What is Islam?
A Quick Course about Islam
By Ali Unal
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.
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.
What are the Five Pillars of Islam?
The 'Five Pillars' of Islam are the foundation of Muslim life:
- Faith or belief in the Oneness of God and the finality of the prophethood of Muhammad;
- Establishment of the daily prayers;
- Concern for and almsgiving to the needy;
- Self-purification through fasting; and
- The pilgrimage to Makkah for those who are able.
Iman or Faith
"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.