By Hatim Salih
BBC North Yorkshire Contributor
Islam offers spiritual and practical guidance according to Hatim Salih
At a recent multi-faith event in York, a smartly-dressed priest stood up and asked if anyone could explain why followers of the Muslim faith were - as he saw it - so impressively committed. This was not something I had thought about.
For one thing, commitment, religious or otherwise, is hardly measurable. Yet, acts of devotion by millions of Muslims throughout the world: Dawn-to-sunset Ramadan fasting, the vast sums collected in charity, Hajj's once-in-a-lifetime journey, and a sizable turnout to Friday prayers nearly everywhere, all lend legitimacy to the priest's question.
Simply put, Islam means to be at peace with the Truth. It is the balance between the material and the spiritual, the individual and society, man and the environment, that lies at the heart of the Muslim way of life.
In one of its best-loved chapters (The All-Merciful, 55:5-9) the Qur'an says:
"Sun and moon move in measured order;
Shrubs and trees bow down;
The sky He raised, and established the balance,
So that you do not infringe the balance,
But measure in fairness, and not shortchange the balance."
Eid celebrations at York Mosque involve the whole community
The most important Islamic teaching is profoundly simple: There is no god but God. The Qu'ran cites the universe as evidence, arguing that nature is fine-tuned for life.
For me, what Islam offers first and foremost is spiritual and practical guidance, and a sense of purpose - something like a moral compass to help navigate through the endless possibilities of today's mind-boggling, globalised reality.
But not only that, Islam automatically connects ordinary Muslims such as myself to a wider faith community which, although far from being perfect, upholds love and solidarity as two of its highest ideals.