A Brief Introduction to Islam

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Islam is a comprehensive way of life (in Arabic, Din). Islam means “submission,” referring to surrender and submission to the One True God. This Din is based on five things: foundational principles, practices, spirituality, a Revealed Book, and the example of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ (may Allah bless him and grant him peace).

In brief: there are eight foundational principles (Usul) of Islam. These are the basic tenets of the Din, and no one can be a Muslim (follower of Islam) without ascribing to these⁠—even if they claim to be a Muslim and ascribe themselves to Islam.

Knowledge of Allah, His Messenger, the Din of Islam, and the Qur’an

Al-Bara’ (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated:

حَدَّثَنَا مَحْمُودُ بْنُ غَيْلاَنَ، حَدَّثَنَا أَبُو دَاوُدَ، حَدَّثَنَا شُعْبَةُ، أَخْبَرَنِي عَلْقَمَةُ بْنُ مَرْثِدٍ، قَالَ سَمِعْتُ سَعْدَ بْنَ عُبَيْدَةَ، يُحَدِّثُ عَنِ الْبَرَاءِ، عَنِ النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم فِي قَوْلِ اللَّهِ ‏:‏ ‏(‏ يُثَبِّتُ اللَّهُ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا بِالْقَوْلِ الثَّابِتِ فِي الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا وَفِي الآخِرَةِ ‏)‏ قَالَ ‏”‏ فِي الْقَبْرِ إِذَا قِيلَ لَهُ مَنْ رَبُّكَ وَمَا دِينُكَ وَمَنْ نَبِيُّكَ؟ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ قَالَ أَبُو عِيسَى هَذَا حَدِيثٌ حَسَنٌ صَحِيحٌ ‏.‏

Regarding Allah’s saying: (Allah will keep firm those who believe, with the word that stands firm in this world and in the Hereafter (14:27)).

The Prophet (ﷺ) said: “In the grave, when he [the dead person] is asked: ‘Who is your Lord? What is your religion? And who is your Prophet?’”

(Jami` at-Tirmidhi, 3120)

Who Is Allah?

Allah is the Arabic Name of the One True God. Muslims believe in Allah with respect to: creed, sovereign jurisdiction, and gnosticism. Muslim creed (‘Aqidah) about Allah is that He is uniquely One (Unicity; Tawhid).

Allah is One in Himself, not being made up of parts or personalities. Allah has no son or father. This type of Oneness is called Wahdaniyyah.

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Allah is One to the exclusion of all else⁠—that no one and nothing is like Him in any way whatsoever. He is the only true Reality; the sustaining Lord of all creation; singularly deserving of worship; and supreme in His Beautiful Names and Attributes. This type of Oneness is called Ahdaniyyah.

Allah’s sovereign jurisdiction (Hakimiyyah) is His Will, legislative authority, and Revealed Law. Allah controls everything in existence and nothing can resist His unlimited power. He alone has the right to determine what is right and wrong, yet He has allowed mankind free will to choose between them. Allah has Revealed the Shari’ah, which is the Revealed path for mankind to traverse this life and into the next; in the proper fashion.

Gnosticism means to know God. Islamic gnosticism (Ma’rifah) is drawing closer to Allah through a direct personal relationship with Him. Ma’rifah is a constant effort to come to the awareness that the purpose of creation is to know Allah, love Him, and make Him the primary concern of all affairs.

اللَّهُ لا إِلٰهَ إِلّا هُوَ الحَيُّ القَيّومُ ۚ لا تَأخُذُهُ سِنَةٌ وَلا نَومٌ ۚ لَهُ ما فِي السَّماواتِ وَما فِي الأَرضِ ۗ مَن ذَا الَّذي يَشفَعُ عِندَهُ إِلّا بِإِذنِهِ ۚ يَعلَمُ ما بَينَ أَيديهِم وَما خَلفَهُم ۖ وَلا يُحيطونَ بِشَيءٍ مِن عِلمِهِ إِلّا بِما شاءَ ۚ وَسِعَ كُرسِيُّهُ السَّماواتِ وَالأَرضَ ۖ وَلا يَئودُهُ حِفظُهُما ۚ وَهُوَ العَلِيُّ العَظيمُ

Allah, there is no god but Him, the Living, the Self-Sustaining. He is not subject to drowsiness or sleep. Everything in the heavens and the earth belongs to Him. Who can intercede with Him except by His permission? He knows what is before them and what is behind them but they cannot grasp any of His knowledge save what He wills. His Footstool encompasses the heavens and the earth and their preservation does not tire Him. He is the Most High, the Magnificent.

(Qur’an; Surah al-Baqarah, The Heifer (2):255)

Who Is Allah’s Messenger ﷺ?

Throughout history Allah has sent many Messengers to teach mankind Tawhid. His final Messenger is the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, son of ‘AbdAllah, son of ‘Abd al-Muttalib. He is Allah’s beloved; the chosen one; the one whom mankind is gathered before on the Day of Judgment; the destroyer of polytheism; the final prophet; the best of the Messengers; the honest; the trustworthy; and the mercy to all of creation.

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The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ was sent to all of creation to guide them. Despite his intense humility, he is the best of Allah’s creation. Muhammad ﷺ was an ‘Arab man from the House of ‘Abd al-Muttalib; the tribe of Quraysh. His lineage goes from Shaybah to Hashim, up to Isma’il (Ishmael), the son of Ibrahim (Abraham).

مُحَمَّدٌ رَسولُ اللَّهِ ۚ وَالَّذينَ مَعَهُ أَشِدّاءُ عَلَى الكُفّارِ رُحَماءُ بَينَهُم ۖ تَراهُم رُكَّعًا سُجَّدًا يَبتَغونَ فَضلًا مِنَ اللَّهِ وَرِضوانًا ۖ سيماهُم في وُجوهِهِم مِن أَثَرِ السُّجودِ ۚ ذٰلِكَ مَثَلُهُم فِي التَّوراةِ ۚ وَمَثَلُهُم فِي الإِنجيلِ كَزَرعٍ أَخرَجَ شَطأَهُ فَآزَرَهُ فَاستَغلَظَ فَاستَوىٰ عَلىٰ سوقِهِ يُعجِبُ الزُّرّاعَ لِيَغيظَ بِهِمُ الكُفّارَ ۗ وَعَدَ اللَّهُ الَّذينَ آمَنوا وَعَمِلُوا الصّالِحاتِ مِنهُم مَغفِرَةً وَأَجرًا عَظيمًا

Muhammad [ﷺ] is the Messenger of Allah, and those who are with him are fierce against the kafirun, merciful to one another. You see them bowing and prostrating, seeking Allah’s good favour and His pleasure. Their mark is on their faces, the traces of prostration. That is their likeness in the Torah. And their likeness in the Injil is that of a seed which puts up a shoot and makes it strong so that it thickens and grows up straight upon its stalk, filling the sowers with delight – so that by them He may infuriate the kuffar. Allah has promised those of them who have iman and do right actions forgiveness and an immense reward.

(Quran; Surah al-Fat’h, Victory (48):29)

  • His family are respectfully referred to as the people of his household (Ahl al-Bayt).
  • Anyone whom claims Prophethood after him puts forth a false claim.
  • Whatever is authentically reported from him becomes the Sacred Law (Shari’ah).
  • Muslims believe that he physically ascended to the Heavens during the Night Journey (al-Isra’ wa al-Mi’raj) and spoke to Allah without an intermediary.
  • On the day of judgment his true followers shall be gathered at a Basin (Hawd), and anyone who drinks from it is saved.
  • He will intercede for all of humanity on the Day of Judgment and especially for the believers.
  • A person cannot have true faith until his desires are brought in line with what the Messenger of Allah ﷺ brought.
  • Loving Allah and His Messenger ﷺ must exceed ones love of everything else.
  • Yet, we are not allowed to incorporate him as a partner with Allah.
  • Upon hearing his name, Muslims recite a prayer for him⁠—may Allah bless him and grant him peace.

What Is the Din of Islam?

The Way (Din) in the Sight of Allah is submission (Islam). Any other path is misguidance. The Din is: submitting to Allah, singling Him out alone; yielding to Him in obedience; abandonment of disbelief; and abandoning the people of disbelief. A Muslim must believe in Tawhid, worship Allah, disavow themselves from all forms of polytheism, disbelief, and hypocrisy and to also disavow themselves from the people that ascribe to them.

إِنَّ الدّينَ عِندَ اللَّهِ الإِسلامُ ۗ وَمَا اختَلَفَ الَّذينَ أوتُوا الكِتابَ إِلّا مِن بَعدِ ما جاءَهُمُ العِلمُ بَغيًا بَينَهُم ۗ وَمَن يَكفُر بِآياتِ اللَّهِ فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ سَريعُ الحِسابِ

The Din in the sight of Allah is Islam. Those given the Book only differed after knowledge had come to them, envying one another. As for those who reject Allah’s Signs, Allah is swift at reckoning.

(Quran; Surah Al ‘Imran, The House of ‘Imran (3):19)

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Polytheism (shirk) is incorporating any partners with Allah regarding His Tawhid, whether in ‘Aqidah, Hakimiyyah, or Ma’rifah. Disbelief (kufr) is rejecting any aspect of the Din. Hypocrisy (nifaq) is betraying the Din, whether in belief or actions.

What Is the Qur’an?

The Qur’an is Allah’s verbatim Speech. Allah Revealed His Speech to the archangel Jibril (Gabriel) and instructed him to give it to the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ over his twenty-three years of Prophethood. The Qur’an was Revealed and recited orally, then written down entirely during the life of the Prophet ﷺ by his companions (sahabah). It was memorized in its entirety by many sahabah and compiled in one standardized volume by the end of the reign of his first successor (two years after his death).

Zayd ibn Arqam (May Allah be pleased with him) said:

فمنها حديث زيد بن أرقم رضي الله عنه -الذي سبق في باب إكرام أهل بيت رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم -قال‏:‏ قام رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم فينا خطيباً، فحمد الله، وأثنى عليه، ووعظ وذكر، ثم قال‏:‏ “أما بعد”ألا أيها الناس إنما أنا بشر يوشك أن يأتي رسول الله ربي فأجيب، وأنا تارك فيكم ثقلين ‏:‏‏ “‏ أولهما‏:‏ كتاب الله، فيه الهدى والنور، فخذو بكتاب الله، واستمسكوا به” فحث على كتاب الله، ورغب فيه، ثم قال‏:‏ “وأهل بيتي، أذكركم الله في أهل بيتي‏”‏ ‏(‏‏(‏رواه مسلم‏)‏‏)‏ وقد سبق بطوله‏.‏

“One day the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) stood amongst us to deliver a Khutbah. So he praised Allah, extolled Him, exhorted and reminded (us) and said: ‘Amma Ba’du (now then)! O people, certainly I am a human being. I am about to receive a messenger of Allah my Lord (the angel of death) and I respond.

And I am leaving among you two weighty things: There first of which is the Book of Allah. In it is guidance and light, so hold fast to the Book of Allah and adhere to it.’ So he exhorted (us to hold fast to it) and encouraged it then said, ‘And the members of my household, I remind you of Allah with regards (of your duties) to the members of my family.”‘

(Sahih Muslim)

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The Qur’an is a perfectly preserved and accessible miraculous manifestation of Allah’s glory. Muslims engage in regular recitals of the Qur’an in its entirety, reading it aloud in the way the Prophet ﷺ taught us, while contemplating upon its meaning.

Purpose of Life

Allah did not create the world without a purpose.

الَّذينَ يَذكُرونَ اللَّهَ قِيامًا وَقُعودًا وَعَلىٰ جُنوبِهِم وَيَتَفَكَّرونَ في خَلقِ السَّماواتِ وَالأَرضِ رَبَّنا ما خَلَقتَ هٰذا باطِلًا سُبحانَكَ فَقِنا عَذابَ النّارِ

those who remember Allah, standing, sitting and lying on their sides, and reflect on the creation of the heavens and the earth: ‘Our Lord, You have not created this for nothing. Glory be to You! So safeguard us from the punishment of the Fire.

(Quran; Surah al-Baqarah, The Heifer (2):191)

Furthermore, He did not create human beings without a purpose.

أَفَحَسِبتُم أَنَّما خَلَقناكُم عَبَثًا وَأَنَّكُم إِلَينا لا تُرجَعونَ

Did you suppose that We created you for amusement and that you would not return to Us?’

[Quran; Surah al-Mu’minun, The Believers (23):15]

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Human beings are created for worship, which is devotion to Allah and drawing close to Him.

وَما خَلَقتُ الجِنَّ وَالإِنسَ إِلّا لِيَعبُدونِ

I only created jinn and man to worship Me.

ما أُريدُ مِنهُم مِن رِزقٍ وَما أُريدُ أَن يُطعِمونِ

I do not require any provision from them and I do not require them to nourish Me.

إِنَّ اللَّهَ هُوَ الرَّزّاقُ ذُو القُوَّةِ المَتينُ

Truly Allah, He is the Provider, the Possessor of Strength, the Sure.

(Quran; Surah al-Dhariyyat, The Spreaders (51):56-58)

The Covenant and Death

All of mankind was presented with evidence of Allah’s Tawhid and His supremacy, and we all testified that He alone deserves devotion. This primordial covenant is referred to as the “trust” (amanah).

إِنّا عَرَضنَا الأَمانَةَ عَلَى السَّماواتِ وَالأَرضِ وَالجِبالِ فَأَبَينَ أَن يَحمِلنَها وَأَشفَقنَ مِنها وَحَمَلَهَا الإِنسانُ ۖ إِنَّهُ كانَ ظَلومًا جَهولًا

We offered the Trust to the heavens, the earth and the mountains but they refused to take it on and shrank from it. But man took it on. He is indeed wrongdoing and ignorant.

(Quran; Surah al-Ahzab, The Confederates (33):72)

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Death is a certain reality and all living things will experience it. After death, all of mankind is held to account for their deeds. On the Day of Resurrection, everyone is brought back to life and judged according to their deeds in this life, as per the initial Amanah.

وَاعبُد رَبَّكَ حَتّىٰ يَأتِيَكَ اليَقينُ

And worship your Lord until what is Certain [death] comes to you.

(Quran; Surah al-Hijr, (15):99)

Unforgivable Offenses

Allah forgives all wrongdoings except for the most heinous: polytheism (shirk), disbelief (kufr), and hypocrisy (nifaq). Any oppression done to other creatures must be settled, however any moral sins against the Amanah are forgiven unless they totally invalidate it. Shirk, kufr, and nifaq are the roots of all evil.

إِنَّ اللَّهَ لا يَغفِرُ أَن يُشرَكَ بِهِ وَيَغفِرُ ما دونَ ذٰلِكَ لِمَن يَشاءُ ۚ وَمَن يُشرِك بِاللَّهِ فَقَدِ افتَرىٰ إِثمًا عَظيمًا

Allah does not forgive anything being associated with Him, but He forgives whoever He wills for anything other than that. Anyone who associates something with Allah has committed a terrible crime.

(Quran; Surah al-Nisa’, Women (4):48)

They are an attempt to reject Allah’s Infinity, and as such a person is rendered to the only realm wherein they will remember Allah⁠—as is the purpose of their creation.

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Those who demonstrate that they worship Allah when given freedom to do so, in accordance with the purpose of their creation, are taken to the paradisaical Gardens. Whereas those that require punishment in order for them to fulfill their purpose are taken to the Hellfire.

The Example of the Prophet (Sunnah)

The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ is the best of Allah’s creation. He is our example. We follow him with regard to learning his biography, learning our Din from him, following his statements, imitating his behaviors, and implementing his perfect example.

لَقَد كانَ لَكُم في رَسولِ اللَّهِ أُسوَةٌ حَسَنَةٌ لِمَن كانَ يَرجُو اللَّهَ وَاليَومَ الآخِرَ وَذَكَرَ اللَّهَ كَثيرًا

You have an excellent model in the Messenger of Allah, for all who put their hope in Allah and the Last Day and remember Allah much.

(Quran; Surah al-Ahzab, The Confederates (33):21)

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Obeying the Messenger ﷺ leads to Paradise, and disobeying him leads to the Fire.

Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated:

حَدَّثَنَا عَبْدَانُ، أَخْبَرَنَا عَبْدُ اللَّهِ، عَنْ يُونُسَ، عَنِ الزُّهْرِيِّ، أَخْبَرَنِي أَبُو سَلَمَةَ بْنُ عَبْدِ الرَّحْمَنِ، أَنَّهُ سَمِعَ أَبَا هُرَيْرَةَ ـ رضى الله عنه ـ أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ ‏ “‏ مَنْ أَطَاعَنِي فَقَدْ أَطَاعَ اللَّهَ، وَمَنْ عَصَانِي فَقَدْ عَصَى اللَّهَ، وَمَنْ أَطَاعَ أَمِيرِي فَقَدْ أَطَاعَنِي، وَمَنْ عَصَى أَمِيرِي فَقَدْ عَصَانِي ‏”‏‏.‏

Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said, “Whoever obeys me, obeys Allah, and whoever disobeys me, disobeys Allah, and whoever obeys the ruler I appoint, obeys me, and whoever disobeys him, disobeys me.”

(Sahih al-Bukhari, 7137)

Sincere Actions

All actions are accepted only if they meet three conditions: being in accordance with the Shari’ah, being done with full determination, and having a sincere intention.

وَما أُمِروا إِلّا لِيَعبُدُوا اللَّهَ مُخلِصينَ لَهُ الدّينَ حُنَفاءَ وَيُقيمُوا الصَّلاةَ وَيُؤتُوا الزَّكاةَ ۚ وَذٰلِكَ دينُ القَيِّمَةِ

They were only ordered to worship Allah, making their Din sincerely His as people of pure natural belief, and to establish salat and pay zakat – that is the Din of the correct.

(Quran; Surah al-Bayyinah, Proof (98):5)

If a person does not perform their deeds for Allah’s sake, then they are not accepted. All of the Usul of the Din must be engaged in sincerely.

It has been narrated on the authority of Amir al-Mu’minin, Abu Hafs ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him), who said:

عَنْ أَمِيرِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ أَبِي حَفْصٍ عُمَرَ بْنِ الْخَطَّابِ رَضِيَ اللهُ عَنْهُ قَالَ: سَمِعْتُ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم يَقُولُ: ” إنَّمَا الْأَعْمَالُ بِالنِّيَّاتِ، وَإِنَّمَا لِكُلِّ امْرِئٍ مَا نَوَى، فَمَنْ كَانَتْ هِجْرَتُهُ إلَى اللَّهِ وَرَسُولِهِ فَهِجْرَتُهُ إلَى اللَّهِ وَرَسُولِهِ، وَمَنْ كَانَتْ هِجْرَتُهُ لِدُنْيَا يُصِيبُهَا أَوْ امْرَأَةٍ يَنْكِحُهَا فَهِجْرَتُهُ إلَى مَا هَاجَرَ إلَيْهِ”. رَوَاهُ إِمَامَا الْمُحَدِّثِينَ أَبُو عَبْدِ اللهِ مُحَمَّدُ بنُ إِسْمَاعِيل بن إِبْرَاهِيم بن الْمُغِيرَة بن بَرْدِزبَه الْبُخَارِيُّ الْجُعْفِيُّ [رقم:1]، وَأَبُو الْحُسَيْنِ مُسْلِمٌ بنُ الْحَجَّاج بن مُسْلِم الْقُشَيْرِيُّ النَّيْسَابُورِيُّ [رقم:1907] رَضِيَ اللهُ عَنْهُمَا فِي “صَحِيحَيْهِمَا” اللذَينِ هُمَا أَصَحُّ الْكُتُبِ الْمُصَنَّفَةِ.

I heard the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) say: “Actions are (judged) by motives (niyyah), so each man will have what he intended. Thus, he whose migration (hijrah) was to Allah and His Messenger, his migration is to Allah and His Messenger; but he whose migration was for some worldly thing he might gain, or for a wife he might marry, his migration is to that for which he migrated.”

(Sahih al-Bukhari & Sahih Muslim)


A Muslim must actively advocate for the interests of Allah, of His Messenger, and of the believers. This includes discussing and spreading Islam (da’wah), while assisting and supporting Islamic causes⁠—even if this is something as simple as maintaining upright moral character.

It has been narrated on the authority of Tamim ibn Aws ad-Dari (may Allah be pleased with him):

عَنْ أَبِي رُقَيَّةَ تَمِيمِ بْنِ أَوْسٍ الدَّارِيِّ رَضِيَ اللهُ عَنْهُ أَنَّ النَّبِيَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ: “الدِّينُ النَّصِيحَةُ.” قُلْنَا: لِمَنْ؟ قَالَ: “لِلَّهِ، وَلِكِتَابِهِ، وَلِرَسُولِهِ، وَلِأَئِمَّةِ الْمُسْلِمِينَ وَعَامَّتِهِمْ.” [رَوَاهُ مُسْلِمٌ]

The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “The Din (religion) is nasihah (advice, sincerity).” We said, “To whom?” He (ﷺ) said, “To Allah, His Book, His Messenger, and to the leaders of the Muslims and their common folk.”

(Sahih Muslim)

Patience and Trials

The purpose of life is to worship Allah. As a person’s worship of Allah improves, they are tested in order to further purify them and strengthen their connection with Allah. A Muslim is required to be patient with these trials.

الَّذي خَلَقَ المَوتَ وَالحَياةَ لِيَبلُوَكُم أَيُّكُم أَحسَنُ عَمَلًا ۚ وَهُوَ العَزيزُ الغَفورُ

He who created death and life to test which of you is best in action. He is the Almighty, the Ever-Forgiving.

(Quran; Surah al-Mulk, Sovereignty (67):2)

Patience in Arabic is called “sabr.” Sabr is fourfold: for Allah, in Allah, with Allah, and from Allah. Sabr for Allah is patience regarding abstaining from His prohibitions. Sabr in Allah is patience in surrendering to and following His commands. Sabr with Allah is patience and forbearance regarding hardships. Sabr from Allah is patience in being away from Him.


Islam is the truth. It is a clear, comprehensive, and perfect way of life. No other system of living is so thorough and thoughtfully assembled, as this Path comes from the Creator of all things.

Subsequent articles will elaborate further on the topics discussed here and will also cover:


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