Understanding Islam & Muslims

At CAIR TX Houston, we are committed not only to defending the rights of Muslims but also to increasing knowledge of Islamic beliefs and values and Muslim daily practices.

In this guide, you will find a complete background of our practices and how people that are not Muslim can be an ally and stand for religious equality in the workplace, at school or university, and in public everyday life.

  • Glossary of Islamic Terms
  • About Islam and Muslims
  • Five Pillars of Islam
  • The Six Pillars of Islamic Belief
  • The Quran and other Islamic Text
  • Hijab and Women in Islam (coming soon)
  • Islam in America: the History (coming soon)
  • Muslims in Houston (coming soon)
  • Muslims in Media, Sports, and Government (coming soon)
  • Islamophobia and its impact (coming soon)
  • Conclusion

Glossary of Muslim Terms

  • Abrahamic Faiths: a term used to refer to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, which all recognize Abraham as their first prophet.
  • Allah: Muslims often refer to God as Allah. This is a universal name for God and does not refer to an exclusively ‘Islamic’ God. The term Allah, just like the term Eloh (Hebrew) and llah (Aramaic), is the preferred term to use when referring to the one God as it cannot be pluralized or genderized.
  • Hadith: A hadith is a statement of the Prophet Muhammad which was narrated by his companions and subsequently narrated to the next generation until these sayings were compiled in hadith collections.
  • Hijab: Clothing Muslim women wear in public: generally loose-fitting and includes a head covering.
  • Imam: Religious and spiritual leader of a Muslim community. The literal meaning is the person in front.
  • Islam: a faith and comprehensive way of life that literally means ‘peace through submission and surrendering to God.’ It provides a clear understanding of a person’s relationship with God, purpose in life, and ultimate destiny.
  • Jumu’ah: Weekly congregational prayer on Friday.
  • Masjid: the Arabic term for mosque which literally translates to a ‘place of prostration.’
  • Muslim: someone who adopts the Islamic way of life by believing in the oneness of God and the prophethood of Muhammad. People who practice Islam are called Muslims, just like those who practice Christianity are called Christians.
  • Qiblah: The direction of the sacred shrine of the Kabah in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, toward which Muslims turn five times each day when performing the daily ritual prayer.
  • Quran (Koran): For a Muslim, the Qu’ran is the literal word of God communicated to his last Prophet and Messenger, Muhammad, through Angel Gabriel.
  • Ramadan: The month of fasting; a period marked by abstaining from consumption of food and drink and spousal relationships from dawn to sunset and by increased prayer and charity.
  • Sunnah: The teachings of the Prophet Muhammad which include his words, actions, and things he approved and disapproved of.

About Islam and Muslims

Muslims around the world make up one billion, seven hundred million people. In the United States, that number is reduced to a mere fraction of three million, four hundred fifty thousand. With a growing population, Islam is expected to surpass Judaism within the coming decade as the most practiced religion in the United States, according to Pew Research.

That makes Muslims the fastest-growing ethnoreligious minority in the United States. The demographics of the American Muslim are far-reaching and touch every ethnic and racial makeup in the United States including Latino (the fastest-growing population of Muslims within the demographic), Arab (from a multitude of countries), South Asian (mostly from Pakistan), African-American, African, White American, and white from central and eastern Europe. The population of American Muslims also spans generations with anywhere from the first generation of new Americans to the third and an incoming fourth generation.

The Five Pillars of Islam

  1. Shahada: to declare one’s faith in God and belief in Muhammad. This is the first step in any practice of faith in Islam.
  2. Salah: Meaning “Prayer”
    • There are five prayers in the day. Fajr, the first occurs at dawn, Dhuhr (or zhuhr) is prayed around noon- in Texas, typically closer to 1 pm, Asr is prayed mid-afternoon closer to the end of the workday, Mahgreb is prayed at sunset which typically varies with the seasons but can be as early as 5 o’clock during the winter months, and Isha is prayed in the late evening when twilight occurs typically 9 pm.
  3. Zakat: is a compulsory charity given to those in need.
    • This annual charity is compulsory for those that are able to do so. While is mandatory for everyone, only people that have amassed the equivalent of $1,000 in annual savings have to give Zakat. Unlike other faiths, Zakat may be given directly to those in need or to an organization like CAIR Houston which is a zakat eligible organization.
  4. Sawm: This directly translates to “fast” but this pillar applies to fasting during the Holy Month of Ramadan.
    • The month of Ramadan is the holiest 30 days of the year. Billions of Muslims around the world fast and abstain from food, water, and relations with a spouse.
    • Fasting is practiced during these 30 days between the start of the Fajr prayer (dawn) and the start of the Mahgrib prayer at sunset.
    • The month of Ramadan follows the siting of the new moon during the ninth lunar month of the year. During the summer months, observers will fast sometimes up to 18 hours. During the spring and summer months, Muslim students in primary and higher education fast while attending class, and studying for finals or exams. Muslims everywhere fast during Ramadan while continuing with daily life, as they would outside of Ramadan attending work and school as normal all while in devoted worship of God.
    • The end of Ramadan is marked by the Eid holiday called Eid al-Fitr or Festival of the Feast.
    • Other notable days of fasting include Ashura at the beginning of the Islamic calendar as well as the first 10 days of the last Islamic month, Dhul Hijjah with the 9th day of that month being the most sacred day of the year.
  5. Hajj: This literally translates to “make a pilgrimage” but in this context, it exclusively means do so to Mecca. This is done at least once during a person’s lifetime if the person is financially able to do so. This five-day journey starts on the eighth day of the month of Dhul Hijjah and continues with various acts of worship done each day. The most famous is circling the Kabah or tawaf.

Six Pillars of Faith

There are six pillars of belief in Islam. They are:

  1. Belief in the oneness of God
  2. Belief in Allah’s angels
  3. Acceptance of God’s revelation
  4. Acceptance of God’s messengers starting with the Prophet Adam and the Prophet Mohamed being the final Prophet and Messenger
  5. Belief in the Day of Judgement
  6. Belief in Allah’s decree (qadr)

The Quran and Sacred Islamic Text

Islam is based on sources of sacred text with the primary text and basis of our religion being the Quran. The Quran was revealed to the Prophet Mohammed (Peace Be Upon Him) through the Angel Jibreel (Gabriel) by God (Allah). The Quran has 30 sections (juz), with 114 surahs (chapters).

In addition to the Holy Quran, Muslims use books of Hadith, collections of tacit sayings, and approvals by the Prophet Mohammed (Peace Be Upon Him) which were narrated by his close friends, companions, spouses, and children. There are many books of Hadith with varying degrees of validity. What is most commonly used are Sahih Muslim and Sahih Bukhari, two collectors of Hadith who roamed the Arab peninsula and Sham region collecting narrations from the Prophet’s companions and their descendants. Each Hadith includes a narration chain that can be traced back to the Prophet Mohammed, Peace Be Upon Him.