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Discover Islam- Islam Explained

In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful.
All praise be to God, Lord of the Universe; the Compassionate, the Merciful, Sovereign of the Day of Judgment! You alone we worship; and to You alone we turn for help. Guide us to the straight path; the path of those whom You have favored; not of those who have earned Your wrath, nor of those who have gone astray.

Islam is not a new religion but the final culmination and fulfillment of the same basic truth that God revealed through all His prophets to every people. A way of life symbolized by peace – peace with God, peace within oneself, and peace with the creations of God through submission to God and commitment to His guidance.

Who are Muslims?
What do Muslims believe?
Muhammad, the Seal of the Prophets
How did the spread of Islam affect the world?
What is the Qur’an?
What are the “Five Pillars” of Islam?
Muslim family and social life
How does Islam guarantee human rights and equality?
What does Islam say about war?
How does Islam elevate the status of women?
How does Islam relate to Christianity and Judaism?
Why is Islam often misunderstood?

Who are Muslims?

Over a billion people from all races, nationalities and cultures across the globe are Muslim – from the rice farms of Indonesia to the deserts in the heart of Africa; from the skyscrapers of New York to the Bedouin tents in Arabia.

Only 18% of Muslims live in the Arab world; a fifth are found in Sub-Saharan Africa; and the world’s largest Muslim community is in Indonesia. Substantial parts of Asia are Muslim, while significant minorities live in India, China, Russia, North and South America, Eastern and Western Europe.

What do Muslims believe?

Muslims believe in the One, Unique, Incomparable, Merciful God – the Sole Creator and Sustainer of the Universe; in the Angels created by Him; in the Prophets through whom His revelations were brought to humankind; in the Day of Judgment and in individual accountability for actions; in God’s complete authority over destiny, be it good or bad; and in life after death. Muslims believe that God sent His messengers and prophets to all people and God’s final message to humanity, a reconfirmation of the eternal message and a summing up of all that had gone before, was revealed to the Last Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) through the Archangel Gabriel.


Muhammad, the Seal of the Prophets

Muhammad was born in Makkah in the year 570, during the period of history Europeans call the Middle Ages. As he grew up, Muhammad became known for his truthfulness, generosity and sincerity, earning the title of al-Amin, the trustworthy one.

Muhammad (peace be upon him) was of a contemplative nature and had long detested the decadence of his society. At the age of 40, while engaged in a meditative retreat, Muhammad (may the peace and blessings of God be upon him) received his first revelation from God through the Archangel Gabriel. This revelation continued for twenty-three years and is known as the Qur’an.

Muhammad (peace be upon him) began to recite the words he heard from Gabriel, and to preach the truth that God had revealed to him. The people of Makkah were steeped in their ways of ignorance and opposed Muhammad and his small group of followers in every way. These early Muslims suffered bitter persecution.

In 622, God gave the Muslim Community the command to emigrate. This event, the hijrah, ‘migration’, in which they left Makkah for the city of Madinah, some 260 miles to the north, marks the beginning of the Muslim calendar.

Madinah provided Muhammad (peace be upon him) and the Muslims the safe and nurturing haven from where Islam grew.

After several years, the Prophet (peace be upon him) and his followers returned to Makkah, where they forgave their enemies and established Islam definitively.

Muhammad (peace be upon him) died at the age of 63 and was buried in Madinah. At the time of his death, the greater part of Arabia was Muslim, and within a century Islam had spread to Spain in the West and as far east as China.

How did the spread of Islam affect the world?

Within a few decades of Prophet Muhammad’s (peace be upon him) death, the territory under Muslim rule had extended onto the three continents of Asia, Africa and Europe.

Among the reasons for the rapid and peaceful spread of Islam was the simplicity of its doctrine – Islam calls for faith in only one God worthy of worship. Islam also repeatedly instructs humans to use their powers of intelligence and observation.

As Muslim civilization developed, it absorbed the heritage of ancient peoples, like those of Egypt, Persia and Greece. The synthesis of Eastern ad Western ideas and of new thought with old, brought about great advances in the various fields of study. Scholars working in the Islamic tradition developed and excelled at art, architecture, astronomy, geography, history, language, literature, medicine, mathematics, and physics.

Many crucial systems such as Algebra, the Arabic numerals, and the very concept of the zero (vital to the advancement of mathematics), were transmitted to medieval Europe through Muslim scholars.

Sophisticated instruments that were to make possible the great European voyages of discovery were developed, including the astrolabe, the quadrant, good navigational charts and maps.


What is the Qur’an?

The Qur’an is a complete record of the exact words revealed by God through Angel Gabriel to the Prophet Muhammad.

The Qur’an is the principal source of every Muslim’s faith and practice. It deals with all subjects that concern us as human beings – wisdom, doctrine, worship and law – but its basic theme is the relationship between God and His creatures.

At the same time the Qur’an provides guidelines for a just society, proper human conduct and equitable economic principles.

Apart from the Qur’an, Muslims also refer to the life of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) as a secondary source of guidance.

Belief in the sunnah, the practice and example of the Prophet, is an integral part of the Islamic faith.


What are the “Five Pillars” of Islam?

These are the foundation of Muslim life: declaration of faith or belief in the Oneness of God and the finality of the Prophethood of Muhammad; establishment of the daily ritual prayers; concern for and almsgiving to the needy; self-purification through fasting; and the pilgrimage to Makkah for those who are physically and financially able.

Shahadah or Declaration of Faith
There is none worthy of worship except God 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 (peace be upon him).

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. These five ritual 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.

Zakah or Almsgiving
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.” Setting aside a proportion for those in need purifies our possessions, and like the pruning of plants, this cutting back balances and encourages new growth.

Sawm or Fasting
Every year in the month of Ramadan, all able Muslims fast from dawn until sundown – abstaining from food, drink, and sexual relations with their spouses.
Although fasting is beneficial to health, it is mainly a method of self-purification. 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.

Hajj or Pilgrimage
The pilgrimage to Makkah – the hajj – is an obligation only for those who are physically and financially able. 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 originate from the time of the Prophet and Patriarch, Abraham (peace be upon him). These rites include going around the Ka’bah seven times, and going seven times between the hills of Safa and Marwa as did Hagar (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 of as a preview of the Day of Judgment.
The close of the hajj is marked by a festival, the ‘Id al Adha, which is celebrated with prayers and the exchange of gifts in Muslim communities everywhere. This and the ‘Id al Fitr, a festive day celebrating the end of Ramadan, are the two holidays of the Islamic calendar.



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