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This was written for the General Spirituality board during their summer of love last year.
Islam, literally translated, means peace. It is named after no man or woman. In Islam we worship Allah and only Allah. The ash-Shahadah (Declaration of Faith), "la ilaha illallahu wa Muhammadur rasulullah" means "there is no god except Allah and Muhammad is Allah's messenger". It is one of the five pillars of faith in Islam. Any other reference to the Prophet (s.a.w.) is followed by "sallallahu `alahi wasallam" which is often abbreviated in text to s.a.w. It means "peace and blessings of Allah be upon him". We say this to show our respect to the last of Allah's prophets. It is often mistaken that we worship the Prophet (s.a.w.) which is untrue. The other four pillars of Islam are Salah (the five daily prayers), Zakah (welfare contribution), Hajj (the pilgrimage to Makkah), and Sawm (fasting during the month of Ramadan). For some Hajj occurs later in life because it can be a very long journey. You do not have to have "completed" the five pillars to worship in Islam, but you must believe in them.
One common misconception seems to be that everybody fasts during Ramadan which is also untrue. Pregnant women, for example, are not expected to fast since it could be a danger for the woman and the baby. Children also do not fast and if a person falls ill they are not expected to fast if it would make things worse. Islam is not about making you do things that could cause you harm, it is about peace and harmony between all people.
The basic beliefs of Muslims fall into six main categories, which are known as the "Articles of Faith":
Faith in the unity of God: Belief that there is only one god (Allah is the Arabic word for God), who has no parents, no wife, no sons or daughters. Nobody is like him, and he is the creator of all the universe.
Faith in angels
Faith in prophets: Including, but not limited to: Abraham, Noah, Moses, Jesus, and Mohammad (The last of the prophets) (s.a.w.)
Faith in books of revelation: Including The Tawrah, the Bible, and the Quran (the last of the books)
Faith in an afterlife: The day of Judgement, heaven, and hell.
Faith in destiny/divine decree. Allah controls our fate.
The "five pillars" of Islam:
In Islam, faith and good works go hand-in-hand. A mere verbal declaration of faith is not enough, for belief in Allah makes obedience to Him a duty.
The Muslim concept of worship is very broad. Muslims consider everything they do in life to be an act of worship, if it is done according to Allah's guidance. There are also five formal acts of worship which help strengthen a Muslim's faith and obedience. They are often called the "Five Pillars of Islam."
Testimony of faith (Shahadah)
Prayer (Salat): 5 times a day
Fasting (Sawm): During the 9th lunar month (Ramadan)
Pilgrimage (Hajj): Once in a lifetime if capable.
The thread can still be found by clicking here for anybody that would like to read it in its entirety. There is more information there that I will try to clean up and add here later.