The essence of Islam is submission to the will of Allah (God). Allah, is the one God, the creator of all that exists, made known to man by the Prophets (including Ibrahim, Moses and Jesus, peace be upon them all). The Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, who was God's last and final messenger, delivered God's complete and perfect message in the words of the Holy Qur'an.
The world into which the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was born was one in which polytheism had supplanted belief in the one true God. Pagan rites desecrated the House of God (the Kaaba) which the Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him) and his first born son Ishmael (peace be upon him) had built in Makkah. Muhammad (peace be upon him) purged the Holy Places of idolatry and taught a strict monotheism in which all must submit to the will of God.
With extraordinary speed, the new religion of Islam spread out from the Arabian peninsula, across the whole of the Middle East, west across the north of Africa and into Europe, east into India and the Far East.
Central to the success of Islam in a society was the commitment to the brotherhood of man. All Muslim belong to the Ummah (the community of Islam), a concept that transcends all distinctions of colour, race and gender. To join the Ummah, individuals simply have to assert wholeheartedly their belief in Islam and conduct their lives according to the word of God, as revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
A Muslim is a person who has submitted his or her whole being to Allah and to the acceptance and fulfilment of His will. Allah, the God of the Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham, peace be upon him), the forbear of the Arabs, is omnipotent, omniscient and, above all, compassionate.
The will of Allah, as revealed in the Holy Qur'an, is that people should worship Allah, put their trust in Allah, avoid sins, and treat one another with justice, compassion and generosity. Islam permeates every moment and every aspect of a Muslim's life.
Today, Islam has more than one billion adherents and is the fastest growing of the world's major religions.
"Hajj" means literally "to set out for a place". For a Muslim, that place is the Holy City of Makkah.
Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic year, was the month in which the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, received his first divine revelation from the Angel Gabriel. For this reason it was chosen by the Prophet as a month of fasting, a time in which every Muslim could "cultivate piety".
Throughout the month, fasting and abstinence begin at sunrise and last until sunset. No food or water may pass the Muslim's lips during the hours of daylight, neither may the Muslim engage in sexual intercourse. (Smoking is also prohibited.)
During Ramadan, Muslims are exhorted to read the whole of the Holy Qur'an. The "Night of Ordainment", the night during which Muhammad received his first revelation, falls towards the end of Ramadan. On this night, the Holy Qur'an tells Muslims that Allah sets the course of the world and all human affairs for the coming year.