Islam is not a new religion but the same truth that Allah has revealed through all his Prophets to every people. For a fifth of the world's population, Islam is both a religion and a complete way of life. Muslims follow a religion of peace, mercy and forgiveness and the vast majority have nothing to do with the extremely grave events which have come to be associated with their faith. [top]
The Arabic word 'Islam' simply means 'submission' and derives from a word meaning 'peace'. In a religious context it means complete submission to the will of Allah. 'Allah' is the Arabic name for 'The God'. [top]
One billion people from a vast range of races, nationalities and cultures across the globe - from the southern Philippines to Nigeria - are united by their common Islamic faith. About 18% live in the Arab world, substantial parts of Asia and Africa are Muslim, while significant minorities are to be found in the Soviet Union, China, North and South America and Europe. [top]
Muslims believe in one unique incomparable God; in the Angels created by him; In the Prophets through whom his revelations were brought to mankind; in the Day of Judgement and individual accountability for actions; in Allah's complete authority over human destiny and in life after death. Muslims believe in a chain of prophets starting with Adam and including Noah, Abraham, Ismael, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Job, Moses, Aaron, David, Solomon, Elias, Jonah, John the Baptist and Jesus, peace be upon them. However, God's final message to man, a reconfirmation of the eternal message and a summing-up of all that has gone before was revealed in the form of the Qur'an to the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) through the Angel Gabriel. [top]
Simply by reciting (and believing) the testimony of faith (known as Shahadah in arabic):
(as it is pronounced in Arabic)
ashadu an la illaha ill'Allah wa ashadu anna Muhammadan rasool'Allah
(Translated: I bear witness and testify that here is no deity apart from Allah and I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah)
By this declaration the believer announces his or her faith in all Allah's messengers and the scriptures they brought. [top]
) was born in Makkah in the year 570 CE. Since his father died before his birth and his mother shortly afterwards, he was raised by his uncle from the respected tribe of the Quraysh. As he grew up, he became known for his truthfulness, generosity and sincerity, so that he was sought after for his ability to arbitrate in disputes. The historians describe him as calm and meditative. Muhammad (pbuh
) was of a deeply religious nature and had long detested the idolatry and decadence of his society. It became his habit to meditate from time to time in the Cave of Hira near the summit of Jabal al-Nur, the 'Mountain of Light' near Makkah.
At the age of 40, while engaged in a meditative retreat, Muhammad (pbuh
) received his first revelation from Allah through the Angel Gabriel. This revelation, which continued for twenty-three years, is known as the Qur'an. As soon as he began to recite the words he heard from Gabriel and to preach the truth which Allah had revealed to him, he and his small group of followers suffered bitter persecution which grew so fierce that in the year 622 CE, Allah gave them the command to emigrate. This event, the Hijra, 'migration', in which they left Makkah for the city of Madinah some 260 miles to the north, marks the beginning of the Muslim calendar and the establishment of the Islamic State. After several years, the Prophet and his followers were able to return to Makkah, where they forgave their enemies and established Islam definitively. Before the Prophet died at the age of 63, the greater part of Arabia was Muslim and within a century of his death Islam had spread to Spain in the West and as far east as China.
To read more about what Muhammad (pbuh), click here. [top]
The Qur'an is the written form of the exact words revealed by Allah through the Angel Gabriel to the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh
). It was memorised by Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) and then dictated to his Companions and written down by his scribes, who cross-checked it during his lifetime. Not one word of its 114 chapters, Surahs, has been changed over the centuries, so that the Qur'an is in every detail the unique and miraculous text which was revealed to Muhammad (pbuh
) fourteen centuries ago. [top]
Yes, the Sunnah, the established and confirmed practice and example of the Prophet, is the second authority for Muslims. A hadith is a reliably transmitted report of what the Prophet said, did, or approved. Belief in the Sunnah is part of the Islamic faith. [top]
They are the framework of a Muslim's life; faith (Shahadah), prayer (Salat), concern for the needy (Zakah); fasting (Sawm/month of Ramadhan) and the pilgrimage to Makkah (Hajj) for those who are able. [top]
There is no deity worthy of worship except Allah and Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) is His messenger. This declaration of faith is known as the Shahadah
, a simple formula which all the faithful believe. [top]
is the name for prayer in Islam. Obligatory prayers are performed five times a day and are a direct link between the worshipper and Allah. There is no hierarchical authority in Islam and no priests, so the prayer is led by a learned person who knows the Qur'an, chosen by the congregation. These five prayers contain verses from the Qur'an and are said in Arabic, the language of the Revelation, but personal supplication can be offered in one's own language. [top]
One of the most important principles of Islam is that all things belong to Allah and that wealth is therefore held by human beings as a trust. The word Zakat
means both 'purification' and 'growth'. Our possessions are purified by setting aside a portion for those in need and like the pruning of plants, this cutting back balances and encourages new growth. [top]
Every year during the month of Ramadhan, all able Muslims fast from dawn until sunset, abstaining from food, drink and sexual relations. Thosewho are sick, elderly or on journey and women who are pregnant or nursing are permitted to break the fast and make up an equal number of days later in theyear. If they are physically unable to do this, they must feed a needy person for every day missed. Children begin to fast (and to observe prayer) from puberty, although many startearlier. Although the fast is most beneficial to the health, it is regarded principally as a method of self-purification. By cutting oneself off fromworldly comforts, even for a short time, a fasting person gains true sympathy with those who go hungry as well as growth in one's spiritual life. [top]
The annual pilgrimage to Makkah - the Hajj
- is an obligation only for those who are physically and financially able toperform it. Nevertheless, about two million people go to Makkah each year fromevery corner of the globe providing a unique opportunity for those of differentnations to meet one another.
Although Makkah is filled with visitors all year round, the annual Hajj itself begins in the twelfth month of the Islamic year (which is lunar, not solar, so that Hajj and Ramadhan fall sometimes in summer, sometimes in winter). Male pilgrims wear special clothes: simple garments which strip away distinctions of class and culture, so that all stand equal before Allah. [top]
Muslims respect and revere Jesus and await his Second Coming. They consider him one of the greatest of Allah's Prophets to mankind. A Muslim never refers to him simply as 'Jesus', but always adds the phrase 'upon him be peace'. The Qur'an confirms his virgin birth and Mary is considered the purest woman in all creation. [top]
Islam sees a woman, whether single or married, as an individual in her ownright, with the right to own and dispose of her property and earnings. Amarriage dowry is given by a groom to the bride for her own personal use andshe keeps her own family name rather than taking her husband's. Both men andwomen are expected to dress in a way which is modest and dignified; thetraditions of female dress found in some Muslim countries are often theexpression of local customs.
The family is the foundation of Islamic society. The peace and security offered by a stable family unit is greatly valued and seen as essential for the spiritual growth of its members. A harmonious social order is created by the existence of extended families; children are treasured and rarely leave home until the time they marry. [top]
Like Jews and Christians, Muslims believe that the present life is only a trial preparation for the next realm of existence. Basic articles of faith include: The Day of Judgement, resurrection, Heaven and Hell.
When a Muslim dies, he or she is wrapped in a clean white cloth and buried with a simple prayer preferably the same day. Muslims consider this one of the final services they can do for their relatives and an opportunity to remember their own existence here on earth. The Prophet taught that three things can continue to help a person even after death; charity which he had given, knowledge which he had taught and prayers on his behalf by a righteous child. [top]
Like Christianity, Islam permits fighting in self-defence, in defence of religion, or on the part of those who have been expelled forcibly from their homes. It lays down strict laws of combat which include prohibitions against harming civilians and against destroying crops, trees and livestock.
As Muslims see it, injustice would be triumphant in the world if good men were not prepared to risk their lives in a righteous cause.
War, therefore is the last resort and is subject to rigorous conditions laid down by the sacred law. The term 'Jihad' literally means 'struggle' and Muslims believe that there are two kinds of Jihad. The other 'Jihad' is the inner struggle everyone wages against egoistical desires, for the sake of attaining inner peace. [top]