Monday, 20 June 2011

Unique Features of Islam

Unique Features of Islam

By Abu Yusuf Daniel Masters, Abu Maryam Isma'il Kaka and Abu Iman
Robert Squires.

© Muslim Answers

Uniqueness of the Name

The name for the religion of Islam is much more than just a name
because it expresses a deep spiritual meaning as well as an overall
outlook on life and concept of worship. The word "Islam"

is an Arabic word which means "complete submission to the will
of Almighty God". Other religions are named after their founders,
such as Christianity and Buddhism; after a tribe or ethnic group,
such as Judaism; or after a specific geographical region, such as
Hinduism. Islam, however, is unique because its name represents
its outlook on life and reflects its universal nature. Additionally,
the name "Islam" was not thought up by its followers or
applied by other people, as is the case with the names of other
religions, but was revealed by Almighty God. This name expressed
nothing new, because submission to the will of God, i.e. "Islam",
has always been the true religion of God. Due to this fact, and
since the teachings of Islam are straightforward, profound and logical,
Islam is the "Natural Religion" of all human beings. 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 Message

The command to worship none other than Almighty God and to submit
to His will has been revealed by God to all of His prophets throughout
mankind's long history. The pure essence of the beliefs and teachings
that were revealed by God to the Prophet Muhammad are the same as
God taught to Abraham, who was one of the earliest and greatest
prophets. So actually, Muhammad is the final prophet of Islam --
not the first. Additionally, Islam is the true "religion of
Abraham", because Abraham completely submitted himself to the
revealed will of Almighty God. Islam is truly unique among the religions
of the world because it is addressed to all of mankind. The scripture
of Islam, called the Qur'an, repeatedly addresses all human beings
by saying: "O mankind!" Additionally, in the Qur'an, Almighty
God is never addressed as the God of a particular people or nation.
From the very beginning of the mission of Prophet Muhammad, his
followers came from a 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 universal brotherhood,
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 God

Unique among the religions of the world, the concept of God in
Islam is completely based upon Divine Revelation. Not only is the
concept of God in Islam characterized by purity and clarity, but
it is also not marred by myths, superstitions or man-made philosophical
ideas. In the pure and straightforward teachings of Islam, Almighty
God has clearly revealed His unique nature and qualities to man
in the way which He wants them to be understood. While other religions
have either mixed man-made doctrines with 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 there
is 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 nothing divine 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 uniqueness and because all of
our trust should be put in Almighty God -- who is the Most Merciful
and the Controller of all affairs.

The only Creator -- Almighty God -- is Unique, Eternal and Transcendent
above His Creation. Everything else besides Almighty God -- meaning
anything that you can see or even imagine -- is part of God's creation,
and thus not worthy of worship. Almighty God, as He has described
Himself in the Qur'an, is Absolutely One and "the Most Merciful
of those who show mercy". Even though God is transcendent above
His creation, due to His infinite Mercy He is constantly involved
with the affairs of His creatures. Even though God is infinite,
unique and incomprehensible, in the Holy Qur'an He has revealed
Himself in a way suitable to the finite and

limited human mind. By reaching out to man and sending revelations
through all of His prophets, God has allowed Himself to be known
through His unique and most-beautiful attributes. Because the concept
of God in Islam was sent by God specifically for mankind, it appeals
to the innate nature of the human being. Due to this fact, Islam
does not ask man to accept irrational, ludicrous or man-made doctrines
about God. The Islamic concept of God strikes a unique balance between
various religions an because is avoids reducing God to just being
some remote and impersonal "First Cause" or "Higher
Power", while on the other hand it also teaches that a direct
and personal relationship with God can be maintained without believing
God to be like His creation or incarnate in it.

Direct Relationship with God

In other religions, even the ones which claim belief in "One
God", people often approach God through an intermediary, such
as a saint, an angel, the Virgin Mary or Jesus. However, it is only
in Islam that a person is required only to pray to God. Some people
also nullify a truly proper and direct relationship with Almighty
God by mistakenly believing that they have a special relationship
with Him simply because they are members 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
only one who can provide true and complete forgiveness, it is completely
futile to try to approach Him through anyone else. According to
the teachings of Islam, praying to or worshipping anything or anyone
besides Almighty God is the greatest sin a person can commit. Even
though other religions believe in God, they nullify this belief
by making the grave mistake of not always approaching Him directly.
Some religions even go so far as to say that human beings, due to
their sinfulness, cannot approach God without an intermediary --
which mistakenly implies that God is unable or unwilling to forgive
human-beings directly. Islam teaches that Almighty God has the power
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
His abundant Grace and Mercy on anyone who turns to Him in repentance.
Even people who used to commit the worst sin of worshipping others
besides God will be forgiven if they realize what they are doing
is wrong and repent. Having a direct relationship with God, and
understanding that He alone deserves worship and praise, goes hand-in-hand
with the Islamic concept of God. This is because once a proper concept
of God is established in the heart and mind, submission to God and
complete reliance on Him alone comes naturally.

Unique Concept of Worship

According to the teachings of Islam, everything that a human being
does with 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 creating human beings was to worship Him and
Him alone. Like other religions, Islam has required acts of worship,
however worship in Islam is not limited to rituals. Since Islam
is an all-encompassing religion with guidance for all aspects of
life. almost every action in a Muslim's life becomes an act of worship
if it is done to build a better relationship with God. Since man's
purpose in life is to worship and submit to God, worship in Islam
has been defined by God Himself in an all-encompassing way. This
is special uniqueness can also be seen in the fact that most other
religions only require formal worship once per week, while Islam
requires it five times a day. Even more importantly, all rites of
formal worship in Islam are based on Divine revelation, while the
modes of worship in other religions are a mixture of Divine revelation,
man-made traditions, opinions of clergymen and religious councils.
Additionally, in Islam acts of worship such as prayer and fasting
have been described by God and His Prophet in such detail that it
gives human beings a feeling of assurance that the way they are
worshipping God is pleasing to Him.

Based on Authentic Sources

The preservation of the scripture of Islam -- the Holy Qur'an --
is unique among world religions. No other religion has a scripture
which is both as old and as well-preserved as the one possessed
by Muslims today. Even scholars who are hostile to Islam admit that
the Qur'an that exists today is exactly the same as the one that
existed in the time of the Prophet Muhammad. Even though many people
mistakenly assume that the Qu'ran (also spelled Koran) was written
by Muhammad, it is actually the literal Word of God. Not only was
Muhammad known by his people to be unable to read and write, but
the Holy Qur'an clearly and repeatedly exclaims that it is from
Almighty God - the Lord of the Universe. Unlike other religions,
the followers of Islam have always considered their scripture to
be the Word of God in toto. The scriptures of other religions are
made up of writings that were not considered to be scripture until
many years after they were written - the letters of (St.) Paul are
a good example of this. Additionally, the Holy Qur'an has always
been in the possession of the common believer, and as such was circulated
very widely. In this way, 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 it was revealed to. Also, its wide circulation prevented scholars,
clergy and religious councils from deciding what should and should
not be part of the scripture -- since it was already in the hands
of the people in its complete form. It has always amazed people
to find out that the entire Qur'an was not only memorized word-for-word
by hundreds of the companions of Prophet Muhammad, but that it has
been memorized verbatim by thousands upon thousands of people until
this very day in its original language of Arabic. It was only natural
for Almighty God to preserve the scripture revealed to Prophet Muhammad,
because he was the last Prophet and Final Messenger of God. In short,
the Qu'ran is a unique scripture that has come down to us in its
original form and unique language. Due to its pristine teachings
and unquestionable authenticity, the Qur'an removes the need for
man to wonder for himself how to worship and please God, since God
Himself has clearly described these things.

An Eternal Message

Islam has just as much meaning and is just as applicable to people
living in today's "modern world" as it did for people
living 1400 years ago. 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 living in the world today. The Pure
Monotheism of Islam, as well as its universal brotherhood, strong
morals and positive outlook on life, is still very relevant and
meaningful to modern man. The continued relevance and applicability
to both the spiritual and worldly life of human beings from all
around the word is just one of the many proofs of the Divine origin
of the message of Islam. Unlike the teachings of other religions,
the teachings of Islam don't need to be updated or watered-down
in order to appeal to a human being living in today's troubled world.
Since the teachings of Islam are both spiritually true and eternally
practical, they can be lived and implemented in 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 sacrifice its
integrity in order to be both applicable to "modern life"
and to have enough spiritual impact to change people's lives.

A Complete Way of Life

Islam not just a "religion" in the traditional sense,
because it is not just confined to acts of worship, morality and
other aspects of personal piety. The teachings of Islam, even though
they do cover religious rituals and morality, also encompass all
other aspects of life. The Prophet Muhammad'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 success of Muhammad's
mission, Muslims have clear guidance from God and His Final Prophet
on all aspects of life. This goes hand-in-hand with the Islamic
belief that Almighty God does not leave human beings without guidance
in their daily lives -- thus His guidance is all-encompassing. Due
to God's wisdom, and because Islam is the final revealed religion,
the guidance that God has sent is applicable for all times and for
all places. This can be seen in the fact that the guidance for some
aspects of life is much more broad and flexible than others. Additionally,
in the Qur'an, Almighty God has revealed to mankind that the purpose
of our creation is to worship and remember God in all aspects of
our life, and to follow His guidance in everything that we do. Thus
Islam does not accept a secular view of government and society,
but only one based on the Law of God. Nor does Islam leave it to
human beings to decide what is right and wrong, good and 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 things
which are Caesar's" because, according to Islam, everything
belongs to God. Like all of its other teachings, Islam's view of
other religions is balanced, realistic and moderate. Islam doesn't
view other religions as being either completely true nor completely
false, but believes that all true religions were at one time divinely
revealed. However, over time the teachings of the various religions,
due to a variety of reasons, have become distorted and mixed with
made-man ideas. But nonetheless, Muslims are required to be tolerant
of other revealed religions since the Qur'an clearly says: "Let
there be no compulsion in religion".


The teachings of Islam, since they are divinely revealed, are balanced
in all of their aspects. Even though Islam is an all-encompassing
way of life, it preaches moderation and rejects extremism. On the
one hand, Islam does not preach complete rejection of all worldly
pleasures in view of the life hereafter; and on the other hand it
does not teach that earthly life is just for pleasure and enjoyment.
In Islam, wealth and worldly pleasures can be partaken of in this
life as long as they are enjoyed in a way that is in obedience to
God. However, Muslims are taught to keep in mind that the life hereafter
is their ultimate goal, and therefore one should be charitable and
not become too attached to worldly things. By maintaining a balance
between man's spiritual and physical needs, the teachings of Islam
are best suited for the needs of human beings in particular and
society in general. Since Islam is based on clear guidance from
God, it rejects all man-made religious excesses, such as certain
forms of monasticism where people try to completely "reject
the world" and other forms of extreme self-denial. Islam teaches
that human beings have responsibilities at all levels -- to other
individuals, to their families and to society as a whole. By maintaining
a unique balance between the physical and spiritual, and between
the individual and society, Islam maintains a balance in all directions.

A Positive Outlook

Most people will agree that having a strong self-esteem and a positive
outlook on life is conducive to achieving happiness and success.
Unique among the religions of the world, Islam's view of both the
nature of the human being and the purpose of life are extremely
positive. Islam's view of the nature of the human being is balanced.
On the one hand they are not viewed as being inherently evil, but
on the other they are not considered to be perfect - nor are they
expected to be so. According to the teachings of Islam, every human
being, man or woman, is born with a clean slate and is equally capable
of both good and evil. Since God has bestowed limited free-will
on human beings, they will ultimately be held responsible for their
actions. Believing that "salvation" is based on "faith
alone" reduces human life to a near meaningless and fatalistic
existence. The teachings of Islam make it clear that human beings,
since their nature is basically good, are capable of positive action
in this life, and that the best way to achieve a balanced, happy
and fulfilled life is complete submission to Almighty God. Certainly,
no person can completely submit to God by simply wanting to do so,
but by first realizing that none has a right to be worshipped and
obeyed except for Almighty God, and then making a reasonable effort
to follow God's commands, all human beings can fulfill their reason
for existence - which is to worship God alone. The Holy Qur'an tells
us that "man was created weak" and thus falls into sin
often. On the other hand, man is not to think of himself as so evil
and corrupt so as to despair of God's mercy. As a recourse to this,
and since Islam condemns self-righteousness, a pious life can only
be lived by trusting in God -- since there is no power or strength
except through God. As such, spiritual felicity is achieved by a
combination of both faith and action. As such, the most righteous
person is not one who thinks that repentance is unnecessary, but
the one who admits and realizes his mistakes - and then repents.
According to the word of Almighty God as revealed in the Holy Qur'an,
mankind is God's trustee on earth; and as such the life of this
world is a test, not a punishment. Even before God created the first
man, He knew that he would sin, however God created man in spite
of this. According to the Qur'an, God has bestowed on human beings
a great trust and given them dignity. It is only by worshipping
Almighty God, directly and without intermediaries, that a human
being can fulfull their true innate nature and purpose of existence.
In short, Islam is realistic. It portrays human 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 wishful or negative thinking, but simply on reality. Islam also
has a positive view of mankind in general, since it teaches that
the best person in the sight of God is the one who is most God-conscious.
In this way the truth of Islam and the universality of God's message
transcends all of the barriers of race, nationality, ethnic group
and economic status.


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