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What is Islam?

Iqbal Ebrahim

I have been regularly asked by people to explain what the basic tenets or code of beliefs are in Islam. This is because as some see it, as a ‘difficult’ and ‘unusual’ religion to follow.

The word “Islam” is an Arabic one meaning peace and submission. A practicing Muslim strives to submit whole-heartedly to (Allah) God, thereby achieving peace in this life as well as in the afterlife. Islam is one of the three Abrahamic religions together with Judaism and Christianity. As such, it is a religion based on revelation that believes in the One God and the guidance revealed by God to the prophets.  

“We believe in Allah, and in what has been revealed to us and what was revealed to Abraham, Ismail, Isaac, Jacob and the Tribes, and in the Books given to Moses, Jesus and the Prophets, from their Lord; we make no distinction between one and another among them, and to Allah do we bow our will in Islam” (Quran 3: 84) Islam is a simple religion based on five pillars. And what are those Five Pillars?

1. The first is Shahadah – Testimony and a declaration of faith.

This declaration of faith is called the shahadah, a simple formula that all the faithful pronounce: “To bear witness that there is none worthy of worship except Allah, and that Muhammad (pbuh) is His messenger to all human beings until the Day of Judgment.” These words are to be uttered with sincere conviction and under no coercion. The significance of this testimony is the belief that our only purpose in life is to serve and obey God, and this is achieved through following the example of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).

2. Salat / Namaaz (The Daily Prayers)

Daily prayers are offered five times a day as a duty towards Allah. They strengthen and enliven the belief in Allah and inspire us to a higher morality. They are meant to purify the heart and prevent temptation towards wrong doings and evils. Muslims are encouraged where possible to perform their five daily prayers in the mosque in congregation or individually where it is most convenient. .

Many people are taken aback when they hear that we have to offer prayers five times a day. These prayers are offered at and interspaced at the following times: just before sunrise, at lunch time, late afternoon, at sunset, and in the early evening about 2 hours after sunset.
These times are there to remind us that even during our ‘busy’ lifestyle we have to set aside time to remember and thank our Lord and Creator. Most of these congregational prayers last at the most ten to fifteen minutes at a time.

3. Sawm (Fasting)

Muslims keep the fast during the fasting month of Ramadan, not only abstaining from food, drink, and intimate marital relations from dawn to sunset, but also from evil thoughts, intentions and desires. The fasting teaches love, sincerity, and devotion. It develops a sound social conscience, patience, unselfishness, and will power. It also helps those of us who are privileged to live a comfortable life to understand the difficulties of those who suffer from hunger.

4. Zakat (Purification of Wealth)

Islamic worship is not limited to the spiritual side only. This is an obligation that applies to all those who can afford it. Zakat is a compulsory annual payment of 2.5% of one’s net savings and commercial assets held for a year as a religious duty and a purification of one’s wealth. The sum is to be spent directly on the poorer sections of the community. Muslims are required to help the poor, orphans, and the needy by providing them with this money in order to assist them in an attempt to get rid of inequality. Over and above this, Islam encourages Muslims to also voluntarily give additional assistance (sadaqah) to those who are less fortunate. However, the compulsory minimum of this is to give zakat.

5. Hajj (Pilgrimage to Mecca)

This duty is to be performed once in a lifetime if one can afford it financially and physically. Over the last 1,400 years, the Islamic miracle of real brotherhood of all races and nations has been seen in action as Muslims gather for pilgrimage, Hajj, annually in the sacred city of Mecca where the House of Allah, the Kaabah, is located. This is the direction that one faces in our five daily prayers wherever one may be in the world. The Kaabah, is an ancient cubic shaped building dating from Prophet Abraham’s time, where about three million Muslims in white gowns during the Hajj each year move around it in prayer.

What do Muslims Believe?

1. One God: Muslims believe in the One, Unique, Incomparable, Merciful God, the Sole Creator, Sustainer and Cherisher of the Universe. Muslims prefer to use the Arabic name for God, “Allah”, because it has no plural, feminine or diminutive that could be associated with idolatry (i.e. gods, goddesses or demi-gods).

2. The Angels: Muslims believe that Allah created the Heavenly bodies called the Angels who serve Him and do commit sins and have no gender.

3. The Prophets: With the belief that Allah sent His messengers and prophets to all people, Muslims faithfully accept Biblical prophets mentioned in the Qur’an including Adam, Ishmael, Isaac, Moses, David, and Jesus (peace be upon them all). All prophets were human beings like us who, as chosen examples for their people, committed no grave sin. Muslims accept Jesus as a prophet, believe in his virgin birth, and respect him very much. His name is mentioned in the Qur’an almost a hundred times.

4. The Books: To believe in the Holy Books of Allah that were sent before and in the Qur’an as the final words from Allah is a pillar of the Muslim’s faith. The Qur’an was revealed to the last prophet, Muhammad (peace be upon him), through the Archangel Gabriel. It confirmed and finalized all previous revelations that were sent to humankind through Allah’s messengers. The Qur’an is a miracle in many senses including that its meanings still apply in modern times and the verses of the Qur’an are never found to contradict modern science.

5. Fate and Divine Decree: A Muslim believes in Divine Decree, which relates to the ultimate power of Allah. It means Allah is the Omniscience, Omnipotent, and Omnipresent. He has knowledge and power to execute His plans. Allah is not indifferent to this world. Allah is the Wise, Just, and Loving, and whatever He does has wisdom though we may sometimes fail to fully understand it.

6. Day of Resurrection:

In Islam, each person is responsible for his own acts,It is therefore our responsibility to seek the guidance of God and keep our hearts pure from sin and corruption. On that Day Allah will be the judge of all, and based on our life on earth He will grant us salvation or the punishment of Hell. The following verse encapsulates it for us: the Last Day:

It is not righteousness that ye turn your faces towards east or west; but it is righteousness to believe in Allah and the Last Day, and the Angels, and the Book, and the Messengers; to spend of your substance, out of love for Him, for your kin, for orphans, for the needy, for the wayfarer, for those who ask, and for the ransom of slaves; to be steadfast in prayer, and practice regular charity; to fulfil the contracts which ye have made; and to be firm and patient, in pain (or suffering) and adversity, and throughout all periods of panic. Such are the people of truth, the Allah-fearing. (Qur’an 2: 177)

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The Daring Dozen at Bari

8th December 2020

Seventy-seven years ago, on the evening of December 2, 1943, the Germans launched a surprise air raid on allied shipping in the Italian port of Bari, which was then the key supply centre for the British 8th army’s advance in Italy.

The attack was spearheaded by 105 Junkers JU88 bombers under the overall command of the infamous Air Marshal Wolfram von Richthofen (who had initially achieved international notoriety during the Spanish Civil War for his aerial bombardment of Guernica). In a little over an hour the German aircraft succeeded in sinking 28 transport and cargo ships, while further inflicting massive damage to the harbour’s facilities, resulting in the port being effectively put out of action for two months.

Over two thousand ground personnel were killed during the raid, with the release of a secret supply of mustard gas aboard one of the destroyed ships contributing to the death toll, as well as subsequent military and civilian casualties. The extent of the later is a controversy due to the fact that the American and British governments subsequently covered up the presence of the gas for decades.

At least five Batswana were killed and seven critically wounded during the raid, with one of the wounded being miraculously rescued floating unconscious out to sea with a head wound. He had been given up for dead when he returned to his unit fourteen days later. The fatalities and casualties all occurred when the enemy hit an ammunition ship adjacent to where 24 Batswana members of the African Pioneer Corps (APC) 1979 Smoke Company where posted.

Thereafter, the dozen surviving members of the unit distinguished themselves for their efficiency in putting up and maintaining smokescreens in their sector, which was credited with saving additional shipping. For his personal heroism in rallying his men following the initial explosions Company Corporal Chitu Bakombi was awarded the British Empire Medal, while his superior officer, Lieutenant N.F. Moor was later given an M.B.E.

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A Strong Marriage Bond Needs Two

8th December 2020

Remember: bricks and cement are used to build a house, but mutual love, respect and companionship are used to build a HOME. And amongst His signs is this: He creates for you mates out of your own kind, so that you may find contentment (Sukoon) with them, and He engenders love and tenderness between you; in this behold, there are signs (messages) indeed for people who reflect and think (Quran 30:21).

This verse talks about contentment; this implies companionship, of their being together, sharing together, supporting one another and creating a home of peace. This verse also talks about love between them; this love is both physical and emotional. For love to exist it must be built on the foundation of a mutually supportive relationship guided by respect and tenderness. As the Quran says; ‘they are like garments for you, and you are garments for them (Quran 2:187)’. That means spouses should provide each other with comfort, intimacy and protection just as clothing protects, warms and dignifies the body.

In Islam marriage is considered an ‘ibaadah’, (an act of pleasing Allah) because it is about a commitment made to each other, that is built on mutual love, interdependence, integrity, trust, respect, companionship and harmony towards each other. It is about building of a home on an Islamic foundation in which peace and tranquillity reigns wherein your offspring are raised in an atmosphere conducive to a moral and upright upbringing so that when we all stand before Him (Allah) on that Promised Day, He will be pleased with them all.

Most marriages start out with great hopes and rosy dreams; spouses are truly committed to making their marriages work. However, as the pressures of life mount, many marriages change over time and it is quite common for some of them to run into problems and start to flounder as the reality of living with a spouse that does not meet with one’s pre-conceived ‘expectations’. However, with hard work and dedication, couples can keep their marriages strong and enjoyable. How is it done? What does it take to create a long-lasting, satisfying marriage?

Below are some of the points that have been taken from a marriage guidance article I read recently and adapted for this purposes.

Spouses should have far more positive than negative interactions. If there is too much negativity — criticizing, demanding, name-calling, holding grudges, etc. — the relationship will suffer. However, if there is never any negativity, it probably means that frustrations and grievances are not getting ‘air time’ and unresolved tension is accumulating inside one or both partners waiting to ‘explode’ one day.

“Let not some men among you laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor let some women laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor defame nor be sarcastic to each other, nor call each other by (offensive) nicknames.” (49:11)

We all have our individual faults though we may not see them nor want to admit to them but we will easily identify them in others. The key is balance between the two extremes and being supportive of one another. To foster positivity in a marriage that help make them stable and happy, being affectionate, truly listening to each other, taking joy in each other’s achievements and being playful are just a few examples of positive interactions.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “The believers who show the most perfect faith are those who have the best character and the best of you are those who are best to their wives”


Another characteristic of happy marriages is empathy; understanding your spouses’ perspective by putting oneself in his or her shoes. By showing that understanding and identifying with your spouse is important for relationship satisfaction. Spouses are more likely to feel good about their marriage and if their partner expresses empathy towards them. Husbands and wives are more content in their relationships when they feel that their partners understand their thoughts and feelings.

Successful married couples grow with each other; it simply isn’t wise to put any person in charge of your happiness. You must be happy with yourself before anyone else can be.  You are responsible for your actions, your attitudes and your happiness. Your spouse just enhances those things in your life. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers.”


Successful marriages involve both spouses’ commitment to the relationship. The married couple should learn the art of compromise and this usually takes years. The largest parts of compromise are openness to the other’s point of view and good communication when differences arise.

When two people are truly dedicated to making their marriage work, despite the unavoidable challenges and obstacles that come, they are much more likely to have a relationship that lasts. Husbands and wives who only focus on themselves and their own desires are not as likely to find joy and satisfaction in their relationships.


Another basic need in a relationship is each partner wants to feel valued and respected. When people feel that their spouses truly accept them for who they are, they are usually more secure and confident in their relationships. Often, there is conflict in marriage because partners cannot accept the individual preferences of their spouses and try to demand change from one another. When one person tries to force change from another, he or she is usually met with resistance.

However, change is much more likely to occur when spouses respect differences and accept each other unconditionally. Basic acceptance is vital to a happy marriage. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “It is the generous (in character) who is good to women, and it is the wicked who insults them.”
“Overlook (any human faults) with gracious forgiveness.” (Quran 15:85)


Other important components of successful marriages are love, compassion and respect for each other. The fact is, as time passes and life becomes increasingly complicated, the marriage is often stressed and suffers as a result. A happy and successful marriage is based on equality. When one or the other dominates strongly, intimacy is replaced by fear of displeasing.

It is all too easy for spouses to lose touch with each other and neglect the love and romance that once came so easily. It is vital that husbands and wives continue to cultivate love and respect for each other throughout their lives. If they do, it is highly likely that their relationships will remain happy and satisfying. Move beyond the fantasy and unrealistic expectations and realize that marriage is about making a conscious choice to love and care for your spouse-even when you do not feel like it.

Seldom can one love someone for whom we have no respect. This also means that we have to learn to overlook and forgive the mistakes of one’s partner. In other words write the good about your partner in stone and the bad in dust, so that when the wind comes it blows away the bad and only the good remains.

Paramount of all, marriage must be based on the teachings of the Noble Qur’an and the teachings and guidance of our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). To grow spiritually in your marriage requires that you learn to be less selfish and more loving, even during times of conflict. A marriage needs love, support, tolerance, honesty, respect, humility, realistic expectations and a sense of humour to be successful.

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Chronic Joblessness: How to Help Curtail it

30th November 2020
Motswana woman

The past week or two has been a mixed grill of briefs in so far as the national employment picture is concerned. BDC just injected a further P64 million in Kromberg & Schubert, the automotive cable manufacturer and exporter, to help keep it afloat in the face of the COVID-19-engendered global economic apocalypse. The financial lifeline, which follows an earlier P36 million way back in 2017, hopefully guarantees the jobs of 2500, maybe for another year or two.

It was also reported that a bulb manufacturing company, which is two years old and is youth-led, is making waves in Selibe Phikwe. Called Bulb Word, it is the only bulb manufacturing operation in Botswana and employs 60 people. The figure is not insignificant in a town that had 5000 jobs offloaded in one fell swoop when BCL closed shop in 2016 under seemingly contrived circumstances, so that as I write, two or three buyers have submitted bids to acquire and exhume it from its stage-managed grave.

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