In the exam, four questions will be set & candidates are required to answer two questions.
Each question is in two parts: the first part (a) asks for knowledge & understanding & is worth 30 marks; the second part (b) is an evaluation/assessment question & is worth 15 marks.
You should therefore spend double the amount of time on part (a).
The four questions will be based on the following four themes:
1) revelation, complilation, authority.
The word Islam comes from the Arabic word for submission, but is also connected with salaam meaning peace. Islam is the religion of submission to the will of God which, Muslims believe, is the only way to bring peace between people & with God.
According to Islam, when God called Muhammad, he did not tell him to preach, he said 'Proclaim in the name of thy Lord & Cherisher who created man .......' That was what Muhammad did, he recited the words God gave him, so the Qur'an is the word of God, not Muhammad.
There is a lack of clarity amoungst Muslim authors about whether or not the holy books given before the Qur'an were the Qur'an which then became distorted. The classic teaching is that the Qur'an is eternal, and that to be a Muslim you need to know, & believe & follow all that is in the Qur'an.
The verses were written by his family and freinds on bits of leather etc. and soon after his death they were made into a official book.
All these beliefs mean that, as far as Muslims are concerned, the Qur'an has absolute authority. If the Qur'an says something, then if you are a good Muslim, you must do it. It is the most holy thing a Muslim can possess.
2) use of the Qur'an in worship & everyday life.
Most Muslims keep their Qur'an wrapped up so that it does not become polluted; they will always keep it on a shelf higher than all other books; & read it only with clean hands. They don't eat or drink, or involve themselves in conversation while reading the Qur'an, and never let it rest below their navel. In the Mosque special Qur'an stands are provided so that you can read the Quran whilst sitting on the floor.
Muslims believe that Arabic is the language of God. An english translation is not the Qur'an, it is an interpretation. All Muslims therefore learn to read the Qur'an in Arabic and children go to Mosque school to learn to read Arabic (even if they don't understand it). Muslims in teh UK are encouraged now to read Qur'ans with Arabic & English side by side so that they understand what they read, & there are many textbooks to help Muslim children understand their religion.
The Qur'an is read by some Muslims during the fasting month of Ramadan, as part of the cleansing period.
3) Qur'an as a source of law
Some scholars have claimed that the Qur'an was primarily a book of Prophecy. By this they mean that it contains warnings about a future judgment & indications of when that judgment will be. It is true that the small suras do tend to be concerned vey much with Judgement. Nevertheless, even the short suras tend to be concerned with what a Muslim should believe & how they should live their life.
The Qur'an contains all the fundemental Muslim beliefs about God. the Qur'an gives stories from the lives of the prophets. It teaches about prayer, about fasting, Zakah and Hajj.
It explains the nature of morality.
So the Qur'an is a book about what Muslims should believe & how they should behave,much of which originally appeared in prophetic forms.
4) Importance for Muslims
- Muslims believe that the Qur'an is a direct revelation of God. The Qur'an is God's word & is the nearest thing there is to a part of God in the world.
- The Qur'an is the most important thing in Islam. God has revealed his word to people in this book which tells Muslims everything they need to know about God, religion & how to live their lives. The Qur'an occupies a similar place in Islam to that occupied by Jesus in Christianity.
- The Quran is the complete book of guidance for mankind. It is the sacred book of the Muslims & the main source of law in Islam. The whole of the Qur'an is from Allah. Each word of it is a revealed word.
- The Qur'an is the only miracle which Muhammad performed and all prophets perform a miracle.
- Muslims believe the language of the Qur'an is so beautiful that the very sound of it can convert people.
Five Pillars 1) and 2)
Concept of worship, Pillar and the significance
As far as most Muslims are concerned Islam is a way of life. It is not a religous belief which you can shut off from your ordinary day-to-day life. Worship is not a matter of occasionally remembering God or even going to the mosque 5 times a day, it is an attitude to life. If you have accpted the 6 beliefs of Islam and decided to submit yourself to the will of God, you are a Muslim & Muslims worship God in the whole of tehir lives. Eating, drinking & marriage, all come uder the scope of worship if a Muslim is performing them with the right attitude. This is the fact of Islam is seen in the way in which many Muslims refer to the 'House of Islam'. Just as you live much of your house so Muslims can live their whole life in the house of Islam. A house has foundations & for Islam this is the Qur'an. the way a Muslim should worship & therefore everything a Muslim has to do, is based on the Qur'an. This is the word of God, it is the basis of Islam & so it is the foundation of faith and worship. In the Middle East every house was supported on pillars. the support of teh House of Islam is the 'Five Pillars' of witness. prayer, charity, fasting and pilgrimage. All houses also need a roof and for teh House of Islam teh roof is the Holy Law (Shari'a). A Muslim is someone who has submitted to the will of God as revealed in the Holy Qur'an to the Prophet Muhammad. But Islam can never be theoretical, it is always pratical. If you have submitted to the will of God, then there must be pratical signs are the pillars. The pillars cut off a Muslim from a non-Muslim, & they show that the person performing them is one who has submitted to the will of God and who is worshipping God through them.
Five Pillars 3)
Shahada - The only 'non action' pillar. Declaration of faith - There is no God but God. Muhammad is the Prophet of God. It is the first of the pillars and once declared you are recognised as a Muslim. These words are repeated many times a day in the prayer ritual. Muslim fathers are expected to whisper the words into the eat of their newborn child, and dying Muslims try to make these words their last breath.
Salah - Prayer. 5 times a day. Must be clean - wudu. facing Mecca. Prayer mat and Compass for home use. Juma Prayers - friday prayer special day of the week.
Zakat - Tax. 2.5% of what a Muslim earns. Money doesn't belong to them. Stops greed & Jealousy.
Sawm - Fasting. Month of Ramadan. Everyone over 14 (puberty). The sick & menstuatng are excused. Brings Muslims closer to God. Promotes self control. recharges the spiritual batteries.
Hajj - The only pillar which Muslims do not have to perform. Muslims go if they have enough money & are physically & mentally fit. The crowning achievment of a Muslims life & the unifying element of the Muslim faith.
Doctrine of God
Tawid - belief in God's unity. oneness of God.
Implications of Tawid - The angels & prophets are not Godly.Muslim theologians teach that a Muslim should seek the oneness of humanity with nature in order to express faith in the oneness of God.
Shirk- Associating other beings with God = SIN. Anyone who commits shirk can no longer be considered a Muslim for it is the one unforgivable sin. No pictures in any Mosques because of Tawid. the oneness of God is the first thing a Muslim baby hears. These words should also be on their lips as they die, showing that they are Muslim (identity).
Islam/ Muslim; God as lawgiver & judge- shari'a law. Judgment day. Qur'an = Word of God.