And you’ll never pray alone…
The key thing is that the entire religion of Islam is based upon the revelations given to Muhammad (the Koran) and all of the actions and words of Muhammad (the Hadith).
Now the idea is that God was trying to give his message to the humans since the beginning of time. He sent Moses to give the Jews the Old Testament but the later changed it to suit themselves. He also sent Jesus down to give the Gospel to the people but again they couldn’t help ad-libbing and the Message was corrupted. Finally he gave the Koran to Muhammad and this time already it was written down word for word.
Muhammad is supposed to be the last of the prophets and in theory is of equal status to Moses or Jesus. For this reason Muslims actually have no gripe with Jews or Christians as they are People of the Book. If a little confused.
In practice Muhammad is idolized and the example of the Prophet is to be followed in all matters.
The basis for believing in the Koran is that there is nothing so beautiful on earth. When the Koran is sung in Arabic it should become immediately clear that it’s of divine origin. Shakespeare, opera and the Beatles just aren’t contenders, apparently.
The other holy reference book for Muslims is the Hadith. This is a collection of various accounts of the doings and sayings of Mohammed. It’s like a big game of Mohammed says.
Mohammed says don’t eat with your left hand. Good.
Mohammed says be kind to the sick and poor. Okay.
Write a book suggesting that Mohammed made up bits of the Koran by himself – Wrong, Salman Rushdie! You’re out!
There is no central church in Islam. You find respected teachers and leaders among the locals but essentially the religion is something between the believer and Allah. However, a Muslim is supposed to follow five basic pillars of the faith:
1) Accept that there’s only one god and that Muhammad is his messenger. (that’s what they sing when they give the call to prayer)
2) Muslim men are supposed to pray five times a day; once before dawn, at mid-day, before sunset, after sunset and then in the evening. They can pray anywhere at all but on Friday they should head to the mosque and join their brothers.
3) Muslims should all fast between daybreak and dusk during the month of Ramadan. This means no food or drink all day long though they can gorge themselves once it’s dark. Perhaps for these reasons Islam never really caught on in places like Norway where the un only goes down for half an hour in summertime.
4) Muslims should all try go on the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia. It’s little more than a dream for most as the cost and practicalities don’t bear thinking about. Once a man comes back from Mecca he is henceforth known as a hajji and everyone has to listen to his stories from now until Judgment Day.
5) Muslims should give 2.5% of their profits to charity each year.