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Christian History Home > 2002 > Issue 74 > Islam 101


Islam 101
Basics of a foreign faith
by James A. Beverley | posted 4/01/2002 12:00AM

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The Five Pillars of Islam


1. Shahadah: Confession of faith. "There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is His messenger."

2. Salat: Prayer. All Muslims are to pray five times every day, facing Mecca.

3. Zakat: Tithing. Muslims must give at least 2.5 percent of their total wealth to the poor and needy.

4. Sawm: Fasting. During the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims are to refrain from food, water, and sex from sunrise to sunset.

5. Hajj: Pilgrimage. If at all possible, at least once in a lifetime Muslims are to travel to Mecca to engage in rituals of prayer and worship at the central shrine in Islam's holiest city.

The Qur'an


  • The Qur'an, in Arabic, is the perfect Word of Allah.
  • The Qur'an contains 114 chapters, or suras.
  • Muslims believe that the Qur'an was revealed to Muhammad by the archangel Gabriel.
  • The Qur'anic material was composed from 610 through Muhammad's death in 632.
  • The final compilation was completed about 650.

The Prophet


  • Most Muslims believe that Muhammad was sinless, but not divine.
  • Most Muslims believe that the prophet was illiterate.
  • The prophetic status of Muhammad is not to be questioned.
  • Muhammad provides the greatest example for all aspects of life.
  • The traditions about the prophet are known as hadith.
  • Allah gave the prophet permission to have 12 wives.

Other Major Muslim Beliefs


  • Islam started with Adam, not with Muhammad.
  • People are saved by the will of God through obedience to God's law, Shari'ah.
  • Though humans are imperfect, they are not fallen through original sin.
  • Those chosen by God for salvation will enter paradise. Only God knows whom he has chosen.
  • The damned will burn in eternal torment in Hell.
  • All countries and peoples should follow Islam and Islamic law.
  • Muslims are to engage in jihad, which usually means private spiritual struggle.
  • Jihad sometimes demands defense of Muslim territory and military aggression.
  • God will restore the world at the end of time through a coming human leader known as the Mahdi.
  • Muslim males can marry up to four wives.

Muslim Groups


  • Almost 90 percent of Muslims belong to the Sunni tradition.
  • Shi'ite Islam is popular in Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and several Persian Gulf states.
  • Sufi Islam represents the mystical path.
  • The Islam practiced in most Muslim countries is heavily influenced by local folk customs.

Muslim Views of Jesus


  • Jesus was a prophet of God but not the Son of God. He was a lesser prophet than Muhammad.
  • He was born of the virgin Mary.
  • He performed many miracles.
  • He was protected from a death of crucifixion.
  • He did not rise from the dead.
  • He ascended to heaven after his death, and he will return to earth.
  • He was a faithful Muslim, or follower of Allah.

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