An Introduction to Islam

State Library of Victoria
Publication Type:
Journal Article
The La Trobe Journal, 2012, 89 pp. 9 - 19
Issue Date:
Full metadata record
ISLAM IS A WORLD RELIGION followed by around one-fifth of the world’s population. At one stage it was the dominant religion everywhere between what is now Western China in the ‘Far East’, and Spain/Morocco in the West. Although Islam is most often portrayed as a Middle Eastern – specifically Arab – religion, the countries with the largest numbers of Muslims are, respectively, Indonesia, Pakistan and India.1 The two main rites of Islam are Sunni (about 85%) and the Shi‘a (about 10-15%), the latter being most closely associated with Iran.2 This article will give an overview of key Islamic beliefs and practices, as well as a brief account of the life of Islam’s most important person: the Prophet Muhammad. Tracing it back to its Arabic root, the word ‘islam’ comes from salima, which means ‘to be safe and secure’ with the connotation of being complete or whole.3 From a religious perspective, Islam describes the believer’s spiritual state in ‘surrendering’ or ‘submitting’ (aslama in Arabic) throughout life in a state of deference and service to God in the hope of attaining spiritual peace and wholeness (salam in Arabic) both in this life and the next. This is achieved by believing in the oneness of God, the messengership of Muhammad, and acting according to Islam’s teachings. Adherents believe that in being obedient to God and living a pious life, they will attain nearness to the divine and be granted paradise in the afterlife, as opposed to being punished in the hellfire for disbelief and disobedience. A believer in Islam is called a Muslim: the one who surrenders himself or herself into peace and spiritual wholeness
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