Islam

Islam

‘We believe in God and that which is revealed to us: in what was revealed to
Abraham, Ishmael, Issac, Jacob, and the tribes: to Moses and Jesus and other
prophets by their Lord. We make no distinction among any of them, and to God
We have committed ourselves.’
Qur’an 2:136

Introduction

There are over a thousand million Muslims (people who follow Islam) in the world today. The word “Islam”
means complete submission and surrender to the will of Allah (to God). The word ‘Islam’ also means peace.
This monotheistic religion is over 1300 years ago.
There are roughly 2.5-3 million Muslims living in Britain today, which makes it the 2nd most popular religion
in the UK.

History

In 610 C.E., on a night now referred to by Muslims as the “Night of Power and Excellence”, an Arabian called
Muhammad heard a voice commanding him to “recite”. This voice was the Angel Gabriel who
communicated the word of God (Allah) to the Prophet Muhammad over a period of 22 years. This recital
from Allah was recorded and is the Muslim Holy Scripture called the Qur’an. Muhammad is considered by
Muslims to be God’s human instrument (in receiving and reporting his revelations) and the model or ideal
for all believers (some refer to it as the “living Qur’an”).
The Prophet Muhammad died in Medina in 632 C.E., not long after the Arab Islamic state was established.
After his death a series of Caliphs (designated successors to Muhammad) emerged as political leaders and
defenders of the faith.

The Qur’an

The Qur’an is God’s Speech written in Arabic. The Quran is the directly revealed Word of God. A direct
revelation to the Prophet through the Archangel Gabriel.
(For comparative purposes: Jesus Christ (pbuh – peace be upon him) is Divine – the Word of God. The Bible is
a record of revelation and not direct revelation. In comparative terms the Qur’an is more important than
Bible.)

Prophet Mohammed (pbuh)

Many Muslims believe that Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) is not the “founder” of Islam; He is the final
messenger of Allah and there are no more messengers after the Prophet Mohammed (pbuh). He received
the divine revelations recorded in the Qur’an during his life (570 – 632 AD).
Muslims regard their religion to be the restoration of the original religion of Abraham (Monotheism)
through the Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) in the 7th century. They would also stress that Islam is a timeless
religion, not just because of the eternal truth that it proclaims but also because it is every person’s religion,
the natural religion in which every person is born.

Sects

There are two main groups within Islam. The Sunnis (85%) are followers of the political successors of
Prophet Mohammed (pbuh). The Shiites (15%) are followers of Prophet Mohammed’s family successors
some of whom were martyred at an early age. Shiites are the strongest sect in Iraq, Iran and Lebanon.
Traditions/Beliefs
The Qur’an (literally translated, it means the “recital”), the Islamic scriptures, is one of the most important
books in human history. It was written in Arabic and it is thought to be authoritative only in that language.
Many Muslims memorize and recite the Qur’an in Arabic. It is made up of 114 surah (chapters) and 6,666
verses. The first chapter contains repeated verses which begin with the words “Praise be to Allah” and this
is universally used in the daily prayers of Muslims around the world. According to the Qur’an, God (Allah,
the Arabic word for “The God and Creator”) is transcendent, all-powerful, all-knowing and the creator,
sustainer, ordainer and judge of the universe. The Qur’an also emphasizes that Allah is also merciful and
compassionate.
A few of the major Qur’anic teachings are:
· The Qur’an teaches that Muslims are obliged to be God’s servants and to spread God’s message.
This obligation is to the individual as well as to the community at large.
· The Holy Scripture also stresses that all individuals are equal before Allah and places a large
obligation for the rich to help the poor and disposed in society.
· Every individual is responsible for his or her own actions.
· The Scripture stresses pluralism and tolerance – that God has created many nations and peoples. It
clearly and strongly states that “there is to be no compulsion in religion”(2:256)
The Five obligations (often referred to as pillars) of Islam which are outlined in the Qur’an are:
· Shahadah – Confession of one’s faith in God and in his Prophet Muhammad. “There is no God but
God; Muhammad is the Prophet of God”.
· Salat – Ritual Worship. Prayer five times daily (before sunrise, after midday, at mid-afternoon,
shortly after sunset and in the fullness of night)
· Zakat – Almsgiving. This is an obligatory charitable giving once a year and is derived from a small
percentage of an individuals wealth, business and property (excluding ones on dwelling). It is paid
by all Muslims for the benefit of the poor.
· Sawm- Fasting. Fasting is observed during the holy month of Ramadan from the Call to Prayer
(the true morning) until sunset.
· Hajj – Pilgrimage. Every Muslim who is of sound body, sane, and able to afford the journey is
expected to make a Hajj (pilgrimage) to the holy city of Mecca.
These Pillars are central to Muslim observance and practice.

Worship

A mosque is a building used by Muslims for worship and prayer.
Muslims remove their shoes and perform ritual washing before entering a Mosque to pray.
Internally, a Mosque is sparse, having little or no furniture. There will be no artwork or statues in the
chamber. Islam does not condone any form of representation of Allah – to attempt to create an image of
Allah is regarded as profane.
A niche is made on the wall which denotes the direction of Mecca – the direction in which people are to
pray – this is called the qibla wall. Everyone is considered equal and all in attendance sit on the floor.
Women may attend the mosque, but they sit separately from the men.
As one of the five pillars of faith, a Muslim is duty-bound to pray five times a day. These prayers do not
have to be made within the walls of a Mosque. Wudu (ritual washing) must be performed prior to prayer
(when water is not available, there are other acceptable practices). During the prayer recital there are also
ritual movements (rak’ha) which should be performed. All prayer is performed in the direction of Mecca.
Mosques offer talks on Fridays by the Imam (a Quranic scholar) just before the midday prayer.
Holy Days, Festivals and Rituals

Rituals

Like most religions, Islam observes some of the major events in a persons life:
Akikah. An informal birth ceremony. This ceremony is not practiced widely.
Shadada. The marking of a young Muslim’s formal entry into Islam. There is no set age for this rite, though
it is most commonly celebrated during the teenage years.
Marriage Ritual. Witnesses observe the groom’s formal offer of marriage and the brides acceptance of it.
There is no elaborate ceremony. The waleemah is the reception for sharing of food and giving of gifts.
Funerals and Mourning. This includes the recitation of the janazah (prayers for the dead) at the gravesite
and may include a service at the funeral home. Muslims do not condone cremation and burial of the dead
takes place immediately or as soon as possible. The mourning period for a family member according to the
Prophet is 3 days.

Holy Days and Festivals

· Ramadan. This Holy Festival takes place in the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. It is a time of
fasting and daily repentance for a period of 29/30 days. There are several reasons why it is
considered important:
- The Qur’an was first revealed during this month
- The gates of Heaven are open
- The gates of Hell are closed and the devils are chained up in Hell.

The Qur’an Revealed

“The month of Ramadan in which was revealed the Qur’an, a guidance for mankind and clear proofs
for the guidance and the criterion (between right and wrong)”[al-Baqarah 2:185]
The actual night that the Qur’an was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad is called Lailat ul Qadr,
and to stand in prayer on this one night is said to be better than a thousand months of worship.
Ramadan is often called ‘month of the Qur’an’ because of this, and Muslims attempt to recite as
much of the Qur’an as they can during the month. Most mosques will recite one thirtieth of the
Qur’an each night during the Taraweeh prayers.
No one knows on which particular night the Qur’an was first revealed, but it is said to be one of the
last ten nights of Ramadan.
Special Practices – There are a number of special practices which are only done during Ramadan.
Fasting the whole month long – Although Muslims fast during other times of the year, Ramadan is
the only time when fasting, or sawm, is obligatory during the entire month for every able Muslim.
Ramadan is intended to increase self-control in all areas, including food, sleeping, sex and the use of
time.
Taraweeh Prayers – These are long night prayers, which are not obligatory, but highly
recommended. Mosques are filled with worshippers who go to attend these prayers, which usually
last for one and a half to two hours. These prayers also give Muslims a chance to meet at the
mosque every day, and so they also help to improve relationships in the Muslim community.
I’tikaf – I’tikaf refers to going into seclusion during the last ten nights of Ramadan, in order to seek
Lailat ul Qadr by praying and reading the Qur’an. Some people live in the mosque during this time
for serious reflection and worship. Others spend a few hours at the mosque or home.
· Lailat ul-Qadr – the Night of Power, marks the night in which the Qur’an was first revealed to the
Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) by Allah.
Muslims regard this as the most important event in history, and the Qur’an says that this night is
better than a thousand months (97:3), and that on this night the angels descend to earth.
This is a time that Muslims spend in study, prayer and seeking forgiveness. Some will spend the
whole night in prayer or in reciting the Qur’an.
The date of 27 Ramadan for this day is a traditional date, as the Prophet Muhammad did not
mention when the Night of Power would be, although it was suggested it was in the last 10 days of
the month. Because of this, many Muslims treat the last 10 days of the month of Ramadan as a
particularly good time for prayer and reading the Qur’an.
· Eid al-Fitr – The feast period just after the month long fast of Ramadan. It is for one day but
culturally it may last 3 days.
Muslims are not only celebrating the end of fasting, but thanking Allah for the help and strength
that he gave them throughout the previous month to help them practice self-control.
The festival begins when the first sight of the new moon is seen in the sky. Muslims in most
countries rely on news of an official sighting, rather than looking at the sky themselves.
There are special services out of doors and in Mosques, processions through the streets, and of
course, a special celebratory meal – eaten during daytime, the first daytime meal Muslims will have
had in a month.
· Eid ul-Adha. On 10th day of Dhul Hajj, for a period of three days, animals are slaughtered to benefit
the whole community. The purpose of the Eid ul-Adha is to celebrate faithfulness and obedience
to Allah and to follow the tradition of Abraham.
· Al-Isra Wal Miraj. Celebrated on the 27th Day of the 17th month in the Islamic Calendar. It marks
Muhammad’s journey from Mecca to Jerusalem. Not all sects of Islam celebrate this.
· Maulid al-Nabi. Celebrates the birth of Muhammad. Not all sects of Islam celebrate this.
It may seem strange to non-Muslims, but many Muslims do not believe in celebrating birthdays or
death anniversaries because there is no historical evidence that the Prophet Muhammad ever did
this.