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Introduction

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THE ELEMENTS OF ISLAM
(Excerpts Only)

By: Shaykh Fadhlalla Haeri

Introduction

Surely the [true] religion with Allah is Islam. (Qur`an 3:19)

The purpose of this book is to provide a brief, simple and factual account of Islam and Muslims at a time when cultural, racial, religious and other prejudices are prevalent throughout the world.

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This book gives an overview of the origin, meaning and universality of the prophetic message of Islam. In order to understand Islam, however, one must also understand something of the history of the Muslim peoples. Unless a clear distinction is made between original Islam and the behavior of Muslims, the current confusion could become magnified into greater and more dangerous controversy and confrontation. A necessarily brief history is therefore also outlined.

Islam is the culmination of all the faiths emanating from the Fertile Crescent. The prophetically revealed knowledge connected all aspects of life, the material and the metaphysical. Though the advent of the Muhammadi message (that is, the revelation of the Qur`an through Muhammad) was the seal of all previous prophetic messages, it was not the beginning of Islam. Islam – that transactional state of joyful surrender to Allah – had been prescribed from the dawn of humankind, symbolized by the entry of Adam into the world of duality.

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Most Western writers on Islam and Muslims are alien to the path of Islam. They have not experienced its transformative element and as a result most of their writings remain somewhat academic and remote, often hailing from an inherent (and therefore unquestioned) attitude of superiority. If a writer is alien to the Islamic transformative process then it follows that most of his observations and commentary on Islam or on Muslim behavior and culture will be generally superficial despite appearing to reflect depth in their analysis. For example, in discussing the Qur`an, there is an unmistakable difference between trying to understand it, absorb it and be transformed by it, and reviewing it in the same way as any other book might be critically appraised. The Qur`an was never a book but a revelation. It is the inscribed 'tablet' that connects the physical worlds with that of the unseen and the divine dimension beyond time and space.

The Qur`an and the prophetic teachings transcend structuralist approaches for they are based on faith, trust and transformation wrought by following the path of submission. In studying Islam and Muslims the Orientalists and others representing European interests have been motivated by academic, practical, material, political or economic aims. They have therefore concentrated on cultural and behavioral patterns, focusing on the differences between Muslim peoples, rather than on the unifying foundation that is Islam.

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Up Next

[ Introduction ] The Rise of Islam ] Faith and Path ] The Fundamentals of Islam ] History and Development of the Religion ] The History of the Muslims ] The History of the Muslims (Cont'd) ] The Life of Muslims ] Epilogue ] Appendix: Outstanding Muslims ] Glossary ] Bibliography ]