Welcome

Get to grips with the basics behind our religion. Learn about the early history, the basic Islamic beliefs, the Qu’ran and where Muslims pray.

Islam dates back to the 7th Century when God sent Prophet Muhammed to humankind to teach them how to live according to his holy law. The word Islam means ‘peace’ for all those on earth and ‘submission’ to the will of God and for Muslims, there is only one God, Allah. He commands them to worship him in totality, since he is the creator of everything. They do so by weaving their faith in to every aspect of their daily lives. This includes devoting themselves to Islam through the six articles of faith, adhering to the five Pillars of Islam and by following the holy book, the Qur’an, in the belief that in doing so, they will obtain greater benefit in the afterlife.

An International community

There are now more than 1.5 billion followers of the Islamic faith all over the world and it’s one of the fastest growing religions in the world. Whist Islam is mostly associated with the Arab world, Indonesia is, in fact, the world’s largest Muslim community with 86.1% of the population following Islam. However, substantial parts of Asia and most of Africa are Muslim, while significant minorities are also found in the Soviet Union, China, the Americas, and Europe.

Basic articles of faith

Muslims have six basic beliefs which are known as the Articles of Faith.
Belief in Allah. He is the one and only God.
Belief in angels. There are four main angels; Gabriel, Michael, Azrael and Isra’fil, each with various duties.
Belief in holy books. The Qur’an, the Bible and the Torah.
Belief in the Prophets, including Adam, Abraham, Moses, David and Jesus. Muhammad (peace be upon him) is the final Prophet.
Belief in an afterlife. The life of every Muslim is assessed on the Day of Judgement to see whether they should go to heaven or hell.
Belief in destiny. This is a fate that Allah has already set for them. However, this doesn't stop Muslims from making free choices.

The Qur'an

At the heart of the Islamic faith is the holy book of the Qur’an, which is greatly respected. It contains the revelations which Muhammad received from God over two decades.

The Qur’an was written in Arabic and the oldest existing copy of the full text dates back to the seventh century. Just as in the early days, when books weren’t readily available, people are still taught to recite it by heart in Arabic - even in it is not their native language. Anyone who can recite the entire book is known as a Hafiz.

There are 114 chapters in the Qur'an. All the chapters, except one, begin with the sentence Bismillahir rahmanir raheem’, 'In the name of Allah the most merciful and the most kind'. This is the thought with which Muslims should start every action.
The longest chapter of the Qur'an is Surah Baqarah (The Cow) with 286 verses and the shortest is Surah Al-Kawther (abundance) which has 3 verses.

Muslims also adhere to the Sunnah and the Hadith.
The Sunnah, again created by Muhammad from the teachings of God, forms the law of Islam which every Muslim is expected to obey. Whereas the Hadith contains short statements which Muhammad had said or approved. For example, ‘Share what you know with others and teach them’ or ‘Whoever treads on a path in search of Islamic knowledge, Allah will ease the way to Paradise for him’.

Mecca and Mosques

At the heart of Islam is the mosque of Masjid al-Haram, in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Many of the revelations, traditions and hadiths revolve around this mosque and city. Inside the mosque, at the centre of the courtyard is the Kaaba, the shrine which Prophet Abraham built with his son Is’mail. This is the actual point towards which Muslims pray when they’re facing Mecca.

Mosques are the most holy places of worship for Muslims and most Muslims go to a mosque to pray. Many mosques have a minaret which is a tall, thin tower. A muezzin used to stand at the top of this tower to call Muslims to prayer at the five ritual times of the day. In Islamic countries, this public call to prayer sets the rhythm of the day.

Worshippers must remove their shoes and wash themselves before entering the mosque to pray.
Everyone sits on the floor, upon prayer mats. A large semicircular niche on one of the walls, called a Mihrab, shows the direction of Mecca and therefore the direction in which to pray.

Women can attend the mosque for prayers but sit separately from the men, mainly out of modesty and to prevent any distraction. However, it is more common for women to stay at home to pray. Children as young as seven are also encouraged to pray.