The primary sources of knowledge about Islam are the Qur’an, which Muslims generally believe is the divinely revealed word of God, and the Sunnah, which refers to the example or precedent of the Prophet Muhammad (i.e., what he said, did, approved, disapproved, caused, ordered, or allowed to happen). Much of what is known about the Sunnah is from the collection of sayings or reports known as hadith, or prophetic tradition. The hadith describe actions of the Prophet Muhammad or actions that his companions attributed to his teachings. Hadith also elaborate and provide context to the Qur’an. For Shi’as, in addition to the aforementioned, the rulings of the twelve Imams are considered a primary source. Other sources may exist for different Muslim sects. In addition to these primary sources, Muslims have also traditionally relied on the following: scholarly consensus, that is, the agreement of knowledgeable scholars upon a particular issue; and analogical reasoning, which means applying principles or laws derived from the Qur’an and Sunnah to similar situations not explicitly addressed by them. The lived experience of Islam, which naturally varies widely not only in different cultures but also with different individuals, also impacts and determines a Muslim’s understanding and practice of Islam. Muslims practice their faith in many different ways, but the major practices for both Sunni and Shi’a Muslims are known as the Five Pillars, which include: the profession of faith, namely that there is only one God, and that Muhammad is the Messenger of God; The six major beliefs in Islam, as understood by the majority of Sunni Muslims, are: belief in God; Islam’s primary message, as understood by the overwhelming majority of Muslims, is the continuation of the monotheistic, Abrahamic tradition’s belief in one God. The three major dimensions of Islam include beliefs, ritual practices, and the goal and effort to improve one’s character and actions. There are six major beliefs in Islam. There are also five central practices which are referred to as the Five Pillars. The last dimension of Islam focuses on good works and excellence in character in both one’s spiritual relationship with God and one’s everyday actions. Islam is the name of a religion, as Christianity and Judaism are names of religions. The Arabic word “Islam” is based on the root “slm,” which means peace or surrender to God. Combining both translations results in the combined meaning “the state of peace through following God’s guidance.” Islamic is an adjective that modifies a non-human noun, as for example, “Islamic art,” “Islamic architecture,” “Islamic beliefs,” etc. This term should not be used to refer to a person. A follower of Islam is called a Muslim, or “one who is in a state of peace by following God’s guidance.” While the term Arab has been used in the past to refer to members of a Semitic ethnic group from the Arabian Peninsula, today the word “Arab” refers to people from Arabic-speaking countries, most of which are in the Middle East and North Africa. The term Arabian was historically used to describe an inhabitant of the Arabian Peninsula. Today “Arabian” is used as an adjective to describe a non-human noun (e.g., Arabian coffee); it should not be used to refer to people. The following questions about basic Muslim beliefs (2 through 12) are answered in accord with the scholars mentioned above, reflecting majority Sunni views.
the five daily prayers;
required annual donation to charity in the amount of 2.5% of one’s excess wealth;
fasting during daylight hours in the month of Ramadan; and
making a pilgrimage to Mecca once in a lifetime, if one is mentally, physically, and financially able.
belief in angels;
belief in God’s prophets/messengers;
belief in God’s revelations in the form of holy scriptures sent to the messengers;
belief in an afterlife that follows the Day of Judgment on which people will be held accountable for their actions and compensated accordingly in the afterlife; and
belief in God’s divine will and His knowledge of what happens in the world.
The six major beliefs in Islam, as understood by the majority of Sunni Muslims, are: