The word Islam means, “surrender” to the will of God (Allah in Arabic). A person who follows the will of God as revealed in the holy Quran is called a Muslim. Muslims are those who believe in one God and in Muhammad as the final Prophet of God. They devote their lives to the service of God, the Creator and Sustainer of the universe. Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world. Indeed, one out of every five persons on this earth is a Muslim and there are nearly 3 million Muslims living in United Kingdom and the number is growing daily.
Islam teaches that God is the source of all creation and that human beings are the best of His creation. He communicates by inspiring them towards goodness and by sending Prophets who deliver God’s message. Muslims believe that the first Prophet was Adam followed by a long chain of Prophets to guide humanity. The Qur’an, according to Muslim belief, is the word of God revealed to Prophet Muhammad. It mentions many other Prophets like Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Ishmael, Moses, Jacob, Joseph and Jesus as well as revealing guidance as to how Muslims should organise their daily lives. All the prophets brought essentially the same message which is to believe in only one God and to obey him in all things.
The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)
The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was born in Mecca in the year 570 A.D. The word Muhammed in Arabic literally means “The one who is praised a lot”. As Martin Lings says in his famous biography of the Prophet “`she (the prophet’s mother Amina) heard a voice say to her: “Thou carriest in thy womb the lord of his people; and when he is born say: ‘I place him beneath the protection of the One, from the evil of every envier; then name him Muhammad.” Muhammad was a very truthful and honest person. He was also very pious and detested the moral decadence of his society. At the age of forty, God asked him, through the angel Gabriel, to proclaim the religion of Islam.
Pillars of Islam
There are 5 fundamental pillars which Islam is built upon. They are:
1) Testification (Shahadah)
The proclamation that there is no God except Allah and that the prophet Muhammed (PBUH) is his messenger.
2) The five daily prayers (Salaat)
They are inherently fundamental to leading life as a good Muslim as it is only through worship and good deeds that we may seek to attain forgiveness for our sins.
3) Giving Charity (Zakat)
Meaning purification, Zakat is an annual contribution that affluent Muslims need to make to the poor and needy. Through this the rest of the money a person earns becomes ‘purified’ and lawful to consume.
4) Fasting (Sawm)
This is the compulsory fasting from dawn until dusk during the month of Ramadan. Fasting consists of abstention from food, drink and sexual intimacy. Its purpose is to cleanse the soul and to teach Muslims how to better practice self-discipline, self-control, and empathy for those who are less fortunate.
5) Hajj, yearly pilgrimage to Mecca
This is mandatory on Muslims to complete at least once in their lifetimes if they are able. The Hajj is a demonstration of the solidarity of the Muslim people, and their submission to Allah. The word Hajj means “to intend a journey” which connotes both the outward act of a journey and the inward act of intentions.