While Islam is rooted in the Middle East, it is very much a global religion. With nearly two billion adherents worldwide, Islam is the second largest religion after Christianity. Islam itself means “to submit” and to be Muslim is to be one who submits to God (Allah in Arabic). In this way, Islam is a way of living one’s life before God and is characterized by five pillars of action. The core text is the Qur’an, which is believed to be a direct revelation of God to Muhammed, the final prophet following a series of prophets (including Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus, figures known in Jewish and Christian scriptures as well). Sacred to Islam is the first pillar, which requires Muslims to declare: “I bear witness that there is no God but God, and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.”
The five pillars:
- Shahada (Faith) – The declaration of faith in one God and His messenger.
- Salah (Prayer) – The ritual prayer required of every Muslim five times a day.
- Zakat (Almsgiving) – The act of giving a portion of a Muslim’s wealth to those in need.
- Sawm (Fasting) – The act of fasting during the holy month of Ramadan.
- Hajj (Pilgrimage) – The sacred pilgrimage to Mecca required of every Muslim at least once in their lifetime if it is within their means.
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