ISLAM AT A GLANCE
By Marklen E.Konurbayev (Ashik Sayyid), Moscow State University
Islam is the world’s third largest religion (along with Christianity and Judaism) that first appeared
in the 7th century in Arabia with the prophetic activity of Muhammad – a shepherd and a merchant.
Archangel Gabriel appeared to Muhammad in a vision with a commandment from God to recite the
words revealed to him, to memorize them and bring them over to people in their original form and
“Islam” means “peace”
“Islam” in Arabic means “peace” and “submission” – that is to say, complete obedience to the Will
of God. A man who peacefully surrenders to this Divine Will is a Muslim. The God of the Muslims is
the same One God of the Jews and of the Christians.
The cornerstone of religion
Islam is strongly opposed to heathenism and polytheism and requires, above everything else, that a
man wishing to embrace Islam should make a public declaration of faith Shahada: there is no other
god but One God and Muhammad is His Prophet. This simple, brief and laconic phrase is the
quintessence of Islam, containing the idea of God’s singularity, indivisibility and transcendence.
Islam has an elaborate Law (Sharia), which relies entirely on the Qur’an (the Sacred Book of the
Muslims, which is said to be the fragment of the Heavenly Testimony placed at the throne of the
Almighty God which was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad), and the Sunna (the Prophet’s own
sayings concerning various aspects of the Muslims’ daily life and activity).
The edifice of Islam rests on five pillars – the indispensable foundation of faith and the cornerstone
of the Law:
1. The profession of faith (Shahada).
2. The Prayer (Salaat) – five obligatory daily prayers.
3. Almsgiving (Zakat) – the tax paid by every Muslim for the benefit of the poor members of
the religious community (umma).
4. Fasting (Saum) – abstaining from eating, drinking, smoking and sexual relations from dawn
till sunset in the lunar month of Ramadhan.
5. Pilgrimage (Hajj) – visiting the Kaaba at Mecca – the central shrine of Islam – and
fulfilling the religious rituals in the appointed lunar month of the year.
Islamic calendar and the festivals
At sunset on July 15, 622 AD, the Prophet Muhammad was forced to flee from his native town –
Mecca (where he was subjected to humiliations and contempt). Muhammad and his followers settled
down in Yathrib – a town which was subsequently renamed into Medinat-en-Nabi – the city of the
prophet (or simply Medina) where he continued his teaching and the formation of the first Muslim
state. This flight (Hijra) marked the beginning of the Islamic lunar calendar that consists of twelve
months with each month alternatively having either 29 or 30 days:
1. Muharram 7. Rajab
2. Safar 8. Sha'ban
3. Rabi' avval 9. Ramadan
4. Rabi' sani 10. Shawwal
5. Jumada avval 11. Thu al Qa'da
6. Jumada sani 12. Thu al Hijja
In keeping with this calendar, the Muslims celebrate some of the most notable events
in their religious tradition – Islamic festivals.
A weekly festive event for the Muslims is the Friday congregational prayer (Juma-
namaz), which is obligatory for all men and optional for women. All Muslims of the
neighbourhood gather at the local mosque shortly after noon to attend to the sermon and
to say a short congregational prayer. In the majority of Islamic countries Friday is a day-
The greatest annual festival of the Muslims – Id al Adha (or Kurban bairam) – is
celebrated in memory of patriarch Ibrahim’s (Abraham) attempted sacrifice of his son at
the commandment of God. The Muslims celebrate this exceptional manifestation of faith
by offering a sacrifice to God (usually a sheep or a cow). A part of the sacrificial meat is
given to the poor and the needy. The Festival of Sacrifice (Id al Adha) marks the end of
the pilgrimage (Hajj) to Kaaba.
The second in importance is the festival AT the end of the fast that is held during
about 30 days OF the month of Ramadhan (Id al Fitr) (or Uraza bairam). On this day –
before the beginning of the festive sermon and the congregational prayer in the mosque
early in the morning, the Muslims must pay the obligatory annual tax (zakat), and then,
after the festive prayer in the mosque, visit their friends and relatives.
In the month of Ramadhan there is a special night which the Qur’an describes as
better than a thousand nights: the night of decree and power – Lailat al Qadr – when the
Qur’an began to be revealed to Prophet Muhammad. This event is marked by additional
prayers, oral recitations of the Qur’an and sleepless nights spent in the mosque.
The Muslims also observe the Prophet’s birthday – Mawlid an Nabi.
Another notable festive event in Islam is celebrating Muhammad’s reported
miraculous journey from Mecca to Jerusalem and his ascension to the throne of God
(Lailat al Miraj). Fasting on this day is considered to be a particularly virtuous deed.
There are other festive events – like the beginning of the Hijra New Year, and a
special day of fasting – Ashura on the 10th day of Muharram.
The calendar of Muslim festivals for 2002-2003:
Hijra, New Year 15 Mar 2002 Beginning of Ramadhan 06 Nov 2002
Ashura 24 Mar 2002 Lailat al Qadr 01 Dec 2003
Mawlid an Nabi 25 May 2002 Id al Fitr (Uraza bairam) 05 Dec 2002
Lailat al Miraj 04 Oct 2002 Id al Adha (Kurban bairam) 23 Feb 2003