Islam 101

The Five Pillars of Islam

1. Shahadah: Confession of faith. “There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is His messenger.” 

2. Salat: Prayer. All Muslims are to pray five times every day, facing Mecca. 

3. Zakat: Tithing. Muslims must give at least 2.5 percent of their total wealth to the poor and needy. 

4. Sawm: Fasting. During the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims are to refrain from food, water, and sex from sunrise to sunset. 

5. Hajj: Pilgrimage. If at all possible, at least once in a lifetime Muslims are to travel to Mecca to engage in rituals of prayer and worship at the central shrine in Islam’s holiest city.

The Qur'an

  • The Qur'an, in Arabic, is the perfect Word of Allah. 
  • The Qur'an contains 114 chapters, or suras
  • Muslims believe that the Qur'an was revealed to Muhammad by the archangel Gabriel. 
  • The Qur'anic material was composed from 610 through Muhammad’s death in 632. 
  • The final compilation was completed about 650. 

The Prophet

  • Most Muslims believe that Muhammad was sinless, but not divine. 
  • Most Muslims believe that the prophet was illiterate. 
  • The prophetic status of Muhammad is not to be questioned. 
  • Muhammad provides the greatest example for all aspects of life. 
  • The traditions about the prophet are known as hadith
  • Allah gave the prophet permission to have 12 wives.

Other Major Muslim Beliefs

  • Islam started with Adam, not with Muhammad. 
  • People are saved by the will of God through obedience to God’s law, Shari'ah
  • Though humans are imperfect, they are not fallen through original sin. 
  • Those chosen by God for salvation will enter paradise. Only God knows whom he has chosen. 
  • The damned will burn in eternal torment in Hell. 
  • All countries and peoples should follow Islam and Islamic law.
  • Muslims are to engage in jihad, which usually means private spiritual struggle. 
  • Jihad sometimes demands defense of Muslim territory and military aggression. 
  • God will restore the world at the end of time through a coming human leader known as the Mahdi
  • Muslim males can marry up to four wives. 

Muslim Groups

  • Almost 90 percent of Muslims belong to the Sunni tradition. 
  • Shi'ite Islam is popular in Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and several Persian Gulf states. 
  • Sufi Islam represents the mystical path. 
  • The Islam practiced in most Muslim countries is heavily influenced by local folk customs.

Muslim Views of Jesus

  • Jesus was a prophet of God but not the Son of God. He was a lesser prophet than Muhammad. 
  • He was born of the virgin Mary. 
  • He performed many miracles. 
  • He was protected from a death of crucifixion. 
  • He did not rise from the dead. 
  • He ascended to heaven after his death, and he will return to earth. 
  • He was a faithful Muslim, or follower of Allah. 
By James A. Beverley

[Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue #74 in 2002]

Next articles

Four Jihads

Jihad means more than warfare, but the sword is central to Islam’s texts, its history, and its founder.

Mateen A. Elass

A Deadly Give and Take

Crusaders fought many terrible battles in the Middle East, but Muslims started —and won—the war.

Paul Crawford

The Battle of Tours, 732

Four contemporary accounts paint two radically different pictures.

anonymous Arab chroniclers, Isidore of Beja, and St. Denis

Christians & Muslims: A Gallery of Spiritual Warriors

As their brethren attacked Muslim fortresses, these evangelistic crusaders fought for Muslim souls.

Steven Gertz
Show more

Subscribe to magazine

Subscription to Christian History magazine is on a donation basis


Support us

Christian History Institute (CHI) is a non-profit Pennsylvania corporation founded in 1982. Your donations support the continuation of this ministry


Subscribe to daily emails

Containing today’s events, devotional, quote and stories