Islam is a very simple religion to understand and practice; it is the religion of nature, or fitrah; or sound constitution that every human was set on. It is the religion that all the Prophets and Messengers of God had preached and taught to people of different nations. Their message was one, “Worship none but God”. The Qur’an teaches that all the Prophets and Messengers were Muslims and transmitted this Divine Message, which calls people to submit and commit themselves to their Creator, Sustainer, and Lord. This God is called by Muslims and Arab Christians Allah, and by the Jews and Christians Elohim or Jehovah. He is the same God of Adam, Noah, Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad (Peace be upon all of them and all the other Prophets). They were all sent by God to teach people how to get to know about Him and to improve their relationship with Him and to show them how to live according to His will. They set the example for all human beings and they were perfect models and guides to be followed and obeyed.
Islam is the natural state accepted by human instinct. It is described as a straight path with no deviation. By nature, humans recognize -and do not like- deviation even if they fall in it. Humans are not evil by nature; they are good, but because of the miss-guidance of Satan they do evil deeds.
The message of Islam is the message of the Qur’an, the Holy Book revealed to Muhammad (S) on the 7th century. The central story of this message is to answer three fundamental and universal questions that all humans ask themselves and others instinctively during their life:
1-Where do we come from? This question tries to find out the origin and what we are really? Are we only physical bodies – matter – or is there something more important than that? Are we souls and bodies? Who is our maker? Were we created or did we evolve from something else? What is life and what is death?
2- Why are we here? Is there a purpose for this life? Why do we have to come out of death and become alive then grow then die again? Why do we have to face problems, sorrows, calamities, ups and downs and feel pain, joy, comfort? If we were created then where is Our Creator and how is He helping us? What is our relationship with God? Why do we have to worship God? Why some have and some don’t? Why are there evil things in the world? Is God Just and Merciful?
3- Where are we heading to after this life?Is there another life after death? Is the life of Hereafter better or worse than this one? Why do we have to die? Will there be peace and justice there? Are we responsible for our actions in this world? Are the good ones and the bad ones alike in the Hereafter? What should we do to earn happiness both in this life and Hereafter?
There is an absolute truth that Islam teaches. It is embedded in the following statement:
” إِنَّا لِلَّهِ وَ إِنَّا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعُونَ”
“To Allah we belong and to Him we return!”
This statement answers in a concise manner the above universal questions. It is revealing the consciousness and awareness of the Maker (swt). In the Qur’an we read,
“ And certainly, We shall test you with something of fear, hunger, loss of wealth, lives and fruits, but give glad tidings to the patient ones who, when afflicted with calamity, say “Truly! To Allah we belong and truly, to Him we shall return.” They are those on whom are blessed and those who receive His Mercy, and it is they who are the guided ones.” (2:155-57)
In almost every culture, the concept of righteousness and piety is very often described as the straight way, path, or road. Allah (swt) says,
(فَأَقِمْ وَجْهَكَ لِلدِّينِ حَنِيفًا فِطْرَةَ اللَّهِ الَّتِي فَطَرَ النَّاسَ عَلَيْهَا لَا تَبْدِيلَ لِخَلْقِ اللَّهِ ذَلِكَ الدِّينُ الْقَيِّمُ وَلَكِنَّ أَكْثَرَ النَّاسِ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ)(الروم:30)
“So set your face truly to the religion being upright. The nature in which Allah has made mankind: There is no change in the work wrought by Allah: that is the true religion, but most among mankind do not know” (30:30)
Those, in pre-Islamic times, who did not follow the “majority”, which fell in deviation and distortion of the divine teachings – before the time of the prophet-hood of Muhammad (S) – were called “Hanifs” meaning those who are pure and genuine in their belief. They were those who did not like to change God’s will by their will. Abraham (P.b.u.h) was one of those “Hanifs”. Allah (swt) called Abraham (P.b.u.h) and Muhammad (P.b.u.h.) “hanif” in many places in the Qur’an. Allah always tells to Muhammad (P.b.u.h) and to us to stick to the religion of Abraham (P.b.u.h). For instance we read in one ayah (or verse),
(قُلْ إِنَّنِي هَدَانِي رَبِّي إِلَى صِرَاطٍ مُسْتَقِيمٍ دِينًا قِيَمًا مِلَّةَ إِبْرَاهِيمَ حَنِيفًا وَمَا كَانَ مِنَ الْمُشْرِكِينَ) (الأنعام:161)
“Say (O Muhammad): verily, my Lord has guided me to a way that is straight, a religion of right, the path followed by Abraham the true in faith, and he certainly did not join gods with Allah” (6:161)
Every practicing Muslim repeats at least seventeen times a day this du’aa, or supplication, when praying,
(اهْدِنَا الصِّرَاطَ الْمُسْتَقِيمَ) (الفاتحة:6)
“ Show us –O Allah- the straight path” (1:6)
In fact, the central story of Islam is to stick to the straight path that Allah drew for people and not to deviate as Satan, the enemy of God, promised to do when he said to Allah,
(قَالَ فَبِمَا أَغْوَيْتَنِي لَأَقْعُدَنَّ لَهُمْ صِرَاطَكَ الْمُسْتَقِيمَ ثُمَّ لَآتِيَنَّهُمْ مِنْ بَيْنِ أَيْدِيهِمْ وَمِنْ خَلْفِهِمْ وَعَنْ أَيْمَانِهِمْ وَعَنْ شَمَائِلِهِمْ وَلَا تَجِدُ أَكْثَرَهُمْ شَاكِرِينَ) (الأعراف:17-16)
“Because you have thrown me out, I will lie in and wait for them on your straight path, then I will assault them from before them and behind them, from their right and their left. You will not find in most of them gratitude for your mercies” (7:16-7)
Once a man came to the Messenger of Allah (S) and said, “O Messenger of Allah, tell me something about Islam, which I can ask of no one but you”. He (S) said:
“يا رَسول الله، قُلْ لي في الإِسْلامِ قَولاً لا أَسْأَلُ عنهُ أَحَداً غَيْرَكَ. قال: “قُلْ: آمَنْتُ بِاللهِ، ثُمّ اسْتَقِمْ”. رواه مسلم
“Say: I believe in Allah and thereafter be upright” Muslim*