Islam: what is the Muslim religion like?


Islam, one of the world's major religions, is followed by more than a billion people. With a rich history deeply rooted in ancient traditions and sacred texts, Islam has shaped cultures, governments and societies over the centuries. 

Origins and foundations

Islam emerged in the Arabian Peninsula in the 7th century AD, through the revelations of the prophet Muhammad, who is considered the last of the prophets by Muslims, bringing the final message from God (Allah) recorded in the Koran, the holy book of Islam.

 The word "Islam" derives from the Arabic "salm", which means "peace", and "islam", which means "submission" or "surrender", reflecting the idea of submission to the will of Allah.

Core beliefs

Muslims believe in five fundamental pillars that guide their faith and practice:

  • Shahadathe declaration of faith in Allah and in the prophecy of Muhammad;
  • Salatthe obligation to perform five daily prayers in the direction of Mecca;
  • ZakatThe practice of giving a portion of one's assets to the needy and less fortunate;
  • Sawmfasting during the month of Ramadan, as an act of spiritual purification;
  • Hajj: the pilgrimage to Mecca, obligatory at least once in a lifetime for those who are physically and financially able.

In addition to the pillars, Muslims also adhere to the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad recorded in the hadiths, which are accounts of his actions and sayings.

Sacred texts

The Koran is the cornerstone of the Islamic faith. It is believed that the words of the Qur'an were revealed to Muhammad by Allah through the angel Gabriel over a period of 23 years. 

It consists of 114 suras (chapters) covering a variety of topics, including morality, law, history and eschatology. The interpretation of the Koran is a central aspect of the intellectual and religious life of Muslims, with various schools of theological thought and Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh).

Religious practices

Muslims' daily practices are centered on ritual prayers performed towards the Ka'ba in Mecca. These prayers take place five times a day: before sunrise, at midday, mid-afternoon, after sunset and in the evening. During Ramadan, the ninth month of the lunar Islamic calendar, Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset as an act of self-discipline and spiritual devotion.

Another important practice is charity, known as zakat, which is obligatory for those who have sufficient financial means. Each year, a specific portion of personal wealth is donated to help the less fortunate and support social causes.

Cultural diversity and ramifications

Islam is a global religion with a rich cultural and ethnic diversity. Muslim communities can be found on every continent, each bringing their own traditions and interpretations of Islam. 

Significant offshoots include Sunniism and Shiaism, which differ in their interpretations of the succession after Muhammad's death and in specific religious practices.

Islamic art and architecture

Islamic art and architecture reflect the rich cultural heritage of Muslims over the centuries. From the magnificent architecture of mosques such as the Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi to the intricate beauty of the tiles in the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, Islamic art encompasses a variety of styles and regional influences. 

Islamic calligraphy, miniatures, tapestries and ceramics are other forms of artistic expression that play a crucial role in Islamic visual culture.

Global and contemporary impact

Islam is not only a religious faith, but also a social and political system that has shaped many societies around the world. Countries with predominantly Muslim populations often incorporate Islamic principles into their laws and governance. 

Political and social movements based on Islam have emerged in various parts of the world, seeking to influence social and political change in line with Islamic principles.

Challenges and perceptions

Islam faces significant challenges in the contemporary world, including misunderstandings about its practices and beliefs, as well as the impact of extremist movements that distort Islamic teachings to justify violence. 

Islamophobia is a reality for many Muslims in various parts of the world, leading to discrimination and intercultural conflicts.

Influencing everything from art to global politics

Islam is a faith deeply rooted in world history and culture, with an influence that extends from art to global politics. Its religious practices, core beliefs and cultural diversity make it a focal point for study and debate. 

With a significant global population, Islam continues to play a crucial role in the religious and geopolitical landscape of the modern world, challenging and inspiring at the same time a deeper and more respectful understanding of religious and cultural differences.

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June 29, 2024