Islam is derived from the Arabic word "salaama" and has a two-fold meaning: peace and submission to God. This submission requires a fully conscious and keen effort to submit to the one Almighty God. One must intentionally and conscientiously give oneself to the service of Allah.It is a universal religion and its objective is to create and cultivate in man the quality and approach of Islam.

The faith of this religion is the oneness and sovereignty of God, which has shaped and looked upon all human races as one family. Islam religion is against the idea that there are privileged people.

ISLAM RELIGIONIslam stands for the equality of all humanity without any discrimination on the basis of race, caste, sex, place of birth etc. Unlike other living things human beings have thinking potential and so they are invited to summit to the goodwill of God and obey His law i.e. become a Muslim. Anyone who follows Islam is known as Muslim.

The word "Muslim" is originated from the Arabic word signifying a person totally devoted to the will of the God. And the word "Allah" meaning "the one True God" is also of Arabic origin.

There is none worthy of worship except God and Muhammad is the messenger of God." This declaration of faith is called the Shahadah, a simple formula that all the faithful pronounce. The significance of this declaration is the belief that the only purpose of life is to serve and obey God, and this is achieved through the teachings and practices of the Last Prophet, Muhammad. The profession of faith, or witness to faith (shahada), is therefore the prerequisite for membership in the Muslim community to be believed till death. On several occasions during a typical day, and in the saying of daily prayers, a Muslim repeats the profession, "I bear witness that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is his prophet.

" There are no formal restrictions on the times and places these words can be repeated. To become a member of the Muslim community, a person has to profess and act upon this belief in the oneness of God and the prophethood of Muhammad. To be a true profession of faith that represents a relationship between the speaker and God, the verbal utterance must express genuine knowledge of its meaning as well as sincere belief. A person's deeds can be subjected to scrutiny by other Muslims, but a person's utterance of the profession of faith is sufficient evidence of membership in the Muslim community and cannot be challenged by other members of this community.

ISLAM PRAYER Salah is the name for the obligatory prayers that are performed five times a day, and are a direct link between the worshipper and God. It is a religious duty to perform five prescribed daily prayers or salat by a true muslim everyday till the date of their death. All adult Muslims are supposed to perform five prayers, preceded by ritual cleansing or purification of the body at different intervals of the day. The Qur'anic references also mention the acts of standing, bowing, and prostrating during prayers and facing a set direction, known as qibla. The Muslims were first required to face Jerusalem during prayer, but already during Muhammad's lifetime they were commanded to face the Kaaba, an ancient shrine in the city of Mecca.

The Qur'an also refers to the recitation of parts of the Qur'an as a form of prayer. However, even with its numerous references, the Qur'an alone does not give exact instructions for this central ritual of prayer. The most detailed descriptions of the rituals for prayer derive from the example set by the prophet Muhammad and are preserved in later Islamic traditions. Some details of these rituals vary, however all Muslims agree that there are five required daily prayers to be performed at certain times of day: dawn (fajr or subh), noon (zuhr), midafternoon (asr), sunset (maghrib), and evening (isha). The dawn, noon, and sunset prayers do not start exactly at dawn, noon, and sunset; instead, they begin just after, to distinguish the Islamic ritual from earlier pagan practices of worshiping the sun when it rises or sets.

A prayer is made up of a sequence of units called bowings (rak'as). During each of these units, the worshiper stands, bows, kneels, and prostrates while reciting verses from the Qur'an as well as other prayer formulas. With some variations among different Muslim sects, at noon, afternoon, and evening prayers, these units are repeated four times, while during the sunset prayer they are repeated three times, and at dawn only twice. Wherever Muslims live in substantial numbers throughout the world, the call to prayer, or adhan, is repeated five times a day by a muezzin (crier) from a mosque, the Muslim place of worship. In addition to the five required daily prayers, Muslims can perform non-obligatory prayers, some of which have fixed ritual formats and are performed before or after each of the five daily prayers. Others are performed at night, either individually or with other Muslims.

ISLAM ALMSGIVING Giving to charity is one of the five "pillars" of Islam. Muslims, who have wealth remaining over the year, after paying for their own basic needs, must pay a certain percentage to help others. This almsgiving is called Zakat, from Arabic word which means both "to purify" and "to grow." Muslim believe that giving to others purifies their own wealth, increases its value, and causes one to recognize that everything we have is a trust from God which helps us in attaining a spiritual death. Paying Zakat is required of every adult Muslim man or woman who possesses wealth of a certain minimum amount, encouraged to give in charity at all times according to their means.

Additional, voluntary charity is called sadaqah, from an Arabic word meaning "truth" and "honesty." Sadaqah may be given at any time and in any amount. While the meaning of terms has been open to different interpretations, the Qur'an regularly refers to zakat, identifying specific ways in which this tax can be spent. These specific uses include spending zakat on the poor and the needy, on those who collect and distribute zakat, on those whom Muslims hope to win over and convert to Islam, on travelers, on the ransom of captives, to relieve those who are burdened with debts, and on the cause of God. Traditional zakat laws do not cover trade, but commercial taxes have been imposed by various Muslim governments throughout history.

Fasting is another unique moral and spiritual characteristic of Islam to be followed for their entire lifetime. Literally defined, fasting means to abstain "completely" from foods, drinks, intimate intercourse and smoking, before the break of the dawn till sunset, during the entire month of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic year. According to various traditional interpretations, the fast introduces physical and spiritual discipline, serves to remind the rich of the misfortunes of the poor, and fosters, through this rigorous act of worship, a sense of solidarity and mutual care among Muslims of all social backgrounds which is said to be attained by all Muslims before death.

Thus Muslims usually engage in further acts of worship beyond the ordinary during Ramadan, such as voluntary night prayer, reading sections from the Qur'an, and paying voluntary charity to the poor. Muslims may even choose to wake before daybreak to eat a meal that will sustain them until sunset. After the fasting ends, the holiday of breaking the fast, 'id al-fitr, begins, lasting for three days. At any time of year fasting is also required as a compensation for various offenses and violations of the law. Many Muslims also perform voluntary fasts at various times of the year as acts of devotion and spiritual discipline. However, such additional fasting is not required by Islamic law.

In the holy month of Ramadan, a Muslim's abstaining from food, drink, sexual intercourse, etc., during the prescribed hours is the very manifestation of obedience to the Creator's will. This self-deprivation represents a state of self-control and of overcoming carnal pleasure, desire, and enjoyment, for the blissful love of God, His proximity, and the eagerness to desires. It is a triumph of pristine love over one's pleasures for the eternal ones promised by God, the Almighty. This response to the Divine commandments represents and incarnates true servitude and is a brilliant display of spirit, intellect and decisive willpower.

ISLAM PILGRIMAGE One of a Muslim's duties is to go on Hajj at least once during his or her lifetime before death. This is a pilgrimage to Makkah (Mecca) in Saudi Arabia. The number of American pilgrims is increasing yearly. The hajj is distinct from other pilgrimages. It must take place during the 12th lunar month of the year, known as Dhu al-Hijja, and it involves a set and detailed sequence of rituals that are practiced over the span of several days. All of the pilgrimage rituals take place in the city of Mecca and its surroundings, and the primary focus of these rituals is a cubical structure called the Kaaba.Once pilgrims arrive in Mecca, ritual purification is performed.

Many men shave their heads, and most men and women put on seamless white sheets. This simple and common dress symbolizes the equality of all Muslims before God, a status further reinforced by the prohibition of jewelry, perfumes, sexual intercourse, and hunting. After this ritual purification, Muslims circle the Kaaba seven times, run between al-Safa and al-Marwa, two hills overlooking the Kaaba, seven times, and perform several prayers and invocations. This ritual is a reenactment of the search by Hagar for water to give her son Ismail.

After these opening rituals, the hajj proper commences on the seventh day and continues for the next three days. Again, it starts with the performance of ritual purification followed by a prayer at the Kaaba mosque. The pilgrims then assemble at Mina, a hill outside Mecca, where they spend the night. The next morning they go to the nearby plain of Arafat, where they stand from noon to sunset and perform a series of prayers and rituals. The pilgrims then head to Muzdalifa, a location halfway between Arafat and Mina, to spend the night. The next morning, the pilgrims head back to Mina, on the way stopping at stone pillars symbolizing Satan, at which they throw seven pebbles.

The final ritual is the slaughter of an animal (sheep, goat, cow, or camel). This is a symbolic reenactment of God's command to Ibrahim to sacrifice his son Ismail, which Ibrahim and Ismail duly accepted and were about to execute when God allowed Ibrahim to slaughter a ram in place of his son. (In the Hebrew and Christian Bibles, Abraham is called to sacrifice his son Isaac rather than Ishmael.) Most of the meat of the slaughtered animals is to be distributed to poor Muslims. The ritual sacrifice ends the hajj and starts the festival of the sacrifice, 'id al-adha. The festivals of breaking fast ('id al-fitr) at the end of Ramadan and 'id al-adha are the two major Islamic festivals celebrated by Muslims all over the world. The close of the hajj is marked by a festival, the 'Id al Adha, which is celebrated with prayers and the exchange of gifts in Muslim communities everywhere.

As we know, human beings work with joint effort. They take advantage of each others' endeavours to eliminate the needs of their life. The society established by these individuals is similar to a "great man" and each individual is like an organ of this great man's body. Each organ of the body performs its own specific function and makes up for its own weaknesses by benefiting from the functions of other organs; that is, in its sphere of activity, each organ provides its interests while providing the interests of other organs and continues its life in the light of the life of other organs before each organ gets worn out or die.

The duty of the members of a society is exactly like the duty of the organs of a body, i.e., man must look for his interests within the framework of the interests of the society. He must consider what benefits the society would derive from his efforts so that by his efforts all are benefited and he also gets benefited. He must defend the rights of others so that his own rights would not be violated. This is a fact which we realize with our Allah-given nature. The holy religion of Islam, which is established on the basis of nature and creation, does not have the commandments and views other than these on this matter.

In the holy religion of Islam, obedience of the parents is wajib except in the case when they order the children to give up one of the wajib deeds of religion or perform a religiously haram act. It is a very important duty of the children to be obedient to their parents for it makes us way to the entry into the heaven after death. It has been proven by experience that those who tease their parents do not remain happy and prosperous in their lives and consequently they will not attain salvation. Parents are the means of the creation of a child and the imparters of his initial education and training; therefore, the holy religion of Islam has placed a great deal of emphasis on children's obeying to them and on their respect to an extent that the Almighty Allah has commanded the people to be kind and generous to their parents right after mentioning Tawhid (the Oneness of Allah) and states: "And your Lord has commanded that you shall not serve (any) but Him and has commanded goodness to your parents...(17:23)."In ahadith enumerating mortal sins, misconduct towards parents ranks second to shirk (polytheism). The Almighty Allah states: "...If either or both of them reach old age with you, say not to them (so much as) "ugh" nor chide them, and speak to them generous words. And make yourself submissively gentle to them with compassion, and say: 'O my Lord! have compassion on them, similar to what they had on me when they brought me up (when I was) little' (17:23-24)."
ISLAM MARRIAGE In the Qur'an, the marriage relationship is described as one with "tranquility," "love" and "mercy." Elsewhere in the Qur'an, husband and wife are described as "garments" for each other till death. Garments offer protection, comfort, modesty, and warmth. Above all, the Qur'an describes that the best garment is the "garment of God-consciousness". Muslims view marriage as the foundation of society and family life. In a practical aspect, Islamic marriage is thus structured through legally-enforceable rights and duties of both parties. In an atmosphere of love and respect, these rights and duties provide a framework for the balance of family life and the fulfillment of both partners.
ISLAM SPREADING The message of Islam is simple, straight forward, and suitable to the innate nature of mankind. It has a clear concept of the oneness of God in contrast to the ambiguity of God's nature in other religions. The oneness of God in Islam also declared the unity of mankind in their origin, value, and destiny. This revolutionary concept made Islam appeal to many people. Islam also attracted others by its simple five pillars, which make the act of worship easier and clear to the average person. Islam also gave the existence of man a full meaning by declaring the concept of accountability for one's deeds. Finally, the tolerance of Islam towards non-Muslims, along with the system of ethics in Islam, was virtues that drew people's attention to Islam.

Thus the above mentioned rituals and duties are considered to be cardinal and to be performed before death in the Islam religion.Islam protects all the human rights: rights to life, liberty, freedom, equality, and justice and above this one of the basic concern are the security of the person. Islam teaches that the closest to Allah and the most beloved of Allah are those who are the best in piety.

Thus all people, male and female, and regardless of race, color, nationality or ethnicity, are considered and treated as equal before Allah and before the law. Today Islamic religion has become the second largest religion in the world. Islam, for the last 1400 years has tried to end this discrimination and a unique example of oneness and brotherhood of all mankind can be seen clearly during the Hajj. Islam has established a universal brotherhood. It has stressed that a true brotherhood can be established only by virtue of mankind's strong relationship with one another through Allah.

Related Links

• Islam Festivals