Archangel Gabriel Visits Muhammad|
Despite the growth of Judaism and Christianity in some Arabian communities in the 600s, much of Arabia lay steeped in ignorance, superstition and idol-worship. The tribes being constantly at war with one another, any real peace and unity could only be achieved if everyone could come to agree on a common ideal, a faith perhaps especially formulated and adapted to the Arab psyche, according to their then level of evolvement.
At this time, Gabriel, the Archangel, visited a Godly man named Muhammad, who is believed by many to be a descendant of Abraham and Ishmael, and told him that God had chosen him to preach and spread Islam, which means, submission to the will of Allah.
The Archangel being highly regarded by both Christians and Jews alike, Muhammad could not but be tolerant and accepting also of these earlier faiths, in fact recognizing his kinship with them. It is recounted that before tackling the last phase of his mission, he was taken up to heaven by the Archangel to meet with Jesus and the Old Testament prophets and God, Himself, to receive his final instructions.
The messages from God delivered by Archangel Gabriel to Muhammad were later written down by Muhammad’s followers and subsequently incorporated into the Qur"an, the Holy Scriptures of Islam.
The Spread of the Faith
The first convert of this new faith was Muhammad’s wife, Khadija, and with her encouragement, Muhammad began to win other followers. He preached against idols in favor of the One God. And this preaching brought him many enemies from among those who worshipped such idols.
Eventually, Muhammad and his followers were so persecuted that they were forced to flee to Medina. However, this flight, called "Hegira," became the turning point of his career. After having pacified all the warring tribes there, he was acclaimed the new ruler and military commander of the city. And, encouraged by this success, he moved on Mecca and conquered it, as well. He then proceeded to destroy the idols and built the ancient Kaaba shrine, the Sanctuary of Allah.
In victory, Muhammad was generous and merciful, offering friendship to all including Christians and Jews regarding them as his brothers. However, just as the Jews rejected Christ, the Christians and the Jews in general rejected Muhammad as God"s latest messenger and prophet. Muhammad realizing the futility of winning them to Islam concentrated his efforts rather more on his own people and their needs. And from then on, tribe after tribe voluntarily submitted to his leadership, until at Muhammad’s death, all of Arabia stood united under Islam.
The Five Pillars
The doctrine of Islam is based on the Qur"an and the Sunna or traditions. The Sunna recounts the sayings and deeds of Muhammad. The Five Duties of a believer or the Five Pillars of Islam are:
1. Recital of the Creed. In its shortest form, the creed is: "I testify that there is no God but Allah, and that Muhammad is His prophet." Acceptance of the creed implies belief in God, the angels, the inspired books, the prophets, the Day of Judgment, and God’s predestination of good and evil. The latter is the basis of the fatalistic attitude of the Muslim. Even in the face of life’s many hardships and tragedies, he willingly submits to the wisdom of God, and in faith, he declares: "It is the will of Allah."
2. Prayer. The Muslim worships five times a day facing Mecca, the birthplace of Muhammad. Phrases of his prayers and the postures of his body are all prescribed. Worship is preceded by ceremonial bathing. And on Friday, the Muslim holy day, prayers and a short sermon are held in the mosque under the leadership of the Imam.
3.Fasting. All throughout the month of Ramadhan when the Qur"an was revealed, the faithful fast. They do not eat or drink between dawn and sunset.
4.Almsgiving. All believers are expected to give alms to assist needy fellow-Muslims.
5.The Pilgrimage to Mecca. All Muslims who are physically and financially able are expected to make a pilgrimage to the Holy City at least once in their lifetime.
A believer is bound in the principle of mutual help and entrusted with the furtherance of good and the repression of evil. Emphasis is placed on equality and brotherhood. Muslims believe that man stands alone in direct relationship with his God, surrendering himself to His mercy. Hence, there are no organized churches, no priests and no sacraments. Impelled by circumstances as a result of the wars, the Arabs were encouraged to take in the widows of comrades killed in battle as their wives to help them and provide for their needs. Polygamy then came to be widely practiced and was adopted into the faith. However, Muhammad limited the number of wives to four or less, depending on the capacity of the men to provide for their needs. Women were granted rights to possess or inherit property and could even divorce their husbands under certain conditions. Slavery was condemned. Eating pork was forbidden and drinking wine, prohibited.
The concept of Jihad against infidels was from the very beginning limited to the self-preservation of the faith and never was intended to include aggression against non-combatants, women and children. As soon as the threatened annihilation of Islam was neutralized and the cause of justice was served, Muhammad forgave his enemies and worked to win the peace. Then he clarified the concept. Jihad in the greater spiritual sense is the struggle against the Muslim"s evil or worldly desires and the overcoming of his human limitations. The terrorists" view of Jihad is contrary to the true teachings of Islam.
Christians, Jews and Muslims are true brothers inspite of the present religious conflicts.
There are two major sects of Islam; The Sunnites, who believe in the Sunna and who form the majority; and the Shiites, who reject the Sunna simply because certain other caliphs participated in the formation of the Sunna. These latter are followers of Ali, Muhammad’s blood relative, who hold that Ali, alone, is the rightful successor to Muhammad.
Author Bio :
Written by Angel Luz for Inner Quest http://www.innerquest.org.ph/
Number of comments for this article : 0