"I am and always will be a Muslim. My religion is Islam."
"I am not a racist in any form whatsoever. I don't believe in any form of discrimination or segregation. I believe in Islam. I am a Muslim and there is nothing wrong with being a Muslim, nothing wrong with the religion of Islam. It just teaches us to believe in Allah as the God. Those of you who are Christian probably believe in the same God, because I think you believe in the God Who created the universe. That's the One we believe in, the One Who created universe--the only difference being you call Him God and we call Him Allah. The Jews call Him Jehovah. If you could understand Hebrew, you would probably call Him Jehovah too. If you could understand Arabic, you would probably call Him Allah...."
- Malcolm X
Islam was not born in the 7th century A.D. Rather, it is the same religion that God revealed through His messengers (peace be upon them) to every people. Islam sometimes seems strange to non-Muslims because it is a religion which impacts every part of life, from eating and sleeping to working and playing. It is not only a personal religion, but also a social one.
Muslims seek to live in accordance with God's laws. By doing so, they strive to obtain nearness to God and victory over temporary trials and temptations in this world. All aspects of their practice including prayer, fasting, charity, and pilgrimage are intended to help meet this goal. Although strict by secular standards, Islam is not an ascetic religion. Islam requires its followers to be active participants in their communities.
Muslims believe that God is One, indivisible, and they believe in all the prophets of the Christians and Jews including Adam, Noah, Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Job, Moses, Aaron, David, Solomon, Elias, Jonah, John the Baptist, and Jesus (peace be upon them).
Muslims also recognize another prophet named Muhammad (peace be upon him and his family), who is a direct descendant of Abraham through his first born son, Ishmael. His prophethood is prophesied in the Bible in several places, including Deut 18:18 and John 4:16.
The Qur'an is the holy book of Muslims. It contains many stories that are familiar to Christians and Jews. It was not created by man but was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his family) through the Angel Gabriel at the command of God. It contains no scientific fallacies or internal contradictions. In fact, it contains much scientific knowledge discovered by scientists only in this century. The Qur'an is an unparalleled Arabic literary masterpiece. Furthermore, it survives in its original revealed form, unlike the Torah and the Gospel.
People living in the West and throughout the world should not allow themselves to be ignorant about Islam and Muslims. For example, there are six million Muslims living in the United States out of 1.2 billion in the world. Only 18% of Muslims live in the Arab world. Demographers say that Islam is the fastest growing religion in the U.S. (and the world) due to high birth rate, immigration, and high conversion rate. By the year 2000, Islam is predicted to be the second largest religion in America if it is not already, surpassing Judaism, Mormonism, Jehovah's Witness, and other religions.
- taken from Islamic Information & News Network - Islam FAQ
The Five Pillars of Islam
They are the framework of the Muslim life: faith, prayer, concern for the needy, self-purification, and the pilgrimage to Makkah for those who are able.
There is no god worthy of worship except God and Muhammad is His messenger. This declaration of faith is called the Shahada, a simple formula which all the faithful pronounce. In Arabic, the first part is la ilaha illa Llah - 'there is no god except God'; ilaha (god) can refer to anything which we may be tempted to put in place of God - wealth, power, and the like. Then comes illa Llah: 'except God', the source of all Creation. The second part of the Shahada is Muhammadun rasulu'Llah: 'Muhammad is the messenger of God.' A message of guidance has come through a man like ourselves.
Shahada inscribed at Ottoman Topkapi Palace, Istanbul.
2) PRAYER ( Prayer Performance )
Salat is the name for the obligatory prayers which are performed five times a day, and are a direct link between the worshipper and God. There is no hierarchical authority in Islam, and no priests, so the prayers are led by a learned person who knows the Qur'an, chosen by the congregation. These five prayers contain verses from the Qur'an, and are said in Arabic, the language of the Revelation, but personal supplication can be offered in one's own language.
Prayers are said at dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset and nightfall, and thus determine the rhythm of the entire day. Although it is preferable to worship together in a mosque, a Muslim may pray almost anywhere, such as in fields, offices, factories and universities. Visitors to the Muslim world are struck by the centrality of prayers in daily life.
A translation of the Call to Prayer is:
God is most great. God is most great.
New Mexico, U.S.A. Prayer Call from
3) THE 'ZAKAT' ( Zakat Information Center )
One of the most important principles of Islam is that all things belong to God, and that wealth is therefore held by human beings in trust. The word zakat means both 'purification' and 'growth'. Our possessions are purified by setting aside a proportion for those in need, and, like the pruning of plants, this cutting back balances and encourages new growth.
Each Muslim calculates his or her own zakat individually. For most purposes this involves the payment each year of two and a half percent of one's capital.
Zakat keeps the money flowing
within a society, Cairo.
A pious person may also give as much as he or she pleases as sadaqa, and does so preferably in secret. Although this word can be translated as 'voluntary charity' it has a wider meaning. The Prophet said 'even meeting your brother with a cheerful face is charity.'
The Prophet said: 'Charity is a necessity for every Muslim. ' He was asked: 'What if a person has nothing?' The Prophet replied: 'He should work with his own hands for his benefit and then give something out of such earnings in charity.' The Companions asked: 'What if he is not able to work?' The Prophet said: 'He should help poor and needy persons.' The Companions further asked 'What if he cannot do even that?' The Prophet said 'He should urge others to do good.' The Companions said 'What if he lacks that also?' The Prophet said 'He should check himself from doing evil. That is also charity.'
4) THE FAST ( Ramadan Information Center )
Every year in the month of Ramadan, all Muslims fast from first light until sundown, abstaining from food, drink, and sexual relations. Those who are sick, elderly, or on a journey, and women who are pregnant or nursing are permitted to break the fast and make up an equal number of days later in the year. If they are physically unable to do this, they must feed a needy person for every day missed. Children begin to fast (and to observe the prayer) from puberty, although many start earlier.
Although the fast is most beneficial to the health, it is regarded principally as a method of self purification. By cutting oneself off from worldly comforts, even for a short time, a fasting person gains true sympathy with those who go hungry as well as growth in one's spiritual life.
5) PILGRIMAGE (HAJJ) ( Hajj Information Center )
The annual pilgrimage to Makkah - the Hajj - is an obligation only for those who are physically and financially able to perform it. Nevertheless, about two million people go to Makkah each year from every corner of the globe providing a unique opportunity for those of different nations to meet one another. Although Makkah is always filled with visitors, the annual Hajj begins in the twelfth month of the Islamic year (which is lunar, not solar, so that Hajj and Ramadan fall sometimes in summer, sometimes in winter). Pilgrims wear special clothes: simple garments which strip away distinctions of class and culture, so that all stand equal before God.
Pilgrims praying at the mosque in Makkah.
The rites of the Hajj, which are of Abrahamic origin, include circling the Ka'ba seven times, and going seven times between the mountains of Safa and Marwa as did Hagar during her search for water. Then the pilgrims stand together on the wide plain of Arafa and join in prayers for God's forgiveness, in what is often thought of as a preview of the Last Judgment.
In previous centuries the Hajj was an arduous undertaking. Today, however, Saudi Arabia provides millions of people with water, modern transport, and the most up-to-date health facilities.
Pilgrim tents during Hajj.
The close of the Hajj is marked by a festival, the Eid al-Adha, which is celebrated with prayers and the exchange of gifts in Muslim communities everywhere. This, and the Eid al-Fitr, a feast-day commemorating the end of Ramadan, are the main festivals of the Muslim calendar.