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Question: I am a 16 year old Christian from Texas us and I was wondering if you could explain what Islam actually is; it is confusing when people here tell me about it.
Answer:

I commend you for your desire to know about Islam. In this time of ours, when the entire world is shrinking into a global village, perhaps there is nothing nobler for us, people of various religions, to do than our genuine efforts to get to know one another and thus create better understanding among all people. This alone would enable us to make this world a better place for all. God tell us in the Qur’an: “O mankind, We have created you all from a single (pair of a) male and female and made you nations and tribes so that you get to know one another; verily, the noblest of you in the sight of God is the one who is most mindful of Him. God is All-Knowing, All-Aware.” (Qur’an: 49: 13).

Let me, therefore, in a true spirit of sharing, explain what Islam means, as can be explained through its own authentic sources:

Islam is an Arabic word which is linguistically derived from silm or salamah; it denotes peace, wholeness, and submission. As a religion, Islam teaches us that it is only through submission to God’s will that we can find true peace—peace within ourselves, peace with fellow humankind as well as God’s creation.

Islam does not claim to be a new religion revealed to Muhammad, upon whom be peace; rather it is essentially the same message revealed to all of God’s prophets and messengers from beginning of time: Among these messengers were Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad, may God bless them all and grant them peace. A Muslim must believe in all of them as true Messengers of God, and must never discriminate between anyone of them:
As the Qur’an states, “We believe in God and in what was sent down to us and what was sent down to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and what was given to Moses, Jesus, and all the prophets by their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and we devote ourselves to Him.” (Qur’an: 2: 136).

The fundamental beliefs of Islam can be summed up as follows:
Beliefs in the Oneness/Unity of God; this entails belief in God as the one and only Creator, Cherisher, and Sovereign Lord of the entire Universe.

Belief in God’s angels; angels are spiritual beings who are engaged in glorifying God and doing His bidding;

Belief in Scriptures/Revelations; which contain God’s communications to His prophets/messengers: Among the scriptures are Torah, Gospel, and finally the Qur’an, which confirms and preserves intact the pristine, perennial religion revealed to all of God’s prophets/messengers.

Belief in prophets/messengers; these were message bearers from God, who called mankind unto God; they were ideal muslims (i.e. submitting themselves wholly and totally to the will of their Lord). In this sense, the prophets are our true role models as they represent the best of what humanity can aspire and become;

Belief in the fact that both good and bad are decreed by God as He alone is in charge of the entire universe;

Belief in he Last Day; when all of humanity will stand before their Lord for final reckoning; where one’s good as well bad deeds will be scrutinized by the One who knows it all;

Besides the above fundamental beliefs, a Muslim observes the five pillars, and lives a morally and ethically exemplary life, according to the best of his/her ability:

The first and foremost of these pillars is testifying the Oneness of God; by testifying to the Divine Oneness, one is recognizing God as the sole entity to be worshipped, to attach one’s ultimate loyalty; it frees him/her from bondage of matter and values that enslave, cripple, and dehumanize him/her;

Offering five daily prayers at the appointed times: At dawn, noon; mid-afternoon, dusk and before retiring to bed; prayer in Islam is a direct communion with God, without any intermediary; it bestows on us grace, serenity, tranquility and peace;

The next foremost pillar of Islam is charity; a believer parts with at least a minimum of two and half percent of his wealth for the poor and needy, although he is encouraged to give more;

Fasting in the month of Ramadhan, closely follows charity as the forth pillar; it is an institution intended to teach empathy with the poor, besides inculcating in us the need to overcome and transcend our physical desires in order to deepen our spiritual awareness;

Finally, pilgrimage to the house of God in Mecca, the house built by God’s Prophets, Ibrahim and his son Ishmael; pilgrimage brings us face to face with people of all races and colors, and challenges us to break the walls that separate us from one another and embrace the true brotherhood of humanity as the sacred bond that unites all of us under the Lordship of One and only God.

The above cardinal tenets and practices of Islam are intended to instill, nurture and deepen the basic attitudes and values of submission to the will of God. Islam essentially means to lead a life of mindfulness of God, while being compassionate to all of God’s creation. The Prophet, upon whom be peace, was asked what was the best teaching of Islam, he said, “To feed the hungry and to spread greeting of peace to everyone, regardless of whether you know the person or not.”

At the moral level, Islam teaches us to be truthful, honest, just, compassionate, virtuous, shunning all evils, ever bent on doing good deeds, while sparing others of any harm/injury. Stated differently, it teaches us to think right, speak right, and act righteously;

At the spiritual level, Islam teaches cultivation of mindfulness of God; being grateful to Him, patient in adversity, and content with His decree and ever willing to make our will conform to His will.

For further information, I suggest you refer to the following work:
Yahiya Emerick’s the Complete Idiot's Guide to Understanding Islam 2nd edition; It should be available through your local library system or book stores; should you wish to order it online, it is available from Amazon.com.

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