Primer 

Please use this as a simple, introductory guide to understanding Islam, Muslims and the Qur'an:

Who is Allah?

First thing's first, Allah is just the Arabic word for God. Arabic-speaking Christians and Jews also refer to God as Allah. Muslims believe in the same God as Christians and Jews. 

What is the Qur'an?

Muslims believe the Holy Qur'an is the divine word of God and many use it as a comprehensive guide for everyday life. 

What Does Allahu Akbar Mean?

The controversial word, Allahu Akbar, just means God is Great. It is one of the most common words Muslims recite daily and is repeated throughout all five prayers. It’s on our jewelry, adorns our walls in beautiful golden calligraphy and elegantly graces our mosques. The word is among one of many words, actions and appearances that extremists have weaponized.

What does Islam and Muslim Mean?

Islam means to submit or surrender and Muslim means one who submits or surrenders to God. 

What are the Five Pillars of Islam?

The five pillars form the foundation of Islam and are what all practicing Muslims strive to fulfill: 

  1. Testament of faith - believing and professing that there is no God but God and that Muhammad is his messenger

  2. Praying five times a day

  3. Paying Alms - providing a percentage of your wealth annually to the poor

  4. Fasting the holy month of Ramadan

  5. Pilgrimage to Mecca - required once and only if one is financially able and of sound health

Are There Different Sects in Islam?

Yes, there are many sects within Islam. The two main denominations are Sunni and Shia. Sunnis make up around 85 to 90 percent of Muslims and Shias constitute an estimated 10 to 15 percent of the roughly 1.8 billion Muslims worldwide. 

Jesus in Islam

Muslims believe in, and respect, all prophets, including Jesus. In fact, Jesus is mentioned in the Qur'an more times than the Prophet Muhammed. 

What are Islam's Moral Values?

Mercy, compassion and peace. 

What is Jihad?

Jihad is among the most misunderstood, yet widely referenced, Islamic concept in contemporary discourse, and has become synonymous with holy war. Here’s the twist, holy war is not only a term that never once appears in the Qur’an (war is not holy in Islam, it is either justified or not) it does not exist in classical Arabic. Jihad is the individual’s internal, spiritual struggle to persevere and obey God’s will on earth. Jihad also encompasses, but is not exclusive to, a material component—the just use of force. Read more here about how extremists have misused and misinterpreted jihad for their purposes. 

How is the Qur'an Structured?

Unlike most other books, the Qur'an does not have a strict chronological structure or linear narrative tying all the chapters together. The Qur'an is organized according to the length of the chapters, ordered from longest to shortest. 

There are essentially two types of Qur'anic verses:

  • General verses that discuss belief in God, good manners and worship

  • Specific verses which were revealed to address particular situations