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”), theuniversal Muslim greeting.
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. The most populous Muslim country today is Indonesia, a non-Arab country.
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. Arabic-speaking Christians also use the name “Allah” for Almighty God.
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.
What Do Muslims Believe About God, Prophets, the Afterlife, Etc.?
The basic beliefs of Muslims fall into six main categories, which are known as the “Articles of Faith”:
- Faith in the unity of God
- Faith in angels
- Faith in prophets
- Faith in books of revelation
- Faith in an afterlife
- Faith in destiny/divine decree
The “Five Pillars” of Islam
In Islam, faith and good works go hand-in-hand. A mere verbal declaration of faith is not enough, for belief in Allah makes obedience to Him a duty.
The Muslim concept of worship is very broad. Muslims consider everything they do in life to be an act of worship, as long as 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 (Shahaadah or Kalima)
- Prayer (Salat)
- Almsgiving (Zakat)
- Fasting (Sawm)
- Pilgrimage (Hajj)
Daily Life as a Muslim
While often seen as a radical or extreme religion, Muslims consider Islam to be the middle road. Muslims do not live life with complete disregard for God or religious matters, but nor do they neglect the world to devote themselves solely to worship and prayer. Muslims strike a balance by fulfilling the obligations of and enjoying this life, while always mindful of their duties to Allah and to others.