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World Conflicts… an Islamic Perspective

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The Five Roots of True Religion (Part 2 of 2)

Islam Rightly Explained

Prepared by Philip Voerding and Chris Hawes

5) Root Four: Guidance

Just as Jesus the Messiah was given by Allah the 12 Apostles to rightly guide those who believed the Gospel after he ascended into Heaven, so to was the Prophet Muhammad given by Allah 12 Vice Regents (also called Imams) to guide the Muslim community after he passed from the scene. Just like the prophets, including Muhammad, these Vice Regents were infallible.

O, you who believe! Obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those among you invested with Divine Authority; and if ye differ, bring it before Allah and the Messenger if you believe in Allah and the Last Day. This is the best and the fairest way of settlement.

- Quran 4:49.

(And remember) the Day (of Judgment) when We shall call human beings with their Imams. – Quran 17:71

These Twelve Vice Regents or Imams are descendants of the Prophet Muhammad. The first was Imam Ali Ibn Abi Talib and the twelfth is Imam Al-Mhadi, who will return with Prophet Jesus the Messiah and destroy the Anit-Chirst and his works.

6) Root Five: Resurrection and Judgment

The Quran teaches that there is a Last Day, a Resurrection of all humans, and a Divine Judgment, followed by the Life Hereafter, either in Paradise or in Hell.  After death, each person will get the reward or punishment for the deeds he or she performed while alive.

Beware when the Event would occur

No soul would then falsify its occurrence,

(Many) will it bring low,

(Many) will it bring high;

When the earth will be shaken to its depths,

And the mountains would crumble

Becoming dust all scattered about.- Quran 56:1-6.

7) The Trunk of the Tree

The Five roots of True Religion are the basic principles which give the foundation to the “tree” of Islam. Thus the Roots provide the basis of Religion, which is submission to Allah. So, if the roots provide the foundation for the trunk of the “tree”, what will be the “branches” of the “tree”?

8) The Ten Branches of the Tree

When someone believes the Five Roots of Religion, and becomes a Muslim, he or she is obliged to perform certain deeds according to Allah’s will as given through the Prophet as taught by the 12 Imams.  These are the Ten Branches of the Tree:

  • Pray the five required prayers each day.
  • The required fast during the month of Ramadan.
  • To make a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in one’s life if possible.
  • To pay the wealth tax on certain specified items to the poor.
  • To pay a fifth of the increased of one’s assets, after deductions, each year.
  • To engage in struggle for the faith (called the great Jihad as one strives to be a good Muslim and the little Jihad in if one must defend the faith).
  • To encourage others to do good.
  • To discourage others from doing evil.
  • To love Allah, and the 14 Infallibles. (The 14 Infallibles are the Prophet, The Twelve Imams and Sayda Fatimah who is the daughter of the Prophet and the wife of the 1st Imam, Ali the Commander of the Faithful).
  • To stay away from the enemies of Allah and the 14 Infallibles.

9) How to Become a Muslim

Consider and investigate whether Islam is the true code of life for humanity. If you believe that it is, then to become a Muslim you must turn to God and repent of all your sins. God is compassionate and merciful and will forgive you your sins. Then declare your new faith by saying:

  • I believe that there is no god except Allah!
  • I believe that Muhammad is the Prophet of Allah

Finally, ask your brothers and sisters in Islam, “What should I do next?” and they will be more than happy to help you.

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The Five Roots of True Religion (Part 1 of 2)

Islam Rightly Explained

Prepared by Philip Voerding and Chris Hawes

1)  The Five Roots of True Religion

Islam can be described as a tree comprised of roots, trunk and branches.

  • The roots are the basic doctrines of belief.
  • The trunk is the reaction to belief in the roots, which is submission to Allah.
  • The branches are the action one does based on belief in and submission to Allah.

Each “root” will be described briefly in the following paragraphs.

2) Root One: The Oneness of God

The first root is the “Oneness of God”.  There can only be one God. The Quran, the Holy Scripture of Muslims, says this of God:

Say: He is Allah, the One

The One upon who all depend

Who does not give birth nor was He born

And there is none like Him. – Quran 112:1-4.

Allah is unique.  Allah is Uncreated, The Eternal, is not born, is the Knower of all things, and the Perfect.  Allah cannot be compelled.  Allah is true in His words and promises. Allah is All-powerful.

Also, Allah has no partner of partners. Allah is not made or composed of any material. Allah cannot be divided even in imagination.  Allah cannot be confined to any place, for Allah has no body.  Allah does not change.  Allah is invisible.  Allah has no needs. Allah’s attributes cannot be separated from Him.

3)  Root Two: The Justice of God

Allah is Just.  This means Allah is not a tyrant.  He rewards everyone depending on his or her deeds.  The one who obeys Allah will be saved and receive Paradise as his or her reward.

The one who disobeys Him will be sent to Hell.  The Quran says:

Allah affirms that there is no god but Him,

And so do the angels,

And those endued with knowledge,

He is standing firm in justice. – Quran 3:18

Allah is always just and never chooses to be unjust because He will not do that which is against His nature and character.  Why would Allah, who is perfect, act imperfectly? The answer is that He will never act imperfectly.  Allah is also the Beneficent, which can also be translated as the Compassionate and the Merciful.

4) Root Three: Prophethood

Since Allah is Just, He has a plan for His creatures. This plan is for them to do His will in all their relationships with each other as well as with Him. Therefore, Allah has sent prophets to acquaint humanity with these principles and codes of life.

Nor would we punish without sending messengers to give warning. 

- Quran 17:15

Adam was the first Prophet. Other prophets include Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, John the Baptist, Jesus the Messiah, and Muhammad, who was the last Prophet. In all, 124,000 thousand prophets were sent to various peoples at various times.

In fundamental principles, the prophets never disagreed.   They were sent to different peoples, at different times, in different regions.  The last Prophet, Muhammad was sent to all humanity with the final message from Allah.  Islam (which means Peace with and Submission to Allah) is the perfect code of life for all peoples in all places for all times to come.

We have not sent you (all of the prophets) but as a mercy unto all the worlds. – Quran 21:17

And we have not sent thee but as a universal messenger to announce and to warn. But most of the people do not understand. – Quran 34:28


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Qur’an as Sacrament 3 of 3

Author: Joyce Slaughter

IX. Some Key Differences

We can see that in some ways Qur’an can be compared to a Roman Catholic understanding of sacraments, especially the Eucharist. There are some ways in which the comparison falls short, however. Two key points come to mind: sacraments are meant to be communal celebrations and some sacraments are a means of initiation into the church, or Christian community.
Chauvet reminds us that the “agent of celebration (of the sacraments) is the church as understood in the primary meaning of the assembly.”1 It is Christ, in the person of the priest, who presides during the Eucharist. Since Christians are the “Body of Christ” they, too, are presiding“(T)he assembly is the active sacramental mediation of (Christ’s) his action”. In other words, according to many sacramental theologians, the entire community, priest and people, are necessary for sacramental action.
However, the believer does not need to read, recite, or meditate on the Qur’an communally for her to receive benefits. Some Islamic scholars teach that the Qur’an existed eternally with Allah. This eternal existence seems to preclude the requirement of the community being a necessity to the Qur’an’s existence.
Another difference is that sacraments, especially Baptism, are a means of initiation into the church, or Christian community. Even in infant baptism, the parents, godparents, as well as the entire community promise to nurture the child into adult faith. Chauvet claims sacraments are essential to Christian identity. “Every sacrament shows (Christians ) how to see and live what transforms our human existence into a properly Christian existence.”2
On the contrary, in Islam an infant does not need a rite to enter into the community of believers. Muslims believe everyone is born a Muslim. It is only our parents who change us into believers of another religion. The Quran says that Allah called forth all the souls of humanity from the loins of Adam to bear witness to Him and they all replied, “We bear witness.” It is the witness statement, or shahada, that is whispered into the ear of every newborn Muslim. It is this same statement that every convert to Islam proclaims to effect his conversion. All Muslims proclaim it in their daily prayers. “There is no god but God and Muhammad is his Messenger.” The Qur’an isn’t the port of entry into Islam.

VI. Conclusion

In summary, Quran and sacraments are similar in that they both contain the divine presence, transform individuals and societies, and give new meaning to lives. Qur’an and sacraments are both signs of the sacred and they both have remembrance or memorial at their core.
I hope that you will be encouraged by this paper to engage in interfaith dialogue because I agree with Daniel Madigan of Georgetown University who says, “…one of the great values of our encounter with the other is to discover our particular identity.”3 To me this means that dialogues with “the other” will clarify and strengthen my own faith.

1 Chauvet 33
2 Chauvet 154
3 Madigan 166

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Qur’an and Sacraments 2 of 3

Author: Joyce Slaughter

V. Transformative Power of Qur’an and Sacraments

Bernard Cooke attributes the  transformation of humans, individually and communally to sacraments.  Cooke explains that “God, dwelling with us, brings forth depths of personal growth that would not otherwise be possible… The reality of this relationship, as we increasingly accept it, provides a wisdom to guide us in the important decisions that shape our personhood and destiny… it leads to increasing personal relatedness to God and increasing personal transformation.” 1  It is logical to assume that as individuals are transformed their societies will be transformed as well.

Shah-Kazemi in writing of the sacred presence in the Qur’an says, “It is this element of presence which bestows upon all the other informative aspects of the text a dimension of transformative power. “ 2  Shaikh Muslim Bhanji in his book Towards a Better Understanding of the Qur’an, says  the central theme of the Qur’an is the “training of the human being as a being conscious of his duties.”3… his duties towards Allah, his family, and society as a whole.  The Qur’an in other words transforms the believer.  Imam Ali ibn Abu Talib prays ““O Allah! Expand my breast with Qur’an, actuate my body with Qur’an, enlighten my sight with Qur’an, liberate my tongue by Qur’an, and help me to mould my life according to Qur’an, so long as You make me live”.4  The Imam prays that his whole being will be transformed by or even subsumed by the Qur’an.  Al-Ghazali quotes Ali ibn Abi Talib on the importance of understanding and meditating on the Quran: “There is no good in a devotional act that is not understood, nor in Qur’an reading that is not pondered over.”5 While reciting the Qur’an will precipitate the descent of Allah upon the believers, understanding and pondering over it will help guide and transform their lives.


VI. Qur’an and Sacraments: Vehicle of New Meaning.

Bernard Cooke also discusses sacrament as a vehicle that delivers new meaning to life. He says our lives are interpreted through our experiences.   Our key experiences, such as the death of a loved one, surviving a life threatening  illness, or falling truly in love, are life-changing experiences.  Cooke says  “Sacrament is that which effects something by its significance.  Sacrament, in other words, it that which gives a new meaning to things.” 6  Jesus’ life gave new meaning to Christians.  He instituted the sacraments in part to allow them to experience this new life while living on earth.

Qur’an operated similarly in the life of the Prophet Mohammed.  Ira Lepedius, Professor Emeritus of History at Berkley states in his book A History of Islamic Societies, “We see the Prophet as a man to whom the revelation  has given a new direction in life. “ 7 The Qur’an changed a successful businessman, a trader in spices and other goods, into the dynamic leader of the new religion revealed by Allah.  It led the Prophet to preach against the Quraysh, the tribe who controlled Mecca, the economic capital of Arabia.  Their quest for wealth led them to neglect  the tribal ethic of pre Islamic Arabia: care for the widows, orphans, and the poor.  The Qur’an’s emphasis on the goodness and mercy of Allah lead the Prophet to challenge the Quraysh power structure.

The Qur’an not only gave new meaning to the life of the Prophet but to his followers as well.  The Qur’an told believers to abandon the barbarous practices that had become endemic in their society and return to practicing justice towards all members of their society.


VII. Sacrament and Qur’an as Sacred Signs.

Let’s turn now to some of the other ways sacrament and Quran are similar: Qur’an and sacrament as sacred signs and as remembrance.  We will then examine several significant ways in which they differ.

Sacraments are often defined as outward signs of an inward grace.  In the 1950’s the Catholic catechism defined sacraments as “visible signs …(that) produce and increase grace in our souls.” 8 The Council of Trent defined a sacrament as a “symbol of something sacred, a visible form of invisible grace, having the power of sanctifying “ 9  Chauvet tells us that “the first characteristic of a sacrament is to be a ‘sacred sign’ or as Augustine said, ‘a sign of sacred reality.’ “ 10

You will recall that pondering over Chauvet’s definition of sacrament as a sacred sign opened up to me the possibility of comparing the Qur’an and sacraments.   The “verses” in the Qur’an are called ayat or signs.  One of the names by which the Qur’an is known is Al-Huda or The Guidance.  Just as road signs guide us to our destination, Al-Huda guides the Muslim to her ultimate destination, heaven.  Sign and signs are mentioned 135 times in the Qur’an.  These signs can range from the punishment of an act of wickedness being a warning for believers 11 to the efficacy of honey produced by bees.12   Signs offer proofs of the Qur’an’s authenticity 13 and the power of Allah to save those who obey him. 14 The verses of the Qur’an contain the “signs of sacred reality”.  It tells of the past history of Allah’s working in the lives of previous prophets such as Abraham, Noah, Joseph, and Jesus.  It tells them how they are to worship Allah and that Allah is the only sacred reality in their lives.


VII.  Sacrament and Quran as Remembrance

In his Book From Age to Age: How Christians Have Celebrated the Eucharist, Edward Foley enumerates some key concepts to aid us in understanding the beginnings of Eucharistic theology emerging in the New Testament and how these concepts continue to inform Roman Catholic sacramental theology even today.  One of these concepts is that of Covenant Memorial.  The writers of the Hebrew Testament frequently reminded their readers of the special covenant God had made with the Israelites.  They are enjoined to remember how He saved them from slavery in Egypt by celebrating a memorial meal during Passover.  The actions of Jesus during this same Passover meal are considered to be His institution of the Sacrament of the Eucharist.  Foley says, “the followers of Jesus entered a ritual meal that invited them to collectively shape a living memory… (a) dynamic remembrance so that the new covenant would be proclaimed in their lives.”15
The Roman Catholic scholar, Alfons Teipen, tells us “ The Qur’an is not the dead text of dusty books…but rather a living memory.”16 The Qur’an itself tells Muslims to “remember” forty-two times.   They are to remember their past when Allah helped them. Allah tells the Muslims “Remember the day when you were few and He increased your numbers.”17  Allah includes both men and women in His rewards for remembering him.  He says “…those men and women who remember God a great deal, for them God has forgiveness and a great reward.” 18 Allah tells the Muslims they should “hasten to remember God, putting aside your business.“19  As Jesus instituted the Eucharist for the remembrance of him, Allah tells Muslims “I am God, and there is no god but I, so serve Me, and observe acts of prayer to remember me.”20

If there is any doubt that “memory” is important in the Qur’an we need only take note that its derivative words such as “remind” and “remembrance” appear 156 times.  Compare this to the 130 times “prayer” and its derivative words appear.  Salat (ritual prayer) of course, is a wajib or required act of all Muslims. This is by no means saying that the “remembrance” of Allah is separate from or superior to salat, but as the Eucharist is the source and summit of Christian life21 the remembrance of God is the summit of prayer.” 22 The Qur’an even calls itself “dhikru ‘Llah” which means the “remembrance of God”. 23  Ali ibn Abi Talib, tells us why this remembrance is so important: “Truly God has made the remembrance (al-dhikr) a polish for the hearts, by which they hear after being deaf, and see after being blind, and yield after being resistant.”24  What Muslims hear, see, and yield to is their own primordial nature, their fitra, which is fashioned after God’s own divine nature.


1 Cooke 233
2 Shah-Kazemi pg 6
5 ibid 5
6 Cooke, Bernard pg57
7 Lepidus, Ira pg 19
8 Chauvet xiv
10 Chauvet xiv
11 11:102-103
12 16:68
13 26:197
4 29:15
15 Foley 32-33
16 Teipen 290
17 Qur’an 7:86
18 “33:35
20 Qur’an 20:14
21 Catechism of Catholic Church sec 1324
22 Catholics and Shi’a in Dialogue 128
23 Qur’an 21:58
24 Catholics and Shi’a 131

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Qur’an as Sacrament 1 of 3

Author: Joyce Slaughter

I. Introduction

In writing the historic Vatican II document, Nostra Aetate, the Roman Catholic Church acknowledged that truth exists in other faith traditions and began to encourage interfaith dialogue. In their search for dialogue points, Christian and Muslim theologians have often compared the Qur’an, the actual words of Allah (God), to Jesus, the Word of God. This comparison is certainly helpful to the theological understanding of these two concepts. However, to the everyday Muslim associating Qur’an with Jesus presents a problem. Jesus, for Christians, is the divine Son of God, a co-equal as the second person of the Trinity. Some Muslims who see the Trinity as shirk, or polytheism, might hesitate to compare Jesus to Qur’an.
In his book, The Sacraments: the Word of God at the Mercy of the Body, Roman Catholic theologian, Louis-Marie Chauvet argues that sacraments are “first of all sacred signs. “ My first thought on reading this statement was that the verses of the Qur’an are called ayat, which means signs. Since Muslims believe that the Qur’an is the word of Allah, I concluded that the Qur’an might also be thought of as “sacred sign” and so could possibly be considered as sacrament especially from a Roman Catholic perspective. In this paper, therefore, I propose to focus on Qur’an as sacrament in light of the work of several Christian sacramental theologians, some of which are involved in interfaith dialogue. I will highlight both similarities as well as differences between Qur’an and sacraments. It is my hope that this comparison might facilitate a better understanding of Qur’an among Christians and sacrament among Muslims, thus smoothing the path for the type of interfaith dialogue that occurs among neighbors, colleagues, and grass roots interfaith groups.

II. Possibility of Quran as Sacrament

In proposing that Qur’an be understood as a sacrament, the first question that comes to mind is “Is it even possible to compare the two?” Michael Kirwan, a Jesuit priest teaching at Heythrop College at the University of London, reminds us “sacramentality is not a monopoly of Christianity, but rather is basic to all human experience.”1 Leonardo Boff, the Brazilian theologian, says “Every religion, be it Christian or pagan, has a sacramental structure.” and that “all things, not just some things, can be transformed into sacraments.”2 Daniel Madigan, an Australian Jesuit teaching at Georgetown University, states “the place of (Qur’anic) scriptural recitation in the Muslim tradition could be considered analogous to the role of the Eucharist in the Christian tradition.”3 Reza Shah-Kazemi, of the Institute of Ismaili Studies, says the Names of Allah, which are found in the Qur’an, are sacramental prolongations of the Named, charged with divine presence.4 Clearly, the groundwork of comparing Quran to sacrament has been laid.

III. Points of Comparison

Now that we have seen the it is possible to compare Qur’an and sacraments, I propose that the following concepts apply to both of them.
• They both contain the divine presence.
• They both transform humans individually and communally.
• They both give new meaning to life.
• They are both signs of the sacred.
• They are both emphasize remembrance.

IV. Divine Presence in Qur’an and Sacrament.

Our first point of similarity is that both the sacraments and the Qur’an are special articulations of the Divine Presence. Jesus Christ, the divine second person of the Christian Trinity both instituted and is present in the sacraments. Edward Schillebeeckx, O.P., the theologian who served the Dutch Bishops at the Second Vatican Council, says, “The Eucharist is the focal point of Christ’s real presence among us.” The catechism of the Catholic Church says that “the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained” in the Eucharist. Roman Catholic Christianity undoubtedly believes in the divine presence in the sacraments.
Muslims believe the Qur’an contains Allah’s divine presence as well. William A. Graham, of Harvard University, says that through recitation, memorization, and reverent study of the Qur’an Muslims experience the Divine.5 Shah-Kazemi explains that the Qur’an “is deemed to be both revealed truth, explicitly articulated through words, and sacred presence, mysteriously conveyed by the divine Word. Bukhari, a compiler of Prophetic Hadiths, or sayings, relates the story of one of the Companions who was reciting the Qur’an. When one of his animals tried to run away he was puzzled and asked the Prophet who told him “that was the power of the Divine Presence that descended with the reciting” that startled the animal. Even animals were aware that something was different. This Divine Presence is called “al-Sakina” and is said to descend when a believer recites Qur’an.


1 Catholic and Shia in Dialogue pg 176.
2 Boff, Leonardo. Sacraments of Life, Life of the Sacraments
3 Liturgy in a Postmodern World pg 170
4 Shah-Kazemi . pg 132
5 Graham, Islamic and Comparative Religious Studies 182

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