When we use the term Muslims, we talk about people who follow or practice Islam. Islam is the Arabic word for submission and obedience to God; it comes from a word meaning peace. Across the entire world, Islam is the second most popular religion in the world (after Christianity), with over a thousand million followers.
So, what is the Muslim religion for its followers? For most, it’s a way of life. How it came about, however, is an interesting story.
Our story begins many, many years ago in Arabia. Born in A.D 570, the prophet Muhammad is thought to be the founder of Islam as the last prophet sent by Allah. Although there were many prophets before Muhammad (or PBUH, meaning peace to be upon him). These were:
- Abraham (Ibrahim).
- Moses (Musa).
- John the Baptist.
- Jesus (Isa).
But what is the Muslim religion’s belief in God? Similar to Christianity and Judaism, followers of Islam are monotheistic. Essentially, they only believe in one God: Allah (the Arabic name for God).
At 40 (in 610 CE), Muhammad is said to have received his first verbal revelation while meditating in a cave on Mount Hira. The traditional story states the angel Jibreel visited him with instructions for Muhammad to recite. From here, the beginning of the descent of the Qur’an began. Throughout his life, the Prophet Muhammed preached oneness as instructed by Allah. These descents continued up to the end of his life.
Followers of the Muslim religion focus on living a life dedicated to Allah. They believe that without the permission of Allah, nothing is allowed. They believe that humans have free will and that it is their choice to choose the way of Allah.
The six main beliefs of the Muslim religion are:
- The belief that Muslims must worship only one omniscient God – Muslims believe that all the Prophets gave identical messages to humans, which all spoke of monotheism.
- Belief in the holy books – Muslims believe that Allah revealed the sacred books to a certain number of his messengers.
- Belief in angels (or Malaikah) – that they were made before humans, designed with the intent that they would communicate with the humans while following orders from Allah.
- Belief in the Prophets – There are 25 prophets in the Muslim religion, such as Moses, Jesus, and Abraham.
- Belief in Predestination – Allah has already chosen paths and pre-planned everything that will happen environmentally and in people’s lives.
- Belief in the Day of Judgement – when Allah chooses how people will spend their afterlives.
What is the holy book of Islam?
Widely known as The Qur’an, the words of Muhammad over his life were remembered and recorded. These teachings formed the text of the Holy Quran, the Muslim scripture. In total, there are five key books of revelation in Islam. Allah gave each of these to a different prophet.
Many people believe the Qur’an is the only reliable religious text when discussing what is Muslim religion. In this way, Allah gave Muhammad these teachings because he felt all earlier religious texts were unreliable by comparison.
What is the Muslim religion today? In many ways, the Qur’an is still (and will be) relevant for all people at all times in their life. But, as it only came from Allah, it is the most important book for Muslims.
Within the Qur’an, the Five Pillars of Islam state five duties for the Muslim religion:
- The Shahadah: A declaration of faith; Muslims must repeat this phrase numerous times daily. In short, this states: “There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is His messenger.”
- Salah: A statement in all five daily prayers, spoken in Arabic, at dawn, just after midday, mid-afternoon, sunset, and after dark.
- Zakah: A duty for Muslims to give money to help the poor (around 2.5% of their savings and valuables yearly).
- Sawn: During Ramadan, Muslims must fast. They will not eat or drink anything during daylight hours for the entire month of Ramadan.
- Hajj: At least once in their lifetime, Muslims must make a religious pilgrimage to Makkah (providing they’re able to).
Where do Muslims worship?
When we think of what is Muslim religion daily, we’d mostly look at their prayers and where these take place.
Muslims pray five times a day, every day. However, the most important prayer of the week is Jumah (also known as the day of gathering) on Friday. These holy prayers can occur in a mosque – an Islamic place of worship.
In terms of importance for Muslim religious practice, the mosque symbolizes a place of worship for followers of the Islamic faith. In Arabic, the word masjid (mosque) means place of prostration to God. The first-ever mosque was the Prophet Muhammad’s home. It was a 7th-century house with a large courtyard and long rooms in Medina, Saudi Arabia.
Across the UK alone, there are over 1,500 mosques.
On Friday, at noon, the most important religious service of the week takes place. A holy day for Muslims, the local prayer will be led by a spiritual teacher called imam (a man of knowledge). He also takes care of the mosque.
Unlike churches, you won’t find pews or seats. Instead, rugs or mats cover the floor for prayer. Often large buildings with beautiful towers and domes, mosques must also provide running water. So it is because Muslims must wash their face, hands, and feet before they pray (or ablution). They’ll also take off their shoes when they enter the mosque.
Typically speaking, women and men don’t worship together in mosques. Nor will you find music, singing, or pictures of people or animals either. It is because the Qur’an forbids the worship of images. But Muslims also believe that art could never reflect the magnificence of Allah’s creation well enough.