(by Okasha El Daly)
Islam is seen by its followers, Moslems, as the religion of Fitrah, the natural and primordial religion which was there at the beginning of humanity. Moslems believe in the unity of the origin of humanity and that all religions have the same origin; they vary only in their outward appearance and their rituals. Quran is the Holy Book of Islam, and is believed by Moslems to be the divine word of God (Allah) as revealed to the Prophet Mohammed over a period of two decades (610-632 CE). Mohammed was born in Mecca, in Arabia, in 570 CE and as a young man worked as a trader for a businesswoman called Khadijah, 15 years his senior, whom he later married. She remained his only wife until she died when he was fifty. At the age of forty the Prophet received his first divine revelation which commanded him to Read, and as this is the first word of Quran, it defines Islam as a book and knowledge based religion. Moslems perceive Quran as the only Holy Scripture to include a clear recognition of other religions with Divine Scriptures, such as those of Zoroastrians, Sabaeans/Mandaeans, Jews and Christians. These are treated as equal to Moslems since all belong to the same origin, hence they are called in Islam "Ahl Al-Kitab" which means "People of the Scripture". The Tradition of the life, manners and guidance of the Prophet make up the second most important source of Islamic teachings, called Sunnah. Because Islam regulates the way of life of its followers, it sets out clearly the main guiding principles and leaves its followers free to decide for themselves the details of how to lead their lives within these general guide lines. Since Quran is considered valid for all times and all humanity, it is only logical that each generation will have its own understanding and interpretation of it. Islam therefore recognises differences not only as natural and acceptable, but regards them as Blessing. This includes differences in colour, ethnicity, language and location. It encourages its followers to seek wisdom and knowledge wherever they are and to think of the wonders of the world around them and marvel at how this world came about. Moreover, it asks its followers to travel the earth to explore its past cultures, and to meet and understand other individuals and groups. The word Islam is derived from the Semitic Arabic root slm which has a wide range of meanings, in particular peace and reconciliation among humanity, and submission to the one God. All rights and obligations in Islam are for men and women alike. Since Islam has no religious hierarchy each Moslem has a personal duty to learn the Islamic teachings and take full responsibility for their own actions. The Five Pillars of Islam are:
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