Islam is the name given to the religion preached by the Prophet Mohammed in the A.D. 600's. Mohammed was an Arab who was born in Mecca about 570. He believed he had been sent to warn and guide his people and to call them to worship God (Allah). Mohammed preached that there is only one God and that he, Mohammed, was God's messenger. Those who believe in the one God and accept Mohammed as His messenger are called Moslems. Moslem comes from the Arabic word Muslim, meaning one who submits (to God).
After Mohammed died in A.D. 632, his revelations were compiled to form the holy book of the Moslems, called the Koran. Parts of the Koran resemble the Bible, the Apocrypha, and the Talmud. It teaches the absolute unity and power of God and forbids the representation of human and animal figures. It forbids lying, stealing, adultery, and murder and teaches the virtues of faith in God, patience, kindness, honesty, industry, honor, courage, and generosity. Islam teaches that life on earth is a period of testing and preparation for the life to come. A person should therefore try his best to be good and help others, and then trust in God's justice and mercy for his reward.
The devout Muslim practices and lives by his beliefs. He does this by carrying out what is called acts of worship. These acts of worship are various religious duties and obligations that the religion specifies. In Islam there is what is known as the five pillars of Islam. They are examples of acts of worship. Every Muslim has to observe these prescriptions of worship, because by observing them they show that they are obeying and submitting to the will of God. The first pillar is the profession of faith. The Muslims statement of faith which he profession is "There is no other God but God, and Mohammed is the prophet of God." The Muslim confesses this everyday. Second, is the pillar of prayer. Tradition requires the Islamic believer to pray five times a day. There is a fixed routine to prayer that cannot change or be rearranged. This order is first the praise of God, recitation of qur'an and verses, obeisance, and prostration. The believer must face the direction of Mecca while they are carrying out their prayer. The third pillar is fasting. Every Muslim believer is expected to fast during the holy month of Ramadan. For an entire thirty days the Muslim is not allowed to eat, drink, smoke, or have sexual intercourse. This is done during the day, but at nighttime the fast is broken. Faith is almsgiving. This is giving to the poor. There are two types of giving; voluntarily out of love which shows true piety, and the other type, obligation, which is in the form of taxes. The final pillar is the pilgrimage. This pilgrimage as every one knows is to the holy city of Mecca. Every Muslim that is able to must visit the holy city once in their lifetime. The pilgrimage lasts for several days and has along with it many rites, which must be carried out.
It is the qur'an, sharica, and religious duties that govern the life of the Muslim. The qur'an is the holy book of Islam and contains within it the revelations that Mohammed received from God. It is at the center of the Muslim religion. The revelations contained with the qur'an governs and has specifications for every area of the believers life, especially the religious and the social life of the believer. The Sharica is the holy law of the Muslims. The very word means the path or the way. It is this law that shows the Muslim how he should live. It governs and regulates the life of the Muslim. The laws contained within the Sharica are the ideal lifestyle in which every Muslim strives daily to live. It has the laws, which regulate the political and social aspects, as well as religious, criminal, private, civil, public, constitutional, and international law. The Sharica is God's law to the Muslim.
The Muslim reaches salvation by keeping all that is prescribed within the qur'an and the Sharica. He also must complete all of the five pillars of faith. Unlike Christianity and Judaism there is no salvation. There is no reliance on the death of a savior. Islam requires not only faith, but also daily practice. There are two things required for a Muslim to receive salvation. First, the Muslim must believe in God's message which He told the prophet Mohammed and secondly, the Muslim has to live daily and practice daily his beliefs by carrying out the acts of worship in the five pillars. According to the qur'an, the Muslim who has done these two things will stand on the right side and enter paradise, also called the garden of delights. Here in paradise they will enjoy immortal youth, pure water, and fresh fruit, and meat. This is a salvation to the Muslim.
Islam, one of the world's largest religions, has more than 460 million followers. The once great Moslem empires no longer exist, but Moslems are still united by the faith of Islam, which forms a common bond of culture among them.