Say: We believe in Allah (GOD) and in what has been sent down to us, and what was sent down to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob and the twelve sons of Jacob, and what was given to Moses, Jesus and the Prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction between them and to Him (Allah) we have submitted (in Islam).” [Qur’an, 3:84]
General Information about Islam
The literal meaning of Islam is peace, that is, surrender of one's will, losing oneself for the sake of God, and surrendering one's own pleasure for the pleasure of God. The message of Islam was revealed to the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings on him) 1,400 years ago. It was revealed through Angel Gabriel (on whom be peace), and was thus preserved in the Qur'an. Qur'an carries a Divine guarantee of safeguard from interpolation and it claims that it combines the best features of the earlier scriptures.
The prime message of Islam is the Unity of God, that the Creator of the world is One and He alone is worthy of worship and that Muhammad (peace and blessings on him) is His Messenger and Servant. The follower of this belief is thus a Muslim. Additionally, a Muslim also beliefs in God's angels, previously revealed Books of God, all the prophets, from Adam to Jesus (peace be on them both), the Day of Judgement and the Decree of God.
A Muslim has five main duties to perform, namely; (1) bearing witness to the Unity of God and Muhammad (peace and blessings on him) as His Messenger, (2) observing the prescribed prayer, (3) payment of Zakat, (4) fasting in the month of Ramadhan, and (5) performing the pilgrimage to Mecca.
Islam believes that each person is born pure. Quran tells us that God has given human beings a choice between good and evil, and to seek God's pleasure through faith, prayer and charity. Islam's main message is to worship God and to treat all God's creation with kindness and compassion. This includes, rights of parents in old age, orphans and the needy. Women's rights were safeguarded 1,400 years ago when the rest of the world was in total darkness about emancipation. Islamic teachings encompass every imaginable situation and its rules and principles are truly universal and have stood the test of time.
In Islam, virtue does not connote forsaking the bounties of nature that are lawful. On the contrary, one is encouraged to lead a healthy, active life with the qualities of kindness, chastity, honesty, mercy, courage, patience and politeness. In short, Islam has a perfect and complete code for the guidance of individuals and communities alike. As the entire message of Islam is derived from the Qur'an and Sunnah and Hadith (the traditions and practices of the Holy Prophet, peace and blessings on him), it is immutable in the face of change in time and place. It may appear rigid to the casual eye, when in fact, it is most certainly an adaptable way of life regardless of behavioral changes.
Islam teaches that the path to spiritual development is open to all. Any individual who searches for the One Creator can seek nearness to God through sincere and earnest worship. It is central to establishing a relationship with the Almighty. This positive message for humanity fills hearts with hope and courage.
At present there are 1.9 billion Muslims worldwide and they form the majority in more than fifty countries of the world. Today, Islam is the fastest growing faith in the world and its beautiful message is reaching millions in the far corner of the earth.
What is Islam?
Islam is not a new religion. It is the same truth that God revealed to all His prophets throughout history. Islam is both a religion and a complete way of life. Muslims follow a religion of peace, mercy and forgiveness that should not be associated with acts of violence against the innocent.
Who are Muslims and what do they believe?
There are an estimated 1.9 billion Muslims worldwide. No more than 20 percent of Muslims live in the Arabic-speaking world. The country with the largest Muslim population is Indonesia. Muslims believe in One, Unique, and Incomparable God. They believe in the Day of Judgment and individual accountability for actions.
Muslims believe in a chain of prophets beginning with Adam and including Noah, Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Job, Moses, David, Solomon, and Jesus. God's eternal message was reaffirmed and finalized by Prophet Muhammad (peace be on them all). One becomes a Muslim by saying, "There is no deity but God, and Muhammad is the last messenger of God." By this declaration, the person announces faith in all of God's messengers.
What is the Qur'an?
The Qur'an is the record of the exact words revealed by God through Angel Gabriel to the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings on him). It was memorized by Muhammad and then dictated to his companions. The text of the Qur'an was cross-checked during the life of the Prophet. The 114 chapters of the Qur'an have remained unchanged through the centuries.
What are the "Five Pillars" of Islam?
1) The Declaration of Faith (or Tawhid). This consists of the two sentence declaration described above.
2) Prayer (or Salah) - Muslims perform five obligatory prayers each day. Islamic prayers are a direct link between the worshiper and God. Islam has no hierarchical authority or priesthood. A learned Muslim chosen by each congregation leads the prayers.
3) Charity (or Zakah) - One of the most important principles of Islam is that all things belong to God, and that wealth is held in trust by human beings. Zakah, or charitable giving, "purifies" wealth by setting aside a portion for those in need. This payment is usually two and a half percent of one's wealth.
4) Fasting (or Saum) - Every year in the Islamic lunar month of Ramadan, Muslims fast from first light until sunset. The fast is another method of self-purification.
5) Pilgrimage (or Hajj) - A pilgrimage to Mecca, or Hajj, is an obligation for those who are physically and financially able.
What about the American Muslim community?
There are an estimated 7 million Muslims in the U.S. The Muslim community in the U.S. is made up of people from a wide variety of ethnic backgrounds and national origins. There are almost 2,000 mosques, Islamic schools and Islamic centers in the U.S. Muslims are active in all walks of life in this country.
What about Muslim women?
Under Islamic law, women have always had the right to own property, receive an education and otherwise take part in community life. Men and women are to be respected equally. The Islamic rules for modest dress apply to both women and men equally. For example, men cannot expose certain parts of their bodies, wear gold or silk, etc. If a particular society oppresses women, it does so in spite of Islam, not because of it.
What is Jihad?
"Jihad" does not mean "holy war." Literally, jihad means to strive, struggle and exert effort. It is a central and a broad Islamic concept that includes struggle against evil inclinations within oneself, struggle to improve the quality of life in society, struggle in the battlefield for self-defense (e.g., - having a standing army for national defense), or fighting against tyranny or oppression.