What is Islam and how does one convert to it?
Every religious sect, and organization has its own ideological principles and core beliefs that direct its goals and influence the methods of its operations, members and followers
Whoever wants to be a member of any religion or organization should first investigate and understand the principles on which it is founded with an open mind. If he or she satisfied with them and convinced that they are correct, he or she should confidently accept them and become a regular member and participant. The new member should do the actions required by it and pay any fees stipulated by the rules of the organization. He must show devotion to those principles through his behaviors and never violate them in order to embody what he believes in and become a good example of what he and his organization represent.
Likewise, whoever wants to convert to Islam should understand its major principles, believe decisively in them, and do his best to live according to its guidance.
These principles are embodied in believing the following: This material world is not everything and this temporal life is not the only life. Man did not create himself and nothing can come in to being without the will of Allah, the one God who bring all beings to life and causes them to die. He is the one who created all things and, if He chooses to, he can destroy them and make them disappear. He has no likeness in any of the worlds. He has no beginning, no end, and is everlasting. He is capable of anything without any limitations and all-knowing with nothing being beyond His knowledge. He is just, but his justice cannot be measured with human measures. He is the one who sets the natural laws controlling the universe and creates everything in specific amounts just as He preordained their kinds and parts and whatever will happen to them. He gave humans minds to make decisions and wills to carry them out. He made a second life after this temporaral life whereby the benevolent will be rewarded with permission to enter paradise and the malevolent will be punished with Hellfire. God is one and has no partner deserving of worship and no mediator to help people communicate with Him or to intercede with Him without His permission. All worship should be solely for Him. He has created creatures apparent to us, observed by the senses and others that are unapparent. Some of his creations have free will, such as humans and jinns and can choose good or evil. Some of them, such as the angels, are always completely obedient to him.
God chose certain people (messengers) to receive messages of prophecy from the Angel Gabriel to covey to people. These messages consisted of Holy books and directives sent down from Heaven. The last Book is called the Qur’an. It was revealed to the last prophet, Mohammed, peace be upon him. The previous books were all, to some degree, changed by people, lost and/or forgotten. The Qur’an is an unchangeable book which remains safe from changes and loss, because it has been promised to be so by the Creator, Allah. With this book, the chain of prophecy and messages has been concluded, and no messenger or revelation will come after it.
The Qur’an is the Islamic constitution. Whoever believes in it entirely is considered to be a believer from the time he announces that he bears witness that there is no God but Allah and Mohammed is His messenger. This declaration implies that he intends to do all that he has been commanded to do as a Muslim and refrain from everything that has been prohibited in his religion.
The basic tenets of Islamic belief are the belief in God without a partner, believing in the existence of the angels, all of the prophets and messengers, all of the holy books, the afterlife, and the predestination of fate, both good and bad. Whoever believes in these things and performs the obligatory acts of worship to this best of his or her ability is considered to be a Muslim and a believer. Worshipping and acting well to the best of one’s ability can be summarized in the Prophet Mohammad’s statement that “Al-Ihsan is to worship God as if you see Him and even if you don’t see him, He surely sees you”. A Muslim should keep God in mind and be conscious of Him all the time and do his best to do what pleases Him and refrain from what He has forbidden.
A hypocrite is a person who claims to believe in and practice Islam, but does not really believe in it for unethical reasons or to harm the Muslims. According to the Quran, this type of person will be in the lowest region of hell in the hereafter because God knows all the secrets in human hearts.
If any Muslim intentionally denies a principle belief or act of worship, such as the obligation to pray five times a day, that denial is considered to be a renouncement of Islam, for which most Islamic scholars agree that death is the punishment if he or she does not repent.
There are five pillars of Islamic worship, and their obligations are based upon each person’s ability to do them.
The first pillar is bearing witness to the oneness of God and the truthfulness of his messenger, Mohammad, as mentioned above.
The second one is praying the obligatory prayers. The physical requirements consist of a course of standing, bowing, prostrating and sitting in the morning, just after noontime, afternoon, after sunset and at night. The Muslim should wash his or her face and limbs before praying. He or she must take a shower if he or she had sexual intercourse since the last prayer. These prayers are a chance to communicate with God, ask Him for guidance and good things as well as seek refuge with God from His punishment. These five obligatory prayers may take as little as a half an hour, in total, throughout the day. They can be done in any clean place, by any Muslim without the assistance of a mediator or clergyman.
The third pillar is fasting for the whole month of Ramadan, the ninth month of the lunar calendar. The Islamic fast consists of an abstention from eating, drinking and consumption, as well as having sexual intercourse from dawn to the sunset. Fasting is a period of rest for the stomach, comfort for the soul, an exercise in patience, good for the health and strengthens social bonds as people gather to break their fasts and perform prayers together.
The fourth pillar is an annual almsgiving of 2.5% of savings for those who have above the minimum monetary requirement, which is equal to the price of 84 grams of gold. This money can be given to any of eight categories of poor and most needy people in society. It is not too much for the Creator and Sustainer to ask us for this when he has given us everything we have. If all qualifying Muslims were to fully practice this act and it were properly supervised and managed, it would be the most effective form of social security in the world.
The fifth pillar is performing Hajj, which is a pilgrimage to Makkah once in life time on the 12th month of the lunar year if a person has the circumstantial, physical and financial ability to do so. In Islam, there are four regular practices of social worship. They are: regular gatherings for the five daily prayers in the mosque for men, weekly meetings on Fridays for “jumuah” prayer, bi-annually on the two holidays of “eid” and once in life time for the hajj pilgrimage. Attending these meetings is a personal obligation based on ability. While there are no worldly punitive laws associated with not attending these gatherings, whoever misses any one of them will miss an opportunity for spiritual upliftment and possibly suffer consequences in the hereafter. If a Muslim neglects or ignores any obligation or committed any forbidden act, then he or should repent and ask God for forgiveness.
In addition to the obligatory types of worship in Islam, there are also other kinds of worship which are encouraged, such as voluntary prayers and charity, strengthening the bonds of kinship, seeking and knowledge and teaching, and warning and defending against evil.
Acts of Islamic worship range from very easy, such as the verbal declaration required to enter the religion to very challenging, such as the pilgrimage to Mecca. They can be performed according to one’s level of knowledge and ability. Everyone is required to learn about them, with emphasis on the acts that are to be performed by each person. This includes Arab, non-Arab, young, old, male, female, rich, poor and disabled people. Above all, Islam is the religion of peace and forgiveness.