Islam is currently the worlds 2nd largest and fastest growing religion with nearly one-fifth (approximately 1.2 billion) of the world’s population believed to be Muslim (About.Com, 2008, Online http://islam.about.com/od/muslimcountries/a/population.htm). Islam is a monotheistic religion which means it believes in the one God. It is Abrahamic or one of the ‘Religions of the Book’, this means that, similar to in the Old Testament of the Christian Bible and the Jewish Torah, stories such as that of the Creation story in Genesis and the stories of Abraham (abc.net 2009, Online http://www.abc.net.au/religion/stories/s790151.htm ). This essay includes a brief summary of the general beliefs of Islam, the Islamic take on social justice, a summary of Islam in Australia, the similarities and differences to Christianity and the efforts for interfaith dialogue between Christianity and Islam.
Islam means submission to Allah (God). Islam is said to have been revealed to the Prophet Muhammad who lived from 570 CE to 632 CE in Mecca in which is in modern-day Saudi Arabia. It is believed that, through the Archangel Gabriel, Allah dictated the Qur’an to Muhammad. The Qur’an is the core source of Islamic beliefs and is their sacred text; it is believed to be the exact words of God. Muslims believe in the same God as the Jewish and Christian God, but unlike in Christianity, it is believed that God is a unique being with no other parts, sons etc (About.Com, 2008, Online). They believe in the same prophets such as Adam, Abraham and Moses. They believe that Muhammad was the last and greatest of all God’s prophets.
In Islam, there are 5 key elements of faith; these are called the Pillars of Islam. These 5 pillars are:
Faith: The Shahada is the Muslim declaration of faith la ilaha illa Llah Muhammadun rasulu'Llah which means “there is no god worthy of worship except God and Muhammad is His messenger.” Upon reciting this, a person can be inducted into Islam.
Prayer: The name given to the obligatory prayer which is to be performed 5 times a day is Shalat. Prayers are said at dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset and nightfall, and help determine the rhythm of the entire day, Shalat can be done anywhere, before praying there is a ritual cleansing to purify oneself before coming before god. It is always done facing Mecca, the homeland of Islam.
Zakat: Zakat is essentially almsgiving, all Muslims are required to help share their wealth with the poor, this is generally done through a yearly tax of approximately 2.5% of an individuals annual income.
Fasting: Fasting, or Saum, is an important part of Islam. During the lunar month of Ramadan, Muslims fast between sunrise and sunset. Fasting is supposed to help bring a Muslim closer to Allah and instil discipline.
Hajj: At least once in their lifetime, if physically and financially possible, all Muslims are required to make the pilgrimage to Mecca during Hajj which begins at the start of the 12th month in the Islamic...