A Quick Q & A - "I'm new to Islam"

 

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Who is Allah
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Allah is an Arabic-word for: The One and Only Deity/ God, Islam is the only religion that can describe themselves as True-monotheists, why? In Islam, we do not believe in anthropomorphism (i.e. attributing human-facets to The Divine One) In the Old Testament, in Genesis it says:

26 And God said; Let us make man in our image, after our likeness : and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

27 So God created man in his own image , in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

So it is said that "God created man in his own image" which we reject in Islam, because our belief is that God cannot be likened to any form which He Himself created, He is far beyond the perception of man, through man's mortal means of :

Along with "Allah" the Qur'an contains 99 names which are the attributes of Allah

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What is Islam
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Islam is a monotheistic religion originating with the teachings of Muhammad (pbuh), a 7th century Arab religious and political figure. It is the second-largest religion in the world today, with an estimated 2.08 billion adherents, spread across the globe, known as Muslims. Linguistically, Islam means submission, referring to the total surrender of one's self to Allah(Swt), and a Muslim is "one who submits to God".

As Muslims we believe that God revealed the Qur'an to Muhammad (pbuh) and that Muhammad (pbuh) is God's final prophet. The Qur'an and the traditions of Muhammad in the Sunnah are regarded as the fundamental sources of Islam. Muslims do not regard Muhammad as the founder of a new religion but as the restorer of the original monotheistic faith of Adam, Ibrahim and other prophets whose messages had become corrupted over time (or according to some authorities only misinterpreted). Like Judaism, Christianity, and the Bahá'í Faith, Islam is an Abrahamic religion.

It is the fastest growing religion in the world. There are now up to 5 million Muslims in the U.S., and over 1,100 mosques or Islamic centers.

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What is the Quran/Koran
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The Qur'an is the Holy Book of Islam, revealed to the Prophet Muhammad pbuh, and it is the literal word of Allah (swt). It was revealed over a period of 23 years by the angel Jibraeel. It consists of 114 Surahs (chapters) with 6236 ayahs (verses). The original text of the Qur'an is in Arabic, but it has been translated in a lot of languages.

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Who is the Prophet Muhammad
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The Prophet as the founder of Islam and the messenger of God's revelation to mankind is the interpreter par excellence of the Book of God; and his Hadith and Sunnah, his sayings and actions are, after the Qur'an, the most important sources of the Islamic tradition.

Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was born in Makkah in the year 570. Since his father died before his birth and his mother died shortly thereafter, he was raised by his uncle who was from the respected tribe of Quraysh. He was raised illiterate, unable to read or write, and remained so till his death. His people, before his mission as a prophet, were ignorant of science and most of them were illiterate. As he grew up, he became known to be truthful, honest, trustworthy, generous, and sincere. He was so trustworthy that they called him the Trustworthy. Muhammad (pbuh) was very religious, and he had long detested the decadence and idolatry of his society.

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What does Sunnah mean
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Sunnah refers to the deeds, sayings and approvals (including silent approvals) of Prophet Muhammad pbuh and the twelve Imams. The twelve Imams however also followed the sunnah of Prophet Muhammad pbuh, so the sunnah of the Imams, is in fact the sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad.
What does school of thought mean?

Schools of thought (madhahib) are the paths people follow to the Holy Qur'an and Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh&hf). Obviously, these schools of thought were founded considerably after the death of the Prophet (pbuh&hf) and, in fact, never took shape until the time of the Umayyid Caliphate. The common phrase ahl al-sunnah wal-jama'ah, for example, became prevalent during the third century hijri. By the year 250 h., the four Sunni schools of thought were being popularized and patronized during the 'Abbasid Caliphate. The Shi'a school of thought, on the other hand, continued its growth and progress after Imam 'Ali (pbuh) through his descendants who were connected to each other through a chain of narration and knowledge. The Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh&hf) and the designated imams in the Shi'a school of thought were shielded by Allah from any sin, religious error, or forgetfulness.

Today, the five schools of Islamic thought accepted by all Muslims are the Jaffari, comprising 23% of the Muslims; the Hanafi, comprising 31% of the Muslims; the Maliki, comprising 25% of the Muslims; the Shafi'i, comprising 16% of the Muslims; and the Hanbali, comprising 4% of the Muslims. The remaining small percentage follows minority schools such as the Zaydi and the Isma'ili.

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What does School of Thought mean
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Schools of thought (madhahib) are the paths people follow to the Holy Qur'an and Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Obviously, these schools of thought were founded considerably after the death of the Prophet (pbuh) and, in fact, never took shape until the time of the Umayyid Caliphate.

The common phrase ahl al-sunnah wal-jama'ah, for example, became prevalent during the third century hijri. By the year 250 h., the four Sunni schools of thought were being popularized and patronized during the 'Abbasid Caliphate. The Shi'a school of thought, on the other hand, continued its growth and progress after Imam 'Ali (pbuh) through his descendants who were connected to each other through a chain of narration and knowledge. The Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and the designated imams in the Shi'a school of thought were shielded by Allah(swt) from any sin, religious error, or forgetfulness.

Today, the five schools of Islamic thought accepted by all Muslims are the Ja'fari, comprising 23% of the Muslims; the Hanafi, comprising 31% of the Muslims; the Maliki, comprising 25% of the Muslims; the Shafi'i, comprising 16% of the Muslims; and the Hanbali, comprising 4% of the Muslims. The remaining small percentage follows minority schools such as the Zaydi and the Isma'ili.

The Ja‘fari school of thought was headed by Imam Ja‘far ibn Muhammad al-Sadiq who lived from 83H to 148H. He was born in and died in the holy city of Madina, and he is the sixth Imam of the twelve designated imams of the school of Ahlul Bayt. Although the fiqh (Islamic Jurisprudence) was developed by the Prophet Muhammad and his successors (i.e., the imams), the fiqh, as taught by the Shi‘a, did not have the opportunity to be presented to the masses of people because of the political predicament that the Ahlul Bayt suffered under the rulers for many centuries. The Revert Muslims Administration are most predominantly from the Ja’fari school of thought.

After the Banu Abbas came into power in 132 A.H. (750 A.D.), the formation of the Sunni community was formalised. Although there are many sects and sub-sects in the sunni school of thought, the four main sects are-

1 The Hanafis, founded by Imaam Abu Hanifa an-Nu'maan ibn Thabit (died 150 A.H./769 A.D.). He is a scholar greatly respected not only by his followers but also the other sunnis.
2. The Malikis, founded by Imaam Abu Abdullah Malik ibn Anas (died 179 A.H./797 A.D).
3. The Shafeis, founded by Imaam Abu Abdullah Muhammad ibn Idris al- Shafei (died 204 A.H/819 A.D.)
4. The Hanbalis, founded by Imaam Ahmed ibn Muhammad ibn Hanbal (died 241 A.H./855 A.D.)

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Who are the Shia
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The word Shi'a, to quote Ibn Manzur, means "those people who love what the Prophet's Progeny loves, and they are loyal to such Progeny". Hameedullah Khan states "Shiat Ali means specifically that party which, after the death of the Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) attached itself to Hazrat Ali...considering him the successor of the Prophet (PBUH) both in temporal and religious matters".
1. Lisan al-'Arab, by Ibn Manzur, vol. 8, p189

2. Schools of Islamic Jurisprudence, by Hameedullah Khan p121

The term Shi'a in fact derives its actual origin from the Qur'an, in which Allah (swt) calls Prophet Ibrahim (as) a Shi'a of Prophet Nuh(as) . In another verse Allah (swt) informs us of a fight between two men, one was a Shi'a of Prophet Musa (as) and the other was an enemy of Musa(as) .

1. The Holy Qur'an 37:83
2. The Holy Qur'an 28:15

It is in praise of the Shi'a of Ali that Allah (swt) sent down the following revelation: "Those who believe and do righteous deeds are the best of the creatures. Their reward from their Lord shall be everlasting gardens, below which flow rivers, they will abide there forever. Well pleased is God with them and they are well pleased with Him.
The Holy Qur'an 98:7

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Who are the Sunni
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Sunni Muslims are the largest denomination of Islam. They represent the branch of Islam that accepted the caliphate of Abu Bakr . There are four schools of thought for Sunni Muslims: Hanafi, Maliki, Shafii or Hanbali.

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Who are the Sufii
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The Suffi are considered by some as the inner or mystical dimension of Islam They are not considered a sect of Islam. A practitioner of this tradition is generally known as a Sūfī , though some senior members of the tradition reserve this term for those practitioners who have attained the goals of the Sufi tradition. Another common denomination is the word dervish. The word, 'Sufi' has been ascribed various origins, among them words meaning 'purity' and 'wisdom.

Shi'ite beliefs had a lot of influence on Sufism, but mostly in the early days. One important idea which was transmitted from from the Shi'a to Sufism is that of the Mahdi (as), will come to save Muslims from corrupt worldly rulers.

Sufism is an esoteric doctrine transmitted by word of mouth, and sometimes, is is told, without even a spoken or written word, by an authorized teacher to a disciple, and from disciple to another disciple, in confidence. These secret instructions are acted upon by a disciple with perfect faith in the teacher. The disciple gives a report of his condition and experience in confidence to his teacher and receives another set of instructions most suitable to his state.

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Who are the Salafi
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Salafi/Wahhabism is a movement of Islam named after Muhammad ibn Abd al Wahhab (1703–1792). It has become an object of increased interest because it is the major sect of the government and society of Saudi Arabia. Some will claim that Wahabis are the most extreme of Muslims (also known as Salafism). Wahhabis differentiate themselves from orthodox Sunnis by labelling themselves Salafis, which refers to the word salaf – the time period in which the early Muslims lived in the first 300 years after the Hijra, or emigration, of Prophet Muhammad from Mecca to Medina in 622. It is said that the Wahabis are anti-Sunni and anti-Shi'a. Wahabis have been religiously criticized for labelling many major Muslim groups, such as Sufi and Shi'a Muslims, as apostates. They also take stances against the graves of saints, and the practice of Tawassul which consists of asking the saints for prayer on their behalf.

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What caused the Shia/Sunni split
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The Shia-Sunni split is not a recent phenomenon. The root of this division can be traced to just a few days after the death of our Prophet (pbuh&hp). Shi'as believe that the Prophet within his lifetime unambiguously appointed Imam Ali bin Abi Talib as his successor, and the caliph of the Muslim ummah (nation) after his death. However, Sunnis believe that the Prophet did not decisively fix the choice of the caliph after him, nor did he fix or proscribe any method of selection of this next caliph. As a result, Sunnis accept Imam Ali (a.s.) to be the fourth caliph, not the first (the first three recorded in their histories are Abu Bakr, Umar al-Farook and Uthman bin Affan).

The Shi'a call themselves so, because we describe ourselves as "Shi'an-e-Ali" (Party/Followers of Ali - "Shia" means party member or follower). Now this difference of belief did not immediately result in a division amongst Muslims at that time. The division occurred later when the self-appointed caliphs of the Islamic nation began persecution of Shi'as because of their refusal to acknowledge the caliphate of these rulers. These Shi'a refused to acknowledge the caliphate of these rulers because of the Shi'a belief that only the Prophet (under instructions from Allah) could appoint a caliph for the Muslim ummah, as he had already done so during his lifetime.

The history of the Muslim ummah, after the demise of the Prophet, unfolded in the following manner. After a large portion of Muslims refrained from acknowledging Imam Ali as the first caliph, he (Imam Ali) chose to wait with patience over this affair, rather than fight for his right, since the Prophet had advised him in the last days of his life to deal with the calamities that followed his (the Prophet's) death with patience, so as to not cause divisions within the Muslim ummah. As a result, he withdrew himself from active participation in political affairs and with matters regarding the handling of the government.
After the death of the third caliph, the state of the Muslim nation had severely deteriorated since the time of the Prophet, and much of the injustice and suffering that was prevalent during the pre-Islamic era had crept back into society. Muslims, acknowledging the dire situation their nation was in, then earnestly appealed to Imam Ali to take up the caliphate as they realized that there was no one more worthy than him for that position. After a lot of persuasion, Imam Ali reluctantly agreed.

Now within the rule of Imam Ali, Muawiyah bin Abu Sufyan rose up and waged a bloody war against him. He (Muawiyah) unjustly claimed that Imam Ali was either responsible or connected to the death of the previous caliph, and that this war of his was revenge for that death. Eventually, after a long war, a compromise was reached, and partial peace was restored.

However, after the death of Imam Ali, Muawiyah declared himself caliph of the Muslim ummah, and confronted Hasan bin Ali (a.s.), the son of Imam Ali, who was appointed by him as his successor. Again Muawiyah tried to wage a war against the true caliph, but this time Hasan bin Ali (a.s.) managed to work out a compromise with him that permitted him governance of the Muslim ummah till his death, after which it would return to Hasan bin Ali (a.s.) or his successor.

However, before Muawiyah died, he appointed his son Yazeed bin Muawiyah as the next caliph, blatantly contradicting the terms of the peace-treaty that he had given his oath of allegiance to earlier with Hasan bin Ali (a.s.). Meanwhile Hasan bin Ali (a.s.) had appointed his brother Husayn (a.s.) as his successor, and he was thus the rightful caliph. But Yazeed had taken that title for himself, and ordered Husayn (a.s.) to pay allegiance to him. Husayn (a.s.) refused. As a result, Yazeed's forces slaughtered Husayn (a.s.), the grandson of the Prophet (pbuh&hp), and his family members in the land of Karbala, on the day of A'shurah.

In Yazeed's rule, and in the rule of the succeeding rulers appointed by him, the Shi'as suffered extreme levels of injustice and mistreatment from these rulers, who deliberately persecuted Shi'as without inhibition, and without any regard for Islam or morality. As a result the Shi'as withdrew themselves from the government (which was mainly Sunni), and remained secluded from matters of caliphate for hundreds of years that followed, and this seclusion has resulted in the prominent Shi'a-Sunni split that you see today.

For a much more detailed analysis of the historical causes of this issue, read the following online book:
The Origins and Early Development of Shi`a Islam.

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Who are the Ahlulbayt
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"Ahlulbayt" literally means "People of the House" ('Ahl' means "people", while 'bayt' means "house"). Its meaning in context of Islamic vernacular is "members of the household of the Prophet". The Ahlulbayt are one of the two most important sources of Islamic guidance after the demise of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP). The holy Qur'an, when referring to them, states:

" . . . . Verily Allah intends to keep off from you every kind of uncleanness O' People of the House (Ahlul-Bayt), and purify you with a perfect purification."

(The last section of Verse 33:33)

This verse attests to their sinlessness, as all sins are a form of impurity, and this has been completely removed from them.

The Ahlul-Bayt of the Prophet consist of the following individuals:

* Fatimah al-Zahra (AS) - the only daughter of the Prophet.
* Imam Ali (AS) - first cousin, and son-in-law of the Prophet.
* Imam al-Hasan (AS) - grandson of the Prophet, and eldest son of Fatimah al-Zahra (AS)
* Imam al-Husain (AS) - grandson of the Prophet, and second eldest son of Fatimah al-Zahra (AS)
* Nine descendants of Imam al-Husain (AS)

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How do Muslims pray
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The method of offering the prescribed prayers in Islam (also referred to as salat)  can be seen in a demonstration here. Sunni and Shia Muslims pray slightly differently. Although both sects offer five prayers a day:

Salat al-Fajr, morning prayer
Salat al-Zuhr, early afternoon prayer
Salat al-Asr,late afternoon prayer
Salat al-Maghhrib, sunset prayer
Salat al-Isha, night prayer

Shia Muslims combine their prayers (Fajr) (Zuhr/Asr) (Maghrib/Isha)

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How often do Muslims pray
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There are five daily obligatory prayers. These are the dusk prayer (Maghrib), night prayer (Isha), dawn prayer (Fajr), noon prayer (Zuhr), and the afternoon prayer (Asr). Besides these there are a few other prayers that should be performed only on certain occasions, but not regularly, like the prayer at the burial ceremony of a Muslim who has passed away, the prayer on two specific Islamic festivals (called "Eid"), etc.

Other than these, one can pray whenever he or she desires, but these are counted as supererogatory prayers. Basically, Muslims must offer the five daily prayers (these are obligatory), but there is no limit to how much extra a person can pray. (Prayer Demonstration Here)

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Do all Muslims pray the same
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No. There are many different denominations within Islam, and the method of offering prayers by certain denominations may differ from that of others. For example, the Jaffari Shia method of offering prayers is different from that of Hanafi Sunnis.

These differences arise because of lack of consistency in the reports that describe the praying style of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). However, these differences are usually very minor. All Muslims pray to the only God, Allah(swt). We all pray facing the same direction (the Kabba in Mecca). We all have the same number of obligatory prayers, with the same number of units in each prayer. We all have to recite Qur'anic verses in our prayers, and most of the actions performed in the prayers are also alike.

The differences include things like, how most Sunni Muslims will fold their hands in front of them while they are standing in prayer, whilst Shias (and Maliki Sunnis, among others) leave their hands by their sides. How the sitting and standing postures might vary slightly - for example, some denominations believe that the feet should not be far apart when standing, while others believe that there should be a considerable gap between them. There are also other minor variations in issues like the recitation while sitting during prayers, and also on the issue of what materials are permissible to prostrate on. So although Muslims don't all pray the same way, the differences are not very significant. ((Prayer Demonstration Here))

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What is Wudu
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Wudu is the ritual ablution in Islam. It is the act of washing or wiping specific parts of the body with clean water, which Muslims perform prior to certain acts of worship (primarily prayer). (Demonstration here)

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What is Ghusl
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Ghusl literally means "bath". In certain circumstances Muslims are required to bathe completely with clean water as a means of purification. This ritual bath in Islam is called "Ghusl". The circumstances where ghusl is required include (but is not limited to): (Demonstration here)

. After ejaculation (through sexual intercourse or otherwise)
. Upon coming in contact with a dead body
. Ghusl for menstruation

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What is Tayammum
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Tayammum is the Islamic term for "dry ablution". This is the type of ablution performed when clean water is not readily available, or it is not feasible for a person to perform regular ghusl or wudhu because of medical reasons or similar issues. In such circumstances, instead of water, the person wipes a small amount of sand, dust or dry earth on his/her face and hands. (Demonstration here)

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What is Haram and Halal
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"Haram" is derived from the Arabic word "Hurum" which means "impermissible". Thus "haram" means that the thing under discussion is Islamically impermissible. (For example, pork is haram for consumption.)

Conversely, "halal", being the opposite of haram, means "permissible".

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What is Islam and the Sword
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Was Islam spread by the sword? The Holy Quran clearly says "Let there be no compulsion in religion". In addition to this, Islam teaches that a person's faith must be pure and sincere, so it is certainly not something that can be forced on someone. In debunking the myth that Islam was "spread by the sword", the (non-Muslim) historian De Lacy O'Leary wrote:

"History makes it clear, however, that the legend of fanatical Muslims sweeping through the world and forcing Islam at the point of the sword upon conquered races is one of the most fantastically absurd myths that historians have ever accepted." (Islam at the Crossroads, London, 1923, p. 8.)

Temperamentally the Prophet Muhammad was not inclined to war; he had not once handled the sword in actual fighting up to the fifty-fifth year of his age, and this in a country where, owing to constant internecine warfare, fighting had become a vocation of the people. The religion which he preached, Islam (lit. peace or submission), was a religion of peace, laying stress on prayer to God and the service of humanity, and he was required to preach this religion; to deliver the message, not to enforce it on others: There is no compulsion in religion. [2:256]

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Are Muslims Terrorists
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Of course Muslims are NOT terrorists. Islam strictly condemns the use of violence against innocent lives.

There is no justification in Islam for terrorism. Targeting the lives of innocent civilians and their property through suicide bombings or any other means of attack is haram (impermissible), and those who commit these acts are criminals, NOT martyrs.

The Qur’an states in this regard: "Whoever kills a person [unjustly]…it is as though he has killed all mankind. And whoever saves a life, it is as though he had saved all mankind." (Qur’an, 5:32)
Respect for persons of all faiths and backgrounds is integral to Islamic principles. As it has been said by Imam Ali (a.s.): "People are divided into two groups. Either they are your brothers in faith, or your brothers in humanity."

Those who commit these terrorist attacks, across the globe, are of a very small minority as compared to the 2.08 billion Muslims in the world. However, with such evil fear tactics the media will certainly cover their sickening escapades and those who are not well informed might assume all Muslims stand by these rules.

Muslims are NOT terrorists – Terrorists are Terrorists

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Why do the women wear a scarf
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You might ask yourself Why do so many Muslim women cover their heads with a scarf?
The act of covering one's hair by Muslim females is an integral part of the larger concept of Hijab. Hijab, in essence, is the notion of displaying a sense of modesty in dress and demeanour.

Modesty and chastity are very important ideologies in Islam, and the most effective approach to achieve these qualities is by prescribing standards on behavior and the dress of Muslims. As a result, Muslim women who choose to follow the tenets of Islam are asked to cover (or veil) their bodies (all of it, except the face and hands) from men who are not either their direct family members, or their husbands. In this way Muslim women are recognized as individuals, who are admired for their mind and personality, and not for their physical appearance.

For more information about the concept of hijab, especially it's philosophical and practical importance, feel free to read the following online book by the late Ayatollah Murtadha Mutahhari:

The Islamic Modest Dress

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What is the Hajj
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Hajj and Umrah:

Umrah: this is the lesser pilgrimage which is optional and can be performed at any time.
Hajj: The pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia, which every adult Muslim who is physically and financially able must make at least once in his or her lifetime. About 2,000,000 persons perform the hajj each year, and the rite serves as a unifying force in Islam by bringing followers of diverse backgrounds together in religious celebration. Hakeem's first pilgrimage was in 1991.
Hajj: (A more detailed explanation)

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Where are Mecca and the Kabba
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Mecca is the capital city of Saudi Arabia's Makkah province, in the historic Hijaz region. It has a population of 1,294,167 (2004 census). The city is located 73 kilometres (45 mi) inland from Jeddah, in the narrow sandy Valley of Abraham, 277 meters (909 ft) above sea level. It is located 80 kilometers (50 mi) from the Red Sea.

The city is revered as the holiest site of Islam, and a hajj pilgrimage is required of all able-bodied Muslims who can afford to go, at least once in their lifetime.

The Hajj: In Arabic, the word, Hajj means a resolve of magnificent duty. Hajj also means visit to the revered place, or the pilgrimage to the Kabba in the Grand Mosque (Masjid AlHaram or Haram AlSharef), in the City of Makkah (Mecca), in Arabia, which is one of the basic manifestations of the Islamic faith, and a display of unity of the Muslims throughout the world.

The Kabba: (The Sacred House"), is a building located inside the mosque known as Masjid al Haram in Mecca. The mosque was built around the original Kabba.

The Kaaba is the holiest place in Islam. The qibla, the direction Muslims face during prayer, is the direction from any point to the Kabba.

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What is a Mosque
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A mosque (also known as Masjid in Arabic) is a place of worship for Muslims, much like a church is for Christians or a Synagogue for Jews. The word masjid is from the Arabic root sajad which means to prostrate (Islamic prayers require prostration.)

Please read (Rules for the Masjid)

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What is Zakat
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Shia Muslims not only pay 2.5% left over from savings as zakat, but also an additional 20% as khums or general charity. However most prefer to pay directly to the needy.

Note that it is forbidden to give Zakat and charity to the descendants of the Prophet. Thus Zakat revenues and charities go to those needy who are NOT the descendants of the Prophet, while half of the Khums goes to those needy people who are the descendants of the Prophet.

One should also note that during the history of Islam till now, the descendants of the Prophet were being prosecuted every where and were deprived of their rights. Also a minority among Muslims continue to pay Khums. In other words, only 20% of all Muslims pay Khums which heavily decreases the amount of what the needy descendants of Prophet get from Khums (=20%*1/2*1/5=2%) when it is compared with the amount that needy people who are not the descendants of the Prophet get through Zakat from all Muslims (2.5%) plus all the charities which could be much more than 2.5%.

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What is Khums
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Khums: We read in the Holy Qur’an:

Know that whatever of a thing you acquire, a fifth of it is for Allah, for the Messenger, for the near relative, and the orphans and the needy and they way farer ..... (Qur’an 8:41)

Thus Khums (literally one fifth of gain) should go to six people:

1. Allah
2. His Messenger
3. The near relative of the Messenger (Ahlul-Bayt)
4. Orphan
5. needy
6. the person who has fallen away from his home-town (and has no money to comeback to his own place).

According to the hadiths of the Ahl al-Bayt Imams, the items that are eligible for Khums are seven, and they are:

1. the profit or the surplus of income
2. the legitimate wealth which is mixed with the illegitimate wealth
3. mines and minerals
4. the precious stones obtained from sea by diving
5. treasures
6. the land which a dhimmi kafir buys from a muslim
7. the spoils of war.

Khums is one of those things which were introduced by Abdul Muttalib (ra) the grandfather of the Prophet (S), and it continued in Islam when it was revealed in Qur’an. Acting upon a command of God given to him in his dream, when Abdul Muttalib rediscovered the well of Zamzam, he found in it many valuable things that were buried in it very remote past by the Ismailites when they feared that their enemies would usurp them. When Abdul Muttalib found that buried treasure, he gave away one fifth (literally khums) in the way of God and kept the remaining four fifth to himself.

Then it became a custom in his family to and after the Hijrah of the Prophet (S) the same system was incorporated in Islam. Thus the first khums was not given from the spoils of war, but from a buried treasure (which is one of the seven items eligible for khums).

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What does Nikkah or Mutah mean
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Mutah: is a fixed-time marriage which is a marriage with a preset duration, after which the marriage is automatically dissolved. It is the second form of marriage, described in the Qur'an (4:24).

(Details regarding Mutah can be found here)

Nikkah: (marriage) is the contract between a bride and bridegroom and part of an Islamic marriage, a strong covenant (mithaqun Ghalithun) as expressed in Qur'an 4:21).

The first part of the marriage ceremony, Nikah, is the signing of the marriage contract itself.
It is the duty of every Muslim to follow the Islamic laws not only in matters of prayers and fasting but in all his actions. Islam has well defined rules about marriage and sex too. So if you want to follow Islam fully, then you must know the Islamic rules and regulations governing married life. Islam has never repressed the natural feelings of human beings but provides rules that are divine.

The Nikah Ceremony:

According to Shariah, the wife-to-be says, ‘An Kah’tu nafsaka a’lal mah’ril ma’loom’

“I have given away myself in Nikah to you, on the agreed Mahr.”

Immediately, the man (bridegroom) says, ‘Qabiltun Nikaha’.

“I have accepted the Nikah.”

With these pronouncements, they become husband and wife.

If the marrying partners are not able to recite the formula in Arabic, one or two persons or priests2 are appointed and authorized to officiate. One who represents the bride would first seek her explicit consent to officiate on her behalf, and so would the other who acts on behalf of the groom. Naturally, there would be a slight variation in the pronouncements, because the persons reciting them are appointees. A person who represents the bride would initiate by saying, “Ankah’tu muwakkilati muwakkilaka a’lal mah’ril ma’loom.”

“I give away in Nikah the woman who has thus appointed and authorized me, to the man who has authorized you, on an agreed Mahr.”

The groom’s representative would respond, “Qabiltunnikaaha limuwakkili a’lal mah’ril ma’loom.”

“I accept the Nikah on behalf of the one who has appointed me, on the agreed Mahr.”

It is mustahab to recite a brief discourse or Khutba before the Nikah formula is enunciated. In this Khutba, Allah is praised for His Wisdom in regulating the lawful process of procreation, and then the traditions from the Prophet (pbuh) are also recited.

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Do Muslims like Jews/Christians/other faiths
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Yes, of course Muslims get along with people of the Jewish and Christian faiths. It is a myth or bad rumor that Muslims hate Jews and Christians or anyone else, for that matter, who isn't Muslim. The Qur'an, sadly, has been taken out of context more then once surrounding this issue.

It is incumbent upon us, as Muslims, to get along with those around us regardless of their beliefs, especially those of other faiths who believe in God. The Prophet (pbuh) lived along side Jews and Christians in Madinah where by they got along and did not force their beliefs on one another but instead respected each other and helped one another.

When the Prophet settled in Madinah, he wanted to create a cooperating human community and establish an exemplary civil society at a time when these poor Arabs could never imagine what a civil society could mean. So for the first time in history, he established the pact of Madinah.

In this constitution, all signing parties — including Muslims, Jews, and other (pagan) Arabs — agreed that they would live in Madinah together as a society and would defend it in case of an attack and would never help any outsider against any of the other signing parts and would never betray the agreement.

At Revert Muslims Association we encourage Interfaith dialogue and we encourage all those new to Islam to respect the beliefs of others and to not force your beliefs of Islam onto them. It's important to defend your beliefs and to discuss them when others are curious of your faith.

Treat others as you would like to be treated and do not judge someone based on their beliefs or cultures, only Allah(Swt) may do that.

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Should I stop contact with non-Muslims
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Of course you don't stop contact with people who are not Muslim!! Your beliefs are your beliefs and they should not stop you from interacting with your friends and family.

What a lot of new Muslims find, however, is that their new lifestyle, as a Muslim, is not always conducive with their friends who follow a Western /European lifestyle.

As a Muslim believer we will dress more conservatively/modestly, we do not drink Alcohol and we tend to not partake in a lot of the same activities that Western/European people do.

Keep in mind that It is hard for the family and friends of the new Muslim. They are confused and a little frightened by your journey to Islam. Almost certainly their idea of Muslims comes from the warped impression that the media gives. Take your steps gradually and ease them, as well as yourself, into Islam.

It's important to keep contact with your friends and family. It's important to let them know that you’re still you and that being a Muslim is only going to make ‘you’ that much better!

There are no rules stating we cannot befriend anyone who is not Muslim but it’s also important to remember to keep good influences in your life. As Muslims, it is our obligation to dissociate with the enemies of Islam. Although it is in your best judgement to deem who is worthy of friendship.

The Revert Muslims Association offers support - facebook group/forums/email. To meet a new Muslim friend, in your area, contact us at info@revertmuslims.com

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What is Sharia Law
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There is a difference but a yet a strong link between the words deen and sharia. Deen means religion, while Shari'a means the laws of Islam. Shari'a are the Islamic laws that govern our way of life, and without it, the deen is incomplete.

What is the source of Shari'a law in Islam? In Islam we are bound by rules formulated by the following:

1. Directly by Allah (Qur'an)
2. By the Prophet or Imams; the Sunnah (Hadith)
3. Mujtahids* (Mujtahid (jurist), capable of inferring and deducing from the religious sources and evidence)
4. Ijma (consensus)
5 Aqal (reasoning and intellect)

*The Mujtahids base their laws from the Qur'an and Hadith, and if an answer is not available there they will go to number 4 and/or 5.

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What is a Fatwah
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A fatwa is issued by a recognized religious authority in Islam. The people who pronounce these rulings are knowledgeable, and base their rulings in knowledge and wisdom. They need to supply the evidence from Islamic sources for their opinions, and it is not uncommon for scholars to come to different conclusions regarding the same issue.

As Muslims, we look at the opinion, the reputation of the person giving it, the evidence given to support it. When there are conflicting opinions issued by different scholars, we must compare the evidence.

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Do Muslims have Priests/Ministers
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In Islam, Muslims, will often follow the 'Imam' at their local mosque, when seeking guidance. The Imam is the prayer leader of a Mosque. Imams are also scholars and have been schooled in the religion of Islam.

The Sunnis use the term Imam synonymously with the term khalifah. A khalifah may be elected, or nominated by his predecessor, or selected by a committee, or may acquire power through military force. A khalifah need not be sinless. It is lawful for a person of inferior qualities to be made a khalifah while persons of superior qualities are present.

Shia Muslims also use the word, Imam, to describe the infallible Imams or religious leaders who were all members of the Prophet Mohammad’s (PBUH) family.

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What are the Pillars of Islam
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Pillars of Islam = Usul-e-Deen

Obligations of Islam = Furo-e-Deen

(Usool-e-Deen are the principles of Islam, whereas Furoo-e-Deen represent the articles of the faith of Islam)

5 PILLARS OF ISLAM (Shia) (Usul-e-Deen)

1. Monotheism: The Oneness of Allah (Tawhid)
2. Divine Justice ('Adl)
3. Prophethood (Nubuwwa)
4. Succession to the Prophet Muhammad (S) (Imamate)
5. The Day of Judgement and the Resurrection (Qiyama)
5 PILLARS OF ISLAM (Sunni) (Usul-e-Deen)
1.Shahadah: declaring there is no god except God, and Muhammad is God's Messenger
2.Salat: ritual prayer five times a day
3.Zakat: giving 2.5% of one’s savings to the poor and needy
4.Sawm: fasting and self-control during the blessed month of Ramadan
5.Hajj: pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in a lifetime[5][6] if he/she is able to[7] Obligations of Islam (Shia)(Furu'-e-Deen)

1. Salat
2. Sawm (Fasting)
3. Zakat
4. Khums
5. Hajj
6. Jihaad
7. Enjoining Good
8. Forbidding Evil
9. To love the friends of Allah, Rasool and Imam
10. To disassociate from the enemies of Allah, Rasool &Imam

Obligations of Islam (Sunni)(Furu'-e-Deen)

1.Tawhid
2. Nabuwat (Prophethood)
3. Qiyamat (Day of Judgement)

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Do Muslims believe in Jesus
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Jesus or Nabbi Isa as Muslims refer to him, is devoutly believed in by Muslims as is, Moses, Noah and all other true Prophets. Muslims consider Jesus to be one of God’s greatest messengers to humankind.
Furthermore, his mother Mary is regarded as one of the most pure and exalted women of all creation.
As the Qur’an says:
“Behold! the angel said: ‘God has chosen you and purified you and has chosen you above the women of all nations. O Mary! God gives you the good news of a word from Him, whose name shall be Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, honored in this world and the hereafter, and one of those brought near to God” (3:42).
One of the fundamental beliefs of Christianity relates that Jesus died and allowed for the shedding of his blood for the sake of granting forgiveness to people. In other words Jesus died on the cross as a sacrifice for our sins.
Muslims do not believe the above.

For a more detailed explanation on how Muslims see Jesus please see this link.

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Do Muslims respect the bible or the Torah
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The Qur'an teaches that Islam is the continued faithful religion in the same line as the Prophets who were before Muhammad: The same religion has He established for you as that which He enjoined on Noah ... and that which We enjoined on Abraham, Moses, and Jesus (42:13 AYA). The result of this view is that the scriptures given by these Prophets are considered to be genuine scriptures from God: But say, "We (Muslims) believe in the Revelation which has come down to us and in that which came down to you (Jews & Christians); our Allah and your Allah is One" (29:46 AYA).

In the Qur'an there are many references to the Jewish and Christian Holy Books. In fact the Qur'an addresses Christians and Jews in terms of the Book: O People of the Book! (5:68 AYA).

Not only Judaism in its several varieties, but hundreds of different sects of Christianity all maintain that their beliefs and practices are based on the Bible. If so many different religions can be justified by the Bible, why not Islam?

Most of Christianity recognizes the authority of the Bible, containing the Hebrew and Greek writings. There is some discussion of what writings to include and to what degree they are authoritative, but in principle Christians recognize the Bible. All forms of Judaism recognize the Torah and the other writings of the Tanach, which makes up the Old Testament of the Christian Bible.

Islam appeals primarily to the Holy Qur'an, but in principle accepts the Bible. In practice, Muslims reject the Bible on the assumption that it is corrupted from the original in order to make it accommodate to Christian teaching.The problem arises when we compare the beliefs and practices of any particular religious group with the book it appeals to. Inevitably there is much selectivity and interpretation, but beyond this remains the bare fact that the book is never the sole source of belief and practice. Where would the Christian year of festivals, the liturgy and a multitude of beliefs and practices be if all had to be founded on the Bible? Many of them would sadly fall by the wayside.

For more details read: Islam in the Bible

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What do Muslims say about 911
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Muslims are just as appalled by the events that took place on 9/11 as the rest of the world. The Terrorists who took claim for such attacks are not even considered Muslims by the rest of the Muslim world. Muslim organizations, worldwide, have condemned these attacks.

The following article, sums up Muslim views rather well:

‘My Take: Muslims should stop apologizing for 9/11’

By: Aman Ali is a New York-based writer, stand-up comedian and the co-creator of 30 Mosques in 30 Days, a Ramadan road trip across America.

As a Muslim, I’m sick of people asking me how I feel about 9/11. What do you want me to say, seriously?
Do you want me to say, “It was a great plan, mwahahaha!” before I fly off on a magic carpet?

I was born and raised in this country and was just as shocked as everyone else to learn there were people on this earth so vile as to commit such a horrific attack - or to even think about doing it.

But I didn’t do it. Neither did 99.999999999 percent of the roughly 1.5 billion people in the world who also call themselves Muslims. So why should I or any other Muslim apologize for what happened?
Nickleback is planning on releasing another album. Should I ask white people to apologize for that?
Just like Christianity and Judaism, Islam unequivocally condemns terrorism. Don’t take it from me, though. Grab a copy of the Quran from a library and find out for yourself.

Don’t rely on some cherry-picked crackpot interpretation of the Muslim holy book that you read on some Islamophobic hack’s poorly designed website. Speaking of which, Islamophobes need to put down the Quran and pick up a book on HTML programming and Flash.

When 9/11 happened, I can understand why the average person would want to know what Muslims actually believe. After all, the terrorists claimed they were acting in the name of Islam.

That’s why hundreds of Islamic organizations around the globe condemned the attacks and told the truth about how Islam doesn’t condone terrorism whatsoever.

But that was 10 years ago. Why are mainstream American Islamic groups like the Islamic Society of North America, the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Muslim Public Affairs Council still condemning the attacks and just about any other act of terrorism that pops up in the news?
Weren’t we clear before how we feel about terrorism? If people didn’t understand us for the past 10 years, what makes Muslims think they’re going to understand us now?

If I have to explain 10 times to my little brother how to operate the toaster in my apartment, that’s not my fault because of inadequate messaging. It’s my brother’s fault that he’s dumb.

It’s ridiculous for Muslims to continuously condemn and apologize for stuff when every religion has their fair share of crazies.

Imagine you’re in the habit of partying with a group of friends. And every party you go to, there's a friend in your crew that spills grape juice on the carpet - the really awesome kind of grape juice that’s in the fancy wine bottles (we Muslims don’t drink alcohol but we still can party like ballers).

How would you feel if people stopped inviting you to their parties because your one friend kept spilling grape juice? That's how I feel. I'm really annoyed I have to keep apologizing or condemning Muslim extremists that keep spilling their grape juice of hate on the world.

Dictionary.com defines the word apologize as “to offer an apology or excuse for some fault insult, failure, or injury.”

When 9/11 happened, I was 16 years old and playing Tetris during English class on my TI-83 calculator. I’ll apologize for not paying attention to Mrs. Fulton’s lecture at my high school in Gahanna, Ohio, but that’s about it.

Just because people hundreds of miles away claimed they were Muslim and committed a terrible act doesn’t mean I should apologize for it.

Mike Tyson started sucking really bad in the boxing ring after he converted to Islam. Should I apologize for that? Oh, and I think I saw a few Muslim-sounding names in the production credits for the movie “Green Lantern.” I guess I should apologize for that, too.

I’m not trying to be insensitive about 9/11. Of course my prayers and sentiments are with anyone affected by the tragedy. The same goes for any act of terrorism.

But I’m not going to apologize or condemn them because I don’t need to prove my patriotism with some kind of McCarthyite litmus test. The Pew Research Center released a study last week that found that Muslim Americans are far more pleased with how things are going in the United States (56%) than is the general public (23%).

That finding is not going to provoke me to question the general public’s patriotism. But please stop questioning ours.

The 9/11 attacks were a terrible tragedy that changed all of our lives. There’s no way we can ever forget what happened.

But what we Muslims can do is advance the conversation, rather than repeating the same old condemnations. Condemnations and apologies are like an out of style fashion trend, the parachute pants and neon hair scrunchies of civil discourse.

What Muslims need is an extreme makeover. Now that’s some extremism I can get behind.

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Who is the Mahdi
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A figure more legendary than that of the Mahdi, the Awaited Saviour, has not been seen in the history of mankind. The threads of the world events have woven many a fine design in human life but the pattern of the Mahdi stands high above every other pattern. He has been the vision of the visionaries in history. He has been the dream of all the dreamers of the world. For the ultimate salvation of mankind he is the Pole Star of hope on which the gaze of humanity is fixed.

More details, about the Mahdi can be read here.

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How do I become a Muslim
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To become a Muslim you must first declare the Shahada: The shahadah, or the Islamic creed, is the declaration of belief in the unity of Allah(Swt) and the Prophethood of Muhammad(pbuh). When stated aloud, one is considered to have officially declared oneself a convert/revert to Islam.

To learn more visit this link.

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As a Revert Muslim do I change my name
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No you do not have to change your name when you convert to Islam. However if your name were considered unIslamic or against Islam than it is recommended to change it. Many new Muslims find themselves changing their names to an Islamic first and or first and middle name but do not have it changed legally.

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Do I have to learn to speak Arabic
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If you are a new Muslim and you don't speak Arabic you are not obligated to speak Arabic. However you are obligated to speak it while in prayer. You must recite salat (prayer) in the Arabic language. It is encouraged to learn the language, both to speak it and to read it since the Holy Qur'an is in the Arabic language. You can learn this by going over the 'Salat page' of the Revert Muslim website, or contact us for a copy of the Salat prayer book. info@revertmuslims.com

The Arabic language is a complicated language and some of which can not be properly translated into English or other languages, thus it's importance to learn it so that you could better understand the Qur'an and to achieve better concentration while in prayer.

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What is Taqleed and Ijtihad
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Islam is a way of life. The laws and teachings of Islam are known as Shari'ah, and these laws have come to us through the Qur'an and the sunnah. The Qur'an has over 6000 verses, and the Sunnah derived from various ahadith are thousands in number. This means that not every Shia can spend time to study for so many years the Qur'an and the ahadith (plural of Hadith); that too in Arabic.

All baligh (those at the age of maturity) males and females, have to follow a mujtahid. This concept is called Taqleed. If one wishes to study the Qur'an and Hadith on his/her own, then that is called Ijtihad.
There are a few conditions of becoming a Mujtahid (One that has done Ijtihad, and has the right to pass religious rulings derived from Qur'an and Sunnah). They are:

1. Alive
2. Sane
3. Male
4. Baligh
5. Born in wedlock
6. Shia
7. A'lam (well learned alongside all other mujtahids)
8. Adil (just)

Most of the Mujtahids now a days live in Iran or Iraq. If you would like an answer to a question on behalf of your mujtahid, you can do the following:

- Ask your local Aalim
- Read your Mujtahids law books (Tawzihul Massail)
- E-Mail the question to his office
- You can also travel to Iran or Iraq and meet them in person

Most Mujtahids now a days have their own websites, with their laws and rulings posted online. Two of the well-known Mujtahideen of todays times are:

1. Ayatollah Al-Udhma Sayyid Ali Al-Hussaini Khamenei
www.leader.ir
2. Ayatollah Al-Udhma as-sayyid Ali Al-Hussaini as-Seestani
http://sistani.org

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How do Muslims greet
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The Islamic way of greeting a Muslim is by saying "As-Salamu Alaykum". It means "Peace be upon you", and the response of it is "Wa Alaykum As-Salam" meaning, "and on you be peace". It is highly recommended to greet a fellow Muslim in this manner, and once greeted, it is wajib (compulsory) on the other person to reply back.

It is also stated in the Qur'an to say this greeting when one enters his/her house, even if the house is empty. "...So when you enter houses, greet your people with a salutation from Allah, blessed (and) goodly;..." (24:61).

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Is Alcohol forbidden in Islam
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Yes, it is forbidden for a Muslim to intentionally consume an alcoholic beverage. Alcohol would be considered haram.

The Qur'an clearly forbids it.

"They ask you about intoxicants and games of chance. Say: In both of them there is a great sin and means of profit for men, and their sin is greater than their profit. And they ask you as to what they should spend. Say: What you can spare. Thus does Allah make clear to you the communications, that you may ponder." (2:219)

As far as smoking is concerned, the opinion of some Mujtahids might differ. For example; Ayatullah Fadhlullah has declared smoking as haram. Others will say that it is haram to start and get addicted to it in the first place. And some might say that it is haram once the person is aware of the damage being done on his body from smoking.

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Who are the Muslim people
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Muslims is an adherent of Islam, the monotheistic Abrahamic religion based on the Quran. As Muslims we consider the Quran to be the verbatim word of God as revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).
The common belief that most Muslims are Arabs is a misconception. In fact, the majority of Muslims in the world are non-Arabs.

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Do Muslims have pets
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Yes, you can! What you need to know, however, is that there are certain pets that are considered najis and so they need to be kept away from the area in which you pray. Cats and birds, fish, are not najis and so they are permissible, although some Muslims are not comfortable with any pet that leaves dander behind.

Dogs are another matter, their hair is najis and if you pray with dogs hair on your clothing your prayer will be invalid. The dogs and pigs which live on land are najis, and even their hair, bones, paws and nails, and every liquid substance of their body, is najis. However, sea dogs and pigs are Clean (tahir/pak).

It's very important that if you own a dog and he spends some of his time indoors that you must consider making sure you have removed all of his hair from your person before you begin salat/prayer. It is recommended that if at all possible you keep your dog outdoors. Most scholars recommend you only keep a dog as a guard-dog and to keep him/her outdoors.

Unfortunately, many Muslims have used this view to justify the abuse and neglect of dogs, even though cruelty contradicts the Qur'an's view that all animals form "communities like you.

However, cruelty and neglect of animals still occur daily throughout the world. The approach of the holiday season sees many animal welfare organizations get an influx of dogs and cats brought in to be put to death during this time. Healthy, happy animals belonging to Muslims are also brought in to be put to death. This is a very disturbing and un-Islamic action. If one cannot afford to feed, shelter, and maintain one’s animals, and a new home cannot be found for them, take them to one of the many animal welfare organizations where there is at least a chance of the animal’s finding a new home. The real tragedy is that many of these Muslims still do this in the name of Islam and openly express such ignorant views. This contributes to propaganda against Islam. When a non-Muslim is cruel to an animal, it is considered an individual’s action, but when a Muslim does it, non-Muslims see it as an Islamic practice.

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What do Muslims eat
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[5:88] Eat of that which Allah hath bestowed on you as food lawful and good, and keep your duty to Allah in Whom ye are believers

Muslims can eat meat and vegetables.

The restrictions are mostly related to the type of meat we can eat. We must eat food that is halal, i.e. slaughtered in an Islamic manner. We are allowed to eat animals such as cow, sheep, camel and chicken etc. Muslims can not eat pigs, carnivorous animals, reptiles, insects, animals that were already dead and halal animals that were not slaughtered in Islamic fashion.

[16:5] And He created the cattle for you; you have in them warm clothing and (many) advantages, and of them do you eat.

[2:173] He hath only forbidden you dead meat, and blood, and the flesh of swine, and that on which any other name hath been invoked besides that of Allah. But if one is forced by necessity, without wilful disobedience, nor transgressing due limits,- then is he guiltless. For Allah is Oft-forgiving Most Merciful
In terms of eating fish, since they die once out of water, we do not have to worry about it being salughtered in a halal manner, but are only allowed to eat fish that has scales on it.

Muslmis can also eat, plants which are not intoxicant, vegetables, fruits, grain foods; such as wheat and rice.

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Why do Muslims not eat pork
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In Islam, pork was forbidden for human consumption more than 1400 years ago. The wisdom behind this Divine prohibition was only discovered in the 20th century by doctors and scientists.

The abstention from eating pork is one of the steps taken by Islam to practice hygiene and to attain purity of soul. There is a saying in English that "a man becomes what he eats". According to physicians and medical experts, pork is a harmful diet. The Qur’an has prohibited the swine-flesh, hence why Muslims would not touch it. The Bible has also forbidden swine-flesh, but Christians but most will still consume it.

The life of a man is a compound of body and soul. Anything, which is harmful for the body, hurts the soul as well.

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Do Muslims have to marry only Muslims
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Marriage in Islam is the uniting, or creating a bond between a man and a woman, who will gradually develop into a deep spiritual, sentimental and socio-economic relationship. The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) has said: "No institution of Islam is liked by God more than that of marriage." When one marries in Islam, he/she has saved half of his religion.

The basic object of marriage is to secure a comfortable atmosphere for a man and a woman, and also to produce a new generation of healthy, faithful and virtuous children. A Muslim husband and wife should always be a source of comfort for each other, and their relationship should be far above mere sexual enjoyment.

When one is looking to get married, he/she should at best, try to consider the following qualities in a spouse. Faith, Morals, Knowledge, and Compatibility; Faith obviously being the most important factor to consider.

A Muslim man or woman cannot marry a Mahram. Mahram relationships on the grounds of blood-relationship include that of:

- Mother/Father (includes grandparents)
- Daughter/Son (includes descendants)
- Sister/Brother (includes descendants)
- Paternal aunts/uncles
- Maternal aunts/uncles

One can also not marry those with whom he/she had relationship on the grounds of nursing, which is established on the requirements of some special conditions (which we will not get too much into)
One can also not marry those people who are declared Mahram on the account of affinity, relationships created by marriage. They are the following:

- Mother/Father in law
- Daughter/Son in law
- Stepmother/father
- Stepdaughter/son
- A man can not marry his wife's sister
- A woman can not marry her sister's husband

A man can marry an woman of the book: Muslim/Christian/Jew, however women can only marry Muslim men and can only have one spouse at any given time. In Islam marriage with one's cousin is permissible.

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Do Muslims have a leader
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Muslims do not have a supreme leader, like a Pope. Sunni Muslims will often look to their leaders in the community, for guidance and Shia will look to their scholars and Ayatollahs.

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Why can Muslim men marry more than one wife
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Polygamy/plurality of wives. First of all, it should be recognized, that polygamy existed before Islam was brought by the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), among the Jews, Arabs, Persians etc. All Islam has done, is put some restrictions on it. It is mere propaganda, started in Europe during the Middle Ages that polygamy was introduced by Islam. This is not the case.

There are some conditions of men marrying more than one woman in Islam. They are:

1. Equal treatment of all the wives
2. Preserving the purity and feeling of family life, so that it does not become the cause of disruption in family affairs
3. The number of wives does not exceed four

If you look at point number one (Equal treatment of all the wives), we will realize as to how hard that task is, to accomplish. Let's see what the Qur'an has to say about polygamy: "And if you fear that you cannot act equitably towards orphans, then marry such women as seem good to you, two and three and four; but if you fear that you will not do justice (between them), then (marry) only one or what your right hands possess; this is more proper, that you may not deviate from the right course.

" (4:3) As mentioned earlier, that polygamy existed prior to Islam, but it existed with no limitations or restrictions. It was Islam which has restricted it as it was used and abused a lot by the wealthy people, rulers etc. that were not just at all. If a man lacks that special spirit and strength of treating more than one wife equally, he is not allowed to take more than one wife.

At the end, the best and the most satisfactory form of marriage is naturally monogamy, and therefore men should avail themselves of the permission of polygamy only in exceptional circumstances.
Please see (The Concept of Polygamy and the Prophets Marriages) for a more detailed description of Polygamy in Islam.

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Do Muslims really believe they get 72 virgins when they die
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This 72 virgins story has been abused and used as a propaganda tool by Muslims and non-Muslims alike. As with most things, the answer is in the interpretation.

Firstly with respect to suicide and therefore suicide bombers, is forbidden in the Traditions (Hadith in Arabic), which are the collected sayings and doings attributed to the Prophet and traced back to him through a series of trustworthy witnesses.

However a distinction needs to be between the martyr and the suicide bomber. A martyr killed in a real Jihad is an honourable thing to do in Islam, and rewards in paradise for this are offered. What occurred on 911 was not a Jihad, but mass murder. In Iraq Ayatollah Ali Sistani - the leader of the majority of Shia's has not declared a Jihad, similarly in Afghanistan and its religious authorities.

The Quran does make reference to virgins, though the definition of the word virgin is disputed. Some claim the definition of the Arabic word "Abkarun" is not virgins, but Angels.

Christopher Luxenberg's book, Die Syro-Aramaische Lesart des Koran, available only in German, has an enjoyed an enthusiastic reception, particularly among those scholars with a knowledge of several Semitic languages at Princeton, Yale, Berlin, Potsdam, Erlangen, Aix-en-Provence, and the Oriental Institute in Beirut.

Luxenberg tries to show that many obscurities of the Quran disappear if we read certain words as being Syriac and not Arabic. Luxenberg claims that the context makes it clear that it is food and drink that is being offered, and not unsullied maidens or houris (virgins).

In Syriac, the word hur is a feminine plural adjective meaning white, with the word "raisin" understood implicitly.

In conclusion – No, Muslims, who are fully-aware, do not believe that should they die as martyred that they would be rewarded with 72 virgin maidens.

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What happens to people who commit suicide
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Allah (swt) is the one that gave us life and only He has the right to take it away from us. Suicide is clearly haram in Islam. This is what the Qur'an has to say about suicide:

[4:29] O ye who believe! Eat not up your property among yourselves in vanities: But let there be amongst you Traffic and trade by mutual good-will: Nor kill (or destroy) yourselves: for verily Allah hath been to you Most Merciful![4:30] If any do that in rancour and injustice,- soon shall We cast them into the Fire: And easy it is for Allah.

However, now-a-days, we see on the news, the acts of 'suicide bombing' during Jihad. The killing of any innocent, elderly, women, children, is haram in Islam. So any form of suicide with the intention of Jihad, should not be carried out on those who are not taking part in a war against you.

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As a Muslim woman can I vote/drive/own property or work
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The issue of women in Islam, is a topic of great misunderstanding and distortion due partly to a lack of understanding, but also partly due to misbehaviour of some Muslims which has been taken to represent the teachings of Islam.

Over fourteen hundred years ago, Islam gave women rights that women in the West have only recently began to enjoy. In the 1930’s, Annie Besant observed, “It is only in the last twenty years that Christian England has recognised the right of woman to property, while Islam has allowed this right from all times.

Can Islam be prejudiced to women, and yet appeal to women? Can Islam lower the status of a woman and still have more women embracing it as their way of life than men? According to an article written by Lucy Berrington in the Times Magazine (London) dated 9th Nov. 1993: "It is even more ironic that most British converts should be women, given the widespread view in the west that Islam treats women poorly. In the United States, women converts outnumber men by four to one, and in Britain make up the bulk of the estimated 10, 000 to 20, 000 converts, forming part of a Muslim community of 1 to 1.5 million "

Before any other religion or system in the world Islam gave a woman the right to inherit, the right to vote and voice her opinion, the right to trade invest and improve herself financially, the right to own - buy and sell, the right to seek knowledge and have a good education, the right to work and has even gone further to oblige the males in every stage of her life, whether it was a father, brother or husband ... It's their duty before God to take care of her, to spend on her, to provide her with the food , clothing and shelter that she needs, to provide her with a good education, to protect her from anything that can harm her and to never hesitate to put their lives in stake for her if the need calls them to do so.
Islam considers men and women equal as far as the basic human rights are concerned. It not only recognizes a human personality for both, but also considers them equal in all rights and human privileges. The following verses of the Qur’an support this statement:

“O, mankind, fear your Lord who created you from a single soul and from it created its mate, and from the pair of them scattered abroad many men and women ....” (4:1)

And:

“O mankind! We have created you male and female and appointed you races and tribes, that you may know one another. Surely the noblest among you in the sight of God is the most God fearing of you ....”(49:13)

“I waste not the labour of any that labours among you, be you male or female ‑the one of you is from the other ....”(3:195)

“And the believers the men and the women, are friends one of the other; they bid to honour and forbid dishonour; they perform the prayer, and pay the alms, and they obey God and His Messenger. Those upon them God will have mercy .... “(9: 71)

“Men and women who have surrendered (unto Allah), believing men and believing women, obedient men and obedient women, truthful men arid truthful women, enduring men and enduring women, humble men and humble women, men and women who give in charity, men who fast and women who fast, men and women who guard their private parts, men and women who remember God much, for them God has prepared forgiveness and a mighty re ward. “(33:35)

“O believers, let not any people scoff at another people who may 'be better than they; neither let women scoff at women who may be better than they. And find not fault with one another, neither revile one another by nick­names ....” (49:11)

“And We have charged man concerning his parents‑his mother bore him in weakness upon weakness, and his weaning was in two years‑be thankful to Me and to your parents ....”(31:14)

“They (women) are a vestment for you, and you (men) are a vestment for them ....”(2:187)

“To the men a share of what parents and kinsmen leave and to the women a share of what parents and kinsmen leave ....”(4:7)

“To the men a share from what they have earned, and to the women a share from what they have earned ....(4:32)

“The fornicatress and the fornicator‑scourge each one of them a hundred stripes, and in the matter of God's religion, let not tenderness for them seize you if you believe in God and the Last Day ....”(24:2)

“Say to the believers, that they cast down their eyes and guard their private parts; that is purer for them ....And say to the believing women, that they cast down their eyes and guard their private parts ...”.(24:30‑31)

“And the thief, male and female: cut off the hands of both as a recompense for what they have earned and a punishment exemplary from God ....”(5:38)

These Verses were quoted as examples only, for there are many more verses clearly mentioning both the men and women and specifying the directions in their regard. Apart from this, there are hundreds of verses that take the form of address, “O mankind!” or “O believers!” which cover both men and women.

The above‑mentioned verses, in short, mean as follows: Both men and women are human beings, both are expected to follow Islam, be faithful and obedient believers. The good reward, paradise and God's grace are for both. Both have similar duties to perform; for instance, the ritual prayer, fasting, Zakat, to command to good and to prohibit from evil.

Yes, of course, women have the right of their opinions, the right to vote, the right to drive a car, the right to work and generate their own income and the right to own property and so much more. Islam places women on a pedestal and there is no greater than the respect they hold for women and Mothers in particular.

Those, Muslims, who claim otherwise are ill-informed and taking tradition and cultural custom and power over what Islam and the Qur’an educates us to know.

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Why do Shia Muslims hit themselves to bleed
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As Shi’a Muslims we mourn during the month of Muharram to commemorate the sacrifices made by Imam Hussain (as), his family and his companions. Karbala and Ashura was a time in history when the grandson of the holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was martyred by the oppressive caliphate of the time, Yazid. As of today we continue to fight against the same oppressors.

Muharram is a time when Shi’a Muslims gather together in homes/majlis/mosques to listen to lectures and stories of the days leading up to the massacre that took place not far from present-day Baghdad. Our leaders bring forth the message of eternal struggle against humiliation and oppression. It is a great time of sorrow for Muslims worldwide.

Karbala, in turn, became a triumph of sacrifice. The event became a beacon of light to remind Muslims to keep their beliefs in Islam, to be honest and sincere and to always do what is right regardless of the consequences.

Some Shia Muslims, I’ll be it a small portion of the overall Shia population, choose to flog their bodies with a tool referred to as the zanjeer. The zanjeer has a wooden handle to which chains with small blades of steel are attached and dangle loosely from it. The zanjeer is flung across the back of the shoulder and the knives (that are fairly blunt) hit the surface of their back, sometimes cutting and causing bleeding.

Some will take a blade and make a small cut in their forehead or the foreheads of their children. Of course, this looks abusive and violent and would certainly cause people to turn away from Islam. These practices, are few and far between but when photographed their images creep around the world and disparage our beliefs.

There is a lot of damage that can be spread by such images and we should consider this when grieving for Imam Hussain (as). Asking ourselves, is it better to feel grief in a painful manner or is it better to preserve the message of peace that we so strongly represent as Muslims?

The bleeding is a means to attempt to feel the pain of the martyred souls of Karbala. For most, the gentle patting of the palm of the hand to the chest and tears of grief are enough to feel connected and empathize for Imam Hussain (as) and those who suffered in Karbala, those 1400 years ago.

However, for some, having to shed blood is a greater connection and traditionally it has run through communities and has infused a strong bond for them and their grief.

Ayatollah Sayyed Ali Khaminai has issued a statement that the practice of drawing blood by flogging during Muharram is not an Islamic principle (usool), but a practice without roots in the scriptures. There are also some Iranian and Pakistani religious leaders who have also agreed that the Shias should have no need to express their identity through self-flagellation. Instead, the devout Muslim should use the occasion of Muharram to donate his blood to help the sick in the name of Imam Hussain (as). Blood is a scarce good and should not be wasted.

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Do Revert Muslim (men) need circumcision
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It’s not obligatory, only recommended. Of course, there are certain acts of worship that require one to have been circumcised like Hajj, but even in these cases, one should consult their marja if there are any health reasons why a person cannot undergo the procedure.

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What are those abbreviations like (Pbuh), (as), (swt) etc..
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In Islam, Muslims, will leave abbreviations after specific people, to show their respect. For example in English Muslims will write the acronym (PBUH) after Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) which means "Peace be upon him".

(Saw) would mean (pbuh) but in Arabic (salla Allahu alaihi wa-sallam)

(AS) would mean Alayhas - salaam : peace be with her. This is often used when writing about other great people of Islam other than the Prophet. For example Ibrahim (as).

Sunni Muslims usually say radi Allah anho (Allah be pleased with him), commonly abbreviated as (RA).
In addition to the prophets mentioned in the Qur'an, Shia Muslims commonly say alaihi al-salam (peace be upon him) also after mentioning the name of Ali, Fatima, al-Hasan, al-Husain and other members of Muhammad's household, particularly after the mentioning any of the twelve Imams of Shia Islam.

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Why do some Muslims avoid eye contacts
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Many Muslims (men and women but more particularly men) will lower their gaze when speaking to someone of the opposite sex. This is a modest gesture and should not be taken as rude or professionally inappropriate in any way.

There is nothing more gainful than lowering one's gaze, for the sight is not lowered from things, which Allah has forbidden unless the witnessing of majesty and glory has already come to the heart.
The Commander of the Faithful was asked what could help in lowering one's gaze. He said,
'Submission to the power of Him Who is aware of your secret. The eye is the spy of the hearts and the messenger of the intellect; therefore lower your gaze from whatever is not appropriate to your faith, from whatever your heart dislikes and from whatever your intellect finds repugnant.'
The Holy Prophet said, 'Lower your eyes and you will see wonders.'
Allah said,

"Say to the believing men that they cast down their looks and guard their private parts" (24:30)
‘Isa (‘a) said to the disciples, 'Beware of looking at forbidden things, for that is the seed of desire and leads to deviant behaviour.'

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Why do some Muslims avoid shaking hands
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If a Muslim chooses not to shake your hand, don't be offended. It has nothing to do with how clean you are, or what religion you may or may not subscribe to. It's because, for them, they believe they should not touch anyone of the opposite gender, with the exception of immediate family members. This is a sign of modesty and humility. It’s also a sign of respect, that nobody should touch another except for those closest to them. If you're meeting a Muslim for the first time, don't extend your hand for a hand-shake, wait to see if they do it first. Some do, some don't.

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As a new Muslim what etiquette should I be aware of
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When Prophet Muhammad (a) declared himself to be the Messenger of Allah, the people of Arabia were leading a very miserable life. They were rough and ignorant people who were not conversant with the decorum of a civilized society. So much so that they did not care even to seek permission before entering another's house and did not wish each other when they met. They considered themselves to be enemies of each other and spoke in a very harsh tone. The Holy Prophet gradually taught them the rules of social behaviour and the principles of civilization and culture.

During the last fourteen centuries, man has made great progress in different walks of life. Education has become very common and modern means of transport have made the world much narrower. However, the universal and eternal Islamic principles of civilization continue to guide humanity. We mention below some of them which are well-known as well as very important for our social life.
If we intend entering somebody's house or room and the door is shut, we should knock at the door gently with a view to seeking permission to enter.

If we happen to meet some acquaintances in a gathering or in a street, we should wish them by saying “Salamun Alaikum”.

While walking in a street, we should be careful not to bump into anyone. In case we form part of a crowd, we should walk behind one another so that we do not block the way of others.

It is necessary for us not to disturb others. When others are sleeping, we should remain quiet and should not disturb their sleep by making noise.

Most of us are well aware of these rules and principles but are usually negligent in observing them. However, to lead a pleasant social life, it is incumbent upon us to understand these principles properly and to act upon them to the best of our ability.

Islam teaches us the best social etiquette.

As a new Muslim there are many different etiquettes that you should be aware of, we will cover a few below: (Keep in mind there are many levels of Muslim beliefs and the following may be considered strict by some)

  • When entering someone’s home, remove your shoes (unless told otherwise)
  • When you enter the mosque you should remove your shoes
  • If you are introduced to a woman as a male, it is advisable to wait and see if a hand is extended. If it is not, then do not try to shake hands. Avoid touching and prolonged eye contact with women.
  • When someone enters the room, you should stand (if sitting)
  • You should attempt to be soft spoken when among strangers
  • You should consider that people eat before you and most importantly those that are your elders
  • You should never burp or allow flatulence when around others, this would be considered very rude
  • Do not put your feet up on the table
  • You should be gracious when receiving any gifts and always give thanks for any show of kindness
  • A man should not sit next to a woman in any setting, including a car, unless they are mahram. This is why often you will see women sitting in the back seat.
  • Women should do their best not to raise their voices, around men, as it can be an attraction for some men.
  • Public displays of affection between people of the opposite gender, including between married people, are frowned on.
  • In Iran, the "thumbs up" gesture is considered an offensive insult
  • If in a Muslim home, you’ll often, see slippers by the lavatory, you must use them while in the lavatory and once you have washed you can remove the slippers and step back out of the lavatory leaving them behind for the next person.
  • If you are visiting, in a Muslim home, you should not travel around the house unattended. If you are doing so, when re-entering a room (if you’re uncertain on who may be in there) you should ask first if you can enter the room. The reason for this is to avoid accidentally walking in on a woman without her hijab on.

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Do Muslims celebrate Western holidays
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You will find this to be a mildly controversial topic among Muslims. Many Muslims believe that at no point should we, as Muslims, celebrate in any kind of Western holiday/event because there is risk that this is a doorway into accepting Western-ways and loosing the Muslim identity, incorporating Christian beliefs.

There is no right or wrong here. It all comes down to your intentions. Although most scholars would recommend against celebrating Western holidays.

For example, the biggest Western holiday, that you might be considering, would be Christmas.
Most Muslims, you will find, do not celebrate this holiday. The biggest reason would be that Christians will celebrate Christmas to remember the birth of Jesus (pbuh), who most believe is the son of God or God incarnated. Muslims do not believe he was born at this time, nor do they believe he was a God. To celebrate it would mean to celebrate a holiday that is against the teachings of Islam.

Revert Muslims are often stuck in the middle in that they have existing families who continue to celebrate Christmas. At this point, should you participate in the festivities it is to continue to build ties with your family and to join in on what is generally a very giving and rewarding holiday. There is no harm in joining them in their holiday but that doesn’t necessarily mean you should be popping a tree up in your own home and dropping gifts under it.

It’s really using your best interpretation of the situation. If you find that participating would be in the best interest of continuing the bond with you and your family than go for it; If it is infringing on your beliefs than help them understand why you can’t take part.

As for holidays like Halloween: Most scholars recommend you don’t participate as many believe it has a connection to Pagan origins and is a sign of idolatry.

Origins aside, many Muslims do participate in running around with their children, wearing silly costumes and trick or treating. Children enjoy time with their parents and that kind of activity should be encouraged. It, again, comes down to your interpretation and understanding of the activity you’re taking part in. Your Muslim children should be made aware that it has nothing to do with the traditions of Islam.

Most importantly we should put the traditions, of Islam, like Eid’s at the top of the list when celebrating with our family. When we take our Eids and make them the celebration, they are meant to be, they will far out weigh these other Western holidays and for the sake of the children they will rather their Islamic holiday over Western holidays.

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Ramadhan is a month of fasting and prayers for the Muslims. Muslims abstain from food and drink from dawn to dusk. There is however, a greater significance to fasts than mere abstinence from eating and drinking:

The most important consideration in undertaking a fast, as in any act of devotion, is to seek nearness to God, and seek His pleasure and Forgiveness. This in its self generates a spirit of piety in man.
Creating the conditions of hunger and thirst for oneself, simply in obedience to the Divine order, measures the faith of man in God and helps strengthen it by putting it to a severe test.

Fasting enhances through creation of artificial non-availability, the value of the bounties of God which man often takes for granted. This inculcates in man a spirit of gratitude and consequent devotion to God. Nothing else can bring home to a man the worth of God's bounties than a glass of water and a square meal after a day long fast. This also reminds man that the real joy in enjoying God's bounties lies in moderation and restraint and not in over indulging.

Fasting makes us deeply conscious of the pangs of hunger and discomfort suffered by the less fortunate among our brethren. They have to put up with difficult conditions all through their lives. It thus kindles in man a spirit of sacrifice leading to change towards his suffering brethren.
Fasting gives man an unfailing training in endurance, a spirit of acceptance. This could well prepare him to put up with the unchangeable situations in life in the same spirit of resignation as cultivated during the fasts.

Fasting develops courage, fortitude, and a fighting spirit in man to surmount the heavy odds in life with a cool and tranquil mind. It sharpens his power of concentration to overcome obstacles through a vigorous exercise all throughout the month, leading to a steeling of his will power and resolve, that could help him in challenging situations in life. It is seen than many an undesirable habit which is difficult to give up, is more easily given up during the days of fasting.

Fasting teaches man reliance on God, and confidence in Him. Just as the vigorous state of fasting for a whole month is undertaken with His assistance, bitter situations in life could also be surmounted with His help.

Fasting develops a spirit of patience in man, with the realization that the days of fasting, though seemingly unending, do have a successful and happy end. Thus is life. All bitter situations pass, and come to an end.

Fasting is meant to conquer anger and develop self-control in man. The vigorous effort required to put up with hunger and thirst can well be extended to conquer other infirmities of human character that lead man into error and sin.

Fasting inculcates a spirit of tolerance in man to face unpleasant conditions and situations without making his fellow beings the victim of his wrath. Many people, when facing discomfort and deprivation, become irritable and annoyed. This anger is then vented on those around them. Fasting helps a man become more tolerant despite his own discomfort.

Fasting mellows a man and enhances his character, giving a jolt to the human instincts of pride, haughtiness, jealousy and ambition. Fasting softens his character, and clears his heart and mind of many negative emotions.

Fasting exposes the weakness of man in the event of his being deprived of two basic bounties of God; food and drink. It infuses into him a spirit of weakness and submission, generating humility and prayer in an otherwise arrogant being.

Fasting breathes the spirit of forgiveness in man towards others, as he seeks God's forgiveness through fasts and prayers.

Fasting gives lessons in punctuality. Man has to adhere to a strict schedule of time in the observance of the fast.

Fasting could affect the economy of the individual as he is less wasteful on food and meals.

Fasting demands a rigid sense of discipline, mental, spiritual and physical. This forms characteristics which are an essential ingredient to success in life.

Fasting creates spiritual reformation in man, infusing him with a spirit of enthusiasm and zest to change and become a better human being in the eyes of God. This is an excellent opportunity, given to believers each year, to change themselves and consequently their destinies.

On the physical side, fasting cleanses the human system of the accumulated impurities of uninterrupted eating throughout the year. It prepares the body to face diseases or conditions of scarcity. The rigid abstinence of a fast regulates man's health, sharpens his intellect and enhances the qualities of his heart.

Fasting is thus a bounty in itself, encompassing within itself many bounties. It instills a spirit of reformation in man, creating a wide awakening in him to fulfil his duties towards God and man, and towards himself.