– Yann Martel
Islam is an Arabic word which means “surrender” or “submission”. It derives from the word salam, peace, which also has the meaning of “safety”. A Muslim is somebody who practices Islam. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), Islam’s last and final Prophet, characterised “Muslims” as those “from whom (other) Muslims are safe (salima) from his hands and tongue” (Sahih al-Bukhari). The Quran, the final revealed word of God, tells us “And strive in God with the endeavour which is His right. He hath chosen you and hath not laid upon you in religion any hardship; (this is) the faith of your father Abraham. He hath named you Muslims of old time and in this (Scripture), that the messenger may be a witness unto you, and that ye may be witnesses unto mankind.” (Quran 22:78)
For more than a billion people throughout the world, Islam offers a comprehensive moral code, a coherent theology and metaphysics, and a profound spirituality that animates their day-to-day activities. Islam represents simultaneously the primordial religion of man centred on the worship and knowledge of God and the culminating complete message of God as revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), who is told to say “I am no new thing among the messengers (of Allah), nor know I what will be done with me or with you. I do but follow that which is inspired in me, and I am but a plain warner” (Quran 46:9) but also that this continuous revelation of God advanced on to the day on which God perfected your religion for you and completed [His] favour unto you, and ha[s] chosen for you as religion Islam (Quran 5:3). Islam is thus capable of recognising (partial) truth in other world religions, while ultimately believing in the completion and confirmation (and correction of accrued errors) of earlier faiths in God’s final message.
The five daily prayers (salaat) are one of the obligatory pillars of Islam and they are inherently fundamental to leading life as a good Muslim. It is only through worship and good deeds that we may seek to attain forgiveness for our sins. Just like bathing five times a day would leave one spotless, observing the daily prayers purifies and cleanses the depths of our souls.