What is Islam?

The word “Islam” literally means “surrender” or “resignation,” and Muslims take it as their primary religious responsibility to surrender to the will of Allah, the Arabic word for God. Muslims, who are monotheists, believe that Muhammad, a merchant who lived in the 6th and 7th centuries in the Arabian cities of Medina and Mecca, was the last of God’s prophets (the first was the original man, Adam). Muslims worship five times every day. On Fridays, Muslims gather in mosques for communal prayers led by religious leaders called imams. Muslims follow the Five Pillars of Islam: shahadah, or faith (a declaration that there is no god worthy of worship except God, and that Muhammad is his messenger); salat, or prayer (five times a day, at prescribed times); zakat, or charity (giving a set percentage of one’s income to those in need); sawm, or fasting (during the holy month of Ramadan, when Muslims refrain from food, drink and sexual relations during the day); and hajj, or pilgrimage (all Muslims who are able are required to travel to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, once in their lifetime).

Second only to the Islamic belief in the unity/oneness of God is the supremacy of Muhammad as Allah's prophet. But, Islam acknowledges that several prophets preceded Muhammad. The major ones are Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and Jesus. These prophets gave revelations from God which were written as scriptures; mainly, the Old and New Testaments. These predecessors to Muhammad are considered great prophets who spoke for God to specific people and whose message was meant for that time.

The Quran

The Quran, which Muslims believe God revealed to the Prophet Muhammad through the Angel Gabriel. It is written in Arabic. Muslims also refer to the Hadith, the collected sayings of Muhammad, as authoritative. While not regarded as scripture, the sharia system of jurisprudence contains teachings, proscriptions and rules governing everything from permissible food to marriage and divorce.

Major Holidays

Ramadan commemorates the time during which the faithful believe Allah sent the Angel Gabriel to Muhammad in Mecca and gave him the teachings of the Quran. During this month-long observance, Muslims fast from sunup to sundown. Eid al- Fitr marks the end of Ramadan. The hajj is the annual period when many Muslims journey to Mecca; doing so at least once in life is one of the Five Pillars, or requirements, of Islam. Eid al-Adha marks the end of this period.

Information on this page provided by http://www.rnasecure.org/guide/islam.html.

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