Frequently Asked Questions

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 God (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."

How Many and Where?

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.

Who is Allah?

Allah is the proper name for Almighty God, 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.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.

Worship in Islam:

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."

  • Testimony of faith (Kalima)
  • Prayer (Salat)
  • Almsgiving (Zakat)
  • Fasting (Sawm)
  • Pilgrimage (Hajj)

Prayer

The Islamic prayers are fixed at the same "time" period each day -- before dawn, noon, afternoon, sunset, and evening. Because of the rotation of the earth, the revolution of the earth around the sun, the tilt of the earth, the various latitudes of the earth's locations, daylight savings time, etc. -- the "times" (according to the clock) for these prayers do change from day to day and depend on location.Islamic prayers times were traditionally set according to the movement of the sun, not of the clock, and this is how they continue to be observed.

Ramadan and Fasting

Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar, is a special month of the year for over one billion Muslims throughout the world. It is a time fro inner reflection, devotion to Allah, and self control. Muslims think of it as a kind of tune-up for their spiritual lives.

The third "pillar" or religious obligation of Islam (submission to God), fasting has many special benefits. Among these, the most important is that it is a means of learning self-control. Due to the lack of preoccupation with the satisfaction of bodily appetites during the daylight hours of fasting, a measure of emphasis is given to one's spiritual nature, which becomes a means of coming closer to God. Ramadan is also a time of profound worship, reading of the Qur'an (Muslim Holy Scripture), giving charity, purifying one's behavior, and doing good deeds. For Muslims (followers of Islam), Ramadan is not merely a holiday, but an opportunity to gain by giving up, to prosper by going without and to grow stronger by enduring weakness.

As a secondary goal, fasting is a way of experiencing hunger and developing sympathy for the less fortunate, and learning to thankfulness and appreciation for all of God's bounties. Fasting is also beneficial to the health and provides a break in the cycle of rigid habits or overindulgence.

Who Fasts in Ramadan?

Fasting in Ramadan is obligatory on adults who can perform it. Sick people, nursing mothers and travelers are exempted from the fast but must make it up as they are able.

From Dawn to Sunset

The daily period of fasting starts at the breaking of dawn and ends at the setting of the sun. In between -- that is, during the daylight hours -- Muslims totally abstain from food, drink, smoking, and conjugal relations. The usual practice is to have a pre-fast meal (suhoor) before dawn and a post-fast meal (iftar) after sunset.

The Spirit of Ramadan

The end of the month is marked by the celebration of 'Eid-ul-Fitr' (Festival of breaking-fast). Muslims use many phrases in various languages to congratulate one another for the completion of the obligation of fasting and the 'Eid-ul-Fitr' festival. Here is a sample: 

"Kullu am wa antum bi-khair" (May you be well throughout the year) - Arabic

Zakat

Zakat is one of the five pillars of Islam and is a duty performed on a regular basis. Zakat    is not an option it is a compulsory act for all Muslims. It is a contribution paid once a year on savings of two and a half percent. This giving is to “cleanse” your money and possessions from excessive desire for them or greed. The idea is, that by giving his money you learn not to place too much importance on material wealth (cash and possessions) Zakat is a compulsory payment and is neither charity nor a tax. It is expected from every Muslim individual. It is paid on the net balance after a Muslim has spent on basic necessities, family expenses, due credits, donations and taxes. Zakat provides us with the opportunity of sharing our excess wealth those less fortunate than ourselves.

Hajj

  • Hajj literally means to set out for a place. Islamically however it refers to the annual pilgrimage that Muslims make to Makkah with the intention of performing certain religious rites in accordance with the method prescribed by the Prophet Muhammad.
  • Hajj and its rites were first ordained by Allah in the time of the Prophet lbrahim[Abraham] and he was the one who was entrusted by Allah to build the Kaba - the House of Allah - along with his son Ismail [Ishmael] at Makkah. Allah described the Kaba and its building as follows:
  • And remember when We showed Ibrahim the site of the [Sacred] House [saying]: Associate not anything [in worship with Me and purify My House for those who circumnavigate it [i.e. perform tawaaf] and those who stand up for prayer and those who bow down and make prostration [in prayer etc.]
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