The root of the word Islam in Arabic means peace (Silm or Salam). The word ‘Islam’, also means submission to the One God, as well as living in harmony with other people and with the environment. Therefore, a Muslim is a person whose obedience, allegiance and loyalty are to God, Lord of the Universe, and who strives to live in accordance with God's laws.
The followers of Islam are called Muslims. Muslims may be of any race, they may be Arabs, Turks, Persians, Indians, Pakistanis, Indonesians, Europeans, Africans, Americans, Chinese, or any other nationality or ethnicity. Muslims are not to be confused with Arabs. Also, among Arabs we can find Muslims as well as Jews, Christians, atheists. While there are over one billion Muslims in the world, there are about 200 million Arabs, among whom about ten percent are not Muslim. Thus, Arab Muslims constitute only about twenty percent of the Muslim population of the world.
The language of the Quran, the Holy Book of Islam, is Arabic. Muslims all over the world try to learn Arabic so that they may be able to read the Quran and understand its meaning. They pray in the language of the Quran, but supplications to God may be in any language.
Allah, the One and the Only God
Allah is the Arabic word for ‘God’. It is the same word Arabic-speaking Christians use when referring to God. Allah is not the "Muslim God" but is the same God worshipped by Christians and Jews. He is the Creator of all human beings. He is the God for the Christians, the Jews, the Muslims, and all others, including those who do not even believe in Him. Muslims worship God, and put their trust in Him as they seek His help and guidance.
Muhammad (peace be upon him) is the very last Prophet and Messenger of God to mankind. His message was and still is to all of mankind, including the Christians and Jews. He was sent to those religious people to inform them about the true mission of Jesus, Moses, David, Jacob, Isaac and Abraham.
Muhammad (peace be upon him) was chosen by God to deliver His Message of Peace, namely Islam. He was born in 570 C.E. (Common Era) in Mecca, Arabia. He was entrusted with the Message of Islam when he was at the age of forty years. The revelation that he received is called the Quran, while the message is called Islam.
The term "Mohammedanism", which is used in some books, implies that Muslims worship Muhammad. This is not so. God instructs us in the Quran about him: "Muhammad is no more than a Messenger. Many were the Messengers who passed away before him..." (3:144).
Sources of Islam
The legal sources of Islam are the Quran and the Hadith. The Quran is the exact words of God; its authenticity, originality and totality are intact. The Hadith are the reports of the sayings, deeds and approvals of the Prophet Muhammad. The Prophet's sayings and deeds are called Sunnah. The Seerah is the writings of followers of Muhammad about the life of the Prophet. Hence, it is the life history of the Prophet Muhammad which provides examples of daily living for Muslims.
Pillars of Islam
1. DECLARATION OF FAITH (CREED) - "There is no deity but God, and Muhammad is the messenger of God."
2. PRAYER - Muslims perform five obligatory prayers each day. Islamic prayers are a direct link between the worshiper and God. Islam has no hierarchical authority or priesthood. A learned Muslim chosen by each congregation leads the prayers.
3. ZAKAT - One of the most important principles of Islam is that all things belong to God and that wealth is held in trust by human beings. ‘Zakat’, or charitable giving, "purifies" wealth by setting aside a portion for those in need. This payment is usually two and a half percent of one’s capital.
4. FASTING - Every year during the Islamic lunar month of Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn until sunset. The fast is another method of self-purification.
5. PILGRIMAGE - A pilgrimage to Mecca, or Hajj, is an obligation for those who are physically and financially able.
Introduction to the Religion of Islam
The Five Pillars