Blogs for New Muslims – Islamic Education Blogs

Gabriel in the Story of the Messenger Muhammad

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Before being appointed a Messenger of God, the Messenger Muhammad would spend time in the Cave of Hira in one of the mountains of Mecca. He would go there to think about God feeling repulsed by the pagan rituals and practices of his people. It was at this time that God sent to him the angel Gabriel with the first words of the Quran, “Read! In the name of your Lord who created.” [96:1]

From that moment on, the angel Gabriel would come periodically to the Messenger Muhammad bringing revelation, comforting him, bringing him assistance and teaching him what he needed to know. The Messenger Muhammad informed us that Gabriel would come every Ramadan and revise the Quran with him, and he did this twice in the final Ramadan the Messenger Muhammad witnessed.

Gabriel would teach him things like the timings of the five prescribed ritual devotions. Gabriel accompanied the Messenger Muhammad on the Night Journey to Jerusalem and the heavens and was present during the first battle in Islam, Badr with an army of angels. Gabriel would sometimes come and bring him glad tidings for some of his followers. He brought God’s blessings for the Messenger Muhammad’s first wife Khadijah.

On one occasion the Messenger Muhammad was crying. Gabriel came on the instruction of God and asked him what made him cry. The Messenger Muhammad replied that he was afraid for his followers. God commanded Gabriel to go to the Messenger Muhammad and inform him that he would be pleased with regards to his followers.

Thus, Gabriel has a special place in our religion as God says, “Say, ‘If anyone is an enemy of Gabriel – who by God’s leave brought down the Quran to your heart confirming previous scriptures as a guide and good news for the faithful. If anyone is an enemy of God, His angels and His messengers, of Gabriel and Michael, then God is certainly the enemy of such disbelievers.” [2:97-98]

Tasks of the Angels

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All angels praise and worship God as God mentions, “If the disbelievers are too arrogant, those who are with your Lord glorify Him tirelessly night and day.” [41:38] Some angels also have specific tasks.

1.      Recording deeds – two angels record all our deeds, good and bad. The Messenger Muhammad informed us that if we intend to do a good deed but then don’t, it is written as a good deed. If we perform the deed it is recorded as ten good deeds up to seven hundred or more. Likewise, if we intend to do an evil deed but do not it is written as a good deed, but if we act upon it, it is recorded as a bad deed.

2.      Protect the believers – God says, “Each person has guardian angels before him and behind, watching over him by God’s command.” [13:11] In the Battle of Badr, the first battle the Messenger Muhammad fought, God sent angels to help the Muslims.

3.      Specific Responsibilities – Some of the angels are responsible for the mountains or the wind or the rain. Others are guardians of the heavens, Paradise or Hellfire. Yet others carry God’s throne.

4.      Daily interaction – Angels are present from the time of birth until death. There are angels responsible for writing down our life span, provision and actions whilst the foetus is still in its mother’s womb. There are angels that bring blessings such as for the people who gather and study the Quran. Other angels are responsible for taking our souls at the time of death.

5.      Encourage good deeds – the Messenger Muhammad told us that just as we there are devils who accompany us and encourage us to do evil, there are also angels who accompany us and encourage us to do good.

Satan’s Goals & Methods

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Learning, knowing and recognising Satan’s goals and methods helps us to beware of their danger and safeguard ourselves against them.

Satan’s Goals

  1. To worship other than God. This is Satan’s greatest goal as those who fall into this will be with Satan in Hellfire for eternity.
  2. To commit major sins. These are the sins which have specific punishments that have been mentioned in the Quran or by the Messenger Muhammad, such as murder, adultery, theft etc.
  3. To commit minor sins. These are the sins which don’t fall in the above category but are dangerous because they can lead to major sins. This can include impolite manners or not the correct etiquette’s such as for eating and drinking.
  4. To prevent people from doing good deeds. Satan doesn’t just care about us sinning, he also wants to prevent us from doing good deeds and would rather we spent our time doing nothing.
  5. To damage acts of worship. When we worship God, Satan attempts to distract us and diminish our reward.

Satan’s Methods

  1. Lies and deception. Satan whispers and puts doubts into our hearts. He lies and deceives by making us think that our sins are not a big deal or that we’ve done enough good deeds and so on.
  2. False promises. God says, “He makes them promises and raises false hopes, but Satan’s promises are nothing but delusion.” [4:120]
  3. Going to extremes. For people who are serious, Satan attempts to drive them to fanaticism or excess, and for those who are lazy, Satan leads them to heedlessness and negligence. Remember, Islam is about balance and moderation.
  4. Gradual steps. Satan rarely starts with his main goal of worshiping others besides God. He will begin with damaging acts of worship, and then committing one sin, and then repeating that sin twice and three times, and then committing a second sin, and then a major sin and so on.
  5. Our own desires. Satan uses our weaknesses against us. If we have a weakness for money, power, fame, lust etc, he will use this and tempt us to sin in these issues.

The Creation of the Jinn

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The Jinn are one of God’s creations like humans and angels. They have been given free will and commanded to worship God alone. God says, “I created jinn and mankind only to worship Me.” [51:56] As such, there are good and pious jinn and evil and corrupt jinn, jinn who are believers and others that are disbelievers much in the same way as humans can fall into these categories. The jinn are a creation that are invisible to us but because they live on earth, we are told to recite certain invocations which are part of our daily etiquette’s so as to ensure we do not harm them and vice versa.

Like humans, jinn eat and drink, they live and die. They are more likely to dwell in places of impurity or in ruins. They have certain abilities such as the ability to travel fast, reach the skies and take different shapes, even resembling some animals. The evil jinn or devils may wish to harm humans, but God protects the believers. Devils can only harm by God’s permission. If we keep strong in our faith, perform our obligations and remember God frequently devils cannot harm us.

The Messenger Muhammad said, “If a person enters their house and mentions the name of God upon entering it and upon eating therein, Satan says, ‘There is no lodging for you here and no meal here.’ But if a person enters their house and neglects to mention the name of God upon entering it, Satan says, ‘I have found lodging for you.’ And if they does not mention God’s name upon eating his meal, Satan says, ‘I have found lodging and a meal.’”

The Beginning of Idolatry

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The Messenger Muhammad informed us that there were ten generations between the Prophets Adam and Noah. It seems likely that people during those times had extraordinarily long life spans, as the Prophet Noah spent 950 years as a Prophet. During these ten generations from the time of Prophet Adam, people used to worship God alone. However, with the passage of time, people began to become distanced from God.

Shortly before the time of Prophet Noah, there lived five righteous men who were known for their piety and goodness. They would remind others of God. Once they passed away and died, Satan inspired them to make idols in the images of the five righteous men. Initially this was done so that people would be reminded of piety when the saw these idols. This is often how Satan comes; in the guise of innocence of even apparent goodness.

However, after more time passed, people forgot the original reason for which the idols were first built. Satan then inspired people to worship them as gods besides the one true God. God mentions this in the Quran and relays to us the names of the five men who were turned into gods, “And they said, ‘Never leave you gods and never leave Wadd or Suwa or Yaguth or Ya’uq or Nasr.’” [71:23]

This is why in Islam we have no images of God, the angels, prophets or saints. They can all too easily be used as a means of worshiping other than God.

Prophet Noah’s Son

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One of the aspects mentioned in the Quran about the story of Noah is about his son. Noah’s son did not believe in God despite Noah’s best efforts. Ultimately we cannot control people’s hearts and it is only our duty to teach and preach towards God’s way. Once upon the Ark, God relays to us the conversation between Noah and his son, “…and Noah called out to his son who stayed behind, ‘Come aboard with us, my son, do not stay with the disbelievers.’ But he replied ‘I will seek refuge on a mountain to save me from the water.’ Noah said, ‘Today there is no refuge from God’s command except for those on whom He has mercy.’ The waves cut them off from each other and he was among the drowned.’” [11:42-43]

Noah called out to God for His help and to save his son, “Noah called out to his Lord, saying, ‘My Lord, my son was one of my family, though Your promise is true, and You are the most just of all judges.’” [11:45] God replied, “Noah, he was not one of your family. What he did was not right. Do not ask Me for things you know nothing about. I am warning you not to be foolish.” [11:46]

Noah immediately realised his error and that God is All-Wise in His decisions. Noah said, “My Lord, I take refuge with You from asking things I know nothing about. If You do not forgive me, and have mercy on me, I shall be of one of the losers.” [11:47] Even the Prophets of God must submit to Him. God places more importance on the bonds and ties of faith than blood, wealth or social status.

Misconceptions about Adam and Eve

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The story of Adam and Eve is also mentioned in Christian and Jewish traditions. However, there are some differences and certain misconceptions which Islam does not support:

 

1. Satan was a serpent – Satan came to Adam and Eve in Paradise and tempted them to eat from the tree. However, we don’t believe he came in the form of a snake or serpent.

 

2. Eve tempted Adam – Islam does not indicate that Eve was weaker than Adam or that she tempted him to disobey God. They were both responsible, were both rebuked by God and both repented to Him.

 

3. Childbirth pains are due to Eve’s sin – Islam does not hold that pains experienced by women during childbirth as a result of Eve tempting Adam to disobey God.

 

4. Original sin – Islam does not believe that due to this original sin committed by Adam and Eve, all their descendants are being punished. In Islam, no one bears the sins of another. God is fair and just, and He does not hold to account people who came millennia later for the actions and decisions of their ancestors.

 

5. God forgave Adam and Eve – The Quran is very explicit in that God forgave both Adam and Eve. Therefore, there would be no reason to hold them or their descendants responsible for eating from the forbidden tree.

The Rites of Pilgrimage from the Life of Prophet Abraham and His Family

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The Rites of Pilgrimage from the Life of Prophet Abraham and His Family

 

Each and every year, millions of Muslims from all over the world travel to Mecca to perform the annual major pilgrimage. Much of what they do is taken from the story of Prophet Abraham and his family. Let us explore some of these major points.

  1. Circumambulation of the Kabah

Pilgrims circumambulate the Kabah seven times in an anti-clockwise direction. It was the Prophet Abraham and his son Ishmael who built the Kabah.

  1. Offering Ritual Devotions behind the Station of Abraham

The station of Abraham refers to the stone upon which Abraham stood in order to build the Kabah. God commands us to take it as a place of prayer. For this reason, after the circumambulation of the Kabah, pilgrims offer two units of ritual devotion as close as they can to this station.

  1. Running between the Hills of Safa and Marwah

When Ishmael and his mother were left in Mecca there was no water in that land. As Ishmael began to cry from thirst, his mother, Hajar began to search for water. In order to see the area better, she ran between the two hills of Safa and Marwah to look for water. Today pilgrims do the same.

  1. The Water of Zamzam

As Ishmael’s mother was searching for water, a well began to sprout by the feet of baby Ishmael. This water became a well with plentiful and blessed water. This water is known as Zamzam.

  1. Stoning the Pillars

As part of the rites of pilgrimage, pilgrims throw pebbles at a pillar in a place close to Mecca called Mina. This signifies the times Satan came to Abraham to try to dissuade him from sacrificing his son Ishmael. Abraham threw stones at Satan to ward him off.

  1. The Sacrifice

Pilgrims offer a sacrifice of a sheep during the pilgrimage just as God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son. It is also recommended for Muslims not performing pilgrimage to offer a sacrifice at the time of the second annual festival of Eid.