About the religion

The five pillars of Islam | The articles of faith | Mohammed | Glossary

The five pillars of Islam

The Associated Press
Pilgrims gather at the Grand Mosque of Mecca. The Ka'bah is the stone structure at the center of the Grand Mosque.
Testimony of faith.
Testifying that there is only one God and that Mohammed is the messenger of God.

Prayer. Saying five obligatory prayers facing Mecca at times determined by the sun.

Giving of alms. In Islam, alms are based on financial surplus, not income. It is much preferred to give alms to someone who is in need, rather than to a mosque or religious organization.

Fasting. Occurs during the month of Ramadan, the ninth month of the lunar calendar. Muslims who are physically able cannot ingest any food or water from dawn to sunset.

Making the hajj. A pilgrimage to Mecca. Muslims, if financially and physically able, must make the pilgrimage once in their lifetime.


The articles of faith

The beginnings of Islam can be traced to Adam, viewed by Muslims as their first prophet. The faith was revealed in A.D. 610 to the last prophet, Mohammed, who preached throughout what is now known as Saudi Arabia and the holy city of Mecca. These are the articles of faith that form the foundation of the Islamic religion:

Belief in Allah or the one God. When Muslims use the term Allah, they are talking about God. In Arabic the word Islam means submission to God.

Belief in the prophets and the messengers of Allah. Muslims believe their religion is an evolving one. Man has been guided by a series of prophets, the last of whom was Mohammed, the first Adam.

Belief in the books of revelation sent by Allah. Christianity, Judaism and Islam share sacred texts, including the Jewish Torah and the Psalms, although Muslims view the texts differently than other religions.

Belief in the angels of Allah. The angel Gabriel gave Mohammed the Koran.

Belief in a final day of judgment. Islam believes in heaven and hell, but no Limbo or Purgatory. In Islam, there are degrees of heaven and hell. For instance, one personís reward in heaven could differ from anotherís.

Belief in Allahís foreknowledge. This refers to the all-knowing nature of Allah, or God. It is similar to how Christians might say "Iíll do that tomorrow, God willing," a statement acknowledging God has the power to affect the lives of people



The name means "the highly praised." Mohammed was born about A.D. 570 and orphaned at an early age. He is regarded as a descendant of Ishmael, linking Islam with Judaism and Christianity as one of the three great monotheistic faiths stemming from Abraham, Ishmaelís father.

Mohammed became a trader known for his honesty and integrity. He was a believer in one God and would often retire to a cave to meditate. At about age 40, according to Islamic belief, the angel Gabriel visited Mohammed while he was meditating, told him that God, or Allah, had chosen him as a messenger and revealed to him the first few words of the Koran.

Over the next several years, Muslims believe, the entire holy book was revealed to Mohammed and formed the scriptural basis of the faith, along with a collection of more than 100,000 accounts of the prophetís words and actions, known as hadith.

In a climate of widespread inequity and idolatry, Islam was a revolutionary message of equality, justice and peace. It also featured several militant scriptures ó particularly after Mohammed moved to Medina to escape a death plot hatched against him by the Meccan elites in 622. For the last 10 years of his life, he and his band of Muslims battled relentlessly to establish their faith against the Meccan establishment and other Arab tribes.



Allah: Arabic for God. Combines the Arabic words "al," which means "the," and "alih," which means god with a small g, suggesting the possibility of many gods. The term Allah is a contraction of the two and is one way Muslims emphasize their belief in one God.

The Hadith: A collection of teachings that elaborate and explain the Koran. Hadiths are written from Mohammedís words.

Hijab: The veiled covering many women use to cover their hair. In some cultures, Muslim women cover their entire faces.

Imam: The chief officer in the mosque, whose duty is to lead the people in prayer. Islam does not have an organized priesthood; any virtuous and able Muslim can lead prayers in most mosques. However, it is usually the Imam who handles the services of the mosque.

Jihad: Often mistranslated to mean "holy war." In Arabic, it means "effort" and usually means an effort for God. Preaching is a form of jihad. Engaging in war for the sake of God would be an extreme form of jihad, mainstream Muslims believe, and could be undertaken only with the understanding that soldiers would die, not innocent women and children.

Koran: The word of God as told to Mohammed through the angel Gabriel. Studying the Koran is an essential part of Islamic life. The work is memorized, at least in part, by virtually all Muslims; many learn the entire book by heart.

Mecca: The birthplace of Mohammed, Mecca, in Saudi Arabia, is one of the two holy cities of Islam. Muslims pray five times daily in the direction of Mecca. All devout Muslims attempt a pilgrimage, or hajj, to Mecca at least once in their lifetime.

Medina: A city in western Saudi Arabia, it is the place from which Mohammed conquered all of Arabia after his flight from Mecca. Along with Mecca, it is considered one of the holiest cities of Islam.

Mosque: A building used for public worship by Muslims.

Muezzin: A crier who announces prayer time from the minaret, or tower of a mosque.


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