Imagine a house, built up on stilts, standing alone on a deserted beach. The waves crash against the shore with each one drawing nearer and nearer to the house threatening to topple the entire structure. The only thing saving the house from being dragged out to sea are the stilts, which are planted firmly into the ground. Similarly, a Muslim has stilts as well that keep him grounded in the Islamic faith and to be a Muslim means that you believe in them all unequivocally.
There are six core beliefs that compose a Muslim’s faith, or Iman, which have been extracted from the Qur’an in these two simple verses:
And whosoever disbelieves in God, His Angels, His Books, His Messengers, and the Last Day; then indeed he has strayed far away. (An-Nisaa’ 4:136)
Verily, We have created all things with Predestination. (Al-Qamar 54:49)
The six core beliefs in Islam are:
1. Belief in God
The existence of man and the entire universe is not a mere accident or the product of chance. There is a Higher Authority that exists. The universe and everything that is in it points to the realization of a Creator. God is our Creator, the Sustainer, the Owner of the Universe and its contents, the provider of everything, the Giver of life and the Causer of death. God is the only One who has the right to be worshipped. He created beings and provides for them out of His Love and Mercy. God is unique unto Himself and He is nothing like any of His creations. God’s descriptions and attributes, which are found in the Qur’an and Sunnah, are distinctive unto Him. He is purely transcendental in unfathomable perfection.
2. Belief in Angels
God created Angels out of light to carry out specific functions in the Heavens, Hell, and the Universe. Angels are invisible to the human eye unless, by Allah’s command, they take on a physical form. The angels do not have free will of their own and do as God commands them. Angels are a part of the creation just as humans are and should never be worshipped. The most well known Angel in God’s creation is named Gabriel, or Jibreel in Arabic. He is also referred to as the ‘Holy Spirit’ in the book of God and he is responsible for conveying the revelation to the Prophets.
The angels are responsible for fulfilling several tasks in this world. For example, every human has two constant companions known as ‘recording angels’ who literally write down all of our good and bad deeds. They keep a record of our lives and we will be called to account from our own ‘book of deeds’ on the Day of Judgment. There are also angels who blow the human spirit into a fetus after the 4th month of gestation while others are responsible for removing the spirit from the body at the time of death by God’s leave.
There are innumerable angels that have other responsibilities although too many to enumerate in this simple introduction.
3. Belief in the Scriptures
This article of faith refers to belief in all scriptures revealed by God to His Messengers, in their original form. These scriptures form the enlightenment, which the messengers received to direct their people to the straight path of God’s guidance. Muslims believe in all of the books of God mentioned in the Glorious Qur’an: the books of Abraham (Suhuf), the Scripture of Moses (Torah), the Psalms of David (Zabur) and the Gospel of Prophet Jesus (Al-Injeel). However, long before the advent of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), they had all been lost or distorted by later generations over the centuries. This happened because God entrusted the people with protecting these scriptures and they obviously failed.
Allah Almighty says in the Qur’an:
And the rabbis and the priests were entrusted with the protection of Allah’s books, and they were made witnesses thereof. (Al-Ma’idah 5:44)
They used to knowingly change the word of Allah after hearing it and understanding its importance. (Al-Baqarah 2:74)
All the revealed books call to the One God and say that He is to be worshipped alone and without partner. However, due to the logistical differences between nations (i.e. time, place) there was some variation in the canonical teachings between the scriptures according to the wisdom of God.
Muslims believe that there were hundreds of scriptures sent to mankind that were not mentioned in the Qur’an; however some are mentioned in the Sunnah, or teachings of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Each scripture was sent at a specific time and place as history tells us. As mankind corrupted each one, God sent another Messenger to correct the original message and another and another.
God says in the Qur’an:
There are some messengers we have told you about (their stories in the Qur’an or Sunnah) and there are some messengers we did not relate to you (in the Qur’an or Sunnah). (An-Nisaa’ 4:164)
It’s easy to see that Islam was present throughout history the whole time up until when God finalized His revelation to mankind by way of the Qur’an, which was sent through the Last Messenger Muhammad (peace be upon him). God sent Muhammad on a mission to deliver the message of the Qur’an that would guide all of Mankind until the Day of Judgment.
The Qur’an is the pure speech of God to man. It was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) through the Angel Gabriel in parts over a period of 23 years. The order of the verses and chapters were dictated to him by the Angel Gabriel every Ramadan until the last year of the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) life in which they reviewed it twice. For more than 14 centuries, the exact Qur’anic text has been in use with the exact wording, order, and language (Arabic). Not a single word from its 114 chapters has been changed since it was revealed. Indeed, God to preserve it forever. God says in the Qur’an:
Verily, We have sent down the Qur’an, and indeed, We will guard it from corruption. (Al-Hijr 15:9)
In infinite compassion, God gave us the Qur’an as a reference to lead a pious life that leads back to Him. It is the final word from God and no other message, or messenger, will come. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was the seal that closed the long line of Prophets that God sent to mankind.
4. Belief in the Messengers of God
This article of faith addresses the belief that God conveyed His message through selected human beings. These individuals are known as Prophets, or Messengers, and were chosen by God to be walking examples as well as teachers of how the scriptures were to be understood and implemented. They were sinless and the most pious out of all of mankind. God sent to every nation a Prophet to convey the message that God alone was to be worshipped and that anyone who associated others with Him in divinity or worship was committing the single unforgivable sin which is the ultimate treason against our Creator. They also taught the Law of God which all humans should follow to the best of their ability.
The Qur’an mentions the names of only twenty-five of the Prophets while stating the fact that many others were not mentioned by name. The first of these prophets was Adam and the last was Muhammad (peace be upon him). Every Prophet was sent to a specific people for specific periods of time except Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) who was sent to all mankind until the Final Hour. The proofs that Muhammad (peace be upon him) was a messenger of God are abundant; all of which are mentioned in his biography by means of the Qur’an and the Sunnah. The Sunnah elaborates on the Qur’anic verses. It also explains in detail true piety and the best way of worship. These teachings were meticulously collected and reported by the Prophet’s companions (may Allah reward them all).
5. Belief in the Day of Judgment
Islam teaches that this life is but a test of allegiance which could either be towards God Almighty, our personal desires or a false god who is not our Creator. The people of the world are caught between two extremes. Some work hard to attain righteousness by seeking the pleasure of God while some seek worldly power, often through evil deeds and corruption, and their own pleasure. The Glorious Qur’an says that all humans will be called to account on a day of reckoning, which is known as the Day of Judgment. Every human that has ever lived, and the ones living at the time, will be rounded up together to stand in front of God. Every soul will be dealt with justly and will receive exactly what their deeds have earned them. Humans with faith and good deeds will be generously rewarded, by the grace of God, and warmly welcomed to paradise, which their Lord has mercifully prepared for them. Contrastingly, the faithless that wreaked havoc and sinned on earth will be punished and cast into Hell for the ungrateful life they led which was meant to be a blessing from God. God says in the Holy Qur’an:
Whosoever has done an atom’s weight of good will see it, and whosoever has done an atom’s weight of evil will see it. (Az-Zalzalah 99:7-8)
Intuitively, all humans know the difference between right and wrong. God has also sent us books and messengers to further guide us. There is no reason why anyone should be outside the pale of pure faith and righteousness. However, humans must choose their own path in this short life, which will affect their place in the eternal life to come. Belief in the Day of Judgment implants a sense of God consciousness in man’s heart and our personal responsibility compels us to obey God sincerely without compulsion.
6. The Belief in Predestination
Predestination means that God alone knows everything. His knowledge is not bound by time as the past, present and future are all known to Him. Everything that happens in this Universe occurs with God’s permission. Nothing can take place against His will. However, God’s prior knowledge does not mean that humans are mere pawns on a chessboard having no choice of where they are ‘moved’ next. Many verses in the Qur’an illuminate man’s free will to choose his path, whether it is good or bad. All humans have a limited free will; however, all will be called to answer for each and every deed. Even though the choices are ours, God already knows what we will choose which is part of His Perfection as the One and Only God.