The population of Israel is 25% Arab and other non-Jewish groups, about 2,300,000 people. Of these, 82% are Sunni Muslims. Jerusalem is home to the third most important shrine of the Islam faith.
The essence of the teachings of Islam is stated in the Qur’an which means “reading” when translated from Arabic. This reading was originally a heartfelt, inner perception of the Divine revelation sent to the founder of this religion, the Prophet Muhammad, who dictated them to his loved ones. According to Islamic belief, the Qu’ran is a book sent down from above.
"This book truly comes from the Lord of the worlds, the Faithful Spirit brought it from heaven. He put it on your heart to be a messenger. It is written in Arabic and its syllable is pure. The sacred and ancient books mention it" (the Qu’ran, Surah 25, 191-196).
What, from the point of view of the founder of Islam, is the essence of faith? This question can be answered from the teaching of the Qu’ran,
"Tell those who will argue with you: I have given my heart to God, and also those who follow me" (Surah 3:18)
Another passage explains,
"Abraham said to his father Azar: Shall I repay the statues the worship that befits one God? You and your people in deep darkness, We showed Abraham the glory of heaven and earth, to make his faith unshakable. When night overshadowed him, he saw a star and exclaimed: behold my God!
But the star disappeared, and he said: I do not like that which disappears. Seeing the rising moon, he said: here is my God, but when the moon went down, he added: if the Lord had not enlightened me, I would have been in error.
When the sun appeared in the east, he exclaimed: this is my God - he is more than others! But when the sun went down, he continued: my people! I am not involved in the worship of your deities, I lift my forehead to the Creator of heaven and earth; honor Him alone; I am not with those who rank the gods as God " (ibid. 74-79).
In other words, Islam is a faith in one invisible God that was professed by the father and the national ancestor of the Arab people, Abraham (Ibrahim).
"We led you to accept the faith of Abraham, who was godly and did not belong to idolaters"
Islam is also the faith of the Hanifs, righteous people of the desert, and also of Arab people since ancient times. Islam is affirmed as a true religion, known to mankind but later became seduced into idolatry.
"They equated the genies with God, and those are only His creatures. They ascribe children to Him in their ignorance. Praise God, such blasphemy is far from Him" (Ibid 100).
"If there were many gods in the universe, its destruction would be close" (Surah 21:11).
God revealed himself to Muhammad as the Almighty, the Creator of the Universe, righteous judge and giver of moral laws. In Sura 6, Allah (the Arabic name for the Most High God in the singular tense and similar to the Hebrew name of Eloah) is called the God of truth. But He also reveals to Muhammad from another side:
"Call on God or call on the Merciful: these two names are equally beautiful" (Sura 17).
In the Surah of the Qur'an, the sermon begins with words,
"In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful..."
Around 610 AD, a certain Meccan man named Muhammad began to have visions. He was from the Quraish tribe and a descendant of the aristocratic Hashim family who performed a number of honorary functions which were inherited.
At first, he took these visions for the intrigues of dark forces or evil spirits known as shaitans but then accepted the advice of wise friends and fellow tribesmen and realized these messages were revelations from above.
As a messenger of God, Muhammad attacked the vices of his contemporaries with an accusatory sermon. He denounced the greed of the rich, the robbing of orphans and the poor, deception in trade and usury. The resurrection of the dead, the coming judgment of God, punishment of sinners in hell and the reward of the righteous were themes of Muhammad's early sermons. Instilling in the listeners the fear of God, he also pointed out the way out through repentance, a righteous lifestyle, caring for the poor, widows and orphans and faith in the mercy of the One and Almighty God who is merciful.
The sermon of the new Meccan prophet did not have an impact at first, nor did it have much success among his fellow tribesmen. Only his closest people, his family and friends, believed in his mission. They often came to listen to Muhammad's teachings at his house and the followers of the new faith were called "those who entrusted themselves to God," that is, Muslims.
Around 614 AD, Muhammad began his public preaching and the number of followers increased as well as those who rejected him. Persecution was meted out to the believers and to the prophet as well. Muhammed was subjected to insults, his married daughters were divorced and expelled by their husbands and parents isolated their children so that they would renounce the new faith. Servants and slaves were beaten, starved, tied up in the scorching sun. In the sermons of the prophet, there were no radical calls for an uprising, the distribution of the wealth of the rich or freeing of the slaves. Instead, he limited himself to condemning cruelty, deception, and abuse.
The skeptical contemporaries of the prophet demanded signs and wonders from him to confirm his authority. To this, he objected, claiming that he was just an ordinary person chosen to convey the words of the Most High God. As an example, he cited the destruction of the unrepentant cities of Sodom and Gomorrah and the salvation of the righteous man, Lot, along with his daughters.
The persecution of Muslim believers in Mecca became so severe that many of them were forced to move to Ethiopia where close trade relations had been established for a long time. Muhammad and some of his followers chose to remain in Mecca.
The central theme of the prophet's teaching was the idea that God had, on several occasions, revealed His truth and had already sent them his messengers Ibrahim (Abraham), Musa (Moses), and Isa (Jesus). Because the people had been seduced from the path of truth time and time again, the Almighty sent another messenger to them, the prophet Muhammad.
God also gave His holy scriptures (sahifa) to different people. Moses was given the Taurat (Torah), Daoud (David) was given the Zabur (some scholars equate this with the book of Psalms), and Jesus was given the Injil (the Gospel). Finally, Muhammad received the Qu'ran from God.
The first introductory surah of the Quran is in praise of God, very similar to the Bible, thus reflecting the similarity of the concept and understanding of the supreme Deity:
"Praise be to God, Lord of the worlds, merciful, gracious, king of the day of judgment. We adore You, Lord, and pray for Your help. Guide us on the path of salvation, on the path of those to whom You have multiplied Your good deeds, who deserve Your anger and are kept from delusion" (1:1).
Muhammad did not consider the Qu'ran to be a completely new and different revelation but believed that true religion was given to all humanity from the beginning of its existence. He considered the difference in religious beliefs a delusion and heresy that derived from the evil human hearts,
"Initially, all people had one faith. Then they indulged in religious disputes" (Sura 10:20).
Islam, from the point of view of the teachings of the Qu'ran, is a continuation of the religion of the prophets of the Old Testament and the apostles of the New Testament.
"Islam is the religion of Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus" (Surah 32:11).
"... We believe in the sacred books received from heaven by Moses, Jesus and the prophets, we do not consider any difference between them - we have surrendered ourselves to Him" (Surah 3:78).
According to the teachings of Islam, the Qu'ran (or reading translated from Arabic) is a divine book kept in heaven until it was time to reveal it to the world. Although initially composed in Arabic, it has become available through translations to all the peoples of the earth.
Although the translations cannot completely and accurately convey the deep meaning of the Qur'an, they were made with the sole purpose of conveying the words of God to mankind. The Qu'ran is written in Arabic, but, in reality it is the language of God's creation, forests and rivers, songbirds, the light of the moon and the sun; the very language in which the Most High God spoke to mankind from the time of creation. Therefore, Qur'an can be comprehended by any nation and by any person. The Qur'an writes it is…
"... pure revelation in the hearts of those who have been given knowledge" (Surah 29:49).
Every written book has a purpose, and the message of the Qur'an is to communicate God's intentions and plan for humanity and the world. In other words, it conveys to man why God created the world, what is the reason for the creation of man and placing him on the earth. It also teaches what is required of man in his lifespan before death and what will happen to him in afterlife period. According to the Qu’ran, man was created as an eternal being. When God created man, He divided his existence into two periods: before and after death which will determine whether a person will receive a reward or punishment for his actions throughout his life.
The Qur'an is a book in which God warns a person against wrong choices. This collection of teachings and admonitions should be called a book of wisdom, but the Qur'an is not a didactic book. When uninitiated first open the Qur’an, it may seem like a collection of fragmentary statements, but it is meant to serve as a revelation of God with every passage (or Surah) no matter where you start reading.
The modern understanding of the concept of Islam about a holy war - jihad, is significantly different, according to Muslim scholars, from that taught by the Qur'an. It is argues that by simply reading the Qur'an, one can be assured that its ideals have nothing to do with violence. The Qur'an and Islam (root meaning is submission to the will of God), have nothing to do with violence. Indeed, the Qur'an contains the concept of jihad, but interpreted correctly, it means a peaceful struggle for the truth of faith.
This is how the Qur'an expresses this idea:
"Wage a greater war with this book (Qur'an)" (Sura 25:52)
It is absolutely obvious that the Quran is not some kind of weapon capable of exterminating, destroying life, but on the contrary, its teaching is capable of conquering, putting to death the evil intentions and subsequent evil deeds of people. In this sense, the Qur'an is an ideological instrument of struggle or war (jihad) against evil.