A Brief Introduction
“In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful”
Islam is not a new religion, but the same truth that God 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. The Arabic word “Islam” simply means submission and is derived from the word meaning peace. In a religious context, it means complete submission to the will of God. Muhammadanism is thus a misnomer because it suggest that Muslims worship Muhammad, rather than God. “Allah” is the Arabic name for God which is used by Arab Muslims and Christians alike.
THE HOLY QUR'AN
The Qur’an is the record of the exact words revealed by God through the angel Gabriel to prophet Muhammad (pbuh). It was then dictated to his companions and written down by scribes, who cross-checked it during his lifetime. Not one word of it’s 114 chapters (surah) has been changed over the centuries. The Qur’an is in every detail the unique and miraculous text which was revealed to prophet Muhammad (pbuh) 14 centuries ago! It is the prime source of every Muslim’s faith and practice. It covers all the subjects which concern us as human beings: wisdom, doctrine, worship and law, but it’s basic theme is the relationship between God and His creation. It also provides guidelines for a just society, proper human conduct, and an equitable economic system.
Any action done with the awareness that it fulfills the Will of God is considered worship. But it is the specific acts of worship termed as the Pillars of Islam which provide the framework for Muslim spiritual life. These are: Declaration of Faith, Five Daily Prayers, Fasting in the Month of Ramadhan, Charity, Pilgrimage to Makkah. Please read more about these pillars below.
Muslims believe in One, Unique, Incomparable God; The Angels created by Him; In the Divine Books; The Prophets through who his revelations were brought to mankind; The Day of Judgement and individual accountability for actions; God’s complete authority of Human Destiny; In life After Death. Muslims believe in a chain of prophets starting from Adam and including Idris (Enoch), Nuh (Noah), Hud (Eber), Saleh (Salah), Ibrahim (Abraham), Lut (Lot), Ismail (Ishmael), Ishaq (Isaac), Yaqub (Jacob), Yusuf (Joseph), Ayub (Job), Shoaib (Jethro), Musa (Moses), Harun (Aaron), Dhul-Kifl (Ezekiel), Dawud (David), Sulayman (Solomon), Ilyas (Elijah), Al-Yasa (Elisha), Yunus (Jonah), Zakariya (Zechariah), Yahya (John the Baptist), Isa (Jesus), and ending with Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon them). God’s final message to mankind, a confirmation of the eternal message and summing-up of all that has been sent before was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) through the Angel Gabriel and preserved as The Holy Qur’an.
LIFE & DEATH
Muslims believe that the present life is only a trial and preparation for the next, eternal, life. Basic article of faith include the Day of Judgement, Resurrection, Heaven and Hell. On the Day of Judgement, the entire Human race will be resurrected; everyone will appear before the Almighty God and face the consequences of their deeds in this life. Belief in accountability to God and an everlasting life to come gives a sense and meaning to the worldly life. It makes hardship easy, gives hope, and differentiates human beings from animals and inanimate objects. It is also a reminder against crime, corruption, immorality, and injustice.
Peace be upon him, Muhammad was the last of messengers of God, sent to complete the religion of Abraham. He was born in Makkah in the 570. As he grew up, he became known for his truthfulness, generosity, and sincerity. At the age of 40, he received his first revelation from God, through the angel Gabriel. As soon as he began to preach the message revealed to him, he and his small group of followers suffered bitter persecutions. This grew so fierce that in the year 622, God gave the command to emigrate from Makkah to Medinah. After several years, prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and the Muslims returned to Makkah and established Islam definitively. Before the Prophet (pbuh) died at the age of 63, the greater part of modern day Saudi Arabia was Muslim. Within a 100 years of his passing, Islam had spread as far as Spain in the west and China in the East.
MARY & JESUS
Peace be upon them, Muslims respect and revere both Jesus and Mary. Muslims consider Jesus to be one of the greatest of God’s messengers to mankind and await his second coming. The Qur’an confirms his miraculously birth through the same power which had brought Adam into being without a father. There is a chapter in the Qur’an titled “Mary” and she considered the purest women in all creation and is an example for believers.
One can accept Islam by simply reciting the declaration of faith, “There is no god apart from God, and Muhammad is the Messenger of God.”
With this declaration, the believer announces his or her faith in all God’s messengers and the scriptures they brought. Anyone can accept the truth and become Muslim.
THE PILLARS OF ISLAM
The most important Muslim practices are the Five Pillars of Islam.
These are the five obligations that every Muslim must satisfy in order to live a good and responsible life according to Islam.
“There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his messenger.”
This is the basic declaration of Islamic faith. A Muslim is expected to recite this statement out loud, with total sincerity, fully understanding what it means.
Salah is the obligatory Muslim prayers, performed five times each day at set times: Fajr (dawn, before sunrise), Zuhr (afternoon) Asr, (late afternoon) Maghrib (after sunset) and Isha (nightfall). This prayer ritual, which is over 1400 years old, is repeated five times a day by hundreds of millions of people and carrying it out is not only highly spiritual, but connects each Muslim to all others around the world.
Prayer for a Muslim involves uniting mind, soul, and body in worship; so a Muslim carrying out these prayers will perform a whole series of set movements that go with the words of the prayer. Muslims do not pray for the benefit of God. Islam teaches that God has no needs at all. They pray to follow the command of God and believe they obtain great benefit in doing so. A Muslim prays as if standing in the presence of God and in direct contact with God. There is no priest as an intermediary (while there is typically a prayer leader in the mosque – the Imam – they are not serving as a priest, simply someone who is knowledgeable about Islam).
Muslims can pray anywhere on a clean surface, but it is especially beneficial to pray with others in a mosque. Also, one must be clean before they pray. They make sure of this by performing ritual washing, called wudhu. Mosques typically provide washing facilities.
Sawm is fasting. Muslims are required to fast during the holy month of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar.
During the 29/30 days of Ramadan all adult Muslims must give up the following things during the hours of daylight: food, drink of any sort and sexual activity. Muslims who are physically or mentally unwell may be excused, as may those who are under the age of puberty, the very old, those who are pregnant, breast-feeding, menstruating, or travelling. If an adult does not fast for the reasons above they should try to make up the fast at a later date, or make a donation to the poor instead. Muslims do not only abstain from physical things during Ramadan. They are also expected to do their best to avoid evil thoughts and deeds as well.
There are many good reasons for this fast, including: obeying God, learning self-discipline, spiritual strength, appreciating God’s blessings, sharing the sufferings of the poor and developing sympathy for them, realizing the value of charity and generosity, giving thanks for the holy Qur’an, which was first revealed in the month of Ramadan, and sharing fellowship with other Muslims.
During Ramadan many Muslims will try to eat a large meal called suhur just before dawn. When daylight is over, most Muslims will break or open the fast with dates or water, following the example of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), before having a proper meal later. The evening meals during Ramadan are occasions for family and community get-together.
The month of Ramadan ends with the thanksgiving festival of Eid ul-Fitr. This is marked by dressing up and visiting the mosque for prayer, and with visits to family and friends for celebratory meals and gift exchanges. Because Islam uses a lunar calendar, the month of Ramadan comes around 11 days earlier each successive year, so there is no Western season associated with Ramadan.
Zakat is the compulsory giving of a set proportion of one’s wealth to charity. It is regarded as a type of worship and of self-purification.It does not refer to charitable gifts given out of kindness or generosity, but to the systematic giving of 2.5% of one’s wealth each year to benefit the poor.
The benefits of Zakat, apart from helping the poor, are as follows: obeying God, helping a person acknowledge that everything comes from God on loan and that we do not really own anything ourselves, we cannot take anything with us when we die we need not cling to it, acknowledging that whether we are rich or poor is God’s choice, so we should help those he has chosen to make poor, learning self-discipline, freeing oneself from the love of possessions and greed, freeing oneself from the love of money, freeing oneself from love of oneself, and behaving honestly.
Once a year, Muslims of every ethnic group, colour, social status, and culture gather together in Mecca at the Kaaba (first Mosque built by Abraham) praising God together. It is a ritual that is designed to promote the bonds of Islamic brotherhood and sisterhood by showing that everyone is equal in the eyes of Allah. The Hajj makes Muslims feel real importance of life here on earth, and the afterlife, by stripping away all markers of social status, wealth, and pride. In the Hajj all are truly equal. All Hajjis or pilgrims wear simple white clothes called Ihram. During the Hajj the Pilgrims perform acts of worship and they renew their sense of purpose in the world.
Mecca is a place that is holy to all Muslims. It is so holy that no non-Muslim is allowed to enter. Hajj occurs in the month of Dhul Hijjah, which is the twelfth month of the Islamic lunar calendar. It is the journey that every sane adult Muslim must undertake at least once in their lives if they can afford it and are physically able.