Discover Islam



What Is Islam And Who Are Muslims?
Based on its linguistic origin, the Arabic word 'Islam' means to achieve peace--peace with God, peace within oneself, and peace with the creations of God through submission to God and commitment to His guidance. 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. For a fifth of the world's population, Islam is not just a personal religion but a complete way of living. 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 are to be found in the Central Asian republics, India, China, North and South America, Eastern and Western Europe.
What Do Muslims Believe In?
Muslims believe in the One, Unique, Incomparable, Merciful God--the Sole Creator, Sustainer and Cherisher 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. Read about The Concept Of God In Islam.
Muslims believe that God sent his messengers and prophets to all people beginning with Adam (Adam) and including Noah (Nuh), Abraham (Ibrahim), Lot (Lut), Ishmael (Isma'il), Isaac (Ishaq), Jacob (Ya'qub), Joseph (Yusuf), Job (Ayb), Moses (Musa), Aaron (Harun), David (Dawud), Solomon (Sulayman), Elias (Ilyas), Jonah (Yunus), John the Baptist (Yahya), and Jesus ('Isa); peace be upon them all. God's final message to humanity, a reconfirmation of the eternal message and a summing up of all that has gone before, was revealed to the Last Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) through the Archangel Gabriel.
One becomes a Muslim by believing and proclaiming that "There is none worthy of worship except God, and that Muhammad is the Messenger of God." By this declaration the believer announces his or her faith in all God's messengers, and the Scriptures (in their pristine original form) that these messengers brought.
Why Is Islam Often Misunderstood?
Islam is frequently misunderstood and may even seem exotic in some parts of today's world. Perhaps this is because religion no longer dominates everyday life in Western society; whereas, for Muslims, Islam is life. Muslims make no artificial division between the secular and the sacred. For quite some time Islam was thought of as some "Eastern" religion, but with the increasing number of Muslims living in the West, Islam is gradually being perceived as a global faith. Muslims are not thought of as strangers with unusual practices, but are being welcomed as part of the mosaic of life in the West. In many cases, Islam is not just viewed as an acceptable religion, but as a desired way of living.
Do Islam, Christianity And Judaism Have Different Origins?
No. The original, unchanged revelations given to Abrahamic and other prophets reaching back to Adam all came from the One True God. This common origin explains their similarities in many beliefs and values. Abraham is mentioned in the Qur'an as one of the great Prophets and was honored with the title, "Friend of God." Abraham and his eldest son, Ishmael, were commanded by God to build a place of worship, the Ka'bah, in what is today the city of Makkah, Saudi Arabia. The Ka'bah is a simple stone construction erected as a sanctuary for the worship of the One God. The Qur'an states that God commanded Abraham to summon all humankind to visit this place, and when pilgrims go there today they say "At your service, O Lord," in response to Abraham's call. The Ka'bah is the central place of worship toward which all Muslims face in prayer to God, Almighty. To know more about the similarities between these religions, read the posts on Christianity and Judaism.
Who Is Muhammad?
Muhammad was born in Makkah in the year 570 CE, during the period of history Europeans call the Middle Ages. Muhammad was the son of 'Abd Allah, a noble from the tribe of the Quraysh. Muhammad's father died before Muhammad's birth, and his mother, Aminah died shortly afterwards. Muhammad was raised by his uncle, Abu Talib.
As he grew up, Muhammad became known for his truthfulness, generosity and sincerity, earning the title of al Amin, the trustworthy one. Muhammad was frequently called upon to arbitrate disputes and counsel his fellow Makkans.
Muhammad was of a contemplative nature, and had long detested the 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.
How Did Muhammad Become A Prophet And A Messenger Of God?
At the age of 40, while engaged in a meditative retreat, Muhammad received his first revelation from God through the Archangel Gabriel. This revelation, which continued for twenty-three years, is known as the Qur'an.
Muhammad began to recite the words he heard from Gabriel and to preach the truth which 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 the year 622 CE, God gave the Muslim community the command to emigrate. This event, the hijrah or 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 and the Muslims the safe and nurturing haven in which the Muslim community grew. After several years, the Prophet and his followers returned to Makkah, where they forgave their enemies and dedicated the Ka'bah to the worship of the One God. Before the Prophet died at the age of 63, the greater part of Arabia was Muslim, and within a century of his death, Islam had spread to Spain in the west and as far east as China.
How Did The Spread Of Islam Affect The World?
The Muslim community expanded rapidly after the Prophet's death. Within a few decades, the territory under Muslim rule had extended onto three continents--Asia, Africa and Europe. Over the next few centuries this Empire continued to expand and Islam gradually became the chosen faith of the majority of its inhabitants. 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 human beings to use their powers of intelligence and observation.
As Muslim civilization developed, it absorbed the heritage of ancient civilizations like Egypt, Persia and Greece, whose learning was preserved in the libraries and with the scholars of its cities. Some Muslim scholars turned their attention to these centers of learning and sought to acquaint themselves with the knowledge taught and cultivated in them. They, therefore, set about with a concerted effort to translate the philosophical and scientific works available to them, not only from the Greek and Syriac languages (the languages of eastern Christian scholars), but also from Pahlavi, the scholarly language of pre-Islamic Persia, and even from Sanskrit, an ancient Indian language.
Most of the important philosophical and scientific works of Aristotle; much of Plato and the Pythagorean school; and the major works of Greek astronomy, mathematics and medicine such as the Almagest of Ptolemy, the Elements of Euclid, and the works of Hippocrates and Galen, were all rendered into Arabic. Furthermore, important works of astronomy, mathematics and medicine were translated from Pahlavi and Sanskrit. As a result, Arabic became the most important scientific language of the world for many centuries and the depository of much of the wisdom and the sciences of antiquity.
The achievement of scholars working in the Islamic tradition went far beyond translation and preservation of ancient learning. These scholars built upon and developed the ancient heritage before passing it on to the West. Muslims excelled in 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 formulated by Muslim scholars and shared with medieval Europe. Sophisticated instruments that would make possible the later European voyages of discovery were invented or developed, including the astrolabe, the quadrant and navigational charts and maps.
What Is The Qur'an?
The Qur'an is the very word of God, Almighty. A complete record of the exact words revealed by God through the Angel Gabriel to the Prophet Muhammad.
The Qur'an was memorized by Muhammad and his followers, dictated to his companions, and written down by scribes, who cross-checked it during the Prophet's lifetime. Not one word of its 114 surahs (parts or chapters) has been changed over the centuries. The Qur'an is in every detail the same unique and miraculous text that was revealed to Muhammad fourteen centuries ago.
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, including 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. Download the Holy Qur'an in the language you understand the best for Windows, Macintosh, Linux, iPhone and iPad.
Apart From The Qur'an Are There Any Other Sacred Sources?
Yes, the sunnah, sometimes referred to as the hadith, the practice and example of the Prophet, is the second source of inspiration and instruction for Muslims. Belief in the sunnah is part of the Islamic faith.
A few examples of the Prophet's sayings (Hadith):
"God has no mercy on one who has no mercy for others."
"None of you truly believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself."
"He who eats his fill while his neighbor goes without food is not a believer."
"God does not judge you according to your bodies and appearances but He looks into your hearts and observes your deeds."
"One Muslim should do six acts of kindness to another: he should greet him when he meets him; accept his invitation when he gives one; say 'God have mercy on you' when he sneezes; visit him when he is ill; follow his bier when he dies; and like for him what he likes for himself."
"A man walking along a path felt very thirsty. Reaching a well he descended into it, drank his fill and came up. Then he saw a dog with its tongue hanging out, trying to lick up mud to quench its thirst. The man saw that the dog was feeling the same thirst as he had felt, so he went down into the well again and filled his shoe with water and gave the dog a drink. God forgave his sins for this action. The Prophet was asked: 'Messenger of God, are we rewarded for kindness towards animals?' He said, 'There is a reward for kindness to every living being.'"
"O People, listen to me in earnest, worship God, perform your five daily prayers (Salah), fast during the month of Ramadan, and give your wealth in Zakah. Perform Hajj if you can afford to. Know that every Muslim is the brother of another Muslim. You are all equal. Nobody has superiority over others except by piety and good action." (from The Prophet's Last Sermon).
What Are The Five Pillars Of Islam?
The 'Five Pillars' of Islam are the foundation of Muslim life:
  1. Iman; Faith or belief in the Oneness of God and the finality of the prophethood of Muhammad;
  2. "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.
  3. Establishment of Salah or the daily prayers;
  4. 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. There is no hierarchical authority in Islam and there are no priests. Prayers are led by a learned person who knows the Qur'an and is generally chosen by the congregation. Prayers are said at dawn, mid-day, late-afternoon, sunset and nightfall, and thus determine the rhythm of the entire day. These five prescribed 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. Although it is preferable to worship together in a mosque, a Muslim may pray almost anywhere, such as in fields, offices, factories and universities. Oftentimes visitors to the Muslim world are struck by the centrality of prayers in daily life. Adhan: The Call to Prayer; A translation of the Adhan or Call to Prayer is: God is Great. God is Great. God is Great. God is Great. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except God. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except God. I testify that Muhammad is the messenger of God. I testify that Muhammad is the messenger of God. Come to prayer! Come to prayer! Come to success! Come to success! God is Great! God is Great! There is none worthy of worship except God. 
  5. Zakah: The financial obligation upon Muslims
  6. 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." Our possessions are purified by setting aside a proportion for those in need and for the society in general. Like the pruning of plants, this cutting back balances and encourages new growth. Each Muslim calculates his or her own zakah individually. This involves the annual payment of a fortieth of one's capital, excluding such items as primary residence, car and professional tools. An individual may also give as much as he or she pleases as sadaqa-h, and does so preferably in secret. Although this word can be translated as "voluntary charity" it has a wider meaning. The Prophet said, "Even meeting your brother with a cheerful face is an act of charity." The Prophet also said: "Charity is a necessity for every Muslim." He was asked: "What if a person has nothing?" The Prophet replied: "He should work with his own hands for his benefit and then give something out of such earnings in charity." The Companions of the Prophet asked: "What if he is not able to work?" The Prophet said: "He should help the poor and needy." The Companions further asked: "What if he cannot do even that?" The Prophet said: "He should urge others to do good." The Companions said: "What if he lacks that also?" The Prophet said: "He should check himself from doing evil. That is also an act of charity."
  7. Self-purification through fasting or Sawm;
  8. Every year in the month of Ramada-n, all Muslims fast from dawn until sundown--abstaining from food, drink, and sexual relations with their spouses. Those who are sick, elderly, or on a journey, and women who are menstruating, pregnant or nursing, are permitted to break the fast and make up an equal number of days later in the year if they are healthy and able. Children begin to fast (and to observe prayers) from puberty, although many start earlier. Although fasting is beneficial to health, it is mainly a method of self-purification and self-restraint. 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. God states in the Qur'an: "O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed to those before you that you may learn self-restraint." (Qur'an 2:183)
  9. Hajj; The pilgrimage to Makkah for those who are able.
  10. The pilgrimage to Makkah (the hajj) is an obligation only for those who are physically and financially able to do so. 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 year (which is lunar, not solar, so that hajj and Ramada-n fall sometimes in summer, sometimes in winter). 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, which are of Abrahamic origin, include going around the Ka'bah seven times, and going seven times between the hills of Safa and Marwa as did Hagar (Hajir, 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 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 Ramada-n, are the two holidays of the Islamic calendar.
Is Islam Tolerant Of Other Beliefs?
Yes. The Qur'an states unequivocally:
"There is no compulsion in religion." (Qur'an 2:256)
Protection of the rights of non-Muslims to worship is an intrinsic part of Islamic law. It is also stated in the Qur'an:
"God does not forbid you, with regard to those who do not fight you for (your) faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them; for God loves those who are just." (Qur'an 60:8)
This is why non-Muslim societies and religious places of worship have flourished all over the Islamic world. History provides many examples of Muslims' tolerance towards other faiths. For instance, prior to the Spanish Inquisition, Jews and Christians lived and prosperred in Andalus (Spain) for centuries under Muslim rule.
Islamic law also permits non-Muslims to set up their own courts and implement family and personal laws administered by their chosen religious authorities.
What Do Muslims Think About Jesus?
Muslims respect and revere Jesus. They consider him one of the greatest of God's prophets and messengers to humankind. A Muslim never refers to him simply as "Jesus", but always adds the phrase "upon him be peace." The Qur'an confirms his virgin birth, and a special surah of the Qur'an is entitled "Mary." The Qur'an describes the Annunciation as follows:
"'Behold (O Mary!)' The Angel said, 'God has chosen you, and purified you, and chosen you above the women of all nations. O Mary, God gives you good news of a word from Him, whose name shall be the Anointed (Masih or Messiah), Jesus son of Mary, honored in this world and in the hereafter, and one of those brought near to God. He shall speak to the people from his cradle and in maturity, and shall be of the righteous.'
"She said: 'O my Lord! How shall I have a son when no man has touched me?' He said: 'Even so; God creates what He wills. When He decrees a thing, He says to it, "Be!" and it is.'" (Qur'an 3:42-7)
Jesus was born miraculously through the same power that 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." (Qur'an 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, a 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." (Qur'an 3:49)
Neither Muhammad nor Jesus came to change the basic doctrine of the belief in One God, brought by earlier prophets, but to confirm and renew it. In the Qur'an, Jesus is reported as saying that he came: "To attest the law which was before me. And to make lawful to you part of what was forbidden to you; I have come to you with a sign from your Lord, so fear God and obey me." (Qur'an 3:50)
The Prophet Muhammad said:
"Whoever believes that there is none worthy of worship but God, alone without partner, that Muhammad is His messenger, that Jesus is the servant and messenger of God, His word which He bestowed on Mary and a spirit proceeding from Him, and that Paradise and Hell are true, shall be received by God into Heaven." (A Hadith from the collections of al Bukhari)
Why Is The Family So Important To Muslims?
The family is the foundation of Islamic society. The peace and security offered by a stable family unit is greatly valued and seen as essential for the spiritual growth of its members. A harmonious social order is created by the existence of extended families; children are treasured and rarely leave home until the time they marry.
Parents are greatly respected in the Islamic tradition. Mothers are particularly honored: the Qur'an teaches that since mothers suffer during pregnancy, childbirth, and child rearing, they deserve a special consideration and kindness.
It is stated in the Qur'an:
"And we have enjoined upon man (to be good) to his parents. With difficulty upon difficulty did his mother bear him and wean him for two years. Show gratitude to Me and to your parents; to Me is your final goal." (Qur'an 31:14)
A Muslim marriage is both a sacred act and a legal agreement, in which either partner is free to include legitimate conditions. As a result, divorce, although uncommon, is permitted only as a last resort.
How Does Islam Elevate The Status Of Women?
Following is just a brief account on women in Islam. You can also read about Women's Rights in Islam and also get answers to Frequently Asked Questions About Women in Islam.  According to the Qur'an, men and women are equal before God; women are not blamed for violating the "forbidden tree," nor is their suffering in pregnancy and childbirth a punishment for that act.
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. A marital gift is given by the groom to the bride for her own personal use, and she may keep her own family name rather than adopting her husband's. Roles of men and women are complementary and collaborative. Rights and responsibilities of both sexes are equitable and balanced in their totality.
Both men and women are expected to dress in a way that is simple, modest and dignified; specific traditions of female dress found in some Muslim countries are often the expression of local customs rather than religious principle. Likewise, treatment of women in some areas of the Muslim world sometimes reflects cultural practices which may be inconsistent, if not contrary, to authentic Islamic teachings.
The messenger of God said:
"The most perfect in faith amongst believers is he who is best in manner and kindest to his wife."
How Do Muslims View The Elderly, Death, And The Afterlife?
Institutional homes for the elderly are virtually unknown in the Muslim world. The strain of caring for one's parents during this most difficult time of their lives is considered an honor and a blessing.
In Islam, serving one's parents is a duty second only to worshipping and it is the parents' right to expect it. It is considered despicable to express any irritation when, through no fault of their own, the old become difficult to handle.
It is written in the Qur'an: "Your Lord has commanded that you worship none but Him, and be kind to your parents. If either or both of them reach old age with you, do not say 'uff' to them or chide them, but speak to them in terms of honor and kindness. Treat them with humility, and say, 'My Lord! Have mercy on them, for they did care for me when I was little.'"(Qur'an 17:23-4)
Muslims believe that the present life is only a trial preparation for the next realm of existence. Basic articles of faith include: the Day of Judgment, Resurrection, Heaven and Hell. Read about Hereafter: Life After Death.
When a Muslim dies, he or she is washed, usually by a family member, wrapped in a clean white cloth, and buried with a simple prayer, preferably the same day. Muslims consider this one of the final services they can do for their relatives, and an opportunity to remember their own brief existence here on earth.
What Does Islam Say About War?
The detailed post Jihad is a must read post on this subject. Like Christianity, Islam permits fighting in self-defense, in defense of religion, or on the part of those who have been expelled forcibly from their homes. It lays down strict rules of combat that include prohibitions against harming civilians and against destroying crops, trees and livestock. As Muslims see it, injustice would be triumphant in the world if good people were not prepared to risk their lives in a righteous cause.
One reads in the Qur'an: "Fight in the cause of God against those who fight you, but do not transgress limits. God does not love transgressors." (Qur'an 2:190)
"And fight them until persecution is no more, and religion is for God. But if they desist, then let there be no hostility except against wrongdoers." (Qur'an 2:193)
"If they seek peace, then you seek peace. And trust in God for He is the One that hears and knows all things." (Qur'an 8:61)
War is therefore the last resort, and is subject to the rigorous conditions laid down by the sacred law. The often misunderstood and overused term jihad literally means "struggle" and not "holy war" (a term not found anywhere in the
Qur'an). Jihad, as an Islamic concept, can be on a personal level--inner struggle against evil within oneself; struggle for decency and goodness on the social level; and struggle on the battlefield, if and when necessary.
How Does Islam Guarantee Human Rights?
Freedom of conscience is laid down by the Qur'an itself: "There is no compulsion in religion. Truth stands out clearly from falsehood; whoever rejects evil and believes in God has grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold that never breaks. And God is All-Hearing and All-Knowing." (Qur'an 2:256)
The life, honor and property of all citizens in a Muslim society are considered sacred whether the person is Muslim or not. Racism and sexism are incomprehensible to Muslims, for the Qur'an speaks of human equality in the following terms:
"O mankind! We created you from a single soul, male and female, and made you into peoples and tribes, so that you may come to know one another. Truly, the most honored of you in God's sight is the greatest of you in piety. God is All-Knowing, All-Aware." (Qur'an 49:13)

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