Information on Islam

Developing a Culturally Competent and Inclusive Workplace

The Muslim World

  • Constitutes approx. 1.2 billion people (one-fifth of humanity).
  • Comprised of various races and ethnicities.
  • Only 18% of Muslims globally are Arab.
  • Muslims are not homogenous. This is evident in the diversity in language and customs practiced by Muslims globally.

Muslims in Australia

  • South East Asian Muslim fishermen arrived in Australia and began trading with Indigenous Australian from the 1650s.
  • Afghan Muslims arrived in the 1800s as camel drivers
  • The Australian Muslim population today is approx. 760,000
  • An estimated 200,000 Muslims live in Victoria today
  • There are more than 70 ethnicities and 130 linguistic groups comprising the Australian Muslim population today
  • Australian Muslims make up about 2% of the Australian population, with 40% of Australian Muslims born in Australia
  • Around 60% of Australian Muslims were born in overseas countries such as Lebanon, Turkey, Afghanistan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Malaysia, Iraq, Iran, Somalia etc


  • Islam was revealed to the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) over 1400 years ago
  • The Arabic word Islam is derived from aslama meaning “to submit oneself” – Muslim means “one who submits to the will of God (Allah)”
  • Islam has a strong relationship with the root of Judaism and Christianity and shares knowledge of and respect for all of the prophets of the Old Testament

Basic Beliefs of Islam

  • A belief in the One God
  • A belief in the Angels
  • A belief in God’s Revealed Books
  • A belief in the Prophets and Messengers of God
  • A belief in the Day of Judgement

The Quran

  • Quran literally means “that which is recited”
  • The Quran is the holy scripture of Islam; a complete collection of the revelations
  • The Quran was revealed over a 23 year period
  • Islamic belief that the Quran is the direct word of God
  • The Quran plays a very important role in the daily life of Muslims and is regarded as the absolute truth
  • Although the Quran has been translated into many languages the original language of the Quran, Arabic, is still used for prayer and religious ceremonies even in non-Arabic speaking countries

Prophethood (Hadith and Sunna)

  • Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) was chosen by Allah as His last messenger
  • Sunnah are the traditions of Islam
  • Hadith are the recorded practices and teachings of the Prophet Mohammed
  • The Hadith and Sunnah were transmitted orally and were recorded 100 to 200 years later
  • The history of the Prophet’s life, his behaviour, deeds, and sayings were memorized by his companions and passed on as oral record and documented later. Such recordings include topics on reconciliation of disputes, education, prescriptions for prayers, for charity, comments on male-female relations, hospitality, etc


  • Sharia is commonly misunderstood as Islamic law even by some Muslims, but Sharia may be translated as “path” or “road”; thus, it is not a code
  • What constitutes Sharia and how it is to be applied is a source of considerable debate amongst Muslims
  • “Fiqh” is what might be defined as Islamic law, in the sense that it operates like a legal code and defines what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour


  • There is no hierarchy of clergy
  • A religious scholar may become an Imam
  • An Imam, invariably male (there are no apparent religious reasons for this) is also the person who leads the congregational prayer
  • An Imam is not a priest and there are no ordination, no sacraments or rites which only a religiously qualified person can perform
  • Imams may be married and have families like any other Muslim

Islamic Sects

  • There are two major streams of Islam; Sunnis and Shias/Shiite
  • Sunni are considered to be the mainstream sect
  • Shia/Shiite are labelled as diverging from mainstream Islam
  • There are also many sub sects in Islam
  • Upon the death of the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH), there was a disagreement on who should succeed as leader
  • The Sunnis followed Abu Bakr as the caliph, while the Shias followed Muhammad’s cousin and son-in-law Ali
  • These splits have expanded into social, political and theological differences, however, the main beliefs and principles of Islam remain the same in both Islamic sects
  • Afghanistan is 80% Sunni
  • Iraq about 45-60% Sunni
  • Iran is 90-95% Shi’ite
  • Syria is 80% Sunni
  • Algeria about 99% Sunni
  • Sunnis outnumber Shi’ites in Pakistan, Egypt, Turkey, Somalia and Sudan
  • The majority of Muslims in Australia are Sunni but there are also significant populations belong to the Shia, Alawi, Alevi, Ismaili, Druze, Bohra and Ahmedi sects

Five Pillars of Islam

  • Witness (Tawhid) – is a central theme of Islam. It means to bear witness to the one and only true God (Allah) and Prophet Mohammed as His last messenger
  • Prayer (Salat) – Muslims are required to pray five times a day at set times, facing Mecca
  • Almsgiving (Zakat) – is an obligatory religious tax (an average 2.5 % of annual savings) to help the poor and the needy
  • Fasting – A Muslim over the age of puberty is required to observe the ninth month of the lunar year, Ramadan, as a period of fasting
  • Pilgrimage to Mecca (Hajj) – All Muslims are required to make a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once their lifetime if they are physically and financially able to do so


  • Muslim prayers are set rituals. Before praying Muslims must wash their hands, arms, feet and ankles, head and neck in running water. Then they must cover their head, face Mecca and perform a precise series of actions
  • Friday is the holy day for Muslims
  • Extra prayers are held during Ramadan

Islamic Festivals and Events

  • Ramadan – the month of fasting.
  • Eid-ul-Fitr – celebration of the completion of the month of fasting.
  • Eid-ul-Adha – occurs as the end of Hajj and symbolises Abraham’s reprieve from having to sacrifice his son.
  • Ashura – 10th day of Muharram, the day on the Prophet’s grandson and his family were massacred
  • Eid milad-al-Nabi – the Prophet’s birthday
  • Laylat-al-Qadr – the night of greatness commemorating the night the Quranic revelations were completed


  • The end of Ramadan is celebrated by a feast called Eid ul Fitr, a day of thanksgiving and happiness.
  • In Muslim countries, this is celebrated with a three day national holiday.
  • In Australian, many Muslims will take a day off work and children a day off school to celebrate Eid ul Fitr.