By Dr. Mohamed Elmasry

The Meaning of Islam

"Islam" is an Arabic word meaning peace, purity, submission and obedience. In the religious sense, Islam is being in complete submission to the will of God and obedient to His law.

Every thing and every phenomenon in the world, other than humankind, is administered totally by divinely-made laws; they are obedient to God and submissive to those laws. Therefore, they are naturally in a state of Islam.

Humanity, however, possesses the qualities of intelligence and choice. People are invited to submit to God's good will, knowing Him, loving Him and obeying His guidance; that is, they are invited into the state of Islam and to become Muslims.

Islam dates back to the age of Adam and its message has been conveyed through history by God’s Prophets and Messengers, including Noah (Nuh), Abraham (Ibrahim), Isaac, Moses (Musa), Jesus (Isa) and Muhammad (may the peace and blessing of God be upon them all).

But Islam’s message was revealed, restored and manifested in the final stage of its religious evolution by God’s last Prophet and Messenger, Muhammad (peace be upon him).

"Allah" in the Arabic language refers to God, or more accurately, The One and Only Eternal God, Creator of the Universe, Almighty, Omnipotent, Most Compassionate and Merciful.

Articles of Faith in Islam

1. We believe in One God, Supreme, Eternal, Infinite, Mighty, Compassionate and Merciful, the Creator and Provider.

God is free of all dependency, yet all are dependent on Him. God neither begets nor was begotten, and no being is comparable to Him. He has no sons, daughters, father, or mother, for no one equals Him.

God is the Lord of all humankind, not exclusive to any special tribe or race.

God is High and Supreme, yet also very near to pious, thoughtful believers. God loves those who love Him and forgives their sins. He is the source of real peace, happiness, knowledge and success.

God is our Loving Provider, Generous and Benevolent, Rich and Independent, Forgiving and Merciful; He is Appreciative, Unique, Protective, the ultimate Judge, and the giver of Peace.

God creates in humans the mind to understand, the soul and conscience to be good and righteous, the feeling and sentiments to be kind and humane. God/Allah’s blessings are countless.

2. We believe in all Messengers and Prophets of God without any discrimination.

All God's messengers were mortal human beings, endowed with Divine revelations and appointed by God to teach humankind. These include Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad (peace be upon them all).

3. We believe in all scriptures and revelations of God, as they were complete in their original form; including the scrolls of Abraham, the Torah revealed to Moses, the Psalms of David, the Gospel of Jesus, and the Qur’an revealed to Muhammad (peace be upon them all).

4. We believe in the angels of God.

5. We believe in the Day of Judgement. Although some people who commit sins, neglect God and indulge in immoral activities, seem superficially prosperous in this life, Divine Absolute Justice will be rendered on them at the Day of Judgement.

6. We believe that the purpose of life is to worship God in every way. Worshiping God does not mean living in seclusion and continual meditation. To worship God means to know Him, to remember Him always, to love Him, to obey His commands, to follow His guidance in every aspect of life, to serve His cause by enjoining what is right and forbidding evil; and in being just to Him, to ourselves and to our fellow human beings.

7. We believe that humankind is the highest creation of God. Humans alone are gifted with rational faculties, spiritual aspirations, powers of action and the freedom of choice.

8. We believe that every person is born free of sin. When people reach the age of maturity and if they are sane, they become personally accountable for their faith, and all individual deeds and intentions. There is no inherited sin. One is free from sin until one commits it. Adam committed the first sin; afterwards, he prayed to God for pardon and God granted him pardon.

9. We believe that humans must attain salvation through the guidance of God. To obtain salvation, a person must combine faith and action, belief and practice. Faith without good deeds, and good deeds without faith, are insufficient.

10. We believe that God does not hold any person responsible until he/she has been shown the Right Way (i.e. the way of Islam).

11. We believe that faith is not complete when it is followed blindly, or accepted unquestioningly.

12. We believe that the Qur’an is the word of God revealed to Prophet Muhammad through the Angel Gabriel. The Qur'an was revealed in Arabic and remains in its original and complete version today. The Qur’an is the greatest divine miracle given to Prophet Muhammad. Its poetic nature and style are unique and unrivalled by any literature produced by humans, before or since. Its words are memorized by millions. Its meaning has been translated / paraphrased into most languages of the world.

Application of Faith

God has ordained four major exercises of faith; these are performed daily, weekly, monthly, some annually, or at least once in a lifetime.

1. Prayer (Salah)

Prayer is a matchless and unprecedented formula that combines intellectual meditation, spiritual devotion, moral elevation, and physical discipline / exercise. It has many interconnected meanings, including: as a lesson in discipline, a practice in devotion and remembrance of God, a safeguard against indecency, an expression to God of gratitude and repentance, a demonstration of true equality and fellowship, a course of inner peace and stability. Obligatory prayers include the five daily prayers, the Friday noon congregational prayers, and the funeral prayer.

2. Fasting (Syam)

Fasting means abstaining completely from eating, drinking and sexual relations, from the break of dawn until sunset. It is performed once a year for the duration of the lunar Islamic month of Ramadan. Fasting is a matchless Islamic institution which teaches one the principal of sincere devotion to God.

3. Charity (Zakah)

Zakah refers to the annual amount which a Muslim with means must distribute among the needy and the poor. Zakah has a deep humanitarian and sociopolitical value; for example, it frees society from class welfare, from ill feelings and distrust, as well as from corruption. Although Islam does not hinder private enterprise or condemn private possessions, it does not tolerate greedy capitalism. At the end of each year every Muslim, male and female, must give Zakah at the minimum rate of 2.5% on their net wealth after paying expenses, taxes etc.

4. Pilgrimage (Hajj)

The pilgrimage to Mecca, at least once in a person's lifetime, is obligatory upon every mentally, physically and financially fit Muslim. It is the largest annual convention of faith on earth (more than 2.5 million last year). Muslims from every corner of the globe assemble to demonstrate the unity of humankind in response to the call of God. Peace is the dominant theme of the Hajj -- peace with God, with one’s soul, with one another, with all living creatures. To disturb the peace in any way is strictly prohibited. Hajj commemorates the Divine rituals observed by Prophet Abraham and his son Ishmael, who were the first pilgrims to the Ka'bah, the house of God. It is performed in the remembrance of the grand assembly on the Day of Judgement, when all people will stand equal before God.

Dr. Mohamed Elmasry, a professor of computer engineering at the University of Waterloo, is national president of the Canadian Islamic Congress. He is the author of 1,000 Questions on Islam and Spiritual Fitness For Life. He can be reached at