Just like the Turks of the Balkans, Anatolia, Azerbaijan, Syria, Iraq, Iran and Turkmenistan, the Turkish Cypriots come from the Oğuz branch of the Turkic race. Beginning with the establishment of the Qarakhanid empire in central Asia as the first official Turkish Muslim state during the ninth century, the Oğuz Turks accepted the religion of Islam in their masses, and thus became known as Turkmens. According to historical sources, evidence suggesting the conversion of 200,000 Turkish tents (families) to Islam in the year 960 can be found. This signifies that the Islamic history of the Turkish Cypriots began approximately 600 years before they migrated to Cyprus.

What is Islam?

Islam is a religion that arose in the city of Mecca in the seventh century. Those who follow this religion are called Muslims. The words Islam and Muslim are originally Arabic words that share the same three letters of se-le-me, indicating their shared root verb, which means peace and submission. Therefore, the word Islam can be said to mean “finding peace through submission,” and the word Muslim means “one who submits.”

Who is a Muslim?

A Muslim is a follower of the religion of Islam. Just as it was mentioned above, a Muslim is someone who “submits.” However, the question arises: who or what do Muslims submit to? Islam is a monotheistic faith, which means it only believes in one god, and the name of this god is Allah. Allah is an Arabic word that combines the two words “el-ilah,” which means “The God.” Non-Arab Jews and Christians also refer to Allah using the names Yahwe, Jehovah and Elah. However, Allah is not a separate god to what the Jews and Christians believe in, nor is Allah a god only for the Arab peoples. Arab Christians also refer to God as Allah, as is found in Arabic translations of the Bible. Just like Jews and Christians, Muslims also worship the same god.

What does Allah want from Muslims?

Allah created everyone so that they may worship Him. Everything besides human beings and jinns worships Allah in their own way. However, Allah created human beings and jinns with free will, meaning they have the ability to choose whether they want to worship Allah or not. Therefore, life for them has been created as a test to see who of them will choose to worship Allah. Those who choose to worship and obey Allah will get Paradise as a reward. On the other hand, those who knowingly disobey God, deny His existence or even accept His existence yet dedicate their worship to false gods will be punished with Hell-fire.

How does one obey Allah?

Starting off with the first man Adam, Allah has sent approximately 124,000 different prophets and messengers to different people, in different places and at different times. There are two types of prophets – rasuls and nabis. Nabis simply warn their people and remind them of their duties to Allah, whereas rasuls fulfil this task as well as bringing a new message from Allah. Therefore, every rasul is a nabi, but not every nabi is a rasul. Some of the names of these prophets and their tales have remained with us till this very day, but most of them have been lost. Allah tells us of 25 of these prophets in the Qur’an, including Noah, Abraham, Lot, Isaac, Ishmael, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Solomon, David, Zackary, John and Jesus. To some of these prophets, Allah appointed the angel Gabriel to deliver the revelation of holy books and messages. David was given the Psalms, Moses was given the Torah and Jesus was given the Gospel. However, the common message and mission of all of these prophets was the call of “there is no god but Allah.” Over time, the legacy of these prophets would either be erased or diluted with falsehood, so in order to revive the original message and save people from the darkness of ignorance, Allah would send another messenger. Finally, in the seventh century, Allah sent Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) as the final prophet. He was sent as a mercy to mankind and given the Qur’an. By studying the Qur’an, we can learn how to obey Allah.

Who was Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him)?

The Prophet Muhammad was born in the city of Mecca in the year 560. He was a descendant of the Prophet Abraham, via his son Ishmael, and was a member of the House of Hashim from the Quraysh tribe. His father Abdullah passed away from illness while his mother Amina was still pregnant. When he was six, he also lost his mother in similar circumstances after she became ill on the way back to Mecca from Madina following a family visit. On returning to Mecca as an orphan, his Ethiopian nanny Barakah handed him over to be raised by his beloved grandfather Abdulmuttalib. However, when he was eight years old, his grandfather also passed away. He was later transferred to his uncle Abu Talib who would raise him like a son.

During his youth, he worked as a shepherd and a builder. As he matured, he also began to work as a merchant like his uncle Abu Talib. He was employed by a rich businesswoman in Mecca called Khadijah to sell her goods in Syria. Due to his openness and honesty in trade, everyone came to know him as a very trustworthy individual and came to him the nickname of “Al-Amin” (the trustworthy one). When the widow Khadijah heard of his good character, she became curious about him. After meeting him personally, she fell in love with him. When he was twenty-five years of age, he and Khadijah married.

In those days, most Arabs were idol-worshipping pagans, and the city of Mecca was the centre of this idol-worshipping culture. Unfortunately, the Kaba, which was originally built by the prophet Abraham and his son Ishmael for the worship of Allah, had been turned into a house for the idols. However, Muhammad never worshipped the idols and was personally against this culture. He preferred to follow the true religion of his forefather Abraham by worshipping one god, and would often leave the city to meditate and worship Allah on a mountain just outside of Mecca. One evening during the month of Ramadan, forty-year-old Muhammad left the city for this purpose and it was then that Allah sent to him the angel Gabriel. The angel Gabriel delivered the first reveal verses of the Qur’an and informed him that Allah had chosen him to be a prophet.

After that blessed night, the Prophet Muhammad spent the remaining twenty-three years of his life receiving divine revelation. By setting an example, explaining the meanings of the revealed verses and by openly calling the world to the belief and worship of one god, he brought Islam into this world.

At the age of 63, after fulfilling his mission, he passed away peacefully in his home. His grave is found at the same spot that he died, in the city of Madina inside the premises of the Prophet’s Mosque.

What is the Qur’an?

All Islamic creed, jurisprudence, science, history and culture can be traced back to the Qur’an. It is the source of all Islamic civilisation. This divine book is known as the word of Allah and was revealed from the heavens. However, it was not sent down from the heavens in one go. Rather, it was revealed in parts to the Prophet Muhammad over the twenty-three-year span of his prophethood. The words of Allah would be engraved in the heart of the Prophet Muhammad who would receive revelation in one of three ways: via the angel Gabriel, through dreams or through divine inspiration. Due to the fact that he was unlettered, he would read the verses from his memory and get his companions to also memorise them. A lack of paper meant that those companions would have to write those verses down on leaves and the like.

In short, the Qur’an teaches people about the existence of Allah, that only Allah has the right to be worshipped and our need to obey Him in everything we do. By explaining His characteristics, the Qur’an introduces us to our Lord. It makes it compulsory for Muslims to believe in Allah, His angels, His books, His prophets, the Day of Judgement and the predestination of Allah. In other words, anyone who rejects even just one of these articles, or simply rejects a single book or prophet sent by Allah, cannot be a Muslim. Moreover, it tells us what awaits in the afterlife by giving details of the grave, the Day of Judgement, Paradise and Hell-fire. It also recalls the tales of previous prophets so that we may ponder over their meanings. It orders good conduct towards ourselves and those around us and forbids all forms of oppressive or harmful behaviour and addictions. As well as giving rights and establish laws, it also details some necessary punishments for those who break those laws.

This book, which was revealed over 1,400 years ago, gives mention to everything from the prints on our fingertips to the stars in the sky. Despite the lack of technology in those days, the Qur’an also contains a lot of scientific information that has only been confirmed by scientists recently due to developments in technology.

The Five Pillars of Islam

1) Shahadah: Every Muslims has to say and believe in the statement “La ilaha illallah, Muhammadur Rasulullah” (There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah). In doing so, someone who believes that there is no god but Allah should stay far away from anything that breaches this belief, like worshipping idols and false gods. Someone who believes that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah also has to accept the message that was given to him, the Qur’an, and all of its teachings. A Muslim who knows what the Qur’an says about any particular issue has no right to express or believe in anything contrary to its relevant verse or verses. In order to avoid falling into this mistake, all Muslims should do their best to study and learn the teachings of the Qur’an within the correct context.

2) Salah: Allah has made it obligatory on every Muslim who is mature and sane to pray five times a day every day. These five prayers are known as Fajr (dawn), Zuhr (midday), Asr (mid-afternoon), Maghrib (dusk) and Isha (night). Prayer can be performed anywhere clean, but for men it is preferred for them to pray in congregation in the mosque. Muslims must be physically clean before they can pray and are supposed to get ablution in the way the Prophet Muhammad demonstrated to them. To inform Muslims of the commencing of a new prayer period, the call to prayer is declared from the minarets of the mosques. Then, those who are able to attend the congregational prayer in the mosque stand it rows behind the imam and mimic his movements.

3) Saum: Ramadan is a month in the lunar calendar that Muslims follow, and it is during this month that all Muslims who are mature and physically able to do so must fast. Fasting requires that Muslims stay away from eating, drinking and all types of sexual activity from the onset on dawn till sunset. During this blessed month, Muslims try to refresh their faith by increasing their worship and good deeds, as well as giving up bad deeds and repenting for them. This month ends with a celebration called Eid, in which Muslims gather in the mosque in the morning to pray, after which they disperse to celebrate Eid with their loved ones.

4) Zakah: Usually given during the last days of Ramadan, Muslims who are financially able to do so must give away a minimum of 2.5% of their legally earned wealth every year to those in need such as the unemployed, students, travellers and orphans.

5) Hajj: Every year, during the lunar calendar month of Dhul-Hijjah, approximately 3 million Muslims from around the world go to the city of Mecca to worship at the Kaba. This is compulsory on every Muslim who is physically and financially able to do so at least once in their life. Whether you are black or white, rich or poor, all Muslim pilgrims dress in the same white garbs and worship side by side as equals. Once the Hajj has finished, the meat of sacrificial animals are distributed among the poor and another Eid is celebrated.