Cultural Intelligence:

World Cultures


Key Beliefs, the Five Pillars, and Key Concepts

By Vadim Kotelnikov, Inventor, Author & Founder, Ten3 BUSINESS e-COACH – Innovation Unlimited,

"Strive always to excel in virtue and truth." Mohammad

Islam: Six Articles of Belief

  1. There is only one God without limit, called Allah.

  2. Muhammad received the Quran as a copy of the eternal Quran which is inscribed in heaven.

  3. God created heavenly beings called angels to serve God and they are opposed by evil spirits.

  4. God sent his prophets to the earth at their appointed times, and the Prophet Muhammad was the last and greatest messenger of God.

  5. There will be a last day of world history called the Day of Judgement. Good and evil will be weighed in the balance. The wicked will be punished and the just will enjoy eternal life in Paradise.

  6. Everything in the universe has a predetermined course. Nothing happens without the will or knowledge of God.

The Five Pillars of Islam

  1. Shahadah (declaration of faith): "I bear witness that there is no god, but God; I bear witness that Muhammad is the prophet of God." By reciting this, one enters Islamic faith.

  2. Salaah (prayer): Muslims are required to pray five times a day, washing themselves before prayer and facing in the direction of Mecca while praying.

  3. Zakat (charity): Muslims are required to give away a percentage of their earnings to those less fortunate, regardless of their religion.

  4. Saum (fasting): Muslims fast for one lunar month each year, a period called Ramadan. During this time, Muslims reflect on their behaviour and strive to purify their thoughts.

  5. Hajj (pilgrimage): If it is financially possible, Muslims are required to travel to Mecca once in their lifetime.

Doctrine of Sin and Salvation

  • Sin caused by forgetfulness, human weakness and a spirit of rebellion.

  • Salvation is works oriented and achieved by submitting to the will of Allah and living a good life.

Key Festivals

  • Ramadan: Celebrates the gift of the Qur'an. During the month of Ramadan, Muslims must fast between sunrise and sunset.

  • Eid-al-Fitr: The festival for the first day after Ramadan.

  • Dhu Al-Hijja: The month of pilgrimage during which all Muslims, at least once in their life, should try to make the pilgrimage to Mecca.

  • Eid-al-adha: The Festival of Sacrifice which occurs 70 days after Eid-al-Fitr. It commemorates Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son for God. Every family who can afford it must slaughter an animal and distribute the meat among relatives, neighbours and the poor.

  • The first day of Muharram: The Islamic New Year begins on the day Muhammad left Mecca to travel to Medina.

  • The twelfth day of Rabi I: Celebrates the birth of the prophet.

  • Mirajun Nabi: Commemorates the prophet's journey from Mecca to the heavens.

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Origins of Islam

Islam means submission to Allah (God).

The word Islam means "entering into a condition of peace and security with God, through allegiance or surrender to him".

Islam was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad who lived from 570 CE to 632 CE in Mecca in modern-day Saudi Arabia. Muhammad was called to prophethood when God dictated the Quran to him through the archangel Gabriel. Although he gained a small following in his tribe, Muhammad was initially persecuted for his beliefs. In 622 CE he fled to Yathrib, now called Medina, where the first Muslim political community was formed.


Enlisting the help of nomadic Arab clans, Muhammad returned to Mecca, stripping the city of all signs of pagan belief. He was generous to those he defeated, however, and many converted to Islam. Two years later, in front of the Ka'ba in Mecca, he declared Islam the religion of the people, saying he had fulfilled his mission and that he left behind him the Book of Allah and a set of clear commandments.


Muhammad (or Mohammed), A.D. 570-632, is the founder of the world religion of Islam and is regarded by Muslims as the messenger and prophet of God (Allāh), the last and the greatest in a series of prophets of Islam. Muslims consider him the restorer of the original, uncorrupted monotheistic faith (Islam) of Adam, Abraham and others. The name Muhammad literally means "Praiseworthy".

Born in 570 CE in the Arabian city of Mecca, he was orphaned at a young age and was brought up by his uncle. He later worked mostly as a merchant. Discontented with life in Mecca, he retreated to a cave in the surrounding mountains for meditation and reflection. According to Islamic beliefs it was here, at age 40, in the month of Ramadan, where he received his first revelation from God. Three years after this event Muhammad started preaching these revelations publicly, proclaiming that "God is One", that complete "surrender" to Him is the only way acceptable to God, and that he was a prophet and messenger of God, in the same vein as Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Jesus, and other prophets.

Muhammad gained few followers early on and migrated to Medina in the year 622. This historic event, the Hijra, marks the beginning of the Islamic calendar. The revelations (or Ayats, lit. "Signs of God"), which Muhammad reported receiving until his death, form the verses of the Quran, regarded by Muslims as the “word of God”, around which his religion is based. Besides the Quran, Muhammad’s life (sira) and traditions (sunnah) are also upheld by Muslims.


At the end of the tenth year after the migration to Medina, Muhammad carried through his first truly Islamic pilgrimage. In 632 a few months after returning to Medina from his Farewell pilgrimage, Muhammad fell ill and died.


Quran (Koran) is the source of all certainty. It is a a later revelation, superseding and correcting errors in the Bible. Muhammad received the Quran as a copy of the eternal Quran which is inscribed in heaven.

History and Spread of Islam

By the time of Muhammad's death, many people of the Arabian Peninsula had begun to follow Islam. A series of caliphs and dynasties led the Muslim community after Muhammad's death, creating an Islamic empire that expanded as far as modern-day Pakistan in the east, Spain in the north, and North Africa to the south. This was a period of great intellectual, cultural and spiritual vitality. In Spain, Islamic civilization lasted until 1492 when the Christian monarchs regained power. After the collapse of the Empire, Islam remained the dominant religion in most Middle Eastern countries and significant pockets throughout North Africa and Asia.

Organizational Structure

Muslims do not require an intermediary between themselves and God. Imams – religious teachers and leaders of prayer in the mosques – do, however, play a significant role. They are often formally educated in matters of religion and jurisprudence, and systems exist for settling questions of law and religious observance.


Sharia is the sacred law of Islam, based on the divine revelations contained in the Qur'an and sunna. Muslims should live their lives by Sharia. It embraces every aspect of life, including family relations, inheritance, taxation, purification and prayer and observes no distinction between secular and religious law.


Ijma means 'the agreement of Islam.' It is an important mechanism for resolving theological conflicts because it is embodies a sense of past community in present action.

Sunni and the Shi'a

Islam is divided into two main sects, the Sunni and the Shi'a. This division arose over the order of caliph succession in the first century of the Islamic calendar.

Shi'ites believe that the true authority and leadership of Muslims after Muhammad's son-in-law, Ali, continued through a line of imams (religious teachers). Sunnis uphold the supremacy of the caliphs, the line of rulers elected by the people and mandated to guard the prophetic legacy in the administration of community affairs. This gave rise to the development of Shari'a law.


Shi'ites constitute less than 10 per cent of world's Muslims, and possess many internal divisions. The largest contemporary Shi'a group are the Ithna'asharis, or Twelvers. Shi'ites are a majority in Iran.

Sunni Muslims constitute 90% of the world's Muslims and are considered the orthodox face of Islam. The al-Azahr, a Islamic university in Cairo, is conventionally regarded as the highest authority in Sunni Islam.

The Shi'a developed a hierarchy in line with their beliefs in the succession of rule; in Iran, this finds expression in the system of ayatollahs (senior interpreters and arbiters of religious law).

Dietary requirements.

Animals have souls and so need to be slaughtered in a special way. This is the meaning of halal (permitted).

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