By the courtesy of Jamia Ashrafi Lahore.
Brothers-You all will, perhaps, be aware that Islam is not the name of a caste or community so that anyone who is born in it automatically becomes a Muslim without having to do anything, on his own part, about it just as a child born in a Sheikh or a Syed family becomes a Sheikh or a Syed, as a matter of course, and there is nothing it can do in this regard.
Islam, on the other hand, is the name of that faith and that way of life which was brought into the world from God by His true and devoted Apostle, Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him), and is preserved to this day in its pristine purity in the Quran and they Holy Traditions. Thus, he alone can be called a Muslim who accepts that faith and practices that way of life. Those who are ignorant of the teachings or Islam, or do not act upon them, are not genuine Muslims by any means. We, therefore, conclude that two things are necessary for anyone to be a true Muslim: Firstly, to acquire a proper knowledge of the teachings of Islam, or, at least, of its basic and fundamental doctrines; And, secondly, to believe in these teachings as true and to resolve sincerely to live according to them. This, in sum, is what Islam is. To acquire knowledge of the tenets of Islam, i.e., of its essential teachings is the first requisite of being a Muslim. A Tradition of the Prophet reads: “To acquire knowledge of the faith is the duty of all Muslims.”
It is necessary to bear permanently in the mind that to carry out what is described in religion as a duty is an act of worship in Islam. To exert oneself for the sake of obtaining an adequate knowledge of the faith, hence, is also an act of worship on which there is a bountiful reward from God. The holy Prophet has proclaimed great merit in it. Take these Traditions, for instance: “He who goes forth in search of religious knowledge engages himself in the cause of God until he returns.” “For him who goes out in search of religious knowledge God shall make easy the way to Heaven.” “Thirst for religious knowledge and the pursuit of it atones for one's previous sins.”
In short, the cultivation of religious knowledge, i.e., the knowledge of the essential teachings of Islam is binding on all Muslims, rich and poor, educated and uneducated, male and female, old and young, From the Traditions of the Prophet quoted above we also learn that a rich reward awaits us in the Hereafter for the time spent and the pains taken for the sake of it. Let us all, now, make up our minds that we will strive earnestly to equip ourselves with adequate knowledge of the faith and a proper understanding of the basic doctrines of Islam.
For Muslims who, on account of their age or pre-occupation, cannot join a Muslim theological institution and take a regular course of Islamic religious instruction, the best thing will be that, if they are educated, they should develop the habit of reading reliable books on Islam regularly, and, if they are not or only nominally so, they should have such books read out to them by others who can read and understand. If the custom of reading religious books, individually or in groups, can become common in Muslim homes, mosques and at their other gatherings, the spread of religious knowledge to all classes and sections of the community will be greatly facilitated indeed.
This small book has been written solely to fulfill this purpose. All the necessary information regarding Islam and the teachings of the sacred Prophet, which a Muslim ought to possess has been furnished in it in a simple language. Let us all learn these truths and precepts ourselves and impart them to others as well and make it a mission of our lives to popularize them in the world. A Tradition of the Prophet says: “If a person engages himself in the pursuit of Islamic religious knowledge with the object of reviving the faith through it (i.e., by instructing it to others and bringing them round to act on it) and he dies in the process, his place will be so very close to the Prophets in the Hereafter that there will be only a difference of one degree between them and him.”
May Allah grant us the great good fortune of learning the precepts of Islam ouraselves and teaching them to others, and of acting on them and endeavoring sincerely to persuade others to do the same.