Religions in Singapore: Overview of Islam

Islam is one of the major religions practiced in Singapore. Whilst it is largely practiced by people from the Malay ethic group, there are significant numbers of people from other ethnicities who follow Islam, and, additionally, there are people who are Malay that follow a different religion or have no religious or spiritual beliefs.

If you are interested in knowing more about Islam, here is a basic overview of the religion:

Origins of Islam

Islam began at around the start of the 7th century AD. It began in the country that is now Saudi Arabia, around the areas of Mecca and Medina, later spreading further afield.

The religion’s prophet (messenger) was called Muhammad. It is said that he received divine messages from the Angel Gabriel, these messages going on to form the Islamic holy book of the Quran.

Different Branches of Islam

As with most major religions, there are several different schools, or branches, within Islam. The two main groups toady are called Sunni and Shi’a, though there are further sub-divisions within each branch. Other groups include Sufis, Mustaalis, and Ismailis.

Main Principles of Islam

Within the Sunni branch, the fundamental beliefs of Islam centre around five principles. These are known as the Five Pillars of Islam. Islam is a monotheistic religion, with a fundamental precept being that there is one god, and only one god. Allah is the only divine being in Islam.

Daily prayer is a major feature of Islam, with devout Muslims praying five times per day whilst facing the direction of Mecca. The call to prayer is issued from the high towers of the Islamic religious buildings, known as mosques / masjids. The towers are called minarets. A Muslim is not obliged to go to the mosque several times per day, rather, they can pray in any place. Indeed, females do not customarily worship at the mosque.
Another of the Five Pillars is charity, whereby Muslims should make donations to people who are more in need than themselves. Fasting, especially during the holy month of Ramadan, is a further pillar. The final pillar is that all able-bodied Muslims should undertake Hajj, a pilgrimage to Mecca.

Within Shi’a Islam (in the Twelver group), the principles are slightly different. There is a belief in one god and divine justice, as well as prophethood, the sucession of Muhammad, and a belief in a day of judgment.
Additionally, there are a further ten concepts that Shi’a Muslims must follow. These include the giving of charity, prayer, fasting, pilgrimage to Mecca, showing love for Allah, turning away from evil, prohibiting wrongful acts, following a right life, and jihad (maintaining the religion).

Worldwide Practice of Islam

Although many people may see Islam as a predominantly Middle Eastern religion, with countries like Saudi Arabia, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Iran, and Iraq having Muslim majorities, there are many other countries around the world where Islam is the predominant religion. Several countries in Africa, for example Morocco, Algeria, Nigeria, Egypt, Sudan, and Somalia have a sizeable Muslim population, with some being mainly Muslim countries. In Asia, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Malaysia are amongst the continent’s Islamic countries, whilst other nations, such as Singapore, Thailand, and Burma, have Muslim citizens. Additionally, some central Asian nations, such as Afghanistan and Pakistan are Islamic countries. Of course, followers of Islam can be found in almost every corner of the world.

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