Religious Beliefs

Is there an Islamic creed?

One short, two-part statement sums up the essentials of Muslim belief. “I confess that there is no deity but God, and that Muhammad is the messenger of God.” In this “testimony” called the shahada (“confession or witnessing,” pronounced shaHAAda), Muslims affirm the two foundational elements from which all other beliefs and practices flow. First, they assert that only the one, transcendent, supreme being called Allah in Arabic can claim the full allegiance of humankind. Allah means literally “the deity,” or what ordinary English usage calls God “with a capital G.” Allah is therefore not a distinct name for God as such, but the primary designation for the Absolute, the deity above all other powers both spiritual and worldly. Affirming God’s absolute oneness is called tawhid (pronounced tawHEED).

Second, Muslims attest that human beings know of this Supreme Being through the agency of prophets, the last of whom was Muhammad. This profession of faith is the first of the “five pillars” of Islam (along with almsgiving, daily ritual prayer, fasting during Ramadan—pronounced RamaDAAN—and pilgrimage to Mecca, all of which will be discussed later in detail). Muslim religious scholars between about 750 and 950 formulated a number of other, more detailed creedal statements, but none has been as widely known as the Nicene Creed among Christians or the “Thirteen Articles” among Jews. Those later Islamic creeds developed largely as correctives to theological positions that arose during Islam’s early centuries, views that the creeds formally repudiated as unacceptable.


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