Teachings of Islam

Like Judaism and Christianity, Islam is monotheistic, based on belief in one God. The Quran (koo RAHN), the sacred text of Islam, teaches that God is all-powerful and compassionate. It also states that people are responsible for their own actions. Islam does not require priests to mediate between the people and God. Muslims believe that God had sent other prophets, including Abraham, Moses, and Jesus, but that Muhammad was the last and greatest prophet.

The Quran

To Muslims, the Quran contains the sacred word of God as revealed to Muhammad. It is the final authority on all matters discussed in the text. The Quran teaches about what Muslims believe to be God's will and provides a guide to life. Its ethical standards emphasize honesty, generosity, and social justice.

It sets penalties for crimes such as stealing or murder. According to the Quran, each individual will stand before God on the final judgment day to face either eternal punishment in hell or eternal bliss in paradise.

Photo of a decorative Arabic manuscript, with embellishments around the script and a decorative border.

The Quran contains 114 suras, or chapters. This page shows a portion of the Cave Sura, named after its story about God protecting persecuted people by causing them to sleep safely in a cave.

Muslims believe that the Quran is the direct, unchangeable word of God and that its meaning and poetic beauty reside in its original language of Arabic. For that reason, all Muslims, including converts to Islam, are expected to learn the Quran and required prayers in Arabic. This shared language has helped unite Muslims from many regions throughout the world.

The Five Pillars of Islam

All observant Muslims perform five basic duties, known as the Five Pillars of Islam. The first is to make a declaration of faith. The Muslim profession of faith states, “There is no god but God; Muhammad is the messenger of God.” The second is to pray five times daily. After a ritual washing, Muslims face the holy city of Mecca to pray.

Although Muslims may pray anywhere, they often gather in houses of worship called masjids or mosques. A mosque official called a muezzin (moo EZ in) calls the faithful to prayer.

The third pillar is to give charity to the poor. The fourth is to fast from sunrise to sunset during the holy month of Ramadan—the month in which Muslims believe Muhammad received his first revelations from God. The fifth pillar is to make the hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca, if a person is able. Pilgrims participate in ceremonies commemorating the actions of Muhammad, Abraham, and Abraham's family. Their simple attire symbolizes the abandonment of the material world for the sake of God.

Facade of a building wall surrounding a tower, with Arabic script painted near the top.

The Muslim declaration of faith—written here—expresses the importance of monotheism in the religion.


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Table of Contents

World History Topic 1 Origins of Civilization (Prehistory–300 B.C.) Topic 2 The Ancient Middle East and Egypt (3200 B.C.–500 B.C.) Topic 3 Ancient India and China (2600 B.C.–A.D. 550) Topic 4 The Americas (Prehistory–A.D. 1570) Topic 5 Ancient Greece (1750 B.C.–133 B.C.) Topic 6 Ancient Rome and the Origins of Christianity (509 B.C.-A.D. 476) Topic 7 Medieval Christian Europe (330–1450) Topic 8 The Muslim World and Africa (730 B.C.-A.D. 1500) Topic 9 Civilizations of Asia (500–1650) Topic 10 The Renaissance and Reformation (1300–1650) Topic 11 New Global Connections (1415–1796) Topic 12 Absolutism and Revolution Topic 13 The Industrial Revolution Topic 14 Nationalism and the Spread of Democracy (1790–1914) Topic 15 The Age of Imperialism (1800–1914) Topic 16 World War I and the Russian Revolution (1914–1924) Topic 17 The World Between the Wars (1910–1939) Topic 18 World War II (1930–1945) Topic 19 The Cold War Era (1945–1991) Topic 20 New Nations Emerge (1945–Present) Topic 21 The World Today (1980-Present) United States Constitution Primary Sources 21st Century Skills Atlas Glossary Index Acknowledgments