The Meaning of Muhammad

Stories say that when Muhammad’s mother was pregnant, a voice said to her, “You are pregnant with the lord of this people. When he is born, say, ‘I put him in the care of the One from the evil of every envier.’; then call him Muhammad.”

The name Muhammad means “highly praised.” Muhammad did, indeed, grow up to be highly praised. When his name is spoken or written, it is customary for Muslims, followers of Islam, to utter the blessing “peace be upon him.”

Today, more boys in the world are given the name “Muhammad” than any other name.

Why do you think the name “Muhammad” is so popular today?

Allah Prescribes Prayer

During Muhammad’s Night Journey to heaven, he was led into the presence of Allah. Allah said that Muslims were to pray fifty times each day.

On Muhammad’s way back to Earth, he met with Moses, who asked, “What has Allah told your followers to do?”

Muhammad answered that Allah wanted the faithful to pray fifty times a day. Moses urged Muhammad to return to Allah and ask Him to reduce the number of prayers, as Muhammad’s followers would not be able to pray that many times.

So Muhammad went back to Allah, and Allah reduced the number of prayers to forty each day. Moses insisted that this was still too much, and sent Muhammad back to Allah.

This happened several times; each time, Allah reduced the number of prayers, until the requirement stood at five prayers a day. Moses insisted that this was still too much, as he had tried to get people to pray in the past, and they could not accomplish this.

Muhammad replied, “I have already returned to my Lord till I am ashamed. I am satisfied, and I submit.”

What do these events tell you about the prophets and their followers?

Prohibited Acts

Devout Muslims dedicate themselves to cultivating certain virtues and avoiding vices. Muslims are prohibited from doing many things.

They include spiritual prohibitions: Muslims should not deny the revelation of God to his prophets, swear falsely in the name of God, or lose hope in the mercy of God.

They also include behavioural prohibitions: Muslims should not deliberately kill another human being, lie, steal, cheat, betray their country, commit adultery, gamble, drink alcohol, oppress the people or aid an oppressor, or deliberately hinder a good cause.

Choose one of these prohibitions. Explain why you think it is important.

The Fourth Pillar of Islam: Fasting

The fourth Pillar of Islam is saum, or fasting. In the ninth month of the lunar calendar of Islam, the faithful fast from dawn to dusk.

During the fast, Muslims must abstain from eating, drinking, lying, and sensual contact. The fast is meant to help Muslims overcome personal gluttony and the habit of always desiring more.

According to Islam, people struggle to master their bodies and emotions. Fasting helps them with this.

When you want something, is it hard to deny it to yourself? Do you think that practice at denying ourselves things we want would be good for us? Explain.

Visual Representations

Muslims do not believe that Allah or the prophets should be visually represented. According to Islam, representations are misleading and even disrespectful. If Muhammad is shown in a painting, his face is hidden by a veil. Usually a flame is shown burning around his head; this is the flame of prophethood.

Why might representations of Allah and the prophets actually lead people away from Allah?