ISLAM: History, Beliefs, and Practices


Understanding Islam: History, Beliefs, and Practices


Table of Contents

1. Introduction to Islam

Islam, the world’s second-largest religion after Christianity, boasts about 1.8 billion followers globally. As an Abrahamic monotheistic faith, it worships Allah. Founded in the 7th century in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, by the Prophet Muhammad, Islam has since spread widely, especially in regions like the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia.

2. Key Concepts and Facts

  • Meaning: “Islam” translates to “submission” — followers submit to Allah’s will.
  • Muslims: The name for followers of Islam.
  • Allah: The singular, all-knowing deity in Islam.
  • Prophets: While many are shared with Christianity and Judaism, Muslims believe Muhammad was the last prophet.
  • Places of Worship: Muslims congregate in mosques. Key holy sites include Mecca’s Kaaba shrine, Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque, and the Prophet Muhammad’s mosque in Medina.
  • Jihad: Represents “struggle” in defense of the faith; occasionally, it can mean a “just war.”

3. The Prophet Muhammad

Born in 570 A.D. in Mecca, Muhammad received revelations from the angel Gabriel. He began preaching these messages around 613, emphasizing monotheism.

4. Hijra and Early Caliphs

In 622, Muhammad migrated from Mecca to Medina, an event termed “Hijra.” After his death in 632, leadership transitioned to the caliphs. The first was Abu Bakr, followed by Caliph Umar and others.

5. Holy Text: The Quran

The Quran, the central religious text of Islam, contains divine revelations given to Muhammad. Comprising 114 chapters (surahs), it’s viewed as God’s final word.

6. Islamic Calendar and Symbols

  • Hijra Calendar: A lunar calendar, starting from A.D. 622.
  • Symbols: While there’s no universally accepted symbol, the crescent moon and star, as well as the color green, are often associated with Islam.

7. The Five Pillars of Islam

Fundamental practices for Muslims include:

  1. Shahada: Declaration of faith.
  2. Salat: Praying five times daily.
  3. Zakat: Charity.
  4. Sawm: Fasting during Ramadan.
  5. Hajj: Pilgrimage to Mecca.

8. Sharia Law

Sharia provides guidelines on living an Islamic life, encompassing everything from dressing modestly to moral principles.

9. Muslim Worship and Festivals

Mosques, established following principles from 622 A.D., serve as centers for prayer and community. Key Muslim holidays are Eid al-Adha, celebrating Abraham’s sacrifice, and Eid al-Fitr, marking Ramadan’s end.