Islam is a worldwide religion with approximately 1.4 billion followers. It is the second largest religion on earth after Christianity, which has about 2.1 billion followers. Islamic religion is based on peace and full submission to Allah, the Muslims Supreme Being, or God.
At its simplest definition, it is a religion that seeks to establish peace in one’s inner self and in ones surrounding by submitting to the will of God. Anyone who follows this religion, irrespective of his race or nationality, is considered a Muslim.
The Rise of Islamic Religion
Islamic religion dates back to the 7th century, a time that Muhammad (Peace Be upon Him (PBUH)) received a revelation of the Quran. Muhammad (PBUH) lived from 570 CE to 632 CE and is believed to be the initiator of Islam religion. Having been orphaned at a tender age, He was brought up by his uncle and was well known for His generosity, truthfulness, and sincerity. At the age of 40, Muhammad received a revelation from God through Angel Gabriel while under a meditative retreat in Mecca. This God’s revelation to Muhammad mainly contained God’s teachings and continued for 23 years.
After the revelation, Muhammad spread the teachings and the holy way of life that he had learnt in his revelation, a compilation that turned out to the Holy Quran. Since Muhammad was illiterate, his revelation and compilation of the Quran was considered a miracle.
His attempt to spread this newfound religion however faced resistance and opposition in some parts, and at some point He had to relocate from Mecca to Medina due to the widespread persecution of the 622 CE.
The 5 Pillars of Islamic Religion
Islam has 5 major pillars that define the practice of this doctrine. These are:-
• Shahada (Creed) – This is a pledge and verbal commitment that there is only one God, Allah, and that Prophet Muhammad was a messenger sent by God.
• Salat (Prayer) – This is generally a prayer based on the Quran, and every Muslim is supposed to perform 5 prayers a day. These five daily prayers are done at dawn, noon, mid afternoon, sunset and at nightfall. All these prayers are performed facing Mecca, the place where Prophet Muhammad received the revelation of the Quran.
• Saum (Fasting) – This is fasting period in the holy month of Ramadhan; the month that celebrates the time that Prophet Muhammad first received revelation from God through the angel Gabriel.
• Zakat (Purifying Tax) – This is a yearly submission of certain portion of Muslim’s property meant to help the poor and any other rightful beneficiary.
• Hajj (Pilgrimage) – Whenever possible, every Muslim is required to pay a visit to Mecca at least once in a lifetime. However, this visit should only be paid by Muslims who have already taken good care of their family as defined by the teachings of the Quran. The visit is known as Hajj.
Mode of Worship
Muslim’s holy place of worship is the Mosque. It is a place where Muslims go to worship and pray their God. Every mosque is required to have a prayer hall and an ablution block. The prayer hall is devoid of any furniture to create ample space for worshippers to congregate. It does not have any sculpture or image as that would be perceived as an idol when they bore down to pray. Verses from the Quran may however be written on the walls of the mosque.
When going to the mosque, Muslims are required to observe a strict code of conduct and defined dress code. Men are required to wear loose and clean clothing, while women are required to wear loose and clean clothing that extend to their wrists and ankles. Their heads also require to be covered and no one should enter the mosque with his or her shoes or sandals on.
Separation based on gender is also fundamental. Men line up in front of the mosque in rows facing Mecca, and women take the back position in rows facing Mecca. This separation is considered essential since Islam seeks to limit potential immoral interaction between people of opposite sex, more so when they are in the holy house of worship.
Islamic Schools and Islamic Teachings
The Quran is the primary source of Islamic teachings and every Muslim child or Muslim convert is supposed to learn and recite the Quran. However, there are two different types of Islamic schools namely the Sunni and Shia. Sunni is the most dominant subset being adopted by approximately 85% of Muslims, and Shia being adopted by approximately 15% of Muslims. The difference in these two subsets and subsequent different Islamic schools is the split in leadership that occurred soon after Prophet Muhammad’s era. The Sunni group chose to follow Abu Bakr (Muhammad’s successor), while the Shia chose to follow Ali, Prophet Muhammad’s cousin.
Main Islamic Festivals
• Ramadhan – This is the month in which Muhammad first received the revelation from God through Angel Gabriel. During this month, Muslims are required to fast from dawn to dusk, and abstain from foods, drinks, and intimate relations. Those who may not be fit to fast such as the elderly, the sick and expectant women among others are allowed to skip this fasting and do a makeup at a later time. Those who may not be able to fast by any means are supposed to give food to the needy people for every day that they were not able to fast during this fasting period.
• Id-ul-Fitr – This is the day that marks the end of Ramadhan. During this day, Muslims give food and presents to the poor and other rightful beneficiaries.
• Id-ul-Adha – This is a festive day that marks the end of Hajj (Visit to Mecca). It is celebrated on the last day of the twelfth month of the Islamic year.
Common Myths about Islam Religion
• Every Arab is a Muslim – While Islam religion is the most dominant religion in Arabic countries, not every Arab is a Muslim.
• Jihad makes war sacred – Jihad, as used in the Quran, means striving or struggle. It may mean inner struggle within a person or physical struggle when fighting in self-defense. However, Quran states that innocent lives should never be targeted, and trees, crops, and livestock should never be destroyed during Jihad.
• Female circumcision is supported – This is not an endorsed practice in Islam. In fact, Islamic religion is against body mutilation.
• Some form of suicide killing is accepted – Life is considered a gift from God and it is indeed a sin to kill. No form of killing is justified in any way, contrary to the perception that suicide bombers go straight to heaven.