What is Islam?
Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world. The word Islam literally means ‘Peace and surrender to the will of Allah the Creator’.
It was founded by Prophet Muhammad(sa) over 1400 years ago in Arabia. Prophet Muhammad(sa) received revelation from Allah in which he was told that Islam was the final and most complete religion for mankind. The followers of Islam are called Muslims.
Islam’s holy book is The Holy Quran and this was revealed by Allah to Prophet Muhammad(sa). It is a source of complete guidance. Its teachings are in agreement with human nature. Islam is a religion revealed for the whole of mankind for all time to come.
The Founder of Islam
Prophet Muhammad(sa) (570-632 CE) was born in Makkah, Arabia. He was known for his honesty and piety. He was also inspired with a strong love for Allah and mankind.
He married at the age of 25. Fifteen years later he received his first Quranic revelation from Allah whilst meditating in a cave called Hira near Makkah. This marked the beginning of the mission of Muhammad(sa) as the apostle of Allah. His prime message was the Unity of Allah and he continued to stress this throughout his life.
True to his character Prophet Muhammad(sa) practised what he preached and provided a living example of all that Islam teaches. His humility, truthfulness, tolerance, resolve, courage, kindness and wisdom remain exemplary.
The Holy Book of Islam
The Holy Quran is the holy book of Islam. It is the Word of Allah and was revealed to Prophet Muhammad(sa) over a period of 23 years. It is spread over 30 parts and has 114 chapters.
It contains a vast array of teachings and is a comprehensive code of conduct for mankind. It also contains numerous prophecies many of which have been fulfilled and many that remain to be fulfilled.
The Holy Quran is written in Arabic – the very language in which it was revealed. The word Quran means something that is recited over and over again and indeed Muslims recite the Holy Quran many times over in their lives. There are many Muslims who have also memorised the entire Quran. Despite being over 1400 years old the Quranic text has remained intact – as promised in the Quran by Allah Himself. The translation of the Holy Quran is now also available in more that 70 languages including English.
The Teachings of Islam
Allah taught religion to the world gradually by sending His prophets at different times and to different peoples. This religious guidance was completed and perfected through Islam. The key teachings of Islam are known as the five pillars of Islam.
The Five Pillars of Islam
This is the declaration of one’s faith in the unity of Allah and acceptance of Prophet Muhammad(saw) as a messenger of Allah.
The meaning of the actual declaration is, “I bear witness that there is none worthy of worship except Allah and I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah” (‘Allah’ is means One Who is free from all defects and possesses all kinds of good attributes.)
Muslims must offer the five daily prayers to develop and benefit from a personal relationship with Allah.
Muslims must fast during the holy month of Ramadan. Whilst fasting, Muslims cannot eat or drink between dawn and dusk.
Some people are exempted from fasting including the sick, pregnant or nursing mothers, young children and those on journeys. During Ramadan Muslims make an extra effort to remember Allah and to seek His forgiveness.
Muslims are required to give a fixed proportion of their wealth for the benefit of the poor and needy. The basic rate is normally 2.5% of one’s annual savings.
Muslims should make a pilgrimage to Makkah at least once in their lifetime if possible. The Pilgrimage is made during the month of Hajj, the twelfth lunar month of the Islamic calendar.
Muslims also believe in all prophets of Allah, His angels, His holy books, life after death, the Day of Judgement and in the Divine Decree of Allah. Islam also emphasises that men and women are equal before Allah and only righteous deeds elevate one person above another.
Islam reinforces the concept of humanity and respect for individual liberty. It also reminds man of his fundamental human right of being free to choose his own religion. It is clearly stated in The Quran that there is no compulsion in religion (Holy Qur’an Ch.2 V.257).
Education is so important that Muslim men and women are encouraged to seek knowledge wherever it may be.