Origin of Islam

The origin of Islam can be traced back to 7th century in Saudi Arabia. The prophet Muhammad (570-632 A.D.) introduced Islam in 610 A.D. The Qur’an, is the holy book of Muslims and is the words of God. A Muslim, means “one who submits (to God)”. Muslims regard their religion as the completed and universal version of a monotheistic faith revealed at many times and places before, including, notably, to the prophets Abraham, Moses and Jesus.

The Five Pillars

Religious practices include the Five Pillars of Islam, which are five duties that unite Muslims into a community. The Five Pillars consist of:

Shahadah: sincerely reciting that “There is no God but one God, and Muhammad is his messenger.” Allah is the standard Arabic word for God. While the term is best known in the West for its use by Muslims as a reference to God, it is used by Arabic-speakers of all Abrahamic faiths, including Christians and Jews, in reference to “God”.

Salat: performing ritual prayers in the proper way five times each day. The chief purpose of prayer in Islam is to act as a person’s communication with God. Worshipper stand before God, thank and praise Him, and ask for guidance. Prayer is also cited as a means of restraining a believer from social wrongs and moral deviancy. [Qur’an 29:45]

Zakat: is the giving of a small percentage of one’s possessions (surplus wealth) to charity, generally to the poor and needy. Zakat is not only the sharing of wealth but also the sharing of happiness, such as saying kind words, smiling at someone, taking care of animals or environments, etc. Zakat or sadqah is worship as means of spiritual purification. It is not a tax burden but rather serves as socio-financial system of Islam by re-distributing the wealth to the poor and needy. Muslim jurists agree that zakat is obligatory on the Muslim who has reached puberty, who is sane, who is free, and who owns the minimum assigned, ‘nisab’.

Sawm: fasting the month of Ramadan. Muslims are prohibited from eating, drinking, smoking, and engaging in sexual intercourse from dawn (fajr) to sunset (maghrib). Fasting is essentially an attempt to increase one’s piety. One of the aims of fasting is to sympathize with those less fortunate ones who do not always have food and drink readily available. Also one must try to avoid cursing and thinking evil thoughts. Fasting is viewed as a means of controlling one’s desires (of hunger, thirst, sexuality, anger). Sawm also carries a significant spiritual meaning. It teaches one the principle of love: because when one observes Fasting, it is done out of deep love for God.

Hajj: pilgrimage to Mecca is currently the largest annual pilgrimage in the world, a religious duty that must be carried out at least once in a lifetime by every able-bodied Muslim who can afford to do so. The ritual of pilgrimage to Mecca stretch back thousands of years to the time of Ibrahim (Abraham). Pilgrims perform a series of rituals: Each person walks counter- clockwise seven times about the Ka’bah, the cube-shaped building which acts as the Muslim direction of prayer and was rebuilt by Ibrahim and his son as a worshiping place. The pilgrim runs as well back and forth between the hills of Al-Safa and Al-Marwah 7 times as Hajar the wife of Ibrahim did while she was looking for water to drink and her baby son Ishmael.

Law and Culture

The Islamic law touches on virtually every aspect of life and society, encompassing everything from dietary laws and banking to welfare. Islam is the predominant religion in the Middle East, North Africa, and large part of Asia. Sizable communities are also found in China and Russia, and parts of the Balkans and the Caribbean.About 13% of Muslims live in Indonesia, the largest Muslim country, 31%in the Indian Subcontinent, and only 20% in Arab countries. Converts and immigrant communities are found in almost every part of the world, with approximately 1.57 billion Muslims. Islam is the second-largest religion in the world and arguably the fastest growing religion in the world.

The Bristol Context

There are around 40,000 Muslims living in Bristol. This number is growing rapidly however. These Muslims worship in one of the nine or ten mosques in the city.Bristol also is home to the Bristol Muslim Cultural Society. Created in 1986, this is a not-for-profit community association dedicated to empowering the Muslim community in Bristol and the surrounding area to further the economic (employment, enterprise, training) educational,recreational, cultural and social needs of the Muslim community, while encouraging their active participation in mainstream society, and provide support to interested stakeholders.

Useful Links

  • Bristol Muslim Cultural Society: www.bmcs.org.uk, 404 StapletonRoad, Easton, Bristol, BS5 6NQ., Tel: 0117 9521802
  • Easton Islamee Darsagah, 2 Roman Road, Easton, Bristol, Avon, BS56DH, Tel: 0117 951 0156
  • Bristol Jamia Mosque, Green Street, Totterdown, Bristol, Avon, BS34UB, Tel: 0117 977 0944
  • Islami Darasagh Bristol, 109 Lower Cheltenham Place, Montpelier, Bristol,Avon, BS6 5LA