Islam literally means Submission. The prophet of this faith is Muhammad who was born in Makkah around 570CE. After losing his parents in young age, he was raised by his extended family. He married Khadijah, a wealthy merchant widow and both involved in business later. In 610CE during a period of solitary in Makkah, he began to receive divine revelations via Jibril and instructing him to preach a new monotheistic faith when people believed in pagan. He delivered revelation that he acquired during 22 years. Later these revealed passages constitute the Quran, the holy book of Islam. Muslims consider the Quran to be of divine authorship, a perfect text that contains the transcribed words of Allah as received by the Prophet Muhammad in 610 to 662.
The Quran is not written by Muhmmad himself (he didn’t read and write). He passed the words of Allah orally, repletely the revelations he had received to his early followers who memorized them and passed them to the other. Later Zayd ibn Thabit (611 – 656 CE), one of the principal scribes gathered the written revelations and wrote down all those existing in only memorized form. Then during the era of Caliph Uthman ibn Affan (reigned 644 – 656 CE), a standardized version was drawn up and sent to the four cities of Kufa, Madinah, Damascus and Basra. The Quran contains 114 suwar (chapters) each containing one of the revelations received by the Prophet. They differentiate in length some having 3 ayat (verses) and some as many as 286 that he had received in Makkah and Madinah. Quran gives detailed practical guidance on ways of living that are acceptable to Allah. It believes in monotheism and avoid idolatry.
Islam requires that all Muslims perform five basic duties (the five pillars of Islam) are as follows:
- The shahadah, or profession of faith, reciting the creed statement “There is no god but God, and Muhammad is his messenger”.
- Salah, or daily prayers, to be performed every day at five determined times between early dawn and evening.
- Zakah, or charitable donation of alms to the poor.
- Sawm, or annual fasting during the daylight hours of the month of Ramadhan every year.
- The Hajj, or the pilgrimage to the Kaabah in Makkah, which must be undertaken at least once in every Muslim’s lifetime.
Makkah is the most important pilgrimage site for Muslims because it is the place where Muhammad was born and he received initials revelations, and Allah also instructed him to pray in the direction of Kaabah in Makkah. Another pilgrimage site is Madinah, ancient name Yathrib, where Prophet immigrated or hijrah in 622 CE which was an important moment for the first Muslims, and marks the beginning of Islamic history. 622 CE is first year in the Muslim calendar, 1AH (Anno Hegirae), the year of the hijrah.
Muslims perform their religious practice along with social, educational and communal activities in the Mosque which is the holy place. The term Mosque derives from the Arabic word “masjid” signifies “place of prostration”, where Muslims can bow their forehead to the ground five times a day, the act of submission in prayer to Allah that is required by this faith. There are three types of mosque, the first one is daily mosque, small building used by local people for the five daily prayers. The second is Jami or congregational mosque. This is larger size of mosque used by crowd of people for Friday service. It contains minbar or pulpit for the sermons of Friday. The third type is large outdoor place for assembly and prayer. The house of the Prophet in Madinah, built in 622, was the prototype for early mosques. The early courtyard mosque had flat roofed prayer hall led to a sahn (an open courtyard) which generally had arcades at the sides. Often the fountain is installed for ritual ablution in the center of the courtyard. A mihrab or niche in the wall for the Qibla (the direction of Kaabah in Makkah) is built. The minarets were added to the mosque in the late 7th century so that the muezzin sent out the five daily calls for prayers. Among the first were in the Great Mosque of Damascus built in 706 – 715.
The Madrasa is an Arabic word that denotes a place where teaching and learning takes place. This is the center of the education where people could study the Quran, theology and many more subjects. It could be attached with mosque or independent. The oldest known madrasa, that was established in 859 by Fatima al- Fihri, is Al – Qurawiyyin in the Qarawiyyin Mosque in Fez, Morocco.