21 April, 2018 | 5 Sha’ban, 1439 H

"Silence saves you from regret"

- Imam Ali (as)

Summary Transcripts

Core Curriculum

 
 

1 God, Religion and Islam: An Introduction


 
1.1 The Problem of Evil, Suffering and Pain Download Topic

In this lesson, we look at two aspects of the problem of evil in the world. the first is the intellectual problem of evil and suffering. The second is the emotional problem of evil and suffering.

 

 The intellectual problem of evil sees God and evil as mutually incompatible. If God is all-good and all-loving, then He would naturally want to alleviate suffering from us. Since there is great suffering and evil in the world, then God is either

 

  1.   powerless to do anything about suffering and evil
  2.  or careless and callous about His creation
  3.  or He does not exist

 

 The emotional problem of evil is about people’s dislike or even hatred of God who is seeing as permitting suffering in the world. People lose their loved ones, their health, their jobs or see their societies around them fall apart as a result of evil like wars and crime. They are angry that God doesn’t do anything about all the injustices they see.

 

 In order to learn how Islam responds to these two problems, please tune into the full version of this lesson.

 


 
1.2 God, Allah and Religion Download Topic

God, or Allah in Islam is the creator of the universe. He is not just a creator like an engineer who makes a car, no, He is what brought all being into existence.  

 

Whether the whole of existence has a beginning or is eternal, He is the one who sustains it and is the ultimate explanation as to why anything exists at all.  

 

Unlike the God of deism, Allah is not a callous God. He is the all-Compassionate, the All-Merciful, the All-Forgiving and the All-Loving.  

 

Out of His love and compassion He created humanity and all life in the world.  

 

According to Islam, God did not create humankind out of play, but created it so that it might find spiritual perfection. He created us human beings so that as freely willing agents, we may purify our souls and become compassionate, merciful, loving and wise beings in a way that is analogous to the source of these wonderful attributes, namely God Himself.  

 

In order to do this, Allah sends down His special revelation in the form of religion to guide humankind to spiritual perfection. Revelation comes in the form of constitutive instructions on how to lead the good life and cleans our hearts from spiritual impurities such as pride, anger, hatred and jealousy among other things, and therefore lead our hearts to be filled with the living light of God. With the light of God in our hearts, we become wise, insightful, patient, forgiving and loving like God Himself.  

 

To learn more, please tune into the full version of this lesson.


 
1.3 Introduction to Islam Download Topic

Islam began in the 7th century Mecca which is located in modern day Saudi Arabia. It is the second largest religion in the world. As articulated by its sacred text the Qur’an, it is God’s final religion on earth. Islam was revealed by God’s last Prophet on earth, Muhammad the son of Abdullah (s)  

Islam is an Abrahamic religion, meaning that it is a monotheistic religion that accepts most of the Old Testament and New Testament Prophets, including Abraham, Noah, Moses and Jesus among other Prophets sent by God to earth.

Islam also believes in the Devil, in angels, including the Archangels Gabriel and Michael, as well as the Day of Judgment. Like Christianity, Islam deems charity to be mandatory. Withholding help and charity is an immoral and sinful act according to it.  

However, unlike Christianity, it rejects the concept of the Trinity and upholds God as absolutely one. Jesus (as) according to Islam was only a divinely guided Prophet and not God Himself.

Islam is the fastest growing religion on earth and it has over 1.5 billion followers.

The ultimate sacred text for the Muslims is the Qur’an. The Qur’an was originally revealed in Arabic and is believed to be the literal word of God that was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (s) and expressed verbatim by him to the Muslim community.

According to the Qur’anic narrative, Islam does not see itself as a new religion. It sees itself as the culmination of thousands upon thousands of generations of Prophetic messages which began at the time of the Prophet Adam (as), unto the Prophets Abraham, Moses, and Jesus among others, and ending with the Prophet Muhammad (s).

To learn more, please tune into the full version of this lesson.


 
1.4 What is “Religion” and What’s the Point of it Anyways? Download Topic

At first glance, we all think we know what religion is. Religion is often defined as a system of thought organized around the belief of a supernatural entity, usually some form of god or gods and a series of rituals and social regulations that stem from this belief.  

 

Religion in this sense can be in many different forms. For one, there is animism where totems and magic rituals form a central part of its worldview concerning the supernatural and the natural. 

 

Then there are other forms of polytheism which posit the existence of many gods who perform tasks specific to them, such as controlling the rain, love or fertility. 

 

Then you have monotheistic religions that believe in one creator God and that there is no deity aside this God. Among these religions we find Judaism, Christianity, Islam etc.  

 

What purpose do all these religions serve? 

 

Well, it isn’t really clear what religion means, nor is there an agreement as to what its purpose is, at least in current academic Western debates. Something we think so simple is actually quite complex. Even explanations of why “religion” is failing is full of disagreements. 

 

Despite this, Islam has its own definition of what religion means and what its purpose is.  

 

To learn more on this subject, please tune into the full version of this lesson. 


 
1.5 A Brief Introduction to the Prophet Muhammad (s), the Prophet of Islam Download Topic

N/A 


 
 

2 Foundations of Islam - Theology


 
2.1 Entering Islam: The Shahada Download Topic

The door through which one enters Islam is called the shahāda. Shahāda literally means to testify or bear witness similar to how one would testify in court. The shahāda in the Muslim religion is to testify that 1) there is no deity but Allah alone and that 2) Muhammad (s) is the Messenger of Allah. The first part of the shahāda means that we should reject polytheism and affirm monotheism* only.   

It also means that we should worship God only and make Him a priority in our lives. If one makes the world and its contents (like money, power or fame) the sole object of one’s love, then one is, in reality, worshipping a “god” other than Allah. We cannot emphasize this point enough. Worshipping in Islam simply means to surrender one’s heart, soul and mind to something.  

 The second part of the shahāda is affirming that Muhammad is a Prophet and Messenger sent by Allah to guide humankind for people's salvation. It also means that as the last and final Prophet and Messenger from Allah, we are to take his teachings as the blueprint of how to lead the proper religious life.  

 This not only includes various ritual practices, but also proper mannerisms and behavior. If a Muslim wants to perfect his or her Islam, he or she must also pay heed to the Prophet Muhammad’s command of following his Ahl al-Bayt (as). The Ahl al-Bayt were the divinely guided successors after his death.

 Simply believing and performing ritual practices, however, is not enough. A Muslim needs to go further by always struggling to better himself or herself and always being mindful that Allah is watching. The only way that bettering oneself, that is, transforming one’s inner self, can come about is through inner humility. For it is only in humility and not in arrogance that the human heart truly surrenders itself to God.


 
2.2 The Usūl al-Dīn: The Fundamental Beliefs of Islam Download Topic

The uṣūl al-dīn are the foundations of the Muslim belief system. After the shahāda, they are the basic theological foundations of Islam which a Muslim must believe in. They are five: 

 

The first is Tawhīd or the Absolute Oneness and Unity of God, meaning that Allah is the Only Creator and Sustainer of all of existence and that He has no partners in anything He does. It also means that He is the only One worthy of worship to the exclusion of all other things. All other beliefs in Islam are predicated on the notion of tawhīd. 

 

The second principal is that of ʿadālah, or Divine Justice. This means that God is absolutely good and just and He does not command or act unjustly towards His creation. 

 

The third principal is Nubuwwa or Prophethood. As a Just God, Allah sent Prophets to humankind in order to guide them to salvation. The most important and final Prophet is the Prophet Muhammad (s).  

 

The fourth principal is Imāmah or Divine Leadership. As the Prophet Muhammad (s) is the final Prophet, and Islam is the final religion, we need divinely guided leaders to protect the message and interpretation of Islam. These divine leaders or Imāms are 12 in number and are from the Holy Household of the Prophet (s). 

 

The fifth principal is Maʿād or resurrection on the Day of Judgment. As the God wants the best for humankind, He sends Prophets to warn them about a Day of Judgment in which they will be accountable for their deeds. 

 


 
2.3 Tawhīd: The Unity and Oneness of God in Islam Download Topic

Tawhīd is the Absolute Oneness and Unity of God. It is the most important and most fundamental aspect of Islam. Without Tawhīd, none of the uṣūl al-dīn, or Islam, would make sense. Tawhīd denies the existence of any other god or deity except for the One God who created the world.  

 

It also holds that God has no partners in anything He does. Although He may have servants that perform tasks in the world by His will, this does not mean that they are His partners in any way as He is in no need of them. He is perfectly capable of managing the world without them.  

 

Tawhīd is not just an abstract theological understanding of the nature of God, it has a direct bearing on how we lead our lives and how we are supposed to see the world around us. Tawhīd not only implies that we must serve and submit our hearts to Him only (that is, not money, our desires etc.) but it also means that only Allah controls and sustains the universe. Anything else is but a mere illusion. To give independent power to anything else in this regard is called shirk in Islam, that is, polytheism or idolatry. 

 

As a result, we shouldn't be upset when things do not go our way. For in the end, little is under our control. Everything belongs to Him, and He controls the results of all events that take place in our world. 

 


 
2.4 Adala: Divine Justice in Islam Download Topic

ʿAdāla means “Divine Justice” and it is the second principle of the uṣūl al-dīn, that is, the fundamental beliefs of Islam. In Arabic, the word literally means to keep a form of balance in weight.  In His treatment of humankind, Allah makes ʿadāla or justice obligatory upon himself and therefore always acts with goodness and justice.  

 

This means that He never wrongs His creation. For example, on the Day of Judgment, Allah will not punish people with more than what they deserve. Furthermore, God, according to Islam, does not test people with more than what they can bear. Indeed, they may fail the test, but the test is never beyond the possibility of success. 

 

Parallel to this, just as God makes justice obligatory upon Himself, He also makes it obligatory upon humankind. Human beings have the responsibility of maintaining the “balance” of justice in the world. Transgressing this balance leads to corruption and evil.  

 

We say it is evil as the rules and boundaries God sets for humans is intended to lead them to the  divine Good and Truth. Transgressing these boundaries leads one to the opposite, that is, the opposite of Good and Truth which is evil, corruption and falsehood.  

 

Only with God do we find real justice for His justice is not arbitrary, but an expression of the goodness of his own nature. 


 
2.5 Nubuwwa: The Purpose of Prophethood in Islam Download Topic

Allah wants to guide people and help them attain salvation. As a just God, the God of Islam must therefore send Prophets to guide mankind to the proper path. 

 

The word prophet in the English language is not always synonymous with the Islamic term nabī. Nabī is someone who receives wahī which is a special kind of direct revelation that a person receives through the medium of the Archangel Gabriel.  

 

A rasūl is a higher ranking nabī who receives a whole new system of laws. A basic nabī may receive a specific law, but he does not receive a system of laws. 

 

According to Islam, the purpose of Prophethood is to guide mankind towards salvation in this world and in the Hereafter. Prophets bring the blueprint on how to live the proper spiritual, moral and material life. They not only teach the blueprint, but they also act as role models for us to follow. 

 

The Prophet Muhammad was both a nabī and a rasūl. As the final Prophet of God, he was the universal messenger for all of mankind. Among all Prophets, he was the most perfect in knowledge and in character. As the final and universal Prophet, his message is meant for all of mankind in all places and all times.  

 

As a role model, the Prophet's actions are known through his Sunnah (tradition). His sunnah is recorded in a oral tradition called the hadith, which are sayings of, or about the Prophet (i.e what he did). The Prophet’s main miracle was his own message in the form of the Qur’an, the Divine Scripture of Islam even though he had other miracles as well. 

 

The correct interpretation of the Qur'an and the Prophet's teachings had to be protected after the Messenger of Allah's death. For this reason, God chose Imāms from the Ahl al-Bayt, or the Holy Household of the Prophet (s), to guard their correct interpretation. 


 
2.6 Imāmah or divinely guided leadership in Islam after the Prophet Muhammad. Download Topic

Although the Prophet Muhammad (s) was the last of all prophets, it would have been unjust if Allah completely cut off humankind from divine contact. Like Prophets, Imams act as mediums between God and humankind. After the Prophet's (s) death, the Imams of the Ahl al-Bayt (as) took on the role of guiding people and protecting the authentic interpretation of Islam.

 

The first two and a half centuries of Islam were the formative periods of Islam. Most of Islam’s theological and legal schools were established during this era. Most Muslims were beset by disagreements and differences of opinion during that time. The Imāms of the Ahl al-Bayt (as) however, were present during this time and made sure to establish a school that was in accordance with the pure teachings of Muhammadan Islam.

 

Imāmah is the greatest distinguishing factor between the two major expressions of Islam, Shia and Sunni. The Sunni belief in imāmah is a belief in fallible and completely human centered leadership. Imams for Sunni Islam can be Friday Prayer leaders, or leaders of law (like the four Imāms of Sunni law). According to Shiʿism, Imāmah is divine leadership, that is, a guided leadership by God to protect Islam and lead people to salvation.

 


 
2.7 Maʿād: The Day of Judgment in Islam Download Topic

The Day of Judgment in Islam is the day when all humans will be resurrected after their death. Life in this world is the first phase of human life. In this life, there is choice. The life in the next world is the second, eternal stage where we will reap the consequences of the choices we made in the first stage of our lives.

The religion of Islam holds that at the peak of  the world’s darkness, God will send a savior, namely the 12th Imām of the Ahl al-Bayt (as), known as al-Mahdī, to rectify the world’s corruption and bring justice and faith to all of humanity.  

 This final event of Imām al-Mahdī’s (aj) reappearance will set the stage for the total end of the world. The Mahdī is the promised messiah and savior of the world. His death will mark the end of the world, and the beginning of the Day of Judgment.

 According to Islamic tradition, when Allah wills to bring the Day of Judgment into effect, He will send down the Archangel Isrāfīl who will blow his trumpet and destroy the world with all life in it. Isrāfīl will then blow his trumpet again and the world will come back and all humans that ever lived will be resurrected to life.  

 As resurrected people, every single human on earth will stand before God and account for all of his or her deeds and the state of their souls.  

So the kinds of things that will matter on that they are the following: when they lived, how much of a role did God have in their lives? How did they treat people, animals and nature? Did they waste their lives pursuing trivial matters? What was their relationship to God’s Prophets? Did they reject them out of hand even after coming to know the truth?


 
2.8 The Sharīʿa: Purpose and Practice Download Topic

Sharīʿa is the entirety of God’s will upon humankind. The purpose of the Sharīʿa is to discipline and test humankind in their obedience to God. Only through obedience to Allah can we reach salvation and nearness to Him.  

 

The Sharīʿa contains the dos and don’ts of Islam. Allah gains nothing out of our obedience and spiritual discipline, it is us who gain and benefit.  

 

Allah commands us to the good, such as praying five times a day, or fasting during the month of Ramadan, but He also forbids evil, such as fornication, adultery, theft, alcohol and so on and so forth. All of these are there to aid our salvation. 

 

The Sharīʿa is therefore universal and can be practiced anywhere, up to a limit of course. In non-Muslim countries, most features of the Sharīʿa can be practiced, such as feeding the poor or obeying and respecting one’s parents. 

 

 Rules that are governmental and political in nature do not need to be implemented in non-Muslim countries.  

 

If anything, we have to obey most secular rules when we live in non-Muslim countries, such as obeying traffic laws, or not cheating our taxes. 


 
2.9 The Islamic Concept of the Nafs: Battling the Human Ego Download Topic

In this lesson, we discuss the part of the nafs that commands to evil which is otherwise known as nafs al-ammarah in Arabic. According to Islam, the inner dimension of person is divided into two camps, the first is the spiritual self - commonly known as the fitrah – and the lower or base self which commands us to evil, commonly known as the nafs. The nafs that commands to evil is the realm that produces delusion and attachment to mental illusions. It is the center of our unruly desires, base thoughts and heedlessness. 

 

The nafs is the prime target of Shaytān who whispers in the human self and tries to compel it to do evil. The way one protects himself of herself from Shaytān is developing self-control, that is, controlling the nafs. 

 

So there is a battle between the fitrah and the nafs. Whichever side wins the battle depends on which one we feed the most. If we read Qur’an, abstain from sins, associate with good people, our fitrah will become stronger. If we continually submit to our wrong desires, associate with bad people, sin etc. then we are making the evil nafs stronger. In short, whichever side wins depends on our habits.  

 


 
2.10 Satan, Jinns and Angels: Their Influence in the World Download Topic

There is an internal battle inside everyone. It is a battle between good and evil, godliness and ungodliness. Our own whims and desires, and our regular habits in life play a central role in shaping the quality of our souls.

 

The battle, however, is not just personal. Other entities, that is, spiritual entities, try to influence our decisions by either whispering good thoughts or evil thoughts inside us. Among these entities are angels, who are good and do not commit sins. Angels suggest good thoughts in our minds.

 

Angels are made out of light and are wholly good. On the other hand, there are Jinns, many of whom are evil, and they try to entice us to evil by whispering evil thoughts in our minds. The worst among these Jinns is Satan. Satan in Islam, unlike Christianity, is a Jinn who fell out of God's favor when he disobeyed him when Allah asked him to prostrate to Adam (as). 

 

Satan has made it his own “one-Jinn” mission to deviate humankind and drag them to hell.

 

The Qur’an says: 

 

Truly, Shaytān is an open enemy to humankind (Chapter 12, verse 5 of the Holy Qur’an)

 

Shaytān and his legions want the destruction of humankind. He encourages immorality, sinful pleasure, and pointless fun. Worst of all, he tries to instill the sense of despair among human beings.

 

However, the final choice belongs to individuals themselves. They have the choice to choose the good, or succumb to Satan's suggestions. Satan in Islam cannot force anyone to do anything.


 
2.11 The Problem of Evil, Suffering and Pain Download Topic

In this lesson, we look at two aspects of the problem of evil in the world. the first is the intellectual problem of evil and suffering. The second is the emotional problem of evil and suffering.

 

 The intellectual problem of evil sees God and evil as mutually incompatible. If God is all-good and all-loving, then He would naturally want to alleviate suffering from us. Since there is great suffering and evil in the world, then God is either

 

  1.   powerless to do anything about suffering and evil
  2.  or careless and callous about His creation
  3.  or He does not exist

 

 The emotional problem of evil is about people’s dislike or even hatred of God who is seeing as permitting suffering in the world. People lose their loved ones, their health, their jobs or see their societies around them fall apart as a result of evil like wars and crime. They are angry that God doesn’t do anything about all the injustices they see.

 

 In order to learn how Islam responds to these two problems, please tune into the full version of this lesson.

 


 
 

3 Foundations of Islam - Obligatory Acts


 
3.1 Accepting Islam: Putting Faith into Action Download Topic

Islam is not a JUST a noun, it is a verb. This means that Islam is not just a belief, but an ongoing activity. Worship of God in Islam is a state of mind, and beliefs and actions are what produce states of mind. Being a Muslim is therefore not a private belief, but a constitutive activity in the world.

 

When we talk about putting faith into action in Islam, this is not an option. It is not a choice where one choses to do it or not, it is an obligation that is made directly by God upon humankind.

 

If a person has to abstain from pork or alcohol, and has to pray five times a day and fast during the holy month of Ramadan, he or she cannot exercise choice and decide not to do it. If one fails to do so, then he or she has disobeyed God, broken the covenant and fallen into a sinful state.

 

Obligations also help maintain a healthy believing community. Islam establishes a series of obligations between all humans, including men, women, adults, children, Muslim and non-Muslim, all so that there may be a proper equilibrium. A healthy community (both spiritually and materially) is where a healthy spiritual heart grows.

 

Action also proves one’s faith. It is when God gives us a series of obligations to fulfill, which, when we fulfill them, our devotion to Him is proven. It is thus in the realm of action that a real Muslim and a real believer stands out.


 
3.2 Jihād in Islamic Law and Spirituality Download Topic

Jihad literally means struggle. In Islam it means to struggle for the sake of Allah. This can be done in two ways. The first way is through something we call the “Minor Jihad” and the second way is what we call the “Major Jihad”.  

 

The minor Jihad is when an aggressing army attacks you, or your village or town is invaded and you defend yourself.  

 

The second form of Jihad is called the Major Jihad or al-Jihād al-Akbar. According to the Prophet Muhammad (s), this is the most difficult kind of jihad because it is a fight against your deepest desires.  

 

this jihad is a struggle between 1) the divine and angelic powers that we have inside us which command us to the good and  2) the satanic forces that want us to follow our bad desires. 

 

How does one win this battle though? It sounds like a pretty tough struggle. Remember we had a specific discussion on the nafs previously. Winning this inner battle means winning against our bad habits and developing new and good ones. The more we get used to saying no to our bad desires, the stronger our will becomes and the easier it becomes to say “no” to them overtime. But if we are constantly submitting to whatever desires our evil selves push us to, we will get used to that and over time, it will get harder and harder to say no to the bad desires.


 
3.3 Salāt: Obligatory Ritual Prayers in Islam Download Topic

When we talk about salāt in the furūʿ al-dīn we are talking about the five obligatory ritual prayers in Islam which all Muslims must believe in.  

 

The times of these prayers are not static but dynamic as they follow the movement of the sun.  

The first prayer is the morning prayer. In Arabic it is called salāt al-fajr and it begins at dawn.  

 

The second prayer begins at noon and is called salāt al-dhuhur,  

 

the third is the afternoon prayer and it is called salāt al-ʿasr,  

 

the fourth praying is the sunset prayer called salāt al-maghrib  

 

and finally, the last prayer is called salāt al-ʿishā which is the night-time prayer.  

 

Each prayer has units called rakʿats where you bow with your hands on your knees. The total amount of times a Muslim must do this is 17 times across 5 prayers throughout the day.  

 

Salāt is the foundation of religion. Without it, none of Islam’s other practices or beliefs will stand. We say this because salāt is what establishes our relationship with God.  

 

Prayer is the only ritual in Islam that a person cannot be free from. One may be relieved from fasting, or Hajj, or any other ritual, but with prayer one may not do away with it as long as one is conscious, sane and reached puberty.


 
3.4 Ritual Purity in Islamic Law: Understanding Tahāra and Najāsa Download Topic

 

If a Muslim wants his or her prayer, fasting or Hajj to be valid, then he or she must be in a state of ritual purity before performing those actions. In other words, one must be tāhir. To ritually purify oneself, one can do one of three things, perform wudū (minor ablution), ghusl (major ablution) or tayamum (purification through the use of earth or dust).

 

A common misunderstanding about tahāra and najāsa is equating the terms with cleanliness and dirtiness. But this is incorrect. Tahāra and najāsa refer to ritual purity and impurity, meaning that they are pure or impure within the context of religious rituals. For example, items that are

najis or ritually impure include pigs, dogs, blood, semen, or feces among many other things. But this does not mean they are necessarily dirty. A pig or a dog may be given a bath and thus be considered clean in the conventional sense but still ritually impure.

 

This distinction is really important to understand because often enough, it is used as a point to attack Islam. For example, a woman who is in her menses or who just gave birth will be required at some time to perform ghusl if she wants to pray again. But some people mistakenly interpret this as a form of sexism where they think that women's biology is dirty according to Islam. They forget that men can also enter states of ritual impurity, like when they discharge semen. So these kinds of ignorant statements should be discarded because 1) both genders have states of ritual impurity and 2) ritual impurity does not necessarily mean dirty!


 
3.5 The Five Categories of Islamic Law Download Topic

Every single action we do, or situation we put ourselves in will affect our souls for the good or for the bad. 

 

In order to nurture us, God has set five categories in the Sharīʿa (or Islamic law) to guide our spiritual lives. 

 

  1.  Wājib: Obligatory or necessary, like fasting.  
  2. Mustahab: A recommended act. You don’t have to do it, but if you do it, you will get rewards.  
  3. Mubāh: Neutral act, like drinking water regularly. 
  4. Makrūh: Hated act, but if you do it, you won't be sinful. 
  5. Haram: forbidden act. If you do it, you are sinning. 

 

Remember that all of these acts are subject to change depending on conditions. Something may be wājib like fasting, however, if it becomes dangerous for your health, then it becomes haram on you. The same thing does for a mustahab act. If a mustahab act impedes on your wājib acts, then the mustahab act becomes impermissible for you to do. 

 

Something may be harām for us, but under certain conditions it may become wājib. For example, if you’re stuck in a desert and you have nothing to eat and drink except for wine and pork and you see that you may die from hunger and thirst, then it becomes wājib on you to drink wine and eat pork! 


 
3.6 Tawalla and Tabarra, its Basics and Purpose Download Topic

The last two elements of the the furūʿ al-dīn are called tawalla and tabarra. Tawalla is to love and follow Allah, the Prophet Muhammad (s) and his Ahl al-Bayt. Tabarra means to disassociate from people who are against Allah, the Messenger of Allah and his Ahl al-Bayt (as).  

 

Tawalla and tabarra are what ground us in our religious lives. They provide for us the guiding platform and gauging basis of our actions, including Commanding the Good and Forbidding Evil.  

What is tawalla? Tawalla comes from the root word walā’ in Arabic which means friendship and allegiance. Tawalla is therefore a form of love, friendship and allegiance one has towards the Prophet (s) and his Ahl al-Bayt (as). But it doesn’t stop there!  

Tawalla is an umbrella term, meaning that this love and friendship is also inclusive of people who also love the Prophet and his Ahl al-Bayt (as). So this means that we should love people who love the Prophet and his Ahl al-Bayt. 

 

The word tabarra comes from the word barā’a which means to free oneself or disassociate oneself from something. Tabarra thus means to disassociate from people who hate the Prophet and his Ahl al-Bayt.  

 


 
3.7 The Purpose of Zakat and Khums in Islamic Law Download Topic

Zakat in the furūʿ al-dīn is an obligatory form of charity. Just as salāt is an obligation we have towards God, zakat in a way is an obligation that we have towards God’s creation. 

 

It is obligatory because it is a right that the poor have on those who are more fortunate. In other words, zakat is principally designed to help those who suffer from severe poverty. Zakat is also there to help people free themselves from slavery, or those who cannot provide for themselves because they are drowning in debt.  

 

Zakat cannot be paid with modern currencies in Islamic law as taught by the Prophet Muhammad (s) and his Ahl al-Bayt (as). Zakat is usually paid from tangible items from one’s “sitting” assets like gold or silver. Other items may include wheat and barley, and also live stock like camels, cows and sheep. One usually pays 2.5% from this income. 

 

As zakat is generally geared towards helping the poor, khums (which literally means 1/5th) is generally geared towards helping Muslim institutions. Indeed, khums may be used to help the poor and the less fortunate, but it is more expansive and for this reason, its tax rate is higher.  

 

Khums was originally meant to be offered to the Messenger of Allah (s) or an Infallible Imām. Since our last Imām is in occultation, Islamic law permits Muslims to pay their khums to a just marjaʿ (a high ranking scholar of law that is a source of legal emulation) or legitimate Muslim organization that collects on behalf of a scholar.  

 

The money gained from khums today is what funds Mosques and their respective programs, Islamic schools, live religious events, feeding the community during special religious days, paying the salary of a resident ʿālim, etc.  

 


 
3.8 The Hajj Pilgrimage Download Topic

The word Hajj literally means “pilgrimage”. Thhe Hajj season begins in the last month of the Islamic calendar. This month is called Dhū al-Hijjah and it begins on the 8th of the month and ends on the 12th. The ninth day of the month is called the Day of Arafah. This is the central day of the Hajj and is the day where everyone must perform the Hajj rituals. 

 

The Hajj is the largest annual gathering of people on earth. It is also the world's largest pilgrimage. During the week of Hajj, Muslims perform a series of rituals. Among these rituals, Muslims walk counter-clockwise around the Kaʿba seven times. 

 

The Hajj pilgrimage was made obligatory upon Muslims during the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad (s). The pilgrimage itself, however, goes back as far as the time of the Prophet Abraham (as). In Islamic history, God wanted to create a new center for His community of believers in an ancient location called Mecca.  

 

The Hajj, aside its ritual significance, is meant to establish a universal brotherhood and sisterhood of equality among all Muslims in the Islamic community. It is meant to bring people together as Muslims irrespective of their cultural, tribal or national loyalties. 


 
3.9 The Furūʿ al-Dīn: The Fundamental Practices of Islam Download Topic

Furūʿ al-dīn literally means the “branches of religion”.  Just like the roots feed a tree and keep it alive, branches, along with their leaves, also nourish the roots in return. The furūʿ al-dīn are ten: ṣalāt, siyam, Hajj, Zakāt, Khums, Jihad, Commanding the Good, Forbidding Evil, Tawallā and finally Tabarra. 

 

Ṣalāt: obligatory five daily prayers. 

 

Siyam: fasting during the Holy month of Ramadān. One must abstain from food, intimate relations, drink, smoking, as well as sins like gossiping. 

 

Hajj: The pilgrimage that every capable Muslim must make to the Holy Kaba in the city of Mecca at least once in a lifetime. 

 

Zakāt: Tax which eligible Muslims must pay to the poor. 

 

Khums: a one-fifth tax of one’s sitting income in addition to other forms of income. It is there to help fund religious institutions. 

 

Jihad: Struggling in the path of God, both in fighting one’s egoic self that commands evil, as well as defending one’s locality from aggressors.  

 

Commanding the Good and Forbidding Evil: Encouraging what God has established as the good  and discouraging people from what is evil. 

 

Tawalla and Tabarra: Loving the Prophet Muhammad (s) and his Ahl al-Bayt (as) and disassociating from their enemies. 


 
3.10 Fasting in Islam, its Purpose, Dos and Don’ts Download Topic

The ultimate purpose of fasting is to instill God consciousness (taqwā) in human beings.  

Fasting during the month of Ramadan is obligatory on all adult and sane Muslims. The month of Ramadan is the month that the Qur’an was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (s). According to the Prophet (s), the month of Ramadan is where the demons or shayātīn are restrained and Muslims are allowed to grow spiritually at an accelerated rate. It is where sins are forgiven, and prayers receive more rewards than they usually do.  

 

Fasting during the month of Ramadan must begin with the intention or niyya of fasting. Before dawn, one wakes up for suhūr or the predawn breakfast. This ensures that a person can function during the day. Iftār on the other hand is when a person breaks his or her fast at sundown or sunset. 

 

Fasting is recommended on most days of the year when desires become overwhelming. Fasting helps tame these desires. 

 

One cannot fast anytime one wants. There are times when fasting is prohibited. Fasting is prohibited when it seriously endangers a person's health, or when a person travels or when it is the Day of Ashura.


 
3.11 Other Obligatory and Forbidden Acts in Islam Download Topic

he furūʿ al-dīn are the platform of Islamic law. This does not mean that they are the entirety of the law. Just because prayer or salāt may be the most important ritual practice of Islamic law, it does not mean that other practices are unimportant. Every aspect of Islam plays a specific role.

Think of it as a bunch of pillars in a building. Every pillar plays a critical role in upholding a building. Yes, some pillars may be bigger than the others, but they are all important in their own way. Here is a small list of other obligatory and forbidden acts in Islam:
Marriage can be wājib: If a person is afraid that by staying single, he or she will fall into sin, then marriage becomes obligatory. Remember that marriage is one of the most important foundations of the Islamic community’s salvation in the Hereafter since it protects them from zina.

Zina is forbidden in Islam. It is one of the major sins (kabā’ir, sing. kabīra). Zina is illicit intercourse in Islam between a man and a woman. Usually zina either takes place between two unmarried people, or takes place as a form of adultery. Zina carries a heavy penalty in Islam as it risks the health of the Muslim ummah by undermining the sanctity of marriage. According to Islam, marriage is the best institution for raising spiritually healthy children. Without marriage, the future of the next generation is put in danger.

Drinking alcohol or taking drugs is haram in Islam. Drinking alcohol is also a kabīra and is punishable in Islam. Alcohol is often the source of many of society’s crimes and family breakdown. But in Islam, alcohol’s worst effect is on a person’s soul, spirit and heart. It is detrimental to a person’s spiritual health for it opens the gates for Shaytān.


 
3.12 Niyya: Religious Intention as the Foundation of Islamic Practice Download Topic

The pivot which centers the purpose of all of our actions and beliefs in Islam is something called niyya. Niyya is the intention we have behind any religious act that we do as Muslims. What we would call a “good” niyya would be a something we do for Allah’s sake alone and not for someone or something else. In other words, as the Prophet Muhammad (s) and his Ahl al-Bayt (as) have taught us, a good niyya is a means for Qurbatan illa-Allāh. 

  

Qurbatan illa-Allāh means “to seek closeness to Allah.” So when you do an action, your niyya may be considered good if your sole intention is to be closer to God. If you’re performing a religious act for the sake of something or someone other than Allah, then you’re in trouble! 

  

So it’s pretty simple to see that the intentions we have behind the things we do really determines whether or not we’ve actually sinned, or if we’ve done something that will help our salvation and the salvation of the Muslim ummah.  

  

If you do something for God’s sake, you will get your rewards. If you don’t, you won’t get them. But there is more. Sometimes we make honest mistakes, like accidentally eating pork. If our intention or niyya was not to sin, then Allah will not take us to task for that sin. So what does this tell us? Niyya isn’t something that you just say before you do something, niyya is a state of the heart, it is your heart and soul's intention.  

 


 
3.13 Commanding the Good and Forbidding Evil in Islam Download Topic

The 7th and 8th items of the Furūʿ al-Dīn are called Commanding the Good (Amr bi al-Maʿrūf) and Forbidding Evil (Nahī ʿan al-Munkar).

Commanding the Good and Forbidding Evil are important social duties in Islam.

Through the Prophet Muhammad (s) and the Imāms of the Ahl al-Bayt (as), God has taught us what is good and what is bad. First we need to apply them to ourselves. Second, we need to apply them to others by educating them and encouraging them to do good and discouraging them from doing evil.

If you see someone not praying, try encouraging them to pray. If you see someone lying, try teaching them that lying is bad.

If the Ummah is healthy, we ourselves have a better chance at finding salvation. Think about it this way, will you or your kids be able to lead a healthy spiritual life in a sinful environment? It’s very hard to do so!

Commanding the Good and Forbidding Evil only has value if it is done for the sake of Allah.


 
 

4 Prophethood in Islam


 
4.1 A Brief Biography of the Prophet Muhammad (s): The Prophet’s Childhood (PART I of III) Download Topic

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4.2 Bio: The Prophet Muhammad as a Prophet of God (PART II of III) Download Topic

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4.3 A Brief Biography of the Prophet Muhammad (s): The Prophet’s Character (PART III of III) Download Topic

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4.4 The Prophet Muhammad (s) as Messenger and Teacher Download Topic

The Prophet Muhammad (s) was a messenger. Being a messenger is the next level beyond being a prophet for it means that the person in question is high enough to receive a new system of laws and even a divine scripture. A regular Prophet doesn’t get these, but a Messenger does!   

 

The Prophet (s) was also known as al-Amīn, which means “the truthful.” The Prophet (s) was truthful and honest in all of his dealings, businesses and relationships with people. For this reason, the entire community of Mecca trusted him and always brought him in to solve their issues for they could trust him only in being unbiased in his opinions.  

 

The Prophet (s) was also known as al-Muʿallim, for as a teacher he guided people’s hearts to the truth and did not force belief on them. 

 

The Prophet (s) was also known as al-Tabīb, that is, the doctor of people’s hearts and souls. His role in this regard was that of a spiritual healer and transformer. He cured the diseases that were in their hearts. This disease was none other than separation from God, which is the source of so many internal ills like anger, pride, egoism, jealousy and hatred. 

 

The Prophet (s) was also the “Seal of the Prophets” meaning that he was the last of all prophets. This is so because the message of Islam was complete and perfect, for all times, places and peoples. No longer was there a need for additional messages. How do you perfect perfection? 


 
4.5 The Prophet and his Relationships Download Topic

This lesson is about looking at the kinds or levels of relationships that the Prophet Muhammad (s) had. The ones we’ve chosen are his relationships with God, the Qur’an, his progeny, the Ummah and his companions.  

 

The Prophet Muhammad’s (s) relationship with Allah was founded on absolute trust, obedience, sincerity and love to Him. The relationship was that of total servitude. In short, the best word we can find for this is Islam, which means to submit and serve God alone.  

 

The Prophet’s greatest relationship with the Qur’an, aside from having been the vessel for its revelation, was that he was the Qur’an in action. 

 

We have plenty of companions at the time of the Prophet (s) who described him as the “walking and talking Qur’an.” This meant that he was a total embodiment of the Qur’an’s message. 

 

The Prophet knew the role that the Ahl al-Bayt (as) were to play in guiding humankind after him. He therefore spent his life training them so that they would be prepared when he would have to depart this world. 

 

The Prophet also gathered Muslims and created a new community called the Ummah. The intention of creating a Ummah or Islamic community was to break down tribal, geographic and racial barriers. These identities that people have, whether they are racial or tribal, are all mental creations and often beget hatred towards others and eventually lead to alienation from God. 


 
4.6 The Prophet’s Sunnah and Hadith Download Topic

The Sunnah is the sum of the actions, sayings and moral character of the Prophet Muhammad (s). The Sunnah is the way we learn about his manners, ethics and religious life. But how do we know what the Sunnah is? The way the Sunnah gets transmitted to us is through the hadiths which are chains of oral transmission. 

 

For practical reasons, the Qur’an cannot contain every single detail of Islam.  

 

If that were the case, the Qur’an would have had to be thousands of volumes and we all know that that would not have been practical. For this reason, the Sunnah and hadith were essential tools in expanding the meaning of the Qur’an. 

 

But not all hadiths are equal.  

 

The hadiths of the Prophet which have been transmitted by the Ahl al-Bayt are the most reliable. Why? Because the Ahl al-Bayt were infallible from mistakes and sins. 

 


 
4.7 Ghadīr and Arafah: The Two Last Sermons of the Prophet Download Topic

The two most important sermons that the Prophet Muhammad (s) delivered to the Muslim Ummah or Islamic community are the sermons at Ghadīr and Arafa. These sermons were given at the end of his life. The sermon of Ghadīr was the last. These two sermons were significant as they dealt with the two major elements of human life, 1) human salvation and guidance (which is what Ghadīr was about) and 2) the crisis of human relationships.  

 

In the sermon of Arafa, the Prophet foresaw two major crises that humanity was to face until the Day of Judgment. First, it was the abuse and ill-treatment of women. He thus exhorted Muslims from mistreating women for that was a sin and a great injustice. Mistreating women of course is not just in the form of physical abuse.  

 

In the sermon of Ghadīr, the Prophet (s) guaranteed a line of divine leadership and guidance after his death. The sermon clearly established that guidance and authority in Islam comes from two sources, namely the Qur’an and the Ahl al-Bayt (as). The first among the Ahl al-Bayt (as) to guide and take up the mantle of religious leadership was to be Imām Alī (as) who was to be the mawla or master of Muslims. 

 


 
4.8 Jesus and Mary in Islam Download Topic

The Arabic rendering of Jesus is ʿĪsā and the Arabic rendering of Mary is Maryam. According to Islam, Jesus is not God, which means that Mary is not the mother of God either. Furthermore, Islam also denies the concept of the Trinity. The Trinity is the belief that God has three persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Islam believes that God is wholly One, in other words, He is undivided and has only One Person.  

 

If Jesus is not God, then what is he? According to Islam, Jesus is a Prophet and Messenger of God or Allah. He is not only a Prophet, but he is one of the greatest Prophets of the religion of Islam. 

 

As a Prophet and a Muslim (a Muslim is someone who submits himself or herself to God), Jesus guided people on to the Straight Path to Allah. The straight path to Allah is worshiping God in His Oneness and Unity, avoiding sins and having good moral character. 

 

Jesus taught people through the Injīl or Gospel which was revealed to him by Allah. As Muslims we believe the Injīl to have been a divinely revealed Book, however, we do not believe it remained unchanged but its message was, over time, changed. Belief in Jesus and Mary, as well as in the original Injīl, is part of Islamic doctrine and without belief in them, one cannot be a Muslim.  

 

Mary was not like other women. Like an exalted Prophet of God, the Angel Gabriel had revealed himself to her communicating the message of Allah to her directly. Despite this however, mainstream Islam does not consider Mary to have been a Prophetess. 

 


 
 

5 The Qur'an and Hadith


 
5.1 Islam and Other Religions Download Topic

The Qur’an makes a distinction between two groups, the People of the Book (Ahl al-Kitāb) and polytheists and idol worshipers (mushrikīn). The mushrikīn are those who believe in, and worship gods other than Allah. The Ahl al-Kitāb refers to Jews, Christians and Sabians which are all, or for the most part, Abrahamic religions.  

 

This means that the religions of the Ahl al-Kitab can trace themselves back to the universal monotheistic message of the Prophet Abraham (as). There are a few fundamental differences between these two groups and how Islam views them. 

 

In terms of the mushrikīn, Islam believes that such beliefs are deviant and contradict the truth and reality. In fact, Islam goes as far as believing that worshiping idols is in essence a Satanic activity. As such, there is no truth behind idol worship but it is instead a deviation of God’s plan for humanity. 

 

The Ahl al-Kitāb, or People of the Book, tace their origins traced back to a divinely revealed religion and a divinely inspired Prophet. Islam, for example, believes in Moses and Jesus (peace be upon them both), their teachings as well as the Divine Books that were given to them by God.  

 

One cannot be a Muslim without belief in the divine nature of these religions. For this reason, Islam will allow Muslims to marry non-Muslims under specific conditions and contexts whereas under no circumstances does Islam allow Muslims to marry idols worshipers. 

 


 
5.2 What is the Qur’an? A Short Introduction to Islam’s Holy Book Download Topic

The Qur’an is the Holy Book of Islam. It would be an incorrect statement to say that the book is simply divinely inspired. The Holy Qur’an is the literal word of God that was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (s).  

 

None of the words contained in the Qur’an are the words of the Messenger of Allah. Think about it this way, if someone gives you a magazine article to read out loud which someone else has written, are you reading your own words or the words of someone else?  

 

The Qur’an contains all the central principals and guidelines we need in order to reach the salvation both as individuals and a collective Muslim community. In this sense, the Qur’an therefore acts like a constitution, that is, a guiding framework for our lives for avoiding sin, doing good works, having good manners and ultimately finding faith in God and success in the Hereafter. 

 

Despite the centrality of the Qur’an, it alone is not enough. Just like a constitution needs interpreters, so does the Qur’an. The Qur’an’s interpreter is the Messenger of Allah (s) and his Ahl al-Bayt (as). The Qur’an thus needs a teacher so that humankind will be able to understand and implement the Qur’an properly.  

 


 
5.3 The Structure of the Holy Qur’an Download Topic

The Qur’an was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (s) by Allah during the month of Ramadan on what is known as the Night of Power or Laylat al-Qadr. Laylat al-Qadr, the night of the Qur’an’s revelation, is the most important night of the Islamic calendar and praying on that night is the occasion through which Muslims can gain the most blessings from God.   

 

The medium through which God revealed the Qur’an was the archangel Gabriel. The Qur'an was all revealed to the Prophet (s) at once, but it was gradually revealed to people over a span of two decades. 

 

Each verse that was revealed to the Prophet (s) was revealed in a particular context. The reason for this is because each verse in the Qur’an has practical applicability. The teachings of the Qur’an are not abstract or theoretical, they are concrete and directly relevant to human life in this world as well as the Hereafter. The occasions of revelation in the Qur’an are what are called the shan al-nuzūl.  

 

The occasions of revelation provide us with the historical context, moment, situation as well as the persons involved when the verse was revealed. Through this we are better able to apply the Qur’an’s verses in a practical way in most or all aspects of our lives. Some of the shan al-nuzūl are evident in the Qur’an, but others must be derived from the authentic hadiths or transmitted sayings of the Prophet (s) and his Ahl al-Bayt (as). 


 
5.4 The Quran and Islamic law Download Topic

The Qur’an is the ultimate source of Islamic law. It sets the general principles on how we should understand the law. It sets the ethical and moral paradigms of what is acceptable and what is not acceptable behavior.  

 

For example, the Qur’an rules against stealing the property of orphans or forcing women into prostitution. These rules are important for they set the parameters of how far we can interpret Islamic law. So if we take these two examples, we know that any interpretation that would somehow legalize forced prostitution or theft of an orphan’s property would be totally invalid. 

 

Knowledge of the Qur’an is essential in understanding Islamic law, especially in our modern world. We often see extremists committing many barbaric acts and justifying them through a warped understanding of Islamic law.  

 

 But any in-depth reading of the Qur’an, and careful consideration of the moral and ethical principles that it preaches will make one quickly realize how unislamic the behavior of some violent extremists are.  

 

The Qur’an, however, does not contain all of Islamic law. As we said, it sets the general principles, especially moral and ethical principles, which guide the law. For example, the Qur’an asks us to pray, but it does not tell us how many units of prayer we should perform. Similarly, it tells us to fast, but it does not give us the details as to how to fast.  

 

So where are we supposed to get these details from? They are to be taken from the hadiths of the Messenger of God (s) and his Ahl al-Bayt (as). These hadiths give us the details, and the Qur'an gives us the general principles.  


 
5.5 The Qur’an, Allah and Humankind Download Topic

The Qur’an is the foundation of all of Islam. The Qur’an sets the foundational beliefs of all Muslims, which includes tawhid, that is, belief in the absolute oneness of God, the prophethood of the Prophet Muhammad (s) as well as the reality of the Day of Judgment.

 

Many times over, we’ve seen how the Prophet (s) is the explainer of Islam’s Holy Book. What we haven’t touched upon much, however, is how the Holy Qur’an is proof of the Messenger of Allah’s

 

(s) truthfulness, that is, it is a proof of his claim that he was indeed a Prophet from God. Every Prophet of Allah that wishes to establish himself as genuine Prophet must produce miracles.

 

The Qur’an was and is still the miracle of the Prophet Muhammad (s) for its sheer eloquence in Arabic was something which the Arabs of the time could not reproduce despite being having the top experts of Arabic eloquence in their communities.

 

One of the primary reasons for the existence of the Prophet and the Ahl al-Bayt was for them to expand and explain the Qur’an for us. Without the Ahl al-Bayt (as), the Qur’an remains incomplete, and similarly, without the Qur’an, the Ahl al-Bayt (as) cannot fullfill their mission.


 
5.6 Hadith and Sunnah, difference and variations Download Topic

Hadiths and Sunnah are often confusing terms for Muslims and non-Muslims alike. The distinction between the two are sometimes hard to make so what we’ll try to do here is try to unwrap some of these concepts so as to get a better understanding going.  

 

Sunnah means tradition and practice. As such, Sunnah refers to the practice and teachings of the Prophet Muhammad (s) and at times, that of his Ahl al-Bayt (as). Of course, everything the Prophet did was his own Sunnah, but in technical terms, sunnah refers to the good practices the Prophet did that are not necessarily obligatory. So, for example, one of the “sunnahs” of the Prophet was that he used to brush his teeth before prayer 

 

Hadith means “saying,” in other words, it refers to the transmitted sayings of the Prophet (s) and his Ahl al-Bayt (as). When we say transmitted, we mean that they were transmitted by a chain of people who heard the teachings of the Prophet and related it down onwards to other people until it was compiled into a book. 

 

So as the Sunnah refers to the practices of the Prophet, the hadiths are the vehicles through which much of the Sunnah is transmitted to us from. 


 
5.7 The Reliability of Hadiths Download Topic

Muslim scholars grade hadiths into a number of categories, the most popular of these categories are called sahīh (meaning reliable) and daʿīf (meaning weak). Obviously this does not exhaust the grading of categories for there are many more, but we just want to get an idea across at this point.  

So a hadith is composed of a chain of transmitters. A chain of transmission in a hadith works like this. Imagine person A hears that the Prophet said X from person B. Person B says he heard the hadith from person C, and person D says he heard it from a companion of the Prophet (s) who was present when the Messenger of Allah (s) stated X.  

 So now if we go back to our question, how do we know these people are truthful? Early in Islam’s history, Muslim scholars painstakingly researched about narrators. Often enough, they were contemporaries of these narrators. Through in depth study of these individuals, Muslim scholars would compile biographical dictionaries outlining their assessment of hadith narrators.  

 If all the narrators were reliable (both in their moral integrity and their memory) and the chain of transmission was unbroken, then the hadith would be labeled as sahīh, meaning authentic or reliable. If the chain of transmission contained people of dubious character, known to be dishonest, or at the very least, someone with a bad memory, then the hadith would be considered daʿīf or weak.

 By no means did this mean that the hadith was reliable from a historical perspective. All it meant was that Muslims were giving the hadith the benefit of the doubt and a probable chance of being an authentic utterance of the Prophet (s) or his Ahl al-Bayt (as).  


 
5.8 A Reflection on Verses of the Holy Qur’an Download Topic

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5.9 Hadith al-Thaqalayn Download Topic

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5.10 Imam Ali (as) and Nahj al-Balagha. Download Topic

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5.11 Taqlid and Tawḍih Al Masail Genre of Literature Download Topic

Few people have the time or ability to become scholars of Islamic law. Knowing the law and how it is derived is not an easy thing to do. It takes years of study, practice and time.  

 No one can know everything, except for Allah. Muslim jurists or scholars of Islamic law, are just like doctors. They are a group of people who have studied the law for years in order to uncover truths about divine law.

 The process of following a scholar of law is called taqlīd, which literally means to “imitate” where we imitate his laws. For taqlīd to be valid, the scholar in question must hold a number of characteristics. These characteristics include, among other things, being just, not having committed major sins and being knowledgeable about Islamic law.

 Since we're not experts, it is obligatory to do taqlīd. We must do personal research or ask knowledgeable members of the community on who the most knowledgeable marjaʿ is. A marjaʿ is a jurist whom one does taqlīd of.  

 When a marjaʿ gives a definitive verdict on a legal matter, this verdict is called a fatwa. Fatwas can be obtained in various ways. A popular way to get a fatwa nowadays is online. A person can find his or her marja’s website and look through the question and answer section of the site.  

 A Marja’s fatwas and legal views can usually be found in a genre of legal literature called Tawḍīḥ al-Masā’il, which can also be pronounced as Tawẓīh al-Masā’il - meaning  “explication of legal questions/problems.”  

 The word Tawḍīh al-Masā’il is usually used when the contents of the work are in Persian. Arabic versions of Tawḍīh al-Masā’il are usually called Minhāj al-Sālihīn which means “the path of the righteous.”


 
 

6 Measuring Good and Bad in Islam


 
6.1 The Effects of Our Actions in this World Download Topic

Every single action in this world has an effect. When we walk, our feet press on the ground and disturbs any small creature it touches. When we sit on our chairs and breath, the act of breathing alters the make up the air in our room as we breath in oxygen and breath out carbon dioxide. 

 

Our good or evil acts also work the same way. They not only affect our souls, but they also affect our families, societies and even the environment.  

 

Let’s start with the soul. According to a hadith from the Prophet Muhammad (s), every time a person sins, a black spot appears on his or her soul. A sin isn’t always or necessarily a pure evil act. One of the words for sin in the Qur’an is khattā, which in old Arabic was an arching term meaning to “miss the mark.” 

 

With the context of sin and guidance, sinning is to miss the purpose of life, which is friendship or wilāya with God. When one sins, one chooses a pleasure over friendship with Allah. In this sense, one deviates more and more from God. This distance creates a disturbance in the soul whereby a spiritual black stain appears. Enough of these stains ruins a person’s salvation and substitutes heaven for hell. 

 

The personal effects of sin are many. Distance from God’s light makes us vulnerable to Shaytān for he comes to fill in the void. As Shaytān or the devil comes closer, the more susceptible we become to his suggestions. Perhaps the worst of his suggestions or “whispers” or waswasa are those of despair, worry and anxiety which usually come in the form of panic attacks. 


 
6.2 The Gray Areas of Islamic Law and Morality Download Topic

Haram and halal are pretty clear in Islam. Something that is haram is morally wrong to commit. It is morally wrong in one or two ways. The act is either intrinsically wrong, such as murdering an innocent person for the sake of money. At other times, the act is morally wrong in so far as it is an act of disobedience to Allah (swt), like a Muslim eating food that Islamic law forbids. 

 

Other acts, just like haram things, are intrinsically good or circumstantially good. For example, helping the poor and helpless are often intrinsically good acts. Brushing one’s teeth may be circumstantially good if done for the sake of Allah.  

 

These acts are not hard to categorize. There are, however, other categories and deeds that are more difficult to categorize as either good or bad deeds. Most of these deeds fall under the legal category of “mubāh” meaning that something is legally neutral and hence morally neutral.  

 

This lesson overviews the details of mubāh and makrūh in Islam. 


 
6.3 Heaven and Hell in Islam Download Topic

Heaven is a place where everything in life has purpose. It is a place of complete comfort, joy and happiness where all human and divine relationships reach perfection. The Qur’an often describes heaven as a place that is mostly immersed in nature, with rivers, trees and all kinds of fruits. It also describes it as a place where one’s marital relations are in complete harmony.  

 

Allah’s description of heaven in the Qur’an, which by no means exhausts the full reality of it, is meant to entice human beings to be better. If pleasures in this world must be sacrificed for the sake of Islam, that kind of sacrifice will be compensated for with something even greater in the next life. The point, however, is that in the meantime, one must cultivate oneself spiritually and abstain from sin in order to find salvation. 

 

 

Hell on the other hand is dark, full of fire and horrors. In the Qur’anic narrative, it is meant to be a warning to people who want to commit evil in this world instead of choosing the proper moral life. The fire in hell is not the same fire of this world, but it is real. It not only puts bodies in pain, but it also burns the souls.  

 

The effect of belief in hell is to make one desist from committing bad deeds in this world. Sometimes people commit evil when they think no one can see them and they think they can get away with whatever they do. However, when a person knows that God looks over everything people do, and that hell exists … then real and genuine belief in hell will often restrain a person from committing those immoral acts.  


 
6.4 Life and Death in Islam Download Topic

 

Muslims believe that this life is a trial and test in preparation for the Hereafter. Allah says the following in the Qur’an:  

 

And I did not create the jinn and mankind except to worship Me. (Chapter 51, verse 56 of the Holy Qur’an) 

 

The purpose of our creation is not simply belief in Allah. If belief in Allah is all that counts, then there is no reason for Iblīs or the Devil to be cursed by God. The purpose of human existence, and the ultimate preparation for the Hereafter is to establish a healthy and good relationship with God. By purifying our souls and having a good relationship with Allah, we find salvation.  

 

This world therefore acts as a nurturing ground for our souls to be saved in the next life. As the Prophet Muhammad (s) once said, “this world is the farming field of the Hereafter” 

 

In this world, we learn from our mistakes, we face problems and learn to overcome them. By learning to tame our desires and our egos, we purify our souls and open them up to the Light of God. The purified soul or heart is the only thing that counts in the next life.  

  


 
6.5 Guidance According to Islam Download Topic

Guidance and salvation comes under many names in the Qur’an. The word for guidance is called hidāyah. But perhaps the most all-encompassing term for guidance and salvation in the Qur’an is something called Sirāt al-Mustaqīm, which means the Straight Path. 

 

Being on the Straight Path, that is, being in a state of guidance is not simply a matter of belief. Indeed, one must be strictly monotheistic and not associate any other gods to Allah. 

 

But in addition to belief, what is integral to guidance in this world is also developing moral character, leading the morally good life which above all means to choose what is good and right over wrong and evil no matter how difficult it may be. Without the moral life, one cannot be guided and simple beliefs (no matter how correct the beliefs are) are of little value. 

 

What is the moral life? What are the right choices? What is evil? The verse gives us a few good examples. They are: being good to parents, our families as a whole, treating people with dignity and helping them when they are in need. It is also being kind to those who are weaker than us. When doing the good, avoiding pretentiousness and being sincere is necessary in Islam. 

 


 
6.6 Fate and the Consequences of our Choices in Islam Download Topic

 

According to Islam, our free will in this world is limited. Much of what we think is under our control, such as the results of many of our actions, are actually not in our hands. There are millions of factors that play into how our choices and events unfold in this world.  

 

These include our environment, upbringing and a predetermined set of rules, such as unconscious cultural and social norms that mediate our choices as well as the results of these choices.  

 

For example, we may be raised in such a way that would make us more likely to commit a deed that society would consider a crime (like not paying taxes) and based on that deed, a set of rules (beyond our control) would be applied to us, like imprisonment. 

 

Despite our environment, we still have some limited maneuverability in choosing the direction we want to take in life. Allah sends Prophets and Divine Books in our lives to show us, despite what our environment tells us, what right and wrong is. Based on these teachings, we are given some space in making some form of God-directed, rational choice.   

 

The primary recipient of these consequences are our selves, that is, our souls. Every single choice that we make in this world brings about two things, either they take us away from God, or they strengthen the bond and relationship we have with the Creator of the world.  

 


 
6.7 The Effect of Culture and Environment in Shaping our Religious Choices Download Topic

Islam acknowledges the large role the environment plays in our religious life and by extension, the choices we make in the kinds of deeds we do, good or bad.  

 

Many hadiths from the Prophet and his Ahl al-Bayt (as) ask us to look at the family backgrounds of those whom we want to marry. It also asks us to be proper role models for our kids and warns us about the kinds of people we choose as friends.  

 

Probably the biggest influence in our lives is our parents. We often think that we are completely different from them, that they grew up in a different generation than we did. But we are often unaware of how much they’ve influenced us in terms of our patience, anger control, anxieties or even manners. No matter how strained our relationships are with our parents, we inherit a lot of our attitudes from them. 

 

Much of the teachings of Islam plays on our free will. It teaches us that we are to keep whatever good traits we inherited from our environment and direct them living a God-pleasing life. On the other hand, it teaches us to forgo the negative traits that we inherited from our parents, friends, tribes, culture and so on and so forth.  


 
6.8 Major Sins in Islam Download Topic

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6.9 Why Allah Allows People to Sin Download Topic

On this earth, we have the ability to go about in two ways. We may either choose good or moral paths, or we may choose evil and immorality. Allah has given us the ability to do good. However, the ability or choice to do good comes at a price. This price is the ability to do evil as well.  

 

This ability we speak of, that is, the ability to do good or evil is what we call free will. Free will is the ability for us as individuals to make choices. In technical terms, is the power of acting without the constraint of necessity, determinism or fate. It is the ability to act at one’s own behest or discretion.  

 

 If Allah were to take away our ability to do evil, then He would have to take away our free will. In other words, the price of taking away evil is to take away good. Now few people would think that that is a good thing! 

 

There is another way of looking at the matter as well. God’s intervening in our sinful behaviors and oppression of others is a total package. When we ask the question of why God doesn’t intervene when people commit sins or evil acts in this world, we should be careful as to what we are wishing for. For example, why doesn’t God zap our mouths when we lie? Why doesn’t He twist our wrists when we cheat in our exams or taxes?  Why doesn’t God zap us when we insult and belittle our spouses or children or when we gossip about others?  

 

In a world like that, people would essentially be robbed of their own free will, or at the very least, the world would lose its purpose of being a testing grounds for us and a place that nurtures our spiritual growth. 

 


 
6.10 Repentance and Forgiveness of Sins in Islam Download Topic

The Arabic word for repentance is tawbah. Tawbah literally means to “return” or to “turn back.” In other words, when we sin and disobey Allah, what we’re doing is that we’re turning away from Him instead of moving towards Him. The act of tawbah is to know that one made a mistake and by acknowledging that mistake, one turns around to God and seeks His forgiveness.  

 

Allah forgives us as He knows that we are weak and fallible. He knows that we get distracted and we make wrong choices. He knows that we make mistakes, sometimes out of ignorance and sometimes out of selfishness whilst knowing better. By giving us the opportunity to repent, and the opportunity to be forgiven, Allah demonstrates that He is not interested in punishing us or throw us in hell, He is interested in reforming us and making us better people who live moral lives and are God-conscious in all that they do.  

 

When Allah sees that we have repented and have tried to change, He even takes our sins and turns them into good deeds. This is proof that punishment and hell is the last thing Allah wants for us. 

 


 
6.11 The Three Kinds of Rights in Islam Download Topic

In Islam, we have three kinds of rights, the right of the self, the rights of others and the rights of God. The rights of the self is to dignify oneself. This means that one should respect one’s body, and how one utilizes one’s time.  Our fourth Imam said in this regard: 

 

And the right of yourself incumbent upon you is that you employ it in obeying God; then you deliver to your tongue its right, to your hearing its right, to your sight its right, to your hand its right, to your leg its right, to your stomach its right, to your private part its right, and you seek help from God in all that 

 

The rights of others is to be kind to them, in their absence, in their periods of difficulty and when they make mistakes. Our fourth Imam said the following about the rights of our neighbors and friends: 

 

The right of your neighbor is that you guard him when he is absent, honor him when he is present, and aid him when he is wronged. You do not pursue anything of his that is shameful; if you know of any evil from him, you conceal it. If you know that he will accept your counsel, you counsel him in that which is between him and you. You do not forsake him in difficulty, you release him from his stumble, you forgive his sin, and you associate with him generously. And there is no strength save in God. 

 

 

The rights of God is to believe that He is the absolute sustainer of everything and that nothing or no one has independent power or ability to do things outside of God’s prerogatives. Our fourth Imam said in this regard: 

 

The greatest right of God against you is that you worship Him without associating anything with Him. When you do that with sincerity (ikhlas), He has made it binding upon Himself to give you sufficiency in the affair of this world and the next. 

 


 
6.12 Sinning Against Others and their Delayed Punishment Download Topic

If Allah hates injustice and evil, why doesn’t He punish it immediately? Why the delay? Doesn’t this encourage people to do more bad deeds?  

 

This question can be answered on two levels. The first level is that when Allah punishes a sin to its full extent in this world, it is an act of mercy for punishment in the next world is much, much worse. If a person fails to see much of a punishment vetted out against him or her in this life, you know that he or she is in real trouble.  

 

The second level is that all sins are punished in this world. What we call delay is a delay in “full punishment”. 

 

People are punished in this world for all the misdeeds they do. First, the punishment comes through the pollution and darkening of one’s soul. Second, God is often subtle in His punishments where it comes to us in ways we don’t expect or notice. 

 

 


 
6.13 Kufr in Islam Download Topic

Among Abrahamic religions, particularly with Christianity and Islam, there is a popular approach to salvation. This approach states that in order to enter heaven, you need to have believed in a particular set of religious doctrines. To disbelieve in them means to enter Hell in the next life.  

 

The word kufr is used ubiquitously in the Qur’an. Just a moment ago, we mentioned how kufr is often translated as disbelief and kafir as disbeliever. However, we said that according to the Qur’anic world view, this understanding of kufr is highly problematic.   

 

Let’s look at the verse that we quoted just now. It said that “there came to them that which they recognized, they disbelieved in it”. The word used for disbelieve is kafarū which comes from the root word kufr.  

 

Kufr literally means to bury or cover something. In its religious sense, it means to cover up the truth. If one is covering up the truth, doesn’t mean that you believe in it on some level if you've acknowledged it’s the truth? In this sense, kufr is much more than just disbelief.  


 
6.14 Trivializing the Harām Download Topic

  

We live in society. We are all brought up within particular cultures.  These cultures teach us a variety of dos and don’ts, virtues and taboos. Some of what is culturally learnt is in sync with Islam, but others are not. An unfortunate reality is that the sins that we consider culturally unproblematic are often taken lightly.  

 

Some of our cultures, for example, may not consider backbiting or having intimate relationships with the opposite gender as a moral problem. Unfortunately, this is not unheard of among some Muslim communities nowadays. 

 

Although Islam condemns backbiting and fornication, sometimes these sins are trivialized as they are culturally accepted. A common approach is to play on God’s mercy where it is argued that God is so infinitely merciful that He will forgive these sins in the Hereafter. 

 

The first and most obvious problem with this view is that it assumes that God will forgive these sins. Although He is merciful, there is no guarantee that He will not take us up to task on the harām acts we’ve committed. This approach is as presumptuous about God as it is naïve. It assumes a false certitude that we know what God will do.  

 

To learn more about this subject, please tune in to the full version of the lesson. 


 
6.15 Benefits of Islamic Law in this World Download Topic

Everything we do in this world, every action we undertake inevitably affects our souls. Directly or indirectly, it plays a role in our salvation. The purpose of our lives is to worship Allah. 

 

The Qur’an says: 

 

And I did not create the jinn and mankind except to worship Me 

 

(Chapter 51, verse 56 of the Holy Qur’an) 

 

This verse does not mean that the reason Allah created us was to have people worship Him, it means that the goal of our life in this world is to worship Allah. In other words, the goal of our lives is not simply believing that God exists, but it is to have a good relationship with Him.  

 

As Allah is our Creator and Nurturer, He also wants us to live good lives in this world. A good life does not necessarily mean a life of luxury, but it does mean a life of dignity and honor. These are characteristics which either poor or rich can assume. Living a dignified and honorable life requires a certain degree of harmony in all aspects of our lives and in all our relationships.  

 

Allah’s commands to us isn’t just there to purify our souls and ensure success in the Hereafter, but it is also to bring harmony in our lives so that we may have dignity and honor in this world as well. 

 

Three of the areas this lecture looks at are marriage, having children and not drinking alcohol. 


 
6.16 Good and Bad Deeds: The Spiritual Consequences of our Choices Download Topic

It is often thought that a person can refrain from making choices. Perhaps no where is this more common than with the question of right and wrong, or religion itself. Being irreligious is a choice in itself.

 

Similarly, by not choosing right and wrong, one does make a choice and that choice is not only acquiescing to what is wrong, but it is also choosing to live a life of heedlessness. Heedlessness is a life of indifference and negligence towards one’s duties with Allah.

 

Avoiding choice is thus impossible unless one is dead, unconscious or afflicted with some serious condition that robs us of a normal life. Choice is an essential part of being a human being.

 

All of our choices play a direct role in shaping our hearts. By hearts we mean our souls. If everything in life is centered on choice, then everything affects our hearts. They can either purify our hearts, or corrupt them.

 

How is the soul or heart purified and how is it corrupted? A pure heart is a heart that has nothing in it except for God. It is a heart that is focused on pleasing God and doing good for humankind.


 
 

7 The Legacy of the Prophet Muhammad (s) and his Ahl al-Bayt (as)


 
7.1 Islam and Knowledge: the Importance of Islamic Education Download Topic

The word education comes from the latin word educatio which meant to “rear” or to “bring up.” Similarly, the word for education in Islam is tarbīyah, meaning to rear, bring up or nurture someone. 

Education and the acquisition of knowledge therefore function in two ways in Islam:  

 

  1. Knowledge is not random facts and information. The ultimate goal of knowledge is not careerism or about making money either. Knowledge is supposed to leave an imprint on a person’s heart and soul. It is to transform them to the better, it is to set a person to the path of enlightenment and closeness to God. 
  2. Education or tarbīyah works hand in hand with knowledge. Tarbīyah is there to make us dignified human beings. It is there to fundamentally transform us into loving, compassionate and moral beings. It is a form of both spiritual and as well as bodily discipline. One is trained to want the good in others, to control one’s emotions, to develop empathy and compassion for others and so on and so forth.  

 

The ultimate goal of knowledge and tarbīyah is the creation of a mu’min, that is, someone who has true faith in God and in whose heart one finds the living light of God. In one perspective, Islam, as a social system, is there to act as a cradle to nurture īmān.  

 

Who are we to gain knowledge and education from? In Islam, we are encouraged to ask others when we do not know. However, we are also asked to make sure that our sources of knowledge are credible. A troubling phenomenon that exists today is that of self-created scholars where people think that simply by reading books one can become a scholar. 

 

When it comes to knowledge and education, we need to be very careful as it directly effects us in the afterlife.  

 

Until Next Time, Thank you for watching. As-salāmu ʿAlaykum wa rahmatullāhi wa barakātuh


 
7.2 The Ahl al-Kisa Download Topic

One of the most important hadiths regarding the Ahl al-Bayt (as) is the hadith of Kisa. The Hadith of Kisa is the hadith that sets up the Ahl al-Bayt (as) as the foundational and infallible guides of Islam.  The hadith mentions the divine role of the 5 holy ones, namely the Prophet, Imam Ali, Fatima, Imam Hasan and Imam Husayn. The 5 are mentioned as they were the only ones who were living at the time and were the ones who came under the cloak.

 

 In the hadith of Kisa, the Prophet (s) makes it clear that his wives are not part of it. He makes it clear that the people of Kisa are purified, infallible and are the guides of mankind and that true faith in Islam cannot be attained without holding them are role models and guides.


 
7.3 Imamah in the Qur’an Download Topic

The Prophets before Prophet Ibrahim (as) were local Prophets for their own people. By becoming an Imam, Ibrahim became the first Prophet to be a guide for all of humankind instead of being confined to one region only.

 

As a product of having becoming an Imam, the Prophet Ibrahim (as) also assumed power over creation and became the metaphysical light through which humankind could to be guided towards God, either through direct personal guidance, or indirectly through his guiding light without meeting the person.

 

In other words, just like Satan could misguide millions of people through the metaphysical realm, Ibrahim (as), by the permission of Allah, could guide millions of people across the world through the metaphysical realm as well.

 

This was a new status that no one had attained before him. This is then the meaning of Imamah according to the Qur’an and is the status which the twelve Imams of the Ahl al-Bayt (as) inherited.

 

So what’s the difference between Prophethood and Imamah? Prophethood is where a person receives direct revelation from God in order to carry out a particular task in the world, such as conveying a message or fulfilling a specific mission. Imamah is a cosmic status, it is where a person becomes the metaphysical vehicle of guidance for all of the world and acquires power over all of creation.

 

One does not necessarily need to be a Prophet in order to acquire this status but the only non-Prophets who were worthy of this status were the Imams of the Messenger of Allah’s Household. The Prophet Muhammad (s) was the greatest of all Imams.


 
7.4 Fatima al-Zahrah (as) Download Topic

Fatima bint Muhammad (bint means daughter of), or better known as Fatima al-Zahra (as), was born around 615 A.D. and died around the year 632 A.D. She was the only living biological child of the Prophet (s) who survived until adulthood. She was born from the Prophet’s (s) first wife Khadija.

 

Fatima was also the wife of the first Imam, Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib (as). Fatima is important in Islam for many reasons, however, the most outstanding of these reasons is being the mother of all of the 11 Imams. In other words, all eleven Imams, starting from her own direct sons Imam Hasan (as) and Imam Husayn (as), are descendants of her. Without Fatima, Imamah would not have continued in this world and would have ended with Imam Ali (as).

 

Fatima (as) is also the means through which some of the most important practices of Islam were conveyed to Muslims. For example, the Tasbīh of Fatima al-Zahra (Fatima al-Zahra’s Glorification of God) is a contemplative and meditative practice of recalling God through prayer beads. In almost all of the ritual practices that Muslims have been recommended to do, the Tasbīh of Fatima is one of the most meritorious and the most widely practiced among Muslims today.


 
7.5 A Brief Look at the Lives of the Imams (Imam al-Hasan until Imam Muhammad al-Baqir) Download Topic

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7.6 A Brief Look at the Lives of the Imams (Imam Jafar al-Sadiq until Imam Hasan al-Askari) Download Topic

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7.7 A Brief Look at the Life and Importance of Imam al-Mahdi (aj) Download Topic

Imam Muhammad ibn Hasan al-Mahdi (aj) is the son of our 11th Imam, Imam Hasan al-Askari (as). Al-Mahdi means “the guided one.” He was born in the year 869 A.D. He is also known by other titles, such as Imam al-Zaman, or Sahib al-Asr, meaning the Imam of the Time, or the Master of the Time.

His mother was a slave named Narjis. He was born in a very tumultuous time. Towards the end of Imam Hasan al-Askari’s life, the authorities of the Caliphate were fed up with the existence of Imamate. Over the generations, they had tried through various means to eradicate the power and influence of the Imams over the Muslim community.

He is called the Imam of the Time because he will be the Imam who will establish global justice on earth after being filled with oppression and evil.

In his mission to establish global justice, the Islamic tradition believes that Jesus (as) will be sent to earth to accompany Imam al-Mahdi (aj). Jesus’ main task will be to bring Jews and Christians under the fold and guidance of the living Imam.

The death of Imam al-Mahdi (aj) is believed to trigger the complete end of the world and the end of life on earth. After the global death and destruction of the world, the world will be brought back and humans will be resurrected for their final Judgment by God.


 
7.8 Salawat and Atonement in Islam Download Topic

The word salawat is plural which means to send blessings. In Islamic practice, the salawat is conferring blessings upon the Prophet Muhammad (s) and his Ahl al-Bayt (as). The salawat can be said in almost any context. In all five daily obligatory prayers, one has to confer blessings upon the Prophet and His Family. The formula is as follows: 

 

Allahumma Sallī ʿAlā Muhammad wa Āli Muhammad 

 

“Oh Allah, send your blessings upon Muhammad and upon the progeny of Muhammad” 

 

According to all major schools of Islam, if the salawat is not said during prayer, the Islamic prayer will be considered null and void.  

 

There are, however, more benefits to saying the salawat in addition to having it as a necessary condition for the acceptance of prayer.  

 

According to one hadith from Imam Jafar al-Sadiq (as), it is said that: 

 

One who sends 10 Salawat on the Prophet and his family, Allah and the Angels send 100 Salawats upon him, and one who sends 100 Salawats upon the Prophet and his family, then Allah and the Angels send 1000 Salawat upon him. Have you not heard the words of Allah, Glorious and Magnified be Him, (here the Imam’s own words ends, and he recites the following verse ) “It is He who confers blessing upon you, and His angels [ask Him to do so] that He may bring you out from darknesses into the light. And ever is He, to the believers, Merciful.” (Chapter 33, verse 43) 

 

This hadith is quite telling as it outlines the function of the salawat. The salawat activates or establishes a celestial response whereby God and His angels send their blessings upon the one reciting it. The act of God sending His blessings upon a person is grace. As such, reciting the salawat is a means through which one acquires the grace of God. Grace refers to God's unmerited favor that He confers upon us.  

 


 
7.9 The Companions (Sahaba) of the Prophet According to the Qur’an Download Topic

The word companion in Arabic and Islam is sahabi, and its plural is sahaba. Historically speaking, we are aware that the Prophet (s) had good companions. In the Qur’an, a good companion is called a “follower of the Prophet” or muttabiʿ. However, as in the verses that were  just read out from the Qur’an, we see that God is quite critical of the Prophet's companions. 

 

For most Sunnis, being a companion of the Prophet (s) automatically makes a person good, faithful and just. This was the opinion of many Sunni scholars of hadith, including Abu Hatim al-Razi (d. 890), the great 10th century Sunni scholar of ilm al-rijal (ilm al-rijal is the science of assessing hadith transmitters). 

 

For others, as the argument goes, the companions may have had flaws, but in general, their flaws were the outcome of mistakes in their understanding of Islam and not ill intent.  

 

For the Shia however, this narrative of the companion contradicts the Qur’an. The Qur’an, the Shia believe, and like the numerous verses we read so far, attests that the companions of the Prophet can not only be unjust, but they can also be hypocrites and enemies of Islam. This doesn't mean that they are all bad, but it just suggests that being a companion of the Prophet doesn't automatically make a person good.  

 


 
7.10 Clerical Hierarchies in Muslim Communities Download Topic

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7.11 Mosques in Islam Download Topic

The word Mosque is the English equivalent of the word Masjid in Arabic. The word Masjid comes from the word sajada in Arabic, which means to prostrate. 

 

The primary function that Mosques play for Muslims is their role as a gathering place for communal prayers and worship. It is thus designed to be a means for communal salvation. 

 

In Islam, prayers are done both privately and publicly. The Mosque caters to both. People pray privately in Mosques for various reasons. For example, they may do their obligatory or recommended prayers. They may also perform iʿtikaf which is a practice of confining oneself to the Mosque for a number of days in order to perform religious rituals and activities. 

 

The Mosque is also a place for communal prayers. The five daily obligatory prayers are conducted in Mosques. The Friday prayers are also usually conducted in Mosques. In many Muslim countries, cities or areas within large cities have special Mosques dedicated for Friday prayers. These Friday Prayer Mosques are much larger in size so as to accommodate a larger number of people.  

 


 
7.12 The Philosophy of Karbala and Majalis Download Topic

Our fourth Imām’s compendium of supplications, al-Ṣaḥīfah al-Sajjādīyah, is one of the best and most credible sources available to us delineating the true message of Karbala. Perhaps one of the most poignant stories of Imām as-Sajjād (as) tragic life was the initial phase of his captivity. The Imām was deprived of food, ridiculed and dragged around even after seeing his family slaughtered.

 

Humayd ibn Muslim was an individual tasked by Yazīd’s army to guard over Imām al-Sajjād and the remaining members of the Ahl al-Bayt (as). Despite his harsh treatment, Ḥumayd expected anger from the Imām. But instead, he saw him humbly looking down and crying whilst reciting the following supplication to Allah (swt):

 

Let good flow out of my hands upon mankind and dissolve it not by having them feel indebted. Give me the highest of moral dispositions and protect me from haughtiness. (supplication #20 in al-Ṣaḥīfah al-Sajjādīyah)

 

Imām al-Sajjād (as) was not concerned with revenge or destroying Yazid. He knew that by destroying one Yazīd at that moment, three more would replace him. Instead, he was concerned with the moral improvement and spiritual self-building of humankind. Any crime that takes place in this world is rooted in a deficiency somewhere in one’s akhlāq or moral disposition.

 

Fakhr, or haughtiness, is a moral shortcoming in which one feels superior to others by perceiving them to be his or her inferiors. Fakhr is dangerous because it is the first step to a sense of entitlement through which one justifies his or her own misdeeds.

 

Imām as-Sajjād, having experienced the tragedy of Karbala, is teaching us that even in the darkest of moments we should strive for the greater good, not seek rewards from people and above all, maintain inner humility.

 

Imām as-Sajjād thus teaches us that the purpose of Karbala and Imām al-Ḥusain’s (as) mission was to impart on humankind the importance of maintaining integrity, proper spiritual and moral disposition even in the darkest of times.


 
7.13 A Brief Biography of Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib (as) Download Topic

Imam Ali’s (as) father was none other than Abū Tālib, the guardian of the Kaʿba and the protector of Islam and the Prophet Muhammad (s). Abū Tālib was therefore one of the greatest Muslims to have ever lived in the world. 

 

Imam Ali (as) was born around the year 599 A.D. He was the first and only person ever to be born inside the Kaba. His mother was Fatimah bint Asad. Fatimah not only raised Imam Ali, but also raised the Prophet Muhammad (s) in his childhood.  

 

Fatimah, like her husband Abū Tālib, was one of the first to believe in the Prophet’s message. She emigrated with him to Medina when persecution in Mecca was at its highest. Given the all the care and sacrifices she had shown the Messenger of Allah, the Prophet wrapped her with his own clothes as a sign of devotion and gratefulness to her. 

 

Imam Ali (as) was the first male to believe in the Prophethood of Muhammad (s). The Prophet Muhammad had taken Imam Ali into his household and raised him like a son. There he taught him the inner secrets of spirituality, morality, justice and knowledge of God. Imam Ali was to grow up to be the staunchest of the Prophet’s supporters and defenders.  

 

Imam Ali (as) was also the first successor of the Prophet and the first Imam after him. He was the source of most of Islam’s mystical teachings as well as its moral message.  

 

To learn more, please tune into the full version of this lesson. 

 


 
7.14 The Battle of Karbala: A Brief History Download Topic

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8 Islamic Relationships, Sects and Conflicts


 
8.1 Misconceptions about Shi’ism Download Topic

In this lesson, we cover a variety of misconceptions, these include: 

 

  1. Shias believe the Qur’an is distorted. 
  2. Shias believe Imam Ali (as) is God and they worship him.  
  3. Shias worship rocks in their prayers 
  4. Shias believe Sunnis are non-Muslims 
  5. Shias don’t believe in Zakat 
  6. Shias believe that the Angel Jibril (as) made a mistake as he was supposed to give revelation and prophethood to Imam Ali (as) and not the Prophet Muhammad (s).  
  7. Shias believe that the 12th Imam, Imam Muhammad al-Mahdi (aj), has been hiding in a cave for over a thousand years and when the time is right, he will come out of the cave and conquer the world. 


 
8.2 Major Sects of Islam Download Topic

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8.3 Islam and Religious Conflicts Download Topic

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8.4 Islam and Rights Download Topic

In Islam, the fundamental denominator of human relations are rights, duties and responsibilities. The word for “right” in Islam is called haqq (pl. huquq). Incidentally, the premodern Islamic word for duties and responsibilities is also haqq.

 

What this tells us is that both go hand in hand, in other words, rights don’t exist in a vacuum, any right that is accorded to a person also comes with a series of responsibilities. For example, in Islam, a child has the right to be nurtured by his or her parents, however, this child also has the responsibility of obeying his or her parents. 

 

As such, haqq is dualistic in nature.  

 

Haqq is not only the denominator of all of our relations, but it is also the denominator of all of our sins. Any sin in Islam goes against a certain kind of haqq. For example, one has a responsibility in ensuring one’s own salvation by keeping one’s faith and spiritual heart clean. This means that one should avoid doing things that will harm one’s self, both physically, mentally as well as spiritually. 

 

Our community also has a right to live in a clean spiritual environment that is devoid of spiritual polluters. Therefore, committing the sins of adultery, for example, are infringements upon the rights of a community. This is because sins like adultery break down families, ruin the lives of children, and set precedents that if repeated enough times, become normalized in the eyes of people.  

 

Haqq is also a responsibility that humans must have towards God. Above all, the greatest responsibility of humanity is to be grateful to Allah for it is He who has given us life and the opportunity for eternal joy and bliss in return for a few acts of obedience. 


 
8.5 Sunnism and Shi’ism, beginnings and historical developments. Download Topic

 

There are many ways to define what Sunnism and Shi’ism are. In the case of Shi’ism, the sect solidified over two centuries as various successive Imams worked to create a self-contained and systematic Islamic school of thought. The foundation that the Imams laid down were to be further codified by later Twelver Shia scholars.   

 

What is understood as Shi’ism is a school which sees select members of the Prophet’s (s) family, starting with Imam Ali (as), as his only legitimate and divinely appointed successors. As successors, they were the only infallible source for divine guidance and Islam's interpretation. 

 

Sunnism is a variegated tradition with many different, competing narratives of itself. If there is one thing that unites Sunnis today, it is the belief in the legitimacy of the first four caliphs, namely Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman and Imam Ali (as). It is the belief that these four caliphs and companions of the Prophet (s) were righteous and sources of Islamic guidance and knowledge.  

 

 Sunnis also believe that the majority, if not all the companions of the Prophet (s), as well as his wives, were righteous servants of God and authentic sources for transmitting and teaching knowledge about Islam.  

 

What we call Sunnism today went through two major phases in history. The first phase is called proto-Sunnism, and the other is Sunnism which consolidated in the 11th century as an off-shoot of the Ahl al-Hadith movement. 

 

To learn more, please tune into the full version this lesson. 

Special Topics

 
 

9 Independent Topics


 
9.1 Muslim Converts – Welcome to Islam! Download Topic

So now you’re a Muslim. Welcome to Islam! Converting to Islam is not a new thing. Many people convert to Islam. However, not many people, including people who were born into the religion, are aware of the implications of being a Muslim aside some basic beliefs and some ritual actions.  

 

Our curriculum is full of lessons covering the basics of Islam, its creed, and dos and don’ts. So as you can guess, our goal here isn’t to rehash all of that as you can simply browse and learn on your own at this point.  

 

What we do want to do though is go over some of things you’ve achieved as a new Muslim as well as the challenges that you will face as a Muslim. In terms of what you have achieved, remember that now you are an ambassador to Islam. That is, you are a representative of the religion. So in this sense, you need to be careful in how you conduct yourself as a Muslim as now people will pay more attention to you.  

 

That’s the easy part. Being a Muslim will also present itself with new challenges. From our own experience, we’ve seen that the challenges usually revolve around personal and social struggles rather than issues with Islamic creed.  

 

In our lesson, we look at the following challenges that converts often face: 

 

  1. Loneliness 
  1. Despair 
  1. Muslims giving Islam a bad name 

 

Make sure to tune into the full lesson to learn how to deal with these challenges.


 
9.2 Basic Dos and Don’ts of Being a Muslim Download Topic

When people first convert to Islam, they will quickly realize that their lives are significantly different compared to the lives they had before converting.   

 

Islam is not just a religion of beliefs. It is a religion of action. As such, it is a religion that makes demands on people from the time they wake up until they go to sleep. In this lesson, we’re going to go over some of the major areas where you will see your life change as a convert to Islam. 

 

These areas are the following:  

 

  1. Waking up very early in the morning for prayer. 
  2. Cleanliness and ritual purity (going to the bathroom isn’t going to be the same again, you will have to be a lot stricter in your washing and follow step by step rules) 
  3. Sexual relations with your spouse (you will be required to perform the major ablution after relations, you won’t be able to carry on your day as usual as you will have to be in a state of ritual purity in order to pray. 
  4. Eating Halal (this means that you will have to eat only ritually slaughtered meat and avoid forbidden foods like pork and forbidden drinks like alcohol). 


 
9.3 Halal Food and Zabiha Download Topic

Zabiha, or dhabiha, literally refers to something that is slaughtered. In technical terms, it refers to the ritual slaughtering of animals that are permissible to eat in Islam. Once the ritual slaughtering is done, the meat of the animal is permissible to cook and eat as long as the animal is not forbidden to eat from the get go. 

 

For example, ritually slaughtering a pig, dog or cat does not make it halal to eat! The animal has to be “okayed” by Islam before the ritual slaughter is even valid. So in addition to pigs and dogs, the zabiha of dead animals or animals who have been sacrificed to pagan gods are not permissible.  

 

So let’s look at four of the major rules of zabiha 

 

  1.  The zabiha must be done by a sane, adult Muslim. A minority of scholars within the school of the Ahl al-Bayt (as), however, believe that the animal can also be slaughtered by someone from Ahl al-Kitab, that is, a Jew or a Christian. The tendency to accept meat slaughtered (not electrocuted!) by the Ahl al-Kitab is more popular among Sunni Muslims. 
  2.  While slaughtering the animal, one must say the name of God as the Qur’an says "Therefore eat of that on which Allah's name has been mentioned if you are believers in His communications." (Chapter 6 verse 118 of the Holy Qur’an) 
  3.  One must led the blood of the animal drain out. 
  4.  The slaughtering must be done by hand. The cut should be made on the neck.  

 

When meat is properly slaughtered, it gets the label zabiha or halal. 

 

To learn more, please tune in to the full version of this lesson. 

 


 
9.4 Family, Parents and Marriage in Islam Download Topic

Parents, however, also have moral/religious duties to their children. (say moral slash religious duties)  

 

Both parents have the responsibility of being moral examples for their children. An unfortunate reality today is that many kids pick up vices like lying from their parents. Have you ever seen a parent telling his or her spouse that “they aren’t there” when someone calls? Well, that’s a form of lying, and kids see that and pick up on it.  

 

The same goes for other acts of dishonesty, such as parents lying to each other. Here is another example, angry children often pick up their anger from their parents. Similarly, anxious and fearful kids also inherit much of their fears and panic attacks from their parents.  

 

Parents therefore have the duty to be proper role models for their children in Islam. Parents need to be morally upright and also be calm sources of emotional security, not emotional ruin!  

 

Parents also have the duty to educate their kids about Islam. First, they need to teach them the basic principles of Islam, both the usul al-deen where the basics of Islamic creed are taught.  

 

Second, kids need to learn the proper rituals and dos and donts of Islam. So they need to learn how to pray, fast, do wudu and also know what is impermissible and ritually impure.  

 

Some parents think that by sending their kids to Islamic schools they’ve done their job and they don’t need to teach them anything. But remember that words can only go so far. If kids see their parents not practicing Islam, the teachings of Islam won’t mean anything.  

 

When parents don't practice, kids often think about Islam the following way: "if Islam isn’t good enough for my parents to practice, why should it be good enough for me to practice?"   

 

To learn more, please tune into the full version of this lesson. 


 
9.5 Marriage in Islam Download Topic

SUMMARY 

 

No society can function without healthy marriages. Generally speaking, not many children can grow into religiously and morally successful human beings without a stable and healthy marriage existing between parents.  

 

Islam therefore offers a formula and a system of marital responsibilities to ensure as much as possible a successful community of believers, both in their emotional and religious well beings  

 

Husbands have many responsibilities in Islam. Among these responsibilities, it is to provide their wives with maintenance. This maintenance includes: 

 

  1. Shelter 
  2. Food that satiates 
  3. Adequate clothing 
  4. Creams, perfumes, cosmetics 
  5. Things which she was used to under her father’s house 

 

If a wife requests it, a husband must provide his wife with a maid to help around in the house. If the husband cannot afford to do so, then he must become the maid himself.  

 

According to Islam, the act of serving one’s wife in household or domestic affairs brings about the grace of God and great spiritual reward. So it is in the husband’s interests that he help his wife. 

 

Wives have fewer responsibilities. Like husbands, wives are to encourage their husbands in leading the morally and religiously good life. If the husband falters in his religious and moral duties, wives, like husbands, must remind their spouses of their responsibilities on this earth. 

 

However, their primary responsibility is to be available sexually to their husbands.  

 

This may sound a bit weird or even offensive to some, but we need to understand where Islam is coming from with this ruling. According to Islam, the greatest sin that humans, especially men are prone to are sexual sins and sins of immodesty. This means that men in particular are susceptible to gazing at the haram or engaging in zina, that is, fornication. 

 

As Islam sees it, and as people can often observe, many men are prone to compulsive sexual behavior. So just like the husband is obligated to work and provide for his wife and fulfill her intrinsic need for security, a wife must also make sure to protect her husband from sin and spiritually damaging behavior.  

 

To learn more, please tune into the full version of this lesson. 

 


 
9.6 Islam and Sex Download Topic

In many conservative cultures, sex is seldom talked about publically. Within the Muslim community, this is often the case as well. Human sex, however, is of central importance in understanding salvation in almost any religious tradition.  

 

In Christianity, and in the New Testament in particular, we are taught how sexual deviance alters our intellects and warps our conceptions of morality. In an identical manner, Islam also teaches us the same message.  

 

In Islam, halal intimate relations can lead to closeness to God. Plenty of hadiths talk about how married couples are blessed by God’s angels when they are intimate with one another. Haram relations have the opposite effect.  

 

They darken and corrupt the human soul. They remove Allah’s saving grace from one’s life. Sexual sins open up spiritual wounds through which demons can enter our being and make us even more prone to their evil suggestions.  

 

In this lesson, we look at two sexual vices in Islam: 

 

Zina and Liwat 

 

Zina is illicit sex. The two English words that are often used for zina are fornication and adultery, both of which are applicable. In our current modern context, zina can refer to illicit sex outside of marriage, such as premarital sex or adultery. 

 

Liwat refers to sodomy between men. It is the classical term for homosexual acts. In Islam, homosexual orientation is not a sin, homosexual acts are sinful. So here it doesn’t really matter whether one was born a homosexual or not, the sin is the ACT, not the ORIENTATION.  

 

To learn more, please tune into the full version of this lesson.


 
9.7 Modesty in Islam Download Topic

Modesty is central to Islam. Modesty can mean different things. Modesty can be in speech or in behavior where one becomes unassuming and humble in how one talks or relates to others.  These are virtues that Islam obviously accepts, encourages and even makes mandatory.

 Modesty can also be in dress, which is the subject of this lesson. By modesty in dress, Islam means a mode of dress AND a mode of behavior that goes along with it. Both are intended to decrease the likelihood of sexual attraction.  Purposefully dressing or behaving in such a way that incites sexual attraction is forbidden in Islam.  

 Just covering the hair and body, however, is not enough. Clothes must also be loose fitting so as to cover the shape of one's body. It is therefore forbidden to wear tight pants and shirts even if the head covering or head hijab is observed.

 Men also need to be modest. Although they don’t need to cover their hair, they need to wear clothes that are loose fitting and cover most of their bodies. Wearing armless shirts and tight sports pants for example is considered inappropriate in Islam.

 To learn more, please tune into the full version of this lesson.


 
9.8 Women’s Menstruation in Islam Download Topic

Menstruation, according to Islamic law, leads to ritual impurity. This means that one cannot pray, fast or touch the Arabic letters of the Qur’an. Women are not being singled out here as men also become ritually impure through others means that are particular to them.  

 

From a Sharia point of view, there are different types of blood. These include the loss of virginity, injuries to the vaginal area or post-natal bleeding. Menstruation in Islam has its own rulings which are different than other categories. Menstruation in Islam is known as hayd (pronounced hayz in Persian and Urdu). 

 

The most popular opinion in Islamic law states that women are generally considered pubescent at the completion of the age of 9 in lunar years. Menstruation in Islamic law has three signs: 

 

  1.  warmth of the blood 
  2.  the blood is dark red or black in color 
  3.  there is pressure or slight burning in the discharge 

 

If these three signs are found in a female at the age of 9 lunar years or more, then she will be considered to be in a state of hayd. 

 

To learn more, please tune into the full version of this lesson.


 
9.9 Music, Alcohol, Drugs and Pork in Islam Download Topic

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9.10 Islam and Science Download Topic

Islam believes that observing and studying nature is a way to grow closer to God. In this way, science is a good way to strengthening one’s belief in God for it reveals to us the complex but beautiful way Allah’s created world works.  

 

From this vantage point, Islam therefore encourages scientific research. It also encourages us to make a living out of it for it is an honorable profession as long as we don’t use science as a means for immorality.  

 

How can science be used for immoral purposes? Well, as science has given us a lot of good, like curing diseases or bringing sanitary water to people’s homes, it has also given us the atomic bomb or the creation of deadly diseases in the form of biological weapons.  

 

Science is a tool, it can either be used for good or bad. Islam supports science when it is a means for good, but opposes it when it becomes a means for evil. 

 

In our pursuit of science and knowledge, we must always keep in mind that our pursuit must always be for the sake of God. Imam Ali (as) once said: 

 

 “Do not seek knowledge for four aims: (1) Self-glorification in front of people of knowledge(2) Quarrelling with the ignorant(3) Showing off in gatherings of people(4) Attracting attention of people in order to secure an office of authority.” 

 

To learn more, please tune into the full version of this lesson. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 
9.11 A Reading List of Islamic Knowledge Download Topic

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9.13 Ritual Prayers and Supplications in Islam Download Topic

 

Islam has many kinds of ritual prayers called salat. Some of these prayers are obligatory, and some of them are recommended. In addition to this, Islam also has supplications (duʿa). In some other religions, prayers and supplications are often the same thing. In Islam, although both are performed together, they are theoretically distinct.  

 

Prayers are the ritual movements that a person must do. They require special conditions and ablutions before one can perform them. We’ve spoken about these conditions before so we’re not going to go into them now.  

 

Duʿas are a bit different. Duʿas don’t have ritual actions that accompany them, they are simply supplications that one utters to God, either during salāt or outside of it. When done outside of ritual prayers, there is no obligation to do wudu or ghusl, or be in a special place. One can make them at any time.  

 

Duʿas don’t have to be formal either, whereas prayers have to. If you don’t do your salāt the right way, you have to correct yourself somehow, either by making up for some missed units, or repeating the entire salāt again. In duʿas, there is no such thing.  

 

As long as one maintains proper respect to Allah, they are fine. So you can say them in a language other than Arabic, and you can say them in a state of ritual impurity. You can simply pour your heart out to God and you can do it anywhere at anytime. 

 

We do, however, have standard duʿas that are present in the Qur’an as well as in the hadiths of the Prophet Muhammad (s) and his Ahl al-Bayt (as). These are important not only for their majestic beauty, but they are also important because they teach us the proper ethics of how to supplicate to God. 

 

To learn more, please tune into the full version of this lesson.


 
9.14 Death & Burial Rituals in Islam Download Topic

According to Islamic belief, when a person dies, he or she immediately begins life in the afterlife. In Islam, the afterlife begins in the grave itself. Everything turns dark, but then the angels Munkir and Nakir show up and question the person about their life and deeds. According to the Prophet Muhammad (s), this process is an excruciating one.  

 

When the questioning is done, for most people, everything turns blank until the person is woken up again when the Day of Resurrection begins. Only two types of people do not see their existence go blank during this period, the really evil people and the really good people.  

 

The really evil people begin their punishment in the world of barzakh or purgatory. The really good people who led morally good lives and were faithful to God live in bliss. In the next work, they live in a heavenly state before the real heaven. 

 

While these are happening, we who are alive have responsibilities for the dead. Immediately after a person dies, these rituals must begin without delay. Here we will outline some of the key funeral rituals and practices of Islam. 

 

Death and funeral rituals are obligatory on the community. Only when the obligation is fulfilled by some people is the rest of the community relieved of the obligation.  

 

For more information on the process of Islamic burial laws, please tune into the full lecture version of this lesson. 


 
9.15 The Battle of Armageddon: An Islamic View Download Topic

 According to Islam, when corruption on earth reaches its climax towards the end of times, the battle for Armageddon will begin. There are a number of major events that will happen. Remember that the hadiths on the subject are plenty and it is often difficult to put an exact chronological date on the sequence of events. In this lesson, we will try to outline them as simply and as best as we can. 

 

At the climax of evil, two major antagonists are reported to emerge in the end of times. These two antagonists are the Dajjal and the Sufyani. The Sufyani will be a descendent of Banu Ummaya (Tribe of Ummaya) and will be responsible for the murder of many of the followers of the Ahl al-Bayt (as). He will take over Greater Syria and parts of Iraq and rule from Damascus. 

 

It is reported that the 12th Imam, Imam Muhammad al-Mahdi (aj) will battle the Sufyani until he submits to al-Mahdi’s order. Other reports, however, state that the Dajjal, a more global and more powerful evil, will succeed in eliminating the Sufyani by invading his land and consolidating his evil reign on earth.   

 

The Dajjal is also known as the Anti-Christ (the full name is al-Masih al-Dajjal, which literally means “the Lying Messiah”). He will establish a new world order around the globe towards the end of times as opposed to the Sufyani who will yield power in Greater Syria. Once the Sufyani is put down, the final battle will take place between the Dajjal and Imam al-Mahdi (aj). 

 

To learn more, please tune into the full version of this lesson. 


 
9.16 The Muslim Calendar Download Topic

The Muslim or Islamic calendar is officially known as the Hijri calendar. The word hjri comes from the word Hijrah, which means migration. More specifically, it refers to the Prophet Muhammad’s (s) migration from Mecca to Medina when he was fleeing his assassins.

 

So the migration therefore marks year one in the Muslim calendar. The Muslim calendar has 12 months just like the Gregorian calendar, and it has around 354 or 355 days.

 

The Hijri calendar is a lunar calendar. The difference between the solar and lunar calendar is that the solar calendar is a measure of the earth’s rotation around the sun which is around 365 days. The lunar calendar is a measure of the moon’s rotation around the earth which is about 354 days. For this reason, the lunar calendar is shorter so you will see a drastic change in a month’s season as as the years ago by.

 

The current year in the Islamic calendar is 1437 and there is usually an “A.H” that follows it, meaning “After Hijrah.”

 

The names of the Islamic months are as follows:

 

  1. Muharram
  2. Safar
  3. Rabi al-Awwal
  4. Rabi al-Thani
  5. Jumada al-Awwal
  6. Jumada al-Thani
  7. Rajab
  8. Sha'ban
  9. Ramadan
  10. Shawwal
  11. Dhu al-Qa'dah or al-Qi'da
  12. Dhu al-Hijjah

 

To learn more, please tune into the full version of this lesson.

 

 


 
9.17 Muslims and non-Muslims in the Shariah Download Topic

In a hadith from the Prophet Muhammad (s) he is reported to have said: “Whenever you see a funeral procession, stand up till the procession goes ahead of you”.  

 

One day a funeral procession passed in front of him and he stood up. Some protested and complained that it was the coffin of a Jew, he said, "Is it not a living being (soul)?"  

 

This historical background of how the Prophet Muhammad (s) related to non-Muslims is a key basis that informs much of the Shariʿah’s treatment of non-Muslims. 

 

The Shariʿah and Non-Muslims 

 

The Qur’an is clear that no one can be forced to convert to Islam. Allah says: 

 

“Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error: whoever rejects evil and believes in Allah hath grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold, that never breaks. And Allah heareth and knoweth all things.”  (Chapter 2, verse 256). 

 

Non-Muslims, just like Muslims, who live peacefully, have inalienable rights under the Shariʿah. These means that non-Muslims have the right to work, live in safety, have access to healthcare, right to property and inheritance and all the basic rights that Muslims have.  

 

Muslims living in non-Muslim Majority Countries 

 

The Shariʿah obliges Muslims to obey all rules when living under a non-Muslim government as long as the rules don’t explicitly and directly ask them to disobey God. For example, if a government were to ask a Muslim to stop praying, the Muslim would be under no obligation to follow it. In cases of extreme hostility, the Shariʿah may ask or request that the Muslim leave the country. 

 

As far as we know, this isn’t the case with most non-Muslim countries, especially those in the West. Muslims are therefore urged to obey all traffic rules, tax laws, and conduct themselves as peaceful and productive citizens of their country.  

 

To learn more, please tune into the full version of this lesson. 

 


 
9.18 A Timeline of Major Events in Islamic History Download Topic

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9.19 Introducing the Qur’an: Why it is the way it is Download Topic

The Qur’an is the revealed book of Allah. It is the foundational book of Islam and contains all the necessary principles to lead an Islamic life. Like anything in this world, the Qur’an has its own story and history.  

 

In this lesson, we look at the major themes of the Qur’an, which include 

 

  1. The Qur’an’s background 
  2. How the Qur’an is divided 
  3. Why the Qur’an doesn’t follow a chronological order 
  4. What is in the Qur’an 
  5. How to read the Qur’an 

 

To learn more, please tune into the full version of this lesson. 


 
9.20 The School of Imam Jafar al-Sadiq Download Topic

 

Imam Jafar al-Sadiq (as) was born in the year 702 of the common era and he died in the year 765, which is the 148th year of the Hijri calendar.  

 

He was the son of Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (as), the grandson of Imam Zayn al-Abidin (as), the great grandson of Imam al-Husayn (as). Imam al-Sadiq (as) became an Imam when he was in his mid-thirties. 

 

Since the beginning of the Imamate of Imam Ali (as) until the Imamate of Imam Zayn al-Abidin (as), the Imams were overwhelmed with political turmoil. Despite this, they still managed to educate their followers on the basic precepts of Islam. 

 

Although the Imams had taught various subjects until this time, it is only during the time of Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (as) that organized schools began to be established. In his capacity as an official teacher, Imam al-Baqir (as) began teaching various subjects, the most popular of which was Islamic law.  

 

But it is during the time of his son Imam Jafar al-Sadiq (as) that things reached its peak. It was the formative period of Islam. The Ummayads and the Abbasids at the time were waging wars against each other so they were too busy to oppress the Imams and keep them from spreading the authentic and unadulterated message of Islam.  

 

Imam al-Sadiq (as) had thousands of students, much more than his father. He taught all subjects, Qur’anic exegesis, theology, history, law, ethics, science and more. Just like he was relatively free to teach, his students also had some more space to spread the message as well, although they still had to be careful. 


 
9.21 Major Fields in Islamic Studies Download Topic

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9.22 The Caliphate in Sunni and Shia Islam Download Topic

In Sunni Islam, a Caliph is only secondarily a religious leader, he is more of a political leader. This is why in Sunni law a Caliph does not need to be a scholar of Islam. But despite his primary role as a political and worldly leader, he still has some religious functions, such as determining for the Sunni community such as determining special days like Eid al-Fitr which is the festival that marks the end of the month of Ramadan. Although he does not have to be a scholar, he is still expected to have some acceptable level of knowledge when it comes to Islam. 

 

In Sunni Islam, successorship to the Prophet Muhammad (s) is not necessarily determined by the Prophet himself. It can be determined in three other ways as well: 

 

Through selection by a small but select group of the Prophet’s companions. 

Personal designation by the previous Caliph 

Self-declaration or self-appointment  

 

In Shia Islam, the Prophet’s successor can only be chosen by God. Unlike Sunni Islam, the office of the Caliphate is primarily a religious one. The Caliph must be the most knowledgeable person on earth at the time, be infallible, and be divinely inspired. The primary role of the Caliph is the religious guidance of humankind. Political office is only secondary. In Shiʿi Islam, person can still be the Prophet’s caliph or successor yet not hold political office.  

 

To learn more, please tune into the full version of this lesson. 


 
9.24 Islam, Racism and Anti-Semitism Download Topic

SUMMARY 

 

Islam is against racism. In fact, Islam is one of the few premodern religions to have explicitly opposed racism of all kinds. This includes racism against people of different skin color, or against ethnic-religious groups like Jews. 

 

Islam believes that we are all the children of Adam and as such we are all honored by Him. The Prophet Muhammad (s) once said: 

 

O people, Allah has removed the slogans of ignorance from you and the exaltation of its forefathers. The people are only two kinds: either a righteous, Godfearing believer dignified to Allah, or a wicked, miserable sinner insignificant to Allah. The people are all the children of Adam and Adam was created from dust. Allah said: O people, We have created you male and female and made you into nations and tribes that you may know one another. Verily, the most noble to Allah is the most righteous of you. 

 

Some people think that God honored all of humankind, but somehow He honored some more than others. They think that He honored whites over blacks, of blacks over whites, or men over women, or women over men, or rich over poor. 

 

The honor, however, is an equal honor that applies to all. The ONLY thing which surpass others in is in piety, consciousness of God and righteousness. In other words, the closer you are to God, the higher in rank and value you are to Him and nothing else! So it doesn’t matter if you’re a man, woman, white, black, Arab, non-Arab, rich or poor, what counts here is righteousness and consciousness of God. 

 

 


 
 

10 Islam, Religion, and Modern Controversies


 
10.1 Modern Fallacies about God: where Theists and Atheists Agree Download Topic

The way many theists view God today is similar to the way that polytheists and idol worshipers viewed their own gods, except that God (with a capital G) is more powerful, longer in duration and alone. This does not mean that theism is incorrect, it only means that some people have an incorrect and erroneous understanding of God and proper theism.  

 

Atheists, taking up this erroneous understanding of God, argue that such a God, by virtue of being a contingent and limited being like Zeus, should be observable and subject to scientific scrutiny like any other object or being currently existing in the world. Since there is no observable evidence demonstrating the existence of such a being, it is not sensible to believe in his existence.  

 

Atheists conclude that they are not too different from monotheists except that they just go one god further in their rejection of supernatural gods. Muslims, especially those who follow the school of the Ahl al-Bayt (as), reject this interpretation of God. 

 

According to the Prophet Muhammad (ṣ) and the Imams of the Ahl al-Bayt (as), the Muslim God, or Allah, is the source and fountain of all of existence, He is what grounds “being” without which nothing, not even the thought of a mythological god, could exist, even for a split second. Since the Islamic God is not a contingent object or being, He cannot be observed like a planet can, but this does not mean that there is no evidence for His existence.  

 

The school of the Ahl al-Bayt (as) believes that evidence for God’s existence, that is, the God of Tawhīd, can be found in logic, the human intellect and the experience of the spiritual heart. This will be covered in more detail in the next series of lectures. 

 


 
10.2 Tawhīd: The Muslim God according to the Prophet Muhammad and the Ahl al-Bayt (as) Download Topic

The objectification of God means that God is viewed as a being and object existing alongside other beings and objects. In this view, he exists like other entities in existence like galaxies, black holes or humans. By adopting this erroneous understanding of God, atheists accuse theists of believing in beings which cannot be backed up by empirical and scientific evidence.  

 

This lecture, however, first demonstrates that according to Islam, God is not an object among other objects who happens to exist alongside other things in our current reality. He is, instead, the source of all of reality and the grounds which makes the existence of any contingent being possible. For there to be such a “thing” as existence, there is a need for a starting point for all of reality. The alternative to a starting point of reality is the fallacy of “infinite regress,” which is a logical impossibility.  

 

When God is understood this way, there are other forms of evidence which can demonstrate the existence of God. These forms of evidence are 1) logic and 2) consciousness of reality, both of which are far stronger bases for demonstrating God’s existence than science. Science itself presupposes existence and logical truths.  

 

This does not mean that the atheist claim that there is “no scientific evidence for the existence of God” is true. Our only point is that even if the claim were true, it would in no way justify the atheist’s claim that God does not exist, or the more moderate claim that there is no evidence for His existence.  

 

We do not, however, believe this claim to be true. We believe that there is scientific evidence that points to an intelligent designer of the universe. In the next series of lectures, in addition to other arguments, we will study two arguments for God’s existence which are supported by current scientific discoveries. 

 

To learn more, please tune into the full version of this lesson. 

 


 
10.3 God’s Existence: The Argument From Being (Wujūd) Download Topic

The argument from being seeks to establish God’s existence through the objective fact of existence (wujūd) and not the so-called makeup and whatness of reality which is what science essentially deals with. Whatness is called māhīya in Arabic. The argument from being argues that there are two kinds of existence, contingent and necessary.

 

Contingent beings do not exist in and of themselves, but exist by virtue of their relation to other things, as well as being an effect of a logically prior event. A necessary being is a being that exists in and of itself and does not exist by virtue of its relation to other things, or an event or being that is logically prior to it. It is fully existing and independent in all respects.

 

There cannot be an infinite chain of contingent beings, nor can there be an infinite chain of cause and effect for it leads the logical absurdity* of infinite regress*. The fact that we exist is proof that this chain of being is not infinite. The first starting point must therefore be the Necessary Being, who by virtue of bringing everything into existence, including consciousness and intelligence, must also hold something analogous to them.

 

The Necessary Being must be an intelligent being that is the immaterial, spaceless, timeless, eternal cause and source of all of reality. This is the definition of the Muslim God.

 

To learn more, please tune into the full version of this lesson.


 
10.4 God’s Existence: The Kalam Cosmological Argument Download Topic

The Kalam Cosmological Argument, as it is termed today, goes back to the 11th century. Contributors to this argument were Muslim thinkers like Ibn Sina (Avicenna), Nasir al-Din al-Tusi and even al-Ghazzali.

 

In recent times, the argument has been revived, modernized and strengthened with modern discoveries in physics and cosmology.

 

The argument goes like this:

 

  1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause
  2. The universe began to exist

 

Therefore

 

  1.  The universe has a cause
  2. If the universe as a cause, then that cause is God.

 

Therefore

 

  1.  God exists

 

To learn more about the Kalam cosmological argument, please tune into the full version of this lesson.

 


 
10.5 God’s Existence: The Argument From Design Download Topic

The argument from Design brings us to our last argument for God’s existence. Note that there are about 11 to 13 arguments for God’s existence, but we’ve chosen the three most prominent ones.

 

 The argument from Design has a wide range of different arguments. At its most basic level, this argument states that if we observe design in nature, we can often conclude that there is a designer behind the design since random chance is impossible or nearly impossible.

 

 There are plenty of arguments from design. The two prominent ones stem from biology and cosmology.

 

 In this lesson, we cover the cosmological version of the argument from design and we support it with arguments from recent discoveries in cosmology.

 

 To learn more, please tune into the full version of this lesson.


 
10.6 The Problem of Evil, Suffering and Pain Download Topic

In this lesson, we look at two aspects of the problem of evil in the world. the first is the intellectual problem of evil and suffering. The second is the emotional problem of evil and suffering.

 

 The intellectual problem of evil sees God and evil as mutually incompatible. If God is all-good and all-loving, then He would naturally want to alleviate suffering from us. Since there is great suffering and evil in the world, then God is either

 

  1.   powerless to do anything about suffering and evil
  2.  or careless and callous about His creation
  3.  or He does not exist

 

 The emotional problem of evil is about people’s dislike or even hatred of God who is seeing as permitting suffering in the world. People lose their loved ones, their health, their jobs or see their societies around them fall apart as a result of evil like wars and crime. They are angry that God doesn’t do anything about all the injustices they see.

 

 In order to learn how Islam responds to these two problems, please tune into the full version of this lesson.

 


 
10.7 Why did God Create Us? The Purpose of our Creation Download Topic

If God is all great, what was the point of Him creating us? What need did He have in doing so? 

 

One way of looking at it is this way. God has lots of attributes, and some of these attributes are part of His essence. In other words, just like water is wet, God has attributes that are part and parcel of Himself. Of these attributes, we know that God is all-loving (al-wadūd) and all-merciful (al-rahmān).  

 

Since God is all loving and all merciful, He created us humans out of this love and mercy. It is out of His care and compassion that He wanted to give us life and give us the opportunity to earn eternal happiness in exchange for limited, finite acts of good and obedience to Him that He really doesn’t need. He only asks us to do them because it is for our own good! 

 

But isn’t the fact that so many people in this world are evil make this futile? 

 

It’s important to acknowledge that not everyone is evil in this world. There are also lots of good people. There are also some bad people who are really good but became bad because they were victims of their circumstances. God will judge all of us according to our circumstances so it is only He who can judge which one of us is truly good or evil. 

 

In Islam, God also sees hope in every single one of us. He sees hope that we may turn back and change, perhaps not in this world, but in the grave, the Day of Judgment or maybe even in hell. So not all is lost if we don’t make it in this world.  

 

Second, there are many humans who have fulfilled the ideal of being God’s vicegerents on earth. In other words, they are people who have purified their hearts and fulfilled what God expected of them. Why should these people be denied their existence because others would be bad? Why should evil people have a veto over the existence of Good people? 

 

 

To learn more, please tune into the full version of this lesson.


 
10.8 Why Humans Need Religion according to Islam Download Topic

We are all governed by set assumptions about the world and truth. These assumptions guide our thoughts and our actions. We are sometimes aware of these guiding principles and at other times we are not.  

 

The way we view the world and the way we lead our lives are very important. They shape and form our souls. If we live a good life, our souls will be good accordingly, if we live a bad life, our souls will be dark.  

 

The point of a divinely revealed religion, and in our case, Islam, is to save us from choosing the wrong path and thereby saving our heats from spiritual corruption. The point of Islam is to create a grounds through which our īmān can be nurtured. Īmān is often translated as faith, but we don’t think that this definition does justice to the word.  

 

Īmān is a deeply spiritual relationship of trust and intimacy that we develop with God. In this relationship, we not only trust that everything Allah says is true, but that He is our absolute nurturer and that He alone is the one we can rely on. 

 

Other paths in this life outside of divinely revealed religions can bring us happiness in this world. But happiness does not equate with the purification of the heart. Only the straight path unto God and the proper development of īmān can purify our hearts and souls. 

 

And this is the goal of religion, namely to guide us to the Straight Path. 

 

To learn more, please tune into the full version of this lesson.


 
10.9 Jahl and Spiritual Ignorance in Islam Download Topic

The word jahl is often translated as ignorance. Ignorance is translated as a lack of knowledge and information. According to the school of Ahl al-Bayt (as), this translation is wrong. 

 

Most often than not, the word jahl in Islam means foolishness. 

 

For example, if you look at the first volume of Usul al-Kafi, one of Islam’s most important books of hadiths, one of the beginning chapters is called Kitab al-Aql wa al-Jahl, meaning “The Book of the Intellect and Foolishness.”  

 

If you go through the book, you will also notice another chapter called “the Book of the Excellence of Knowledge”. Notice here that the word Jahl is not juxtaposed with Ilm or knowledge, but it is contrasted with Intellect.  

 

So here it becomes pretty obvious that Jahl is foolishness, and really, this is what makes sense. Conceptually speaking, the word jahl is similar to the word safaaha in Arabic, which means idiocy and foolishness.  

 

To learn more, please tune into the full version of this lesson. 

 


 
10.11 Do Non-Muslims Go to Hell? Download Topic

The school of the Ahl al-Bayt (as) teaches us that there are two kinds of non-Muslims. One is called al-Jāhil al-Qāsir and the other is called al-Jāhil al-Muqassir.  

 

Al-Jāhil al-Qāsir  is a non-Muslim who either does not know about Islam, or is a victim of his or her circumstances which do not allow him or her to make proper decisions about the truth. A Jāhil al-Qāsir can also be a person who has had Islam presented to him or her in such a bad way that he or she rejects it. 

 

As such, al-Jāhil al-Qāsir is someone who sincerely does not believe Islam is the truth. Rejection of Islam is not out of malice or spite or love of the world, it is an honest and sincere non-acceptance of the religion. 

 

Such a person, according to the school of Ahl al-Bayt (as), if presented with the true and pure message of Islam, along with its true and intelligent proofs, would undoubtedly accept the religion yet his or her circumstances have not allowed it unfortunately. 

 

According to the school of Ahl al-Bayt (as), such a person stands a chance of getting into heaven. 

 

Al-Jāhil al-Muqassir is the very opposite of al-Jāhil al-Qāsir. He or she knows the truth, yet because of arrogance, malice, pride, love of the world, he or she decides to reject Islam. Such a person may find it very, very difficult to find himself or herself in heaven unless he or she is purified either in this world or at some point in the Hereafter. 

 

So if a non-Muslim person goes to hell, it is usually a non-Muslim who is either guilty of evil or is a Jāhil al-Muqassir just like an evil Muslim who may be denied heaven and be sent to hell.  

 

To learn more, please tune into the full version of this lesson.