A Muslim is a believer in or follower of Islam. The word Muslim means one who submits and implies complete submission to the will of God (Allah). Muslims believe that nature is itself Islamic, since it follows natural laws placed by God. Thus, a Muslim strives to surrender to God's commands every step of the way.
The holiest book for Muslims is the Qur'an, or the 'Koran' in English. Muslims consider the Arabic Qur'an as the direct revelation of God; translations do exist to other languages but are not regarded as the literal word of God.
Other canonical texts of the Muslim include the hadith which are recordings of the life of the prophet made by the people who were around him. Many matters not specifically mentioned in the Qur'an are covered in the hadith. The degree to which the hadith are authoritative depends on the sect which a Muslim is from.
The basic beliefs of Muslims are: belief in God, His angels, His revealed Books, His Messengers, the Day of Judgement, and the Al Qadar (which is a form of divine pre-destination). The revealed books of Islam also include the Injil (Christian Gospels), the Torah and the Psalms.
The Five Pillars of Islam on which a Muslim's life is founded are:
- The Testimony that there is none worthy of worship except God and that Muhammad is his messenger.
- Establishing of the five daily Prayers (Salaah). These prayers are ritualistic in nature and adherence to the ritual practice is required. The location at which one prays is not strictly defined as long as one is able to establish the Qiblat.
- The Giving of Zakaah (charity), which is generally 2.5% of the yearly savings for a rich man working in trade or industry, and 10% or 20% of the produce for agriculturists. This money or produce is distributed among the poor.
- Refraining from eating, drinking and having sex from dawn to dusk in the month of Ramadhaan (Sawm).
- The Pilgrimage (Hajj) to Mecca during the month of Zul Hijjah, which is compulsory once in a lifetime for one who has the ability to do it. This ability includes the financial means and the physical strength since the hajj can be strenuous. Also, one has to obtain a permit from the Saudi government which is granted based on an annual quota based on country.
Until recently the word was also spelled Moslem. Muslims do not recommend this spelling because it is often pronounced "mawzlem," which sounds like an Arabic word for "oppressor." Many English-language writers used to call Muslims "Mohammedans" or "Mahometans", meaning "followers of Mohammed", but this terminology is considered incorrect and insulting, because Muslims think it implies that they worship the prophet Muhammad, contrary to the fundamental principles of Islam itself.
Muslims share many prophets in common with both the Jews and the Christians. However, neither the Jewish nor the Christian faiths recognize Muhammad.
Jesus ("Isa") is believed by Muslims to have been a prophet of God. The virgin birth is also accepted by Muslims Quran 3:45-48. Muslims do not consider Jesus as divine but do believe that he was born without sin Qu'ran 19:19. Muslims do not believe in original sin, so everyone according to Islam is born sinless.
Muslim civilization is over fourteen centuries old. Early Muslim philosophy is one of the main bridges between classical Greco-Roman civilization and the Europeans of The Renaissance. What Europeans call the "Dark Ages" were in fact the golden age of civilization for Muslims and Islam itself, which spread extremely rapidly through Asia to China in its first decades of existence, and then spread more slowly to Africa and Indonesia. This golden age is usually regarded as the time of the second caliphate under the Abbasids (approx 750AD). In this period, scholars in the Islamic world made contributions to every field of inquiry, while making efforts to translate and absorb the knowledge of preceding and surrounding civilizations.
During that time, the principal language of religion and science for all Muslims was Arabic, and for many, it was also the language of daily life. A list of Islamic terms in Arabic provides simple definitions of the most important concepts by which society, religion and law were ruled.
The golden age of Muslim civilization includes the works of Farabi whose ideas were similar to those of Aristotle and Plato. Since Islam forbids artistic representation of living beings, to prevent deification, Islamic artists developed highly stylized calligraphy, an art form still prevalent in many parts of the Islamic world.
Under the Ottoman Empire and later under colonialism and the British Empire, practices (especially fiqh or jurisprudence) ossified, and failed to keep up with al-urf, or change in culture. Muslim culture began to revive after World War I, and some consider 1979 to be a crucial year when several events (peace between Israel and Egypt, Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and Iranian revolution) conspired to be a "wake up" call to the ummah. Shortly thereafter, innovative programs such as the Islamization of knowledge began to emerge, and these are presently spreading widely.
The Islamic World is the world-wide community of all believers in Islam, who are known as Muslims, and who number approximately one-and-a-half billion people
Both the Arab and the Non-Arab Muslims perform up to five daily prayers (Salaah) in Arabic. Some other languages with mainly Muslim speakers (Persian, Urdu, Pashtun, Punjabi and Sindh spoken in Pakistan, Turkish before the reforms of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and most Muslims ethnic groups that were part of the Russian Empire, before the Soviet Union ordered that they be standardized and written in Cyrillic) are written in scripts derived from the Arabic script. Muslims speaking other languages often learn the Arabic script only to read the Qur'an. Such readings often only involve vocalization without comprehension, although this is not recommended.
Muslim civilization and modernity
Islamism is a new form of Islam which views its teachings as the original, authentic form of Islam, and which views other forms of Islam as corrupted and illegitimate. In contrast, many in Sufi Islam see the incorporation of modern enlightenment values as consistent with the original theological program that they believe Islam was based on (see ijthad). In between these two views one can find a wide array of beliefs in Shiite and Sunni Islam.
There are distinctions between those who seek to live their lives as the first three generations of Islam did, and those who seek to change or reform Islam to conform to today's international norms. All the major denominations of Islam are fundamentalist, in the technical sense of the term. The term "fundamentalist" describes a movement to return to what it considers the defining or founding principles of the religion. For religious fundamentalists, their sacred scriptures are the words of God. Fundamentalist beliefs depends on the twin doctrines that God articulated His will precisely to prophets, and that they also have a reliable and perfect record of that revelation, which has been passed down to our day in an unbroken chain of tradition. Since Scripture is the word of God, no one has the right to change it or disagree with it. There are no major denominations of Islam that have a liberal theological approach, but there are some smaller liberal movements within Islam. For more on these topics, please see the articles on Islamic fundamentalism, jihad, Modern Islamic philosophy, and Islam.
Muslim marriage culture
One of the tenets of Islam is that all mankind is one, so no orthodox Muslims have religious objections to inter-racial marriage.
Marriage to those who are not Muslim is another matter entirely. A Muslim man can only marry a woman from the People of the Book (Christians, Jews, and in some cases other religions), though offspring must be raised as Muslim. Due to the inherent complications of such an arrangement, some Muslim states require conversion prior to marriage. A Muslim woman is not allowed to marry a non-Muslim man.