<< In defense of my faith

By Beeta Baghoolizadeh, L.A. Youth archives
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What is the difference between the words Islam and Muslim? The word Islam refers to the religion, and the word Muslim refers to a person who follows the teachings of Islam. So to call someone an Islam sounds just as strange as calling someone a Christianity or a Judaism.

Is Allah God? Allah is God. Allah is the Arabic name for God, just as Dios is the Spanish word for God, or Khoda is the Persian word for God. Arabic is the language of Islam, but many people misunderstand Allah to mean the Islamic God. God is Allah, just as Allah is God.

Does the Qur’an, the holy book of Islam, say that women must wear head scarves? The Qur’an does not explicitly say that women should wear scarves. It does, however, instruct women to be modest and cover themselves, as it does for men. In the Qur’an the first thing it says about this is that men must lower their eyes and then it says the same for women. Then it tells men to dress modestly, and tells the same to women. The Qur’an does make a reference to the jilbab, a garment used to cover breasts, but it does not say that women must wear scarves. To wear a scarf is solely a woman’s choice. Many do it because they believe that, among other things, the Qur’an is referring to wearing a veil in this passage. In a mosque and during prayer, most women wear scarves as a show of respect, the same way men are more inclined to wear long sleeves and long pants to a mosque. Dressing modestly isn’t about trying to desexualize women—it’s about living simply and not obsessing over one’s own appearance.

Who is Mohammad? Where does Mohammad fit in the line of prophets? Prophet Mohammad was the messenger of God who lived about 1,400 years ago. He was God’s medium to spread the word of the Qur’an, which was revealed to him by the angel Gabriel. He was a follower of Abraham’s religion, which he called “Islam,” meaning submitting to God’s will. Abraham had two sons—Isaac and Ishmael. In the Bible, Abraham chose to sacrifice Isaac, who was Moses’s and Jesus’s ancestor. In the Qur’an, Abraham chose to sacrifice Ishmael, who was Mohammad’s ancestor.

Is Jesus the messiah in Islam? In Islam, we do consider Jesus to be the messiah. We believe that he will return to the world at the end of time to defeat the Antichrist.

Why is Jesus not considered the son of God as in Christianity? We believe that Jesus was a prophet of God, just like Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses and Mohammad. He was a messenger for a group of people on behalf of God, but he is not the son of God because we believe that God was not given birth to, nor does He give birth to anyone. For us, “there is no God but God.”

Explain Ramadhan and the fasting. In the lunar Muslim calendar, Ramadhan is a month in the year. It’s a holy month in Islam because it was during this month that Prophet Mohammad first came in contact with angel Gabriel and the first few lines of the Qur’an were revealed to him. Even before he became God’s messenger, Mohammad would travel to a cave to meditate and fast for the entire month of Ramadhan, having little contact with anyone. He would fast from sun-up to sun-down, and contemplate philosophical ideas. Later, during the revelations of the Qur’an, the full instructions for fasting were sent down and that it is one of the five pillars of Islam.

Why do Muslims pray five times a day? The point of prayer (known as salaat) is to allow us to have a direct connection to God. Islam is a very personal religion without a true “middleman.” Religious leaders are not required for Muslims to have a “conversation” with God. Muslims pray five times a day—at dawn, noon, afternoon, sunset and evening—so that at different times of the day we remember that God is with us and that we are never alone. It’s also a humbling experience that helps us remember that the only “thing” worth worshipping is God.

What is the role of women in Islam? Contrary to what many people think, women are highly regarded in Islam. It repeatedly says in the Qur’an that men and women were created equally. Eve was not created from Adam’s rib. Women play an important role in the Qur’an as well. A chapter in the Qur’an is called Al-Nisaa, meaning “Women,” and another is dedicated to the Virgin Mary, called Maryam.
lllllActually, before the Qur’an was revealed to Prophet Mohammad, female infanticide was rampant on the Arabian peninsula because boys were favored, but Islamic law forbid that practice. In fact, the Prophet only had daughters to carry on his name. Islam also granted women their rights, something that was unheard of at that time, like rights to inheritances, a say in their marriage (arranged marriages without the approval of the bride are forbidden in Islam), voting—and even a simple thing like education. Muslim women were guaranteed the right to vote centuries before American and European women.