What is Islam?
More than a religion, Islam is a perfected way of life in which Muslims submit to the commandments of the Almighty Allah(God) as set in the Holy Qurãn and the teachings and practices of the last Prophet Muhammad (Peace and blessings be upon him) which are known as Hadith. Islam teaches us peace, mercy and forgiveness. The Qurãn and Hadith can be used as a foundation to govern any society, country or even the world. Anything from eating, sleeping, dealing in relationships, economics, politics, health, worship and even death are clearly stated in the Qurãn and Hadith.
Islam is the fastest growing religion today and there are Muslims in almost every part of the world. More than a billion people from all over the world with different cultures, races and nationalities believe in one God – Allah and his last messenger – Prophet Muhammad (Peace and blessings be upon him). Anyone that submits to this is a Muslim.
What does Islam Mean?
The Arabic word translates into submission which derives from salaam meaning peace. In this instance it is submission to the will of God.
What do Muslims Believe?
A Muslims belief is based on the five pillars of Islam which is 1) To Testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allah and Prophet Muhammad (phuh) is his last messenger; 2) to read prayers 5 times a day; 3) to fast in the month of Ramadan; 4) to give charity if you have the capacity 5) to perform the pilgrimage to Mecca (Hajj) if you are able.
Muslims also believe in the other prophets commonly known as Adam, Noah, Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, John and Jesus (Peace and blessings be upon them). Muslims believe in the four books revealed by Allah - the Torah, Injeel (Gospel), Zaboor (Book of Psalms) and the Holy Qurãn which is the last book.
However Muslims only follow the Qurãn as the other books may have been altered through time, but the Qurãn which is the last testament is still in its original form and will remain this way until the Day of Judgment as testified by Allah in the Qurãn. Muslims also believe in the angels, the day of Judgement and life after death and that good and bad fate comes from Allah.
Who is Prophet Muhammad (Peace and blessings be upon him)?
Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was born in the Islamic month of Rabi’ al-awwal in 570 CE in the city of Mecca, and was orphaned at a young age. He was brought up under the care of his uncle, Abu Talib. As he grew he became known for his truthfulness, generosity and sincerity. Due to his character he acquired the nickname “Al-Amin” meaning “faithful, trustworthy” and was sought out as an impartial arbitrator. By the age of 25 he married Khadija (May Allah be pleased with her) who was a 40 year old widow. Discontented with life in Mecca, he used to retreat to the cave of Hira in the surrounding mountains for meditation and reflection. At age 40 during the month of Ramadan he received his first revelation from God. Three years after this event Muhammad (pbuh) started preaching these revelations publicly, proclaiming that “God is One”, and that he was a prophet and messenger of God. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) came down as “a mercy (rahmat) to the worlds” (Qurãn 21:107). He is the best example and model for mankind
As a young boy Muhammad (pbuh) was always beside his uncle Abu Talib. One day he accompanied his uncle on a business trip to Syria. Bahira who was an old Christian priest that lived in Basra awaited the caravans that approached Basra. He knew from his scriptures that the time was near when the last Prophet will appear. He was surprised to see a cloud shading the caravan in which Muhammad (pbuh) travelled. He welcomed the caravan and invited Abu Talib and his people to a meal. After the meal he questioned Abu Talib about the young boy that accompanied them and even questioned Muhammad (pbuh) about his life. Muhammad (pbuh) told him about his dreams and the voices he hears. Bahira was convinced that this is the Prophet (pbuh) as foretold in the scriptures. He also noticed the seal of the Prohethood on Muhammad’s (pbuh) back and repeatedly kissed it. He advised Abu Talib that Muhammad (phuh) is the last prophet, to take good care of him and beware of his enemies and do not let anyone know about him. Muhammad (pbuh) spent many years in the cave of hira meditating and thinking about god. He was troubled with the evil practices of his people. They used to drink, gamble and worship idols.
One day at the age of forty during the period of Ramadan in the cave of Hira, Angel Jibraeel(Gabriel) came to him and commanded him to read (“Iqra”). Muhammad (pbuh) was in shock and replied that he did not know how to read. A second time he was asked to read and once again he replied that he could not read. The third time Jibraeel said ”Read in the name of thy Lord (and Cherisher) who created man out of a clot. Read and thy Lord is most Bountiful. It is He who taught the use of the pen and taught man that which he knew not” (Qurãn 96:1-5). This was the Prophets (pbuh) first Divine call. He went back home trembling and asked his wife Khadija (May Allah be pleased with her) to cover him up. He related the incident to her and she being fully aware of his honorable qualities consoled him and told him that “Allah will not harm you; for you have kept good relations with friends and you have taken other peoples burdens and got rid of their evils.” She revealed the events to her cousin Waraqa bin Naufal who was a scholar of the Holy Scriptures of the Christians and he informed her that her husband was the chosen prophet of Allah.
Revelation of the Qurãn
The first verses of the Qurãn came to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in the cave of Hira. The first word was “Iqra” (Read), Thereafter the rest of the verses as mentioned earlier were revealed. Although the Prophet (pbuh) could not read or write, he memorized these verses and asked his companions and friends to write down the revelation and memorize it with him. Some people claim that the Qurãn was written by Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), but anyone who reads the Qurãn will tell you in all respect that this is not the work of a man, let alone a man who has not been schooled in any of the sciences, philosophy or a man that could not read or write. The Qurãn is indeed the words of God!
Upon the completion of the revelation of the Qurãn, the Angel Jibraeel went over the full recitation of the Qurãn with the Prophet (pbuh) to confirm that it was in the correct form and order. Since its inception the Qurãn still continues to be in its original Arabic context. No word has changed over the centuries, this being a miracle itself. The Qurãn as some describe it - is a living miracle.
Misinterpretation of the Qurãn
Unfortunately some people misinterpret the Qurãn saying the Qurãn promotes evil and conducts activities like terrorism. This is untrue and is an attempt to misguide people about the Qurãn and to scar Islam and the Muslims. A good example is the word Jihad. Some people may tell you it means “holy war”, but Jihad really means to strive or struggle in the path of Allah. Living in a modern society all Muslims have to live their own Jihad. The highest form of Jihad is on the battlefield. Truth (Haq) lies in the Qurãn, so read it yourself. If you are new to Islam it’s preferable you read a translation with reputable commentary.
Any person of any age can embrace Islam; Even if you have tattoos or come from a misguided background. You don’t need anyone’s permission to become Muslim. Islam is for the whole of humanity and brings together people of different cultures, languages, races and nationalities into one brotherhood. Allah says: “Indeed the Believers are but brothers.” [Qurãn 49:10]
Anyone who wants to accept Islam has to recite with conviction to the Shahaada, which is “I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allah and I testify that Muhammad (pbuh) is the servant and messenger of Allah.”
The Five Pillars of Islam
The Five Pillars of Islam is the foundation of a Muslim life.
1) to believe in Allah
2) to pray 5 times a day,
3) to fast in the month of Ramadan
4) to give charity if you are able and
5) to make the pilgrimage to Makkah for those who are able. These 5 pillars are Fard which means it is obligatory on any sane and mature person.
All Muslims must recite and believe with conviction in the Shahaada,
"There is none worthy of worship except Allah and Muhammad (pbuh) is His messenger."
2. Perform Salãh (Prayer)
Special prayers known as Salãh must be performed 5 times a day at different times in accordance to the teachings of Allah and Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). One can read the prayers in a congregation or alone. It is more rewarding to read with a congregation. For more detail refer to the Salah Guide in the pages that follow.
Every year during the Islamic month of Ramadan, all Muslims fast from just before dawn until sunset, abstaining from food, drink and sexual relations. Fasting has many physical, moral and social benefits, but Allah has made it compulsory so that we can go through a self purification and become more God conscious, strengthen our faith and gain empathy to the poor. Those who are sick, elderly, on a journey, and women who are pregnant or nursing are permitted to break the fast and make up an equal number of days later in the year. 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 the prayer) from puberty, although many start earlier. For more detail refer to the Fasting Guide in the pages that follow.
4. Zakaat (Charity)
If any Muslim has the capacity to give alms to the poor in accordance to the teachings of Allah and Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) then that person is obligated to do so. The word Zakaat means both 'purification' and 'growth'. Our possessions are purified by setting aside a proportion for those in need, and, like the pruning of plants, this cutting back balances and encourages new growth. Zakaat will be looked at in greater detail in the pages that follow.
Hajj is the annual pilgrimage to Makkah which occurs in the month of Zil-Haj according to the Islamic calendar. If any Muslim has the capacity then the pilgrimage to Makkah becomes obligatory. Muslims from different cultures and races from all over the world come to Makkah and everyone wears the same garment symbolising that we all are equal. The picture above shows the Kaba. Muslims all around the world turn to the Kaba as a point of direction when performing their Salãh (prayer). For more details refer to the Hajj guide in the pages that follow.
Other Islamic books besides the Qurãn
Besides the Qurãn Muslims also follow the Hadeeth, which are recorded sayings and practices of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). These sunnah are extremely important and are practiced in everyday life.
Islam vs. other beliefs
Islamic law protects the status of minorities, and this is why non-Muslim places of worship have flourished all over the Islamic world. When the caliph Omar (May Allah be please with him) entered Jerusalem in the year 634, Islam granted freedom of worship to all religious communities in the city.
Islamic law also permits non-Muslim minorities to set up their own courts, which implement family laws drawn up by the minorities themselves.
What do Muslims think about Jesus?
Muslims respect and revere Jesus, and await his Second Coming. They consider him one of the greatest of God’s messengers to mankind. A Muslim never refers to him simply as ‘Jesus’, but as Essa and adds the phrase Alayhis-Salaam Meaning ‘peace be upon him’. The Qurãn confirms his virgin birth (a chapter of the Qurãn is entitled ‘Mary’), and Mary is considered the purest woman in all creation.
Jesus was born miraculously through the same power which had brought Adam into being without a father. “Truly, the likeness of Jesus with God is as the likeness of Adam. He created him of dust, and then said to him, ‘Be!’ and he was.” (Qurãn 3:59) During his prophetic mission Jesus performed many miracles. The Qurãn tells us that he said “I have come to you with a sign from your Lord: I make for you out of clay, as it were, the figure of a bird, and breathe into it and it becomes a bird by God’s leave. And I heal the blind, and the lepers and I raise the dead by God’s leave.” [Qurãn 3:49]
Neither Muhammad(pbuh) nor Jesus came to change the basic doctrine of the belief in One God, brought by earlier prophets, but to confirm and renew it. In the Qurãn Jesus is reported as saying that he came “To attest the law which was before me. And to make lawful to you part of what was forbidden to you; I have come to you with a sign from your Lord, so fear God and obey Me.” [Qurãn 3:5O]
The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said “Whoever believes there is no god but God, alone without partner, that Muhammad is His messenger, that Jesus is the servant and messenger of God, His word breathed into Mary and a spirit emanating from Him, and that Paradise and Hell are true, shall be received by God into Heaven. [Hadith from Bukhar]
Why is family so important to Muslims?
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.
Can a Muslim have more than one wife?
The religion of Islam was revealed for all societies and all times and so accommodates widely differing social requirements. Circumstances may warrant the taking of another wife but the right is granted, according to the Qurãn, only on condition that the husband is scrupulously fair.
What about Muslim women?
Islam sees a woman, whether single or married, as an individual in her own right, with the right to own and dispose of her property and earnings. A marriage dowry is given by the groom to the bride for her own personal use, and she keeps her own family name rather than taking her husband’s.
Both men and women are expected to dress in a way which is modest and dignified; the traditions of female dress found in some Muslim countries are often the expression of local customs.
A Muslim marriage is not a ‘sacrament’, but a simple, legal agreement in which either partner is free to include conditions. After consent is given by the Bride, a ceremony called a Nikah is performed with the Bridegroom and the Brides father or appointed guardian. Thereafter a Waleemah (feast) is served by the Bridegroom. Marriage customs thus vary widely from country to country. As a result, divorce is not common, although it is not forbidden as a last resort. According to Islam, no Muslim girl can be forced to marry against her will. Her parents will simply suggest young men they think may be suitable.
How do Muslims treat the elderly?
Ideally, in the Islamic world there should be no old people’s homes. The strain of caring for one’s parents in this most difficult time of their lives is considered an honour and blessing, and an opportunity for great spiritual growth. God asks that we not only pray for our parents, but act with limitless compassion, remembering that when we were helpless children they preferred us to themselves. Mothers are particularly honoured; the Prophet taught that “Paradise lies at the feet of mothers”. When they reach old age, Muslim parents are treated mercifully, with the same kindness and selflessness.
In Islam, serving one’s parents is a duty second only to prayer, and it is their right to expect it. It is considered despicable to express any irritation when, through no fault of their own, the old become difficult.
How do Muslims view death?
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 Judgment, resurrection, Heaven and Hell. When a Muslim dies, he or she is washed, usually by a family member, 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 brief existence here on earth. The Prophet(pbuh) 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 their behalf by a righteous child.
What does Islam say about war?
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 rules 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 the 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 which everyone wages against egotistic desires, for the sake of attaining inner peace.
Food in Islam
Although much simpler than the dietary law followed by Jews and the early Christians, the code which Muslims observe forbids the consumption of pig meat or any kind of intoxicating drink. Any meat consumed must be Halaal i.e. the animal must be sacrificed in accordance to Islamic law. The Prophet(pbuh) taught that ‘your body has rights over you’ and the consumption of wholesome food and the leading of a healthy lifestyle are seen as religious obligations. The Prophet(pbuh) said: ‘Ask God for certainty [of faith] and well-being; for after certainty, no one is given any gift better than health!’
FAST FACTS ON ISLAM
date founded - 622 CE
place founded - Mecca Saudi Arabia
founder - Prophet Muhammad (pbuh),
size rank - 2nd largest in the world – Betwwen 1,5 -1,8 billion
Islam has overtaken Roman Catholicism to become the world’s largest single religious de nomination, according to L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper
sacred text - Qurãn (Koran)
original language - Arabic
house of worship - Mosque
type of theism - Strict monotheism
ultimate reality - God (Allah in Arabic); the same God revealed in the Jewish and Christian Bibles
purpose of life - Submit to the will of Allah, live according to the practices of Prophet Muhammed (S.A.W.)
and attain paradise after death
how to live - Follow the Qurãn, Hadith and Five Pillars of Islam
afterlife - Resurrection of body and soul followed by eternal paradise or hell
symbol - Crescent moon and star
main location - Middle East and North Africa
South Africa - Country
49,052,489 - Total Population
2.0% - Muslim Percentage