What is Islam?

Posted December 17, 2015 7:00 p.m. EST
Updated December 17, 2015 7:18 p.m. EST

Islam began in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. The religion was revealed to humanity by the prophet Muhammad. Those who follow Islam are called Muslims.

Muslims believe there is only one God. The Arabic word for God is Allah.

According to Muslims, God sent a number of prophets to mankind to teach them how to live according to his law. Among those prophets are names familiar to Jews and Christians: Jesus, Moses and Abraham are respected by Muslims as prophets of God.

The prophet Muhammad is revered as the "Seal of the Prophets" – the last and greatest of the messengers of God. Muslims do no believe Muhammad is divine.

Muslims believe that Islam is the final version of a monotheistic faith that has always existed and includes Judaism and Christianity. For practical purposes, the date their religion from when Muhammad first received his revelation.

Muslims base their laws on their holy book, the Qur'an.

Muslims believe there are five basic Pillars of Islam:

  1. Belief, or the declaration of faith. The profession "There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is his prophet" is central to Muslims' beliefs.
  2. Prayer. Observant Muslims pause for a few minutes at dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset and nightfall daily to wash according to ritual, face in the direction of Mecca and recite certain prayers.
  3. Charity. Like Christians who tithe, Muslims are supposed to donate a fixed amount of their property to the less fortunate.
  4. Fasting. During the ninth month of the Islamic calendar (Ramadan), Muslims are supposed to abstain from food, drink, smoking and sex from dawn to dusk. The end of Ramadan is marked by a feast known as Eid al-Fitr.
  5. Pilgrimage. Muslims are expected to visit Mecca at least once in a lifetime. The trip is known as the hajj and those who make it hajji.

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