What to know?
This applies to the majority of Muslims, not to all Muslims. Exceptions apply.
If you have a character who does smoke or use interest for some reason, let the reader know that it’s against Islamic principles by letting other characters speak about it or let the character’s relatives frown upon it.
There are all kinds of Muslims. Some do not even pray, but still strongly consider themselves Muslims. When you go through the list, figure out what principle your character is not following and let other Muslims react to this weakness. Your character will need a strong weakness he or she will need to overcome. Maybe it could be a gambling problem or not being able to pray regularly. Your character will have to overcome his or her problems. As long as you demonstrate you understand the character is not following what most other Muslims do, it’s fine.
I have tried to attach links from various people, organizations, and authorities from different backgrounds and religions. I wanted to choose links that has a personal voice as far as possible.
- Ablutions (washing arms, face, feet) before each prayer
- Women do not pray or fast while menstruating
- Ritual shower after intercourse and to mark end of periods
- No intercourse during menstruation or during fasting
- Men are circumcised (not women! Some countries allow genital mutilation, but it’s a pagan tradition, not an Islamic ritual)
Terminology: “Recommended” means you get extra “points” (good deeds) for doing them, but it won’t count as a sin if you don’t.
- Remove shoes inside house.
- Muslims clean private parts with water after going to the toilet so you can find a pitcher of water or water jets inside the toilets (a drop of pee will invalidate the prayer)
- Women who menstruate do not go to mosque, but they go to the two Eid prayers. They can cross the mosque, though.
- Typically breastfeed for two years
- Baby’s head is shaved at birth. Muslims weigh baby’s hair and give its equivalent in gold to charity.
- Men trim beard and mustache every day.
- Both male and female shave private parts and under arms. (ref: https://www.religiousforums.com/threads/muslim-men-only-shaving-in-islam.115722/)
- Both cut nails regularly.
- Muslims believe in all the prophets sent to Jews and Christians. Muslims have a great respect and love for Moses and Jesus. Moses is called Musa (Moossah), in Arabic, and Jesus is called Isa (Eessah), in Arabic.( https://www.pbs.org/muhammad/ma_otherrel.shtml)
- Muslims believe in the same stories that are talked about in the Bible and the Torah. They think some were not recorded properly because the Bible and the Torah were written afterwards, way after the events in the stories happened. (https://allthatsinteresting.com/quran-bible-similarities)
- Muslims follow the laws of the land, wherever they live. (http://www.daruliftaa.com/node/5852)
- Muslims respect people from other religions and do not force them to embrace Islam. During the expansion of Islam, Muslims gave a choice to new territories to embrace Islam. No one was forced. Many people accepted because it allows them to live better.
- Muslims imposed a tax on the conquered regions because they pay a tax themselves. It is a yearly tax that each Muslim has to pay. It’s 2% of his or her income. The poor does not pay the tax called Zakat.( https://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2017/jun/22/zakat-requires-muslims-to-donate-25-of-their-wealth-could-this-end-poverty)
- Muslims have lived in peace with many other religions for centuries in many parts of the world. Do not mix political tensions with religious tensions. Muslims are aware they share the same beliefs as the major religions.( https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/where-christians-and-muslims-live-in-peace_us_596d529de4b0376db8b65a75)
- Islam is a religion of justice and fairness. In the olden times, when servants or slaves were stealing or cheating, the master was punished alongside his or her servant. That’s because the head of the family is responsible for everyone in his family. If someone is forced to steal, it’s the master’s fault. Same thing, if a woman thinks she does not get enough allowance, she can take from her husband without asking permission.( https://www.islamreligion.com/articles/376/justice-in-islam/)
- Slavery is obsolete. Masters were punished when they mistreated their slave. (http://www.answering-christianity.com/slaves_treatment.htm)
- Women are not forced to wear the veil. It’s her choice. That’s why many women choose not to wear it. Often, men support their choice. They realize the stigmatism around it and how hard it can be for women to wear it. (https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-45112792)
- Muslim women are not discriminated against (https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2018/08/10/racism-islamophobia-hurt-muslim-women-islam-does-not-column/881492002/)
- Muslim women are well-treated by their parents and husbands. There is a punishment for men who abuse women. So, if you hear in some countries honor killings or women being trapped inside their homes and being bitten, that’s not an Islamic behavior. This kind of behavior is dictated by pagan traditions or customs that were there before Islam and continued on. Or it is just the sin of individuals. Not every tribe that became Muslim embraced every part of the teachings of Islam and that’s why some countries have extreme beliefs or follow beliefs most Muslims do not follow. Example the Taliban banning teaching women, which goes against Islamic principles that says that men and women should seek knowledge even all the way to China if they have to. One must be careful not to mix culture and religion, which can clash and compete in some countries or regions of the world. (http://theconversation.com/explainer-what-islam-actually-says-about-domestic-violence-77245)
- Muslims do not hurt their neighbors, even if they are non-Muslims. In fact, there is a punition for people who behave unjustly. The oppressed can pray Allah to punish the oppressors. Muslims are encouraged to take care of their neighbors, whoever they are. (https://archive.islamonline.net/?p=17632)
- Muslims can befriend and love anyone from any religion. If that wasn’t true, what about converts who are born from non-Muslims parents? People should be safe from Muslims’ hands and from their tongues as well. Muslims are responsible for the safety and well-being of their neighbors. Neighbors mean people living on the same block, street, place. Even backbiting id forbidden. (https://www.islamicity.org/4659/can-muslims-be-friends-with-jews-and-christians/)
- Muslims are not that entity that would follow a religious leader blindly. There is no religious leader in Islam. Anyone can talk in a mosque. Anyone can lead the prayer called the Salat. A woman can lead other women in prayers like the men do, but women cannot lead men while men can lead both the men and the women. (https://www.islamicity.org/2576/woman-imam-leading-men-and-women-in-salat/)
- There used to be some religious authorities in Muslim states in the past, but now they mostly do not influence the lives of modern Muslims. Muslims study on their own, read the Qur’an and learn from scholars, but decide on the way they want to live their faith without anyone interfering and without following anyone (https://www.oasiscenter.eu/en/religious-authorities-islam)
Sects of Islam
Sunni Muslims constitute the majority of Muslims in the world. (80 to 90% of Muslims)
These groups are not at war with each other. They interpret Islam in a different way.
Off shoots of Sunni movements:
- the Muslim Brotherhood
Shia (10 to 20 % of Muslims) (ref: http://shia.org/ )
Offshoots of Shia:
- Druze (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Druze ) (https://www.quora.com/Do-the-Druze-people-consider-themselves-Muslims-or-not )
- Alevis (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alevism ) ref: https://rlp.hds.harvard.edu/faq/alevism )
Subgroups of Shi`ites: (https://faroutliers.wordpress.com/2006/10/12/shia-diversity-twelvers-fivers-seveners/ )
- Twelvers (Ithna-`Asharis)(ref: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twelver )
- Seveners (Isma`ilis) (ref: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isma%27ilism)
- Fivers (Zaydis) (ref: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zaidiyyah )
- Nation of Islam
- Kharijite Islam
- Pray five times a day (daybreak, noon, afternoon, sundown, and at night).
- Muslims can pray extra prayers throughout the day and night. These are called Sunnah prayers or voluntary prayers.
- Both men and women pray as well as children. Children are gently encouraged to pray if they wish to, but it becomes obligatory at age 10
- At the onset of puberty, girls wear hijab (head scarf) and boys go to mosque on Fridays.
- Kids’ good deeds are recorded by angels at any age.
- At puberty, children become responsible for their actions and bad deeds begin to be written down by angels.
- They wash their face, arms and feet before each prayer (called ablutions).
- Fast for one month during Ramadhan (no eating or drinking between daybreak and sundown) unless they are ill or too weak.
- Ramadhan is a time for reflection and bettering oneself. Muslims do a lot of extra good deeds and give in charity during this time of the year.
- Do not eat pork, crawling animals (snails, snakes), hoofed animals (deer), clawed animals (birds of prey), insects, anything with gelatin when it’s made from pork (some candies, marshmallows, yogurt, pills, etc.) , and any meat that is not killed following Islamic procedure. (https://www.al-islam.org/a-code-of-practice-for-muslims-in-the-west-ayatullah-sistani/eating-drinking)
- Celebrate only the two eids (although many do celebrate birthdays too), one at the end of Ramadhan, and one at the end of the Hajj (pilgrimage) period.( https://theconversation.com/why-muslims-celebrate-eid-twice-a-year-6-questions-answered-80949)
- Women wear a headscarf called Hijab, but many practicing Muslim women don’t.( https://www.glamourmagazine.co.uk/article/women-reveal-why-they-choose-to-wear-a-hijab)
- Men and women pray in separate places, except during Hajj. It has a lot to do with the way they pray (plain view on one’s bottom) rather than on segregation. Men pray in front to respect women.
- Men and Women tend not to mix.
- Muslims salute each other using the word Peace “Salam alaikum.”
- Muslims gather on Friday for a lecture and noon communal prayer. They traditionally discuss decisions and issues in the community during that time.
- Muslims encourage compassion for humans and animals, no matter what they are.( https://www.ecomena.org/islam-animal/)
- Owning dogs is discouraged unless they stay outside the house, they are working animals (shepherd dogs), or are for personal protection.( https://islamqa.info/en/answers/69840/keeping-a-dog-touching-it-and-kissing-it)
- Muslims encourage recycling, taking care of the earth, and not wasting.( http://www.khaleafa.com/khaleafacom/ever-wondered-what-islam-has-to-say-about-waste-and-environmental-sustainability)
- Muslims typically do not cheat or lie or break their promises. These are sins. (http://www.arabnews.com/islam-strictly-forbids-cheating-and-deception)
- Muslims have the duty to welcome travelers for three days. (https://islam.stackexchange.com/questions/45538/accommodation-for-guests-obligated-on-host-for-3-days)
- If Muslims get mad at someone, they have to make peace with them within three days. (https://islamqa.info/en/answers/21878/it-is-not-permissible-to-forsake-a-muslim-because-of-differences-in-points-of-view)
- The majority of Muslims are against terrorism, have talked against terrorism in every form, and have manifested against terrorism.( https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2018/05/11/610420149/70-muslim-clerics-issue-fatwa-against-violence-and-terrorism)
- Backbiting is a sin.( https://www.thoughtco.com/gossip-and-backbiting-2004267)
- Compassion and emotional control are at the root of Islam (http://aboutislam.net/reading-islam/finding-peace/inner-peace/kindness-and-compassion-in-dealing-with-others/)
- Watching over one’s neighbor is a duty.
- Muslims do not discriminate against races or religions or sex. In fact, many Muslim communities live peacefully alongside other religious community all over the world even if from time to time some tensions occur. Muslims encourage tolerance. ( https://www.oikoumene.org/en/press-centre/news/christian-jewish-and-muslim-leaders-in-vienna-affirm-social-cohesion-and-peaceful-coexistence)
- Jihad means struggling to be a better person. See differences between the Greater Jihad and the Lesser Jihad (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/global-opinions/wp/2017/07/08/jihad-is-not-a-dirty-word/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.f31f0f522b1a)
- Muslims emphasize on compassion (https://themuslimtimes.info/2013/10/29/three-hundred-verses-about-compassionate-living-in-the-quran/)
- Gambling or standing in a place where people gamble.
- Drinking or staying in a place where people are inebriated.
- Taking drugs.
- Permanent tattoos (henna is allowed).
- Consulting mediums.
- Islam is a religion. People from all over the world convert to Islam every day. Islam is not the religions of Arabs. (https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/common-confusions-arabs-muslims/
- No one is forced to convert. (http://www.quranicstudies.com/jihad/the-prohibition-of-forcing-people-into-islam/)
- There is no ceremony for accepting Islam. (https://www.islamreligion.com/articles/204/how-to-convert-to-islam-and-become-muslim/)
- Many Arabs are non-Muslims.
- The biggest group of Muslims lives in East-Asia (Malaysia mainly), not in the Middle East.
- Many Muslims do not know Arabic.
- Most Muslims know how to read Arabic for religious purposes but are very limited language wise.
- The Arabic in the Quran (Muslims’ scriptures) is different from modern Arabic. Many read it in translation.
- Muslims can dress anyway they want as long as it is modest. Some countries have a traditional dress such as the abaya (Middle east) or baju kurung (Malaysia) or djellaba (Africa), thobe, shalwar Kamees, etc. (ref: https://www.thoughtco.com/mens-islamic-clothing-2004254) (ref: https://www.thoughtco.com/islamic-clothing-glossary-2004255)
- Marriages require the consent of both male and female.
- Traditional families arrange marriages, but the couple meets and decides if they like each other (even in strict cultures such as Saudi Arabia).
- Many Muslims meet on their own and do marry for love.
- Most Muslim women marry only a Muslim man. Muslim men can marry Muslim women or outside their faith.
- Muslims do not date or have relationships outside marriage.
- Men can have up to 4 wives, but most prefer only one.
- Muslims are allowed to divorce for whichever reason.
- Muslims are allowed to use contraception.
- Muslim are allowed to end early pregnancy.
- Islam encourages inter-racial marriages and having many children.
- Muslim women do not sleep or shower in their hijab. They can remove their hijab (head cover) in front of other females, in front of family members, and in the presence of doctors.
- Muslim women typically cover their legs and wear loose clothing while exercising (tights under shorts and T-shirt or a burkini). Men wear knee-long shorts and T-shirts.
- Yes, Muslim women are allowed to drive.
Some more resources:
Questions UK Muslims answer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Gkxm6bKtsk