Islam was founded in 622 CE by Mohammed the Prophet, peace be upon him (circa 570 to 632 CE) in Medina. Islam is not a new religion, but the same truth that God revealed through all His prophets to every nation. For a fifth of the world's population, Islam is both a religion and complete way of life. Muslims follow a religion of peace, mercy and forgiveness, and the majority has nothing to do with the extremely grave events, which have come to be associated with their faith.

The Arabic word 'Islam' simply means 'submission', and derives from a word meaning 'peace'. In a religious context it means complete submission to the will of God. 'Mohammedanism' is thus a misnomer because it suggests that Muslims worship Muhammad (peace be upon him) rather than God. 'Allah' is the Arabic name for God.

One billion people from a vast range of races, nationalities and cultures across the globe-- from the southern Philippines to Nigeria are united by their common Islamic faith. About 18% live in the Arab world; the world's largest Muslim community is in Indonesia; substantial parts of Asia and most of Africa are Muslims, while significant minorities are to be found in the Russia, China, North and South America, and Europe


Muslims believe in One, Unique, Incomparable God; in the Angels created by Him; in the prophets through whom His revelations were brought to mankind; in the Day of Judgment and individual accountability for actions; in God's complete authority over human destiny and in life after death. Muslims believe in a chain of prophets starting with Adam and including Noah, Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Job, Moses, Aaron, David, Solomon, Elias, Jonah, John the Baptist, and Jesus, peace be upon them. But God's final message to man, a reconfirmation of the eternal message and a summing-up of all that has gone before was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) through Gabriel.

Muslims follow a lunar calendar which started with the hegira, a 300 mile trek in 622 CE when Mohammed [P.B.U.H] relocated from Mecca to Medina.

A Muslim's duties as described in the Five Pillars of Islam are:

  • to recite at least once during their lifetime the shahadah (the creed: "There is no God but God and Mohammed is his Prophet"). Most repeat it at least daily.
  • to perform the salat (prayer) 5 times a day. This is recited while orienting one's body towards Mecca. It is done in the morning, at noon, mid-afternoon, after sunset and just before sleeping.
  • to donate regularly to charity through zakat, a 2.5% charity tax, and through additional donations to the needy as the individual believer feels moved.
  • to fast during the month of Ramadan [begins December 20th 1998 (Year 1419)]. This is believed to be the month that Mohammed [P.B.U.H] received the Qu'ran from Allah.
  • if economically and physically, to make at least one Hajj (pilgrimage) to Mecca
Jihad (struggle) is probably the most misunderstood religious word in existence. It often mentioned on Western TV and radio during news about the Middle East, where it is implied to be a synonym of "holy war" - a call to fight against non-Muslims in the defense of Islam. The vast majority of Muslims have an entirely different definition of Jihad. It is seen as a personal, internal struggle with one's self. The goal may be achievement in a profession, self-purification, the conquering of primitive instincts or the attainment of some other noble goal.

Common beliefs:

  • strict monotheism. God is the creator, is just, omnipotent and merciful
  • respect for earlier prophets and belief in their teachings: Abraham, Moses and Jesus
  • that Mohammed is the last of the prophets
  • belief in the existence of Satan who drives people to sin
  • that Muslims who sincerely repent and submit to God return to a state of sinlessness
  • belief in Hell where unbelievers and sinners spend eternity
  • belief in Paradise, a place of physical and spiritual pleasure where the sinless go after death
  • abstinence from alcohol and gambling
  • rejection of racism
  • avoid the use of alcohol, other drugs, eating of pork, etc.
  • avoid gambling
  • that Jesus is a prophet. They regard the Christian concept of the deity of Jesus to be blasphemous
  • that Jesus was not executed on the cross

One becomes Muslim simply by saying 'there is no god apart from God, and Muhammad is the Messenger of God.' By this declaration the believer announces his or her faith in all God's messengers, and the scriptures they brought.

Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H)

Muhammad (P.B.U.H) was born in Makkah in the year 570, at a time when Christianity was not yet fully established in Europe. Since his father died before his birth, and his mother shortly afterwards, he was raised by his uncle from the respected tribe of Quraysh. As he grew up, he became known for his truthfulness, generosity and sincerity, so that he was sought after for his ability to arbitrate in disputes. The historians describe him as calm and meditative.

Muhammad (P.B.U.H) was of a deeply religious nature, and head long detested decadence of his society. It became his habit to meditate from time to time in the Cave of Hira near the summit of Jabal Al-Nur, 'The Mountain Of Light' near Makkah.

At the age of 40, while engaged in meditative retreat, Muhammad (P.B.U.H) received his first revelation, which continued for twenty-three years, is known as the Qur'an.

As soon as he began to recite the words from Gabriel, and to preach the truth, which God had revealed, to him, he and his small group of followers suffered bitter persecution, which grew so fierce that in the year 622 God gave them the command to emigrate. This event, the Hijra, 'migration', in which they left Makkah for the city of Madina some 260 miles to the north, marks the beginning of the Muslim calendar.

After several years, the Prophet (P.B.U.H) and his followers were able to return to Makkah, where they forgave their enemies and established Islam definitively. Before the Prophet died at the age of 63, the greater part of Arabia was Muslim, and with in a century of his death Islam had spread to Spain in the West and as far East as China.

Holy Qur'an

The Qur'an is the record for the exact words revealed by God through the Angel Gabriel to the Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H). It was memorized by Muhammad (P.B.U.H) and then dictated to his Companions, and written down by scribes, who cross-checked it during his lifetime. Not one word of its 114 chapters, Suras has been changed over the centuries, so that the Qur'an is in every detail the unique and miraculous text which was revealed to Muhammad (P.B.U.H) fourteen centuries ago.

The other sacred sources include: the sunna, the practice and example of the Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H), is the second authority for the Muslims. A hadith is a reliably transmitted report of what the Prophet (P.B.U.H) said, did, or approved. Belief in the sunna is a part of the Islamic faith.

Muslims & Jesus

Muslims respect and revere Jesus (P.B.U.H) and await his Second Coming. They consider him one of the greatest of God's messengers to mankind. A Muslim never refers to him simply as 'Jesus', but always adds the phrase 'peace be upon him'. The Qur'an confirms his virgin birth (a chapter of the Qur'an entitled 'Mary', and Mary is considered the purest woman in all creation.

Neither Muhammad (P.B.U.H) nor Jesus (P.B.U.H) came to change the basic doctrine of the belief in One God, brought by earlier prophets, but to confirm and renew it.

Qu'ran tells us that Jesus (P.B.U.H) was born miraculously through the same power which had brought Adam into being without a father: Truly, the likeness of Jesus with God is as the likeness of Adam. He created him of dust, and then said to him, 'Be' and he was. (3:59)

During his prophetic mission Jesus performed many miracles. The Qur'an tells us that he said: I have come to you with a sign from your Lord: I make for you out of clay, as it were, the figure of a bird, and breathe into it and it becomes a bird by God's leave. And I heal the blind, and the lepers, and I raise the dead by God's leave. (3:49)

Islam and Christianity

Together with Judaism, Islam and Christianity go back to the prophet and patriarch Abraham, and their three prophets are directly descended from his sons-- Muhammad (P.B.U.H) from the eldest, Ishmael, and Moses and Jesus (P.B.U.H) from Isaac. Abraham established the settlement which today is the city of Makkah, and built the Ka'ba towards which all Muslims turn when they pray.

Muslim Women

Islam sees a woman, whether single or married, as an individual in her own right, with the right to own and dispose of her property and earnings. The groom gives a marriage dowry to the bride for her own personal use, and she can keep her own family name rather than taking her husband's.

Both men and women are expected to dress in a way, which is modest and dignified; the traditions of female dress found in some Muslim countries are often the expression of local customs. The Prophet Mohammed (P.B.U.H) said:
The most perfect in faith amongst believers is he who is the best in manner and kindest to his wife.

Islamic Sects

There are two different schools of jurisprudence within Islam. Much blood has been spilt over disputes between them. The main schools are:

  • Followers of the Hanafi school are called Sunni Muslims and constitute a 90% majority of the believers. They are considered to be main stream traditionalists. Because they are comfortable pursuing their faith within secular societies, they have been able to adapt to a variety of national cultures, while following their three sources of law: the Qu'ran, Hadith and consensus of Muslims.
  • Followers of the Jafri school are called Shi'ite Muslims and constitute a small minority of Islam. They split from the Sunnis over a dispute about the successor to Mohammed [P.B.U.H]. Their leaders, Imams promote a strict interpretation of the Qu'ran and close adherents to its teachings. They believe in 12 heavenly Imams (perfect teachers) who guide the faithful from their locations in Paradise.
  • Sufism: a mystic tradition in which followers seek inner knowledge directly from Allah through meditation and ritual and dancing. They developed in the 7th century CE as an ascetic reaction to the formalism and laws of the Qu'ran.


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