Accepted by the Islamic world as the last of God’s prophets, and revered as a messenger of God by devout Muslims, Muhammad is believed to have been charged by God to spread the Islamic faith. The meaning of the word Islam is submission: the bowing toward and surrendering to God.
Muhammad is said to have come into the world to teach the word of God as revealed through him. This revelation, which came to him in a vision through the angel Gabriel over a period of 23 years, was recorded and became the foundational text of Islam: the Quran. The Quran teaches five basic acts that are required for the devout, otherwise known as the Five Pillars of Islam.
God Is One
The first pillar and teaching of the prophet is known as the shahada: the declaration that there is only one God and that Muhammad is his prophet. It is the most fundamental and foundational teaching of Islam, because it affirms God’s oneness and Prophet Muhammad’s relationship to God. The shahada is inscribed on the coins of Islamic states, recited during prayers, festivals and ceremonies as well as invoked in the call to prayer, which emanates from mosques five times per day. In order to convert to Islam, a person is required to recite it three times in front of witnesses.
The shahada is expressed and affirmed through the adherence of the other four pillars. The second of the pillars is to pray five times per day. Practicing Muslims are summoned to face Mecca and remember God during these five invocations. Prayers are usually done on a prayer mat on the ground. The third pillar is the charitable giving of a percentage of one's earnings to the needy and the poor. The fourth pillar calls for fasting during the month of Ramadan, and the fifth pillar instructs the devout to go on pilgrimage to Mecca, the birthplace of Islam, at least once in a lifetime.
Outside of being a messenger of God, Muhammad was revered for his personal qualities as well. He was particularly acknowledged for his aspirations to teach and spread peace. Examples of his kindness, benevolent leadership and generosity have been recorded in the Hadith: a compilation of sayings and deeds of the prophet. In "The Prophet of Peace: Teachings of the Prophet Muhammad," Maulana Wahiduddin Khan states: “The Prophet Muhammad’s mission was spiritual purification of man. The Quran calls it the purification of the soul, that is, making man a better human being.”
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