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Islam is one of the youngest yet most popular religions in the world. Founded by Prophet Muhammad Ali, the Islamic faith believes in one universal God. They follow the teachings of the Qur’an, believed to be the final word to humanity from God (Hop, Woo, Hen 244). Those who follow Islam view it less of a religion and more of a way of life (Novak 282). They use God and their religion as a method of navigating through this life. Islam originated around the sixth century C.E.. Islamic prophet Muhammad Ali was an Arab from Mecca who lived much of his early life caravanning goods around the Middle East. This kind of job provided Muhammad exposure to other religions around the world, such as Christianity and Judaism. These faiths highlighted the principles of worshipping one supreme God, reading Holy Scripture, and an afterlife of Heaven or Hell. At the time, people living in the Middle East worshipped multiple gods, most of which were related to nature. They made sacrifices to these gods, but this type of religion cannot be similarly compared to Christianity and Judaism as Islam. It is possible that Muhammad’s exposure to these religions influenced much of the principles of Islam today.
Legend says that Muhammad began wandering in the nearby hills of Mecca, thinking of his people and their religious fate. There, he meditated on what would happen on judgment day, when the world would end and God would decide who would go to Heaven and who would go to Hell. This idea is explicitly expressed in the Christian and Jewish faiths. One day, an angel, Gabriel, appeared in the hills and delivered a message to Muhammad from God. Throughout Muhammad’s life, he received several divine revelations like this. Muhammad would commit them to memory and eventually put them into writing. It should be noted that before receiving messages, Muhammad was illiterate. Muslims celebrate the time Muhammad first received these messages during the holy month of Ramadan.
Muhammad’s revelations revealed that there was one God. When he first began preaching this concept to the people of Mecca, many rejected it due to the fact they worshipped multiple gods. In order to escape persecution, several Muslims fled Mecca. Not until later did Muhammad leave Mecca, but his first journey away held deep significance within Islam.
While Muhammad was still in Mecca preaching Islam, a group of men traveled there from a nearby city, believing he could judge their war-torn land incapable of making their own decisions. So Muhammad traveled to the city, Yathrib, to be their judge. This event is known as Hijra, or Migration. Since this event, the Islamic calendar has been labeled A.H., marking the first year of the Islamic calendar (metmuseum.org).
The Islamic faith is quite simple in nature. In order to be considered a “good” Muslim, one must follow the five pillars. The first pillar is to recite the Islamic creed, which translates from Arabic to “There is no God but God, and Muhammad is his messenger”. This statement alone represents the essential belief of Islam. Muslims usually recite this several times a day. To state this with conviction and belief, by principal, makes the person a Muslim (Hop, Woo, Hen 248). The second pillar is daily prayer. Muslims usually pray five times a day – at dawn, afternoon, midday, sunset, and night. Prayers are typically recitations from the Qur’an. Before praying, Muslims wash themselves, in order to cleanse themselves of impurities. The third pillar is that Muslims are to share their wealth and possessions with the poor. It is believed that those more fortunate already possess that which belongs to the poor. If they do not give, it is considered stealing. Giving to the poor is considered God’s blessing.
The fourth pillar of Islam is fasting. During the month of Ramadan, Muslims fast for the entire month, abstaining from nourishment, smoking, and sexual activity from sunrise to sunset. By doing this, it is believed that God will pardon all sins of those who complete the fast. Children, nursing mothers, those who are traveling, and the sick are not obligated to fast. The fifth and final pillar of Islam is pilgrimage. During the life of a Muslim, it is a goal to travel at least once to the holy city of Mecca. There, they fast, visit holy sites, pray, and make sacrifices. The pilgrimage is one of the most blessed experiences a Muslim can have.
Though some may have strained opinions of Islam due to world politics, Islam is still a growing religion. Through immigration and missionaries, people still continue to connect with Islam and its values.
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