In the Name of God,
Most Gracious, Most Merciful

What is Islam?

Islam is not a new religion, but the same truth that God revealed through all His prophets to every people. For a fifth of the world's population, Islam is both a religion and a complete way of life. Muslims follow a religion of peace, mercy, and forgiveness, and the majority have nothing to do with the extremely grave events that have come to be associated with their faith.

What do Muslims believe?

Muslims believe in One, Unique, Incomparable God, in the Angels created by Him, in the prophets through whom His revelations were brought to mankind, in God's complete authority over human destiny and in life after death. Muslims believe in a chain of prophets starting with Adam and including Noah, Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Job, Moses, Aaron, David, Solomon, Elias, Jonah, John the Baptist and Jesus, peace be upon them. But God's final message to man, a reconfirmation of the eternal message and a summing-up of all that has gone before was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad PBUH through the Angel Gabriel. (The Prophet's name is always accompanied by the acclamation 'peace be upon him', or PBUH.)

How does someone become a Muslim?

Simply by saying with conviction that 'there is no god apart from God, and Muhammad is the Messenger of God.' By this declaration the believer announces his or her faith in God, all his messengers, and the scriptures that were revealed to them.

What does 'Islam' mean?

The Arabic word 'Islam' simply means 'submission', and is derived from a word meaning 'peace'. In a religious context it means complete submission to the will of God. 'Allah' is the Arabic name for God, which is used by Arab Muslims and Christians alike.

Do Islam, Judaism and Christianity have different origins?

No. Together they go back to the prophet and patriarch Abraham, and their three prophets are directly descended from his sons -- Muhammad PBUH from the eldest, Ishmael; and Moses and Jesus, upon them be peace, from Isaac. Abraham established the settlement which today is the holy city of Makkah (=Mecca), and built the monument known as the Ka'ba towards which all Muslims turn when they pray.

Who is Muhammad?

Muhammad PBUH was born in Makkah in the year 570, at a time when Christianity was not yet fully established in Europe. As he grew up, he became known for his truthfulness, generosity and sincerity, so that he was sought after for his ability to arbitrate in disputes. Historians describe him as calm and meditative. At the age of 40, while engaged in a meditative retreat, Muhammad PBUH received his first revelation from God through the Angel Gabriel. These revelations, which continued for twenty-three years, are known collectively as the Qur'an.

As soon as he began to recite the words he heard from Gabriel, and to preach the truth which God had revealed to him, he and his small group of followers suffered bitter persecution, which grew so fierce that in the year 622 God gave them the command to leave Makkah for the city of Madinah some 260 miles to the north. After several years, the Prophet PBUH and his followers were able to return to Makkah, where they forgave their enemies and established Islam definitively. Before the Prophet PBUH died at the age of 63, the greater part of Arabia was Muslim, and within a century of his death Islam had spread to Spain in the West and as far east as China.

What is the Qur'an?

Muslims believe that the Qur'an is a record of the exact words revealed by God through the Angel Gabriel to the Prophet Muhammad PBUH. It was memorised by Muhammad PBUH and then dictated to his Companions, written down by scribes, and cross-checked during his lifetime. Not one word of its 114 chapters (Surahs) has been changed over the centuries, so that the Qur'an is in every detail the unique and miraculous text which was revealed to Muhammad PBUH fourteen centuries ago. This is in fulfilment of the promise given by God to preserve the Qur'an unchanged for all time.

What is the Qur'an about?

The Qur'an, the last revealed Word of God, is the prime source of every Muslim's faith and practice. It deals with all the subjects which concern us as human beings: wisdom, doctrine, worship and law, but its basic theme is the relationship between God and His creatures. At the same time it provides guidelines for a just society, proper human conduct and an equitable economic system.

The astounding scientific accuracy of the Qur'an attests to its truthfulness. For example, the verse 'With power did we construct the heavens and we are ever expanding it' (51: 47) reflects modern conceptions of an expanding universe. And the Qur'an describes the stages of development of the baby in the womb in detail that has been observed only in the last 30 years or so using modern endoscopic techniques (23: 12- 15).

Are there any other sacred sources?

Yes, the 'Sunnah', the practice and example of the Prophet PBUH, is the second authority for Muslims. A hadith is a reliably transmitted report of what the Prophet PBUH said, did, or approved of. Belief in the 'Sunnah' is part of the Islamic faith.

Examples of the Prophet's sayings:

'God has no mercy on one who has no mercy for others. 'None of you truly believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself.' 'Powerful is not he who knocks the other down, indeed powerful is he who controls himself in a fit of anger.' 'God does not judge according to your bodies and appearances, but He scans your hearts and looks into your deeds.' (From the hadith collections of Bukhari, Muslim, Tirmidhi and Bayhaqi)

What are the 'Five Pillars' of Islam?

They are the framework of the Muslim life: faith in one God, prayer, compulsory charity, fasting during the month of Ramadan, and the pilgrimage to Makkah for those who are able.

Does Islam tolerate other beliefs?

It is one function of Islamic law to protect the privileged status of minorities, and this is why non-Muslim places of worship have flourished all over the Islamic world. History provides many examples of Muslim tolerance towards other faiths: when the caliph Omar entered Jerusalem in the year 634, Islam granted freedom of worship to all religious communities in the city.

Islamic law also permits non-Muslim minorities to set up their own courts, which implement family laws drawn up by the minorities themselves.

What do Muslims think about Jesus?

Muslims respect and revere Jesus, upon him be peace (UHBP), and await his Second Coming. They consider him one of the greatest of God's messengers to mankind. A Muslim never refers to him simply as 'Jesus', but always adds the phrase 'upon him be peace'. The Qur'an confirms his virgin birth (a chapter of the Qur'an is entitled 'Mary'), and Mary is considered the purest woman in all creation.

Jesus UHBP was born miraculously through the same power which had brought Adam (UHBP) into being without father: 'Truly, the likeness of Jesus with God is as the likeness of Adam. He created him of dust, and then said to him, "Be!" and he was.' (3:59)

Neither Muhammad PBUH nor Jesus UHBP came to change the basic doctrine of belief in one God, brought by earlier prophets, but to confirm and renew it. In the Qur'an Jesus UHBP is reported as saying that he came 'To attest the law which was before me. And to make lawful to you part of what was forbidden you; I have come to you with a sign from your Lord, so fear God and obey Me.' (3:50)

The Prophet Muhammad PBUH said:'Whoever believes there is no god but God, alone without partner, that Muhammad PBUH is His messenger, that Jesus is the servant and messenger of God, His word breathed into Mary and a spirit emanating from Him, and that Paradise and Hell are true, shall be received by God into Heaven' (hadith from Bukhari).

What about Muslim women?

Islam sees a woman, whether single or married, as an individual in her own right, with the right to own and dispose of her property and earnings. A marriage dowry is given by the groom to the bride for her own personal use, and she keeps her own family name rather than taking her husband's. Both men and women are expected to dress in a way that is modest and dignified; the traditions of female dress found in some Muslim countries are often the expression of local customs.

The Messenger of God PBUH said: 'The most perfect in faith amongst believers is he who is best in manner and kindest to his wife.'

Why is family so important to Muslims?

The family is the foundation of Islamic society. The peace and security offered by a stable family unit is greatly valued, and seen as essential for the spiritual growth of its members. Children are treasured, and rarely leave home until the time they marry.

What does Islam say about war?

Islam permits fighting in self-defence, in the upholding of religion, or on behalf of those who have been forcibly expelled from their homes. It lays down strict rules of combat which include prohibition against harming civilians and against destroying crops, trees and livestock. As the Qur'an says:'Fight in the cause of God against those who fight you, but do not transgress limits. God does not love transgressors' (2.190). As Muslims see it, injustice would triumph if good men were not prepared to risk their lives in a righteous cause.

War, therefore, is a last resort and is subject to the rigorous conditions laid down by the sacred law. The term often used for war, jihad, literally means 'struggle', and Muslims believe that there are two kinds of jihad. Firstly, physical war, as discussed above, and the inner struggle which everyone wages against egotistical desires for the sake of attaining inner peace.

How do Muslims view death?

Muslims believe that the present life is only a trial in preparation for the next realm of existence. Belief in the resurrection of the body, the Day of Judgement, heaven and hell are articles of faith. When a Muslim dies they are washed, usually by a family member, wrapped in a clean white cloth, and buried with a simple prayer--preferably on the same day. Muslims consider this one of the final services they can perform for their relatives, and an opportunity to consider their own brief existence here on earth. The Prophet PBUH taught that three things can continue to help people even after death: charity which they had given, knowledge which they had taught, and prayers offered on their behalf by a righteous child.

How does Islam guarantee human rights?

Freedom of conscience is mandated by the Qur'an: 'There is no compulsion in religion' (2.256). The life and property of all citizens in an Islamic state are respected whether a person is Muslim or not. Racism is incomprehensible to Muslims, as the Qur'an urges equality: 'O mankind! We created you from a single soul, male and female, and made you into nations and tribes, so that you may come to know one another' (49.13).

What about food?

The dietary code which Muslims observe forbids the consumption of pork and any kind of intoxicant. The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) taught that'your body has rights over you', and wholesome food and a healthy lifestyle are seen as religious obligations.