‘The Kaaba’ in Mecca Arabia – towards which Muslims pray
The word ‘Islam’ literally means ‘Peace and surrender to the will of Allah the Creator’.
It was founded by Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) over 1400 years ago in Arabia. Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) received revelation from Allah (‘The God’) in which he was told that Islam was the final and most complete religion for mankind. The followers of Islam are called Muslims.
Islam’s holy book is The Holy Qur’an and this was revealed by Allah to Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him). It is a source of complete guidance. Its teachings are in agreement with human nature. Islam is a religion revealed for the whole of mankind for all time to come.
THE FOUNDER OF ISLAM
The Prophet’s Mosque in Medina – in which he is buried.
Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) (570-632 CE) was born in Makkah (Mecca), Arabia. He was known for his honesty and piety. He was also inspired with a strong love for Allah and mankind.
He married at the age of 25. Fifteen years later he received his first Qur’anic revelation from Allah whilst meditating in a cave called Hir’a near Makkah. This marked the beginning of the mission of Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) as the apostle of Allah. His prime message was the Unity of Allah and he continued to stress this throughout his life.
True to his character Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) practised what he preached and provided a living example of all that Islam teaches. His humility, truthfulness, tolerance, resolve, courage, kindness and wisdom remain exemplary.
THE BOOK OF ISLAM
The Holy Qur’an is the holy book of Islam. It is the Word of Allah and was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) over a period of 23 years. It is spread over 30 parts and has 114 chapters.
It contains a vast array of teachings and is a comprehensive code of conduct for mankind. It also contains numerous prophecies many of which have been fulfilled and many that remain to be fulfilled.
The Holy Qur’an is written in Arabic – the very language in which it was revealed. The word Qur’an means something that is recited over and over again and indeed Muslims recite the Holy Qur’an many times over in their lives. Despite being over 1400 years old the Qur’anic text has remained intact – as promised in the Qur’an by Allah Himself. The translation of the Holy Qur’an is now also available in more that 50 languages including English.
THE TEACHINGS OF ISLAM
Allah taught religion to the world gradually by sending His prophets at different times and to different peoples. Muslims are required to believe in and respect all prophets and their teachings. This religious guidance from Allah was completed and perfected through Islam.
The key teachings of Islam are known as the Five Pillars of Islam:
1. SHAHADAH (DECLARATION OF FAITH)
This is the declaration of one’s faith in the unity of Allah and acceptance of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) as a messenger of Allah. The meaning of the actual declaration is, “I bear witness that there is none worthy of worship except Allah and I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah” (‘Allah’ means One Who is free from all defects and possesses all kinds of good attributes.)
2. SALAT (PRAYER)
Muslims must offer the five daily prayers to develop and benefit from a personal relationship with Allah. Islam, a name given by Allah to this religion (Quran 5:4), is an Arabic word which literally means obedience and peace. ISLAM is derived from the Arabic root “SALEMA”: peace, purity, submission and obedience. So ‘Islam’ would mean the path of those who are obedient to Allah and who establish peace with Him and His creatures. Its follower are called Muslims.
3. SAUM (FASTING)
Muslims must fast during the holy month of Ramadan. Whilst fasting, Muslims cannot eat or drink between dawn and dusk. Some people are exempted from fasting including the sick, pregnant or nursing mothers, young children and those on journeys. During Ramadan Muslims make an extra effort to remember Allah and to seek His forgiveness.
4. ZAKAT (ALMS GIVING / CHARITY)
Charity towards man, in the widest sense of the word, is the cornerstone of the Islamic society and a constant theme in the Quranic teachings. There are two kinds of charities in Islam: the obligatory and the voluntary. The obligatory charity is called Zakat while the voluntary charity is called Sadaqah. Muslims are required to give a fixed proportion of their wealth for the benefit of the poor and needy. The basic rate is normally 2.5% of one’s annual savings.
5. HAJJ (PILGRIMAGE TO MAKKAH)
The fifth act of Islamic worship is the performing of the Hajj or the pilgrimage to Mecca. A Muslim must perform this pilgrimage at least once in his lifetime if economic and political conditions are favourable. The focal point of this pilgrimage is the Ka’ba, which was rebuilt by Prophet Abraham some 4,000 years ago. Today, the Ka’ba stands in the middle of a large courtyard of Masjid al Haram or the Sacred Mosque. The courtyard of Masjid al Haram contains, besides Ka’ba, the Maqam a Ibrahim and the fountain of Zamzam.