Belief in God
Belief in one God (tawhid) is primary in Islam and his name (Allah) brings together two words: “Al” (The) and “ilah” (God), with etymological links to El-Bethel, El-Elohim, and Eli/Eloi). He alone is worthy of worship. Most Muslims refuse to say much about God’s attributes (see Introduction to the Five Pillars), except this: he is one (Surah 4:48; 112:1), he is power (Surah 2:260), and he is will (Surah 74:31). Yet, they do believe he is all-powerful, all-knowing, the creator and sustainer of all things, having no offspring, no race, no body, and no gender. Notably, the Qur’an often uses “We” in reference to God like the “Royal We” when addressing a king. Finally, God is totally transcendent in Islam and therefore essentially unknowable.
Belief in Angels
God created angels from light to worship him and carry out his commands (Surah 66:6). It is uncertain how many there are, but four archangels stand out: Jibreel (Gabriel) is the angel of revelation who delivered God’s message to Muhammad (Surah 2:97); Meekaa’eel (Michael) provides bodily nourishment and gives rain (Surah 2:98); Isra’il (unnamed in the Qur’an); Israfil (also unnamed) blows the trumpet on Resurrection Day. Additionally, one angel seizes the soul at death (Surah 6:61) while Munkar and Nakir (unnamed in the Qur’an), interrogate people about their faith post-death in the tomb (Surah 6:93; 47:27). Some guard heaven and hell; others protect people but also record their deeds. Finally, certain angels perform various tasks and there is strong angelic involvement in the Judgment.
Belief in Holy Books
In Islam, God revealed holy books to various messengers, so they could convey his “speech” to their people: the Torah to Moses; the Psalms to David, the Gospel to Jesus, and Qur’an to Muhammad. Whenever a book was revealed, it abrogated (nullified) the previous one. If there is a contradiction between these books, Muslims believe that all previous scriptures have been abrogated by God’s final revelation (the Qur’an). Moreover, they allege that books currently in the hands of Jews and Christians (Old and New Testaments)–though pure at the point of revelation–have been corrupted. In contrast, the Qur’an has been preserved spotless and is perfect. Christians, however, discount charges of distortion from two important sources: the Qur’an itself (Surah 2:87; 3:3; 5:44; 4:136; 10:94) and also from the Bible (Psalms 119:89; Matthew 5:18; Revelations 22:8).
Belief in Prophets
Muslims are the only people worldwide who consider belief in all prophets an article of faith (Surah 2:136). In the Qur’an, twenty-five are mentioned (mostly biblical and Semitic), but others speak of 124,000—all special human beings, committed to truth, and perfect (ma’sum). They have been sent to every nation (Surah 16:36), instructing people to worship the one, true God. There are two types of prophets: Nabi (regular) and rusul (messengers, or high prophets) who have received a book. As “seal” of the prophets, Muhammad was sent to all mankind. He is considered the last and greatest, yet Muslims love and revere the prophet Jesus; the Qur’an awards him exalted names–Son of Mary, Word, Spirit, Sign and Messiah and credits him with many miracles.
Belief in the Day of Judgement
Second in importance (after tawhid) is the “Day of Darkening”—sky cleft asunder, stars fall, seas boil, graves upturned, the sun darkens, and she-camels abort (Surah 81:1-18; 82:1-5). Humans are judged by their deeds. Those whose good deeds outweigh evil deeds enjoy the pleasures of paradise; those whose evil deeds outweigh good deeds suffer the horrors of hell. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Vol. 8:567). The hour “certain,” and many Muslims are terrified of traversing a frightful bridge (Sirat) (37:23), suspended over hellfire—sharper than the sharpest sword, and thinner than a strand of hair. Finally, the Qur’an seems to give a prominent role to Jesus as Judge (Surah 4:159; 43:61), and the Hadith is even more clear (Sahih al-Bukhari, Vol. 3, 233-234, No. 425).
Belief in Divine Decree
Predestination (taqdeer) says everything is written down (maktub). God foreordained whatever happens—including misfortune (Surah 57:22-23). It is as if every man’s “fate” is hung around his neck (Surah 17:13): “No one believes” apart from God’s will” (Surah 10:100); “He guides whom he will” (Surah 28:56); “He leaves straying whom he pleases and guides whom he pleases” (Surah 14:4). “If he had so willed, he could have guided everyone,” but he will “fill hell with men and jinn” (Surah 32:13). The Hadith goes even further: God employs people in doing things that determine their eternal destiny—even fornication (Mishkat, Vol. 1, 24-27). Sadly, most women have been destined to hell (Mishkat Vol. 1, 9). Despite the above, Muslims do not rule out freedom of choice.
Belief in the Afterlife
Some Qur’anic verses give the impression no one will escape hell, like: “Not one of you but will pass over it …” (Surah 19:71). Descriptions are frightful: it will be a place of horrible torture, suffering, and misery. Sinners will “wear fire” and drink “boiling water.” Their “garments will be pitch” and they will have yokes around their necks (Surah 14:48-52; 44:48; 36:8-9; 6:70; 10:8; 18:29; 78:21-30). The Hadith is even more graphic (Sahih al-Bukhari, Vol. 8:567). In contrast, heaven (a “Garden”) is a place of physical delights: unpolluted water, unspoiled milk, clear honey, and excellent wine (Surah 83:25)—not to mention houris (maidens) who have “beautiful, big and lustrous eyes” and “swelling breasts.” Again, the Hadith expands on the pleasures of paradise (Sahih al-Bukhari, Vol. 4:307, 468).