By: Ehab Hassan

My Sunday school teacher had one final question for the class before he dismissed us for the day.  “If someone asked you what Islam was, what would you say?”  He went one by one and expected an answer from everyone of us.  The kid in the front answered that he would send the questioner to an imam. The second kid, thinking that it was a great answer, added something about the five pillars and said he would then send him to an imam as well.  I believe everyone in the class said the same thing.  Sending them to the imam seemed like the only logical solution.  Ready to pack our bags and run outside, our teacher stood in silence, staring at every one of us.  “I am very disappointed in all of you.  You don't know enough about your own religion that you would have to send them to an imam?”  Perhaps feeling defeated, not knowing where to even start with us, he paused for quite some time.  No one said a word.

“Class dismissed.”

I have given a lot of thought to that question that my teacher asked us over 20 years ago.  I've spoken to many people about Islam since then, not once telling them they had to go straight to the imam.  I met with a church group this weekend I felt that for the first time, I answered my teacher's question without having to think about it twice.  Over the years, in many discussions with people of other faiths, I have discovered exactly five things that distinguish Islam from any other religion and seem to strike a chord with people.  Five things that make me firm in my faith in Allah, and give me certainty that Allah has indeed perfected our religion.

I told the church group that I can give them Islam 101 in five minutes – A Lesson on What Makes Islam Special.  And while they admittedly came in wanting to learn more about Islam so they could better teach others about accepting Jesus, they said that they walked out feeling challenged and had great questions about Islam and even questions about what it would mean to become a Muslim.

Keep in mind that these are based on my experiences and discussions, so feel free to add anything in your discussions with others.  But since I haven't seen these premises summarized often, I thought it could be beneficial to those who speak to others about Islam.  Here are the five points that I mention that makes Islam the perfect religion and special to me:

1. The Oneness of Allah (Tawheed)

This goes without saying and is the absolute foundation of our religion.  I told them if they forget all of my other points to remember this.  While this point is simple, it is vast, and it is all that is important in our lives.  This means that He subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has no partners; He did not beget nor was He begotten.  He has no parents, He has no daughter, and He has no son.  We worship Him alone.  He is the One Creator, the One Sustainer, and in His hands are all things.  He introduces Himself to us in the Qur'an and we learn about Him through His names and attributes.  He is the Compassionate, the Merciful.

Only after someone has accepted this should they ask what Allah wants from them.  I don't even mention things that are mandatory or forbidden, because without believing that Allah is worthy of worship, the fact that they should eat with their right hand or avoid pork is irrelevant to them.

2. Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) is the Final Messenger

Okay, so if they can remember two of the five points, then this is definitely the other one.  The first two, I explained, are a testament of faith.  If someone wants to accept Islam, then they declare points one and two and they become one who submits – a Muslim.

The Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) is the final messenger in a long chain of messengers.  They include the same ones that they probably believe in – Adam, Noah, Moses, Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, and the list goes on and on (peace be upon them).  The Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was the seal of these prophets.  He came with the same message as those who came before him.  The uniqueness about him is that being the seal of prophet hood, his life is documented like no other man in the history of the world.  That's how we follow his way.  The Muslim strives to emulate him, as he was a perfect example for us in his life, ethics, and conduct, as he was, as his wife Aisha raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) described him – “a living Qur'an.”  He was loved by all those who knew him.  He was, as he told us, sent to perfect good manners.  The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) teaches us that while Allah has rights, people also have rights upon us.  We will not only be judged by how we worshipped, but how we treated humanity and God's creation.  And he was a perfect example of that.  He is an inspiration to everyone who learns about his life, and the more you know about him, the more you will love him.

3. Islam is the Religion Meant for All People until the End of Time

I remember watching a debate between a Muslim and a Christian scholar many years ago, where the Christian asked the Muslim that if God is all Powerful, why couldn't He send the religion down at one time for all of humanity.  Why would He have to send it again with Islam if it was already revealed?  I wasn't very satisfied with the response, but as Allah so often does, within a few days I accidentally came across the answer while reading a book by imam Ibn Taymiyyah raḥimahullāh (may Allāh have mercy upon him). Allah sent every nation a prophet.  That prophet had a message to deliver to those specific people for that specific time.  It was never meant for all of humanity.  That's why when people tried to force those religions for everyone, there was absolutely no method for preservation.  Religions changed; messages changed; scriptures changed.

Islam is the final religion and the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) the final prophet and messenger.  Other prophets had miracles that they performed.  Moses parted the sea; Jesus raised the dead.  But those miracles were for those who were there to witness them.  Sure, we can try to imagine them, but unless you were there it's not the same.  That is more proof that it was meant specifically for their people.  While the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) did perform some miracles, his most important miracle is the Qur'an.  Not just the beauty of it, the vastness of it, the completeness of it, but the preservation of it.   If every Qur'an on earth disappeared, it could easily be duplicated because it is in our hearts and not just on paper.  That is part of the preservation of our religion.  The preservation of the Qur'an in its original form is proof,  by itself, that Islam is the final religion, meant for all of humanity, until the end of time.  It is the word of God in its original form, verbatim.  It is not an interpretation by any human being or a historical account of events.  Within this book, God addresses humanity directly and describes the path that leads to Him.

4. Jesus 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) was a Prophet of Allah

Not just any prophet, but from among the five elite prophets.  His name is mentioned in the Qur'an five times more than that of “Muhammad”.  We believe in his original message; we believe in his miracles, and we believe in his return to earth before the end of days.  His status is no different than that of the other great prophets.  One thing I challenge people with is to ask if they follow the religion of Abraham and other prophets.  If Jesus was born after all of these prophets, how could any of them have worshipped him?  Scientists say that humans have been on earth for over 200,000 years.  Jesus 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) was put on earth just 2,000 years ago – just 1% of that time.  How can just those who were born in that 1% of time achieve salvation through him, and those who don't accept him as God be destined to the hellfire?  Do we have a different scale to be judged on the humanity that lived in 99% of time since the beginning?

I explain that back in my college days when people asked what Islam says about Jesus, I would tell them to read the Chapter of Mary in the Qur'an and to start from verse 16 when Allah (swt] relates to us the story of Mary and the miraculous birth of Jesus.  It wasn't until years later that as I was reading the beginning of the chapter that I realized that I missed the entire point of the first 15 verses – the story of Zachariah.  Zachariah whispers a prayer to God –

19:4

19:5

 

“My Lord, my bones are weak, my hair is grey, but you've never let me down when I prayed to you.  I fear evil from my kinsmen after I'm gone.  My wife is barren.  So grant us a child.” [Surah Maryam, Verse 4-5]

Allah responds that He will grant him a child named Yahya (John).  Yet after this beautiful prayer that Zachariah makes, knowing that God always answers his prayers, he says:

19:8

“My Lord, how can we have a son when my wife is barren and I've reached extremely old age?” [Surah Maryam, Verse 8]

And Allah answers him:

19:9

“So shall it be.  Your Lord says – It is easy for Me.  For beyond a doubt, I created you before and you were nothing.” [Surah Maryam, Verse 9]

There it is.  Allah has now set us up for the miracle birth of Jesus to the Virgin Mary.  Allah can grant a child to an elderly couple.  He can create Adam from nothing, and Eve from his rib.  Not only that, but every single one of our births is a miracle.  Just because we think we can explain something scientifically doesn't make it less than a miracle.  And just as Yahya's birth was a miracle, so was Zachariah's.  And just as Allah created Zachariah out of nothing, He is about to tell you in the upcoming verses how He did the same with Jesus.  And it was just as easy for Him.

5. We Will Have Accountability for Our Actions

In this world when someone commits a crime, we want nothing less than justice.  If someone murders people, harms someone, cheats, or steals, then we desire justice and want nothing short of it.  Why then would God, the Most Just, accept less than that?  And just as we would not accept someone committing a crime and a different person being sentenced to death for that crime, why would the Most Just allow someone else to die for our sins?  And if that were the case, what is the purpose of this life?

67:2

“Allah created death and life to test us which of us is best in deeds…” [Surah Al-Mulk, Verse 2]

We have no guarantees of where we will end up.  We have to keep striving.  There is a Day of Judgment and we will all stand before Allah with our book of deeds and be held accountable for our own actions.  There is a paradise and a hellfire.  They are eternal and everlasting.  And while there is accountability and ultimate Justice on that Day, it's important to note that Allah is the Most Merciful and Forgiving.  We will not earn Paradise by our deeds alone, but Allah has reserved most of His Mercy for humanity for the Day of Judgment, which transcends any notion of mercy that we could possibly imagine.

As I spoke about accountability to the church group, someone stopped me and asked me what paradise was like in Islam.  I narrated to them the hadith of the last person to enter into Paradise.  I told them it was what no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no heart could imagine.  I gave them descriptions of gardens beneath which rivers flow, the palaces of paradise, the structures, the changing colors, the gold, the silver, the pearls, having all that you can wish for, the marketplace, the presence of the Prophets, the silk garments, the throne of Allah which would be the roof of paradise, the Light of Allah and His presence, and even with that we still can't imagine it.  When I was done, they all had smiles on their faces, and the person next to me in our circle took a breath and asked, “How do I get there?”  I told him – “You may not like what I'm about to tell you, but you have to worship Allah alone; associating no partners with him and no son.  You strive to do what's right and while I cannot even guarantee anything then, you will at least be on the right way.”  He smiled, nodded, and thanked me.

He then emailed me to thank me on behalf of their church group and said, “Many of us, including myself, were challenged last night.”  As a Muslim, it is only our duty to share with the world the beauty that we have been given.  It is time that we define ourselves.  And these interactions are the best way to do it.

And Allah knows best.

 

Ehab Hassan is a Muslim youth activist and Islamic worker.  He has served on several councils and boards of various Islamic organizations while concentrating much of his efforts in youth work over the past 15 years.  He strives to motivate and connect with Muslim youth and families by delivering sermons, leading discussions, and organizing creative community activities.  His passions lie in Islamic manners, family development, and sharing heart-softening stories, as he tries to get the world to feel something – because people can be so numb sometimes.  By day, Ehab is a Mechanical Engineer at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab, and by night he is a family man trying to maintain his status as the world's best dad.  Ehab resides in Maryland with his wife and two young kids.  Follow him on Twitter @ehababuayah.

10 Responses

  1. Mahmud

    Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

    Good. It’s about time we started doing our dawah because Islam is the only way to Jannah.

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  2. Kirana

    Hi brother, would your top 5 be different if you were speaking to non-Christians? Like non-Abrahamaic religions or atheists?

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    • Parvez Khan

      talking to athesits?

      i think we should focus on the existance of God.

      arguments by the cause of the universe, the self and objective morality.

      1) If the universe never had a beginning it means there must be an infinite history of past events. But is that possible?
      Let me give u a parable, this universe is the last domino fallen. This proves that the domino chain had a beginning or else the last domino would not have fallen.
      Therefore it’s clear that the universe has a beginning and there for a cause because it’s impossible for something to exist from nothing via no cause.

      Since something cannot come from nothing, and self-creation is absurd then the universe being created or brought into existence by an uncaused entity is the best explanation. This concept is intuitive but also agrees with reality: whatever begins to exist has a cause or a creator.
      This cause or creator must be uncaused due to the absurdity of an infinite regress, in other words an indefinite chain of past causes.

      or argument of “design” claims that everything in the Universe follows laws, which must have been created by God:
      • All natural bodies follow laws of conduct.
      • These objects are themselves unintelligent.
      • Laws of conduct are characteristic of intelligence.
      • Therefore, there exists an intelligent being that created the laws for all natural bodies.
      • This being is whom we call God.

      Deductive argument;
      1. Everything that beginnings to exist have a cause (causality)
      2. The universe began to exist (Big Bang)
      3. Therefore the universe has a Cause (God)

      2) The human self is not a physical thing; it is not contained in any cell or biological structure. The most unchallenged and intuitive reality is that we are all aware, but we cannot describe or explain what this awareness is. One thing that we can be sure of is that the self cannot be explained biologically or chemically. The main reason for this is that science does not discover the self; it is actually the other way round. For science to try and explain the truth of the self would be tantamount to arguing in a circle! The advocates of a physical explanation for the self-end up in a muddle as they require answers to even bigger questions, such as “How can certain bits of matter suddenly create a new reality that has no resemblance to matter?” So if the self cannot be explained physically then the next question must be asked: “How did it come to be?” The history of the universe indicates that consciousness spontaneously arose, and language emerged without any evolutionary forerunner. So where did it come from? Even the neo-atheists have failed to come to terms with the nature of the self and its source, because no physical explanation is coherent enough to be convincing.
      The best explanation for the nature and source of the self is that it came from a source that is thinking, aware and conscious. How else can the self, which is an entity with a capacity to reflect and experience, manifest itself? It cannot have come from unconscious matter incapable to experience and ponder. Simply put, matter cannot produce concepts and perceptions, therefore we can conclude that the self cannot have a material basis but must have come from a living source that transcends the material world; and this is best explained by God. No other answer provides an adequate explanation for this phenomenon.
      Language acquisition in human beings has caused theoretical problems for Darwinism. The fact that human beings seem to have an innate ability to take meagre linguistic input and develop knowledge of language that extends far beyond anything that he has learned, cannot be explained by Darwinism but can be explained by Belief in Allah.

      3)our universe contains objective morality then it can only make sense with God’s existence, because God is required as rational basis for objective morality. Without God morality is subjective, because God is the only conceptual anchor that transcends human subjectivity. So the universe with objective morality makes no sense without God. In this light the Muslim or theist may argue:
      1. If God does not exist, then objective moral values do not exist
      2. The universe with objective moral values does exist
      3. Therefore, God exists.
      Both social pressures and evolution provide no objective basis for morality as they both claim that our morality is contingent on changes: biological and social. Therefore morality cannot be binding and true regardless of who believes in them. Therefore without God, there is no objective basis for morality. God as a concept is not subjective, therefore having God as the basis for morality makes them binding and objective, because God transcends human subjectivity.
      Since the universe contains objective morality, and Gods existence is necessary as a conceptual foundation for objective morals, then the universe we live in makes sense with the existence of God.

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      • Hira

        Jazak Allah brother, these are very good arguments. But one thing I’m confused about is how we’re so complex so we must have a Creator. How can the Creator be so complex and have existed all along. Some say it’s more logical to believe intelligence being developed over billions of years rather than having it all along. This is troubling my mind and you seemed like the right person to ask.

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    • Ehab

      At the very least the angle I would approach them would be different. I think that tawheed, the prophet Muhammad, and accountability are critical. Unfortunately I don’t have as much experience in discussions with those outside of the Abrahamic faiths so I’m sure others can give far better advice than I can. So this is where I keep my mouth shut. :)

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  3. NS

    Jazak Allahu Khairan. Excellent tips on summarizing Islam in few minutes..
    May Allah guide us all to be great Muslims and for others to be attracted towards Islam through us.

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  4. Mimi

    Any ideas how t deal with a 19 year old muslim girl who insists on studying music at uni? Am a concerned mother !

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  5. Ehab

    Salaam Sr. Mimi. I would try to reach out to someone at Muslim Matters by going to the main page and clicking the “What’s the Matter” link on the right. They have counselors that address these types of questions. May Allah grant you and your daughter the best!

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