What Is Islam?

By F. Kamal

Islam is a way of life. It is simple, practical, and easy to understand.


Islam is based on five pillars.


To declare: “There is none worthy of worship except God, and Muhammad is the messenger of God.” Islam is based primarily on the holy book for Muslims: the Quran (the word of God), and secondarily on the authentic sunnah (the example of the prophet).

Note: Islamic scholars have historically played an important role as leaders in Muslim societies and in explaining the Quran and the life and example of the prophet. Of themselves, however, they do not have the authority to forgive, or to define right or wrong. Rather they help elucidate concepts and define principles. There is no priesthood in Islam. A Muslim does not have to have any “intermediary” between himself and God.


Prayer: To worship God five times a day.


Fasting: To fast during the Islamic month of Ramadan. (The purpose of fasting in Islam during Ramadan is not penance for sins, but rather to develop taqwa —God-consciousness.)


Zakat: To give charity to the poor.


Hajj: To perform pilgrimage to Mecca once in a lifetime if one has the financial means and health to do so.

Note: It is important to recognize that God does not “need” or “require” anything from His creation. God is not a “needy god.” That would be to misunderstand God’s power and majesty. Thus, worship, for example, is for the benefit of the worshiper; it is not for God’s benefit. And indeed prayer disciplines, purifies, and elevates the worshipper.

Islamic articles of faith

There are six basic articles of faith.


To believe in God.


To believe in His angels.


To believe in His prophets (like Abraham, Noah, Jacob, Joseph, Job, Jonah, David, Solomon, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad.)


To believe in His revealed books (e.g. the Taurat to Moses, the Zabur to David, the Injeel to Jesus,1 & the Quran to Muhammad). (However, according to Muslim belief, only the Quran –alternative spellings: Qur’an or Koran – is available today in an original, pure form.)


To believe in the resurrection, the Day of Judgment, and Heaven and Hell.


To believe in the Divine Decree: That God is omniscient (all knowing) and has power over all things.

Excellence (ihsan)

Another important aspect of Islam is “ihsan” (meaning excellence or to seek to do things in a best and beautiful manner).

A Muslim is called to live his life in the most excellent and beautiful of manners because even if he does not physically see God, God always sees him. Whether one is an engineer, doctor, homemaker, bricklayer, or street sweeper, one should always try to discharge oneself with excellence.

For example, does not someone who is brought before the head of his company endeavor to comport himself in a way to put himself forward in the best possible light? How much more should one do, if it is not a mere mortal boss, but the One who sits on the throne of the universe; before Whom one stands?

In a Muslim’s journey through life, he should continuously strive to pulsate with excellence and beauty.After all, this is a part of being Muslim. 2

Who Is A Muslim?

If you sincerely believe, in your heart, in the five pillars and the articles of faith, you are a Muslim. It is that simple!


For Muslims, Islam is a very simple, practical, and balanced religion. One can communicate directly with God. There is no need for intermediaries like priests. There is no sharp delineation between worldly and spiritual realms. Perhaps an illustrative example of this is that, while some religious traditions may have encouraged clerical celibacy amongst their religious hierarchy, in contrast Islam encourages marriage amongst its adherents. “Marriage is one half of your deen [e.g. religion]” (Baihaqi) is well known among Muslims. Almost all Muslim leaders have been married (and usually with lots of children!). Muslims thus view their religion as practical — and as a mercy from God.

Religion is not seen as something special to be isolated from life but as an integral part of everyday life. Islam is not an abstract idealism but rather a complete way of life well within the grasp and understanding of the average individual. It forms the dynamic core of societal life in active Muslim communities.

Muslims would say that following Islam is like returning to a natural and intuitive path for humans, one that leads to peace and contentment of the soul.


Is Muhammad the only messenger sent by God? What about place X? or place Y? Did they get prophets?

Prophet Muhammad is not the only messenger of God. God has sent many warners to many peoples throughout time.

And so it was that We sent to every community a messenger (who said): “Serve God, and shun falsehood.” Quran 16:36.

Several prophets are mentioned by name in the Quran, including Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. However, many are no longer known to us, and have passed through the course of time.

We have told you the story of some Messengers and of others We have not … Quran 4:164

Muslims emphasize Prophet Muhammad because while others have been sent with messages, their messages have become lost or corrupted. Only the Quran remains in its full purity (in Arabic).

Muhammad (also known as the “seal” of the prophets) is considered the last prophet and messenger of God (as mentioned by the prophet in his last sermon).3

Note: However, Jesus, who is not a new prophet but rather a returning one, will come back according to several of Prophet Muhammad’s sayings (hadith).

Is Islam a “new” religion?

Not really, Islam may have a new set of laws reflecting its place in time, but the core beliefs of one God, Heaven and Hell, and the Day of Judgment have been around since the time of Adam. It is in that sense just a renewal of a core human belief and religion that have existed throughout human history. Moses, Jesus, Noah, and Abraham are all, for example, considered prophets of God by Islam.


Islam. The name of one of the world’s main religions.

Muslims. People who follow the religion of Islam.

Quran. The holy book of Muslims. Muslims believe that the Quran is the exact word of God as revealed by the arch angel Gabriel to Prophet Muhammad. It exists only in Arabic, although non-Arabic speaking Muslims may read translations of the meaning in their native languages.

Hadith. The collected sayings of the Prophet Muhammad.

Sunnah. The example set by Prophet Muhammad.

(Excerpt from book "Easily Understand Islam")

Click to read sample chapters from the book below

1 Technically, Taurat is not Torah, nor is Injeel the New Testament, nor is the Zabur the Psalms. The Arabic words refer to the original revelations to Moses, Jesus, and David which no longer fully exist in the original, uncorrupted forms.

2 An-Nawawi’s Forty Hadith, Hadith #2, mentions the pillars, articles of faith and ihsan in describing Islam. (It also mentions being aware of man’s signposts in the journey towards the culmination of human existence.)

3 Last prophet also mentioned in Tirmidhi Vol. 4, Book 7, Hadith 2219; Sunan Abi Dawud 4252.