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Fast facts

Date of first revelation

610

Location of revelation 

Mecca (Saudi Arabia)

Sacred text

Quran

Size rank

Muslims form the world's second largest faith group

Adherents

1.5 billion

Place of worship

Mosque. There are an estimated 1500 mosques in the UK

What does "Islam" mean?

"Islam" means peace or submission

What does "Muslim" mean?

"Muslim" means someone who submits themselves to the will of God

Muslims in the UK

Islam is the second largest religion in all four countries in the UK. Recent estimates suggest there are 2.4 million Muslims in the UK

A quick introduction to the Islamic faith

Further Reading

The following are a selection of books and resources about Islam:

  • M. Abdel Haleem, The Quran, A New Translation

  • Karen Armstrong, Islam: A Short History

  • Gai Eaton, Islam and the Destiny of Man

  • John Esposito, Islam: The Straight Path

What is Islam?

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What is Allah?

Allah is the name for God in Arabic. Allah is also known by his attributes, like The Compassionate, the Merciful, the Loving. Although we use the English pronoun ‘He’ to refer to God, in Islam and in the Arabic language, Allah is a neutral term.

How did Islam originate?

In seventh century Arabia, when society was gripped by idolatry, the divide between rich and poor was growing, and the Arab tribal system was thriving, Muhammad received a revelation that would transform society both within the Arabian peninsula and significantly in other parts of the world. Christianity and Judaism also originated in the Middle East, and the Prophet made clear that far from bringing a new message, he was in fact calling people back to the one true God and to the way of life people had left. The revelations he received corrected distortions that had crept into earlier revelation and called all to return to the ‘Straight Path’ of Islam.

What are the five pillars of Islam?

Belief in one God, Prayer, Alms, Fasting, and Pilgrimage. These form the foundation of faith for every Muslim.

  1. The basic declaration of belief, or Shahada is, "There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his messenger." Declaring this is all that is required of a person who wishes to embrace Islam. 
  2. Prayer, or Salah is the performing of the five daily prayers, at dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, sundown, and nightfall.
  3. Alms, or Zakah, is obligatory on every Muslim as a tax to benefit the poor and needy. Every adult Muslim must contribute a 2.5% of his or her wealth (not income) each year. 
  4. Fasting, or Sawm which takes place in the month of Ramadan, involves self discipline and humility through abstention from food, drink and sex from dawn to sunset. It encourages a sense of empathy with those who go hungry around the world and to give charity. It is a time to focus on spiritual nourishment and refinement of character. It ends with the celebration of Eid-ul Fitr.
  5. Pilgrimage, or Hajj, is to be performed once in a Muslim’s lifetime to the first House of God, the Kabah in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Pilgrims dress simply in white garments to symbolise the equality of humankind. At least two million Muslims go to perform Hajj in the final month of the Islamic calendar each year. The end of Hajj is marked by the second of two major Muslim festivals, Eid-ul Adha.

What is the Quran?

The Quran, Arabic for ‘recitation’ or ‘reading’, is the scripture of Muslims. They believe that the word of God was revealed through the Angel Gabriel over a period of twenty three years to Muhammad, who died illiterate. He neither authored nor edited the Quran, Muslims believe it is the eternal, literal word of God, preserved and collated in a divinely commanded order.
The Quran was written down during the Prophet’s lifetime in the seventh century by twenty nine scribes who would record the revelations on palm rasps and animal skin. Many of the Prophet’s companions would memorise the entire Quran with the Prophet.

The 114 chapters of the Quran speak of the majesty of God, His creation of mankind and life, of the Life Hereafter and the stories of Prophets. The Quran calls for social and religious reform, and places great emphasis on social justice – the rights of women, orphans, the equality of humankind, and moral and ethical principles to govern all aspects of life. 

What are Hadith?

Hadiths are a collection of sayings and actions by the Prophet Muhammad, which were well documented verbal reports by his companions. There are thousands of hadiths from which have been derived the Sunnah, or the Prophet’s way of life. They cover all aspects of living: how to be a good neighbour, how to refrain from slander, how to mourn and even how to maintain personal hygiene. Muslims seek to emulate the Prophetic example in their daily lives as much as possible.

What is the Kabah?

The Ka'ba, MeccaThis building is the most sacred space in the Muslim world. It sits in Mecca, Saudi Arabia and is considered the first house built for the worship of the one God. First built by Adam, the first man and prophet, it was destroyed by floods, but later rebuilt by Abraham and his son Ishmael. By the time of the Prophet Muhammad, it has fallen under pagan Arab rule and used as a shrine for their 360 idols. Muhammad restored the Kabah to its original worship of one God.

How is Islam similar to Christianity and Judaism?

Islam, Christianity and Judaism are all monotheistic faiths worshipping one God. All share common beliefs in prophets and divine revelation. All stress moral rights and responsibilities, and accountability on the Day of Judgment leading to reward or punishment in the afterlife. Each faith emphasises its covenant with God, through Moses for Judaism, Jesus for Christianity and Muhammad for Islam. Islam recognises the validity of Judaism and Christianity and expresses respect for the prophets mentioned in their Scriptures as they are also mentioned in the Quran. Muslims believe in Moses, and Jesus, but they do not believe Jesus as the son of God, rather he was a Prophet born in a miracle birth to Mary. The Quran even mentions the Virgin Mary more often than the Bible, demonstrating the high-regard that Judeo-Christian figures have in Islam.

Muslims see the message of Islam as superseding all earlier revelations. They believe the Quran is the complete word of God and that Muhammad is the final Messenger and seal of the prophets. While Muslims respect much of the Torah, the Gospel and the Psalms, they believe that they have been changed by man over the centuries. 

What does Islam say about violence?

The value of life is sacred in Islam, to violate it goes categorically against its principles. The Quran states “If anyone murders an (innocent) person, it will be as if he has murdered the whole of humanity. And if anyone saves a person it will be as if he has saved the whole of humanity” [5:32]. It is not permitted for Muslims to kill or oppress another. The Quran says, ‘Help one another in benevolence and piety, and help not one another in sin and transgression’ [5:2] “Allah loves not the aggressors” [2:190].


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