What is Islam?
by Janel Muyesseroglu
How did Islam Begin?
What do Muslims Believe?
- How did Islam begin?
Muslims believe that "Islam" has always been around. Islam means "submission to one God, Allah", and there were many people who devoted their lives to God (Allah) before Prophet Muhammed came, peace be upon him.
In the year 610 AD, the angel Gabriel visited Prophet Muhammed with a message from Allah while he was meditating at Mt. Hira. He said that Muhammed must tell the people of Mecca to stop worshipping idols and to accept the one true God, Allah. Gabriel told Muhammed about past prophets including Abraham, Moses, and Jesus, peace be upon them. Whenever Muhammed had a message from Allah through Gabriel, Muhammed would memorize everything and then recite everything to his companions, who would then write it down. This consists of the Qur'an.
The first Muslims included Prophet Muhammed's wife, Khadijah, his servant Zaid, and his 10-year old cousin, Ali.
The people of Mecca hated Muhammed because he spoke blasphemy against their gods. Muhammed had to flee to Madinah from Mecca to avoid persecution by the Meccans.
Muslims believe that there is only one, unique God. They believe in the angels created by him, in the prophets, and in the Day of Judgment.
Muslims also believe in a chain of prophets including Adam, Noah, Abraham, Ishmeal, Issac, Jacob, Joseph, Job, Moses, David, Solomon, John the Baptist, and Jesus. They believe that Allah's final message was revealed to Muhammed through the angel Gabriel.
Devout Muslims follow the five pillars of Islam, which make up the foundation of Islam. The five pillars include faith, prayer, charity, fasting, and pilgrimage.
1. Faith (Shahadah)
- "There is no god but Allah, and Muhammed was His Messenger".
La Ilaha illa'Llah, Muhammadun abdul Rasulu'Llah
This simple declaration of faith is said several times by the faithful.
- Obligatory prayers are performed five times a day, and establishes a direct link between the worshipper and Allah. The five prayers include verses from the Qur'an and are said in Arabic.
Prayers are said at dawn, noon, mid afternoon, sunset, and at nightfall. Each prayer is only about 2-5 minutes, depending on the time of the day and individual rates.
- Giving zakat is a way of committing self purification and growth. Each person sets aside a portion of their possessions and gives it to those in need. Muslims Must pay at least 2.5% of one's capital.
- Every Muslim who is physically able is required to fast on the 9th month of Ramadan. They abstain from food, drink, and sexual relations.
Fasting is beneficial to the health, purifying the mind and body. It also teaches self-discipline and to remember those who are hungry and poor. Fasting makes a person thankful for what Allah has provided for them.
- The annual pilgrimage to Mecca is an obligation for those who are physically and financially able at least once in their life. Every year, about two million people from all over the world go to Mecca to perform their Hajj.
Hajj begins on the 12th month of the Islamic lunar calendar. After Hajj, the festival Eid al-Adha is joyfully celebrated with prayers and exchanges of gifts.
- The Prophet Muhammed, peace be upon him, is considered the last messenger in a long line of messengers before him. Muslims believe in the same prophets and messengers as revealed in the Torah and the Gospel, such as Abraham, Moses and Jesus. The final word of Allah came to Muhammed through the Angel Gabriel.
The Qur'an was revealed to him over a period of 23 years, starting in the year 610. Everything that was revealed to him, he shared with his community. At the time of Muhammed's life, Arabia was mostly a pagan land, worshipping idols. Muhammad's goal was to show the truth of One God to the pagans.
Some people readily accepted Islam and the word of Allah, but many didn't. Muhammed and the Muslims fled Mecca to avoid persecution, and went to Madinah. After several years, Muhammed finally returned to Mecca, forgave his enemies and established Islam.
Before his death at age 63, most of Arabia was Muslim, and within a century of his death, Islam has spread to Spain in the west to as far as China in the East.
The Qur'an is the exact words revealed by the Angel Gabriel to Muhammed. It was memorized by Muhammed and then dictated to his companions, who then wrote it down on anything they could find- parchment, stones, and the bark of trees. The entire Qur'an consists of 114 chapters, which not one word has been changed in over 1400 years.
Muslims believe that the Torah of the Jews was also revealed by Allah. The Qur'an contains stories of several prophets that also appear in the Torah and the Bible.The Qur'an is the most important source of information for Muslims; it tells how one is to live, how one conducts their business, and how to maintain faith, among other things. Another important source of information for Muslims is the Hadith. The Hadith contains the sunnah of the Prophet Muhammed; what he did and what he said. Muslims are supposed to use the sunnah of the Prophet as a model on how they should live their own lives.