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Graeme High School
RMPS Dept.
World Religion Unit: ISLAM
National 4/5 level
In this unit we will look at the following:
Allah—the Creator;
Tawhid; Risalah.
Humans as Gods creation
Kaliphahs: only one life on earth which
is a test of faith and obedience to Allah.
Role of Muhammad (pbuh) as the Seal of the prophets.
Predestination and Sabr.
Belief in the soul
Judgement and life after death.
Revelation of the Quran and the role of Muhammad
Free Will
The Five Pillars and submission to Allah
Ishan and Taqwa
The Sunnah
Action towards others—
Sadaquah; ahl al Kitab
Time for a discussion:
What is life all about?
Have you ever seriously questioned what life is all about?
Does human life have a purpose or a meaning?
Does human life have a special value?
Is death the absolute end of human existence?
Religions represent some of the most developed answers to life’s
deepest questions that humans have come up with. Every religion
represents a particular worldview, although not all worldviews are
religious. A worldview is, in its most basic form, a person’s way of
understanding the world. We all need to understand the world about
us in one way or another.
Islam as a Religion offers
its followers answers to some
of the most important questions.
The Human Condition
What does it mean to be human?
In this section we are going to look at some of the answers that a Muslim person
might give to this question. Before we do, it will be helpful to think about your own
ideas and experiences of what it is like to be a human being. We are all different
in so many ways – we look different, have different lives and experiences – but we
all have the common experience of living a human life.
1A Where does human life come from?
B. What different things make up a human
C. What makes human life happy and enjoyable?
D. What makes human life unhappy and difficult?
E. What do human beings need for survival?
Make up your own ‘profile’ of a human being. You
must present your ideas as a piece of writing, a
poem or a piece of art. Use the fact file over
the page to help you plan it.
The origins of human life:
The different parts that make up a human being:
The things which make life happy and enjoyable:
The things which make life unhappy and difficult:
The essentials for human survival:
Those who follow Islam are called Muslims.
Muslims can be from any nation or race, anywhere in
the world. Islam is an international faith. It is the
second most popular faith in the world with over a thousand million adherents.
Islam is now very strong in Asia, and is growing everywhere else in the world.
There are between 1.5 and 3 million Muslims in Britain, making it the second most
popular faith here too.
Introducing Islam
The words ‘Islam’ and ‘Muslim’ contain the letters ‘slm’. In Arabic, ‘slm’ forms
words that mean either ‘peace’ or ‘submission’. Islam can be translated either as
‘way of peace’ or ‘way of submission’. A Muslim, therefore, is ‘one who finds peace’
or ‘one who submits’. The idea is that a person finds true peace in life by
submitting to the will of God. This can be seen in the first sura (chapter) of the
Muslim holy book, the Qur’an, which is recited when Muslims pray:
In the name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful,
King of Judgement Day! You alone we worship, and to you
alone we pray for help. Guide us to the straight path,
the path of those whom You have favoured, not of those who
have incurred Your wrath, nor of those who have gone astray.
Muslims believe that we have many choices in life, and selfish actions can take us
down the wrong path. If we choose to go down the wrong path it
cause a great deal of hurt, not only to others, but also
to ourselves. Muslims would add that we could offend
God, too. We are responsible for our own behaviour.
Many times, in everyday life, we have to choose right or
wrong paths. Muslims are in no doubt that their faith helps
them to see which is the right path, the straight path that
leads to peace.
What do Muslims believe?
Muslims believe that there is one God,
They believe that Allah is eternal; he was never born and he will never die.
Allah sees everything and he knows everything. He made everything and cares
about his creation. Allah is all-powerful, human beings, therefore, should worship
him. Everything belongs to God; everything in life should be at the service of
Allah. As a result, Muslims find it hard to accept the distinction that Western
cultures make between a person’s religious
life and the rest of their life. Muslims think
such a distinction is entirely wrong. They
believe that not only individuals, but also the
institutions of society should serve Allah.
Muslims submit to Allah by obeying his
commands, and by living their whole lives in a
way that is pleasing to Allah. Muslims
combine faith and action in everything they
do; they regard belief on its own, or good
deeds on their own, as pointless.
Islam is careful to remind us that it is not a
religion to be paid mere lip service; it is an
all-encompassing way of life that must be
practiced continuously for it to be Islam.
Describe what the word ‘Islam’ actually means?
What does a Muslim have to do to find ‘true peace?’
What do Muslims say about Allah?
What do Muslims do to show their submission to Allah?
Task 1
Muhammad was born in the city of Makkah
(Mecca), in the country that we now call Saudi
Arabia. He was born about the year 570 CE.
His father had died weeks earlier. It was the custom for newborn babies to be
fed by a foster-mother. So, at first, a Bedouin woman cared for Muhammad.
The Life of Muhammad
His mother died when he was only six so he went to live with his grandfather.
Just two years later, his grandfather also died and Muhammad’s uncle who was a
merchant looked after him. A legend says that a Christian monk who met the
young Muhammad was so impressed by him that he declared:
“this young man will be a prophet in the future”.
As a boy, Muhammad looked after sheep in the desert. When he grew up, he was
proud of this work.
‘Allah’, he told people, ‘sent no prophet who was not a shepherd’.
Muhammad went on to become a camel driver and, later,
a trader. He was honest and hard working and was spotted
by a rich widow called Khadijah. Khadijah, who was also
a trader, asked Muhammad to look after her business
affairs. He was a very able businessman.
On his very first trip to Syria, he earned Khadijah
nearly twice the money that she expected.
Soon afterwards, she asked Muhammad to marry her.
Muhammad’s uncle advised him to accept the proposal so,
aged twenty-five; Muhammad married Khadijah, who was much
older than him. It proved to be a happy married and together they
had six children, two boys and four girls.
Makkah was already a religious city.
Pilgrims flocked to see the black stone, which was
kept in the Ka’bah. The tribes thought that this had
come from heaven – a gift from the gods. One year,
heavy rain damaged the walls of the Ka’bah and
repairs were urgently needed. It was agreed that
four tribes would share the work. All went well until
the time came to put the black stone in place.
Then the arguments began. Which tribe should have the honour of doing it?
The quarrels were so bitter that it looked as though a civil war might break out.
In the end, an old man had an idea. They would let the gods help.
The first person to walk through the temple gates next day would be
asked to sort it out. The first person happened to be
Muhammad. People had already given him the nickname
Al-Amin, which means ‘the honest one’ or ‘someone who can
be trusted’, so he seemed a good person to solve the dispute.
His solution was very clever. He took a cloak and spread it on
the ground. The black stone was placed on top and leaders
from each tribe took hold of the corners of the cloak.
Holding tight, they lifted the stone into place.
Then, Muhammad slid it into position.
From then onwards, Muhammad spent more time meditating. He was upset by the
way the people of Makkah lived their lives. Muhammad began going to the hills
near Makkah to be alone so that he could think and pray. Each year, during the
month of Ramadan, he went alone to a cave called Hira on Mount Nur, outside the
city. He did this until he was forty years old. That year was his fifth at the cave
- and he had a surprise visitor.
One night, as Muhammad was praying in a cave
Muhammad’s vision
on Mount Hira, he had a vision. An angel
appeared carrying a piece of cloth with writing
on it. The angel told Muhammad to read it but Muhammad
could not read or write. Three times, Muhammad told the
angel that he was not a reader; three times, the angel
squeezed him hard. Then, the angel taught Muhammad
this verse:
“Read in the name of your Lord who created.
Created man from a clot of blood.
Read, your Lord is most Generous.
Who taught by the pen.
Taught man what he did not know”.
Then the angel said ‘Muhammad! You are Allah’s messenger!’ Muhammad was
terrified. He returned home and told Khadijah about it. She reassured him and
told him it was a sign that he had been chosen as a prophet. She knew that his
message had come from Allah. This event is known as The Night of Power.
1. What was Muhammad’s nickname? What does it mean?
2. Why did Muhammad spend so much time in the hills near Makkah?
3. Describe Muhammad’s vision. How did Khadijah react to this event?
Months later, Muhammad had another vision of the angel Jibreel (Gabriel).
This really frightened him and he rushed home. Once again, his wife comforted
and reassured him. This time, Muhammad made up his mind. God had chosen him
as a prophet.
O Khadijah, the time of slumber and rest is past.
Gabriel has asked me to warn men and call them to
Allah and to His worship. But whom shall I call?
And who will listen to me?
After this, Muhammad began to preach that there was one God (monotheism).
The first people who listened to him were his wife and a young cousin.
However, Muhammad’s message slowly spread among the people in Makkah.
Very few people took it seriously.
The people of Makkah did not live good lives.
Many of the men fought with each other and were
cruel to their women and children. They drank a
lot and, worst of all; they worshipped idols – great
stone statues in the city. The Ka’bah was used to
house some of these idols and people would
dance around the Ka’bah to worship them.
Muhammad’s message was simple.
He told the people that it
was wrong to pray to
these idols. He asserted that there was only one true God who
was the creator of the world. It was wicked to worship
The merchants of Makkah were very angry; they did not
like being told they were wicked. Pilgrims came to visit
their pagan shrines. It brought business into the city and
they did not want Muhammad wrecking it. Some accused
him of being a liar while others said he was a madman.
Some of his followers were beaten up or tortured – and
the attacks grew worse. One day, pilgrims from the city
of Madinah heard Muhammad preach and were impressed.
They invited him to go and live with them, over 300 km
away across the Arabian desert. Muhammad accepted their invitation.
Muhammad’s move to Madinah is called the hijrah.
In Arabic, hijrah means ‘departure’. This is a very
important event for Muslims. Even today, the Muslim
system of dating years starts with Muhammad’s journey, so the Islamic calendar
begins in 622 CE (1 AH).
(AH means ‘After Hijrah’).
In Madinah, Muhammad started the
first Muslim community. The first
mosque was built there and
QuickTime™ and a
TIFF (LZW) decompressor
Muhammad’s house was next
are needed to see this picture.
door. Muhammad himself even
helped to build
the mosque. He taught that
everyone was equal in the eyes
of God. He mended his own
clothes and did his own shopping. He
wanted to be a good example to his
The hijrah
Muhammad is a key figure in Islam. The first Pillar of Islam is the
declaration of faith:
There is no God but Allah,
and Muhammad is the messenger of God
Islam teaches
there were other
prophets before Muhammad, but that Muhammad had the last
word: he brought the final, perfect revelation from God to
humankind. When Muslims say his name, they usually bless him
with the words, ‘Peace be upon him’. Muslims
regard him as the ideal man, and they
try to live up to his example of
faith and goodness.
Most Muslims, out of
respect, will not represent
Muhammad in any way. Pictures that do exist of
Muhammad usually show his face veiled and a large flameshaped light behind his head. This is similar to the idea of the
halo of light, in Christian tradition, to denote a particularly holy person.
1. Muhammad preached monotheism. What does this mean?
2. Why did Muhammad believe it was wrong to worship idols?
3. Muslims look up to Muhammad. Do you think it is important to have
people to look up to? Give reasons for your answer.
Jesus, Christians and Muslims
Muslims honour Jesus Christ as a great prophet.
They believe that God has always sent prophets to
humankind, from Adam onwards. Muslims believe
in the same prophets as Jews and Christians, and
the names of Noah, Abraham, Moses and others
can be found in the Qur’an. Muhammad is seen as
the Last Prophet, or ‘the Seal of the
Prophets’, whose message has been faithfully
preserved in the text of the Qur’an. He closes the line of prophets, as a wax seal
used to seal and close a letter.
In Arabic, in the Qur’an, Jesus is called Isa ibn Mariam al
Masih – ‘Jesus, son of Mary, the Messiah’. Jesus was the
prophet before Muhammad, and a special reverence is
given to him. Muslims believe that he was a perfect
human being who was born from a virgin. Allah performed
a miracle in Mary’s womb as a sign that this boy was to
be a special prophet. The Qur’an teaches that Jesus
worked miracles, healing people. He is also called
‘Messiah’, ‘God’s specially chosen and anointed ‘.
In the Qur’an, Jesus says, ‘I am the servant of Allah. He has given me the Gospel
and ordained me a prophet. His blessing is upon me wherever I go, and He has
commanded me to be steadfast in prayer and to give alms to the poor as long as I
shall live’.
Muslims do not believe that Jesus was divine – Christians say that he was God
living in a man (Incarnation). Muhammad once said, ‘Do not extol me as the
Christians have extolled the Son of Mary. I am only God’s servant. Refer to me as
the servant and messenger of God’.
Most Muslims believe that Jesus was too holy to die on
the cross: they believe another died in his place, or a
trick was played upon the crowd, and he was taken up
to heaven to be with God. Muslims expect Jesus to
return before the Final Judgement. Muhammad once
said, ‘I swear by Him who holds my life between His
hands, the son of Mary will come back down among you
very soon as a just judge’.
The sections of the Qur’an that mention Jesus’ fate are slightly obscure, and
some scholars feel that the Arabic can be understood differently. A minority
opinion is that Jesus might have been crucified, but could not be spiritually killed,
and he was taken to heaven. Muhammad once spoke of a vision of Jesus he had
‘Then I noticed a brown-skinned man with smooth hair which was wet;
water was dripping from it onto the ground between his legs.
I asked who it was and was told, “It’s the son of Mary” . . . .’
Whatever exactly happened to Jesus, all Muslims believe that he was taken to be
with God and will one day return. They do not believe in the resurrection but
they do believe in the ascension.
Christians call Jesus ‘the Son of God’.
Muslims disagree for the Qur’an teaches
that Allah has no son. Because of their
staunch belief in the oneness and unity
of Allah, they are unable to accept any
suggestion that God had a son, or that
‘He’ is three persons (Christians speak
of the ‘three persons’ of the ‘Holy
Trinity’ – Father, Son and Holy Spirit).
The Qur’an does say that Jesus had been specially blessed by Allah, born of a
virgin, a worker of miracles, and he is even described as ‘a word
sent from Allah’. The Christian term ‘Son of God’ is often
misunderstood – it is not meant in a physical sense. It is
more poetic, meaning that Jesus was the most holy
person who ever lived, filled with God. (Christians
also call Jesus ‘the Word of God’). There are still
major disagreements between Muslims and
Christians about Jesus, but many try to respect
each other’s beliefs as they share and talk together.
Task 4
1. How do the prophets of the Bible fit into Muslim beliefs?
2. What does the Qur’an teach about Jesus?
3. Muslims don’t believe in the resurrection but they do believe in the
ascension. What does this mean?
4. Why can’t Muslims refer to Jesus as ‘the Son of God?’
5. How do Muslims interpret the Christian term ‘Son of God?’
Islam teaches that there is
only one God. He has no
family or partners. He is
the only one whom people should worship. Every day, a Muslim says several times:
“There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is His messenger”
This is known as the SHAHADAH – the confession
of faith. It is the first Pillar of Faith: belief in
Allah. The most basic Muslim belief about
What do Muslims believe about God?
God is TAWHID. This means the ‘oneness’, ‘unity’, ‘the absolute’ or ‘the alone’.
It means accepting that God is supreme.
Tawhid means that God alone is the creator, the power
behind the universe and the sole source of its guidance.
He was not created; he is ‘The Eternal’. He knows
everything, sees everything and is able to do anything.
God is TRANSCENDENT, which means that he is outside
and beyond everything that he created.
God is outside time, whereas all created things
are part of time. Things, which are part of time,
have beginnings and ends, but this is not true of
God. When Muslims talk of God as being ‘eternal’
or ‘infinite’, they are admitting that he is beyond
human knowledge and reasoning.
Muslims also believe that God is immanent, which means
that he is closer to each human than their heartbeat and
knows even our unspoken thoughts, fears and hopes.
“It was We who created man, and We know even the secret suggestions his soul
makes to him; for We are nearer to him than [his] jugular vein”.
(Surah 50:16)
We know Allah loves us,
and He always forgives
us if we are sorry
Allah does not prefer
any person or nation. He
creates everyone equal.
You cannot think
Allah cannot be
thought of in human
Allah allows us freewill,
but He controls our
Taw hid has some far-reaching implications in Islam.
Muslims should worship Allah alone; no one else and nothing else is worthy.
No other being should be associated with Allah. Idolatry is worshipping an
object less than God, and it is strictly forbidden. This sin of idolatry
is called SHIRK, and is regarded by Muslims as the worst of all sins.
Although Muslims are held responsible for their own sins, they also believe
nothing happens unless it is the will of Allah. They frequently say
‘Insha Allah’, meaning ‘If Allah is willing’, showing their recognition of his
‘power’ and acceptance of his will for them.
A Muslims whole life should be lived for Allah alone. Islam gives rules to
govern all aspects of one’s life.
If there is only one God, these should be only one religion.
Islam is seen as the best religion for the whole world.
Those who believe in the oneness of Allah should be united together in
their religion. Islam emphasises the unity of the UMMAH, the worldwide
Islamic community.
Belief in one creator gives a sense of oneness with all creation. Therefore
Muslims should respect other human beings, animals and natural resources.
Muslims are conscious of Allah looking over them at all times, knowing what
they are thinking and doing. This should make them more likely to do right.
Muslims should be modest because they recognise that there is a far
greater power than that of human beings, and they know that they must
submit to Allah, on whom they depend entirely.
They should be confident, because they trust in Allah and believe that
nothing can happen unless He wills it. Life and death are entirely in
His hands.
Task 5
What is meant by ‘tawhid?’
Muslims believe that God is ‘transcendent’. What does this mean?
What do Muslims mean when they say that God is ‘eternal’ or ‘infinite?’
God is immanent. What does this mean for humans?
What, according to Muslims, is the worst sin?
Writings about God
A) “It is He who created the
night and the day, and the sun
and the moon. All the celestial
bodies (starts and planets etc)
swim along, each in its rounded
course.” Surah 21:33
Read these sources from the
Quran. What can you find out about
the Muslim view of God from them?
Copy and complete the table on a
separate piece of paper.
B) “Allah is all knowing,
all wise.” Surah 4:26
C) “Your Lord is self sufficient,
full of mercy: if it were his will he
could destroy you and in your place
appoint others of his choice as your
successors. Surah 6:133
D) “Allah forgives all his
sins; for he is oft—
Forgiving, Most Merciful”
Surah 39:53
E) “ To Allah belongs all that is in
the Heavens and on Earth. Whether
you show what is in your minds or
conceal it, Allah calls you to account
for it. He who forgives whom he
pleases and punishes whom he
pleases, for Allah has power over all
things.” Surah 2:284
Muslim view of God
How I Know
Mandatory source 1
“Say: Praise be to Allah, and Peace on his servants whom He has chosen (for
his Message). (Who) is better? – Allah or the false gods they associate (with
Him)? Or, Who has created the heavens and the earth, and Who sends you
down rain from the sky? Yea, with it We cause to grow well-planted orchards
full of beauty of delight: it is not in your power to cause the growth of the
trees in them. (Can there be another) god besides Allah.
Nay, they are a people who swerve from justice. Or, Who has made the earth
firm to live in; made rivers in its midst; set thereon mountains immovable; and
made a separating bar between the two bodies of flowing water? (Can there
be another) god besides Allah.
Nay, most of them know not. Or, Who listens to the (soul) distressed when it
calls on Him, and Who relieves its suffering, and makes you (mankind)
inheritors of the earth? (Can there be another) god besides Allah. Little it is
that ye heed! Or, Who guides you through the depths of darkness on land and
sea, and Who sends the winds as heralds of glad tidings, going before His
Mercy? (Can there be another) god besides Allah. – High is Allah above what
they associate with Him! Or, Who originates creation, then repeats it, and
who gives you sustenance from heaven and earth? (Can there be another) god
besides Allah. Say, “Bring forth your argument, if ye are telling the truth!”
Say: None in the heavens or on earth, except Allah, knows what is hidden: nor
can they perceive when they shall be raised up (for Judgment).”
Qur’an 27:59–65
1. Explain Muslim beliefs concerning the uniqueness and nature of God.
Refer to the following terms in your answer:
Tawhid, immanent and transcendent.
Read Qur’an 112 for a deeper understanding of Tawhid.
2. Read Qur’an 27:59–65. What do these verses tell us about God as
3. The passage also refers to other aspects of Allah’s nature. Discuss
what else is taught about Allah in this passage with a partner.
4. Which verses would worry a wrongdoer? Explain why.
5. What impact do you think faith in God, revealed in this passage,
would have on Muslims today?
Risalah: prophecy
Muslims believe that we want an
understanding of life and the universe. That we
look for a closer relationship with God but at
the same time we sometimes strays from the
right path to a closer relationship with God.
Muslims believe that Allah provided for
humanity all that they need for a happy life:
whether for their physical or emotional needs;
or for their knowledge of the nature of the
universe; or for guidance on morality .
Muhammad is a
messenger of the
series of messengers
of old.” Surah 53.56
For Muslims the greatness and power of God means that he cannot communicate
directly with humans, and yet his compassion means that he cannot just leave them
to make a mess of their lives. The channel of communication between God and
humanity is known as
Muslims believe that Allah passes his message directly into the minds of prophets
(Rasul) who pass this directly to the rest of humanity. These messages are known as
revelation. Muslims believe that Allah has communicated to people through many
prophets including Adam, Abraham and Jesus. The prophets of Judaism and
Christianity are also the prophets of Islam. However, the prophet which Muslims
consider to be most valuable is Muhammad. This is the first revelation Muhammad
received from Allah.
Source 2
Proclaim! (or read!) in the name of thy Lord and Cherisher, Who created –
man, out of a (mere) clot of congealed blood:
Proclaim! And thy Lord is Most Bountiful, –
He Who taught (the use of) the pen, –
Taught man that which he knew not.
Day, but man doth transgress all bounds,
In that he looketh upon himself as self-sufficient.
Verily, to thy Lord is the return (of all)
Qur’an 96:1–8
is Allah who has subjected the
sea to you… and he has subjected to
you all that is in the heavens and
the earth.”
Surah 45:12-13
is he who has made
you his agents,
inheritors of the
Earth.” Surah 6:165
“ Praise
be to God to whom
belong all things in the
heavens and the Earth.”
Surah 4:171
“Then let man look at his food and how
we provide it. For that we pour forth
water in abundance and we split the
earth in fragments and produce corn
and grapes.. For use and convenience to
Surah 80:24-32
your Lord
said to the angels, ‘I
will create a vice—
regent on Earth.”
Surah 2: 30
What do these words tell you about responsibility for the Earth?
Make notes in your jotter.
Source 3
‘Behold, thy Lord said to the angels: “I will create a vice-regent on earth.” They
said: “Wilt Thou place therein one who will make mischief therein and shed blood?
– whilst we do celebrate Thy praises and glorify Thy holy (name)?” He said: “I
know what ye know not.”
And He taught Adam the nature of all things; then He placed them before the
angels, and said: “Tell me the nature of these if ye are right.”
They said: “Glory to Thee, of knowledge We have none, save what Thou Hast
taught us: In truth it is Thou Who art perfect in knowledge and wisdom.”
He said: “O Adam! Tell them their natures.” When he had told them, Allah said:
“Did I not tell you that I know the secrets of heaven and earth, and I know what
ye reveal and what ye conceal?” And behold, We said to the angels: “Bow down to
Adam” and they bowed down. Not so Iblis: he refused and was haughty: he was of
those who reject Faith.”
Qur’an 2:30–34
All human beings are of equal value before Allah.
Human life is a trial or test, and of limited time; each person’s life will contain a
different set of experiences. Some of these experiences will arise out of the use
or the misuse of free will, and the consequences of such choices, good or bad, may
impact on a person or their children. Therefore humans do not always remain
equal, except in the sight of Allah.
Muslims believe that every person has a ‘rouh’, or
soul. Just as bodily exercise may help a person to
develop physically, the right use of one’s inner
spiritual nature will produce a ‘better’ person: one
who is in tune with Allah and seeks after His will.
We each have the gift of free will, and an inner sense
of what is right or wrong. The right exercise of this
will lead to right actions, supported by a ‘clear
conscience’ (or sense of peace, well-being, happiness).
The soul is the real person. It can develop or
degenerate, but it cannot stand still because life
involves a series of decisions.
All of human life is short. Life is a test and a trial. Allah allows each soul to
inhabit a body for a certain time, and then comes death, when the soul is
separated from the body until the ‘Last Day’. Then the reunited body and
soul will face the hour of Judgment in the presence of Allah. Muslims
totally reject all ideas of reincarnation. We do not live again on earth as
different people. Each person, each soul, will have to give an account of
himself/herself to Allah when this one short life is over.
Student activities
1. What do Muslims mean when they refer to human beings as the pinnacle of
2. What special responsibility do human beings have as God’s representatives
(Kaliphahs or ‘caliphs’)?
3. Why did the angels object when God said he would create a vice-regent?
3. How did Allah reply to those objections?
What do you think this reveals about the nature of Allah?
4. Why is it that although human beings were created equal they do not appear to
be equal? In what ways are people unequal in today’s society?
5. Do you agree that all human beings were born equal? Give reasons.
The Human Condition
Predestination (Al Qadr) and free will
A brief look at the world today tells us that it is not as good a place as it could be.
We might wonder why, in this day and age, we still struggle to supply every person
in the world with their basic needs and rights.
Is there something wrong with people that they cannot seem to live in peace,
harmony and justice with each other? The news is often full of stories about the
evil that people do. What role do people have in the creation of this evil? Is it all
the fault of human beings or is the God who made them to blame?
Free will
According to Islam, Allah created every human
being with an in-built sense of right and wrong. This
‘moral law within’ is shown by the conscience.
We can use or misuse this gift. Allah seeks to guide
and to guard our thinking by bringing to mind
aspects of the moral law within our conscience, or
the social law given in the Qur’an, according to our
particular needs.
Allah does not control our thinking – and no one can
– because of our free will. He respects our gift and
our freedom to choose.
We make choices together, we live in family units within a particular society or
culture, but we also make personal choices. For example, our behavior, may well be
shaped and patterned by our parental upbringing, our peer group or our society, but
at the end of the day, as adults, we are still free to conform or to rebel. We can
strive to do good and model ourselves on positive role models, or we can be lazy or
evil and take as our role models those who do harm to others.
So with free will comes an enormous
responsibility. Muslims believe Allah gives us the
ability and the opportunity to do good, but we also
have the ability and opportunity to do the
opposite and, when we die, we will be judged
then is the Human Condition and this
according to the path we have chosen.
sets us apart from the animals of creation.
The trouble is that we human beings are given
over to idolatry. ‘Idolatry’ literally means the
worship of idols but does not refer only to bowing
before and worshipping a statue or image. People
are equally guilty of idolatry if they fill their
hearts and minds with strong desires for money,
wealth and material possessions.
Anything that is put in the place that should be
reserved for Allah in our lives becomes an idol.
According to Islam, we are all guilty of this in
varying degrees. That also is part of the human
So why do we misuse our free will?
Why do we persist in wrongdoing? Is it because we see
everyone else doing it? Is it because we are all creatures of habit?
One age-old answer has been to blame the Devil
Certainly that has always been a part of the Muslim answer. However Muslims
believe that the Devil can only influence human thinking and subsequent patterns of
behavior. He cannot ‘take us over’ or control us completely, or be blamed for our
actions – at least, not unless we freely agree to this.
At the end of the day we must recognize that our own human natures are selfish and
corrupt. When we rebel against Allah, and sin, we have to exert ourselves in a
determined manner by ‘turning away’ from what we know is right. Afterwards it
becomes easy, and some of us find it easier to do evil deeds rather than good. In
doing this we forget Allah’s will,
Student activities
1.In what ways is the world today not as good as it could be?
2. What do Muslims understand by the sin of idolatry?
What idols do people have in society today?
3. Why do we do what we know is wrong? What do you think?
Is it because…
we are taught to do so by our parents and friends?
we receive evil suggestions from within our minds, or from the Devil?
we simply ‘follow the crowd’ and do what they do – we do not think for
we cannot help it – we are just made that way?
Give your view on each suggestion.
Case study
On the way home from school you and your friend find a purse in the road. Inside
there are five pounds and an old photograph of a baby. There is no identification in
the purse so your friend takes the money and throws the purse into a bush. You both
spend the money in the shops on the way home. When you get home the next-door
neighbor is with your mum. She’s crying because she has lost her purse, which has in it
the only picture of her baby that died fifteen years ago.
Student activities
1. What would you do in this situation?
Explain your decision.
2. How would you feel if you had torn
the photograph before it was thrown away?
3. What role would your conscience
have in this situation?
4. What would a Muslim say is the
origins of your conscience?
5. Where do you think the conscience
comes from? Explain your answer.
Mandatory source 4
“We had already, beforehand, taken the covenant of Adam, but he forgot: and We
found on his part no firm resolve.
When We said to the angels, “Prostrate yourselves to Adam”, they prostrated
themselves, but not Iblis: he refused.
Then We said: “O Adam! verily, this is an
enemy to thee and thy wife: so let him not get you both out of the Garden, so that
thou art landed in misery. “There is therein (enough provision) for thee not to go
hungry nor to go naked, “Nor to suffer from thirst, nor from the sun’s heat.”
But Satan whispered evil to him: he said, “O Adam! shall I lead thee to the Tree of
Eternity and to a kingdom that never decays?”
In the result, they both ate of the tree, and so their nakedness appeared to them:
they began to sew together, for their covering, leaves from the Garden: thus did
Adam disobey his Lord, and allow himself to be seduced.
But his Lord chose him (for His Grace): He turned to him, and gave him Guidance.
v123. He said: “Get ye down, both of you, – all together, from the Garden, with
enmity one to another: but if, as is sure, there comes to you Guidance from Me,
whosoever follows My Guidance, will not lose his way, nor fall into misery.
“But whosoever turns away from My Message, verily for him is a life narrowed down,
and We shall raise him up blind on the Day of Judgement.”
He will say: “O my Lord! why hast Thou raised me up blind, while I had sight
(before)?” 126. ((Allah)) will say: “Thus didst Thou, when Our Signs came unto thee,
disregard them: so wilt thou, this day, be disregarded.”
Qur’an 20:115–126
Student activities
1.The Qur’an 20:115–126 explores Adam and Eve’s sin of
disobeying God. Explain how they used their free will to disobey God?
2. What role did Satan play in this sin?
3. What is the guidance that Allah mentions in verse 123?
4. As well as using the term ‘guidance’ what other words are used in this passage to
refer to moral guidance from God?
5.According to Islam what are the consequences for those who fail to follow this
6. Write a short essay of between 100–150 words discussing how people use free
will to cause suffering in your community or in the world at large.
7. What is your view on free will? Is free will given by God or is its source
elsewhere? Give reasons for your view.
Predestination – Al-Qadr
Muslims believe that everything in life has been planned for by God. All the good and
evil that takes place is pre-ordained (ordered by God). Nothing happens unless Allah
wills it to happen. In Qur’an 13 it is written, ‘in all things the master planning is
God’s’. Allah knows all that has happened and will happen.
The Muslim belief in predestination is puzzling when their belief in free will is also
considered. If Allah has a plan which uses the evil that people do, then is Allah
to blame for the evil people do? How can free will fit in with Allah’s master
plan? If what we do suits Allah’s purposes how can he punish us in Hell?
Muslims believe that Allah does not force us to do anything. We do have the power
to make choices. However, Allah is so infinite in his power that he knows what each
individual will do before he does it. The consequences of each choice or decision are
used by Allah to test people.
Case study
Callum has forgotten to bring a pen to school. He knows that he will have a day trying
to borrow one for each lesson. His teachers will be grumpy with him and he could do
without the hassle. Fortunately he has Mrs Softouch for his first period and she
always lends out pencils. She often forgets to ask for them back. David is thinking
about stealing Mrs Softouch’s pencil.
Student activities
1. Do Muslims believe that Allah will force Callum to steal Mrs Softouch’s
pencil? Explain your answer.
2. Do Muslims believe that Allah knows what Callum will do? Explain your
3. Callum chooses to steal Mrs Softouch’s pencil. How can Allah use
Callum’s decision to help him achieve his plan of challenging and
testing people?
4. Do you think Allah should stop Callum from taking the pencil?
Explain your answer.
5. Is it right that Allah uses the misdeeds of humans to test people?
Explain your answer.
The Human Condition
Sabr: patience
At first glance Islam may appear to be a fatalistic religion. Those who believe
in fate think that we have no control over our destiny. All the decisions have
been made and so there is no point trying to live life in the right way. What
will happen will happen because that is the way it’s meant to be. However,
Muslims disagree with fatalism, because they believe that we have control
over what happens to us.
On Judgement Day it is
how we have lived
that determines what
happens to us. We are not powerless weaklings. After all, if everything was all
fixed and determined in advance why would Allah make an effort to guide us
how to live? Muslims also believe that Allah has sent prophets, or messengers,
to all people everywhere; the primary purpose of the prophets was to reestablish the message that there is only one God who should be worshipped
and obeyed for a prosperous life on earth and in the hereafter.
An attitude of determination to live life as Allah wishes and to
have patience in the face of suffering is known as Sabr.
Muslims should adopt this view and not just give up on life.
“To every people (was sent) an apostle.”
Qur’an 10:47
“Verily, We have sent thee in truth, as a bearer of glad tidings, and as a warner: and
there never was a people, without a warner having lived among them (in the past).”
Qur’an 35:24
Student activities
1. Describe what Muslims understand by the word
2. What is meant by the term ‘a fatalistic religion’?
Why do Muslims argue that Islam is not fatalistic?
3. There are times in life when we feel very much out of control. Illness, a
relationship breaking down, or death – these are all times when we can feel
lost and powerless. Retell the story of a time when you or someone you know
has felt like that.
4. When things have gone wrong there are times when we feel like giving up. Why
bother trying when we can’t make a difference? What would a Muslim say to
that attitude?
Imagine that a friend of yours is despairing because his/her parents are splitting up.
The comfort
Write your friend a letter offering
encouraging him or her to adopt an
attitude of Sabr.
The attributes of God in Islam are vast. One of the attributes of God is ‘the
most merciful’ and ‘the most kind’. All Muslims believe that they are prone to
making mistakes and sinning, but they also believe that their sins will be
forgiven if they repent. Seeking God’s forgiveness is an important concept in
Islamic thought and a chapter in the Qur’an has been named ‘Al-Tawba’ –
Student activities
1. Do you believe that a ‘most merciful’ God should forgive even if no
repentance is shown? Give reasons for your answer.
2. What do you think these quotes mean?
“Turn ye to our Lord (in repentance) and bow to His
(Will), before the Penalty comes on you: after that
ye shall not be helped.” Qur’an 39:54
3. According to the Qur’an 39:54 what two things should a Muslim do
before seeking forgiveness?
4. People can say sorry for doing the most terrible things.
Does saying sorry make it okay? Explain your answer.
5. Ashley was excluded from school for bullying Raksha.
When she returns to school Ashley says she is sorry. Why would some say
that Raksha should accept Ashley’s apology? Why would others disagree?
What do you think? Explain your answers.
6. Do Muslims believe that Allah would forgive Ashley? Explain your answer.
7. What is the penalty referred to in the Qur’an 39:54?
8. Why do Muslims believe that repentance is so important?
Mind Map Assessment 2
Now go on to develop a mind map which
uses what you have learnt about the
human condition.
In the middle of the map use the term ‘The Human Condition’. Use this
list of words to branch off from the centre. Make your mind map as
detailed as you can. Make it colourful and eye-catching.
Human beings
Free will
Predestination Sabr Repentance
You may want to add some other relevant words to your mind map and
Muslims believe the Qur’an is the word
of God, exactly as the Angel Jibril
(Gabriel) revealed it to Muhammad.
It was not revealed all at once to Muhammad, but in parts over
twenty-three years. Muhammad is not thought to be the author;
he simply recited accurately the words revealed to him by the angel
who is also said to have told Muhammad the order in which the
passages were to go. As Muhammad could not write, he chose
people to write it down on all sorts of scraps of writing materials or
simply to commit it to memory. They were collected together into
a book immediately after Muhammad’s death, under the direction of
Abu Bakr, his successor. After Muhammad’s death, many
Muslims were killed in battle and there were worries that
the Qur’an might be lost. Eventually it was all
collected together, checked and
crosschecked, mutually accepted or edited,
and reproduced in its completed form. In
this way Muslims are absolutely convinced
that in the Qur’an they have a copy of the
literal Word of Allah, which is perfect, reliable and complete.
The Holy Book – The Qur’an
The essential teaching of the Qur’an is not complicated and is as follows:
Allah is One besides whom no other god can exist
Allah is merciful; people are morally responsible to Allah for their deeds
There will be a Day of Divine Judgement following the Resurrection
The damned will suffer in hell and the blessed will enjoy the pleasures of heaven
Humanity’s religious duties are to believe in Allah; repent from sin; pray to or
worship Allah; help the poor and not deceive others in business.
All that remains is application and obedience.
Eventually, over a period of time, a standard copy was made and circulated, based
on the original. Those who had heard it direct from Muhammad himself checked
the copies. All modern copies are the same as this.
Since the Qur’an is believed to be from Allah, every word, every letter, is sacred
to Muslims. It is therefore considered very important to keep the Qur’an in the
language in which it was first spoken, i.e. Arabic. As Islam spread from Arabia, its
language was adopted by a number of Islamic countries. Muslims in these
countries find the Qur’an quite easy to read, even though the style of modern
Arabic has naturally changed since Muhammad’s time.
In other countries, Muslims need to learn enough Arabic to take part in their
worship and to read the Qur’an. You can find translations of the Qur’an for
people who do not know Arabic or copies for those who do not have Arabic
as their first language; but Muslims do not accept these translations as proper
Qur’ans. They regard them as
interpretations rather than the real
thing. Muslims do not believe it is
possible to translate the Qur’an
perfectly. It is too precious to risk
losing any of its meaning. In any case,
they believe it is a beautiful book and
the beauty becomes lost in any other
Mandatory source 5
A. L. M. Allah. There is no god but He, – the Living, the Self-Subsisting, Eternal.
It is He Who sent down to thee (step by step), in truth, the Book, confirming what
went before it; and He sent down the Law (of Moses) and the Gospel (of Jesus)
before this, as a guide to mankind, and He sent down the criterion (of judgment
between right and wrong).
Then those who reject Faith in the Signs of Allah will suffer the severest penalty, and
Allah is Exalted in Might, Lord of Retribution. From Allah, verily nothing is hidden on
earth or in the heavens. He it is Who shapes you in the wombs as He pleases. There is
no god but He, the Exalted in Might, the Wise.He it is Who has sent down to thee the
Book: In it are verses basic or fundamental (of established meaning); they are the
foundation of the Book: others are allegorical.
But those in whose hearts is perversity follow the part thereof that is allegorical,
seeking discord, and searching for its hidden meanings, but no one knows its hidden
meanings except Allah. And those who are firmly grounded in knowledge say: “We
believe in the Book; the whole of it is from our Lord:” and none will grasp the Message
except men of understanding. “Our Lord!” (they say), “Let not our hearts deviate now
after Thou hast guided us, but grant us mercy from Thine own Presence; for Thou art
the Grantor of bounties without measure.”
Qur’an 3:1–8
Student activities
1. Why were Muhammad’s followers reluctant to write down the messages
received by Muhammad from God?
2. Why were the messages eventually written down?
3. Explain how the messages Muhammad received were kept safe before being
written down. Why do Muslims believe this to be a reliable method of
keeping the purity of the message?
4. Do you agree with the view that it is better to know important words than
simply have them written down? Explain your answer.
5. In Qur’an 3:1–8 some of the essential teaching mentioned above is given.
Identify verses from the Qur’an 3:1–8 which refer to the teaching listed.
For essential teaching not mentioned in this source look elsewhere in your
notes for a Qur’anic source to support them.
6. Why does Qur’an 3:1–8 discourage people from looking for hidden
The Arabic word Qur’an means
Muhammad was
commanded to ‘recite’ the words given to him by the angel Jibreel
(Gabriel). Muslims recite passages of the Qur’an at their five daily
prayer sessions. Children are taught from a very early age how to
recite the Qur’an. Some Muslims learn the whole Qur’an off by heart, because
they believe it so important. Muslims who have done this are allowed to use the
title HAFIZ as part of their name.
The Qur’an has 114 chapters, which are called
Length and Layout
Muslims tend to know them by
their titles rather than their numbers. There
are over 6000 verses in the Qur’an; but the verse divisions are not always
identical, and this can cause problems if you are looking up references.
Because they believe that the Qur’an contains the actual
words of God, Muslims treat it with great respect.
Before reading it, they first wash themselves.
They wrap each copy in a clean piece of cloth, or in a special cloth bag that is
stitched in the shape of an envelope. They keep it on the highest shelf in the
room, to show its superiority, and they would never put anything on top of it.
Girls and women cover their heads with a scarf when reading it, out of respect. If
the reader is sitting on the floor, a folding bookstand is used when reading the
Qur’an, so that the holy book does not touch the ground. Muslims are not allowed
to eat or drink, smoke or talk in the same room where it is being read, for they
must give it their full attention.
Muslims believe that the Qur’an is a perfect copy of a
heavenly book, and that it is the last revelation of Allah’s
truth to the human world. They believe that it is
therefore the best guide we can have in living our lives as Allah intended, and that
this is the way to salvation. Although the Qur’an is the Muslims’ holy book, they
also consult books called the Hadith. These are collections of the words and
actions of Muhammad. If Muslims face a problem, they may well read the Hadith
to see if Muhammad ever coped with a similar problem.
Task 6
Why do Muslims believe the Qur’an is holy?
Why do you think Muslims read it every day?
How do Muslims show their respect for the Qur’an?
Describe the importance of the Qur’an for Muslims.
Shariah is a divinely ordained way of life. It enables Muslims to submit their whole
lives to God. It is a straight path, or code of behavior, that guides Muslims in the
course of their everyday existence to decisions which affect the running of whole
communities. It is about right and wrong behavior, and building good relationships
with God, His creation and one another. In order to please God, Muslims believe
that they should follow every part of the law. To fail to do one thing is to ignore
God’s will.
Show us the straight way,
The way of those on whom Thou hast bestowed Thy Grace, those whose
(portion) is not wrath, and who go not astray.
Qur’an 1:6–7
The sources
The Qur’an is the foremost source of law: so much so that some scholars go as far
as saying that it is the only source of law and all others are explanations of it,
mainly being the actions and sayings of the Prophet Muhammad.
When the Prophet preached his final sermon outside Makkah on Mount Arafat he
said that he was leaving behind the Qur’an and his way, the Sunnah/Hadith. If
Muslims were to hold fast to these they would be guided.
You have been left God’s book, the Qur’an. If you hold fast to it and do not let it
go, you will not stray from the right bath. People reflect on my words….I leave two
things, the Qur’an and the example of my life. If you follow these you will not fail.
Many Muslims argue that the Qur’an and the Sunnah are all that is needed to work
out how a Muslim should live today. However, others use a range of sources to try
and work out how to live in the modern world. The Qur’an and Sunnah were laid
down nearly 1400 years ago and so they do not deal directly with modern-day
Is it acceptable for a Muslim to listen to pop music, chat on the Internet, use a
camera or use contraception? Muslims have adopted a system called Ijtihad which
works out Muslim principles by turning to the Qur’an and Sunnah and using reason
and judgment to find solutions to modern-day problems.
One method of doing this is by using the combined opinions of Muslim scholars.
Many Muslims believe that Allah would not allow a group of Muslim scholars to
form the wrong decision. The decisions which the experts agree to are known as
Ijma (consensus).
Student activities
1. Write a short paragraph (50–75 words) explaining what Shariah is.
2. Give three reasons why Muslims consider the Shariah to be so important.
3. Assess the value of Shariah as a way of life for Muslims today.
How can it be argued that Shariah has a limited value? How can it be argued
that Shariah is invaluable? What do you think? Explain your answer.
The Mosque
A mosque is a Muslim place of
worship. It is called a
MASJID in Arabic, the
language of Islam. This word
literally means ‘place of prostration’ because,
strictly speaking, a mosque is anywhere a Muslim
kneels down to prostrate him or herself in prayer.
A prayer mat laid down at home, or even at the side
of the road, becomes a mosque - a place of
prostration. Muhammad and his followers in
Madinah built the very first mosque. Today there
are thousands of mosques all over the world.
External Features
1. The Dome. This is an important feature of
buildings in hot countries because it allows the
air to circulate. Islam comes from the Middle
East, where the climate is very hot. The dome is built over the prayer hall as it
also helps to amplify the human voice.
2. The Minaret. This is a tall tower.
In Muslim countries the call to prayer ‘five times a day’
comes from the top of the minaret. This call rings out over
the roofs of other buildings. It is like an alarm clock,
reminding people when it is time to pray. Regular daily prayer
is obviously very important in Islam. Inside the tower is a
man known as a MUEZZIN who sings out the call to prayer.
He faces towards the Ka’bah in Makkah when he makes the
call in Arabic:
Allah is the greatest, Allah is the greatest
Allah is the greatest, Allah is the greatest
I bear witness that there is no God but Allah
I bear witness that there is no God but Allah
I bear witness that Muhammad is Allah’s messenger
I bear witness that Muhammad is Allah’s messenger
Rush to prayer, rush to prayer,
Rush to success, rush to success,
Allah is the greatest
Allah is the greatest
There is no God but Allah
3. The Star and Crescent. Sometimes the dome and minaret of the mosque
have a moon-shaped crescent on top of them, or a star and crescent.
This five-pointed star and crescent is a symbol of Islam, depicted on the flags
and stamps of many Muslim countries.
‫ﺶ‬The five-pointed star symbolises the Five Pillars of
Islam, i.e. the five basic duties of Muslims.
‫ﺶ‬The moon and stars are signs to Muslims of the
greatness of the Creator.
Muhammad and his early followers were desert people.
For them the new moon marked the beginning of each new
month, and the waxing and waning moon told them what time of the month it was.
A new day started, not at midnight but in the evening, with the appearance of the
moon. Islam still uses this lunar calendar.
Desert people who travelled when it was cool
at night and rested in the heat of the day
used the positions of the stars for guidance.
Stars were also used for finding the direction
of Makkah, the holy
city of Islam. Astronomy became an
important Islamic science; with the minaret
as an ideal astronomical observatory.
By the tenth century Muslims had invented
the astrolabe, an instrument with which they
calculated the movements of stars and
planets. They were able to tell the time of
night from this – the forerunner of our clock.
What does the word ‘mosque’ actually mean?
Why is the dome an important feature of the mosque?
What is the main function of the minaret?
Who sings out the call to prayer from the minaret?
What does the five-pointed star symbolise?
Describe the importance of the stars for the desert people.
A mosque has three uses: it is a place of worship, an Islamic school or college,
and a community centre. Its rooms and facilities must meet all these needs
Internal Features
1. The Prayer Hall.
The most important
part of a mosque is
the prayer hall. The prayer hall is simply a
large space for the men to gather for
prayer. In hot countries this might just
be an open courtyard. The inside of the
mosque is very bare. There are no seats
because the mosque is a place of
prostration and room is needed to go
through the prayer movements. People pray on their own mats or, in hot
countries; they can use the cool floor, though most mosques are carpeted. They
stand in rows, shoulder to shoulder. It is a way of showing their brotherhood in
their faith. The prayer hall may also be used for teaching and for funeral
services. However, it is not used for weddings, even when they take place at the
2. The Women’s Worship Area. Women do not
have to attend mosques, and often their family
responsibilities will prevent them from doing so.
If they do attend, they will prepare for worship
and stand separately from the men, so that the
two sexes do not distract each other. During
prayers, Muslims are not allowed to touch
someone of the opposite sex. Often there is a
balcony at the back of the prayer hall for the
women. Their worship area will be smaller than the men’s, since fewer women
attend mosques.
3. Washing Facilities.
People do not want to prostrate themselves on a dirty
floor, so it is important to keep the prayer hall clean.
This is also done out of respect for Allah. Outdoor
shoes are removed before entering and left in the
shoe-racks provided. Muslims going to prayer have to
wash thoroughly beforehand. Facilities must be
provided for this. Larger mosques might have an openair pool or a fountain; smaller ones might only offer
4. Carpeting. Some Muslims will use individual prayer
mats, but the hall will be carpeted anyway, so that it
is comfortable to walk on in bare feet, and to sit and
kneel on. The prayer mat usually has an arch design on
it, so that the mat can be laid down in the correct
direction for prayer, pointing towards the Ka’bah in
Makkah, the holy city of Islam. Sometimes mosques
have special carpeting that has been designed to look
like lots of individual prayer mats; and the carpet is
laid so that the arches point towards the Ka’bah.
This direction is called the QIBLAH.
5. The Mihrab. Muslims will know the qiblah
as all mosques have a MIHRAB, which is an
alcove in the wall. If Muslims face it when they
pray, they will be facing in the direction of the
Ka’bah. It also serves the useful purpose of
amplifying the voice of the imam who leads the
prayers, facing in the correct direction, with his
back to the rest of the worshippers.
6. Decoration. Some mosques are beautifully
decorated with intricate patterns;
others are plain. Muslims do not
decorate the interior of a mosque
with any human or animal designs and there will be no pictures or
statues, because of the risk of idolatry. Islam teaches that Allah is
too great to be portrayed by human hands, and therefore forbids any
images of him. Decoration on the walls of the mosques often takes
the form of abstract patterns and calligraphy – decorative forms of
Arabic writing. There may be words as well; sentences taken from the Qur’an
What are the three main purposes of a mosque?
Why do Muslims prostrate themselves when they pray?
Why are there separate areas for men and women in a mosque?
Why do people remove their shoes before entering a mosque?
What is the ‘qiblah?’
What is the purpose of the alcove in one of the walls?
Why are there no pictures or statues in a mosque?
Calligraphy. The first and highest art form in Islam is
calligraphy because it is used to write out passages from
the Qur’an and to decorate the mosques. This beautiful
writing is done in different styles, but even in its most elaborate forms, where
the Arabic is very difficult to read, it is a reminder to the faithful of the
importance of Allah’s words.
Islamic Art
2. Architecture. The second most important art form is architecture, because
this is used to design mosques as well as other buildings.
3. Geometric Designs.
Third and finally are either the
geometric designs, or the fascinating
interweaving of leaves in a floral
pattern, known as ‘arabesque’.
These too are used to decorate
mosques, among other things.
The harmony of these intricate designs
speaks to believers of the order and balance in Allah’s universe and of the unity
intended for humanity.
Of least importance in Islam is figurative art.
There are a number of reasons for this:
Muhammad denounced the makers of images and pictures, although
they are not forbidden in the Qur’an.
Idolatry is considered the worst sin in Islam, so anything that could lead to
it is avoided. There is a strict prohibition against any representation of the
human form in mosques and many Muslims have taken this more generally.
Muslims are taught that they should not challenge Allah’s creative role.
Therefore, if they depict any parts of nature, such as a plant, they must
make it two-dimensional and highly stylised, rather than trying to make it
look like the real thing that Allah created.
1. Why is calligraphy the first and highest art form in Islam?
2. Why are geometric designs important to Muslims?
3. Why is figurative art least important to Muslims?
Task 9
Muslims have religious leaders, called
The word ‘Imam’ means ‘at the
front’. This is the person who leads the
worshippers in prayers. A woman can do this if there are no men
present, but usually the imams are men. These people are chosen
by the congregation because they are educated, they have a
great deal of religious knowledge and because people know them
to be good Muslims. An imam has no special training, and he is
not ordained as a holy man. There are no priests or monks in
Islam, all Muslims being regarded as equal in the sight of Allah.
Imams are not usually paid for doing the job. They do the work
in their spare time. They earn their money by doing another
full-time job. However, in a larger mosque, an imam may get paid
for being a secretary or caretaker.
The imam’s day begins with Morning Prayer, which can be as early as 3.00 am.
Afterwards, he will read the Qur’an. After breakfast and a short rest, the
imam’s day of work begins. The imam is responsible for showing school groups and
other visitors around the mosque. He will prepare talks and answer letters from
those enquiring about Islam. In the evening there are more prayers to lead.
Some imams also work as school, hospital or prison chaplains.
Many mosques run schools where Muslim children learn about their religion.
They are taught to read Arabic so they can learn the Qur’an. Some mosques run
these lessons daily. Children go to them after their day’s work at school.
Fridays are special. The Arabic word for Friday (jumu’ah) means Day of
Assembly. Instead of the usual mid-day prayers, a special act of worship takes place.
All adult men must take part. Women are allowed to join in too. One part of
Friday prayer is a KHUTBAH (sermon) given by the imam. It has two parts.
In the first part, he will recite from the Qur’an, and then explain what it means.
In the second part, he will pray for all Muslims everywhere. But the sermon
goes beyond this. The Friday prayer brings all Muslims in a community together.
So the imam may use the occasion to talk about any current events that affect
Muslims. Afterwards, the congregation may discuss local problems.
Then everyone goes back to work. Friday is not a day of rest for Muslims,
as Saturday is for Jews and Sunday is for Christians.
Task 10
1. What is an imam? Who can become an imam?
2. Describe a typical day in the imam’s life.
3. Explain in detail why Friday is an important day for Muslims.
The Practices that Help to Achieve the Goals of Islam
The Five Pillars of Islam
Muslims often think of the practice of
their faith as a kind of temple for God
held up by five pillars, called ARKAN.
These are the five basic duties that all
Muslims must perform.
The Five Pillars
The Five Pillars of Islam are an important and integral part of a Muslim’s practice
of Islam. Muslims consider the practice of these five basic duties as central to
their lives as Muslims. They are the main means to a life that will lead to paradise.
1. Shahadah
Shahadah is the first pillar of Islam, without which the rest is meaningless.
It comes from the word ‘Ash-hadu’ which means ‘I declare’ or ‘I bear witness’.
It is the declaration of faith, that there is truly one Supreme Being and that
Muhammad was his genuine messenger.
I believe there is no God but Allah,
and Muhammad is the messenger of God
When Muslims make the declaration and truly believe in their hearts, they have
entered Islam. But being a good witness involves far more than words – your
whole life must back up what has been declared. Muslims lay down their lives as
sacrifices to God. Your life is your most precious possession; but if you are
SHAHID (ready to die for your faith) you recognise that your life does not belong
to you, but to God. Muslims repeat the Shahadah first thing on waking and last
thing before sleeping. They are the first words whispered into the ears of a
newborn baby, and if possible, the last words uttered to the dying.
Mandatory source 6
They followed what the evil ones gave out (falsely) against the power of
Solomon: the blasphemers were, not Solomon, but the evil ones, teaching
men Magic, and such things as came down at Babylon to the angels Harut
and Marut. But neither of these taught anyone (such things) without
saying: “We are only for trial; so do not blaspheme.” They learned from
them the means to sow discord between man and wife. But they could not
thus harm anyone except by Allah’s permission. And they learned what
harmed them, not what profited them. And they knew that the buyers of
(magic) would have no share in the happiness of the Hereafter. And vile
was the price for which they did sell their souls, if they but knew!
Qur’an 2:102
Student Activities
1. Why do Muslims believe that the Shahadah is the most important of the Five
2. What does the statement of Shahadah show about the nature of God?
3. Qur’an 2:102 rejects those who seek guidance from sorcerers. In today’s
society it isn’t unusual for people to listen to fortune tellers and astrologers.
Why would Muslims consider this to be blasphemy?
4. According to the source what are the consequences of listening to the
teachers of magic?
5. Do you think it acceptable for a Muslim to follow astrology or visit fortune
tellers? Give reasons for your answer.
6. How can the Shahadah be understood to be a unifying factor across Islam?
7. To be a Muslim a person has to declare the Shahadah and truly mean it. Do you
think that it is important publicly to declare one’s personal beliefs? Explain
your answer.
2. Prayer (salah)
The second pillar of Islam is prayer.
Muslims must pray five times a day. Each
time takes about ten minutes.
These five compulsory prayers are known as SALAH. They help Muslims to
remember God and keep them from doing bad deeds. Salah is a duty that must be
performed at work, at home, on a journey or even at
war. It is not a burden to do this, but a great comfort.
Muslim children begin to practice salah around the age
of seven; by the age of ten it is expected of them as a duty.
Many Muslims liken the prayer times to tea breaks. They look forward to the
breaks in their daily routine and the chance for refreshment and relaxation.
In the same way, prayer times clear the mind of immediate concerns and worries.
By washing for prayer, Muslims are refreshed; through the physical actions of
prayer, they are relaxed. Most important of all, they can bring their minds back
to focus on Allah who is, for them, the reason and purpose of their existence.
Times of Salah
Proclaim thy Lord’ s praise
Before the rising of the
sun, and before its setting,
and proclaim thy Lord’s
praise in the watches of
the night, and at the ends
of the day.
So glory to God
both in the evening hour
and in your morning hour.
His is the praise
in the heavens and earth,
alike at the setting sun
and in your noontide hour.
The five daily prayers are
not laid down in any one
passage of the Qur’an,
although they can be
reached by putting the two
passages above together. It
was left to Muhammad to
give more precise details as to
their times and these are found in the HADITH, which
record what Muhammad said and did.
1. Fajr – the morning prayer, between dawn
and sunrise.
2. Zuhr – after midday, during the early
3. Asr – the late afternoon prayer.
4. Maghrib – just after sunset.
5. Isha - the night prayer.
Notice that the times are not set exactly at sunrise, or sunset, to avoid any
suggestion of sun worship. However they are related to the sun, which changes
with the seasons, so they are not always at the same time each day throughout
the year. It is important, therefore, for Muslims to know the times of sunrise
and sunset each day.
Task 11
What is the first Pillar of Islam? What does it mean?
Why is the first pillar so important to Muslims?
What is the second Pillar of Islam?
How many times a day is the second pillar performed?
Why must Muslims know the times of sunrise and sunset each day?
Friday Prayer
Mosques have to decide on the times when they will hold
the prayers, for people who are able to come and say them
rather than at home or at work. The times of prayer are
displayed on six clock faces.
The sixth one shows the time of the special
Friday service, when the JUM’AH prayer
takes the place of the ZUHR prayer. Jum’ah
is Arabic for ‘assembly’ or ‘congregation’ and
Friday, the holy day for Muslims, is called
YAUM UL-JUM’AH, the Day of Assembly.
All Muslim men should attend mosque on that
day, around noon, to join in the congregational
prayer and listen to the sermon (the khutbah).
Women are not obliged to attend because of
their domestic duties.
Call to Prayer
The Muezzin, who stands facing the Ka’bah,
calls Muslims to prayer five times a day.
In Muslim countries this call goes out from
the top of the minarets, and is broadcast on radio and television. In non-Muslim
countries it is usual for the call only to be given inside the mosque, warning those
who have gathered there that prayer is about to begin. The ADHAN is the first
call to prayer. It is announced in plenty of time for
people to prepare themselves for prayer at the
mosque, if they are going to attend. Then the muezzin
gives a second call as he stands in the front row of
worshippers inside the prayer hall. This is called the
‘IQAMAH and it warns people that prayer is about to
start. It has the same words as the adhan, with the
addition of ‘Prayer is about to begin’. This is said
twice after ‘Come to what is good for you’. All other
lines are said only once this time, apart from ‘Allah is
the Greatest’, which is repeated.
For those who cannot go to the mosque,
prayers can be said equally well at home.
In Muslim countries it is not uncommon to see
people praying in the street, or wherever
they happen to be when the call to prayer is sounded. When Muslims pray
together, they stand before God in a real sense of brotherhood, shoulder to
shoulder, facing the Ka’bah in Makkah.
Men are asked to pray at mosques. However if that is not
possible, they may pray anywhere that is clean.
The mind should be attentive.
The body and clothes should be clean.
A man’s clothes should cover his body from the navel to the knees.
A woman’s entire body should be covered, except for her face and hands.
A woman should not be wearing make-up or perfume.
Prayer begins with the ritual wash, or WUDU.
Wudu is part of the discipline. This wash is not because the
Muslim is dirty. It is part of the preparation for the prayer
that follows. They may take a complete bath (called GHUSL)
or go through the procedure outlined below. If no water is available, as in the
desert, then a wash with clean sand will do. The wudu follows a set pattern:
1. The Declaration. The Muslim says, “In the name of Allah the most merciful, the most kind”.
2. Hands washed to the
wrists 3 times
5. Face is washed 3 times
8. Feet washed up to the
ankles 3 times
3. Mouth is rinsed
3 times
4. Nostrils and tip of nose
washed 3 times
6. Arms washed to the
elbows 3 times
7. Head, ears and back of
neck washed
This washing will do for more than one prayer,
providing there has been no ‘breaking’ action in
between. Wudu is ‘broken’ if anything has come
out of the body (e.g. blood, wind or urine) or if
the mind has lost conscious control (e.g. in sleep).
After a sexual act, or after a period, a complete
bath is required.
After performing wudu, Muslims face the direction
of Makkah, standing on a prayer mat, shoulder to shoulder with other Muslims
in orderly fashion at the mosque. The direction of Makkah is called QIBLAH.
If Muslims are in a mosque, there is a special alcove in the qiblah wall called a
MIHRAB that locates the direction. Outside a mosque, many Muslims use a
small compass in order to be accurate.
Salah consists of set words that are recited from
memory, led by the imam. These are mostly
expressions of praise for Allah and quotations from
the Qur’an. These words are accompanied by set actions; this cycle of ritual
Prayer Positions
prayers and postures is called a
The Muslim begins prayer by saying to
himself that he intends to offer this salah. This intention, called NIYYAH, is a
conscious effort to focus the mind on Allah and to do the prayer for him. The
opening chapter of the Qur’an is then recited (sometimes silently), followed by
another passage from the Qur’an during the first two rak’ahs.
He raises his hands briefly to
his ears, with the words ‘Allahu
Akbar’ (Allah is the Greatest).
He recites the opening chapter
of the Qur’an and any one other
O Allah, Glorified, praiseworthy and
blessed is your name and exalted your
majesty; there is no God but you.
I seek shelter in Allah from the
rejected Satan
Bowing as a sign of respect, he says ‘Allahu Akbar’ and
then, three times, ‘Glory to my Lord the great’.
He will then stand upright again, which is also a sign of
respect. He will say:
‘Allah has heard all who praise him.
Our Lord: Praise be to you’.
With the words ‘Allahu Akbar’, he prostrates
himself on the ground and says three times
‘Glory to my Lord, the most high’. After sitting
back on his heels for a moment, he repeats this.
This position is called SAJDAH, and shows the
Muslim’s complete submission before Allah.
The first rak’ah is now complete. It takes only about a minute to do.
Note the three basic positions: standing (QIYAM), bowing (RUKU), and
prostrating (SAJDAH). Each of these goes further than the one before it in
showing submission to Allah.
After the second rak’ah, he sits back with the left
foot bent towards the right one with his hands on
his knees. In this position, he silently recites
further prayers, particularly asking Allah’s blessing
on Muhammad’ and Ibrahim.
When the correct
number of rak’ahs are
completed, he turns
his head to the right
and then to the left, blessing his fellow Muslims
each time with the words,
‘Peace be upon you and Allah’s blessings’.
Personal Prayer – Du’a
Du’a prayers are not part of the formal
or set prayers. They are personal
prayers that may be offered at any time and are of any length. Du’a prayers
are used when Muslims have special concerns to bring before Allah.
The prayers are used to ask for help and guidance in times of suffering or
anxiety or panic. Du’a prayers may be private thanksgivings for some blessing
received, cries for help or pleas for forgiveness.
1. What do Muslims call the ritualistic washing before prayer?
2. Explain the significance of all Muslims in the world turning to face the
Ka’ba when they pray.
3. Why is niyyah (intention) important before prayer?
Task 12
4. Why are du’a prayers important for Muslims?
Mandatory source 7
‘O ye who believe! when ye prepare for prayer, wash your faces, and your hands
(and arms) to the elbows; Rub your heads (with water); and (wash) your feet to
the ankles. If ye are in a state of ceremonial impurity, bathe your whole body. But
if ye are ill, or on a journey, or one of you cometh from offices of nature, or ye
have been in contact with women, and ye find no water, then take for yourselves
clean sand or earth, and rub therewith your faces and hands. Allah doth not wish
to place you in a difficulty, but to make you clean, and to complete his favour to
you, that ye may be grateful. And call in remembrance the favour of Allah unto
you, and His covenant, which He ratified with you, when ye said: “We hear and we
obey”: And fear Allah, for Allah knoweth well the secrets of your hearts.’
Qur’an 5:6–7
Student Activities
1. How can prayer bring Muslims closer to God?
2. Why do Muslims feel it’s important to pray five times a day?
3. What are the benefits of praying five times a day?
4. How can prayer bring Muslims closer to one another as a community?
5. What difficulties would Muslims have following their duty of communal
prayer in Britain today?
6. How do Muslims prepare for prayer? Why do you think they do this?
7. What would a Muslim do if there was no water to prepare for prayer? Why
would a Muslim follow this advice if it wouldn’t make them any cleaner?
Muslims believe that God has given
everything people have. More than that,
everything we have belongs to God. And
that includes our money and possessions. Strictly speaking, these things are not
ours, they are God’s. So we should use them as he wishes them to be used. We
should spend our money in ways he will approve
of. This means giving things to those who need
them, not keeping all our money for ourselves.
3. Zakah (charity)
He is not a believer who eats his
fill while his neighbour remains
hungry by his side
Muslims believe that poor people have a right to
share in the wealth of the rich people. Zakah is a kind of tax that makes sure
this happens. It is the third pillar of Islam. The word zakah means ‘to purify’ or
‘cleanse’. Muslims believe that giving some of their wealth helps to purify them of
greed and selfishness.
Every Muslim has a duty to pay Zakah. Each year, well-off Muslims must give
some of their wealth away. It will be used for good causes or to help the poor.
Muslims believe it is a sin to let people suffer from hunger or disease.
They also think that hanging on to all your wealth is greedy. That too is a sin.
The amount to be paid varies. Every Muslim who
has money left at the end of the year has to
give at least 2.5% (one fortieth) of it away.
Farmers must give at least 5% of their crops
and a number of animals. Traders give 2.5% of
the value of their goods. Those who have no
surplus wealth are not required to pay Zakah,
but will be the recipients of it.
In some Islamic countries, zakah is collected by
the government and shared among the needy.
If a Muslim lives in a country which isn’t Islamic
(such as Britain) then Islamic organisations
collect and distribute it. Muslims in the West
often send money to those in Third World countries like Bangladesh, showing the
sense of brotherhood between Muslims throughout the world.
A Muslim can give zakah direct to another person if he or she wishes.
But Muslims believe it is better to give secretly.
Muhammad himself said:
The best charity is that which the
right hand gives and the left
hand does not know of it
Zakah is an act of worship. It is not charity, like giving money on a flag day.
It is a duty. It gives to others the wealth that should be theirs. Nor should
people who pay it feel proud. If they feel proud of giving the money, they would
feel superior to those who receive it. Muslims believe that everyone is equal.
Zakah helps to make a fairer society. Zakah aims to purify society of the evil
divisions between rich and poor.
Many Muslims will want to give away more than the required amount, and their
religion encourages them to do so. Voluntary charity is called
Who benefits from zakah?
Zakah money may be used for certain set
purposes. It is used to help:
The poor and needy
People who have recently become Muslim
People in debt
Muslim tax collectors (for wages)
Muslims studying Islam
 Travellers who need help
 Hospitals, schools, libraries and mosques
What is zakah?
Why must Muslims pay zakah?
Task 13
How is zakah organised in a Muslim country?
What is ‘sadaqah?’
Zakah money may be used for certain set purposes.
Who benefits from the money?
6. Why, in your opinion, is it a good idea to be told to help the poor?
7. Would YOU be willing to pay zakah? Give reasons for your answer.
Mandatory source 8
‘It is not righteousness that ye turn your faces towards east or west; but it is
righteousness – to believe in Allah and the Last Day, and the Angels, and the Book,
and the Messengers; to spend of your substance, out of love for Him, for your kin,
for orphans, for the needy, for the wayfarer, for those who ask, and for the
ransom of slaves; to be steadfast in prayer, and practice regular charity; to fulfill
the contracts which ye have made; and to be firm and patient, in pain (or
suffering) and adversity, and throughout all periods of panic. Such are the people
of truth, the Allah fearing.’
Qur’an 2:177
The meaning or motivation behind such giving is deeply significant. Muslims
consider wealth to be a blessing from Allah. Since He values and cares for
everyone equally, He naturally expects His blessing and provision to be shared
around. Thus wealth brings with it some form of test or trial. Those who respond
by being generous to others enjoy His pleasure and favour, while those who are
greedy and self centred and who hoard wealth, or use it selfishly for themselves,
fall into a trap and risk His displeasure. We may deduce from all of this that
Zakat is a practical expression of spiritual worship and a religious social security
Student Activities
Why do Muslims believe that the giving of wealth is a method of cleansing?
In what way is Zakat an act of submission to God?
What are the consequences of hoarding money according to Islam?
Read Qur’an 2:177. Which groups are mentioned as having need of financial help?
According to this source why should Muslims help others?
Muslims believe that the giving of Zakat is a duty and therefore not a source of
pride. How might this affect the attitude of the receiver?
7. Do you think that the giving of charity should be a requirement or a matter of free
8. Why would Muslims argue that belief and worship must have an ethical dimension?
Do you agree with this view? Give reasons for your answer.
Assessmet Task 3
Conduct an Internet search at Islamic Relief (http:// and also
Muslim Aid (http:// See if you can find out more from these
websites about the giving of charity. Try and find out the methods of collection and
distribution of these alms.
Sawm is the fourth pillar of Islam.
It lays down that, at certain times,
4. Sawm (fasting)
Muslims must fast – in other words, not eat.
Just like zakah, sawm is an act of worship.
Muslims accept that they may have to suffer in order to obey
God. They know they must accept God’s commands at all
times. Sawm helps them to remember this. Fasting helps a
Muslim to appreciate how the poor suffer. It is a kind of
training that makes it easier for Muslims to be obedient.
It also brings Muslims together because they all fast at
the same time.
O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was
prescribed to those before you, that ye may (learn) self-restraint.
Qur’an 2:183
The fasting takes place during the ninth month of the
Islamic calendar. The month is called RAMADAN.
It is regarded as a very special month because it was
during this time that the Prophet Muhammad
received his first revelation of the Qur’an.
Islamic months are based on the moon and
move forward by ten or eleven days each
year. The fast lasts for 29 or 30 days
(depending on when the new moon is first
seen). Muslims also pay extra attention to
the Qur’an during this month; many read it
right through from beginning to end.
Who must fast?
Any Muslim who is capable of fasting
should do so; but no one should endanger life or health
because of it. All adult Muslims go without food from
just before dawn until just after sunset. Nothing must
pass the lips (not even chewing-gum, a cigarette, or the
smoke of someone else’s cigarette!); they do not drink
or make love, either. Women who are menstruating,
pregnant or breast-feeding should not fast. Nor
should people who are ill and could make themselves worse by fasting. Muslim
soldiers, or people on long journeys, will have to keep up their strength and so
they are also excused from fasting. These people should try to make up the fastdays they have missed, at another time.
If they cannot do this, then they should give the cost of two meals to the poor,
for each fast day they miss, if they can afford to do so. Elderly people are not
expected to fast, but they too are asked to feed the poor instead, if they can
afford it. Young children will gradually be introduced to fasting, perhaps just half
a day at first. Once they reach the age of puberty, they will have to do the same
fasts as the adults. This is often taken to apply from 12 years old. Lastly, the
insane are not required to fast. They would not understand what was going on, and
would not be able to gain any spiritual benefit from this religious duty, but would
simply be given unnecessary suffering.
Muslims usually have a meal just before dawn
during the month of Ramadan. Even so, going
without food all day is not easy, no matter what
age a person is. It is possible to cheat, but
Muslims believe that God sees everything. They
know that this cheating may fool other people, but
it won’t fool God.
The fast is a matter between the individual and
God alone. Muslims are also very careful not to do
any bad actions during their fast. No Muslim
should tell a lie or break a promise during the whole
Each night during Ramadan, Muslims say special prayers. If they can do this in a
mosque, they should do so. These prayers involve speaking and listening to as
much of the Qur’an as possible. Ideally, Muslims should finish the whole book
during Ramadan. One night is especially important during the month. This is
LAYLAT UL QADR (The Night of Power). The Qur’an was revealed to Muhammad
on this night. By tradition, it is celebrated on an odd-numbered day during the
last ten nights of Ramadan. On this night, Muslims should try to stay awake and
offer special prayers when God sends down his commandments.
The food that breaks the fast after sunset is called IFTAR. It is sensible not to
eat too much otherwise you can feel sick. More substantial, wholesome meals
follow later in the evening when many friends and relatives come to visit.
If the day’s fast starts very early an extra meal called SUHUR can be squeezed in
before first light. Ramadan ends with the great feast of ID-UL-FITR.
Why do Muslims fast during Ramadan?
Why is Ramadan an important time for Muslims?
Who must fast during Ramadan?
Which groups of people are not required to fast?
What ‘feast’ marks the end of Ramadan?
Task 14
Each day all Muslims turn during prayer
towards the Ka’bah in Makkah. Once in a
lifetime, each physically fit Muslim is
expected to travel to Makkah as long as he or she can afford to go. To fail to do
so, when they are able, is regarded as a grave sin. This pilgrimage is called the
Hajj. It is the fifth and final pillar of Islam.
5. Hajj (pilgrimage)
Makkah is the most important place of
pilgrimage for Muslims because
Muhammad was born there and lived
there for most of his life.
He performed religious rituals there
and reclaimed it as a holy city for
Allah. He encouraged the continuation
of many of the old holy practices, but
purified them by restoring what he
believed to be their true meaning, in
the worship of the One God.
So pilgrims to Makkah are walking in the footsteps of Muhammad, performing the
same rituals that he did on pilgrimage all those years ago. Even more important
than following the Prophet’s example, is the fact that pilgrimage is commanded in
the Qur’an:
“Perform the pilgrimage and the visit (to Makkah) for Allah”
(Qur’an 2:196)
For Muslims who live near Makkah the journey can be made many times, but most
live so far away and are so poor that it is virtually impossible. Some people save
for a lifetime in order to be able to go. Sometimes a family or community will club
together in order to be able to send one representative.
There are certain rules for pilgrims.
 They must be Muslim. Non-Muslims are not allowed.
 They must have reached the age of responsibility and be of sound mind, so
that they know what they are doing.
 They must be physically fit and able to take the strain and rigours of
the journey.
 They must be able to afford it. They should have no debts; and they should
have gained the money to pay for the pilgrimage through honest means.
The true Hajj has to be made during the
twelfth Islamic month. If a Muslim goes at any
other time it is known as UMRAH, or the
lesser pilgrimage, and the significance is not the
same. Before modern transport it sometimes
took months, perhaps years, of hard travel to
get to Makkah and back. Nowadays many
pilgrims fly to the Hajj Terminal at Jeddah
airport. Pilgrims of every race and social class
meet in equality before God. It is the climax of
a Muslim’s life. Rich, poor, employer or servant,
all are united before God. If a Muslim cannot
go on Hajj because of ill health, lack of funds
or unavoidable circumstances they can join the
pilgrimage in spirit and in prayer. They can,
if they wish, pay for a substitute to go on their behalf or they can give their Hajj
savings to charity. The Hajj lasts for five days. In that time, each Muslim is
expected to think of God constantly. Those who manage to complete it are
honoured with the titles HAJJI (for a man) and HAJJA (for a woman). The word
Hajj literally means ‘to set out for a definite purpose’.
The Qur’an calls Makkah ‘the mother town’
because it is the spiritual centre of Islam.
As the pilgrims approach Makkah, there are signs
warning that only Muslims are allowed into the holy city. The area of the Hajj is
HARAM. This word means both ‘forbidden’ and ‘sacred’, i.e. it is so special that it
is set apart for a holy purpose, and those who are not Muslim are therefore
forbidden. The mosque in which the Ka’ba stands is called the MASJID
AL-HARAM, the Sacred Mosque. The boundary lies between about 5 and 30
kilometres from the Ka’bah; and everyone is stopped on the approaches to the
city, to have their passes checked. Pilgrims are organised into groups under the
leadership of people who know what to do and where to take them.
Arriving at Makkah
Why is Makkah the most important place of pilgrimage for Muslims?
Describe the rules for pilgrims.
When is the ‘true Hajj’ made?
What can Muslims do if they are unable to go on the Hajj?
How long does the Hajj last?
Why does the Qur’an refer to Makkah as ‘the mother town?’
Task 15
Before reaching the sacred city of
Makkah, pilgrims must purify their
bodies (preferably with a full bath,
or else by performing wudu) and enter into a state of
holiness called IHRAM. This word literally means
‘consecration’ and the pilgrims must make a conscious
effort to dedicate themselves to worship, prayer and
denial of vanity. All normal clothing must be put away.
Male pilgrims put on just two sheets of unsewn white
cloth, one wrapped round the waist, the other over the
left shoulder. Women wear a plain undecorated anklelength, long-sleeved garment, leaving only their hands
and faces bare. For once, women can uncover their
faces – even if they normally cover them because no man
should look at them with lust at this time. Pilgrims have
nothing on their heads (that is why many carry
umbrellas, for protection against the sun), and are only
permitted to wear sandals on their feet.
The special garments worn by pilgrims are also called ihram.
These clothes symbolise three things:
There are rules attached to ihram. These include:
 Do not do anything dishonest or arrogant, but behave like servants of Allah.
 Flirtatious thoughts of the opposite sex are forbidden. Muslims cannot get
engaged to marry on Hajj. Normal marital relations are set aside (any sexual act on Hajj would nullify it).
 Men must not wear jewellery or rings.
 No one may use perfume or scented soap – unscented soap is on sale
for pilgrims.
 To express humility – men must not cover their heads.
 To express non-interference with nature, no one must cut hair or
finger nails.
 To express simplicity, everyone must go barefoot or in sandals that leave
the toes and heels bare.
 To curb aggression and feel unity with God’s creatures, no blood must be
shed by killing animals except fleas, bedbugs, snakes and scorpions.
 To feel love for nature, no plants may be uprooted or trees cut down.
 Muslims must strive to keep their minds at peace, and not lose their
tempers, quarrel or get exasperated by difficulties.
The first thing that
any Muslim pilgrim will
want to see is the
building towards which he or she turns in
prayer five times a day: the holy Ka’ba.
Set in the courtyard of the Sacred Mosque
in Makkah, it is 15.25 metres high, made of
large stone blocks, and cube shaped (ka’ba
means ‘cube’). It is covered with a beautiful
black silk cloth, called the KISWAH. This is
made in Makkah and has words of the Qur’an
embroidered on it in gold thread. The edges
of the Kiswah are hoisted up during the Hajj;
and towards the end of Hajj, on 10 Dhul
Hijjah, it is replaced each year with a new one.
For a Muslim, the Ka’ba has layer upon layer of tradition and meaning attached to
it. It is said to be the first house of prayer on earth. Legend has it that Adam
was sent down from heaven and wandered the earth until he reached Arabia.
There he wanted to build a house of prayer like the one in heaven. One story says
that Allah let down a replica out of heaven; others that Adam built it himself.
Later, Ibrahim (Abraham) is said to have rebuilt the Ka’ba with the help of his son
Isma’il (Ishmael).
The Ka’ba
The Circling
The first thing the pilgrims do on arrival in Makkah, no
matter what time of day or night, is to hurry to the Ka’ba
and encircle it seven times. Pilgrims move around the Ka’ba
in an anti-clockwise direction, preferably running the first three, and walking the
last four. This is called the TAWAF. They start and finish counting the circuits
from the corner where the Black Stone is. If at all possible, they should kiss or
touch this stone, since Muhammad used to do this, or at least salute it as they go
by. The Circling demonstrates the unity of the believers in the worship of the One
God, as they move in harmony together around their central shrine, each reciting
an individual verse of the Qur’an. At the end of the Circling, they go to the
Station of Ibrahim to pray two rak’ahs.
Explain what is meant by ‘Ihram’.
Pilgrims wear special garments. What three things do they symbolise?
Describe the Ka’ba.
Why is the Ka’ba important to the pilgrims?
What are the first thing pilgrims do on arrival at Makkah?
Why do pilgrims kiss or touch the Black Stone?
The second event of the Hajj is the SA’Y.
There is a covered way that extends out from the
Sacred Mosque, and is built between two hills,
called As-Safa and Al-Marwa. Pilgrims must hurry along this passage, seven times,
beginning at As-Safa, which is nearest to the
Sacred Mosque, and finishing at Al-Marwa.
There is a corridor down the middle for those
who cannot move so fast, or may be in
wheelchairs; the other pilgrims pass on either
side, in one direction only. In performing this
ritual, pilgrims remember the story of how God
ordered Abraham to leave his wife Hagar and
son Ishmael in the desert. When their water
supply ran out, Hagar ran up and down the hills in
a desperate search for more. The story tells
how they were saved from dying of thirst.
Ishmael dug his heels into the sand, where
Hagar had left him, and a spring of water
gushed up. Pilgrims can still visit this spring, at the Zamzam well. There are steps
leading down to it, in a chamber under the courtyard of the Sacred Mosque. Many
pilgrims bathe the edge of their ihram in it, and take some of the water home
with them.
Sa’y – the Running
The Stand Before God
The pilgrims spend the night at Mina.
At sunrise on the following day, they go to
the valley of Arafat. On the plain of Arafat,
at the Mount of Mercy, the pilgrims make their
stand before God, the WUQUF.
They stand from noon to sunset in the blistering
heat meditating and praying, and concentrating
on God alone. Latecomers rush to be on time,
for if the stand is missed, the Hajj is not valid.
Standing before Allah at Arafat, pilgrims beg
forgiveness for their sins. Pilgrims perform the
noon and afternoon prayers at Arafat, then
move off at sunset to spend the night at
Muzdalifah, where they perform the sunset and
night prayers. Part of the evening is spent
hunting for forty-nine small stones for the next
part of the Hajj - the Stoning of the Devil.
Just before dawn breaks, the pilgrims depart
for Mina.
Returning to Mina, the pilgrims set off for three
stone pillars where the ‘Stoning of the Devil takes
place. The pilgrims throw seven pebbles at each of
the three pillars to symbolise their rejection of the Devil and all his works.
The action also reminds the pilgrims of the story of Ibrahim (Abraham) and his
son Isma’il (Ishmael), in which Allah tested their faith by asking Ibrahim to
sacrifice his son to him. Three times the Devil tempted Ibrahim not to do it, and
tempted Isma’il to run away. But both father and son withstood the temptations,
and drove away the Devil by throwing stones at him.
Stoning the Devil
The Animal Sacrifice
The pilgrimage ends with the
festival known as EID-UL-ADHA (the feast of sacrifice). The pilgrims all camp at
Mina for two to three days of the feast. Every pilgrim who can afford it must
sacrifice an animal. Abraham had been willing to sacrifice his son on God’s
command. When God spared Isma’il, Abraham sacrificed a ram instead. So
modern pilgrims sacrifice a sheep, goat, cow or camel. This is a symbol of how
willing they are to give up their lives and possessions for God. Pilgrims eat some
of the meat; much of it (about a third) is given to the poor. After the sacrifice,
the men have their heads shaved and the women cut off at least 2.5cm of their
hair. At this point the ihram ends.
The pilgrims then return to Makkah for another encircling of the Ka’ba. The final
events are enjoyed in the holiday spirit. Many go back to Mina for a rest period
of rest and recovery. Finally they return to Makkah for the farewell. Some take
water from the Zamzam, and dip their white cloths in it to be used later as
shrouds. They drink as much water as possible, believing it cures diseases, and
they take as much as they can carry home to their families. Some are given
pieces of the Black Cloth as souvenirs. They are at last entitles to take the name
Hajji or Hajjah.
What do pilgrims remember when performing the ritual of Sa’y?
Why must pilgrims not miss the ‘Stand before God?’
Why do pilgrims gather forty-nine small stones at Muzdalifah?
Why do pilgrims ‘stone the Devil?’
What festival ends the pilgrimage?
Why must all pilgrims sacrifice an animal?
Birth in Islam
If a child has Muslim parents, he or she is considered to be a Muslim at birth.
Muslims believe every child is a gift from God; no babies should be born
illegitimate (outside of marriage) or unwanted. Babies should not be regarded as
‘accidents’ or ‘mistakes’ and a large number of children are often regarded as a
great blessing. For a woman it is an honour to become a mother. Prophet
Muhammad explained how important a mother was in a person’s life when he said:
“Paradise lies at the feet of your mother”.
So Muslims believe there are few things more important in life than having
children and bringing them up correctly.
The Call to Prayer
The new baby is welcomed into the UMMAH – the
one big family of Islam – as soon as it is born.
The head of the family takes the baby into his arms
and whispers the call to prayer (the ADHAN) in the right ear and the command to
rise and worship (the IQAMAH) in the left ear. This ensures that the first word
a baby ever hears is ‘God’.
At the same time or soon after the ‘Call to Prayer’, an older,
respected member of the family places something sweet like a
tiny piece of sugar, honey or chewed date, on the baby’s gum.
This is called TAHNIK and symbolises the hope that the baby’s life will be
sweet and obedient to Allah. A blessing is then said over the child.
Seven days after the birth comes AQIQAH, when relatives
and friends come to a feast and the baby is named.
Passages from the Qur’an are recited and there are a number of special rituals
a. Shaving the Head
This takes place at the aqiqah to symbolise the
purity of the baby. Traditionally, the hair is
weighed and its equivalent weight in gold or
silver is given to the poor. Today the family
often donate a sum of money to charity as their
way of thanking Allah for the gift of their child.
The baby’s hair is treated with great respect
because it is part of a human being, and after
the ceremony, the father carefully buries it in
the ground.
b. Naming
At the aqiqah, the baby is given its name in public. The choice of name is
important, and it is usually a family name or one of the names from the Prophet’s
family. A boy’s name may be chosen from one of the 99 names of Allah. If this is
the case, respect must be shown for this name and the word Abd is put in front
because it means ‘servant of’. So the name Abdullah would mean ‘servant of Allah’.
A popular girl’s name might be one of Muhammad’s wives or daughters like Ayesha,
Khadijah or Fatimah. Names declaring that the baby possesses certain excellent
moral qualities are avoided, and names suggesting slavery to anyone
other than God are forbidden.
c. Animal Sacrifices
Some Muslims offer a sacrifice, the pre-Islamic
practice of thanksgiving. Traditionally, one sheep or
goat is sacrificed to celebrate the birth of a girl and
two sacrificed for a baby boy. This is because the birth of a boy is considered a
particular blessing. The meat is first cooked in a special way to make it sweet,
and then divided into three portions. A third is given to the poor, a third to
friends and relatives, and the rest eaten at the aqiqah.
Khitan (circumcision)
If the baby is a boy, he must then be circumcised.
KHITAN, or circumcision, is the practice of
cutting the foreskin from the penis. This is
sometimes done at the same time as aqiqah if the baby is well and there is no need
for delay. If the baby is not healthy circumcision can be left for a few months.
Muslims, like Jews, believe that God commanded the prophet Ibrahim (Abraham)
to circumcise all the males in his household. Since then it has been the sign and
practice of all the Prophet’s of Allah. Prophet Muhammad said that all Muslim
boys should be circumcised before the age of ten.
Around the fourth birthday some Muslims have a ceremony
known as BISMILLAH, the occasion when the child learns the
first lesson from the Qur’an by heart – ‘In the name of God,
the Compassionate, the Merciful’. The child has to repeat each word carefully and
is taught how to pray. The education as a Muslim has begun.
1. Why are children very important in Islam?
2. What is the first word a Muslim baby hears?
3. What is the tahnik?
4. What happens at aqiqah?
5. Why are all baby boys circumcised?
Death and Burial
Muslims believe life is temporary and death comes to everyone. Allah already
knows the time of a person’s birth and death long before they are born. Although
people are naturally upset when someone dies, Muslims think big displays of grief
show that a person has no faith in God. Large sums of money should not be spent
on funerals. It is thought the money would be better spent helping those in need.
Muslims, if they have lived their lives constantly according to Shari’ah, have been
preparing for this day from the moment of birth, and hope to face the passing
with calmness and acceptance.
All Muslims believe in life after death; they are certain that all humans belong to
God and will return to Him. They do not see death as the end of life, but the time
when a person withdraws from the earthly family before going to be close to God.
They believe that on the Day of Judgement, loved ones will meet again.
When a Muslim knows death is approaching,
friends and relatives are sent for and gather
around the bed. Muhammad left detailed advice
about caring for a dying person. He said that no Muslim must be left to die alone
because Satan will try to confuse their mind. It is a great kindness to sit with
someone who is dying and read him or her verses from the Qur’an.
“There is no God but Allah,
and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah”
Just as the first word heard by a Muslim is ‘God’, so it should also be the last
word heard or uttered. Where possible the dying person should be helped to
recite the Shahadah, the declaration of faith. Otherwise, it can be said for them.
The blessing of Allah is asked for the dying person along with forgiveness for
their sins.
The Last Word
As soon as possible after death the body
is given the final ritual washing and prayers.
The body is washed at least three times by
close members of the family, the same sex as the
deceased. The washing can take place at the mosque, in a
community facility, or at home. Particular care is paid to
those parts of the body, which touch the ground during
prayer: the forehead, nose, palms of the hands, knees and
feet. Afterwards, the body is anointed with scents or
spices and wrapped in a shroud made of unsewn sheets of
white cloth, three for a man and five for a woman.
If the Muslim has been on Hajj, the white clothing they
wore on that sacred pilgrimage will be used.
The face of the deceased is left uncovered.
Preparation of the body
The Funeral
Muhammad said funerals and burials should take place as soon as possible.
Because Muslims believe that Allah will resurrect the whole body on the Day of
Judgement they are against the destruction of the body by cremation. Post
mortems are only
accepted if
there is a legal
Both are seen as
violation of the
Allah created.
Funerals should
be simple and
inexpensive. Muslims prefer that coffins should not be used, except to comply
with special regulations for health reasons. The body should be buried simply
in the earth, not wasting precious wood, and should be carried to the cemetery
rather than taken in a vehicle.
Walking is considered more respectful than riding comfortably.
Muslims request burial with the face turned to the right, facing Makkah.
It is therefore preferable if they can have their own cemeteries. Also, Muslims
only allow one body per grave; they demand therefore, that money should not be
spent on elaborate tombstones or memorials. Instead, donations should be given
to the poor. As the body is lowered, they say:
“In the name of God we commit you to the earth,
according to the Way of the Prophet of God”.
A little earth is then thrown down with the words:
“We created you from it, and We return you into it,
and from it We will raise you a second time”.
Official mourning usually lasts seven days but some
communities have special Qur’an readings for 40 days.
During this time the family remain at home, visited by
friends and relatives who offer comfort, recite parts of the Qur’an with the
family and pray for God’s mercy on the person who has died. The deceased is
never forgotten. It is the duty of children to pray for their parents and to visit
their graves, if possible.
Describe in detail the Muslim view of death.
Read ‘The Last Word’. Describe what happens when a Muslim is dying.
How do Muslims prepare a body for burial?
Describe the rules and rituals for a Muslim funeral.
Describe the Muslim procedures for mourning.
The Final Aim of Existence
Life after death: The immortality of the soul
The key concept here is eternal life. To understand this fully we need to examine
various aspects of the Muslim goal of eternal life. For the sake of clarity these
‘goals’ will be broken down as follows:
Akhirah: Paradise and Hell.
All Muslims believe in Akhirah, or life after death, and that human life is divided
into two sections – each individual’s life on earth, and the eternal life that follows.
Since our earthly lives are short by comparison with the eternal, it is obvious that
eternal life is far more important. This life is simply a preparation, some Muslims
would say a test, for the life to come.
The kind of life a person has after death will depend on how he or she has
performed in this life.
Say: “Travel through the earth and see what was the end of those before (thee):
Most of them worshipped others besides Allah.”
But set thou thy face to the right Religion before there come from Allah the Day
which there is no chance of averting: on that Day shall men be divided (in two).
Those who reject Faith will suffer from that rejection: and those who work
righteousness will spread their couch (of repose) for themselves (in heaven): That
He may reward those who believe and work righteous deeds, out of his Bounty. For
He loves not those who reject Faith.”
Qur’an 30:42–45.
Muslims believe that:
All people earn, or are responsible for, their own salvation.
How we respond to our tests is our own business, but by our lives and actions we
earn our place in the next life.
Whatever we do will have a direct effect on ourselves alone.
Our actions can neither help nor harm Allah, they only help or harm ourselves.
Everything we do or think is known by our guardian angels, who
keep the full record on which our judgement will be based. This
record is to show us, not Allah, who already knows everything.
Allah cannot be bought or bribed.1
In other words, Allah is absolutely fair and absolutely reliable. He will judge
people on the basis of the good or the evil that they have done.2 This also means
that no human being has the right to judge another’s goodness or badness: God is
the sole and valued judge
Whoever works righteousness benefits his own soul; whoever works evil, it is
against his own soul: nor is thy Lord ever unjust (in the least) to His Servants.’
Qur’an 41:46
Student activities
1. According to Islam what is the purpose of this life?
2. Referring to Qur’an 30:42–45 explain what are the consequences for those
that reject faith in Allah and those that turn to Allah. (See page 39 of this
3. What signs are referred to in Qur’an 3:19? What are the consequences of
ignoring the signs? (See page 37 of this pack.)
4. Either describe what is being assessed during this life (100– 150 words) or
illustrate in the form of a comic strip the different aspects of this life which
are being tested.
5. How would Akhirah comfort those that are bereaved? Describe a reason why
some Muslims would not be comforted.
6. If there is no life after death what challenges to faith in God would arise?
The Qur’an teaches the resurrection of the dead rather than the immortality of
the soul.4 Since the dead will have their physical bodies recreated and restored in
the future, cremation is forbidden and all Muslims are buried in the earth.
Does man think that We cannot assemble his bones?
Nay, We are able to put together in perfect order the very tips of his fingers.
Qur’an 75:3–4
They say: “What! when we are reduced to bones and dust, should we really be
raised up (to be) a new creation?”
Say: “(Nay!) be ye stones or iron,
“Or created matter which, in your minds, is hardest (to be raised up), – (Yet shall
ye be raised up)!” Then will they say: “Who will cause us to return?” Say: “He who
created you first!” Then will they wag their heads towards thee, and say, “When
will that be?” Say, “Maybe it will be quite soon!”
Qur’an 17:49–51
Some Muslim traditions teach that there is an intermediate state called ‘Barzakh’
which falls between death and Judgement Day. There are many different beliefs
about its nature. One such tradition affirms that the angel of death, Izrail, will
question the dead about their faith. Those who fail the test will be punished
immediately, whilst those who pass will be taken straight to heaven. Other Muslim
traditions claim that the soul simply ‘sleeps’ until the Last Day so that it will only
seem like a moment between death and resurrection, even if centuries have
passed. These traditions are derived from the Qur’anic verse, which can be
interpreted to mean ‘Barzakh’ the intermediate state.
There are yet other Islamic traditions that are not actually found in the Qur’an.
These traditions concern the end of time when the world will also end. One of the
‘signs of the End’, it is affirmed, is that evil will prevail. Dajjal – the ‘Beast’ who
will come at the End-Time – will lead the inhabitants of the earth to lower depths
of evil. ‘He’ will take over human affairs. (A political leader?) Then Isa (Jesus) will
return to the Damascus mosque and defeat Dajjal after a great battle.
Other traditions say that it will be the Mahdi5 who will appear – or return – and
convert the world to Islam before the Final Trumpet is sounded.
No just estimate have they made of Allah, such as is due to Him: On the Day of
Judgement the whole of the earth will be but His handful, and the heavens will be
rolled up in His right hand: Glory to Him! High is He above the Partners they
attribute to Him! The Trumpet will (just) be sounded, when all that are in the
heavens and on earth will swoon, except such as it will please Allah (to exempt).
Then will a second one be sounded, when, behold, they will be standing and looking
on! And the Earth will shine with the Glory of its Lord: the Record (of Deeds) will
be placed (open); the prophets and the witnesses will be brought forward and a
just decision pronounced between them; and they will not be wronged (in the
Qur’an 39:67–69
Student activities
1. Why do Muslims believe it is important to bury their dead rather than
cremating them?
2. Read Qur’an 17:49–51. Using this verse describe how people will react on the
day of resurrection. Why do they react in that way?
3. Explain what some Muslims believe will happen if they die before Judgement
4. Describe what some Muslims believe will happen to the earth on the Day of
After death comes the Judgement Day when every person will be required to give
an account to God of the life they have lived and all that they have done.
Every soul will be (held) in pledge for its deeds.
Except the Companions of the Right Hand.
(They will be) in Gardens (of Delight): they will question each other,
And (ask) of the Sinners:
“What led you into Hell Fire?”
They will say: “We were not of those who prayed;
“Nor were we of those who fed the indigent;
“But we used to talk vanities with vain talkers;
“And we used to deny the Day of Judgement,
“Until there came to us (the Hour) that is certain.”
Qur’an 74:38–47
The dead and the living will be raised and brought to the plain of judgement. Each
person will be given the book of his or her life to read out to everyone there and
to Allah (this is the record kept by the recording angels on the shoulders of
Muslims). Those given the book in their right hand will go to heaven and those
given the book in their left hand will go to hell. Everything a person has ever done
will be in the book, and he or she will see his or her deepest secrets.
The basis of judgment will be a mixture of faith and action. Faith in Allah is
crucial, and good works as laid down in the Shar’iah are very important.
On the Day that the Hour will be established, – that Day shall (all men) be sorted
out. Then those who have believed and worked righteous deeds, shall be made
happy in a Mead of Delight. And those who have rejected Faith and falsely
denied our Signs and the meeting of the Hereafter, – such shall be brought forth
to Punishment.
Qur’an 30:14–16
Student activities
Gordon didn’t believe in a life after death. He believed in a good time during this
life. His life was an act of worship of Gordon. On his gravestone they should have
written: Party! Party! Party!
Imran did believe in life after death. He loved Allah and lived his life as an act of
worship of Allah. On his gravestone they should have written Allah is Great.
1. Describe in detail what Muslims believe will happen to Gordon and Imran on
Judgement Day.
2. Why would some Muslims believe that Gordon shouldn’t really worry about
Judgement Day? Refer to Qur’anic teaching in your answer.
3. Do Muslims believe that Imran could plead for Gordon on Judgement Day?
Explain your answer.
4. What is being assessed on Judgement Day?
5. Why do you think belief in the Judgement Day is so important to Muslims?
Akhirah: Paradise and Hell
The final outcome is either eternal paradise or eternal hell. The Qur’an provides
considerable graphic detail concerning both states of being.
Paradise, or Heaven, is often referred to as ‘al Jannah’, the garden; with an
abundance of fresh cool water, and this is a fitting symbol for luxuriant sheltered
ease in a hot desert climate. All is comfortable and well appointed in the garden,
where the saved recline on soft cushions and enjoy good food and a heavenly drink
that thrills and satisfies without intoxicating.
The descriptions are vivid and detailed, but most important are heaven’s spiritual
joys, whose appeals far surpass the more physical delights that tempt us so much
in this world. Although they are a permanent part of the heavenly society, it is
also believed that husbands and their wives and their children will be together in
heaven (13:23). The glory of heaven and the very essence of Eternal Life will be
the ability to meet with the Creator Allah, and be in a state of perfect peace.
On the other hand, Hell, ‘Jahannum’, the place of fire, is a place of continuous
torment. The inhabitants are chained up, given boiling water and pus to drink and
garments of fire to wear. Boiling water is poured over their heads, and when their
skins are too burnt to feel pain, and then new skins will be given them.
The implication of the Qur’an is clear: those who go to hell will suffer there
forever (2:275). If we reflect on all of this we will understand that many find
the idea of Allah punishing evil people hard to reconcile with His mercy, but it is
suggested that no one will go to Jahannum unless absolutely determined to do so.
Therefore do I warn you of a Fire blazing fiercely; None shall reach it but those
most unfortunate ones. Who give the lie to Truth and turn their backs.
Qur’an 92:14–16
Other Qur’anic texts, such as 6:128 have been interpreted by some Muslim
scholars to mean that hell is rather like the Roman Catholic view of Purgatory.
There are stages and levels of suffering, but ultimately purification is achieved.
Many modern scholars would agree that eternal punishment is not consistent with
Allah’s all-forgiving nature. Once they have been punished in hell, and so have
learned their lesson, they will eventually be admitted to heaven.
128. One day will He gather them all together, (and say): “O ye assembly of Jinns!
Much (toll) did ye take of men.” Their friends amongst men will say: “Our Lord! we
made profit from each other: but (alas!) we reached our term – which thou didst
appoint for us.” He will say: “The Fire be your dwellingplace: you will dwell therein
forever, except as Allah willeth.” For thy Lord is full of wisdom and knowledge.
Qur’an 6:128
The vast majority of Muslims, however, accept the teachings of the Qur’an as
they are traditionally interpreted; so they believe that after judgment you go to
heaven or hell and stay there for ever.
Student activities
1. Design a diagram to illustrate the nature of Paradise and Hell as described
in the Qur’an.
2. What would Muslims say is the ultimate attraction of Heaven? Give reasons
for your answer.
3. Why is it difficult to understand what eternal life is really like?
4. Describe and discuss two different Muslim views on the punishment of hell.
Refer to Qur’anic sources in your answer.
5. Do you believe a loving God would send people to hell forever? Explain your
6. Do you think that there are people who deserve the punishment of eternal
hell fire? Explain your answer.
Literal and symbolic understandings of life after death
Muslims have different views on whether the descriptions in the Qur’an
concerning life are literally true. Muslims traditionally believe that what is written
in the Qur’an is Allah’s word; so they believe the Qur’an is completely true. Some
Muslims argue that the Qur’an is not open to interpretation. And they believe that
those who die on a Hajj or Jihad go to straight to heaven.
But most modern Muslim scholars would insist on a symbolic interpretation of the
Qur’an, for example in its descriptions of heaven and hell. Only traditional
scholars would insist that the Qur’an must be fully accepted as literally true.7
God describes the Garden in terms of houris8, castles, trees and rivers in order
that it may be understood in those terms. But in fact how could the Garden
resemble such things? For they are transitory, while it is eternal.
Sultan Walad
Some Muslims argue that heaven and hell are not physical but spiritual places.
They believe that the exact nature of Hell and Paradise are beyond our
In Paradise I prepare for the righteous believers what no eye has ever seen, no
ear has ever heard, and what the deepest mind could never imagine.
Student activities
1. Copy out the table that follows. In the left-hand column outline the view of
those who believe that Qur’anic descriptions of the afterlife are literally true.
In the right-hand column outline the view of those who believe that the
Qur’anic descriptions of the afterlife are symbolically true. Use sources to
support each view.
A literal understanding of
the Qur’anic teaching on
Life after death.
A symbolic understanding of
the Qur’anic teaching on
Life after death.
2. Why do some Muslims believe that it is better to adopt a ‘wait-and-see’
approach to life after death?
3. Give your opinion on each of the three views you have discussed. Which is the
most convincing, in your opinion? Which is less strong? What about the other
view? Give reasons for your views.
Mind map Assessment 5
Now go on to develop a mind map which uses what you have learnt about the goals
of Muslims. In the middle of the map use the term ‘The Goals’. There follows a list
of words you can use to branch off from the centre. Make it as detailed as you
can. Make it colourful and eye-catching.
Submission Symbolic?
Ihsan Impact on life
Judgement Paradise
You may want to add some other relevant words to your mind map.
Marriage is very important to Muslims.
Most of the prophets, including Muhammad, were married.
Muslims believe that the Qur’an encourages them to get married; Allah expects all
Muslims to marry and have children. Marriage is seen as the natural bringing
together of a man and a woman to have children.
Islam believes
marriage is a
between men and
women where both
have rights and
Their rights and
responsibilities are
equal but
different. The man’s duty is
to provide for his wife and children.
He must provide her with whatever help she was used to having before marriage.
The woman’s duty is to care for her husband and children.
Muslims believe that marriage
is for life and therefore should
be very carefully planned.
Some think romance sweeps people off their feet and leads them to make a
decision they may regret later. When a young Muslim reaches an age at which
their parents think they are ready to
start their own family, the search begins
for a suitable partner. If a likely partner
is found, a meeting is arranged between
the young people in the presence of both
families. This will be the first of several
meetings. If the young couple are
interested in each other, they are allowed
as much time as they want to decide
whether they wish to marry.
Arranged, or assisted, marriage
Islam is very clear that both the girl and
the boy have complete freedom to say no
to the marriage. Both must consent
because a forced marriage is forbidden in
Islam, and usually doomed to failure.
Most youngsters seem to trust their parents to make the choice for them.
Muslims believe that married people know best what is needed for a good
One of the first things that must be decided is the
MAHR, or dowry. This is a sum of money, which the
groom pays to his intended wife to show that he
respects her as a person in her own right. It also demonstrates that he can
afford to keep a wife and children. The mahr is usually paid in two parts:
The Mahr (Dowry)
1. The first part can be a sum of money paid directly to
the woman, although nowadays this money goes
towards paying for the wedding or may be given to the
wife in the form of jewellery.
2. The other part of the mahr is a fixed sum of
money specified in the NIKAH, or marriage
The mahr does not have to be a large sum but
it is carefully negotiated for it is the wife’s
right to keep it should she later be divorced. In other words, it gives her
financial security if the couple split up. If, however, the wife seeks
to divorce her husband against his will, she may do so only if the mahr is returned.
Muhammad said that a bride’s family should not demand a huge sum of money as
the mahr, nor should they accept nothing. It is not seen as compensation to the
bride’s father for the loss of his daughter’s services in the household.
The nikah is essentially a business agreement because it sets
out the amount of the mahr and any conditions a wife
requests, such as that the husband will not have more than
one wife. Signing the nikah can take place at home, in the mosque, or anywhere
provided it is correctly witnessed. When the nikah is handed over the girl does
not have to be present. Her father can represent her. The couple are now
married under Islamic law. Civil registration of the marriage is also necessary by
law. This can be at the Registry Office if the mosque is not licensed for
marriage. Although married the couple do not, however, live together until after
the WALIMAH, the family reception, which may be a few weeks later.
The Nikah
Why is marriage very important to Muslims?
Task 20
Why must a Muslim marriage be carefully planned?
Why must the boy and girl consent to the marriage?
Why do youngsters trust their parents to make the choice of partner?
What is the ‘mahr?’ Why is it given?
Why is the nikah similar to a business81agreement?
Muslims believe that family life is essential for a healthy
society. It is the basis for the human race, culture and
civilisation. Anything, which weakens or disrupts it, is
regarded as a serious matter. The home is considered to be far more important,
sacred, creative and rewarding than any place ‘outside’. The Qur’an lays down very
clear guidelines for family life. No child, it says, should cause harm to his or her
parents. They should be loved and cared for.
This conversation took place between a man and Muhammad.
Family Life
Who deserves the best care from me?
Your mother
Who else after that?
Your mother
Who else?
Your mother
Then who else?
Your father
As they grow older, parents may need to be supported by their children.
This may mean having the parents living with them or helping them out with money.
This duty continues until the parents’ deaths. Above all, parents may expect their
children to obey them. So family ties in Muslim families are often stronger than
those in non-Muslim families. Obedience is a duty, partly in return for what
parents have done for the children in the past. However, parents are not always
right. The Qur’an gives a number of examples
of parents making mistakes. So children should
also be aware of what God wishes. If there was
a conflict, the child should do, as God would
wish. Muslim girls and boys are expected to
work hard at school and do well. Muslims
believe that education makes good human
beings. As a result, Muslims tend to be very
But parents, too, have duties. Muhammad said that people who are kindest to
their families show the most perfect faith. He himself was fond of children; he
believed that Muslims would become known for their kindness to children.
The Qur’an makes it clear that every child has a right to be treated equally.
No parent should ever harm his or her own child. If the parents are dead, the
nearest relatives must care for the orphan. If there are no relatives, then other
Muslims should take on this task.
The family is a complex interwoven unit
consisting of many people. It is not just a
husband and wife plus their parents and children.
It includes brothers and sisters, uncles, aunts and cousins. There are pros and
cons to living in an extended family. There is more help and support, but there
are also more people to please and likes and dislikes to deal with.
The extended family
Muslim parents tend to be strict with their children.
They are not encouraged to go to parties; mixed dancing is
not allowed. Muslim parents will not approve
of boyfriends and girlfriends. Sex outside
marriage is forbidden. These rules can cause
problems for Muslims living in a non-Muslim
country, such as Britain. Muslim teenagers see
other teenagers going to nightclubs and
wearing Western clothes. They might want to
copy this. This can start arguments between
parents and children. Muslim parents want to
protect their children from trouble and the
temptation of sex before marriage.
Traditional dress for a Muslim woman covers
her body. This is also to keep Muslim culture
and traditions alive in
a country where they are in the minority.
Attitudes vary though, and some Muslim parents become more westernised and
accept current fashions.
1. How do Muslims regard family life?
2. What reason might Muslim children give for being obedient to their
3. Why are Muslims children expected to work hard at school?
4. Explain why a Muslim would find it difficult to remain obedient to their
faith in a non- Muslim country.
Task 21
An essential part of everyday life is food.
We have already seen that Muslims fast during
Ramadan. So it is not surprising that Islam has rules
about eating too. After all, food affects our health. And Islam tries to create a
healthy society. So Muslims can eat and drink anything that is pure and good – but
not too much of it. The things they can eat and drink are called HALAL. These
are the lawful things. There is, however, a list of banned foods and drinks. These
are known as HARAM.
Muslim Food Laws
Forbidden Foods
The unlawful foods include:
 any product made from a pig (pork)
 meat containing blood
 meat from an animal which dies due to disease or
other natural causes.
 any flesh-eating animal
 any animal that has been strangled, beaten to death, killed by a fall,
gored by another animal, or partially eaten by another animal.
 any animal sacrificed to idols
If Muslims cannot get access to halal
meat, they are obliged to follow a vegetarian
diet, although they may not wish to be
vegetarians. Non-vegetarians may not
realise that if Muslims are carrying out the
ban on pork products and non-halal meat,
it not only means that they cannot eat
bacon, pork sausages, ham, tinned
luncheon meat, or salami, but a whole
range of other products is forbidden –
certain breads, biscuits, soups, chocolate,
ice-cream, fried breakfasts – in fact anything
that contains animal fat as opposed to vegetable fat. Muslims have to examine
every packet! Many Muslim children do not eat school dinners because of the food
No committed Muslim drinks alcohol or takes drugs. Muslims believe
that wines and beer lead to all kinds of social problems. Alcohol can
lead to drunkenness – and that can create trouble.
No alcohol at all is allowed in Saudi Arabia.
Muslims are allowed only to eat meat that has been
killed in the name of God. That is why many Muslims
buy meat only from Muslim butchers. The butcher will
have said ‘God is great’ three times over the animal before killing it. If there
were no Muslim butcher locally, many Muslims would buy from a Jewish butcher.
Their meat is also prepared in a special way.
Halal Killing
An animal slaughtered by halal methods
is thought to be killed more humanely.
Not only is its life offered up to God in
Halal Meat
thanksgiving, but it is approached from
behind so as not to startle it, after it has
been separated from other animals (so as
not to cause them distress). The knife is
extra sharp so that the cut is swift and
death comes quickly. This also lets the
blood flow out, as Muslims are not allowed to eat the blood of an animal.
The principle is of kindness to the animal. If one creature has to die to provide
food for another, it should be killed as swiftly and painlessly as possible.
It should not have to die in the terror of a slaughterhouse atmosphere, but be
gently led away, not knowing its fate, and killed with compassion.
Muslims are allowed to eat fish, poultry, and all the
of sheep, goats and camels, and game caught by hunting
animals which are trained not to kill out of savagery or their own appetite, but for
their trainer’s needs. In this case, the name of God can be pronounced when the
hawk or dog releases the quarry. Chicken is one of the most frequently eaten. All
fruit, grains and vegetables are permitted. In an emergency, if
nothing else is available, anything edible becomes permitted.
Permitted Foods
Muslims say thanks to God, and wash, before and after each
meal. The eldest member of the family eats first, unless there is
a guest. No one leaves the table until the last person has finished.
What name is given to the foods that Muslims can eat?
List some of the foods that Muslims can eat.
What name is given to the foods that Muslims are forbidden to eat?
List some of the foods that Muslims are not allowed to eat.
What must Muslims do if they cannot get access to permitted meat?
The Muslim word for a festival is ‘id’ or ‘eid’, taken
from an Arabic word meaning ‘returning at regular
intervals’. Id times are events of great joy for
Muslims all over the world. But they are not held purely for fun and enjoyment.
They are duties and an opportunity to:
Muslim Festivals
 praise and thank God for his blessings
 remember loved ones (including those in distant parts of the world, and
those who have died)
 forgive enemies
 resume contact with people not seen for a long time
The festivals are times for reducing tensions and establishing new and renewed
relationships. The poor must be remembered, the rich must share, the lonely and
the stranger must be made to feel at home, the orphan must feel loved and cared
for, the lazy and forgetful must make an effort to make up for things they have
not done, and the quarrelsome must make peace.
In Islam there are two main festivals:
Id-ul-Fitr was begun by Muhammad himself.
It is the feast that marks the end of the month-long
Ramadan fast. On the last evening of the fast, as the
time draws near, most Muslims go out into the open to catch the moment the new
moon appears in the sky. Muslims thank God for helping them to fast throughout
the month. In Muslim countries, Id-ul-Fitr is a national three-day holiday.
There is no work or school. Muslims visit friends and relations, wearing their best
clothes. Decorations may be bought and hung up; cards are bought or made, and
sent to relatives and friends.
The well off gives to the poor so that
they, too, may enjoy the day.
Everyone eats special food and children
are given presents. Above all, Id is a
time for prayer. The festival begins with
prayers at the mosque. Unlike festivals
in other religions, Muslims do not dance
or go to nightclubs; they do not go to
parties. It is more a time for the family
to get together; a chance to meet your
Muhammad started the festival Id-ul-Adha. It means
festival of sacrifice. The feast of Id-ul-Adha is not
only the climax of the Hajj pilgrimage, but is the major
festival in the Islamic year and takes place in the Hajj month, two months after
the close of Ramadan. This festival
remembers the time when Abraham was
ready to sacrifice Ishmael because God
commanded it.
By taking part, modern Muslims are showing
that they, too, are ready to sacrifice their
lives for God.
Every Muslim takes part in this feast,
not just those on Hajj. It is a family
occasion, bearing in mind the whole family of
Islam and not just your own relations.
It is a serious occasion, and concentrates the
mind on self-sacrifice, symbolised by the
sacrificing of an animal. In Muslim countries schools, businesses and shops are
closed for four days. Town streets are deserted and family homes packed with
visitors. Muslims sacrifice an animal, just as God eventually told Abraham to
sacrifice a sheep. So the event is symbolic. God does not want the animal (or its
meat); God wants Muslims to show him their devotion. The meat itself is shared
with friends and relatives and, of course, the poor.
Special Occasions
MAWLID AN-NABI is the birthday of the
Prophet, probably originally 20th August, 570 CE. Some
Muslims with joyful processions and accounts of
Muhammad’s life, mission, character, sufferings and successes celebrate this day.
LAYLAT-UL-QADR is the Night of Power, when the Prophet received his first
revelation of the Qur’an. Because the date is not certain, it is remembered
throughout the last ten days of the Ramadan fast. Many Muslims stay up all night
in prayer, or reciting the Qur’an. ASHURA, on the 10th Muharram, reminds
Muslims of the day when Noah left his ark and Moses saved the Israelites from
the Egyptians. Fasting is not obligatory, but many Muslims fast anyway, and enjoy
special meals at night.
What duties must Muslims perform during festivals or ‘Id times?’
Describe what happens when Muslims celebrate Id-ul-Fitr.
When does the feast of Id-ul-Adha take place?
What do Muslims remember during this festival?
What are Muslims showing by taking part?
There are many Muslim countries in the world today.
They all follow Islam. If they acted together, they
would be a powerful force in the world. Yet, on some
matters, they disagree. Indeed, one dispute within Islam goes back to its very
earliest days.
During the first 30 years after Muhammad’s
death, Khalifahs were chosen to lead the
Muslim people. These were outstanding men
chosen by the community for their closeness to
the Prophet and their good characters. They
were unselfish, tolerant and well versed in the
Qur’an, and had been the Prophet’s dearest
friends. The word ‘khalifah’ means ‘successor’.
Instead of living like princes (they had access
to enormous wealth), they lived very simple
lives as the Prophet had done; in close touch
with the people. They were just and kind, and
totally dedicated to serving their people.
They were the most important people in the Muslim state, but were horrified if
anyone thought of them as kings – they were simply servants.
Only God was King.
Muslim Groups
Twenty- four years after the Prophet’s death, Ali, Muhammad’s
son-in-law became the fourth khalifah. He had been the first male
convert to Islam, and was famous for his extreme piety and faithful
transmission of the prophet’s sayings. His supporters thought of him as the
‘Conscience of Islam’. An assassin mortally wounded Ali when he was visiting the
mosque at Kufa. He did not die for three days, during which time he protected
and fed his assassin. Ali’s last words, before entering Paradise, were: ‘O God,
most fortunate am I!’ He had been killed in a struggle for power.
The Sunni and Shi’ah split
One group of Muslims believe that, after
Ali’s death, his sons should have taken over
as khalifah. They believe that Ali’s
descendants are the true leaders of Islam.
This group is called Shi’ah; its members are
Shi’ites. The word Shi’ah means group. They
refused to accept the first three khalifahs
and claimed Ali was really the first.
They did not accept the later khalifahs either
and chose their own imams instead.
The main Muslim group is the Sunni Muslims. Around 90 per cent of all
Muslims are Sunni. The word ‘sunni’ means ‘orthodox’ or ‘authority’. They regard
themselves as the true followers of the Sunnah or Way of the Prophet.
They insist that the Prophet had intended elections so that the best man would
succeed, and not to start a family line of rulers, like kings. Sunnis base the
standards of their faith on the Qur’an plus the Hadiths of the Prophet and the
laws based upon them. They tend to regard
the Shi’ite claim that leadership should be
exclusive to the family of the Prophet and
not a democratic election based on a
majority vote with distaste and impatience.
Because there have always been fewer
Shi’ites, they have never enjoyed the same
power as the Sunni Muslims. Major Arab
nations, such as Saudi Arabia, are still ruled
by Sunni Muslims today. In the past, Sunni
Muslims in the Lebanon shared power with
the Christians. The Shi’ites were poor; they
had little influence.
All this changed in recent years.
Iran is the main home of the Shi’ah Muslims,
and a revolution there in 1979 restored many Islamic laws and customs. Other
Shi’ite groups have taken courage from this and have campaigned for their rights.
Some accuse Sunni Muslims of being in need of drastic reform. The number of
Shi’ite Muslims is increasing as people in many developing countries are reacting
against the decadence of the modern world.
After the revolution, Iran was taken over by its religious leaders, called
ayatollahs. The word means ‘sign of God’. The leading ayatollah was Ayatollah
Khomeini. He made Iran an Islamic state once more. Islamic laws, based on the
Qur’an, were introduced. Alcohol was banned. Women could only appear in public
with their heads and bodies fully covered. A true Islamic state is run in the same
way that the Prophet Muhammad organised the Muslim community in Madinah.
In an Islamic state, the head of state (or a deputy) is supposed to lead the daily
prayers at a central mosque. This was how Muhammad led his state.
Many Muslims would like to see the practice brought back.
1. Name the main Muslim group. What is the other group called?
2. What is an ayatollah?
3. How did Islamic laws change life in Iran?
The views of Sunni and Shi’ite (Shi’i) Muslims on spiritual
Shi’ism developed after the death of the Prophet Muhammad. The Prophet
Muhammad left no clear instructions for his successor as leader of the Muslims.
The community was split on this issue. Some supported the nomination of Abu
Bakr, who became the first caliph, whilst others felt that Ali had been denied the
rightful succession to the caliphate as a member of the Prophet Muhammad’s
family (he was married to Muhammad’s daughter). This led to many factions and
bitter feuds between the Muslims and in turn led to the emergence of Shi’i
Muslims and Sunni Muslims.3
It is widely accepted that the Qur’an and Sunnah are recognised as basic sources
for both Sunni and Shi’i law schools. However, the Shi’i law school places greater
emphasis and trust with their Imams who are said to be divinely guided leaders.
Shi’i Muslims believe that their Imams are semi-divine. The Imams received God’s
power to make decisions about what Muslims could and could not do. Their
teachings are unique to them and are passed from generation to generation
through the Imamate. All Imams descend from the family of the Prophet
There are three main branches of Shi’ism.
The Zaydis who are understood to be close to Sunni Islam as they believe that
the Imams were nothing more than human beings.
The Ismai’ilis who recognise an unbroken chain of Imams down to the present but
focus on Imam Ismail who was not recognised by the Shi’i majority. The
Ismai’ilis have been given the name ‘The Seveners’.
The Ithna-asharis who are the Twelvers or the Imamis. They believe that there
are twelve Imams. The final Imam left the world in 874CE and is still alive but
in hiding.
Shi’ism believes strongly that God teaches and guides his people through his
Many Sunni Muslims reject the belief in semi-divine Imams because this appears
to go against the Tawhid, or belief in a supreme and unified God. Sunni Muslims
believe that the only source of divine guidance is the Qur’an and the Sunnah. They
use the process of Ijtihad when trying to work out how to deal with modern-day
problems. Ijtihad is also widely practised in Shi’i law schools but Shi’is also use
guidance from their Imams. Although most of the law accepted by Shi’i Muslims is
the same as Sunni there are some differences. The reason for the differences in
law is that the Hadith of the first Imam Ali are considered alongside those of
Muhammad when Shi’is work out the law. If nothing can be found in these sources
then the law is determined by a religious leader who is believed to be in contact
with the last Imam (who is hidden).
Student Activities:
1. Explain how the Sunni and Shi’i split took place.
2. What are the beliefs of Shi’i Muslims concerning the Imams?
3. Why do many Sunni Muslims reject the Shi’i view that Imams are so
4. In what ways are the Sunni and Shi’i method of determining the law similar?
What differences are there between both methods?
5. What are the benefits of adopting the Shi’i view that there is an Imam who
can help determine the law? What are the disadvantages
Actions towards others
Islam teaches that it is not enough to simply love and worship God. Love of Allah
should automatically lead to a love of his creation. Faith should lead to action. This
action is not simply limited to the duties of the Five Pillars nor rigidly following
the laws of the Shariah. Islam is not a legalistic religion. Muslims are expected to
help others as the need arises
While it is the duty of Muslims to give a portion of their wealth to the needy
(Zakat), they are also expected to give what they can when it is needed. Sadaqah
is giving charity voluntarily. For example if a widow has problems paying the bills, a
Muslim would be expected to help out. If an orphan needs a family, Muslims
believe that they should help. Sadaqah is not just giving money. Any act of
kindness is Sadaqah. Being kind to an animal is Sadaqah, opening a door for a
stranger is Sadaqah. Making someone laugh is Sadaqah. Sadaqah is any action
carried out voluntarily for the benefit of others
Islamic teaching that we should help those in need has an impact on how Muslims
do business. In Britain, if we need a car or want to buy a house we often use banks
or building societies to lend us the money. In return we pay back the money with
extra (in terms of interest on the loan). Muslims believe that it is wrong to take
advantage of the poor to make money in this way. A person who needs money
should be lent it as an act of charity and not for profit. Muslims believe wealth
belongs to Allah and so should be used to help the less fortunate. When the rich
lend money for profit they are exploiting the poor. This act is known as usury
(Riba) and is condemned in the Qur’an. Mortgages acceptable to Muslims often
involve the bank buying the house and the buyer buying back the house and paying
a slightly increased rent
274 Those who (in charity) spend of their goods by night and by day, in secret
and in public, have their reward with their Lord: on them shall be no fear, nor shall
they grieve.
275. Those who devour usury will not stand except as stands one whom the Evil
One by his touch hath driven to madness. That is because they say: “Trade is like
usury,” but Allah hath permitted trade and forbidden usury. Those who after
receiving direction from their Lord, desist, shall be pardoned for the past; their
case is for Allah (to judge); but those who repeat (The offence) are companions
of the Fire: They will abide therein (for ever).
Qur’an 2:274–275
Ahl al-kitab : The People of the Book
Muslims believe that the love and compassion that they show towards God’s
creation also extends to non-Muslims. Islam teaches a great deal of respect in
particular for the religions of Christianity and Judaism.
In the Sunnah there is the following story similar to the Christian parable of the
Good Samaritan:
A funeral procession passed by the Holy Prophet, and he stood up for it. People
said to him: it was the funeral of a Jew. He said : was it not a human life?
(Hadith noted by Bukhari)
Christians and Jews are known as Ahl al-kitab: the People of the Book. Muslims
believe that Allah has sent a number of prophets with the messages revealed to
Muhammad. The prophets of Judaism and Christianity are amongst those that
were sent. Unfortunately as time passed the messages revealed by prophets such
as Adam, Moses and Jesus were distorted or misunderstood. However, the three
religions of Islam, Christianity and Judaism have a great deal in common. The
teachings of each religion on morality are similar and also the belief in judgement.
Student Activities
1. What does Sadaqah mean? Give some examples of Sadaqah in practice.
2. Describe an occasion when you carried out an act which would come under
the heading of Sadaqah. Explain why you carried out this act. What makes
this action Sadaqah?
3. What are the rules on charging and receiving interest, which Muslims should
4. What difficulties would rules on charging and receiving interest have on
Muslims living in Britain?
5. What do you think of these rules? Explain your opinion.
6. What practices are common to Christianity, Islam and Judaism?
7. Retell the story of Muhammad and the Jewish funeral. Go on to explain in
more detail what Muhammad meant by his comment.
Since the teachings of Islam, Christianity and Judaism encourage love between
different peoples, why do you think the followers of these religions at times
come into conflict?
Mind map Assessment 5
Now go on to develop a mind map which uses what you have learnt about the means
by which Muslims achieve their goals of submitting to God and achieving eternal
life in paradise. In the middle of the map use the term ‘the means’. There follows
a list of words you can use to branch off from the centre. Make it as detailed as
you can. Make it colourful and eye-catching.
Spiritual authority
Five Pillars
Saum Hajj Sadaqah
People of the Book