How do Muslims View Death and the Afterlife?

Muslims, as do Jews, Christians, and other faith groups, believe that this life is a temporal realm, to be viewed as a preparation ground for what is to come after. The afterlife is comprised of resurrection, the Day of Judgment and then either a blissful paradise or a blazing hell.

When a Muslim dies, he or she is washed, usually by a family member, wrapped in a clean white cloth, and buried after a special funeral prayer is performed, preferably all on the same day.

God says in the Quran:

Every soul shall taste death. And you will be given your dues on the Day of Judgment. Only the one who is removed from the brink of Hellfire and admitted into Paradise has achieved ultimate success; and the life of this world is nothing but a material illusion. (Quran 3:185)

The Prophet (may God bless him and grant him peace), taught that three things can continue to benefit a person even after their death: charity given toward ongoing works; knowledge that is of benefit; and prayers and supplication made on behalf of pious children

How Do Muslims View the Elderly?

Muslims, as a matter of principle and faith, are to respect and care for the elderly. It is quite common to find children, parents, grandparents and sometimes even great grandparents all living together in the same home. In the Islamic world there are no such things as old people’s homes. If the elderly are in need of special and specific medical attention, which cannot be provided by the family or at the house, then appropriate arrangements are made, otherwise, the family remains close together as best as possible.

In Islam, serving one’s parents is a duty second only to worshipping God. It is considered despicable to express any irritation when, through no fault of their own, the elderly become difficult to attend to.

God says in the Quran:

Your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him, and be kind to your parents. If either or both of them reach old age with you, do not even say ‘uff’ to them or rebuff them, but speak to them in terms of honor and kindness. Lower to them the wing of humility, and say, “My Lord! Have mercy on them, for they did care for me when I was young.” (Quran 17:23-4)

Mothers are particularly honored in Islam. The Prophet Muhammad (may God bless him and grant him peace) taught that “Paradise lies at the feet of mothers.” Through this, and other prophetic narrations, the Prophet greatly emphasized that mothers deserve our merciful and loving companionship.

How Does Islam Elevate the Status of Women?

According to the Quran, men and women are equal before God; both created for the sole purpose of knowing, loving, and worshipping God through faith and good deeds.

O humankind! Be conscious of your Lord Who created you from a single soul, and out of it created its mate, and out of the two spread countless men and women. Be conscious of your Lord through Whom you demand your mutual rights, and honor the wombs; God is ever watchful over you. (Quran 4:1)

Islam recognizes women as individuals with specific rights. Among these are: the right to life, the right to learn; the right to earn, own and dispose of property; the right to choose a husband; the right, as a wife, to her pre-marriage standard of living; the right to be treated equally; and the right to inherit. Women, like men, are rewarded by God for a righteously led life.

Muslim women dress in a way that is modest and dignified. The purpose of clothing is not only to protect oneself from the physical elements, but also to protect oneself from immorality and vain pride. Some traditions of dress, and more generally, the treatment of women in some Muslim countries and societies, are often a reflection of culture. In some cases this may be inconsistent and even contrary to teachings of Islam. Prophet Muhammad said: “The most perfect in faith among the believers is he who is best in manner and kindest to his wife”

Why is the Family So Important to Muslims?

A healthy family structure is the foundation of any truly healthy society, and such is the Islamic ideal. The peace and security offered by a stable family unit is greatly valued by Muslims and is seen as essential for the spiritual growth of its members. It is quite common in the Muslim community to find large, extended families living together, thereby providing comfort, security and support to one another.

Parents are greatly respected in the Islamic tradition. Mothers, in particular are especially honored.

God says in the Quran:

And we have enjoined upon man to be good to his parents. With difficulty upon difficultly did his mother bear him, and his weaning was for two years. Show gratitude to Me and to your parents; to Me is your final goal! (Quran 31:14)

Marrying and establishing a family is very strongly encouraged in Islam:

And among His signs is that He created for you mates from among yourselves; that you may find peace with them. And He put between you love and compassion. Surely in this are signs for a people who reflect. (Quran 30:21)

A Muslim marriage is both a sacred act and a legal agreement, in which either the groom or the bride is free to include legitimate conditions. Marriage customs vary widely from country to country but the sacred law in Islam has clearly laid down the central requirements and procedures.

Prophet Muhammad (may God bless him and grant him peace) is reported to have said: “When a servant of God marries, he completes half his faith.”

How does Islam Guarantee Human Rights?

According to the Quran, God has created all of humankind equal, and has given each the right to pursue their own destiny. The life, honor, and property of all people in a Muslim society are considered sacred, whether the person is Muslim or not. Racism and prejudice of any sort are unacceptable in Islam. The Quran speaks of human equality in the following terms:

O humankind! We created you from a male and female, and made you into nations and tribes, so that you may come to know one another. Truly, the most honored of you in God’s sight is the greatest of you in piety. God is All-Knowing, All-Aware. (Quran 49:13)

The right to life is the most basic of human rights; the Quran equates the unjust killing of a single person to the killing of all humankind: And whoever kills a soul… it is as though he has killed all of humanity. (Quran 5:32)

Dealing equitably and protecting the rights of every individual is the cornerstone of Muslim society. God further states in the Quran:

O you who believe! Stand up firmly for God, as witnesses to fair dealings, and let not hatred of a people invite you to act inequitably; act justly, for that is nearer to piety, and be conscious of (your duty to) God, surely God is aware of all that you do. (Quran 5:8)

What Does Islam Say About War?

Islam permits fighting in self-defense, in defense of one’s faith, or on the part of those whose basic rights have been violated. It lays down strict rules of engagement, which include prohibitions against harming civilians and against destroying crops, trees, and livestock. The reality is that injustice and oppression would be rampant in the world if good people were not prepared to fight for a righteous cause.

God says in the Quran:

Permission (to defend) has been granted to those who are being fought against; that they have been oppressed. Verily, God has the power to help them. Those who were unjustly expelled from their homes for no other reason than their saying: “God is our Lord.” If God were not to repel some human beings through others, monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques, wherein the name of God is mentioned, would have certainly been destroyed. God will definitely help those who help Him. Verily, God is Powerful, Mighty. (Quran 22:39-40)

War is the last resort, and is subject to the rigorous conditions laid down by the sacred law. The often misunderstood and overused term jihad literally means “struggle” and not “holy war” (a term not found anywhere in the Quran). Jihad, as Islamic concept, can be on a personal level-inner struggle against evil within oneself; struggle for decency and goodness on the social level; and struggle on the battlefield, if and when necessary, and in the manner deemed appropriate by Islam itself.

Why is Islam Often Misunderstood?

In today’s turbulent world, Islam is often on the front page and on every TV set-mostly for the wrong reasons. Islam comes from a root word that means peace; yet some have taken this peaceful way of life and hijacked it, thereby attempting to make it into a way of violence and hatred. Seeing the rich and beautiful Islamic faith merely through explosive world events, and then further judging it by the actions of a misguided few, are the primary reasons why Islam is often misunderstood in this current age.

How Do Muslims View Jesus?

Muslims love and respect Jesus. They consider him one of the greatest of God’s prophets and messengers ever sent to humankind. A Muslim never refers to him simply as “Jesus,” but always adds the phrase “may the peace and blessing of God be upon him,” or a similar phrase of respect and honor. The Quran confirms his virgin birth, and a special chapter of the Quran is entitled “Mary,” in remembrance and honor of his mother. The Quran describes the Annunciation as follows:

The angels said, “O Mary! God has chosen you, and purified you, and chosen you above the women of all nations…”

The angels said, “O Mary, God gives you good news of a word from Him, whose name is the Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, honored in this world and in the Hereafter, and one of those brought near to God. He shall speak to the people in infancy and in old age, and shall be of the righteous.”

She said: “O my Lord! How shall I have a son when no man has touched me?” He said: “Even so; God creates what he wills. When He decrees a thing, he says to it, ‘Be!’ and it is.” (Quran 3:42, 45-7)

Just as God created Adam without a mother or a father, He so caused Jesus to be conceived without a father:

Truly the example of Jesus in relation to God is as the example of Adam. He created him from dust and then said to him, “Be!” and he was. (Quran 3:59)

During his prophetic mission, Jesus performed many miracles. The Quran tells us that he said:

“I have come to you with a sign from your Lord: I make for you out of clay, as it was, a figure of a bird, and breathe into it and it becomes a bird by God’s leave. And I heal the blind, and the lepers, and I raise the dead by God’s leave.” (Quran 3:49)

Jesus, like Muhammad, came to confirm and renew the basic doctrine of the belief in One God brought by earlier prophets. In the Quran, Jesus is reported as saying that he came:

“To attest the Torah that was before me. And to make lawful to you part of what was forbidden to you; I have come to you with a sign from your Lord; so be conscious of God and obey me.” (Quran 3:50)

The Prophet Muhammad said: “Whoever believes that there is no deity except God, alone without partner, that Muhammad is His messenger, that Jesus is the servant and messenger of God-His word which he bestowed on Mary and a spirit proceeding from Him-and that Paradise and Hell are true, shall be received by God into Heaven.”

How Did Prophet Muhammad Interact with Christians?

The earliest interfaith dialogue between Christians and Muslims occurred near the beginning of the Prophet Muhammad’s mission. The Prophet and his companions were greatly oppressed by the polytheists of Makkah. Concerned for their wellbeing, he sent some of his followers to seek refuge with the Negus of Abyssinia-a righteous and just Christian king. He listened attentively to the Prophet’s emissary with great respect and awe, especially the Quranic description of Mary and Jesus. This description led the king and his subjects to affirm that this indeed was a revelation from God and they graciously granted the Muslims the asylum they sought.

The Prophet recognized Christians as one of the ³People of the Book.² He treated them with respect and kindness, contracted treaties with various tribes amongst them, and he assured them the freedom to practice their faith and to determine their own affairs while living under Islamic law.

One noteworthy example is when a large delegation of Christians from Najran visited the Prophet in Madinah. He received them with great hospitality, and they stayed at the Prophet¹s Mosque. When they wanted to leave the Mosque and go outside to perform their church services, the Prophet surprised them by offering the use of his Mosque.

Although they did not reach an agreement on all matters of faith, they left Madinah with a treaty of peace and cooperation given to them by the Prophet. This, and similar incidents, are the examples that Muslims and Christians should emulate in the pursuit of better interfaith relations.

Is Islam Respectful of Other Beliefs?

Yes. The Quran states unequivocally:

There is no compulsion in religion. Truth stands out clearly from falsehood… (Quran 2:256)

Freedom of conscience is an essential tenant of Islam. Truth can only be seen if it is not clouded by coercion. Protection of the rights of non-Muslims is an intrinsic part of Islamic sacred law. The Prophet Muhammad (may God bless him and grant him peace) is reported to have said:

“He who hurts a non-Muslim citizen of the Muslim State-I am his adversary and I shall be his adversary on the Day of Judgment.”

“Beware on the Day of Judgment; I myself shall be the accuser against him who wrongs a non-Muslim citizen or lays on him a responsibility greater than he can bear, or deprives him of anything that rightfully belongs to him.”

History provides many examples of Muslim respect towards other faiths. Prior to the Spanish Inquisition, Jews and Christians lived and prospered in Spain for centuries under Muslim rule. Another well-known example is when ‘Umar, the second successor to Prophet Muhammad, entered Jerusalem. He refused to pray inside the Church of the Holy Sepulcher for he was concerned that some overzealous Muslims in the future might destroy the Church and build a Mosque there in his honor.