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Those who follow Islam are called Muslims. The word Islam means ‘submission to the will of God’ .Muslims believe that there is only one God.

The Arabic word for God is Allah. The simplest form of Muslim beliefs is summarised in the Declaration of Faith: “There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad (pbum) is the messenger of Allah”.

Muslims believe that Islam has always existed, but for practical purposes, date their religion from the time of the migration of Muhammad (pbum). On this basis Islam began over 1400 years ago in Mecca, in Arabia and was revealed to humanity by the Prophet Muhammad (pbum)

According to Muslims, God sent a number of prophets to mankind to teach them how to live according to His law. Abraham (Ibrahim) is seen as the father of the Arab people as well as the Jewish people. Moses (Musa) is an important prophet in the Muslim faith as well as in Judaism and Christianity. Jesus is also respected as a prophet. Islam has a literary tradition spanning a millennium and a half of a continuous historical relationship with the figure of Jesus Christ.

Muslims believe that the final and complete revelation of their faith was made through the Prophet Muhammad (pbum) (peace be upon him). Born in Mecca in the 7th century CE, Muhammad (pbum) (570-632) was a devout and spiritual man.

The Qur’an is the holy book for Muslims, revealed in stages to the Prophet Muhammad (pbum) over 23 years in Arabic. Qur’anic revelations are regarded by Muslims as the sacred word of God, intended to correct any errors in previous holy books such as the Old and New Testaments. There are 114 chapters in the Qur’an. All the chapters except one begin with the sentence, ‘In the name of Allah the most merciful and the most kind’. This is the thought with which Muslims should start every action. In addition to the Qur’an, the other sacred sources are the Sunnah, the practise and examples of the Prophet Muhammad’s (pbum) life, and the Hadith, reports of what the prophet Muhammad (pbum) said or approved.

All aspects of a Muslim’s life are governed by Sharia law which comes from a combination of sources including the Qur’an, the sayings of the prophet and the rulings of Islamic scholars. The five Pillars of Islam are often well known by non-Muslims. These pillars are the declaration of faithpraying five times a day, giving money tocharityfasting and a once in a lifetime pilgrimage to Mecca. But The 5 Pillars are only one of the ’5 main spheres’ of Islam regulating civil society and it’s relationship with Allah and the after life:

1, Tawheed (belief, creed etc): deals with all aspects of belief, concept of oneness of God and Monotheism.

2. Worship: rules and injunctions of how to perform and implement the 5 Pillars. 

3. Social Policy: matters dealing with Community Cohesion, Race Relations, Rights and Obligations of Citizens, Civic Duties etc.

4. Socio-Economic: matters dealing with Business and Commerce, Politics and Governance, Law and the Judiciary.

5. Personal Characteristics: rules pertaining to ones conduct with parents, neighbours, kith and kin and the community.

There are only two Muslim festivals set down in Islamic law. Ramadan is a holy month in which Muslims practise fasting (sawm). Id-ul-Fitr comes at the end of Ramadan. Muslims thank Allah for the strength he gave them to help them practice self-control. Id-ul-Adha marks the end of Hajj, the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, and is celebrated by all Muslims, not just those who make the pilgrimage. There are several other special days that Muslims celebrate, although some Muslims disapprove of adding extra festivals. According to tradition and culture Al-Hijra is the Muslim New Year. It marks the Hijra, Muhammad (pbum)’s journey in 622 CE to Medina.

There are several different groups of Muslims, but all of them, in every country and community, regard their faith as a bond between them, and as a major part of their identity. The division between Sunnis and Shi’as is the largest and oldest in the history of Islam. They both agree on the fundamentals of Islam and share the same Holy Book (The Qur’an), but there are differences mostly derived from their different historical experiences, political and social developments, as well as ethnic composition.

Islam is the second largest religion in the world with over 1 billion followers. The 2001 census recorded 1,591,000 Muslims in the UK, around 2.7% of the population. The first large group of Muslims in Britain arrived about 300 years ago. Today Britain’s Muslims are mostly people who immigrated to Britain in the 1950s-70s, or their descendants; or more recent arrivals from Africa.

For more detailed information on Islam go to http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/islam/

For local contacts see The Directory of Northamptonshire Faith Groups

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© Northampton Inter Faith Forum 2017