4.1. The basic elements: the Quran and Allah



Islam is a universalistic religion, which promotes equality among people no matter the race, gender or social condition. The only thing that differentiates people is the fear of Allah, which varies according to personal choice. The term “Islam” comes from the (Romanized) Arabic word salama (“to obey”), which is also the root for the word “Muslim,” which means “the one who received Islam.” The term “Islam” reveals the essence of religion and the purpose of human existence: loving and serving God.

Muslims refer to Jews, Christians and themselves as the “people of the book” due to the fact that the three religions are based on certain texts of divine origin. The central text or the sacred book of all Muslims is the Quran (Romanized Arabic: Al-Qur’ān – which means “reading” or “reciting”), composed of 114 suras (a sort of chapters). The Quran contains the revelations given by God through Gabriel the Archangel in the year 610 to Muhammad in the cities of Mecca and Medina directly into Arabic. The Quran is the Word of God, the final and complete revelation of faith.

Islam is a faith that has always existed, is pure and unaltered by people’s thoughts and was gradually revealed since the dawn of time through a number of prophets. The Quran names 25 prophets (their number is above 1,000 according to tradition), including Adam (the first man), Noah, Abraham, Moses, King David, Jesus and Muhammad, the latter being the most significant.32 Muhammad is considered to be the direct descendent of Abraham through Ishmael, born of the handmaiden Hagar. The Quran makes multiple references to the “religion of Abraham” (Quran 2:130, 135; 3:65; 6:123, 161; 12:38), but this phrase refers specifically to Islam, sometimes in contrast to Judaism and Christianity: “Abraham was neither a Jew nor a Christian. He was upright and devoted to God, never an idolater” (Quran 3:67).33

Islam admits the divine inspiration of both the Jewish and Christian scriptures and the major religious roles of Moses and Jesus Christ. Yet, the sacred texts are believed to have been wrongly interpreted and distorted by believers (both accidentally and intentionally). Based on this belief, Muslims see in the Quran the revision of the mistakes made by the others, the unaltered “Last Testament” revealed through the final prophet. Muhammad is the “Seal of the Prophets,” the last in a long series, and Islam is the final and perfect monotheistic faith (Quran 5:3). Besides, the precepts of the Tanakh and the New Testament are not categorically embraced; they are replaced by new laws revealed by God and encoded by Muhammad in the Quran. The original Arabic text of the Quran is considered uncorrupted and holy to the last letter. Therefore, any translation is seen as an interpretation of the Quran, because only the original Arabic text is divine scripture.34 The Quran is complemented by hadiths, conversations and speeches of Muhammad that help the exegetes interpret and apply the quranic precepts.

Like Jews, Muslims do not kneel or pray to their prophet, but only to the supreme deity. Allah (the Arab word for “God”) is the supreme deity, is unique, is not associated in a Holy Trinity and does not have a Son (Quran 112:1).35 Yahweh is one and the same with Allah, while Jesus – known in Islam by the name of “Isa” – was an important prophet, but not the Son of God or part of God. The Holy Spirit, a very abstract concept, is identified with Gabriel the Archangel. Dogmatically, Muslims see Christianity as a form of polytheism: “Those people who say that God is the third of three are defying [the truth]: there is only One God. If they persist in what they are saying, a painful punishment will afflict those of them who persist” (Quran 5:73). The Quran makes an interesting comparison between Jesus and Adam, saying that both were created by God from earth (Quran 3:59). Muhammad speaks respectfully about Jesus and Mary (Quran 19:16-40), but he denies their divine essence. Jesus is considered to be a prophet superior to his predecessors, raised to Heaven by Allah, but his crucifixion and resurrection is denied (Quran 4:155-158).36

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