The moon and star is now a symbol of Islam. Some Muslim countries have the moon on their flag. This symbol was first used in Turkey.
||"The best jihad [struggle] is (by)
the one who strives against his own self for Allah, The Mighty and Majestic," by the Prophet Muhammad. 1
||"It is a declaration of the truth and
light to show the right path. It is the wise, the complete exhortation and a clear message...it is the embodiment of the fairest
statements and Divine words of wisdom." Islamic scholar Abdur Rahman I. Doi, referring to the Qur'an 2|
||"[T]his is nothing but a manifestation
of injustice, oppression and tyranny...and it is amongst the greatest of sins." Sheik Abdul-Azeez Aal ash-Sheik, grand
mufti of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and head of the Council of Senior Scholars, speaking about the 9-11 terrorist
The name of this religion, Islam, is derived from the Arabic word "salam,"
which is often interpreted as meaning "peace." However "submission" would be a better translation. A Muslim is a follower
of Islam. "Muslim" is an Arabic word that refers to a person who submits themselves to the will of God. Many Muslims
are offended by the phrases "Islamic terrorist" or "Muslim terrorist," which have been observed so often in the media; they are viewed as oxymorons.
Most religious historians view Islam as having been founded in 622 CE by Muhammad
the Prophet (peace be upon him).* He lived from about 570 to 632 CE). The religion started in Mecca, when the angel Jibril (a.k.a. Jibreel; Gabriel
in English) read the first revelation to Muhammad (pbuh). (Mohammed and Muhammed (pbuh) are alternate spellings for his name.)
Islam is the youngest of the world's very large religions -- those with over 300 million members -- which include Christianity,
Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism.
* Muslims traditionally acknowledge respect for Muhammad, Jesus and other
prophets (peace be upon them) by adding this phrase or an abbreviation "(pbuh)" after their names.
However, many if not most of the followers of Islam believe that:
||Islam existed before Muhammad (pbuh) was
||The origins of Islam date back to the
creation of the world, and|
||Muhammad (pbuh) was the last of a series
Followers of Islam are called Muslims. "Allah" is an Arabic word which means
"the One True God." An alternate spelling for "Muslim" that is occasionally used is "Moslim"; it is not recommended
because it is often pronounced "mawzlem": which sounds like an Arabic word for "oppressor". Some Western writers in the past
have referred to Islam as "Mohammedism"; this is deeply offensive to many Muslims, as its usage can lead some to the concept
that Muhammad the Prophet (pbuh) was in some way divine.
About Muhammad (pbuh) :
Many unusual events have been recorded about Muhammad's (pbuh) birth and childhood:
||His mother said "When he was born,
there was a light that issued out of my pudendum and lit the places of Syria."|
||Also at the time of his birth, "...fourteen
galleries of Kisra's palace cracked and rolled down, the Magians' sacred fire died down and some churches on Lake Sawa sank
down and collapsed."|
||His foster family had many experiences
of amazingly good luck while he was in their care.|
||As a young child, the angel Jibril visited
the boy, ripped his chest open, removed his heart, extracted a blood clot from it, and returned him to normalcy. 4|
While still young, he was sent into the desert to be raised by a foster family.
This was a common practice at the time. He was orphaned at the age of 6 and brought up by his uncle. As a child, he worked
as a shepherd. He was taken on a caravan to Syria by his uncle at the age of 9 (or perhaps 12). Later, as a youth, he was
employed as a camel driver on the trade routes between Syria and Arabia. Muhammad (pbuh) later managed caravans on behalf
of merchants. He met people of different religious beliefs on his travels, and was able to observe and learn about Judaism,
Christianity and the indigenous Pagan religions.
After marriage, he was able to spend more time in meditation. At the age of
40, (610 CE), he was visited in Mecca by the angel Gabriel. He developed the conviction that he had been ordained a Prophet
and given the task of converting his countrymen from their pagan, polytheistic beliefs and what he regarded as moral decadence,
idolatry, hedonism and materialism.
He met considerable opposition to his teachings. In 622 CE he moved north
to Medina due to increasing persecution. The trek is known as the hegira. Here he was disappointed by the rejection of his
message by the Jews. Through religious discussion, persuasion, military activity and political negotiation, Muhammad (pbuh)
became the most powerful leader in Arabia, and Islam was firmly established throughout the area.
By 750 CE, Islam had expanded to China, India, along the Southern shore of
the Mediterranean and into Spain. By 1550 they had reached Vienna. Wars resulted, expelling Muslims from Spain and Europe.
Since their trading routes were mostly over land, they did not an develop extensive sea trade (as for example the English
and Spaniards). As a result, the old world occupation of North America was left to Christians.
Believers are currently concentrated from the West coast of Africa to the
Philippines. In Africa, in particular, they are increasing in numbers, largely at the expense of Christianity.
Many do not look upon
Islam as a new religion. They feel that it is in reality the faith taught by the ancient Prophets, Abraham, David, Moses and
Jesus (Peace be upon them). Muhammad's (pbuh) role as the last of the Prophets was to formalize and clarify the faith and
to purify it by removing foreign ideas that had been added in error.
There are two main texts consulted by Muslims:
the Qur'an (Recitation) are the words of God.
Muslims believe that it was revealed to Muhammad by the archangel Jibril. This was originally in oral and written form; they
were later assembled together into a single book, the Qur'an. Its name is often spelled "Koran" in English. This is not recommended,
as some Muslims find it offensive.
||The Hadith, which are collections of the sayings of Muhammad (pbuh). They are regarded as the Sunnah (lived example) of Muhammad.
The Quran gives legitimacy to the Hadith. It states: "Nor does he say aught of his own desire. It is no less than inspiration
sent down to him" (53:3-4). However, the writings are not regarded as having the same status as the Holy Qur'an; the latter
is considered to be God's word. The great Islamic scholar Yahya bin Sharaf Ul-Deen An-Nawawi compiled a collection of 43 sayings
of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). It is is now known as "Al-Nawawi's Forty Hadiths" 5|
||Islam considers six fundamental
beliefs to be the foundation of their faith:|
- A single, indivisible God. (God, the creator, is just, omnipotent
and merciful. "Allah" is often used to refer to God; it is the Arabic word for God.)
- The angels.
- The divine scriptures, which include the Torah, the Psalms,
the rest of the Bible, (as they were originally revealed) and the Qur'an (which is composed of God's words, dictated by the
Archangel Gabriel to Muhammad).
- The Messengers of God, including Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses,
David, Jesus and Muhammad -- the last prophet; (peace be upon them). Muhammad's message is considered the final, universal
message for all of humanity.
- The Day of Judgment when people will be judged on the basis
of their deeds while on earth, and will either attain reward of Heaven or punishment in Hell. They do not believe that Jesus
or any other individual can atone for another person's sin. Hell is where unbelievers and sinners spend eternity. One translation
of the Qur'an, 98:1-8, states: "The unbelievers among the People of the Book and the pagans shall burn for ever in the
fire of Hell. They are the vilest of all creatures." ("People of the Book" refers to Christians, Jews and Muslims).
Paradise is a place of physical and spiritual pleasure where the sinless go after death
- The supremacy of God's will.
||Other beliefs include:
||God did not have a son.|
||Jesus (pbuh) is a prophet, born of the
Virgin Mary. They regard the Christian concept of the deity of Jesus (pbuh) to be blasphemous; it is seen as a form of polytheism.
||Jesus (pbuh) was not executed on the cross.
He escaped crucifixion and was taken up into Paradise.|
||The existence of Satan drives people to
||Muslims who sincerely repent and submit
to God return to a state of sinlessness.|
||All people are considered children of
Adam. Islam officially rejects racism.|
||All children are born on Al-Fitra (a pure,
natural state of submission to Islam). His parents sometimes make him Christian, Jewish, etc.|
||When a child reaches puberty an account
of their deeds is opened in Paradise. When the person dies, their eventual destination (Paradise or Hell) depends on the balance
of their good deeds (helping others, testifying to the truth of God, leading a virtuous life) and their bad deeds.|
||Alcohol, illegal drugs, eating of pork,
etc. are to be avoided.|
||Gambling is to be avoided.|
||A Muslim's duties as described in the
Five Pillars of Islam are: |
- To recite at least once during their lifetime the shahadah (the creed: "There is no God but God and Muhammad
is his Prophet"). Most Muslims repeat it at least daily.
- To perform the salat (prayer) 5 times a day, if possible. This is recited while orienting one's body with qibia
(the shorter of the two great circle routes towards the Kaaba at Mecca) This is generally North East in the U.S. 4
The five prayers are:
To donate regularly to charity through zakat. This is a 2.5% charity tax on the income and property of middle and
upper class Muslims. Believers are urged to make additional donations to the needy as they feel moved.
to fast during the lunar month of Ramadan. This is believed to be the month that Muhammad (pbuh) received the first revelation
of the Qur'an from God.
if economically and physically able, to make at least one hajj (pilgrimage) to Mecca.
||Fajr (Morning Prayer) which is performed
some time between the break of dawn and just before sunrise.|
||Zuhr (Noon Prayer) offered from just after
midday to afternoon.|
||'Asr (Afternoon Prayer) offered from late
afternoon until just before sunset|
||Maghrib (Sunset Prayer) offered between
sunset and darkness|
||Isha (Night Prayer) offered at night time,
often just before sleeping. 1|
||Jihad (struggle) is probably
the most misunderstood religious word in existence. It often mentioned on Western TV and radio during news about the Middle
East, where it is implied to be a synonym of "holy war" - a call to fight against non-Muslims in the defense of Islam. The
vast majority of Muslims have an entirely different definition of Jihad. It is seen as a personal, internal struggle
with one's self. The goal may be achievement in a profession, self-purification, the conquering of primitive instincts or
the attainment of some other noble goal. 2 |
||Calendar: Muslims follow a lunar
calendar which started with the hegira, a 300 mile trek in 622 CE when Muhammad (pbuh) relocated from Mecca to
Medina. Al-Hijra/Muharram is the Muslim New Year, the beginning of the first lunar month. The beginning of the year 1434H occurred on 2002-MAR-15
of the Gregorian calendar.|
||Separation of church and state:
Originally, in Islamic countries, there was no separation between religious and civil law, between Islam and the state. Muhammad
and his successors were both religious and political leaders. Turkey became a secular state during the 20th century. This
is a controversial move in conservative Islamic circles. |
||Proselytizing: Muslims are not
required to actively recruit others to Islam. In the Qur'an, Allah told Muhammad that "You certainly cannot guide whomever
you please; It is Allah who guides whom He will. He best knows those who accept guidance." (28:56). Muslims are expected
to explain Islam to followers of other faiths, but it is up to Allah to guide those whom he wishes to.|
||Suicide: This is forbidden. The
Qur'an clearly states: "Do not kill yourselves as God has been to you very merciful" (4:29). Only Allah is to take
a life. On the other hand, Muslim physicians are not "encouraged to artificially prolong the misery [of a person who is]
in a vegetative state." 5 |
Islamic holy days:
The main holy days are listed below. They are scheduled according to a lunar calendar and thus happen about eleven days
earlier each month.
||Al-Hijra/Muharram is the Muslim
New Year, the beginning of the first lunar month.|
||'Ashura recalls an event circa
680-OCT-20 CE in Iraq when an army of the Umayyad regime martyred a group of 70 individuals who refused to submit to the Caliph.
One of the martyrs was Imam Husain, the youngest grandson of Prophet Muhammad. |
||Mawlid al-Nabi is a celebration
of the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad, the founder of Islam in 570 CE. "The Mawlid al-Nabi was first observed around
the thirteenth century and was preceded by a month of celebration. The actual day of Muhammad's birthday included a sermon,
recitation of litanies, honoring of religious dignitaries, gift giving, and a feast. The festival spread throughout the Muslim
world and is celebrated in many countries today. However, some conservative sects (e.g., the Wahhabiyah) consider the celebration
to be idolatrous." |
||Ramadan is the holiest period in
the Islamic year; it is held during the entire 9th lunar month of the year. This was the month in which the Qura'n was revealed
to the Prophet Muhammad. The first day of Ramadan is listed above. It is a time at which almost all Muslims over the age of
12 are expected to fast from sunup to sundown.|
||Id al-Fitr (a.k.a. "'Id")
is the first day of the 10th month -- i.e. the day after the end of Ramadan. It is a time of rejoicing. Houses are decorated;
Muslims buy gifts for relatives. |
||Id al-Adha (a.k.a. the Feast
of Sacrifice or Day of Sacrifice) occurs during the 12th month of the Islamic year. This is the season of the Haj
(pilgrimage to Mecca). It recalls the day when Abraham intended to follow the instructions of God, and sacrifice his son Ishmael.
(This is not a typo; Muslims believe that Abraham was prepared to sacrifice his elder son Ishmael; Judeo-Christians believe
that Isaac was involved in the near sacrifice). |
Beliefs about Jesus (pbuh), within Islam and Christianity:
Traditional Christians and Muslims have certain beliefs in common concerning Jesus (pbuh). They both accept that:
||His birth was miraculous.|
||He was the Messiah.|
||He cured people of illness.|
||He restored dead people to life.|
However, they differ from Christians in a number of major areas. Muslims do not believe:
||In original sin (that everyone inherits
a sinful nature because of Adam and Eve's transgression)|
||That Jesus (pbuh) was killed during a
crucifixion. Muslims believe that he escaped being executed, and later reappeared to his disciples without having first died.|
||That Jesus (pbuh) was resurrected (or resurrected himself) circa 30 CE.|
||Salvation is dependent either upon belief in the resurrection of Jesus (pbuh) (as in Paul's writings) or belief that Jesus (pbuh) is
the Son of God (as in the Gospel of John).|
Schools within Islam:
There are different schools of jurisprudence within Islam. The main divisions are:
||Sunni Muslims: These are followers
of the Hanifa, Shafi, Hanibal and Malik schools. They constitute a 90% majority of the believers, and are considered to be
main stream traditionalists. Because they are comfortable pursuing their faith within secular societies, they have been able
to adapt to a variety of national cultures, while following their three sources of law: the Qur'an, Hadith and consensus of
||Shi'ite Muslims: These are
followers of the Jafri school who constitute a small minority of Islam. They split from the Sunnis over a dispute about the
successor to Muhammad (pbuh). Their leaders promote a strict interpretation of the Qur'an and close adherence to its teachings.
They believe in 12 heavenly Imams (perfect teachers) who led the Shi'ites in succession. Shi'ites believe that the 12th Imam,
the Mahdi (guided one), never died but went into hiding waiting for the optimum time to reappear and guide humans towards
justice and peace.|
||Sufism: This is a mystic
tradition in which followers seek inner knowledge directly from God through meditation and ritual and dancing. They developed
late in the 10th century CE as an ascetic reaction to the formalism and laws of the Qur'an. There are Sufis from
both the Sunni and Shi'ite groups. However, some Sunni followers to not consider Sufiism as a valid Islamic practice. They
incorporated ideas from Neoplatonism, Buddhism, and Christianity. They emphasize personal union with the divine. In the Middle
East, some Sufi traditions are considered to be a separate school of Islam. In North and sub-Saharan Africa, Sufism is more
a style and an approach rather than a separate school.|
Islam does not have denominational mosques. Members are welcome to attend any mosque in any land.
There are over 70 other groups which originated within Islam and broke away from the Sunni or Shi'ite faith communities.
||Baha'i World Faith: This religion attempts to integrate all of the world religions. It was originally a break-away sect from Islam
but has since grown to become a separate religion. Members are heavily persecuted in some Muslim countries because they are
regarded as apostates to the true Muslim faith. Oppression is particularly heavy in Iran.|
||Ahmadis: Followers of
the Ahmadiyya Movement believe that God sent Ahmad as a Messiah, "a messenger of His in this age who has
claimed to have come in the spirit and power of Jesus Christ. He has come to call all people around one Faith, i.e.
The movement's founder was Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835-1908). He was born in Qadian, India. He felt that he had a mandate
from God to correct a serious error within Christianity. Most Christians believe that Jesus (pbuh) is a member of the Godhead.
"...because Jesus, whom God sent as a Messiah to the Israelites was taken for a God, Divine jealousy ordained that another
man [Ahmad] should be sent as Messiah so that the world may know that the first Messiah was nothing more than a weak mortal."
After his death, the community elected a series of Khalifas (successors). The current and "Fourth Successor (Khalifatul
Masih IV), to the Promised Messiah was chosen in the person of Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad" on 1982-JUN-10.
The Ahmadiyya Community currently has more than 10 million members worldwide. They prefer to call themselves "Muslims
of the Amadiyya sect." They are very heavily persecuted in Pakistan. They regard themselves as a reform movement within
||Black Muslim Movement (BMM):
This is largely a black urban movement in the US. One driving force was a rejection of Christianity as the religion of the
historically oppressing white race. It was started by Wallace Fard who built the first temple in Detroit. Elijah Muhammad
(born Elijah Poole) established a second temple in Chicago and later supervised the creation of temples in most large cities
with significant black populations. They taught that blacks were racially superior to whites and that a racial war is inevitable.
The charismatic Malcolm X was perhaps their most famous spokesperson; he played an important role in reversing the BMM's anti-white
beliefs. In its earlier years, the movement deviated significantly from traditional Islamic beliefs (particularly over matters
of racial tolerance the status of the BMM leaders as prophets). This deviation is being reversed.|
Criticisms of Islam:
Islam is growing rapidly and is now followed by more than 20% of the world's population. Christianity is not growing; its
popularity has been stuck at about 33% of the worlds population for many decades. It is in decline in the United States (in
terms of "market share"). Christian attacks on Islam are inevitable. Most criticisms are not well grounded in reality:
||Islam is often blamed for female genitalia
mutilation. But it is obvious that FGM is grounded in cultural tradition, not religious belief, in those countries where it
is practiced. In some countries, the mutilation is practiced by Animists, Christians, and Muslims.|
||A number of anti-Islamic books have been
written recently, criticizing some Islamic countries for lack of religious tolerance, equality for women, lack of democracy,
etc. One of the most famous of these books is "Why I am Not a Muslim" by Ibn Warraq, an ex-Muslim. Many reviews by readers of this controversial book are available on-line from the Amazon.com web site. An excellent rebuttal of
the book by Jeremiah D. McAuliffe, Jr., titled "Trends and Flaws in Some Anti-Muslim Writing as Exemplified by Ibn
Warraq" is at: http://idt.net/~balboa19/warraq/warraq1a.html |
||Some conservative Christian web sites
include attacks on Islam. They base their position on the inerrancy of the Bible, and their belief that Christianity is the only valid religion. An essay by Ric Llewellyn at http://www.seafox.com/islam.html is typical. He makes heavy use of emotionally loaded, judgmental terms, such as: false religion, false doctrines, dubious
beginnings, fanaticism, irrational, accursed, religious bondage, cults, wicked doctrines, etc. It is our belief that these
attacks are counter-productive. The main result of these web pages is to demonstrate the degree of intolerance and hatred
held by their Webmasters; this does not reflect well on Christianity.|
||The media has historically disseminated
a very negative image of Islam. It overwhelmingly reports on the beliefs and practices of the most conservative wing of the
religion. Many non-Muslims are unaware that a moderate wing even exists in Islam. A number of anti-defamation groups have
been organized to combat these negative portrayals. CAIR, The Council on American-Islamic Relations is a leader in this field.|
- "Correctional Institution's Guide to Islamic Religious Practices," by the Council on American-Islamic Relations
(CAIR). Excerpts are available at: http://www.cair-net.org/downloads/correctionalguide.pdf You need software to read this file. It can be obtained free from:
- "His birth," at: http://www.geocities.com/our_purpose/
- Louis Hammann, "Ahmadiyyat: An introduction," at: http://www.alislam.org/introduction/ahmadiyyat.html
- "Calculating Qibla Direction," at: http://www.geocities.com/SiliconValley/
- Shadid Athar, "Euthanasia and Physician Assisted Suicide," at: http://islam-usa.com/e2.html
In addition to the above, we have short passages on: