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ISLAM

Islam is an Arabic word meaning both "Submission to God" and "Peace". The followers of Islam who are called Muslims are found all over the world. One tenth of the total Muslims in the world live in India. India is one of the largest Islamic nations in the world.

The Religion's founder, the prophet Muhammad, was born in 570 A.D. in Mecca, now in Saudi Arabia. He had his first revelations from Allah, in 610 A.D. and later these visions were compiled together to form what is today called the Holy Quran. Muslims teaching correspond closely with the Old Testament of the Bible and Moses and Jesus are both accepted as Muslim prophets.

The sayings of the Muhammad, which are distinguishable from the words of God are collected separately and called Hadith, the second most important source of Islam. The Arabs called him Muhammad Al-Amin or "the trustworthy man".

Opposition for Muhammad slowly started to creep in and so he fled to Mecca in 622 AD. It is from this year that the Muslim calendar starts. Muhammad arrived in Medina where the people accepted him as their prophet. The Arabs, who first propagated the faith, developed a reputation as being ruthless opponents but reasonable masters, so people often found it advisable to surrender to them.


Muhammad died in 632 AD. The death of the prophet posed a serious problem for succession. The third Caliph, successor to Mohammed, was murdered and followed by Ali, the prophet's son-in-law, in 656. The Governor of Syria, who set himself as the Caliph, assassinated Ali in 661A.D in preference to the descendants of the Ali. Most Muslims are called Sunnites, followers of the succession from the Caliph, while the others are Shias who follow the descendants of the Ali.

The visible effects of Muslim influence in India are strongly found in Architecture, art and food.

HAJI
AJI HALI MOSQUE
PEOPLE THRONGING THE AJI HALI MOSQUE
IN BOMBAY

Friday is the Muslim holy day and the main Mosque in each city is called the Jami Masjid or Friday Mosque. The eventual aim of every Muslim is to make the pilgrimage to Mecca and become a Hajji at least once in a lifetime. The Hajj is a great assembly of Muslims from all parts of the world in Mecca, the birthplace of the Muhammad. Each Muslim is supposed to offer Namaz or prayer daily for five times and fast for the whole month of ramzan. A Muslim is also supposed to give away one fortieth of his wealth every year as charity.

Some of India's most spectacular Mosques are relics of the Mughals who ruled India from 1525 to early 18th century. Most of the Mosques are found in the northern part of the country only. Mosques have a large space inside for prayer with the outer part having astounding beauty and different designs. In essence its plan is derived from the prophet's house in Medina.

Mosques are usually built around a rectangular courtyard with a tank at the center. Three sides of the courtyard are cloistered while the fourth side is the main entrance. One must remove the shoes before entering the Mosque. Many Mosques now allow women inside while some do not. Both men and women should cover their legs and arms once inside. People are not allowed to wear shoes inside.

Delhi's Jama Masjid is one of India's most spectacular mosques and features traditional Ablaq stonework. It is the country's largest mosque and is able to hold 25,000 people at any time.