What is Islam?

The word “Islam” means total submission to the will of God, and a Muslim is one who submits. The God of Islam is Allah, and the Koran (Arabic Qur’an) is its primary sacred book.

Muslims believe the Qur’an is the literal word of God, given to the prophet Muhammad by the angel Gabriel. It was put in writing after Muhammad’s death in A.D. 632 and is divided into 114 suras, or chapters.

Angels play an important role in Islam, especially the recording angels who write down each person’s good and bad deeds. Both will have to be accounted for on judgment day, and only those whose good deeds outweigh the bad will be admitted to heaven, if Allah wills.

Islam recognizes Jesus as a prophet - but to the Muslim, it is blasphemy to call Him the Son of God or equal with God, because by Islamic doctrine Allah can have no partner or offspring.

In Islamic tradition, God has sent 124,000 prophets to earth, the first being Adam, “the chosen of Allah”; Noah, “the preacher of Allah”; Abraham, “the friend of Allah”; Moses, “the speaker”; Jesus, “the word and spirit of Allah”; and Muhammad, “the seal of the prophets.”

Of Christ’s crucifixion, death, and resurrection, the Qur’an says: “They killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them ... they killed him not — Nay, God raised him up unto Himself; and God is exalted in Power, Wise” (sura 4:156-158).

Muslims believe that Jesus will return to earth in the last days as a Muslim, marry, have children, die, and be buried near Muhammad.

Of the Trinity, the Qur’an teaches: “Say not, ‘Three.’ Refrain; better it is for you. God is only one God” (sura 4:171).


Works play a major role in gaining paradise, so Islamic life revolves around its “five pillars” of religious practice.

Another important segment of Muslim belief is jihad, or holy war against the opponents of Islam.

Those who die in jihad bypass the day of judgment and go directly to paradise.

Five Pillars of Islam

  1. Tashahhud

The declaration that there is no God but Allah and that Muhammad is his prophet.

  1. Salat

Ritual prayer (in Arabic), performed five times a day facing Mecca.

  1. Zakat

Giving alms to the poor.

  1. Saum

Abstaining from food (fasting), and drink during the daylight hours of the month of Ramadan. Ramadan is said to be the month in which the Qur’an descended from the highest to the lowest heaven. During the month of fasting, Muslims are encouraged to examine their lives and repent from evil.

  1. Hajj

The pilgrimage to Mecca, required of every believer who is financially and physically able to undertake the trip.

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