Identify and describe the basic tenets of Islam. How did these beliefs and daily practices affect the relationship between Muslims? What bout between Muslims and non-Muslims?

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The basic tenets of Islam include what are called the five pillars of Islam: (1) the shahada or profession of faith, (2) salat or prayer, (3) zakat or almsgiving, (4) sawm or fasting, and (5) hajj or pilgrimage to Mecca. The Qur’an is the central text of the religion. These beliefs and daily practices affect relationships among Muslims by creating a tight sense of community. Citing the Qur’an, most Muslims seek merciful and just relationships with non-Muslims.

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The first pillar of Islam is the shahada. In this profession of faith, the Muslim declares that "There is no god but God (and) Muhammad is the messenger of God." As such, Islam is a monotheistic faith with a central prophet, Muhammad. The second pillar is salat, or prayer five times per day while facing the city of Mecca. The third pillar is zakat or charity, which is often collected as a percentage of one’s income. The fourth pillar is sawm or fasting during the month-long holiday of Ramadan. The fifth pillar, hajj, asks Muslims to travel to Mecca at least once in their lives during the twelfth lunar month. In addition, Muslims believe that the Qur’an contains the word of God.

The tenets of Islam have a great impact on the relationship between Muslims because it creates a very strong sense of community. Prayer is often a communal act. Charity helps to support the community. Ramadan also creates a sense of community togetherness for Muslims who fast together during the day and join one another for a great meal after sundown. Finally, the pilgrimage brings together Muslims from all over the world, providing a sense of universal connection with one another. While these characteristics have led some Muslims to focus solely on their own community at the expense of non-Muslims, many others maintain healthy relationships with non-Muslims. The Qur’an provides many passages about mercy, justice, and kindness.

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Identify and describe the basic tenets of Islam. How did these beliefs and daily practices affect the relationship between Muslims? Between Muslims and non-Muslims? Please focus on what set Muslims apart from the Arab tribes of the time, and from the Christians and Jews that came before them.

In Islam, there are five basic practices that all believers must abide by, called the “Five Pillars of Islam.” These are:

  • acknowledging that there is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his only messenger;
  • the requirement of daily prayer, five times per day, with the supplicant facing the direction of the Ka’ab in Mecca;
  • the requirement of giving to charity;
  • fasting on the sacred day of Ramadan;
  • and the requirement all Muslims have to take a pilgrimage one time in their life to Mecca, the holiest site of Islam.

These are the most basic acts of Islamic practice that all Muslims are required to observe in order to accurately practice the faith. However, they are supplemented by a large number of injunctions against certain kinds of immoral behaviors (such as the drinking of alcohol), which are explicitly set out in the Quran.

In response to the second part of your question, what primarily set the Muslims apart from other Arabic and Bedouin tribes during the period of the birth and expansion of Islam (610-750 C.E.) was their internal recognition of the cohesiveness of the Islamic community, the ummah. There is a very good book about the strength of the early Islamic ummah by Fred Donner called Muhammad and the Believers Movement. Donner’s central argument is that what gave the early Islamic community such strength, and what made it appear so attractive to outsiders, was the genuine conviction that Muslims portrayed in their beliefs.

While various other Arabic tribes of the Arabian Peninsula were engaged in petty handicrafts or were overly concerned with getting rich through trade and commerce, the early Islamic community conducted themselves first and foremost according to their strict adherence to the word of Muhammad and the physical and spiritual sacrifices they were willing to make in the name of their religious beliefs. This kind of rigorous commitment was unusual for a period in which most Arab traders were concerned primarily with acquiring wealth.

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