The word Islam means ‘submission to the will of God “Allah”. Islam is the second largest religion in the world. It was reveald over 1400 years ago in Mecca, Arabia.
Muslims base their laws on their holy book the Quran, and the Sunnah.
Fourteen centuries ago, God sent down the Qur’an to mankind as a book of guidance. He called upon people to be guided to the truth by adhering to this book. From the day of its revelation to the day of judgement, this last divine book will remain the sole guide for humanity.
Muslims consider the Quran to be a guide, a sign of the prophethood of Muhammad and the truth of the religion.
The Qur’an revealed
The month of Ramadan in which was revealed the Qur’an, a guidance for mankind and clear proofs for the guidance and the criterion (between right and wrong)
Lailat al Qadr, the Night of Power, marks the night in which the Quran was first revealed to the Prophet Mohammad by Allah.
Muslims regard this as the most important event in history, and the Qur’an says that this night is better than a thousand months and that on this night the angles descend to earth.
This is a time that Muslims spend in study and prayers. Some will spend the whole night in prayer or in reciting the Qur’an.
Lailat al Qadr is a good time to ask for forgiveness.
Whoever establishes the prayers on the night of Qadr out of sincere faith and hoping to attain Allah’s rewards (not to show off) then all his past sins will be forgiven.
Hadith, Bukhari Vol 1, Book 2:34
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, when Muslims fast during daylight hours. Although Muslims fast during other times of the year, Ramadan is the only time when fasting is obligatory during the entire month for every able Muslim. Ramadan is intended to increase self-control in all areas, including food, sleeping, sex and the use of time.
Ramadan is often called ‘month of the Qur’an’ because of this, and Muslims attempt to recite as much of the Qur’an as they can during the month. Most mosques will recite one thirtieth of the Qur’an each night during the Taraweeh prayers.
It was narrated from Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “When Ramadan comes, the gates of Paradise are opened and the gates of Hell are closed, and the devils are put in chains.” Muslims believe that their good actions bring a greater reward during this month than at any other time of year, because this month has been blessed by Allah.
I’tikaf refers to going into seclusion during the last ten nights of Ramadan, in order to seek Lailat ul Qadr by praying and reading the Qur’an. Some people live in the mosque during this time for serious reflection and worship. Others spend a few hours at the mosque or home.
Muslims believe the Quran to be the book of divine guidance revealed from God to Muhammad through the angel Gabriel over a period of 23 years and view the Quran as God’s final revelation to humanity.
Sunnah is the practical example of Prophet Muhammad and that there are five basic “Pillars of Islam”. These pillars are the declaration of faith, praying five times a day, giving money to charity, fasting and pilgrimage to Mecca (atleast once).
Muslims believe that Islam is a faith that has always existed and that it was gradually revealed to humanity by a number of prophets, but the final and complete revelation of the faith was made through the Prophet Muhammad in the 7th century CE.
Muhammad was born in Mecca in Saudi Arabia in 570.
He was a deeply spiritual man, and often spent time in meditation on Mount Hira.
The traditional story of theQuran tells how one night in 610 he was meditating in a cave on the mountain when he was visited by the angel Gabriel who ordered him to recite.
Once Gabriel mentioned the name of Allah, Muhammad began to recite words which he came to believe were the words of God.
During the rest of his life Muhammad continued to receive these revelations. The words were remembered and recorded, and form the text of the Holy Qu’ran, the Muslim scripture.
Believing that God had chosen him as his messenger Muhammad began to preach what God had revealed to him.
The simple and clear-cut message of Islam, that there is no God but Allah, and that life should be lived in complete submission to the will of Allah, was attractive to many people, and they flocked to hear it.
Muhammad’s popularity was seen as threatening by the people in power in Mecca, and Muhammad took his followers on a journey from Mecca to Medina in 622.
This journey is called the Hijrah (migration) and the event was seen as so important for Islam that 622 is the year in which the Islamic Calendar begins.
The return to Mecca
Within ten years Muhammad had gained so many followers that he was able to return and conquer Mecca.
From this time on he was generally accepted by the faithful as the true final Prophet of God.
Muhammad continued to lead his community both spiritually and in earthly matters until his death in 632.
Nazia memon is a senior journalist working with bbc london.