Basic Muslim Beliefs

Muslim Submission and Prayer
Muslim Submission and Prayer. Alija/E+/Getty

Islam is a complex religion, and while the basics of Islam are usually explained via the , that set of beliefs do not quite encompass all of the fundamental principles necessary to Islam. There are a few other principles which are important to understanding Islamic law, tradition, history, and even Islamic extremism. Not only must any criticism of Islam take these principles into account, but these principles themselves can be the foundation of a serious, effective challenge.

 

Strict Monotheism

Muslims monotheism is closer to that of Judaism than it is to Christianity, rejecting the traditional Christian concept of a "Trinity." Muslims believe that God, creator of all of existence, is just, omnipotent, and merciful. Muslims also reject the anthropomorphization of God in other monotheistic religions like Christianity or Judaism. For Muslims, God is completely "other" — God does not talk, does not walk and does not do anything like humans.

Islam is thus susceptible to certain anti-theological arguments, like contradictions in the concept of omnipotence, but not others which depend upon anthropomorphic characteristics. These strict beliefs also undermine the claim that Muslims and Christians believe in the same god.

 

Continued Revelation

Revelation from God stopped with Muhammad, but Muslims do not believe that Muhammad was the only messenger God has ever sent. Muslims acknowledge the general validity of earlier revelations in Jewish and Christian traditions.

Differences between Islam and earlier religions are explained by arguing that those religions have been corrupted or misunderstood. Although Jesus is regarded as a prophet of God, for example, they reject the Christian claim of the divinity of Jesus as blasphemous because God is one and indivisible.

Although not so many arguments against the validity of Islam can be made here, this is an area where atheists can argue against the claims that Islam, Christianity, and Judaism all basically worship the same god. It can also be argued that the Muslim versions of stories is no more reliable or authoritative than older Jewish and Christian versions.

 

Submission

Muslims believe that those who submit to the will of , as explained by Muhammad, will be saved and have a place in Paradise after they die. In Paradise believers will experience both spiritual and physical pleasure for all eternity. Those who do not repent and follow God will spend eternity in suffering in Hell. In the Qur'an 98:1-8, it states: "The unbelievers among the People of the Book and the pagans shall burn forever in the fire of Hell. They are the vilest of all creatures." ("People of the Book" refers to Christians, Jews and Muslims).

Islam is susceptible to ethical critiques of the immorality of punishing people for all eternity for a temporal "sin" that may be nothing more than rational, justified disbelief. Islam is also susceptible to arguments against the possibility that physical existence or experience can continue for eternity in a non-physical realm.

 

Community

It is an important principle of Islam that all Muslims are members of the ummah, or community of believers. There are not supposed to be any distinctions based upon race, class, income, ethnicity, nationality, or any other of those superficial distinctions. Being a Muslim is all that really counts — at least in theory.

In practice, Islam has experienced significant amounts of racism and bigotry between Muslims. Islam is thus susceptible to critiques that focus on how Muslims really behave and why they don't put their alleged principles into practice. Ultimately, Islam is what Muslims do, not simply what they think and say they should be doing.

 

Purity

The concept of purity is important in Islam. There are a variety of ways in which purity is to be maintained. One is through the avoidance of using drugs and alcohol or engaging in gambling.

Another is through not eating certain foods, like pork. And finally, there is the matter of maintaining a measure of ritual cleanliness.

Although the concept of purity may sound relatively innocuous, it is a foundation of many harmful, discriminatory, and even violent behaviors. An insistence on purity has often been the reasoning behind excluding women from certain areas of life, for example, especially after pregnancy or menstruation. A desire for ritual purity can encourage the belief that "impure" beliefs of others must be suppressed, the "impure" people must be discriminated against, and that "impure" behaviors must be legally banned.

 

Seven Principles of Muslim Beliefs

Muslim beliefs have also been broken down into the following seven principles:

 

  1. Tawheed - the unity of God.
  2. Risallah - acceptance of the Prophethood of Muhammad, a messenger of God.
  3. Mala'ikah - belief in angels.
  4. Kutubullah - belief in God's books (like the Koran and the Psalms of David).
  5. Yawmuddin - belief in a Day of Judgment.
  6. al-Qadr - acceptance of pre-destination.
  7. Akhriah - faith in a resurrection after death.

All of these principles have analogs in other religions, like Christianity, and can be challenged on the same basis as they are challenged elsewhere. If humans are pre-destined to certain actions and fates by God, for example, how can they be held legally or morally responsible? Where is the evidence for the existence of a soul that survives death? How is it possible for an immaterial mind to exist in the cases of angels and God?