The following are details on Aqidah (the articles of faith in Islam) and Shari`ah (Islamic law).
Aqidah comprises six basic beliefs as follows:
Faith in God
Faith in the Angels
Faith in the Scriptures
Faith in the Prophets
Faith in Resurrection and the Day of Judgement
Faith in Destiny
1. Faith in God
The Muslim testifies that 'there is no god (that is to say no 'object worthy of worship') except Allah ('Allah' is the Arabic word for 'God') and that the Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. is his messenger'. A belief in the oneness of God, or tawhid, is fundamental to Islam. Worship is to be directed to this one God. Other forms of worship, whether they take the form of devotion towards humans, idols, material possessions or intangible possessions such as status and reputation, are contrary to the teachings of Islam and are described as shirk, ascribing divinity to other than God. Where there is a conflict between following the commands of God on the one hand or, for example, improving one's material wealth, the commands of God must predominate.
In the Qur'an, it is repeated on many occasions that God is the ultimate and all-powerful entity in existence. Nothing that takes place throughout creation is unknown to God, or takes place without God's permission. He is an all-knowing God and human actions, words and thoughts, cannot be hidden from Him. Indeed, without a knowledge of man's thought process, God could not be in a position to judge the intentions, and therefore the actions, of man.
He knows all that is in the heavens and the earth, and He knows all that you conceal and all that you reveal.
Qur'an 64 : 4
Unto Him belongs the dominion and unto Him belongs the praise, and He has power over all things.
Qur'an 64: 2
Whilst all true Muslims submit to the will of God, those who develop the strongest form of faith in God are said to possess Iman. However, human devotion to God does not sustain God and is not in any manner necessary for the continuation of God's existence.
2. Faith in the Angels
In Islam, the Angels are the creatures whereby God enacts his commandments on earth. Though possessing great intelligence, they have no will of their own and are therefore unable to disregard such commandments. Their duties include maintaining a record of the actions, thoughts and deeds of each human being during the earthly life and protecting or taking life when commanded so to do by God. The devil is not held to be a fallen angel as some religions describe, but instead a member of the Jinn, another of God's creations that exist in form undetectable by man. The Jinn are very much a community of beings of which, like mankind, some are better intentioned than others.
3. Faith in the Scriptures
Muslims believe that the scriptures revealed by God are for the guidance of mankind. The message of God is the ultimate truth and guidance by which to conduct worldly affairs. Man is not perfect and hence his own laws cannot be perfect either. Without divine guidance there arises the tendency for man-made laws to determine human activity in a manner that may not fully suit man's requirements. Such laws are regarded as being subject to the rule of expediency and therefore subject to alteration and revocation, often to suit the ends of the law makers.
Secularism is seen by many Muslims as an instrument whereby man attempts to remove the Divine influence from the law making process. Once religion is given a back seat in this process, once it is seen as a 'private matter' or a matter not to be discussed in public, it can no longer maintain its place as the prime source of authority in regulating human activity. In this manner, the law making apparatus is freed of its most essential anchor to religious injunctions. God's laws on the other hand are perfect, and should be followed irrespective of the degree to which mankind understands them. Since man is not in a position to fully understand the workings of the universe, or in fact of his own mind, he cannot be in a position to reject the guidance contained in the revealed scriptures. Thus, no human has the right to alter or qualify the divine guidance.
It is precisely because God is the creator of man, that he is fully aware of man's nature and requirements. Since Qur'anic guidance is seen as timeless and relevant for all ages, it is not subject to revocation and cannot at any stage of man's development be dismissed as old-fashioned or in need of 'up-dating'. The timeless quality of Qur'anic guidance does not prevent new laws being established by means of ijtihad, as described in Sources elsewhere on this website. The point is simply that the founding Qur'anic principles, upon which human activity is to be based, remain true for all ages under the Islamic faith. Muslims would usually view Islam as the constitution under which new laws must be developed, an anchor to stability and justice in human affairs that is not always available under secularism.
Perfected is the word of thy Lord in truth and justice.
Qur'an 6 : 115
Islam proposes that the same message was imparted to every prophet by the same God. It is further proposed that, by the time of the Prophet, the religions of the earlier prophets no longer bore a full resemblance to their original content. In the Qur'an, God promises that there will be no new revelations established on Earth after Islam and that, this being the case, the Qur'an would remain unaltered until the end of time.
4. Faith in the Prophets
Muslims believe that many individuals were called to prophethood prior to the advent of the Prophet Muhammad s.a.w.. Abraham, Moses and Jesus were all examples of such prophets according to Islam. The prophets are regarded as God's messengers to mankind and are all equally deserving of respect. Prophethood, or risalah, is the means whereby mankind has been provided with the way to guidance, or hidayah, for the worldly life. In this manner, the ahadith and sunnah of the Prophet s.a.w. are elevated to a position of authority in the Islamic law making process.
5. Faith in the Day of Judgement
On the Day of Judgement, Adam, Eve and their descendants will be resurrected and required to account individually for their worldly lives. On this day, the record of worldly life will be brought to bear as witness for or against each individual, if commanded by God. Each individual will stand in judgement for his or her efforts in worldly life and no individual will be treated more favourably than another except due to piety and good behaviour during the earthly life. No race or religious community will be favoured above another except in so far as it followed God's commandments more sincerely than another. There will be no intercession between God and the judged individual by any being, except with God's permission. In this context, God is the guarantor of ultimate justice in which all earthly activity will be compensated with the appropriate reward or punishment.
6. Faith in Destiny
The Qur'an states that man's fate is determined by his own actions :
Every man's fate We have fastened on his own neck ...
Qur'an 17 : 13
Shari`ah can be seen as comprising the set of laws that exist under mu`amalat and `ibadat. These two categories of law are described below:
Fiqh al-Mu`amalat presents a framework for conduct in the civil arena. It deals in part with economic functions in an Islamic society but not comprehensively with factors impacting upon economc behaviour since it is concerned solely with legal relationships between members of the society. Under mu`amalat, any action that is not specifically or generally described as prohibited or haram automatically becomes permissible or halal.
Haram acts include :
adultery and fornication
consumption of intoxicants and prohibited food items such as pork and related products
environmentally destructive activities
supply of arms to an enemy state
astrology and divination
obscene and permissive activities
bearing of false witness and rumour-mongering
Any form of involvement, directly or indirectly and in any manner whatever, with haram activities is prohibited irrespective of the desirability of the perceived outcome that might result therefrom. The philosophical idea is clearly that the ends do not justify the means. There is furthermore an instruction of the Prophet s.a.w. in Ahadith that 'only good can come from good', which may be seen as confirming the view that in fact the means justify the ends.
Exceptions to the rules of prohibition are made in case of pressing need. Where survival is threatened for example, a Muslim is allowed to consume otherwise prohibited food or drink. This rule of necessity, known as al-darura, is held by many jurists to apply only to otherwise prohibited items of food and drink, and not to activities such as taking interest on bank deposits for example, since the latter may not be seen as necessary for survival. The circumstances in which al-darura applies are decided according to fatwa and not by the individual himself.
But he who is driven by necessity, neither craving nor transgressing, it is not a sin for him
Halal activities are sometimes categorised as follows :
a) Recommended or mandub - rewardable if enacted but not punishable if omitted.
b) Indifferent or mubah - enactment is permitted and the law is indifferent.
c) Unspecified or mutlaq - the law does not take any position on such actions.
d) Undesirable or makruh - an action which is undesirable but enactment is not punishable.
The omission of an obligatory (fard) acts of worship, is punishable but such punishment will not usually arise from juridical sanction. The 'five pillars of Islam' that constitute `ibadat, are :
a) To testify that there is no God except Allah and that the Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. is his final messenger. In order to convert to Islam an individual should first wash thoroughly and then make the above oath of Islam, the Shahada.
b) To perform the five daily prayers (salat). Salat requires ceremonial ablution beforehand. The direction of prayer, or qibla, is toward Makkah, and prayers must be performed five times daily, in the morning (fajr), at noon (zuhr), afternoon (asr), evening (magrib) and night (isha). Each prayer varies in length having a different number of prostrations, or rakat. The precise prayer times are determined according to seasonal variations in the position of the sun.
c) To regularly pay a stipulated amount of one's wealth according to well defined rules (zakat).
d) To perform the fast (sawm) from dawn 'till dusk during the month of Ramadan. Fasting, or sawm, is held to be a source of physical and spiritual discipline. It involves abstinence from eating, drinking and sexual activity between dawn and sunset every day during the month of Ramadan.
e) To make a pilgrimage to Makkah (termed Hajj) during one's adulthood if ability allows. The pilgrimages to Makkah that a Muslim may make are Umrah, the lesser pilgrimage, and Hajj, the greater pilgrimage. Hajj is compulsory once in an adult's lifetime, Umrah is recommended. Hajj takes place in the first ten days of the month of Dhul Hijjah (the twelfth month of the Islamic calendar), and Umrah can be performed at any time of year. Pilgrimage is said to reinforce the common bond of brotherhood and communal spirit among the Muslims that perform it, and is viewed as a highly commendable form of worship.