Islam - an Introduction 17 July 2012
The Koran and its Teaching (29-50)
The foundation of Islam is the Koran which is not the word of a prophet but the unadulterated word of
God, which has come audible through Muhammad.
To recite the Koran is the most sublime and edifying occupation for the Muslim. Since the Koran is the
Divine Word, Muslims consider it inconceivable to translate it into any language. A translation is only an
explanation of the book’s meaning, one interpretation among others.
According to the Islamic doctrine, the style of the Koran is inimitable and of superhuman beauty and
power. Not only does the text include solutions for all problems that arise in the world, but there are
also unknown Divine mysteries hidden in the sequence of its verses and in the arrangement of its
What is it that so deeply moves the Muslim when reciting from the Koran, when seeing its verses, or
when barely touching it? Goethe says: “the style of the Koran is, in tune with its contents and goal,
grand, awesome, and in some places truly sublime.
Each single verse of the Koran is called ayat, “sign” “miracle”, because Muhammad brought forth these
verses as divine signs when his adversaries asked him for a miracle attesting to his prophet hood.
In the Koran, the position of human beings is mentioned several times. One the one hand, man is
superior to all spirits and angels, for God breathed into Adam “from His breath” and ordered the angels
to prostrate themselves before Adam whom he wanted to place as a vicegerent, khalifa, on earth.
Human beings are good by nature and change due to the influence of their environment. The absolute
bond between man and God is symbolized in the beautiful words of Sura 7/17: before the world was
created God drew mankind for a moment from the lions in Adam and asked them, “Am I not your lord?”
they said, “Yes, we testify to it.” By this answer the entire human race has expressed its willingness to
obey God’s orders and has accepted all His decrees in advance; thus they cannot claim ignorance of His
commands at the Day of Judgment.
Human beings called to ponder when looking at the signs which God has placed “in the horizons and in
them.” This means to observe history and nature; one’s own heart and soul can lead the way to a
deeper religious understanding.
The Muslims’ desire was to recite the Koran as beautifully as possible, and the art of tilawat, the proper
musical recitation, developed into a high art. The hafiz, who “preserves” the Koran, knows it by heart, is
highly respected, and boys and girls with beautiful voices are sent at an early age to the mosque to
memorize the Book.
The Five Pillars of Islam
First one, the profession of faith, shahadah, is basically the foundations of the others. Whoever
confesses in public: “I testify that there is no deity save God and that Muhammad is the messenger of
God” has accepted Islam. Shahadah sums up Islam’s central points.
Muslims have always emphasized that it is the second half of the profession of faith by which Islam
defines itself as an independent religion: many people will confess God’s unity and unicity, but the
practical aspects are brought by Muhammad; to obey the laws he preached means to follow God’s will
as it is revealed in the divine Book.
Other pillars include: the ritual prayer, the alms tax, fasting in Ramadan, and the pilgrimage to Mecca. Second one is salat. It is performed 5 times a day in 24 hours. Every prayer begins with niyya, the
formulation of the intention of perform the evening prayer with its 3 cycles or raka.
When the prayer time begins, the muezzin calls f