What is Islam?


            The word “Islam” comes from the Arabic root “aslama”, which means peace and submission; a practicing Muslim strives to submit whole-heartedly to God, thereby achieving peace in this life as well as in the Next.  "Mohammedanism" is a misnomer for Islam and offends its very spirit.

            Islam is one of the three Abrahamic religions as Judaism and Christianity.  As such it is a religion based on revelation that believes in the One God and the guidance revealed by God to the Prophets. The Prophets of Islam include Abraham, Moses, Solomon, Jesus, and Muhammad and many more, hence 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 nation.  (see Qur’an 3:84).


What do Muslims believe?


1. Muslims believe in the One, Unique, Incomparable, Merciful God - the Sole Creator, Sustainer and Cherisher of the Universe; He is called “Allah”.  Muslims prefer to use the Arabic word Allah for God, because it has no plural, feminine or diminutive for that could be associated with idolatry (i.e., gods, goddesses or semi-gods).


2. Muslims believe in the Angels created by Allah.  According to Islam angels are created in a way that they cannot commit sins and they have no gender.

3. Muslims believe that Allah sent His messengers and prophets to all people.  Biblical prophets mentioned in the Qur'an include such as Adam, Ishmael, Isaac, Moses, David, and Jesus; peace be upon them all.  All prophets are human beings like us but they do not commit grave sins since they set an example for their people. Muslims accept Jesus as a prophet, believe in virgin birth and respect him very much.  His name is mentioned in the Qur'an very often.

4. To believe in the Holy Books of Allah that were sent before and to believe in the Qur’an as the final words of Allah.  The Quran was revealed to the last prophet, Muhammad (peace be upon him), through the Archangel Gabriel.  It confirmed and finalized all previous revelations that were sent to humankind through Allah's messengers.  The Holy Qur'an is a miracle in the sense that its meanings still apply in modern times and the verses of the Holy Qur’an are never found to contradict modern science.

5. Belief in Fate and Divine Decree: A Muslim believes in Divine Decree which relate to the ultimate power of Allah. It means Allah is Omniscience Omnipotent and omnipresent. He has knowledge and power to execute His plans. Allah is not indifferent to this world. Allah is Wise, Just, and Loving, and whatever He does has a wisdom although we may fail sometimes to understand it fully.


6. Belief in the Resurrection: The following verse explains the significance of believing in the principles of faith including the last day.


It is not righteousness that ye turn your faces Towards east or West; but it is righteousness- to believe in Allah and the Last Day, and the Angels, and the Book, and the Messengers; to spend of your substance, out of love for Him, for your kin, for orphans, for the needy, for the wayfarer, for those who ask, and for the ransom of slaves; to be steadfast in prayer, and practice regular charity; to fulfill the contracts which ye have made; and to be firm and patient, in pain (or suffering) and adversity, and throughout all periods of panic. Such are the people of truth, the Allah-fearing. (Baqara, 2:177)



What are the five pillars of Islam?

1. Testimony

            There are five pillars of Islam, the first being the declaration of faith: To bear witness that there is none worthy of worship except Allah, and that Muhammad is His messenger to all human beings till the Day of Judgment. This declaration of faith is called the shahadah, a simple formula that all the faithful pronounce: “There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah".  The words have to be uttered with sincere conviction and under no coercion.  The significance of this testimony is the belief that the only purpose of life is to serve and obey God; and this is achieved through following the example of Prophet Muhammad.


2. Salat (5 daily prayers)

            Daily prayers are offered five times a day as a duty towards Allah. They strengthen and enliven the belief in Allah and inspire man to a higher morality. They purify the heart and prevent temptation towards wrong doings and evils.  Muslims are greatly encouraged to perform their five daily prayers in congregation, and in the Mosque. A Mosque, in its most basic form, is simply a clean area designated for prayers.  Mosques throughout the world have taken on various architectural forms reflecting local cultures.  They range from detached pavilions in China to elaborate courtyards in India; from massive domes in Turkey to glass and steel structures in the United States.


3. Fasting

            The month of Ramadan is the fasting month for the Muslims.  During the month of Ramadan, the Muslims not only abstain from food, drink and sexual intercourse from dawn to sunset, but also from evil intentions and desires. It teaches love, sincerity and devotion, it develops a sound social conscience, patience, unselfishness and will power. It also helps the wealthy to understand the difficulties of those who suffer from hunger.


4. Zakat (charity)

            Islamic worship is not limited to the spiritual realm only, it also brings financial obligations on the rich believers.  Zakat means to pay annually 2.5% of one's net saving and commercial assets on which a year has passed as a religious duty and a purification of one’s wealth.  The sum is to be spent directly on poorer sections of the community.  Muslims are required to help the poor and the needy by providing them with a fixed amount of money in order to facilitate their lives in an attempt to get rid of inequality.  Islam always encourages Muslims to share their material opportunities with those who are poor.  However, the minimum of this sharing is to give zakat to the poor and needy.



5. Pilgrimage to Mecca (Hajj)

            This duty is to be performed once in a lifetime, if one can afford it financially and physically. Mecca is considered to be a sacred city as it has the Qabah (the house of God) in it. Qabah, a cubic shaped building, is circumambulated by around three million Muslims in white gowns gathered from all around the world at the time of pilgrimage. It is the only pilgrimage site for all Muslims and it is where all Muslims face in their five daily prayers. Hajj makes it possible for Muslims of different nations and colors to meet and get to know each other.  Every year at the same time and same space around 3 millions people gather together for pilgrimage.  Islam, over the last 1400 years, has shown in practice how racism can be ended.  Every year, during Hajj, the Islamic miracle of real brotherhood of all races and nations can be seen in action.

Salvation in Islam:

Every human being is born sinless and there is no original sin in Islam. Each person is responsible for his own acts and no one shall bear the burden of others. (Quran 6: 164)

Each person was inspired with the knowledge of God and Islam before birth. It is our responsibility to seek the guidance of God without bias and to purify our hearts from corruption. Therefore, God is the judge of all, and no one has the right to attain salvation or punishment.



The Prophet Mohammed (Peace be Upon Him)


His Early Life


    In 571 AD, a child was born in the Arabian Peninsula in Mecca to a noble family via the prophetic lineage of Abraham through his son Ishmael.  His name was Mohammed “the praised” in Arabic.

  He was orphaned at an early age; hence he understood the plight of orphans and under-privileged. Muhammad grew up into a young man with an outstanding character. God Almighty protected him

from the evils of the Arab way of life such as drinking alcohol, fornicating, theft etc. He was known to be Al-Amin, (the trustworthy), hence people entrusted him with their valuables. Before Islam he

was interested in the problems of his society and established the society of virtuous, the aims of which were to prevent injustices being perpetrated against the foreign traders.




            At the age of 40, he received his first revelation from Allah during the month of Ramadan, delivered by the Angel Gabriel. The first message revealed to him was “Read/recite in the name

of your Lord, who created you!” Hence Islam emphasized the acquisition and the dissemination of knowledge since its inception.


Over a period of 23 years, he continued to receive revelations. This message named by Allah as “the Quran”. The holy Quran which is addressed for all of humanity, has a basic message of; belief

in the oneness of Allah, the Creator; His angels; His Holy Messengers; His Holy Books; The Final Day of Judgment; and His Devine Decree over all of His creation.

            The first believer was his wife, Khadijah, who is respected as the mother of Muslims.


The first thirteen years of his prophethood he invited people to abandon idol worship and to become a community of monotheists.  Unfortunately, as He delivered this message, the Meccans saw him

as a danger to their way of life –worshipping and selling of “idols”.  As he called for the rights of the weak, he drew the anger and wrath of the strong.  He became the champion to the poor and oppressed.


In order to dissuade him to abandon his message all sorts of attempts were made like bribery, torture and banishment. Despite all these efforts, none of his followers deserted Islam.  In 622

Mohammed received a command from God to migrate to Madina, a city north of Mecca. This event was so momentous that the Islamic calendar begins with this migration (hijrah).  In Medina,

Muslims became a cohesive society.  More people embraced Islam from amongst every religion, tribe and race.  People from all parts were affected by the astounding character and grace of the Prophet.

In 632, The Prophet Mohammed returned to Mecca with an army of 10,000 men, under the strict order that No blood was to be spilt, NO revenge was to be taken.  He rode into Mecca on the back of

His camel, bowing so that His head nearly rested on her neck.  Upon his entering the city he told its inhabitants, “I say to you what the Prophet Joseph said to his brothers: This day, no reproach be cast

on you.  May Allah forgive you.  You may go. You are free.”


 The following year in the pilgrimage season he gave his farewell sermon in which he said:

“We have put the ways of ignorance behind us now. We must drop all ties with usury. There is to be justice and no one should ever be oppressed; all men are equal regardless of black and white, rich

or poor, Arab or non-Arab. The thing that distinguishes us from one another is piety; there shall be no more paganism...”


During this time the following verse was revealed to him: “This day have I perfected for you your religion and completed My favor on you and chosen for you Islam as a religion…” (Maida 5: 3)



The moral characteristics of Prophet Muhammad


   He was very modest and never spoke with foul words and when he was in the presence of obscenity he would leave and rebuke it. He never raised his voice he never reacted to a bad deed inflicted

upon him with another bad deed. He was always pardoning and forgiving. He never took revenge on anyone who oppressed him. He never broke any of the God’s commandments. When he faced with

two options, he always preferred the easier one as long as it is not against God’s will. He was such a modest person that he would cook and clean the house. He only talked about that which concerned him. He treated people kindly and made them feel easy in his company. He was generous with whatever he had. He was very balanced in his character. If he sat with someone he would never leave before

his guest leave him first. If he someone gave him a hard time, he was patient with them. Hence everyone liked his company. He was very affectionate, never harsh never greedy. He never accepted

praise except what was reasonable.



Reformation of His Society


            The Prophet Mohammad brought about many changes in his society.

  • He was a champion for equal rights of women; he removed the husband’s “ownership” over wife. He established woman’s right to own property as well as her right to inheritance. He defended
  • her right of choosing, or refusing, a husband. 
  • He became a protector of orphans; He established proper treatment for the orphans.  A common saying of his was, “The best home is a home in which an orphan is well treated, and the worst
  • home is a home in which an orphan is mistreated.”  He forbade the misuse of the inheritance of the orphan, ensuring that they would receive what was rightfully theirs when they came of age.

He became an environmentalist;

  • He forbade the overloading of any beast of burden.  He told merciful treatment to all animals. It was His practice to assign a man from among His companions to recover all of the trash at camping spots when they were journeying.
  • He taught His followers to love and respect the nature around them, and instructed his followers to plant even on the day of doom. He forbade the destruction of nature, especially trees, even during times of war.