What is islam?

HotbotBy HotBotUpdated: June 21, 2024

Introduction to Islam

Islam is one of the world's major monotheistic religions, with over 1.8 billion followers, known as Muslims, around the globe. Originating in the 7th century CE in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Islam was founded by the Prophet Muhammad, who is considered the last prophet in a long line that includes figures like Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. The term "Islam" itself means "submission" or "surrender" to the will of Allah, the Arabic word for God.

Core Beliefs and Practices

The Five Pillars of Islam

The foundation of a Muslim's faith and practice is centered around the Five Pillars of Islam. These are:

1. Shahada (Faith): The declaration of faith, stating that there is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is His prophet.

2. Salah (Prayer): Performing ritual prayers in the proper way five times each day.

3. Zakat (Charity): Giving to charity and aiding the poor, calculated as a fixed percentage of a Muslim's savings.

4. Sawm (Fasting): Fasting during the month of Ramadan, abstaining from food, drink, and other physical needs during daylight hours.

5. Hajj (Pilgrimage): Making a pilgrimage to Mecca, which is required at least once in a lifetime if one is physically and financially able.

The Quran and Hadith

The Quran is the holy book of Islam, believed to be the word of God as revealed to Muhammad through the angel Gabriel. It is composed of 114 chapters, known as surahs, which cover various aspects of life and spirituality. The Hadith is a collection of sayings, actions, and approvals of the Prophet Muhammad, which serves as a guide for interpreting the Quran and living a life in accordance with Islamic principles.

Branches of Islam

Sunni Islam

Sunni Islam is the largest branch, making up approximately 85-90% of the global Muslim population. Sunnis emphasize the role of the community and the consensus of the Ummah (the Muslim community) in interpreting Islamic teachings. They follow four main schools of jurisprudence: Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi'i, and Hanbali.

Shia Islam

Shia Islam constitutes around 10-15% of Muslims worldwide. Shia Muslims believe that leadership should have stayed within the family of the Prophet Muhammad, specifically with his cousin and son-in-law, Ali. This belief in the Imamate, or leadership by the Prophet’s descendants, differentiates Shia from Sunni. The largest group within Shia Islam is the Twelvers, who believe in a line of twelve Imams.


Sufism is often described as Islamic mysticism. It emphasizes the inward search for God and shuns materialism. Sufis strive for a personal experience of God through practices like meditation, chants, and poetry. Notable Sufi figures include Rumi and Al-Ghazali, who have contributed significantly to Islamic thought and spirituality.

Islamic Law and Ethics


Sharia is the moral and legal framework within which the public and private aspects of life are regulated for those living in a legal system based on Islam. It covers a wide range of topics, including daily routines, familial and religious obligations, and financial dealings. Sharia is derived from both the Quran and the Hadith, as well as centuries of interpretation by Islamic scholars.

Islamic Finance

Islamic finance operates according to principles that prohibit the charging of interest (riba) and emphasize ethical investments. Instruments like Sukuk (Islamic bonds) and Mudarabah (profit-sharing) align with these principles. Islamic banks operate differently from conventional banks, focusing on risk-sharing and asset-backed financing.

Islam in the Modern World

Role in Politics

Islam has a significant influence on politics in many Muslim-majority countries. The relationship between religion and state varies widely, from countries with secular governments like Turkey to those with Islamic theocracies like Iran. Movements such as Political Islam seek to integrate Islamic principles into governance.

Challenges and Misconceptions

Islam faces various challenges and misconceptions, particularly in the Western world. Issues like terrorism and extremism have led to widespread Islamophobia. However, it is crucial to differentiate between the actions of a few and the beliefs of the majority. Most Muslims are peaceful and advocate for tolerance and understanding.

Cultural Contributions

Art and Architecture

Islamic art and architecture have left a lasting legacy, with examples like the Alhambra in Spain, the Blue Mosque in Turkey, and the Taj Mahal in India. These structures are renowned for their intricate designs, calligraphy, and geometric patterns.

Science and Philosophy

During the Golden Age of Islam (8th to 14th centuries), Muslim scholars made significant contributions to fields such as medicine, mathematics, astronomy, and philosophy. Figures like Avicenna and Al-Khwarizmi were instrumental in preserving and expanding upon ancient knowledge.

Role of Women in Islam

The role of women in Islam is a subject of much debate and varies widely across different cultures and communities. The Quran and Hadith emphasize the spiritual equality of men and women, but cultural practices often influence gender roles. Issues like education, employment, and political participation are areas where Muslim women have made significant strides, though challenges remain.

Festivals and Celebrations

Eid al-Fitr

Eid al-Fitr marks the end of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting. It is a day of feasting, giving charity, and spending time with family and friends.

Eid al-Adha

Eid al-Adha, also known as the Festival of Sacrifice, commemorates the willingness of Ibrahim (Abraham) to sacrifice his son as an act of obedience to God. It involves the sacrifice of an animal, usually a sheep or goat, and distributing the meat among family, friends, and the needy.

Islam is a rich and multifaceted religion that encompasses a wide range of beliefs, practices, and cultural expressions. It continues to evolve and adapt to the changing needs of its followers, offering a profound framework for understanding the divine and living a meaningful life.

Related Questions

Where did islam originate?

The origins of Islam can be traced back to the 7th century in the Arabian Peninsula, specifically in the city of Mecca, which is part of present-day Saudi Arabia. This region was a melting pot of various cultures, religions, and trade routes, making it a fertile ground for the emergence of a new religious movement.

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How old is islam?

Islam, one of the world's major religions, is rooted in the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad. Founded in the early 7th century CE, Islam has grown to become a significant force in global culture, politics, and society. Understanding the age of Islam involves delving into its inception, historical context, and evolution over the centuries.

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What are the 5 pillars of islam?

The 5 Pillars of Islam form the foundation of a Muslim's faith and practice. These acts are considered obligatory for all Muslims and serve as the guiding framework for their spiritual life. Each Pillar represents a unique aspect of devotion and adherence to Islamic principles.

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What does islam mean?

Islam, a monotheistic Abrahamic faith, is the second-largest religion in the world, with over 1.8 billion adherents. The term "Islam" is derived from the Arabic root "s-l-m," which means peace, purity, submission, and obedience. In a religious context, Islam means submission to the will of Allah (God). This fundamental concept is encapsulated in the phrase "Islam" itself, signifying a way of life that encompasses both spiritual and practical elements.

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