10 Things you never knew about Islam

With all the religious hatred that there is in the world at the moment, It occurs to me that if we all took the time to learn more about each other then, perhaps, we wouldn’t hate each other so much. I think of myself as an open minded and fair person, but then, I find myself too, tarring people of a particular religion, all with the same brush sometimes. So, I’ve decided to take a look at some of the various religions from around the world, and learn more about them.

Whatever faith you do, or do not follow, that is your choice and I do not believe that you should condemn another person for believing something different. It is not the religion or the lack of it that causes violence in the world, it is people who commit the violence and then they use a religion as the excuse.

There is no way that I can describe a religion in depth in short posts like these, but here are ten things that may not have known about Islam.

1. What is the difference between Muslim and Islam?
The two words are not interchangeable and, in case you didn't know, Islam is the name of the religion and a Muslim is a person who follows that religion.

2. Muslims, Christians and Jews, all worship the same God
Given all the bloodshed between these three faiths over the millennia, you might be surprised to learn that the God of Muslims, Christians and Jews is one and the same. Allah is the Arabic word for God and, in fact, Arab Christians refer to God as Allah.

3. Muslims do not worship Mohammed
Mohammed was a prophet and is revered by Muslims, not worshipped by them. This is one area where Christians and Muslims differ. Christians believe that Jesus was the son of the God and they worship him, whereas Mohammed is believed by Muslims to have been a man who delivered the word of God.

4. Muslims revere Jesus
Jesus is mentioned many times in the Quran. Jesus is seen as an important prophet to Muslims, but not the son of God. The mother of Jesus, Mary, is also the only woman mentioned by name in the Quran.

5. What is Ramadan?
Ramadan is the 9th month in the Muslim calendar, the dates change, depending on the sightings of the moon. Muslims believe that the 9th month is the month that the Quran was revealed by God to the profit Mohamed and during this month, Muslims refrain from drinking, eating, smoking and sex, from sunrise to sunset. It is a month for Muslims to focus on God and they are encouraged to read the whole of the Quran during this period.

6. What is Sharia Law?
Sharia actually means ‘legal reasoning, and is the law, based upon the teachings of the Quran. Like all structures for law, it can be interpreted differently by different people and there are at least five schools of Sharia. Most Muslims use Sharia as a set of guidelines and are encouraged to apply it with consideration being given to the context and background of a situation.

 7. The majority of Muslims aren't Arab
Islam is often perceived as an Arab religion, but this is wrong. The largest Muslim nation, by population, is Indonesia, followed by Pakistan, India and Bangladesh.  

8. What is Mecca?
Mecca, in Saudi Arabia, is the most sacred place in Islam and the direction in which Muslims face when they pray. The Ka'ba in Mecca is a mosque that, according to Muslim tradition, is the first place that was created on Earth and Mecca was designated by the prophet Mohammed as the holy city of Islam. Every Muslim is encouraged to visit Mecca at least once if their lifetime, if they can afford to make the journey.

9. Jihad does not mean Holy War
Newscasters tend to use the word Jihad, as though it means Holy War, but this is not the case. Jihad actually means struggle and the Prophet Mohammed said that “The greatest Jihad is the Jihad against yourself.” The personal jihad is the struggle against things such as lying, arrogance and selfishness.

10. There are many different types of Muslim
Just as there are Catholics, Protestants and Orthodox Christians, there are many different traditions within the Islamic faith, each with their own interpretations and beliefs. The most famous of these are the Shia and Sunni, who disagree on whether or not the authority of Mohammed is transferable by blood. If fact, there are over 290,000 different sects.

These are just ten facts about Islam and Muslims that you may not have known and there are, of course, many more, but I hope that even these few were enlightening. I am not a Muslim myself, so if I have made any errors, please do let me know in the comments below. It would be nice to think that by spreading knowledge about the various religions around the world, we can all become a little more tolerant and understanding of one another. But then, I am the eternal optimist.