What is Islam?
The name of the religion is Islam, which comes from an Arabic root word meaning "peace" and "submission." Islam teaches that one can only find peace in one's life by submitting to Almighty Allah in heart, soul and deed. The same Arabic root word gives us "Salaam alaykum," ("Peace be with you"), the universal Muslim greeting.Who is a Muslim?
A person who believes in and consciously follows Islam is called a Muslim, also from the same root word. So, the religion is called "Islam," and a person who believes in and follows it is a "Muslim."
Islam is a major world religion, with over 1 billion followers worldwide (1/5 of the world population). It is considered one of the Abrahamic, monotheistic faiths, along with Judaism and Christianity. Although usually associated with the Arabs of the Middle East, less than 10% of Muslims are in fact Arab. Muslims are found all over the world, of every nation, color and race.
The most populous Muslim country today is Indonesia, a non-Arab country.
Allah is the proper name for Almighty ALLAH, and is often translated merely as "GOD." Allah has other names that are used to describe His characteristics: the Creator, the Sustainer, the Merciful, the Compassionate, etc. Arabic-speaking Christians also use the name "Allah" for Almighty ALLAH.
Muslims believe that since Allah alone is the Creator, it is He alone that deserves our devout love and worship. Islam holds to a strict
monotheism. Any worship and prayers directed at saints, prophets, other human beings or nature is considered idolatry.
The basic beliefs of Muslims fall into six main categories, which are known as the "Articles of Faith":
In Islam, faith and good works go hand-in-hand. A mere verbal declaration of faith is not enough, for belief in Allah makes obedience to Him a duty.
The Muslim concept of worship is very broad. Muslims consider everything they do in life to be an act of worship, if it is done according to Allah's guidance. There are also five formal acts of worship which help strengthen a Muslim's faith and obedience. They are often called the "Five Pillars of Islam."
While often seen as a radical or extreme religion, Muslims consider Islam to be the middle road. Muslims do not live life with complete disregard for ALLAH or religious matters, but nor do they neglect the world to devote themselves solely to worship and
During the blessed month of Ramadan, Muslims all over the world abstain from all food, drink, and other physical needs during the daylight hours (such as smoking or sex). Ramadan is much more than just not eating and drinking; it is a time to purify the soul, refocus attention on ALLAH, and practice self-discipline and sacrifice.
Fasting during the month of Ramadan is considered one of the 5 Pillars of Islam -- five activities that shape a Muslim's life. Prayer occurs on a daily basis; pilgrimage is done once in a lifetime; charity and professing one's faith are both ongoing. Fasting the month of Ramadan is an annual observance; every year, Muslims take an entire month out of their lives to observe this strict fast and rededicate themselves to worship and faith.
Muslims are called upon to use this month to re-evaluate their lives in light of Islamic guidance.
We are to make peace with those who have wronged us, strengthen ties with family and friends, do away with bad habits -- essentially to clean up our lives, our thoughts, and our feelings. The Arabic word for "fasting" (sawm) literally means "to refrain" - and it means not only refraining from food and drink, but from evil actions, thoughts, and words.
The physical effects of the fast are felt by Muslims as a reminder of those who suffer throughout the year -- those who are poor, homeless, refugees -- and who cannot meet their basic needs. It reminds Muslims not to be wasteful and to feel empathy for those who face hunger on a daily basis. We should feel gratitude for the bounties of Allah: clean water, sufficient healthy food, comfort of a home, health of our family members. There are so many in the world who must survive without these basic needs, and Ramadan is a time for us to give thanks and reaffirm our commitment to helping those in need.
During Ramadan, every part of our bodies must be restrained. The tongue must be restrained from backbiting and gossip. The eyes must restrain themselves from looking at unlawful things. The hand must give in charity, and not touch or take anything that does not belong to it. The ears must refrain from listening to idle talk or obscene words. The feet must refrain from going to sinful places. In such a way, every part of the body observes the fast.
Therefore, fasting is not merely physical, but is rather the total commitment of the person's body and soul to the spirit of the fast. Ramadan is a time to practice self-restraint; a time to cleanse the body and soul from impurities and re-focus one's self on the worship of ALLAH and charity to mankind.
Ramadan is a period of fasting, reflection, devotion, generosity and sacrifice observed by Muslims around the world. While major holidays of other faiths have largely become commercialized events, Ramadan retains its intense spiritual meaning.
The word "Ramadan" comes from the Arabic root word for "parched thirst" and "sun-baked ground." It is expressive of the hunger and thirst felt by those who spend the month in fasting. As opposed to other holidays, when people often indulge, Ramadan is by nature a time of sacrifice.