Islam

Information

The 'Islam' is an Arabic word,which means submission and obedience, and it is derived from a word meaning 'peace' .Islam is the monotheistic religion explained by the holy book Qur'an.The Prophet, Muhammad(peace be upon him), is respected as the founder of Islam,who was born in A.D. 570 at Mecca, in Saudi Arabia and was the last prophet to be sent by Allah.

Muhammad is so much respected by Muslims that it is a practise to utter the blessings "peace be upon him"(pbuh) after his name.Islam is more often thought as the complete way of life than a religion.The follower of Islam is called a Muslim,who believes that there is only one God,called "Allah".The heart of faith for all Muslims is obedience to Allah's will.

Six major beliefs of Islam

* Belief in 'Allah' - He is the only God
* Belief in holy books
* Belief in Angels
* Belief in Destination - Allah has already decided the destiny
* Belief in day of Judgement -The assessment day of human life for the decision of heaven and hell
* Belief in Prophets - Adam,Ibrahim,Musa,Dawood,Isa and Muhammad(peace be upon him)

Five Pillars of Islam

* Shahadah : Declaration of faith - I bear witness that Muhammad(pbuh) is the prophet of God
* Salah : Prayer - Muslims should pray five times a day
* Zakat : Charity - Muslims should donate to the needy people
* Saum : Fasting - Muslims should observe a fast during 'Ramadan',the period of one lunar month,a year
* Hajj : Pilgrimaje - Muslims should visit the holy place Mecca,at least once in their lifetime.

The place of origin of Islam is Saudi Arabia,however,Islam is maximum followed in the Middle East,North Africa and Asia.Muslims believe in the chain of prophets,starting from Adam.The sacred text for Muslims is Quran,the unaltered word of Allah and every word and every letter is sacred.While reading,it is placed on a special wooden stand.

while the sacred building for prayer is a Mosque.The holy places for the Muslims are - Mecca.Medina and Jerusalem.The major festivals celebrated by Muslims are Ramadan,Eid-Ul-Fitr and Eid-Ul-Adha.

The Muslims believe that God is only one and ultimate power.Muslims also believe that Islam is the complete and universal version of a fundamental faith.Most of the Muslims belong to one of the two denominations - Sunni Muslims(80-90%) and Shia Muslims(10-20%).

About 25% are in South Asia,20% in the Middle East,15% in Sub Saharan Afric About 13% of Muslims live inIndonesia,being the largest Muslim country,and aand 4% in the remaining South East Asian countries and 2% in Central Asia,a little population is also found in China,Russia and parts of the Carribian.

Converts and immigrant communities are found in almost every part of the world.It is learnt that almost 1.5 billion Muslims comprise about 21- 23% of the world population.Islam is the second largest and one of the fastest growing religions in the world.

Worship Place


Masjid (Mosque)

The worship place of Muslims is termed as 'Mosque,',which is usually called by its Arabic name,'Masjid', having the Arabic meaning - a place of prostration.There are no images or statues in a mosque,however, are decorated with patterns and words from the Qur'an.

There is always a quibla wall in a Mosque which is the one facing Makkah (Mecca), it has an empty arch to signify the direction.It is important that Muslims always know the direction of Mecca.The Mosque has very less furniture since the Muslims use prayer mats during worship. Generally,the Mosques have a domed roof and a tall tower called a 'Minaret',from where the Muslims are called for the prayer and the caller is referred to as 'Muezzin'.

In some countries,especially in Britain,this way of calling for prayers is not allowed,so it is done through radio, which the Muslims can pick up in their homes and places of work through a small receiver.

The footwears are taken off while entering the mosque,so as to mentain the cleanliness.There is supply of water,where prayers take a sacred wash(wudu) to their mouth,nose,throat, ears,arms,hands and feet.This symbolises the spiritual cleansing and purity to come before the God.Women has a separate,screened off section for prayers.

Services are held every day at the Mosque,however,Friday noon is a special day for prayer.Each period for prayer has a special name and every session is separated by two hours.

The essential times of prayers

*Fajr ie after first light and before sunrise
*Dhuhr ie between the sun reaching its height and mid-afternoon
*Asr ie between mid-afternoon and sunset
*Maghrib ie after the sun has finished setting
*Isha ie in the dark of the night.

The Muslim Major Festivals

Ramadan

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar,when the Muslims across the world observe a strict fast.During Ramadan Muslims get up early before dawn (Fajr) and take a light meal,This time is known as Suhoor.Then they start the fast from sunrise to sunset and do not to eat or drink during daylight hours.

The day of Ramadan begining is decided by the sight of the new moon. Ramadan is a time of worship and contemplation and the time to strengthen family and community ties.The Muslim year is a lunar year, hence Ramadan moves forward by ten or eleven days every year.

Ramadan is the celebration of the time,when the verses of the Qur'an were revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).Muslims strongly believe that the gates of Heaven (Jannah) are open and the gates of Hell (Jahanam) are closed during the Ramadan period.

At the end of each day (Maghrib), Muslims traditionally break their fast with a meal called the iftar.As per the custom of Prophet Muhammad, the fast is often broken with dates,followed by a prayer and dinner.

Eid al-Fitr

This is also called as 'Smaller Eid'.Eid means 'Festival' and Fitr means 'End of fast'.Hence this marks the end of Ramadan.It is three days holidays after Ramadan,which marks the breaking of the fast for Muslims.

In the South-Eastern countries,this is considered as greater than Eid-ul-Adha and has more importance for the Muslims over there.It is the time for family and friends to celebrate with good food,exchanging greetings,giving gifts to the children and doing charity.

Eid-ul-Adha

Also referred to as 'Greater Eid",it is the Festival of Sacrifice which is celebrated 70 days after Eid-al-Fitr.In Muslim calendar,Eid ul-Adha is the second most important festival,which is celebrated for four days.

It is in commomration of Prophet Abraham's sacrifice of his own son,Ismail,to prove obedience to God and marks the end of the Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca.It takes place on the 10th day of Dhul-Hijjah,the last month of the Islamic calendar.Eid ul-Adha begins with a Wajib prayer of two Raka'ah,followed by a sermon.

The time when Abrahm was about to sacrifice his son,the God stopped him and gave him a ram to sacrifice.So on this day,a ram is sacrificed and the meat of the ram is divided into three parts to be distributed to others.One third of the share is retained by the family,another is given to the relatives,friends etc.and the third share is given to the needy people.

Rituals

Eid-ul-Fitr is celebrated for three days,when greetings are exchanged by saying - 'Eid Mubarak','Happy Eid' etc based on local languages and traditions.People forget all the differances and unite.Muslims wake up early in the morning,in dawn hours,before the sunrise and offer Salatul Fajr (the pre-sunrise prayer),followed by brushing the teeth,taking a bath(Ghusul) clading in new clothes by applying perfumes.

It is haraam, or excused, from fasting on the Day of Eid.Hence the people take a small breakfast of sweet dish.It is a Sunnah (Prophetic tradition) that the Sadaqat-ul-fitr, an obligatory charity, is paid to the needy people,before performing the Eid prayer.

Muslims recite the following Takbir, in the low voice while going to the Eid prayer - Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar,Laa ilaaha ilal-lahu wal-Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar wa-lilla hil hamd.Eid prayer is performed in a group, in open areas,community halls or at mosques.

No adhan(Call to Prayer) or iqama(call) is to be pronounced for this Eid prayer, and it consists of only two raka'at (units of prayer) with an additional six Takbirs.

The Eid prayer is followed by the khutbah sermon and then a request (dua) asking for God's forgiveness, and blessings for all humam across the world.The khutbah also advises the Muslims to perform the rituals of Eid.After the prayers, Muslims visit their relatives and friends and celebrate in a big way in homes, community halls etc. It is a common practise to gift small sums of money,called "Eidi" to children and employees,by the elders and employers.

The Legend

In the year 610 AD,one night,Prophet Muhammad(pbuh)was meditating in Mount Hira,during the month of Ramadan,when he had a vision of the angel Jibril (also known as Gabriel) who appeared before him and declared that he was the messenger of God.Jibril uttered - "Iqraa" ,meaning 'ecite'.To this Muhammad(pbuh)clarified that he was not able to read.

Jibril hugged him and repeated -"Iqra",as he released him.Again,Muhammad(pbuh) said-"I can't read it".Jibril hugged Muhammad for a third time and asked him to recite what he said. He told him,"Recite in the name of your Lord Who creates".The angel informed him that he was the messenger of Allah and was going to be a prophet for his people.

Muhammad was of forty years of age at this time.In the following twenty-three years, Muhammad was visited many times by Jibril who taught him the holy knowledge in verses.This sacred knowledge consists of the code of conduct that Allah wants his people to maintain on earth.

It is inscribed in verses which are compiled in the holy Qur'an, the most sacred book in Islam.It is believed that the divine knowledge was revealed to Muhammad during the month of Ramadan.

As a gratitude to Allah,for the true knowledge given by him to the people,the prophet asked his followers of Islam to observe the month of Ramadan in fasting,prayers and other austerities.He further advised to end the one month fast with big celebrations,which is Eid-Ul-Fitr.The motive of this festival is to create peace,boost the feeling of brotherhood and settle oneself.