Dear readers, a very excellent morning and day to you. This is a continuation of my “Understanding Religions” series, and today we look at a relatively young religion, Islam, which was founded only about 1400 years ago. We will look at Islamic major beliefs, including a bit of its history as well as its place in the world today.
Here’s part 2 of the series if you missed it.
Major Beliefs of Islam
Islam means “surrender, submission, commitment and peace” in Arabic and therefore has been defined by some as “a path to attain complete peace through voluntary submission to the divine will”.
Practitioners of Islam are called Muslims, who believe in one God, Allah. Hence, Islam, like Christianity, is a monotheistic religion. Allah is all-powerful and nothing can happen without His permission. However, He has given humans the freedom to choose between good and bad.
Muslims also believe in angels, like Jibrael (Gabriel), Mikael (Michael), Israfil (Raphael) and Azrael. Angels communicate with Allah and human beings to ensure the word of God is passed on to humanity correctly. Muslims also believe that two angels, Al-Kiram and Al-Katibun, are with them at all times and sit on either shoulder.
Practitioners of Islam believe that when they die, they will be questioned on how they have lived their life. The two angels always at a person’s side – one of them recorded all the good things the person has done and the other recorded the bad things. Allah will judge each person based on his or her deeds and decide whether they are worthy of Jannah (Paradise) or Jahannam (Hell).
Muslims believe in all prophets sent by God, such as Abraham, Moses, Jesus (their belief about him is different from Christians) and Muhammad, as well as the holy books sent to the prophets to provide guidance to Muslims on how to live their daily life. Examples of these books include Torah (revealed to Moses), Psalms (revealed to David), Bible (revealed to Jesus) and Koran (revealed to Muhammad). Muslims believe that all holy books convey the same message.
In Islam, Adam is known as the first prophet of God. All prophets preached the same message of belief in one God and kindness to each other. Muhammad was the final prophet of Islam, to whom God revealed the Koran.
Muhammad was born in Mecca, Saudi Arabia around 570 A.D. He was a shepherd and then a merchant. Muhammad was a deeply spiritual person. When he was about 40 years old, he received a revelation from God or Allah through the angel Jibrael (Gabriel) while praying and meditating in the mountains.
Muhammad continued to receive revelations from Allah for the rest of his life. The revelations were all recorded in the Koran. He began preaching what he has learned, mainly that there is no God but Allah, and that life should be lived in complete submission to His will.
Muhammad’s popularity threatened the powers of Mecca, and for safety he took his followers to Medina in the year 622. This migration was called Hijrah, and the year 622 became the year in which the Islamic calendar begins. Muhammad then managed to gain enough followers that he was able to return and conquer Mecca. From then on, Muhammad continued to lead his community in spiritual and earthly matters until his death in 632.
Islam and the World
Muslims perform five prayers daily, at dawn, at noon, at mid-afternoon, at sunset and at night. The prayers are done in Arabic language and done facing the direction of Mecca. In addition to prayers by oneself, Muslims perform worships in a mosque.
It is also an Islamic obligation to give 2.5% of one’s wealth to the poor, but this is only applicable to those who meet the necessary standards of wealth.
In the month of Ramadan which is the 9th month of the Islamic calendar, Muslims would fast during the daylight hours. It is a time of spiritual reflection, self-improvement, and heightened devotion and worship. Basically it is a time to put more effort into following the teachings of Islam.
Muslims believe in making a pilgrimage to Mecca to the Ka’bah at least once in their lifetime. The Ka’bah is a large black stone cube in a mosque. The mosque is believed to have been built by Abraham and one of his sons. Muhammad restored it to worship Allah. It is considered by Muslims as the most sacred site in the world.
There are two main branches of Islam, called Sunni and Shi’a. They share the same fundamental Islamic beliefs; their split was initially caused by political reasons – difference of opinion about who should succeed Muhammad after his death. Sunnis believed the new leader should be elected from those capable of the job, but Shi’as believed that leadership should stay within the Prophet’s family among those specifically appointed by him, or among Imams appointed by Allah Himself. Over time, however, these political differences have extended to spiritual differences.
That’s it for this part. Come back often because I post quite regularly nowadays, and feel free to subscribe to my emails anytime! Leave any questions or comments that you have below and I’ll get back to you soonest. Finally, may I humbly request that you share this post with your family and friends? As you know, we are at a critical juncture in human history in terms of tolerance and morality, so having a basic understanding of each other’s religion will go a long way towards bringing some improvement to this world. Thanks a lot!
Part 4: Hinduism