An Introduction to Islam
Islam and Muslims
Islam is a complete way of life. It is the guidance provided by Allâh (God),
the Creator of the Universe, for all mankind. It covers all the things people do
in their lifetime. Islam tells us the purpose of our creation, our final destiny
and our place among other creations. It shows us the best way to conduct our
private, social, political, economic, moral and spiritual affairs.
Islam is an Arabic word meaning submission and obedience. Submission is
acceptance of Allâh's commands. Obedience means putting Allâh's commands into
practice. Submission and obedience to Allâh bring peace. That is why the very
word Islam is derived from the word for peace. Islam is a religion of peace and
harmony. Allâh, another Arabic word, is the proper name of God.
Muslims and Arabs
A person who accepts the Islamic way of life and acts upon it is a Muslim.
Muslims are not to be confused with Arabs. Muslims may be Arabs, Turks,
Persians, Indians, Pakistanis, Malaysians, Indonesians, Europeans, Africans,
Americans, Chinese, or other nationalities.
An Arab could be a Muslim, a Christian, or an atheist. Any person who adopts
the Arabic language is called an Arab. However, the language of the Qur'ân (the
Holy Book of Islam) is Arabic. Muslims all over the world try to learn Arabic so
that they may be able to read the Qur'ân and understand its meaning. They pray
in the language of the Qur'ân, namely, Arabic. Supplications to Allâh could be
in any language.
While there are one billion Muslims in the world there are about 200 million
Arabs. Among them, approximately ten percent are not Muslims. Thus, Arab Muslims
constitute only about eighteen percent of the Muslim population of the world.
Allâh: the One and the Only God
Allâh is the name of the One and Only God. Allâh has other names and
attributes, such as: The Gracious, The Merciful, The Beneficent, The Creator,
The All-Knowing, The All-Wise, The Lord of the Universe, The First, The Last,
He is the Creator of all human beings. He is the God for the Christians, the
Jews, the Muslims, the Buddhists, the Hindus, the atheists, and others. Muslims
worship God whose name is Allâh. They put their trust in Him and they seek His
help and His guidance.
The Prophet Muhammad ()
- peace and blessings of Allâh be upon him) was chosen by Allâh to deliver His
Message of Submission to Allâh, namely Islam. He was born in 570 C.E. (Common
Era) in Makkah, Arabia. He was entrusted with the Message of Islam when he was
at the age of forty years. The revelation that he received is called the
Qur'ân, while the message is called Islam. Muhammad ()
is the very last Prophet of Allâh to mankind. He is the final Messenger of
Allâh. His message was and is still for the Christians, the Jews and the rest
of mankind. He was sent to those religious people to inform them about the true
mission of Jesus, Moses, Jacob, Isaac, and Abraham (peace and blessings be upon
is the summation and the culmination of all the prophets and messengers that
came before him and also delivered His Message of Submission, namely Islam. He
purified the previous messages from adulteration and completed the Message of
Allâh for all humanity. He was entrusted with the power of explaining,
interpreting and living the teachings of the Qur'ân.
Sources of Islam
The two main legal sources of Islam are the Qur'ân
and the Hadîth. The Qur'ân is the exact word of Allâh; its authenticity, originality and totality
are intact. The Hadîth is the report of the sayings, deeds and approvals of the
Prophet Muhammad (). The Prophet's sayings and deeds are called Sunnah. The
Seerah is the writings of followers of Muhammad () about the life of the
Prophet. Hence, it is the life history of the Prophet Muhammad
provides examples of daily living for Muslims.
Some Islamic Principles
||Oneness of Allâh: He is One and the Only One. He is not two in one or three in
one. This means that Islam rejects the idea of trinity or such a unity of Allâh
which implies more than one God in one.
||Angels: Muslims believe that there are unseen creatures such as angels created
by God in the universe for special missions.
||Scriptures: Muslims believe that Allâh sent messages to all people. Five of
these messages are mentioned by name in Qur'ân: the Suhuf Ibrâhîm (pages of
Ibrahim), Tawrâh of Mûsa (Moses), Zabûr (Psalms) of Dâwûd (David),
(Gospel) of 'Îsa (Jesus), and the Qur'ân of Muhammad
(peace and blessings of
Allâh be upon them all).
||Oneness of Messengers and the Message: Muslims believe that Allâh sent many
messengers throughout the history of mankind. All came with the same message and
the same teachings: Islam. It was the people who misunderstood and
misinterpreted them. Muslims believe in Nûh (Noah), Ibrâhîm (Abraham),
Is'hâq (Isaac), Ismâ'îl (Ishmael), Yaqûb (Jacob), Mûsa (Moses), Dâwûd
(David), 'Îsa (Jesus), and Muhammad (), among others.
Muhammad () is the last
and final messenger of Allâh.
||Last Day: Muslims believe that there is a Last Day when the entire universe and
everything in it will be destroyed and following which all people of the world
throughout the history of mankind till the last day of life on earth will be
brought together for accounting, reward and punishment on the Day of Judgment.
||Belief in Qadr (Fate): Muslims believe that everything good or bad which happens
is decreed by Allâh. Nothing can happen without his knowledge and permission.
||Life after Death: Muslims believe in eternal life after death. Those who truly
believe Allâh and were good Muslims will live in Paradise. Those who rejected
and denied Allâh will be punished forever in Hell. This world is a world of
trials, the next world is the true life.
The Five Pillars of Islam
Every action done with the awareness that it fulfills the Will of Allâh is
considered an act of worship in Islam. There are specific acts of worship termed
the "Pillars of Islam" that provide the framework of Muslim spiritual
||Shahâdah: The verbal commitment and pledge that
"there is only One God and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allâh"
is considered to be the Creed of Islam.
||Salâh are prescribed five times a day as a duty towards Allâh.
Prayer strengthens and invigorates belief in Allâh and inspires man to higher
morality. It purifies the heart and helps control temptation, wrongdoing, and
||Saum (Fasting) during the month of
Ramadân. This is total abstinence from food,
liquids and intimate intercourse between married couples from dawn to sunset
during the entire month of Ramadân, and curbing evil intentions and desires. It
teaches love, sincerity, and devotion. It develops patience, unselfishness,
social conscience, and willpower to bear hardships.
||Zakâh (Fixed charity on yearly savings): It is spent on the poor and needy in
particular and the welfare of the society in general. The payment of Zakâh
purifies one's income and wealth and helps to establish economic balance and
social justice in the society.
||Hajj (Pilgrimage) to the Ka'bah in Makkah, once in a lifetime, provided
the means to undertake the journey. Hajj is in part in memory of the trials and
tribulations of prophet Ibrâhîm (Abraham), his wife Hâjira (Hagar) and his
eldest son Ismâ'îl (Ishmael) .
Some Other Beliefs and Related Aspects
||Innocence of Man at
Birth: Muslims believe that people are born free of sin. It
is only after they reach the age of puberty and it is only after they commit
sins that they are to be charged for their mistakes. No one is responsible for,
or can take the responsibility for, the sins of others. However, the door of
forgiveness through true repentance is always open.
||State and Religion: Islam is a total and a complete way of life. It encompasses
all aspects of life. As such, the teachings of Islam do not separate religion
from politics. As a matter of fact, state and religion are under the obedience
of Allâh through the teachings of Islam. Hence, economic and social
transactions, as well as educational and political systems are also part of the
teachings of Islam.
||Human Rights: Freedom of conscience is laid down by the Qur'ân itself:
"There is no compulsion in religion." The life and property of all
citizens in an Islamic state are considered sacred whether a person is Muslim or
not. Racism is incomprehensible to Muslims, for the Qur'ân speaks of human
equality in the following terms:
O Mankind! We created you from a single soul, male and female, and made you into
nations and tribes, so that you may come to know one another. Truly, the most
honored of you in Allâh's sight is the greatest of you in piety. Allâh is
||Calendar: Islamic practices are based on the 12-month lunar calendar. The
migration of the Prophet () from Makkah to Madînah marks the beginning of this
calendar. However, Muslims also use the solar calendar in their daily lives. The
five daily prayers are regulated on the basis of the solar cycle.
||Celebrations (Eid): Muslims have two celebrations, namely, Eid-ul-Fitr
(Fast-Breaking) and Eid-ul-Adha (Sacrifice). The Eid of Fast-Breaking comes at
the end of the month of fasting, Ramadan (the ninth month of the lunar
calendar). The Eid of Sacrifice is in remembrance of the sacrifice performed by
Prophet Ibrâ hîm (Abraham) of his son and comes on the 10th of Dhul-Hijjah,
the twelfth month of the lunar calendar.
The weekly holy day for Muslims is Friday. Muslims gather together shortly after
noon on Friday for the Friday congregational prayer. A khutbah (sermon) is given
before the congregational prayer. All adult male Muslims must attend this
prayer. Women who wish may also attend.
||Diet: Islam allows Muslims to eat everything that is lawful, clean, and good for
the health. It prohibits certain items such as carrion, blood, pork and its
by-products, and any animal that is not slaughtered properly in the name of
Allâh. Alcohol and any narcotic or addictive substances are also forbidden.
||Places of Worship: The place of worship is called a Masjid (Mosque). Most Muslim
communities have a masjid for the performance of the daily congregational
prayers. However, a Muslim may also pray anywhere in the world: in a masjid,
house, office, or outside. The entire Earth is a place of worship. There are
three places of worship in the world where the reward of offering prayer is much
more than any other place. These are: the Ka'bah, or the masjid in Makkah, the
Prophet Mohammed's () masjid in Madînah, and Masjid
Aqsa, adjacent to the Dome
of the Rock in Jerusalem.
||Distribution of Muslims in North America: There are approximately eight to
twenty million Muslims in North America. They are distributed in all its major
cities such as New York, Detroit, Boston, Toledo, Chicago, Los Angeles, San
Francisco, Houston, Cedar Rapids, Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Edmonton,
Vancouver, Windsor, Winnipeg, Calgary, and others.
Contributions in North America: Muslims are contributing considerably in all
spheres of life in America. Most of these contributions go unnoticed because
Muslims generally do not like to "beat their own drums". Muslims have
established academic institutions, community centers and organizations, schools,
and places of worship. They live in peace and harmony among themselves and among
other groups of people in the society. The rate of crime among Muslims is very
minimal. Muslims in North America are highly educated and they have added to the
success of American scientific and technological fields.
The Muslims of the earlier periods of history were pioneers in medicine,
chemistry, physics, geography, navigation, arts, poetry, mathematics, algebra,
logarithms, calculus, and so on. They were a critical force in bringing about
the Renaissance of Europe and world civilization. This spirit of contributing
continues in the present generations.
||Non-Muslims: Muslims are required to respect all those who are faithful and
God-conscious people, namely those who received messages. Christians and Jews
are called People of the Book. Muslims are asked to call upon the People of the
Book for common terms, namely, to worship One God, and to work together for the
solutions of the many problems in society.
Christians and Jews lived peacefully with Muslims for centuries in the Middle
East and other Asian and African countries. The second Caliph, Umar (Allâh be
pleased with him), did not pray in the church in Jerusalem so as not to give the
Muslims an excuse to take it over. Christians entrusted the Muslims, and as such
the key of the Church in Jerusalem is still in the hands of the Muslims. Allâh
orders Muslims to respect and protect the places of worship of other religions.
For More Information Please Contact:
Connecticut Council of Masajid
P.O. Box 4456, Hamden, CT 06514