Judaism: Origins and Development

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The Beliefs of Islam Muslims recognize the Jewish and Christian prophets, including Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. But they regard Muhammad as the last and greatest prophet who revealed the complete message of God. They believe that the Qur’an [Qur’an: the holy book of Islam], the Muslim holy book, contains the word of God as revealed to Muhammad.

Muslims also revere the Sunnah [Sunnah: the example set by Muhammad for how Muslims should live], the example Muhammad set for how Muslims should live. The Sunnah is recorded in a collection of stories called Hadith, which describe Muhammad’s actions and teachings.

The required acts of worship for Muslims are called the Five Pillars of Islam. The first pillar is the profession of faith: “There is no god but God and Muhammad is his prophet.” This pillar emphasizes the duty Muslims have to worship one God only.

The fifth pillar of Islam encourages all Muslims to make a pilgrimage to Mecca, known as the Hajj, once in their lives. Here, pilgrims on Hajj encircle the holy shrine called the Ka’bah at the Great Mosque, in Mecca. About two million Muslims perform the Hajj each year.

The second pillar is daily prayer. Muslims are expected to pray five times a day: at dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset, and after nightfall. They kneel before God and recite verses from the Qur’an. Prayer does not have to take place at a mosque, or place of worship, but can be performed anywhere.

The third pillar is charity. Muhammad told the wealthy to share their riches with the less fortunate. Muslims are supposed to give at least 2.5 percent of their surplus wealth every year to the needy. The Qur’an says: “You will never attain righteousness until you give freely of what you love.”

The fourth pillar is fasting. The Qur’an instructs Muslims to abstain from food or drink during daylight hours for the entire month of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Muslim calendar. Fasting is meant to encourage self-control and clear the mind so that it can be filled with the spirit of faith.

The fifth pillar is the pilgrimage to Mecca, known as the Hajj, which takes place in the twelfth month of the year. This pilgrimage promotes fellowship and equality among believers. The Hajj is not required, but all Muslims are encouraged to undertake it at least once in their lifetime.

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