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Islam 101- What Is Islam?

Dec 18, 2007
This short article is the first in a seven part series called Islam 101. As the name indicates, this series of articles is meant to, Insha Allah, give a brief, succinct overview of some of the basic beliefs of Islam.

So what exactly is Islam? The name itself comes from the root word "salam" which means "peace" in Arabic. "Islam" actually means "submission", which is understood as submission of the human being's will to the will of God. So, a complete definition for the word Islam would be "submission to God in order to obtain peace." And a Muslim, coming from that same root word s-l-m, is a person who submits himself to God in order to obtain peace.

How do we submit ourselves to God? The answer is that it is not easy, it is extremely difficult. To submit yourself to God means putting your own natural human desires on the back shelf when they conflict with God's desires. It means caring more about the next life than this one. It means desiring the intangible good of the hereafter more than the material things of this world. It means conquering our inner pride, loving the things that God loves and hating the things that He hates. It's a tall order for a mere human.

Islam is more than just a religion that one should think about once a week; Islam is an entire way of life. Islam gives guidance for every aspect of a person's life, including what food to eat, what clothes to wear, and how to act as a mother, father, brother, sister and member of society in general. It's all inclusive, or at least it should be. If all people perfectly submitted their wills to God's we would have a near utopian society.

Human beings need structure in their lives, which is observable in day to day activities. There are 5 pillars of Islam which provide that crucial structure to a person's life. These 5 pillars are the foundation of an individual's religion, without them there can be no Islam, but they are only the bare minimum requirements.

The first is the shahada, or the declaration of faith. It is when a person says and believes that there is no deity worth of any type of worship except for God, and that Muhammad is His messenger. The second is the prayer which should be performed a minimum of 5 times each day. The third is zakat which can be thought of as a tax to feed the poor and purify your money. The fourth is fasting for the entire month of Ramadan from sunrise to sunset each day. Last but not least, the fifth is the hajj which is the pilgrimage to Mecca. The hajj should be performed at least once in a person's life if they are able.

There is so much more that can be said on this topic, but we will leave it here until next time. Thank you for reading and God bless!
About the Author
Laura Cosse' converted to Islam in 1996. She is the author of several Islamic children's books and currently resides in Virginia Beach, VA with her husband and twin sons, Muhammad and Hamza. For more info and articles please visit http://www.AdvocateIslam.com
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