Islam is a very mysterious and complex faith, one of intellectual depth in prayer and practice. It is unfortunate that the teachings of Islam have been marred by centuries of intellectual malaise, political misdirection, extremism, and disunity, leaving many spiritual wanderers-both Muslim and non-Muslim-to ponder a plethora of unaddressed questions about these sacred teachings. In his newest book, The Muslim Book of Why: What Everyone Should Know about Islam, author, scholar, and leading jihad theorist Warithudeen Umar highlights the concept of ijtihad in an attempt to help answer many of today's most pressing questions about Islam.
Ijtihad is described as a creative and disciplined intellectual effort to derive legal rulings from Islamic sources while taking into consideration the variables brought on by the fluctuating circumstances of the Muslim world. Though the world has changed and expanded, humanity's need for these teachings viewed through the clarifying concept of ijtihad has not.
To right these wrongs of gross misguidance within Muslim society, we must deconstruct history in order to discern what went wrong after the revelation of the Qur'an was shared with the world. The Muslim Book of Why seeks to do so, refocusing Muslim thought on a life of faith, family development, and worship.
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THE MUSLIM BOOK OF WHYWhat Everyone Should Know about Islam
By Warithudeen Umar
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2013 Warithudeen Umar
All right reserved.
Chapter OneIslam and Creation
Mankind and the universe were not created by accident or chance, but according to the plan of the Creator, who is known as Allah (literally, One God) in Islam. The Qur'an states that it is the duty of all individuals to learn about Allah and to live according to His will. We cannot accomplish this by ourselves, so Allah has sent messengers and prophets to guide humanity through the ages. All of these chosen individuals have brought the same message and have served as examples to their people as how Allah wants His creatures to live, how to think, how to act toward one another, and what to do with our time in this life. All of this is in preparation for more life to come. We have been told why we were created, what is expected of us, and what will happen to us after we die. Most important, we have been told that Allah is unique. He has no partners, no sons or daughters, and no competitors.
Muhammad was raised as the last of Allah's prophets and messengers to present revelation. His message, along with that of all the other prophets and messengers, has always been the same. This is due to the kindness and benevolence of Allah. If the message changed from one prophet and messenger to another, we would be confused due to the level of understanding that man has been given.
Arabic has been chosen as the language to bring us this revelation because it is unique in how it gives light. All other languages have many names for God. Arabic has only one, and it is difficult to get it wrong. Allah is the name for God. When the Prophet was asked by his contemporaries about the name of Allah, they were given the answer directly from Allah and were told to say: "He Allah is One, He is Unique and Absolute, He has no sons or daughters, and He is the Everlasting refuge, He neither begets nor is He begotten, and there is none equal to or even like Him." This short statement from Allah gave mankind the clear light on explaining who Allah is.
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1. Why did Allah create the universe?
We know very little with regard to purpose in the whole of creation. This is because our knowledge of the whole of creation is limited. However we do know that creation is a manifestation of divine volition. Divine volition is God's power to choose freely and make His own decisions. We don't know the beginning of creation. Remember, the big bang is only a theory. We know Allah merely says, "Be," and it is. We do know that whatever God wills comes into being for a duration or term. So we know that we are finite and God is infinite. The finite cannot comprehend the infinite, so we can't be dogmatic on such a subject that is beyond human knowledge, and high-minded speculation is not part of religious affirmation. Allah states clearly in Qur'an what means: "And they [the people] ask you [O Muhammad] concerning the Ruh [the spirit]. Say to them: The knowledge of the spirit is with my Lord, and the knowledge you [mankind] have been given is only a little" (Surah Al-Isra 17:85).
Certainly the little we have been given keeps us wondering, searching, and learning. However, we do know some of the reason God created the universe, reflecting what is said in Qur'an. God created all that is on earth for our use. This is very telling. We Muslims are told that we were created to serve and worship God (Allah). The Qur'an explicitly asserts that man was created to be in charge of the earth and earth's affairs. Consequently everything on earth is placed at man's disposal to use as he sees fit. Animals, trees, the seas, lakes, rivers, mountains, birds, fish, soil, chemical elements, air, oil, carbon, nitrogen, minerals, cotton, wool, insects, light, heat, electricity, wind, weather, plants, flowers, and millions of man-made products like railroads, art ... "And if you were to count the gifts of Allah, you would not be able to number them" (16:18 hq).
Allah does not say that He places all of the universe at man's disposal or for man's use. He does say the night and the day is for us and the Sun and the moon is for our use. This seems to fit with man's very limited success in the exploration of outer space. In all of man's history and technological advances he has not found life on other planets or been able to use other places in the universe. We don't know if we are the first here or the last here. Allah knows best.
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2. Why did Allah create life, death, heaven, and earth and give us wealth and children?
Allah created death and life in order to test which of you is best in deeds (67:2).
He created heavens and earth that He might try you and see which of you is best in conduct (11:2).
You will most certainly be tried and tested in your wealth and persons (3:186).
Allah will test you by evil (sharr) and good (khair) by way of trial (21:35).
We tested and tried all those who came before you. (29:3).
Do men imagine that they will be left alone on merely saying, "We believe" and they will not be tested 29:2?
The favors of Allah (ni'mat) may be but a trial (39/49; 89/15; cf. 7/95).
Here and throughout Qur'an Allah tells us that man is tried in this life, and this is why Allah created this life. Man recognizes this trial, and if he is a believer, he says, "God has tried me and it is a blessing. Allah has honored me." And if he is further restricted and seems at a loss he may say, "Allah has disgraced me." Allah will come back and say, "No indeed, this is only a test of faith."
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3. Why did Allah create mankind?
God created everything and everyone. He created man (men and women) and gave them a special place in His creation. He made man His agent on earth. He gave him understanding, gave him spiritual insight, made his affections pure, and gave him intellect. All this was so that man could understand himself and understand nature. More important, man was so equipped so that he would know Allah through His signs and glorify Him. Man was given an independent limited free will. Man's will was given so that his activities and behavior would reflect Allah's universal will and God's laws. Man was created to worship Allah. Man was created to serve Allah as His vicegerent on this earth.
A question of this nature can be disturbing to the individual who is introspective like this writer. Introspection makes me want to ask, "Why did Allah create me? What am I here for? Why was I created? What am I doing here? Have I had an impact of any kind?" For there to be a reasonable answer, I have to review my life and see if I've done anything that has affected or changed conditions or has made things better for others or for the world (or made things worse). I married and have eleven children. I have fourteen grandchildren and one great grandchild. So if I am part of Allah's creation that has furthered mankind, certainly I can see me being part of God's creation and having an active participation in it. I embraced Islam as a young man, and all of my children and grandchildren and great-grandchild are Muslims and worship Allah.
Steve Jobs recently died (2011). He was the founder and head of the Apple Corporation. If one were to ask why he was here, he could easily answer: to bring new ideas and communication devices to mankind. Oprah Winfrey and Barack Obama, who are power players, could answer that they are here to be influential and point out the new ways to leadership, science, sports, education, literacy, philanthropy or style.
But what about you and me? Most of us have not done anything and probably won't do anything of wide note. We were born and will grow up, go to school, get a job, marry, have children and family, become consumers, and probably benefit from the good of this world and try to avoid its difficulties and downside. Probably we will grow sick, maybe we will get old, and definitely we will die.
Albert Einstein was awarded the Nobel Prize in physics for his groundbreaking theoretical work leading to the Theory of Relativity and the famous mathematical formula e = mc2. It was the French mathematician and philosopher René Descartes who brought forth the single most famous proposition in the history of philosophy. It was the Latin statement to prove his own existence: Cogito ergo sum (I think, therefore I am). This was the radical solution to the Greek skeptics who questioned how we can know for sure that anything is real or true.
We have to assume that if we are not destined for individual accomplishment, then maybe we are here to be part of a collective accomplishment. Maybe active participation in this life answers more fully why we are here. Since we don't know what our future holds and since most people do believe in God or a higher power and if we do our purpose here becomes clearer.
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4. Why did Allah create the angels?
Angels are real. In fact there is a world of angels. Allah tells us in Qur'an and through His prophets and angels that His creation includes sentient beings other than us and the animals. Sentient means a state or capacity for feeling or perceiving. It can mean consciousness or simply awareness. Animals perceive without thought or full perception. Animals see, hear, smell, taste, and touch. They have the sensation through instinct to feel pain, hunger, and sexual drive, so they are considered sentient beings. Other living sentient beings in this universe are also with us in the world of angels. The jinn and angels form worlds that are unlike mankind in some ways and have some things in common with man in other ways. Jinn are like humans in the sense that they can reason and have the ability of will to choose between good and evil. Angels cannot. As mentioned, the jinn are called such because they conceal themselves (ijtinaan) from people's sight. The word janeen (fetus) derives from the same root, as the fetus is hidden in the mother's womb. The Arabic word for shield is called mijann, another derivative of the root word of jinn, as the shield conceals the soldier in war. Jinn eat, are rational, marry, reproduce, and can choose to be Muslim, and some are, or they can reject truth and become harmful to mankind. They can be devils (shaytaan).
First it's important to know what part angels play in the Muslim's articles of faith. The Qur'an says: "The Messenger believes in what has been revealed to him from his Lord, as do the men of faith, each one of them believes in Allah, His Angels, His Books and His Messengers" (hq 2:285).
This is a great question. So it's very important that Muslims believe in the angels. Angels are created from light, and their world is a world of submission. They were created by Allah to be his angelic messengers and His unflinching servants. Allah created angels first; next He created the jinn, and lastly He created mankind. Angels can only obey their Creator. Unlike men and jinn, the other two races of creatures who can act on the highest level of creation, angels cannot disobey God. Angels don't eat or drink. They don't marry or reproduce. They have no gender. Like Allah they are not male or female beings. Men and jinn have been given this limited free will to reject guidance. Angels cannot. The angels were created before man and functioned as Allah's servants. They were doing their job quite well so they wanted to know why there was a need for mankind.
Allah created man to be responsible beings that are held accountable to their Creator for their deeds and misdeeds. His angels were created to execute His revelations and His commands. His revelations are delivered to His prophets and messengers. The revelations contain the will of Allah and become the conclusive and unmistakable guide to humanity. Allah uses the angels to help guide mankind, but man can make his own choices. Allah mentions angels before He mentions divine books and messengers. The main objects of our faith is Allah, His angels, His messengers, and His revelations under normal circumstances, but the Qur'an reminds us that "it is righteousness to believe in Allah and the last Day, and the Angels, and the Book and the Messengers" (hq 2:177).
The creation of the angels finalizes our understanding of why Allah created His plan to guide humans. He revealed His will as a mercy to mankind through a succession of prophets. The last was Prophet Muhammad who was the recipient of revelations given him by Angel Jibreel, also known in other scriptures as Gabriel. The Qur'an was revealed to carry the moral and religious development of mankind to new and better stages, continuing and fulfilling previous stages and finalizing them, for there will be an end to this life in this world as we know it.
Allah's scheme of creation involves the Holy Qur'an being the revelation to make known what the future holds. The Qur'an tells us: "Behold, thy Lord said to the Angels; 'I will create a vicegerent 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?' Allah said I know what ye know not" (hq 2:30).
The angels were holy and pure. But they could not comprehend the totality of Allah's plan. They had divine power given to them by Allah, but they couldn't see that they were only one side of creation. The angels were without passion or emotion. On the other hand man was endued with passion and emotion. A vicegerent is one who acts in the stead of another. A vicegerent is a person appointed by another, especially by a ruler, to exercise the ruler's power and authority. The vicegerent is the deputy.
Man is here to be the deputy of God! Man's emotions could lead him to the highest of status or drag him to the lowest. It is the limited free will when used rightly that would give man mastery over his own fortunes and over nature and bring him nearer to having a God-like nature which has supreme mastery and will. The angels have no independent will. Their perfection reflects Allah's perfection. But they could never achieve vicegerency, so consequently man is superior to the angels.
The perfect vicegerent is the one who has the power of initiative and whose independent action always reflects perfectly the will of his principals. He, because of his power of emotion, can love and hate, and love is the flower of passion and emotion. Allah indeed loves. Allah's love is real, inspiring and enduring. The angels were one-sided in their nature. They could only see mischief resulting from the misuse of emotion by man. They saw the capacity that man could create mischief and bloodshed. They settled on that conclusion. So they reflect the imperfection of their knowledge and their limited understanding of Allah's creation.
Qur'an teaches us that Adam was a new species in the universe. He had a new role to play, so he was endowed with new distinctive qualities. Adam was blessed with a free personality to fulfill the desires and designs of Allah. All the other species, that is, the angels and jinn, did not have the capacity to be freethinking servants of Allah. The angels were completely at a loss to comprehend the necessity of the creation of Adam. Allah made it clear that the creation of Adam gave credence to the idea that the material world is indeed connected to the religious world and that the natural urges in man are indeed connected to his spiritual nature. Man would strive to live up to his highest ideals and be capable of squalid evil as a result of his lapses in judgment and moral bankruptcy. So man could and would commit evil, but he would also consciously show by his deeds that he would choose to elevate his material life to the spiritual heights voluntarily, because he was created to have choice. He would show that he chooses to serve his Lord, though he is free to do otherwise. On the basis of these positive virtues, mankind has been able to create a social order. More important, mankind has created a social order that recognizes God as the Supreme Being.
The good in man is different from the good in jinn or the good in angels. The fear that the angels expressed in Qur'an, that man would always shed blood and spread corruption, was baseless. In fact man would always yearn and strive to return to the good that Allah created in him. If man were totally corrupt, he would never have been able to establish a corporate life and a society. Man's noble self is his real self. Though, at times, man yields to his low desires and the monstrous brute in him does indeed emerge, his social life is proof that the good in man dominates the evil in man. Man is made of stuff which can be tempted in this life to commit evil, but his noble self, his self-accusing spirit, revolts against evil.
Excerpted from THE MUSLIM BOOK OF WHY by Warithudeen Umar Copyright © 2013 by Warithudeen Umar. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
ContentsChapter 1 Islam and Creation....................1
Chapter 2 Allah, God of the Universe....................27
Chapter 3 Prophet Muhammad's Life....................49
Chapter 4 Practice, Worship, and Prayer in Islam....................71
Chapter 5 Muslim Beliefs....................94
Chapter 6 Muslim Garb and Garments....................105
Chapter 7 Muslim Life and Death....................112
Chapter 8 Jews, Christians, and Islam....................134
Chapter 9 Islam and Modernity....................146
Chapter 10 The Halal and Haram in Islam....................176
Chapter 11 Conflicts among Muslims....................212
Chapter 12 Muslim Thinking....................229
Chapter 13 Islamic Thinking....................247
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