Islam means a lot of different things to different groups of people. To some, it is simply a religion practiced by those in the Middle East, and to others, it can be taken to mean a set of principles, values, or doctrines that are followed and respected. Many children are born into Islam in a way that one would be born into a race or culture, so Islam becomes an identity. For those who make the conscious decision to practice Islam, then it is a way of life,which is natural and helps balance between relation with God and His creations simultaneously.
Google brings up two definitions; one of which is very literal: “The religion of the Muslims, a monotheistic faith regarded as revealed through Muhammad (pbuh) as the Prophet of Allah.” This definition certainly sounds correct, but it narrowed to labeling to a religion practiced by a group of people with specific beliefs like in some God or some prophet. The second definition that Google delivers is “The Muslim world”. The Western media has certainly played a role in constricting down to only association with what they dub “the Muslim world”, i.e. the customs, traditions, and practices of targeted nations. However, these definitions delivered by Google are both incomplete and insufficient to explain what Islam means.
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The essence of the message of Islam has been the same since beginning of mankind – to believe in One Almighty God.
The Book with the Message
“The Qur’an: literally, “that which is often recited.” A web of rhythm and meaning, the words of which throb through Muslim worship and which, at every point in the believer’s life , break surface, sanctifying existence with the scent of eternity.” [Abdul Wadod Shalabi in “Islam – Religion of Life”]
The Qur’an represents the fountainhead of Divine guidance for every Muslim. Its revelation to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), and his practical implementation of the revelation, completed God’s blessing for humanity, in providing us with a belief and value system that is valid for all times.
The Qur’an confirms the revelations given to earlier Prophets, though these might not be accessible to us, in the form they were originally revealed. The most sublime poetry in any language, and a rational message that directly appeals to the human heart, have caused this Divine book to move nations and civilizations. It will continue to guide those who turn to God with a sincere heart, for all times.
For more info and to listen to or read the Book, visit the Resources page and to learn who brought it, check out The Messengers.
The foundation of Islam are built on five important concepts that are practiced to build a believer’s relationship with God in addition to good ethics and moral values. These five concepts or pillars are Faith or belief in the Oneness of God (Allah) and the finality of the Prophethood of Muhammad (pbuh), Prayer or Salah, Alms or Zakah, Fasting or Sawm, and the pilgrimage to Mecca or Hajj.
“There is none worthy of worship except God (Allah) and Muhammad is the messenger of God.” This declaration of faith is called the Shahadah, a simple formula that all the faithful pronounce. The significance of this declaration is the belief that the only purpose of life is to serve and obey God, and this is achieved through the teachings and practices of the Last Prophet, Muhammad (pbuh). This first pillar is established on six essential beliefs – “The Messenger has believed in what was revealed to him from his Lord, and [so have] the believers. All of them have believed in Allah and His angels and His books and His messengers, [saying], “We make no distinction between any of His messengers.” And they say, “We hear and we obey. [We seek] Your forgiveness, our Lord, and to You is the [final] destination.” Quran 2:185
To reaffirm of own faith and connection to God (Allah), each and every Muslims pray daily. Prayer (Salah) is a duty that must be performed at least five times daily and can be prayed essentially anywhere clean. The five prayers are completed at certain times throughout the entire day. This structure throughout the day creates a constant reminder of Islamic values and develops a stronger resistance from potential transgressions. Prayer (Salah) is the second pillar of Islam.
Contributing to the community
Alms (Zakah) is given to help those who are struggling to survive or are in need of basic necessities. Muslims who can afford are expected to contribute 2.5% of their annual net income. By giving alms, people become considerate of their community and become aware of the hardships many others face while empowering those receiving alms. By giving away some of the wealth, this allows for reflection on the insignificance of money, and work towards freedom from material wealth and towards appreciation of God and His creations. Alms giving (Zakah) is third pillar of Islam.
The actual Arabic word (Zakah) means purifying and cleansing because giving alms allows the chance for both of these characteristics to better oneself. Muslims are always expected to strive to better their life through acts of goodness like alms. In the Quran, the holy book of Islam, this important obligation is repeated 32 times to signify its great notability for the individual and for the community as a whole. Furthermore, alms allows people to re-evaluate their lives and to seek purification as a way to strengthen the bond with God.
Self-control and Reflection
Society labels fasting as a practice where one abstains from some or all types of food for a certain amount of time. In Islam, fasting isn’t just about starving yourself or trying to lose weight. Fasting is a way to change your daily habits which can ultimately change your life. Muslims often refer to fasting as a “Spiritual Cleansing”. When fasting, Muslims are trying to better themselves by refraining from physically, mentally, or spiritually deleterious temptations. This doesn’t just include the temptation to go and have various meals through the day, but also to avoid various bad habits or sin. By abstaining from food, sexual intercourse, and other indulgences, one practices applying various traits that a righteous person should have. One learns how to be patient, thankful, and how to control emotions in even the most tense situations. It makes one disciplined and kindhearted. In terms of pious dedication to Islam, fasting helps one better themselves so they can better the world around them and become closer to God.
Trip of a lifetime!
We have rendered the shrine (the Ka`aba) a focal point for the people, and a safe sanctuary. You may use Abraham’s shrine as a prayer house. We commissioned Abraham and Ismail: “You shall purify My house for those who visit, those who live there, and those who bow and prostrate.” -Quran 2:125
The fifth pillar of Islam, the Hajj, is a pilgrimage in which believers from all around the world converge on Mecca, in modern-day Saudi Arabia. Mecca is home to the most holy place in Islam, the Ka’aba. This structure, whose name literally means “cube” in Arabic, is known as the House of God and is the place that all Muslims face when they pray their ritualistic prayers. The point of the pilgrimage is to purify oneself, and be absolved of sins. The pilgrimage ends with the festivities known as Eid al-Adha, in which sheep are sacrificed as a way to celebrate to commemorate the story of Abraham and Ismael.
For definition of Islam, visit Islam page.
To learn who spread it, visit The Messengers page.
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There are prophets and messengers 25 in Quran from Adam to Muhammad (pbut). However, several thousands existed in between them that are not mentioned. Here are some notable messengers
Abraham was a born-activist. He acted on what was right like when as a child he broke the idols to prove his father that paganism is absurd, and what was divine when as an adult he was asked to leave his only son and mother of the son in the middle of the desert, which is now modern-day Makkah. Due to his belief in Divinity and following the concept of enjoining in good and forbidding evil, God accepted most of his prayers including having the lineage to the last prophet Muhammad (pbuh), who completed the message, and God officially gave him the title Friend of God (Khallillullah). In addition, one of the major religious holidays (Eid-ul-Adha) celebrates in part the devotional ritual of Abraham to God. Abraham is the second most mentioned prophet after Moses (69 times) in the Quran so that we can learn about activism and devotion through the stories of and prayers made by him.
If you look at Moses today, you would think of him as another jock or gangster, especially when he accidentally killed a man by slapping him to break-up a fight. However, he was more than a big, strong man who didn’t even know his own strength, but he was more so quite curious and very eager for knowledge and self-improvement as illustrated in his journey with Khidr and his leave from the people of Israelite for 40 days of divine devotion. God also bestowed him with knowledge of good judgment and high moral values. All this made Moses a man of great character, which was exemplified in the only marriage proposal story that is described in the Quran where a pious father asked on behalf of his devoted daughter even after knowing that Moses is a fugitive on the run because he accidentally killed a man. Several years after his marriage, he got Prophethood when stopping on a journey to look for firewood. God showed him miracles like changing his staff into a snake to ease the jitters of Propohethood. Moses (pbuh), who had speech impediment, along with his spokesman brother Aaron (pbuh) went to Pharaoh where he overcame the black magic with God’s miracle. After defeating Pharoah and rescuing the people of Israel, he established monotheism. However, due to the nature of the people, who have been so en-grained with slavery by a man for so many years, Moses had a hard time convincing them to obey and follow the commands of God, who will ensure their freedom and security, and to not to make any partnership with God. Due to their transgressions, they were stranded for 40 years wandering the lands. However, given the difficulties with many of his people, he still had larger number of followers of his teachings that will be comparable in numbers to that of followers of Prophet Muhammad’s teachings on the Day of Judgment. Moses (pbuh) is mentioned 136 times in the Quran because “history repeats itself” so God used the stories of Moses (pbuh) to be universal lessons of difficulties and perseverance in establishing Oneness of God for Prophet Muhammad, people of Arabia and subsequent generations across the world.
Then she pointed to him. They said: How can we talk to one who is in the cradle, a young boy ?
He spake: Lo! I am the slave of Allah. He hath given me the Scripture and hath appointed me a Prophet,And hath made me blessed wheresoever I may be, and hath enjoined upon me prayer and alms-giving so long as I remain alive,And (hath made me) dutiful toward her who bore me, and hath not made me arrogant, unblest. Peace on me the day I was born, and the day I die, and the day I shall be raised alive!Such was Jesus, son of Mary: (this is) a statement of the truth concerning which they doubt. Surah Mariam (Mary) 29-34
Muslims view Jesus (peace and blessings be upon him) as one of the greatest prophets, the seal of the Israelite prophets and the messiah. A Muslim’s belief in his virgin birth is a necessity, as is the belief in the miracles which he performed by the Will of God. Just like every other prophet, Jesus (peace and blessings be upon him) too preached in the Oneness of God.
“O Prophet, indeed We have sent you as a witness and a bringer of glad tidings and a warner. And one who invites to Allah, by His permission, and an illuminating lamp.” Quran 33:45-46
The Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings upon him) was born in 570 CE in the city of Makkah and passed away in 632 CE in the city of Madinah, both in modern-day Saudi Arabia. Muslims believe that the Prophet Muhammad PBUH is the final messenger, the last prophet sent by God to bring together the teachings of previous Prophets into a universal message. He was born as an orphan and had a difficult childhood filled with tragedies of familial deaths. As an adolescent, he worked as a shepherd, and later helped his uncle in his merchant business. Throughout the his life, God developed in him characteristics and taught him lessons that would later help him bear the heavy task of prophethood and the societal repercussions that came with spreading a seemingly new religion
The Quran was first revealed to the Prophet when he was 40 years old by the Angel Gabriel, who visited the Prophet as he was meditating in a cave. This marks the beginning of a series of Revelations, and the beginning of his task of spreading the message of monotheism among the pagan Arabs. He faced severe persecution in Makkah, and thus after 13 years, he moved to the city of Madinah, where he was accepted with open arms and established a community of believers that would later stretch from the Atlantic to the Pacific. He brought peace to Madinah and served as a transformative social power in the Arabian Peninsula. The Prophet remains a transformative power in today’s world, with over one billion people worldwide committing to his teachings, as he was extremely successful on both the religious and secular level.Fourteen centuries after the Prophet’s birth, his influence is still felt across the globe and appreciated by both Muslims and non-Muslims alike. In twenty-three short years the Prophet Muhammad spread monotheism throughout the peninsula, unified warring tribes, taught the honor of women, and established that all people were equal in the sight of God. He elevated the low and lowered the arrogant that they might meet in that middle place known as brotherhood. He infused within people a love of learning, unleashing a creative power that would lead to some of the most extraordinary scientific breakthroughs in human history. He taught us that forbearance is greater than revenge; forgiveness more lofty than punishment; and compassion more effective than austerity. Above all, he taught us mercy. Indeed, Allah says in the Quran [about the Prophet]: “And We have not sent you except as a mercy to mankind.” Quran 21:107
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The Five Pillars
Iman or Faith
“There is none worthy of worship except God (Allah) and Muhammad is the messenger of God.” This declaration of faith is called the Shahadah, a simple formula that all the faithful pronounce. The significance of this declaration is the belief that the only purpose of life is to serve and obey God, and this is achieved through the teachings and practices of the Last Prophet, Muhammad (pbuh).
Salah or Prayer
Salah is the name for the obligatory prayers that are performed five times a day, and are a direct link between the worshipper and God. There is no hierarchical authority in Islam and there are no priests. Prayers are led by a learned person who knows the Qur’an and is generally chosen by the congregation.
Prayers are said at dawn, mid-day, late-afternoon, sunset and nightfall, and thus determine the rhythm of the entire day. These five prescribed prayers contain verses from the Qur’an, and are said in Arabic, the language of the Revelation. Personal supplications, however, can be offered in one’s own language and at any time. Although it is preferable to worship together in a mosque, a Muslim may pray almost anywhere, such as in fields, offices, factories and universities. Oftentimes visitors to the Muslim world are struck by the centrality of prayers in daily life.
Zakah. The financial obligation upon Muslims.
An important principle of Islam is that everything belongs to God, and that wealth is therefore held by human beings in trust. The word zakah means both “purification” and “growth.” Our possessions are purified by setting aside a proportion for those in need and for the society in general. Like the pruning of plants, this cutting back balances and encourages new growth.
Each Muslim calculates his or her own zakah individually. This involves the annual payment of 2.5% of one’s capital, excluding such items as primary residence, car and professional tools. An individual may also give as much as he or she pleases as sadaqa-h, and does so preferably in secret. Although this word can be translated as “voluntary charity” it has a wider meaning.
The Prophet said, “Even meeting your brother with a cheerful face is an act of charity.” The Prophet also said: “Charity is a necessity for every Muslim.” He was asked: “What if a person has nothing?” The Prophet replied: “He should work with his own hands for his benefit and then give something out of such earnings in charity.” The Companions of the Prophet asked: “What if he is not able to work?” The Prophet said: “He should help the poor and needy.” The Companions further asked: “What if he cannot do even that?” The Prophet said: “He should urge others to do good.” The Companions said: “What if he lacks that also?” The Prophet said: “He should check himself from doing evil. That is also an act of charity.”
Sawm or Fasting
Every year in the month of Ramada-n, all Muslims fast from dawn until sundown–abstaining from food, drink, and sexual relations with their spouses.
Those who are sick, elderly, or on a journey, and women who are menstruating, pregnant or nursing, are permitted to break the fast and make up an equal number of days later in the year if they are healthy and able. Children begin to fast (and to observe prayers) from puberty, although many start earlier.
Although fasting is beneficial to health, it is mainly a method of self-purification and self-restraint. By cutting oneself from worldly comforts, even for a short time, a fasting person focuses on his or her purpose in life by constantly being aware of the presence of God. God states in the Qur’an: “O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed to those before you that you may learn self-restraint.” (Qur’an 2:183)
Hajj or Pilgrimage
The pilgrimage to Makkah (the hajj) is an obligation only for those who are physically and financially able to do so. Nevertheless, over two million people go to Makkah each year from every corner of the globe providing a unique opportunity for those of different nations to meet one another. The annual hajj begins in the twelfth month of the Islamic lunar year. Pilgrims wear special clothes: simple garments that strip away distinctions of class and culture, so that all stand equal before God.
The rites of the hajj, which are of Abrahamic origin, include going around the Ka’bah seven times, and going seven times between the hills of Safa and Marwa as did Hagar (Hajira, Abraham’s wife) during her search for water. The pilgrims later stand together on the wide plains of ‘Arafat (a large expanse of desert outside Makkah) and join in prayer for God’s forgiveness, in what is often thought as a preview of the Day of Judgment. The close of the hajj is marked by a festival, the Eid al Adha, which is celebrated with prayers and the exchange of gifts in Muslim communities everywhere. This and the Eid al Fitr, a festive day celebrating the end of Ramadan, are the two holidays of the Islamic calendar.
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