What is Islam?
Islam is a religion which guides its followers in every aspect of their lives. It is a way of life. Islam is a religion of peace. This is evident even from the name "Islam"
itself. ("Islam" is an Arabic word.) The word "Islam" and the Arabic
word for peace, "salam" both come from the same root, "salima". There must be peace within one's self and with others. It was first given to the Prophet Muhammad (S) by the Angel Gabriel (S).
The Five Pillars of Islam
Shahada: The One and Only God
Islam is a monotheistic religion. It teaches that there is only one God who is the origin and creator of the universe. This is the foundation of Islam, and is reflected in the famous sentence which says that, "There is no god but Allah." (Allah is the Arabic name of God.)
"There is no god but God, Muhammad is the messenger of God."
"ا إله إلا الله محمد رسول الله"
Islam demands from its adherents that beliefs be supplemented with actions. Each Muslim is required to pray five times a day. Muslims pray towards the Ka'ba, which is situated in Mecca. It was built by Abraham and Ishmael over four thousand years ago.
Discipline in a believer is further inculcated by fasting. Every year in the month of Ramadhan, Muslims must fast by refraining from food and drink during the day time.
Muslims see wealth to be a trust from God, to be dispensed in His way. Therefore, they are asked to purify their wealth by spending a portion of their income for those in need (called zakat). Undertaking social responsibility by helping the needy is highly encouraged in Islam.
During their lifetime, Muslims are commanded to go for pilgrimage to Mecca provided there are no financial or physical constraints. The hajj is marked by the Eid al-Adha, a festival which is marked with prayers and other rituals performed by the pilgrims in the vicinity of Mecca.
Other Practices in Islam
The concept of jihad (wrongly translated as holy war) refers to the duty of Muslims to defend their faith and the welfare of the Muslim community when threatened. The Qur'an does not permit aggression against anyone and Prophet Muhammad is asked to proselytize in a peaceful manner. Warfare is permitted only in self-defense.
Amr-bil-Maroof: Ordering for acknowledged virtues
Concerned with good as it is, Islam gives this tremendous social force a purpose. Islam must be used for promoting good, truth and justice and checking evil and injustice.
Nahi Anil Munkar: Forbidding from sin
Muslims should work towards abandoning and avoiding sin. They should not commit a sin themselves and should help others avoid the act of sin.
Tawalla: Expressing love towards Good
Muslims should love the friends of Allah, those who desire truth, righteous people and supporters of truth and justice.
"It is that of which Allah gives good tidings to His servants who believe and do righteous deeds. Say, [O Muhammad], "I do not ask you for this message any payment [but] only good will through kinship." And whoever commits a good deed - We will increase for him good therein. Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Appreciative." [42-23]
Tabarra: Expressing disassociation and hatred towards Evil
Muslims should hate the evildoers, oppressors, lovers of enjoyment and enemies of Allah, His Prophet and humanity.
"[This is a declaration of] disassociation, from Allah and His Messenger, to those with whom you had made a treaty among the polytheists." [9-1]
Status of Human Beings in Islam
Born Sinless: Islam teaches that every human being is born sinless; no child carries the burden of his or her ancestors' sins.
Accountability: Islam also emphasizes on the issue of responsibility and accountability of human beings--each person is responsible for his or her own actions.
Race: Islam very categorically rejects racial discrimination. It promotes the feeling of brotherhood [and sisterhood] and equality among its followers.
Gender: Even gender does not count as a criterion of superiority. In Islam, women are as human as men. They are not evaluated on basis of their gender, but on basis of their faith and character.