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17. Understanding Islam


Islam teaches that there are six fundamental articles of faith that one must believe in to be a Muslim and five pillars which one must practice. These teachings are not actually given in the Qur’an, the Islamic holy book which Muslims believe was dictated to Mohammed by God, but rather from the Hadith, collections of the sayings of Mohammed as handed down and eventually recorded in writing. There are several collections of Hadith, each named after the person who collected and recorded them, with some collections considered more reliable than others. The six axioms and five pillars all come from the same collection of Hadith recorded by a man named Muslim, one of the most respected collators of Hadith whose collection is accepted by all Sunni Muslims. Note though that Shi‘a Muslims do not accept any Sunni collections of Hadith, but have their own. Muslim relates that while Mohammed was sitting one day with a group of his followers, a stranger dressed in white came to Mohammed and asked him to tell him about Islam; Mohammed replied by listing what are now known as the pillars of Islam. The visitor then asked about faith, and Mohammed replied with what are now known as the Islamic axioms of faith. According to Muslim, the visitor affirmed the truth of what Mohammed had said, and departed. At that point, Mohammed revealed to the group that the stranger was in fact the Angel Gabriel.

This chapter looks at the six axioms of faith, and the next chapter outlines the five pillars of Islam.

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