Chad Table of Contents
Muslim children at a Quranic school
Courtesy United Nations
"Islam" means submission to the will of God, and a Muslim is one who submits. In A.D. 610, Muhammad, an Arabian merchant of Mecca, revealed the first in a series of revelations granted him by God (Allah, in Arabic) through the archangel Gabriel. Later known simply as the Prophet, Muhammad denounced the polytheism of his fellow Meccans and preached a new order that would reinforce community solidarity. His censure of the emerging individualistic, mercantile society in Mecca eventually provoked a split in the community. In A.D. 622, Muhammad and his followers fled northwest to Yathrib, a settlement that has since come to be known simply as Medina, or "the city." This journey (called the hijra, or the flight) marks the beginning of the Islamic Era. The Muslim lunar calendar begins with this event, so that its year 1 corresponds to A.D. 622. (However, the solar and Muslim calendars are separated by more than 622 years; a lunar year has an average of 354 days and thus is considerably shorter than the 365-day solar year.) In Medina, the Prophet continued his preaching. Eventually defeating his detractors in battle, Muhammad became the temporal and spiritual leader of most of Arabia by the time of his death in A.D. 632.
In the decades after his death, Muhammad's followers collected his revelations into a single book of recitations called the Quran. During the same period, some of his close associates collected and codified the Prophet's sayings, as well as accounts of his behavior, to serve as guides for future generations. These compilations are called the hadith, or "sayings," which, along with the Quran, are central to Islamic jurisprudence.
The shahada (or profession of faith) states the central belief of Islam: "There is no god but God (Allah), and Muhammad is his Prophet." This simple testimony is repeated on many ritual occasions. When recited with conviction, it signals conversion.
The duties of a Muslim form the five pillars of the faith. These are recitation of the shahada, daily prayer (salat), almsgiving (zakat), fasting (sawm), and, if possible, making the pilgrimage to Mecca (hajj).
Data as of December 1988