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Islam

Islam symbol

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.

Quotations:

bullet "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
bullet "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
bullet "[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 attack. 3

Origin of Islam:

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:

bullet Islam existed before Muhammad (pbuh) was born,
bullet The origins of Islam date back to the creation of the world, and
bullet  Muhammad (pbuh) was the last of a series of Prophets.

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:

bullet His mother said "When he was born, there was a light that issued out of my pudendum and lit the places of Syria."
bullet 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."
bullet His foster family had many experiences of amazingly good luck while he was in their care.
bullet 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.

About Islam:

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.

Important texts:

There are two main texts consulted by Muslims:

bullet

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.

bullet 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

Islamic beliefs:

bullet Islam considers six fundamental beliefs to be the foundation of their faith:

  1. 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.)
  2. The angels.
  3. 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).
  4. 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.
  5. 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
  6. The supremacy of God's will.

bullet Other beliefs include:
bullet God did not have a son.
bullet 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.
bullet Jesus (pbuh) was not executed on the cross. He escaped crucifixion and was taken up into Paradise.
bullet The existence of Satan drives people to sin.
bullet Muslims who sincerely repent and submit to God return to a state of sinlessness.
bullet All people are considered children of Adam. Islam officially rejects racism.
bullet All children are born on Al-Fitra (a pure, natural state of submission to Islam). His parents sometimes make him Christian, Jewish, etc.
bullet 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.
bullet Alcohol, illegal drugs, eating of pork, etc. are to be avoided.
bullet Gambling is to be avoided.

Practices:

bullet A Muslim's duties as described in the Five Pillars of Islam are:
  1. 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.
  2. 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:
    bullet Fajr (Morning Prayer) which is performed some time between the break of dawn and just before sunrise.
    bullet Zuhr (Noon Prayer) offered from just after midday to afternoon.
    bullet 'Asr (Afternoon Prayer) offered from late afternoon until just before sunset
    bullet Maghrib (Sunset Prayer) offered between sunset and darkness
    bullet Isha (Night Prayer) offered at night time, often just before sleeping. 1
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. if economically and physically able, to make at least one hajj (pilgrimage) to Mecca.
bullet 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
bullet 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.
bullet 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.
bullet 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.
bullet 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.

bullet Al-Hijra/Muharram is the Muslim New Year, the beginning of the first lunar month.
bullet '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. 
bullet 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."
bullet 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.
bullet 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. 
bullet 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:

bullet His birth was miraculous.
bullet He was the Messiah.
bullet He cured people of illness.
bullet He restored dead people to life.

However, they differ from Christians in a number of major areas. Muslims do not believe:

bullet In original sin (that everyone inherits a sinful nature because of Adam and Eve's transgression)
bullet 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.
bullet That Jesus (pbuh) was resurrected (or resurrected himself) circa 30 CE.
bullet 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:

bullet 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 Muslims.
bullet 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.
bullet 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.

Deviations from Islam:

There are over 70 other groups which originated within Islam and broke away from the Sunni or Shi'ite faith communities. Some are:

bullet 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.
bullet 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. Islam..."

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 Islam. 3

bullet 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:

bullet 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.
bullet 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
bullet 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.
bullet 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.

References:

  1. "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:
  2. "His birth," at: http://www.geocities.com/our_purpose/
  3. Louis Hammann, "Ahmadiyyat: An introduction," at: http://www.alislam.org/introduction/ahmadiyyat.html
  4. "Calculating Qibla Direction," at: http://www.geocities.com/SiliconValley/
  5. Shadid Athar, "Euthanasia and Physician Assisted Suicide," at: http://islam-usa.com/e2.html 

bullet About Islam:
bullet "The Truth About Islam": A description in about 600 words
bullet Comparing the beliefs of Islam and Christianity 
bullet Comparing their growth rates
bullet How many Muslims are there in the U.S. and in the rest of the world?
bullet Books, web sites, and web rings
bullet Links to web sites featuring clothing, cards, etc.
 
bullet Quotations:
bullet Quotations from the Qur'an
bullet Hadiths: sayings of Muhammad
bullet Comparison of Qur'an verses with the Hebrew Scriptures' Ten Commandments

bullet Beliefs and Practices:
bullet Apostasy  (Irtidd) -- abandoning Islam
bullet Status of women:
bullet Female genital mutilation among Animists, Christians, and Muslims
bullet The role of women in predominately Muslim countries
bullet The Hajj -- pilgrimage to Mecca
bullet The significance of Eid-Ul-Adha
bullet Holy days of Islam -- seasonal days of observance and celebration
bullet Homosexuality
bullet The concept of Jihad
bullet Paradise: life after death
bullet When is killing innocent humans permitted? Terrorist attacks and the principle of tattarrus
bullet Punishment for non-marital sex
bullet The fast of Ramadan
 

bullet Tolerance items:
bullet Accommodating Islamic prayers in public schools
bullet Senate/House resolutions promoting religious tolerance towards Muslims.
bullet A prayer for peace and unity
bullet Why do "they" hate the West?
bullet "Terror has no faith" An essay by Ibraham Hooper of CAIR

bullet Conflicts:
bullet Verbal attacks on Muslims by Fundamentalist and other conservative Christian leaders
bullet Beliefs about Islam by the American public
bullet Is Islam a religion of violence or peace?
bullet Hate crimes against Muslims and mosques
bullet Sharia law as practiced in Ontario
bullet A joint Senate/House resolution promoting religious tolerance towards Muslims.
bullet A book about Islam on the University of Northern California reading list
bullet Terrorist attacks in America 2001-SEP-11, not by typical Muslims, but by extremist, radical, fundamentalist, Muslim terrorists.
bullet The Washington-area sniper
bullet Al Qaeda's beheading of Paul Johnson in Saudi Arabia
bullet An excerpt about Iran from a book by Reza Aslan titled "No god but God"
bullet Fatwas and other statements during 2005 condemning terrorist acts
bullet Radical Muslim group(s) in U.S. Prisons

bullet Religious terms:
bullet "Fundamentalism" within Christianity and Islam
bullet Names given to the "Holy Land"
bullet Religious terms used to refer to Islam and Muslims

In addition to the above, we have short passages on:

bullet Virgin birth of Jesus (pbuh)
bullet Jesus' (pbuh) sinlessness

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islam

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