Q: What is Islam?
A: Islam is not a new religion. It is the same truth that God revealed to all His prophets throughout history. Islam is both a religion and a complete way of life. Muslims follow a religion of peace, mercy and forgiveness that should not be associated with acts of violence against the innocent.
Q: Who are Muslims and what do they believe?
A: There are an estimated 1.2 billion Muslims worldwide. No more than 20 percent of Muslims live in the Arabic-speaking world. The country with the largest Muslim population is Indonesia. Muslims believe in One, Unique, and Incomparable God. They believe in the Day of Judgment and individual accountability for actions. Muslims believe in a chain of prophets beginning with Adam and including Noah, Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Job, Moses, David, Solomon, and Jesus. God’s eternal message was reaffirmed and finalised by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be on them all). One becomes a Muslim by saying, “there is no deity but God, and Muhammad is the messenger of God”. By this declaration, the person announces faith in all of God’s messengers.
Q: What is the Quran?
A: The Quran is the record of the exact words revealed by God through the Angel Gabriel to the Prophet Muhammad. It was memorised by Muhammad and then dictated to his companions. The text of the Quran was cross-checked during the life of the Prophet. The 114 chapters of the Quran have remained unchanged through the centuries.
Q: Who is Allah?
A: Allah is the name of the god. Allah is used by Arabic-speaking Christians when referring to God. Allah is not a separate Muslim God, but is the same God worshipped by Christians and Jews.
Q: What are the Five Pillars of Islam?
- The Declaration of Faith - This consists of the two-sentence declaration.
- Prayer - Muslims perform five obligatory prayers each day. Islamic prayers are a direct link between the worshiper and God. Islam has no hierarchical authority or priesthood. A learned Muslim chosen by each congregation leads the prayers.
- Zakat - One of the most important principles of Islam is that all things belong to God and that wealth is held in trust by human beings. Zakat, or charitable giving, purifies wealth by setting aside a portion for those in need. This payment is usually two and a half percent of one’s capital.
- Fasting - Every year in the Islamic lunar month of Ramadan, Muslims fast from first light until sunset. The fast is another method of self-purification.
- Pilgrimage - A pilgrimage to Mecca, or Hajj, is an obligation for those who are able.
Q: What is Jihad?
A: Jihad does not mean holy war. Literally, jihad means to strive, struggle and exert effort. It is a central and broad Islamic concept that includes struggle against evil inclinations within oneself, struggle to improve the quality of life in society, struggle in the battlefield for self-defence (e.g. having a standing army for national defence), or fighting against tyranny or oppression. The equivalent of the term holy war in Arabic is harb muqaddasah, a term that cannot be found in the Quran or the Prophet’s sayings (hadith). There is no such thing as holy war in Islam, as some careless translators have implied. It is a loaded medieval concept that did not arise from within the Muslim community. Because there has been frequent repetition of this myth, many people in the West accept it as if it were a fact.
Q: Are all Muslims Arabs or all Arabs Muslims?
A: Not all Muslims are Arab, just as not all Arabs are Muslim. In fact, Arabs are a minority within the Islamic world. According to modern usage, Arab is a linguistic, not an ethnic, designation. An Arab can be Christian or Jewish.
Q: What about the British Muslim community?
A: There are an estimated 2 million Muslims in Britain. The Muslim community in Britain is made up of people from a wide variety of ethnic backgrounds and national origins. There are almost 1,000 Mosques, Islamic schools and Islamic centers in Britain. Muslims are active in all walks of life. Islam is one of the fastest growing religions in this country and around the world.
Q: What about Muslim women?
A: Under Islamic law, women have always had the right to own property, receive an education and otherwise take part in community life. Men and women are to be respected equally. The Islamic rules for modest dress apply to both women and men equally. For instance, men cannot expose certain parts of their bodies, wear gold or silk, etc. If a particular society oppresses women, it does so in spite of Islam, not because of it.