Islam 101: What Every Muslim Needs to Know
This is part of a series on Islamic Apologetics, follow the link for more information.
Never overestimate your level of knowledge.
Whether you were born into Islam, or accepted Islam later in life or just searching for information on Islam, securing a foundation for your Islamic beliefs is a necessity that should not be delayed. The scholars are in consensus that there are certain things that every Muslim must know, there is a responsibility upon each and every one of us to have a certain level of competency in our Islamic knowledge. There are two forms of necessitated knowledge. The knowledge which only a few in every Muslim community must possess, this is known as ‘Fard al Kifayah’ or communally required knowledge. Then there is the knowledge which every Muslim is responsible to know, this is known as ‘Fard al Ayn’. In regard to apologetics, this field is Fard al Kifayah, which means that not every Muslim needs to have the specialized knowledge needed to respond to critics. Only a few in each community should strive for higher Islamic education so that they may defend Islam against undue criticism. Generally speaking, ‘da’wah’ is seen as an obligation on each individual, so while apologetics may not be responsible upon each individual, ‘da’wah’ is.
Regardless if you’re reading this page because you seek to engage in ‘da’wah’ or Islamic apologetics, knowing the basics of Islamic belief is required. The different Islamic schools of thought (madha’ib) each differ in regard to what the required knowledge for each individual is. Generally speaking, it is required to know how to perform Salaah (worship) and Wudhu (ritual purification), and what invalidates both. It is also required to know about the five pillars of Islam and how to enact their responsibilities, it is also required to know and understand the six articles of faith. Knowledge of these things is for your own benefit, as it provides you with the information needed to practise Islam on a day to day basis. In regard to Islamic beliefs, I have found three books to be very beneficial in reading:
- “A Young Muslim’s Guide to the Modern World”, by Seyyed Hossein Nasr is a summary of general Islamic beliefs. It explains the basic beliefs of all Muslims, and is available free online for download.
- ‘Aqeedah Tahawiyyah’, by Imam Tahawi al Hanafi is an early Muslim treatise on our beliefs about Allah. This is important to know for every Muslim, as it explains what Ahlus Sunnah wal Jama’ah believes about Allah and His attributes. This too, is available online.
- ”Muhammad: His Life Based on the Earliest Sources”, by Martin Lings is one of the best works on the life of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. It’s extremely well written, and very easy to understand. It is also available online.
These three works, cover basic Islamic belief. They are comprehensive, but worth the read. Reading these works will allow the Muslim to respond to basic questions about Islam and Islamic belief. It should be noted that these works allow a Muslim to understand most of his beliefs, but he is still required to learn about the laws relating to the five pillars of Islam. Who is Allah? Who is Muhammad ﷺ? What are the five pillars? What is the Qur’an? What is Islam? What qualifies someone as a Muslim? These questions and more like them are answered in all three of the works given above. Surprisingly I’ve found myself encountering Muslims who cannot answer these questions, but they are debating with persons of other faiths, or even fellow Muslims! If you are one of those people, then you need to ask yourself a very simple, yet important question: If I don’t know what I believe, or understand the basics about my faith, on what basis can I “debate” others?
If you truly want to defend Islam, then you have to know about Islam.