UniqueFeatures of Islam
Developed and Written by Abu Yusuf Daniel Masters, Abu Maryam Isma'ilKaka and Abu Iman Robert Squires
Uniqueness of the NameThe name for the religion of Islam is much more than just a name becauseit expresses a deep spiritual meaning as well as an overall outlook onlife and concept of worship. The word "Islam" is an Arabic wordwhich means "complete submission to the will of Almighty God". Otherreligions are named after their founders, such as Christianity and Buddhism;after a tribe or ethnic group, such as Judaism; or after a specific geographicalregion, such as Hinduism. Islam, however, is unique because its name representsits outlook on life and reflects its universal nature. Additionally, thename "Islam" was not thought up by its followers or applied by otherpeople, as is the case with the names of other religions, but was revealedby Almighty God. This name expressed nothing new, because submission tothe will of God, i.e. "Islam", has always been the true religionof God. Due to this fact, and since the teachings of Islam are straightforward,profound and logical, Islam is the "Natural Religion" of all humanbeings. The name of no other religion carries any significant message,or conveys the true sense of its outlook on life, as does the name "Islam".
Universality & Continuity of the MessageThe command to worship none other than Almighty God and to submit to Hiswill has been revealed by God to all of His prophets throughout mankind'slong history. The pure essence of the beliefs and teachings that were revealedby God to the Prophet Muhammad are the same as God taught to Abraham, whowas one of the earliest and greatest prophets. So actually, Muhammad isthe final prophet of Islam -- not the first. Additionally, Islam is thetrue "religion of Abraham", because Abraham completely submittedhimself to the revealed will of Almighty God. Islam is truly unique amongthe religions of the world because it is addressed to all of mankind. Thescripture of Islam, called the Qur'an, repeatedly addresses all human beingsby saying: "O mankind!" Additionally, in the Qur'an, Almighty Godis never addressed as the God of a particular people or nation. From thevery beginning of the mission of Prophet Muhammad, his followers came froma wide spectrum of individuals -- there was Bilal, the African slave; Suhaib,the Byzantine Roman; Ibn Sailam, the Jewish Rabbi; and Salman, the Persian.Since religious truth is eternal and unchanging, and mankind is one universalbrotherhood, God's revelations to man have always been consistent and universal.Submission to the will of God, and worshipping Him alone without intermediaries,has always been the only religion acceptable to Almighty God.
A Straightforward Concept of GodUnique among the religions of the world, the concept of God in Islam iscompletely based upon Divine Revelation. Not only is the concept of Godin Islam characterized by purity and clarity, but it is also not marredby myths, superstitions or man-made philosophical ideas. In the pure andstraightforward teachings of Islam, Almighty God has clearly revealed Hisunique nature and qualities to man in the way which He wants them to beunderstood. While other religions have either mixed man-made doctrineswith divine revelation, or ignored the divine revelation almost completely,Islam's concept of God is based totally on what God has said about Himself.Islam's concept of God can be called pure and straightforward because thereis a clear distinction made between the Creator and the created. As such,there is no ambiguity in divinity -- it is made clear that there is nothingdivine or worthy of being worshipped except for Almighty God. In Islam,calling someone other than Almighty God "Lord" or "Savior"is completely prohibited because such terms compromise God's uniquenessand because all of our trust should be put in Almighty God -- who is theMost Merciful and the Controller of all affairs. The only Creator -- AlmightyGod -- is Unique, Eternal and Transcendent above His Creation. Everythingelse besides Almighty God -- meaning anything that you can see or evenimagine -- is part of God's creation, and thus not worthy of worship. AlmightyGod, as He has described Himself in the Qur'an, is Absolutely One and "theMost Merciful of those who show mercy". Even though God is transcendentabove His creation, due to His infinite Mercy He is constantly involvedwith the affairs of His creatures. Even though God is infinite, uniqueand incomprehensible, in the Holy Qur'an He has revealed Himself in a waysuitable to the finite and limited human mind. By reaching out to man andsending revelations through all of His prophets, God has allowed Himselfto be known through His unique and most-beautiful attributes. Because theconcept of God in Islam was sent by God specifically for mankind, it appealsto the innate nature of the human being. Due to this fact, Islam does notask man to accept irrational, ludicrous or man-made doctrines about God.The Islamic concept of God strikes a unique balance between various religionsan because is avoids reducing God to just being some remote and impersonal"FirstCause" or "Higher Power", while on the other hand it also teachesthat a direct and personal relationship with God can be maintained withoutbelieving God to be like His creation or incarnate in it.
Direct Relationship with GodIn other religions, even the ones which claim belief in "One God",people often approach God through an intermediary, such as a saint, anangel, the Virgin Mary or Jesus. However, it is only in Islam that a personis required only to pray to God. Some people also nullify a trulyproper and direct relationship with Almighty God by mistakenly believingthat they have a special relationship with Him simply because they aremembers of a certain ethnic group, tribe or "chosen people". Additionally,in Islam there are no priests or clergy -- each worshipper, man or woman,has a direct relationship with their Merciful Creator -- Almighty God.Since God is the Owner and Sustainer of everything, as well as the onlyone who can provide true and complete forgiveness, it is completely futileto try to approach Him through anyone else. According to the teachingsof Islam, praying to or worshipping anything or anyone besides AlmightyGod is the greatest sin a person can commit. Even though other religionsbelieve in God, they nullify this belief by making the grave mistake ofnot always approaching Him directly. Some religions even go so far as tosay that human beings, due to their sinfulness, cannot approach God withoutan intermediary -- which mistakenly implies that God is unable or unwillingto forgive human-beings directly. Islam teaches that Almighty God has thepower to do all things and that no one should ever despair of His mercy.According to the teachings of Islam, God is always ready to bestow Hisabundant Grace and Mercy on anyone who turns to Him in repentance. Evenpeople who used to commit the worst sin of worshipping others besides Godwill be forgiven if they realize what they are doing is wrong and repent.Having a direct relationship with God, and understanding that He alonedeserves worship and praise, goes hand-in-hand with the Islamic conceptof God. This is because once a proper concept of God is established inthe heart and mind, submission to God and complete reliance on Him alonecomes naturally.
Unique Concept of WorshipAccording to the teachings of Islam, everything that a human being doeswith the pure intention of pleasing God is an act of worship. Due to this,Islam has an all encompassing concept of worship unlike any other religion.Almighty God has revealed in the Holy Qur'an that His purpose for creatinghuman beings was to worship Him and Him alone. Like other religions, Islamhas required acts of worship, however worship in Islam is not limited torituals. Since Islam is an all-encompassing religion with guidance forall aspects of life. almost every action in a Muslim's life becomes anact of worship if it is done to build a better relationship with God. Sinceman's purpose in life is to worship and submit to God, worship in Islamhas been defined by God Himself in an all-encompassing way. This is specialuniqueness can also be seen in the fact that most other religions onlyrequire formal worship once per week, while Islam requires it five timesa day. Even more importantly, all rites of formal worship in Islam arebased on Divine revelation, while the modes of worship in other religionsare a mixture of Divine revelation, man-made traditions, opinions of clergymenand religious councils. Additionally, in Islam acts of worship such asprayer and fasting have been described by God and His Prophet in such detailthat it gives human beings a feeling of assurance that the way they areworshipping God is pleasing to Him.
Based on Authentic SourcesThe preservation of the scripture of Islam -- the Holy Qur'an -- is uniqueamong world religions. No other religion has a scripture which is bothas old and as well-preserved as the one possessed by Muslims today. Evenscholars who are hostile to Islam admit that the Qur'an that exists todayis exactly the same as the one that existed in the time of the ProphetMuhammad. Even though many people mistakenly assume that the Qu'ran (alsospelled Koran) was written by Muhammad, it is actually the literalWord of God. Not only was Muhammad known by his people to be unable toread and write, but the Holy Qur'an clearly and repeatedly exclaims thatit is from Almighty God - the Lord of the Universe. Unlike other religions,the followers of Islam have always considered their scripture to be theWord of God in toto. The scriptures of other religions are madeup of writings that were not considered to be scripture until many yearsafter they were written - the letters of (St.) Paul are a good exampleof this. Additionally, the Holy Qur'an has always been in the possessionof the common believer, and as such was circulated very widely. In thisway, Muslims know that their scripture is authentic, unlike other so-called"scriptures"which are still claimed to be scripture even though their authors are unknown.The Qur'an also remained pure and authentic because unlike other scriptures,it was written down and memorized in the lifetime of the prophet that itwas revealed to. Also, its wide circulation prevented scholars, clergyand religious councils from deciding what should and should not be partof the scripture -- since it was already in the hands of the people inits complete form. It has always amazed people to find out that the entireQur'an was not only memorized word-for-word by hundreds of the companionsof Prophet Muhammad, but that it has been memorized verbatim by thousandsupon thousands of people until this very day in its original language ofArabic. It was only natural for Almighty God to preserve the scripturerevealed to Prophet Muhammad, because he was the last Prophet and FinalMessenger of God. In short, the Qu'ran is a unique scripture that has comedown to us in its original form and unique language. Due to its pristineteachings and unquestionable authenticity, the Qur'an removes the needfor man to wonder for himself how to worship and please God, since GodHimself has clearly described these things.
An Eternal MessageIslam has just as much meaning and is just as applicable to people livingin today's "modern world" as it did for people living 1400 yearsago. Since the message of Islam is eternally true it is also very robust,and as such still has a strong spiritual impact on millions of people livingin the world today. The Pure Monotheism of Islam, as well as its universalbrotherhood, strong morals and positive outlook on life, is still veryrelevant and meaningful to modern man. The continued relevance and applicabilityto both the spiritual and worldly life of human beings from all aroundthe word is just one of the many proofs of the Divine origin of the messageof Islam. Unlike the teachings of other religions, the teachings of Islamdon't need to be updated or watered-down in order to appeal to a humanbeing living in today's troubled world. Since the teachings of Islam areboth spiritually true and eternally practical, they can be lived and implementedin the daily life of a person in order to make their life more fulfilling.In short, unique among world religions, Islam has not had to sacrificeits integrity in order to be both applicable to "modern life" andto have enough spiritual impact to change people's lives.
A Complete Way of LifeIslam not just a "religion" in the traditional sense, because itis not just confined to acts of worship, morality and other aspects ofpersonal piety. The teachings of Islam, even though they do cover religiousrituals and morality, also encompass all other aspects of life. The ProphetMuhammad's mission encompassed not only spiritual and religious teachings,but also included guidance for such things as social reform, economics,politics, warfare and family life. Thus due to the diversity and successof Muhammad's mission, Muslims have clear guidance from God and His FinalProphet on all aspects of life. This goes hand-in-hand with the Islamicbelief that Almighty God does not leave human beings without guidance intheir daily lives -- thus His guidance is all-encompassing. Due to God'swisdom, and because Islam is the final revealed religion, the guidancethat God has sent is applicable for all times and for all places. Thiscan be seen in the fact that the guidance for some aspects of life is muchmore broad and flexible than others. Additionally, in the Qur'an, AlmightyGod has revealed to mankind that the purpose of our creation is to worshipand remember God in all aspects of our life, and to follow His guidancein everything that we do. Thus Islam does not accept a secular view ofgovernment and society, but only one based on the Law of God. Nor doesIslam leave it to human beings to decide what is right and wrong, goodand bad, moral and immoral based on their whims, desires or man-made idea.In short, Islam does not teach people to "Render unto Caesar the thingswhich are Caesar's" because, according to Islam, everything belongsto God. Like all of its other teachings, Islam's view of other religionsis balanced, realistic and moderate. Islam doesn't view other religionsas being either completely true nor completely false, but believes thatall true religions were at one time divinely revealed. However, over timethe teachings of the various religions, due to a variety of reasons, havebecome distorted and mixed with made-man ideas. But nonetheless, Muslimsare required to be tolerant of other revealed religions since the Qur'anclearly says: "Let there be no compulsion in religion".
ModerationThe teachings of Islam, since they are divinely revealed, are balancedin all of their aspects. Even though Islam is an all-encompassing way oflife, it preaches moderation and rejects extremism. On the one hand, Islamdoes not preach complete rejection of all worldly pleasures in view ofthe life hereafter; and on the other hand it does not teach that earthlylife is just for pleasure and enjoyment. In Islam, wealth and worldly pleasurescan be partaken of in this life as long as they are enjoyed in a way thatis in obedience to God. However, Muslims are taught to keep in mind thatthe life hereafter is their ultimate goal, and therefore one should becharitable and not become too attached to worldly things. By maintaininga balance between man's spiritual and physical needs, the teachings ofIslam are best suited for the needs of human beings in particular and societyin general. Since Islam is based on clear guidance from God, it rejectsall man-made religious excesses, such as certain forms of monasticism wherepeople try to completely "reject the world" and other forms of extremeself-denial. Islam teaches that human beings have responsibilities at alllevels -- to other individuals, to their families and to society as a whole.By maintaining a unique balance between the physical and spiritual, andbetween the individual and society, Islam maintains a balance in all directions.
A Positive OutlookMost people will agree that having a strong self-esteem and a positiveoutlook on life is conducive to achieving happiness and success. Uniqueamong the religions of the world, Islam's view of both the nature of thehuman being and the purpose of life are extremely positive. Islam's viewof the nature of the human being is balanced. On the one hand they arenot viewed as being inherently evil, but on the other they are not consideredto be perfect - nor are they expected to be so. According to the teachingsof Islam, every human being, man or woman, is born with a clean slate andis equally capable of both good and evil. Since God has bestowed limitedfree-will on human beings, they will ultimately be held responsible fortheir actions. Believing that "salvation" is based on "faithalone" reduces human life to a near meaningless and fatalistic existence.The teachings of Islam make it clear that human beings, since their natureis basically good, are capable of positive action in this life, and thatthe best way to achieve a balanced, happy and fulfilled life is completesubmission to Almighty God. Certainly, no person can completely submitto God by simply wanting to do so, but by first realizing that none hasa right to be worshipped and obeyed except for Almighty God, and then makinga reasonable effort to follow God's commands, all human beings can fulfilltheir reason for existence - which is to worship God alone. . The HolyQur'an tells us that "man was created weak" and thus falls intosin often. On the other hand, man is not to think of himself as so eviland corrupt so as to despair of God's mercy. As a recourse to this, andsince Islam condemns self-righteousness, a pious life can only be livedby trusting in God -- since there is no power or strength except throughGod. As such, spiritual felicity is achieved by a combination of both faithand action. As such, the most righteous person is not one who thinks thatrepentance is unnecessary, but the one who admits and realizes his mistakes- and then repents. According to the word of Almighty God as revealed inthe Holy Qur'an, mankind is God's trustee on earth; and as such the lifeof this world is a test, not a punishment. Even before God created thefirst man, He knew that he would sin, however God created man in spiteof this. According to the Qur'an, God has bestowed on human beings a greattrust and given them dignity. It is only by worshipping Almighty God, directlyand without intermediaries, that a human being can fulfull their true innatenature and purpose of existence. In short, Islam is realistic. It portrayshuman beings just as they are and the life of the world just as it is.Since the outlook of Islam is divinely revealed is not based on wishfulor negative thinking, but simply on reality. Islam also has a positiveview of mankind in general, since it teaches that the best person in thesight of God is the one who is most God-conscious. In this way the truthof Islam and the universality of God's message transcends all of the barriersof race, nationality, ethnic group and economic status.