If you are conducting a business in the Middle East, then an intro about Islam is extremely helpful, to help you understand people's behaviour and way of life.
Islam is the number one growing religion in the world, and many Muslims around the world take the teaching of Islam very seriously and often Islam is the principle and the fundamental to everything they do.
There are over one billion Muslim around the world, spread in many countries and speak different languages.
Islam and Muslims
The name Islam comes from the word Slim and Salam which is peace. All followers of Islam are Muslims, and they must not be confused with Arabs. A Muslim could be an Arab, American, Australian, Afghani etc.
Also an Arab could be the follower of a different religion Christian, Jew etc. People who have adopted the Arab language as their mother tongue are called Arabs.
Many people confuse the two together because Islam came from what is today Saudi Arabia through the Prophet Mohammed, and the Qur’an (Holly book of Muslims) is in Arabic.
The Arab Muslims make about 20% of the one billion Muslims only. However, there are only 10% non Muslims living in the Arab world.
Allah and Muslim Beliefs
The Muslim belief says that Allah (God) is the only God and no one else. Allah is just one name of ninety nine names Allah has: Allah the Greatest Name
Allah is the creator of everything and the God of everyone, and Muslims worship the God that name is Allah. Muslims put their trust in him and seek his help and Guidance.
The Prophet Mohammed
Mohammed was chosen by God to deliver his Message of Peace. Mohammed the prophet was born in 570 C.E. in Mecca on the Arabian peninsula. The message that he received was the Qur’an, and the word was the Islam. Mohammed was 40 years old at that time.
Mohammed proclaimed that the Qur'an was the last book of God and that he himself was the last prophet. Allah’s word was sent by his prophet Mohammed to all those religious people to inform them of the true mission of Jesus, Moses, Jacob, Abraham and Isaac.
The prophet Mohammed has been entrusted with the power of explaining, interpreting and living the teaching of Qur’an.
Muslims believe it is the word of God, and Muslim’s beliefs and practices are rooted in the Qur’an. Muslims treat the Qur’an with greatest respect because they believe that it is from Allah, and every word and every letter is sacred.
The Muslim’s communal worship is called a mosque. Muslims often refer to the mosque by its Arabic name, masjid.
Muslims are called to prayer from the minaret. The man who enters the minaret and calls them to prayer is called “muezzin”.
There are no pictures or statues in a mosque. They are usually decorated with patterns and words from the Qur’an. There is also no furniture inside, as Muslims use mats or carpets for prayers.
When people enter the Mosque they take off their shoes. This is to keep it clean for prayers.
Before praying, Muslims wash themselves “Wudu”. They wash their hands, mouth, throat, nose, ears, arms to the elbow and feet. This is a sacred wash that symbolises spiritual cleansing and purity in readiness for coming before God.
There is a “Quibla” wall in a Mosque that faces Mecca; it has arch to signify the direction. Muslims always pray facing Mecca.
Women and men do not pray in the same area and usually women have a screened area for them to pray in.
Services are held daily at the Mosque.
Friday is considered the holly day for Muslims and most people attend the midday prayer to pray together (Thohor).
Five Pillars of Islam
There are five duties that every Muslim is obliged to perform.
· Shahadah- Declaration of faith “ I bear witness that there is no God, but God “Allah”, and I bear witness that Mohammed is the prophet of God. By reciting this one enters the faith of Islam.
· Salah- Prayer. Muslims are required to pray five times a day, washing themselves before prayer and facing in the direction of Mecca while praying.
· Zahat- Giving fixed percentage of a Muslim’s money to charity and poor people, regardless of their faith.
· Saum- fasting during the month of Ramadan. Muslims fast one lunar month each year, a period called Ramadan. During this time Muslims reflect on their behaviour and strive to purify their thoughts.
· Hajj- Pilgrimage to Mecca. Muslims are required to travel to Mecca once in their lifetime, if it is financially possible.
Muslims are required to pray five times a day. The prayers times are fixed and they depend on the sun and change daily.
Mecca is the birthplace of the prophet Mohammed. In the centre of the Mosque in Mecca, is the cube-shaped building called Kaaba is found. All Muslims face the direction of the Kabaa during ritual prayer “Salat”.
Muslims believe that the Kabaa is the holiest place on earth. It is generally thought to have been built by Prophet Abraham. It is only used as a focal point for prayer (not worshiped) and simply signifies a direction, imposed by God to maintain unity and uniformity among worshipers.
Different types of Muslims
Almost 90% of Muslims are Sunni. Shiites are second largest group. The Shiites split from the Sunnis in 632 when Mohammed died.
Ramadan- It is the ninth month of the Islamic Calendar, and a time where Muslims around the world fast (do not eat in day light).
Eid Al Fiter- The festival for the day after Ramadan. It marks the breaking of the fast for Muslims at the end of Ramadan. It is celebrated for three days.
Eid Al Adha- (The festival of Sacrifice), which occurs 70 days after Eid Al fiter. It is the second most important festival in the Muslim calendar. It is to remember the time when Abraham was going to sacrifice his own son to prove obedience to God and marks the end of Hajj. The pilgrimage to Mecca takes place on the 10th day of last month of the Islamic calendar.