result of article two, in all the scriptures and revelations of God. They were the guiding light which the messengers received to show their respective peoples the Right Path of God. In the Qur’an a special reference is made to the books of Abraham, Moses, David and Jesus. But long before the revelation of the Qur’an to Muhammad some of those books and revelations had been lost or corrupted, others forgotten, neglected, or concealed. The only authentic and complete book of God in existence today is the Qur’an. In principle, the Muslim believes in the previous books and revelations. But where are their complete and original versions? They could be still at the bottom of the Dead Sea, and there may be more Scrolls to be discovered. Or perhaps more information about them will become available when the Christian and Jewish archaeologists reveal to the public the complete original findings of their continued excavations in the Holy Land. For the Muslim, there is no problem of that kind. The Qur’an is in his hand complete and authentic. Nothing of it is missing and no more of it is expected. Its authenticity is beyond doubt, and no serious scholar or thinker has ventured to question its genuineness. The Qur’an was made so by God Who revealed it and made it incumbent upon Himself to protect it against interpolation and corruption of all kinds. Thus it is given to the Muslims as the standard or criterion by which all the other books are judged. So whatever agrees with the Qur’an is accepted as Divine truth, and whatever differs from the Qur’an is either rejected or suspended. God says: 'Verily We have, without doubt, sent down the Qur’an, and We will assuredly guard it’ (15: 9; cf. 2:75- 79; 5: 1 3-14, 41, 45, 47; 6:91 ; 41:43).
4. The true Muslim believes in the angels of God, They are purely spiritual and splendid beings whose nature requires no food or drink or sleep. They have no physical desires of any kind nor material needs. They spend their days and nights, in the service of God. There are many of them, and each one is charged with a certain duty. If we cannot see the angels with out naked eyes, it does not necessarily deny their actual existence, There are many things in the world that are invisible to the eye or inaccessible to the senses, and yet we do believe in their existence. There are places we have never seen and things like gas and ether that we could not see with our naked eyes, smell or touch or taste or hear; yet we do acknowledge their existence. Belief in the angels originates from the Islamic principle that knowledge and truth are not entirely confined to the sensory knowledge or sensory perception alone,(16:49-50; 21:19-20. see also the references in article two above).
5. The true Muslim believes in the Last Day of Judgment. This world will come to an end some day, and the dead will rise to stand for their final and fair trial. Everything we do in this world, every intention we have, every move we make, every thought we entertain, and every word we say, all are counted and kept in accurate records. On the Day of Judgment they will be brought up. People with good records will be generously rewarded and warmly welcomed to the Heaven of God, and those with bad records will be punished and cast into Hell. The real nature of Heaven and Hell and the exact description of them are known to God only. There are descriptions of Heaven and Hell in the Our’an and the Traditions of Muhammad but they should not be taken literally. In Heaven, said Muhammad, there are things which no eye has ever seen, no ear has ever heard, and no mind has ever conceived. However, the Muslim believes that there definitely will be compensation and reward for the good deeds, and punishment for the evil ones. That is the Day of Justice and final settlement of all accounts.
If some people think that they are shrewd enough and can get away with their wrong doings, just as they sometimes escape the penalty of the mundane laws, they are wrong, they will not be able to do so on the Day of Judgment. They will be caught right on the spot defenseless, without any lawyer or counsel to stand in their behalf. All their deeds are visible to God and counted by His agents. Also, if some pious people do good deeds to please God and seem to get no appreciation or acknowledgment in this temporary world, they will eventually receive full compensate on and be widely acknowledged on That Day. Absolute Justice will be done to all.
Belief in the Day of Judgment is the final relieving answer to many complicated problems of our world. There are people who commit sins, neglect God and indulge in immoral activities, yet they seem to be "superficially" successful in business and prosperous in life. And there are virtuous and God-minded people, yet they seem to be getting less rewards for their sincere effort, and more suffering in the present world. This is puzzling and incompatible with the Justice of God. If the guilty people can escape the mundane law unharmed and, in addition, be more prosperous, what is, then, left for the virtuous people? What will promote the cause of morality and goodness? There must be some way to reward goodness and arrest evil. If this is not done here on this earth-and we know that it is not done regularly or immediately it has to be done some day, and that is the Day of Judgment. This is not to condone injustice or tolerate mischief in this world. It is not to sedate the deprived or comfort their exploiters Rather, it is to warn the deviants from the Right Path and remind them that the Justice of God shall run its full course sooner or later (see, for example, the previous references).
6. The true Muslim believes in the timeless knowledge of God and in His power to plan and execute His plans. God is not indifferent to this world nor is He neutral to it. His knowledge and power are in action at all times to keep order in His vast domain and maintain full command over His creation. He is Wise and Loving, and whatever He does must have a good motive and meaningful purpose. If this is established in our minds, we should accept with good Faith all that He does, although we may fail to understand it fully, or even think it is bad. We should have strong Faith in Him and accept whatever He does because our knowledge is limited and our thinking is based on individual or personal considerations, whereas His knowledge is limitless and He plans on a universal basis.
This does not in any way make man fatalist or helpless. It simply draws the demarcation line between what is God's concern and what is man's responsibility. Because we are by nature finite and limited, we have a finite and limited degree of power and freedom. We cannot do everything, and He graciously holds us responsible only for the things we do. The things which we cannot do, or things which He Himself does, are not in the realm of our responsibility. He is Just and has given us limited power to match our finite nature and limited responsibility. On the other hand, the timeless knowledge and power of God to execute His plans do not prevent us from making our own plans in our own limited sphere of power. On the contrary, He exhorts us to think, to plan and to make sound choices, but if things do not happen the way we wanted or planned them, we should not lose Faith or surrender ourselves to mental strains and shattering worries. We should try again and again, and if the results are not satisfactory, then we know that we have tried our best and cannot be held responsible for the results, because what is beyond our capacity and responsibility is the affair of God alone. The Muslims call this article of Faith the belief in ‘Qadaa’ and ‘Qaday’, which simply means, in other words, that the Timeless Knowledge of God anticipates events, and that events take place according to the exact Knowledge of God (Qur’an, for example, 18:29; 41:46; 53:33-62; 54:49; 65:3; 76:30-31).
7. The true Muslim believes that God's creation is meaningful and that life has a sublime purpose beyond the physical needs and material activities of man. The purpose of life is to worship God. This does not simply mean that we have to spend our entire lives inconstant seclusion and absolute meditation. To worship God is to know Him; to love Him; to obey His commandments; to enforce His law in every aspect of life; to serve .His cause by doing the right and shunning the evil; and to be just to Him, to ourselves, and to our fellow human being and To worship God is to "live" life not to run away from it. In brief, to worship God is to imbue ourselves with His Supreme Attributes. This is by no means a simple statement, nor is it an oversimplification of the matter. It is most comprehensive and conclusive. So if life has a purpose and if man is created to serve that purpose, then he cannot escape the responsibility. He cannot deny His existence or ignore the vital role he has to play. When God charges him with any responsibility, He provides him with all the required assistance. He endows him with intelligence and power to choose his course of conduct. Man, thus, is strongly commended by God to exert his utmost to fully serve the purpose of his existence. Should he fail to do that, or misuse his life or neglect- his duties, he shall be responsible to God for his wrong deeds (see 21:17-18; 51:56-58, 75:37).
8. The true Muslim believes that man enjoys an especially high ranking status in the hierarchy of all the known creatures. He occupies this distinguished position because He alone is gifted with rational faculties and spiritual aspirations as well as powers of action. But the more his rank excels, the more his responsibility grows. He occupies the position of God's viceroy on earth. The person who is appointed by God to be His active agent, must necessarily have some power and authority, and be, at least potentially, endowed with honor and integrity. And this is the status of man in Islam; not a condemned race from birth to death, but a dignified being potentially capable of good and noble achievements. The fact that God chose His messengers from the human race shows that man is trustworthy and capable, and that he can acquire immense treasures of goodness (2:30-34; 6:165; 7:1 1; 17:70-72, 90-95).
9. The true Muslim believes that every person is born "Muslim". This means that the very course of birth takes place in accordance with the Will of God, in realization of His plans and in submission to His Commands. It also means that every person is endowed with spiritual potentialities and intellectual inclinations that can make him a good Muslim, if he has the right access to Islam and is left to develop his innate nature. Many people can readily accept Islam if it is properly presented to them because it is the Divine formula for those who want to satisfy their moral and spiritual needs as well is their natural aspirations, those who want to lead a constructive and sound life, whether personal or social, national or international. This is so because Islam is the universal religion of God, the Maker of human nature, Who knows what is best for human nature (30:30; 64:1-3; 82:6-8).
10. The true Muslim believes that every person is born free from sin and all claims to inherited virtue. He is like a blank book. When the person reaches the age of maturity he becomes accountable for his deeds and intentions, if his development is normal and if he is sane. Man is not only free from sin until he commits sin, but he is also free to do things according to his plans on his own responsibility. This dual freedom: freedom from sin and freedom to do effective things, clears the Muslim's conscience from the heavy pressure of Inherited Sin. It relieves his soul and mind from the unnecessary strains of the Doctrine of Original Sin.
This Islamic concept of freedom is based upon the principle of God’s justice and the individual's direct responsibility to God. Each person must beat his own burden and be responsible for his own actions, because no one can expiate for another’s sin. Thus, a Muslim believes that if Adam had committed the First Sin, it was his own responsibility to expiate for that sin. To assume that God was unable to forgive Adam and had to make somebody else expiate for his sin, or to assume that Adam did not pray for pardon or prayed for it but it was not granted, would be extremely unlikely and contrary to God’s mercy and justice as well as to His attribute of forgiveness and power to forgive. To assume the said hypothesis, would be an audacious defiance of common sense and flagrant violation of the very concept of God (see the references in article nine above; Qur’an, 41:46; 45:15; 53:31-42; 74:38; the Concept of Sin below):
On this rational basis as well as on the authority of the Qur’an, the Muslim believes that Adam realized what he had committed and prayed to God for pardon, as any other sensible sinner would. It is also on the same basis, the Muslim believes, that God, the Forgiving and Merciful, granted Adam pardon (2:35-37; 20:117-122). Hence, the Muslim cannot possibly accept the doctrine that Adam with the whole human race had been condemned and unforgiven until Jesus came to expiate for their sins. Consequently, the Muslim cannot entertain the dramatic story of Jesus' death on the cross just to do away with all human sins once and for all.
Here the reader must be cautioned against any wrong conclusions. The Muslim does not believe in the crucifixion of Jesus by his enemies because the basis of this doctrine of crucifixion is contrary to Divine mercy and justice as much as it is to human logic and dignity. Such a disbelief in the doctrine does not in any way lessen the Muslim’s reverence for Jesus, or degrade the high status of Jesus in Islam or even shake the Muslim's belief in Jesus as a distinguished prophet of God. On the contrary, by rejecting this doctrine the Muslim accepts Jesus but only with more esteem and higher respect, and looks upon his original message as an essential part of Islam. So let it be stated, again, that to be a Muslim a person must accept and. respect all the prophets of God without any discrimination. The general status of Jesus in Islam will be further discussed in a later chapter.
11. The true Muslim believes that man must work out his salvation through the guidance of God. This means that in order to attain salvation a person must combine Faith and action, belief and practice. Faith without action is as insufficient as action without Faith. In other words, no one can attain salvation until his Faith in God becomes dynamic in his life and his beliefs are translated into reality. This is in complete harmony with the other Islamic articles of Faith. It shows that God does not accept lip service, and that no true believer can be indifferent as far as the practical requirements of Faith are concerned. It also shows that no one can act on behalf of another or intercede between him and God (see, for example, the Qur’an, 10:9-10; 18:30; 103:1-3).
12. The true Muslim believes that God does not hold any person responsible until He has shown him the Right Way. This is why God has sent many messengers and revelations, and has made it clear that there would be no punishment before giving guidance and sounding the alarm. So, a person who has never come across any Divine revelations or messenger, or a person who is insane is not held responsible to God for failing to obey the Divine instructions. Such a person will be responsible only for not doing what his sound common sense tells him to do. But the person who knowingly and intentionally violates the Law of God or deviates from His Right Path will be punished for his wrong deeds (4:165; 5: 16 & 21; 17: 15).
This point is very important for every Muslim. There are many people in the world who have not heard of Islam and have no way of knowing about it. Such people may be honest and may become good Muslims, if they find their way to Islam. If they do not know and have no way of knowing, they will not be responsible for failing to be Muslims. Instead, the Muslim who can present Islam to such people will be the ones responsible for failing to invite them to Islam and show them what Islam is. This calls upon every Muslim throughout the globe not only to preach Islam in words but also -and more importantly-to live it in full (see, for example, the Qur’an, 3: 104;16:125).
13. The true Muslim believes that in human nature, which God created, there is more good than evil, and the probability successful reform is greater than the probability of hopeless failure. This belief is derived from the fact that God has tasked man with certain assignments and sent messengers with revelations for his guidance. If man were by nature a hopeless case impossible to reform, how could God with His absolute wisdom assign him responsibilities and invite him to do or shun certain things? How could God do that, if it were all in vain? The fact that God cares for man and takes a stand in his interest proves that man is neither helpless nor hopeless, but is more appreciative of and inclined to good than otherwise. Surely with sound Faith in God and due confidence in man miracles can be worked out, even in our own times. To understand this properly, one has to carefully study the relevant Passages in the Qur’an and reflect on their meanings.
14. The true Muslim believes that Faith is not complete when it is followed blindly or accepted unquestioningly unless the believer is reasonably satisfied. If Faith is to inspire action, and if Faith and action are to lead to salvation, then Faith must be founded on unshakable convictions without any deception or compulsion. In other words, the person who calls himself a Muslim because of his family traditions, or accepts Islam under coercion or blind imitation is not a complete Muslim in the sight of God. A Muslim must build his Faith on well-grounded convictions beyond any reasonable doubt and above uncertainty. If he is not certain about his Faith, he is invited by God to search in the open book of Nature, to use his reasoning powers, and to reflect on the teachings of the Qur’an. He must search for the indisputable truth until he finds it, and he will certainly find it, if he is capable and serious enough (see, for example, the Qur’an, 2:170; 43:22-24).
This is why Islam demands sound convictions and opposes blind imitation. Every person who is duly qualified as a genuine earnest thinker is enjoined by Islam to employ his faculties he fullest extent. But if a person is unqualified or uncertain of himself, he should pursue his thinking only as far as limits can take him. It will be quite in order for such a person to rely only on the authentic sources of religion, which are sufficient in themselves, without applying to them any critical questioning of which he is incapable. The point is that no one call himself a true Muslim unless his Faith is based on strong convictions and his mind is clear from doubts. Because Islam is complete only when it is based on strong convictions freedom of choice, it cannot be forced upon anybody, for will not accept this forced faith. Nor will He consider it a true Islam if it does not develop from within or originate from free and sound convictions. And because Islam insures freedom of belief many non-Muslim groups lived and still live in the Muslim countries enjoying full freedom of belief and conscience. The Muslims take this attitude because Islam forbids compulsion in religion. It is the light which must radiate from within, because freedom of choice is the cornerstone of responsibility. This does not exempt the parents from responsibility for their children. Nor does it condone their being indifferent to the spiritual welfare of their dependents. In fact, they must do everything. Possible to help them to build a strong inspiring faith.
To establish Faith on sound grounds, there are various parallel avenues. There is the Spiritual approach which is based mainly on the Qur’an and the Traditions of Muhammad. There is also the rational approach which eventually leads to Faith in the Supreme Being. This is not to say that the Spiritual approach lacks sound rationality. Nor is the rational approach deprived of inspiring spirituality. Both approaches, in fact, complement one another and may well become in a state of lively interaction. Now if a person is sufficiently equipped with sound rational qualities, he may resort to the rational approach or to the Spiritual approach or to both, and may be confident that his conclusion will be right. But if a person is incapable of profound inquiry or is uncertain of his reasoning powers, he may confine himself to the Spiritual approach and-be contented with the knowledge he can derive from the authentic sources of religion. The point is that whether one uses the Spiritual approach or the rational technique or both, one will in the end come to Faith in God. All these avenues are equally important and accepted by Islam, and when property channeled, lead to the same end, namely Faith in the Supreme Being (Qur’an, 5:16 17; 12:109; 18:30; 56:80).
15. The true Muslim believes that the Qur’an is the word of God revealed to Muhammad through the agency of the Angel Gabriel. The Qur’an was revealed from God piece by piece on various occasions to answer certain questions, solve certain problems settle certain disputes, and to be man’s best guide to the truth of God and eternal happiness. Every letter in the Qur’an is the word of God, and every sound in it is the true echo of God’s voice. The Qur’an is the First and most authentic Source of Islam. It was revealed in Arabic. It is still and will remain in its original and complete Arabic version, because God has made it His concern to preserve the Qur’an, to make it always the best guide for man, and to safeguard it against corruption (cf. 4:82; 15:9; 17:9; 41:41-44; 42:7, 52-53).
In testimony to God's conservation, the Qur’an is the only Scripture in human history that has been preserved in complete and original version without the slightest change in style or even punctuation’s. The history of recording the Qur’an, compiling its chapters and conserving its text is beyond any doubt not only in the minds of the Muslims but also in the minds of honest and serious scholars. This is a historical fact which no scholar from any faith who respects his knowledge and integrity has ever questioned. As a matter of fact, it is Muhammads’ standing miracle that if all mankind were to work together they could not produce the like of one Qur’anic chapter (2:22-24; 11:13-14; 17:88-89).
16. The true Muslim believes in a clear distinction between the Qur’an and the Traditions of Muhammad. The Qur’an is the word of God whereas the Traditions of Muhammad are the practical interpretations of the Qur’an. The role of Muhammad was to convey the Qur’an as he received it, to interpret it, and to practice it fully. His interpretations and practices produced what is known as the Traditions of Muhammad. They are considered the Second Source of Islam and must be in complete harmony with the First Source, namely the Qur’an, which is the Standard and the Criterion. If there be any contradiction or inconsistency between any of the Traditions and the Qur’an, the Muslim adheres to the Qur’an alone and regards everything, else as open to question because no genuine Tradition of Muhammad can ever disagree with the Qur’an or be opposed to it.
In this discussion of the cardinal articles of Faith in Islam, we have deliberately differed from the Traditional view on the subject. We did not confine them to five or six articles. Instead, we tried to include as many Principles as was possible. But it should be pointed out here that all the articles of Faith mentioned above are based upon and derived from the teachings of the Qur’an and the Traditions of Muhammad. More verses from the Qur’an and many parts of the Traditions could have been quoted to show the foundation of these articles of Faith. This was not done because of the limitations of space. However, the Qur’an and the Traditions of Muhammad are available references for any detailed study.
We have also kept to a minimum the use of Western terminology and technical language like predestination, fatalism, free will, and so on. This was done deliberately because we wanted to avoid confusion and technicalities. Most of the technical terms used in religion among non-Arabic speaking people lead to misunderstanding, when applied to Islam, and give wrong impressions. It would be impossible to serve the purpose of this work if foreign terms were adopted and applied to Islam. If we were to use the alien religious terminology here, we would have to add many qualifications and comments to clarify the picture of Islam. This also would have required much more space which we could not possibly afford under the circumstances. So, we tried to explain things in ordinary simple language, and this same course will be followed in the remainder of the book.
Taken from: Islam in Focus by Abdul Ati