by Raymond McAlister
March 2013

The mission of Judaism is just to be left alone to practice their religion.

The mission of Christianity is to tell everyone in the world about Jesus Christ and let the individual make up his own mind about what to do with Him.

The mission of Islam is that every nation on earth be under Islamic control. 

The name of the religion is Islam, which means "submission," that is, submission to Allah. The name of the individual in Islam is Muslim, which means "one who submits." In 2010 Islam claimed 1.6 billion people, which is 23% of the world population. Islam and Christianity are virtually the same size. However, Islam is growing faster.

Islam goes back to a man named Muhammad, who was born in the city of Mecca, which is now in Saudi Arabia, in the year AD 570 and died in AD 632 at the age of 62. At that time Arabia was made up of warring Arabic clans who fought with each other. The city of Mecca was declared a safe haven where the various clans could come and trade safely.

Also in Arabia at the time of Muhammad's birth the religion was polytheistic, that is, they worshiped many different gods. At age 40 the angel "Gabriel" appeared to Muhammad and told him he was a prophet of Allah (Allah is the Arabic word for god). He then began preaching monotheism in Mecca and gained a following, which led to persecution. Thirteen years later, he and his followers moved to Medina, a city a little over 200 miles north of Mecca. This move officially marks the beginning of Islam (AD 622). At Medina he became the political as well as the religious leader and soon brought Mecca under his control. By the time of his death he ruled all of the Arabian peninsula. After his death Islam divided into two schools, Sunni and Shia. Today 85% of Muslims are Sunni. There are at least seven different kinds of Muslims. 

During his thirteen years at Mecca and ten years at Medina, Muhammad reported receiving 114 revelations from Allah. Because he could neither read nor write, he would tell them to his companions who recorded them. These revelations became the Qu'ran. Hence there are 114 divisions in the Qu'ran, known as "suras." There are translations of the Qu'ran but a real Qu'ran must be written, read and recited in Arabic. The second most important work in Islam is the "Hadith," which is a collection of the words and deeds of Muhammad.

     Islam all over the world is built on five foundations, called the "Five Pillars of Islam." They are:

1. Shahadah. The Shahadah is a testament that is the foundation for all other beliefs and practices in Islam. In English it would be something like, "There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is His Prophet." Every Muslim is required to believe this testament.

2. Salah or Prayers. Muslims pray five times a day in Arabic facing Mecca. They are actually facing a building, called the "Kaaba," in the Grand Mosque in Mecca and not the city itself. The Kaaba is a stone building, roughly a 40' cube that Islam believes was built by Abraham and Ishmael. Before Muhammad it was used in the worship of many gods. When Muhammad conquered Mecca, he cleansed the building and dedicated it only to the worship of Allah. This is the most holy place in Islam. 

The time of their prayers each day are, dawn; noon; afternoon; sunset; and night. Before the prayers can be made a washing must take place in which they wash their hands three times, rinse the mouth three times, sniff water up the nose and expel it three times, wash the face three times, wash the arms up to the elbows three times, using their wet hands, wipe their hair once, use the fingers to wipe inside and outside the ears and wash the feet up to the ankles three times. 

Prayers are said without shoes on a prayer rug and are made in several different positions. The same prayers are prayed each time and are prayed only loud enough for the person praying to hear. Since a Muslim's salvation depends on his works and since these prayers account for a large part of those works, they are encouraged to pray together at a Mosque because prayers at the Mosque are considered to be of more value than those prayed alone. The prayers at the Mosque are led by a man called an "Imam." During Friday afternoon prayer time the Imam will also deliver a sermon. There are no seats in a Mosque, only prayer rugs, and there is never any singing in a Mosque. 

3. Zakat or alms-giving. Giving is obligatory for all Muslims who can afford it and is based on accumulated wealth. This money is used to help the poor or needy and also to assist the spread of Islam.

4. Swam or fasting. During the month of Ramadan, Muslims are not to eat or drink anything from dawn to dusk. They may eat before dawn and after dusk each day. 

5. Hajj or pilgrimage. Every able-bodied Muslim who can afford it must make a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once during their lifetime. This pilgrimage takes place during the month of Dhu al-Hijjah. This pilgrimage is structured and the pilgrims must walk seven times around the Kaaba, run between two mountains and throw stones at three columns.

Jihad. Jihad means "to strive or struggle." In a broad sense it means for an individual to strive to attain religious and moral perfection. It can also mean military exertion against non-Muslim combatants in defense or expansion of the Islamic state.

Salvation. Muslims believe in a resurrection and a day of judgment in which Allah will decide if they have enough good works to go to heaven. If they do not, they will go to hell. 

Prophets. Islam recognizes five Prophets: Noah; Abraham; Moses; Jesus; Muhammad. The reason they accept Moses as a prophet is that Muhammad believed he was restoring the original religion that had been lost. Islam believes Jesus was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life but did not die on the cross. He was caught up into heaven and Islam is looking for Jesus to return, along with a person known as the Mahdi. Together they will put down all other religions and spread Islam to every nation on earth.

Sharia. Sharia is the body of Islamic religious law. It is the legal framework within which the public and private aspects of life are regulated. Sharia deals with many aspects of day-to-day life, including family, sexuality, hygiene and social issues. Pork, blood, shellfish and alcoholic drinks are not allowed. In some countries Muslim men are allowed to have up to four wives. Under Sharia law there is no freedom of speech, no freedom of the press and no freedom of religion. It is a crime for a Muslim to convert to another religion, the penalty sometime being death.