Muslims believe in the same God as the Jews and Christians, but where the Jews follow Moses and the Christians follow Jesus Christ, Muslims follow Muhammad, an Arab prophet from Mecca who lived in the 600s. Their holy book is the Koran.
The two main branches of Islam are Sunni and Shia. Nine Muslims in ten are Sunnis. Shia Islam is common in Iran and nearby countries.
Muslims do not believe that Muhammad was divine, but simply the last prophet of God before Judgement Day.
Moses and Jesus were holy prophets too, but their message, as it appears in Jewish and Christian scripture, was not faithfully recorded. Jesus, for example, was made into the Son of God by his followers when he was merely a prophet, a man.
Muslims have the same general view of the world as Christians and Jews: God created the word, Adam was the a first man, God warns us to change our ways by sending prophets, he lays down what we must do in his Holy Book and, on the last day, Judgement Day, he will judge us all: the good will go to heaven to be with God, the evil will go to hell to be with Satan. They believe in angels and honour Mary.
Where Christians put great stock in right belief, believing the right thing, and so have a history torn apart by heresies, Muslims, like Jews, put more stock in right practice, doing the right thing.
To be a good Muslim you must do five things:
- Believe that “There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is the Prophet of God.” Allah is Arabic for “the God” (al-Lah).
- Give one part in 40 of your income and wealth to the poor and to teach Islam.
- Pray five times a day. The prayer is in Arabic, but you can add your own personal prayers in your own language. You pray facing Mecca, the holy city, at sunrise, noon, the middle of the afternoon, sunset and nightfall.
- Fast during the ninth month, Ramadan. This means no food, no drink and no sex when the sun is up. If you are sick, travelling or will soon give birth, you can put it off to another month when you are able.
- Make a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in your life if you can. Go in the twelfth month. There are certain events to take part in when you get there. Everyone wears simple, white clothes. Two million do it every year.
If you do these five things then you can, for example, believe that Muhammad is Plato for the masses and still be a Muslim in good standing. That is how important these five things are.