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What is Islam?



What is Islam?
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 6 to 8
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   5.93

Vocabulary
     challenging words:    adultery, al-Fitr, burag, hama, kebobs, kuch, unkindly, Zakaat, monotheism, pilgrimage, hasten, declaration, truthful, commit, widow, billion
     content words:    Saudi Arabia, Mount Hira, Archangel Gabriel, Arabian Peninsula, Night Journey, Five Pillars, During Ramadan, Their Call


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What is Islam?
By Colleen Messina
  

1     Muhammad never expected to change the world. He was born in 570 A.D. in Saudi Arabia. He was kind, and his nickname was "the truthful one." The boy was orphaned, and his uncle raised him. Muhammad tended sheep on the dry hills like many young Arabians. Later, he became a successful merchant and married a wealthy widow. However, he felt as though something was missing in his life, so he went on a retreat.
 
2     Muhammad went up to Mount Hira to pray in a small cave. He knew about Judaism and Christianity, and he wanted to find a deeper meaning for his life. He was also upset about the cruelty of his people. They killed baby girls to control the number of women, and they treated their slaves unkindly. Muhammad had a strong sense of right and wrong. He wanted change, but he had no idea that his prayers would lead to a new religion.
 
3     Islam began in 610 A.D. when Muhammad claimed that the Archangel Gabriel appeared in the cave. Muhammad was amazed at the angel's first command: ‘Read, in the name of Allah!' He wanted to obey, but he tried to explain that he didn't know how to read. Muhammad suddenly could read! The messages from the archangel over the next twenty-two years became the Koran. The Koran is the holy book of Islam.
 
4     Archangel Gabriel told Muhammad to preach about Allah. Muhammad began to preach three years after his vision. Mecca had 360 shrines to different gods, and the people didn't like the idea of just one god. They may have thought that more gods gave them a better chance of getting answers to their prayers. So the first Muslims became outcasts, and they moved to the city of Medina in 622 A.D. The Islamic calendar begins at this date instead of from the birth of Christ. Medina later became the center of Islamic civilization.
 
5     By the time Muhammad died, he had united many people in the Arabian Peninsula. It is said that Muhammad met Archangel Gabriel again at the end of his life. The angel led the Prophet to a mysterious animal called the burag. This animal had a human face, angel wings, and a horse's body. Muhammad ascended to heaven on its back. Muslims call this event the Night Journey. Muslims all over the world celebrate this event.
 
6     A Muslim is a person who follows the religion of Islam. A Muslim believes in Allah as the one god. The word "Muslim" means "someone who surrenders to God." Muslims believe in the Arkan-ul-Islam, the Five Pillars of Islam. Muslims must do these five things. The first is Shahadah, or a declaration of faith. A Muslim says, "There is no god except Allah, and I declare that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah." The second pillar, Salaat, means that Muslims must pray five times a day. Zakaat is the third pillar, and it means to give to the poor. Muslims fast during the month of Ramadan, which is the fourth pillar. The last pillar is Haj, a pilgrimage to Mecca.
 
7     All Muslims want to go to Mecca. It was Muhammad's birthplace. Pilgrims wear white robes in Mecca to show equality in Allah's eyes. They circle the Ka'bah, a small building made from bricks covered with a black cloth. The Ka'bah represents monotheism. Millions of pilgrims visit many holy sites each year. Many shops close during prayer time. Meetings are arranged around prayers. Businessmen may say to each other, "Let's meet after evening prayers!"
 
8     Muslims say their prayers in mosques, but some carry a prayer rug with them so they can pray anywhere. Mosques are beautiful buildings that serve as the spiritual centers of their communities. They can be simple or elaborate. Muslims follow certain rules when they are inside their mosques. Everyone takes off their shoes and covers their heads. Often a special area in the mosque is reserved for women. Everyone also washes before praying. Muslims face Mecca when they pray. A niche in the wall shows the direction of Mecca.

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