Sunday, November 10, 2019

Islam is one of the world’s greatest religions Essay

I. Introduction. Founded in the seventh century A. D. by Mohammed. The word Islam means â€Å"submission† (to the will of God). Followers of Islam are called Moslems or Muslims, terms that mean â€Å"those who submit† (to the will of God). Non-Moslems sometimes call the religion Mohammedanism and its followers Mohammedans. Moslems, however, dislike these terms because they imply the worship of Mohammed, their prophet, rather than God. There are more than a billion Moslems worldwide, making up about one-eighth of the earth’s population. Islam began in Arabia in the seventh century A. D. and spread rapidly to become the principal religion of northern Africa and western Asia. It also extends into the Balkans and across Pakistan and Bangladesh to Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines. It has extended into sub-Saharan Africa: Sudan, Niger, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, and Mauritania. Islam is the fastest-growing religion in Africa. The Moslem population in the United States consists mostly of immigrants from Pakistan, Iran, and Arab countries. There are also a number of Islamic sects among the country’s black population (Endress, 1999). II. Background A. How is it founded and who is the founder? The beginnings of Islam go back to Mohammed’s preaching in his native Mecca. However, the faith did not become fully developed until he moved to Medina (until then called Yathrib) in 662 A. D. His migration to medina, called the Hegira, begins the Moslem calendar. Mohammed’s early successors—especially Omar, the second caliph—expanded Islam through conquest. The Moslem warriors believed that if they died for Islam they would automatically go to heaven. This belief, plus the promise land and loot, spurred the Moslem armies on to conquer the Middle East, North Africa, and Spain. They almost overran southwestern Europe under Charles Martel at the Battle of Tours (732) (Ahmed, 2002). a) Early Conflicts During the period of conquest, bitter theological and political dissension developed among the Moslems. In the selection of early caliphs (successors to Mohammed as rulers of the Moslem world), Ali, son-in-law of Mohammed, was bypassed (6 Ruthven, 2000). The third caliph, a member of the Omayya (Umayya) family, was murdered by malcontents in 656, and Ali was elected to succeed him. Muawiyah, the Omayyad governor of Syria, refused to recognize Ali as caliph. When Ali was murdered in 661 by a member of a dissident sect, Muawiyah succeeded him, moved the Moslem capital from Median to Damascus, and made the caliphate hereditary in the Omayya family. Military force was required to establish the new caliph’s political authority. Spiritually, most Moslems never accepted him (Roberts, 2002). The followers of Ali formed a new branch of Islam—the Shiite, as opposed to the Sunnite, or orthodox, branch. Smaller groups continued to break away from orthodox teaching, also, and there was increasing schism in the Moslem world. b) Changing Patterns In the eight century a secret revolutionary movement against the Omayyad dynasty was led by the Abbasids, descendants of Abbas, Mohammed’s uncle. The movement began in Mesopotamia and spread east through Persia. In 747 open revolt began, and in 750 the Omayyad dynasty was overthrown and the Abbasids assumed power. The most significant aspect of the Abbasid caliphate was the Persian influence. The new capital, Baghdad, developed into a major cultural as well as political center (Roberts, 2002). The sciences and philosophy of the Greeks and Persians were translated into Arabic and spread throughout the Moslem world, setting of a surge of intellectual activity such as had not been seen since the days of ancient Greece. During the rule of the Abbasids the Moslem world lost its political unit, as first Spain and then the North African countries set up caliphates independent in Baghdad. In the ninth century there were new Moslem conquests in Europe—Sardinia, Malta, Sicily, and regions of southern Italy. The Christians regained all European territory, however, before the 14th century (Friedmann, 2003). III. Discussion What are the beliefs and doctrines of Islam? Enumerate. A. Beliefs and Doctrine a) God Moslems worship one God, called Allah (Arabic for â€Å"The God†). The believe Allah stands alone, has an absolute will, and controls all of man’s actions. In most other respects, however, he resembles the Christian and Jewish God. †¢ Apostles. According to Islamic doctrine, God gave certain men the power to communicate with him through his angels. The function of these men was to guide other mortals to Salvation. The greatest of these prophets were Adam, Noah, the house of Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed. Moslems accept the miracles and virgin birth of Jesus, but deny his divinity and resurrection. They do not attribute superhuman or miraculous powers to Mohammed, but simply consider him to be the last (and hence the most authoritative) of all the prophets (Nasr, 1999). †¢ Koran The Koran is the basic source of Islamic law and ritual. Moslems believe it was dictated to Mohammed by God, through the angel Gabriel. †¢ The Hadith The Koran is supplemented by the Hadith (tradition), consisting of the Ahadis (sayings) and Sunna (practice) of Mohammed. The Hadith was handed down orally for more than 200 years before being written down. It and the Koran are the sources of Islamic law. â€Å"Sunna† in a larger sense means the theory and practice of orthodox Islam, as based on the Koran and the Hadith. Further opinions and practices accepted by the highest Islamic learned men become articles of faith known as ijma (agreement) (Nasr, 1999). †¢ Angels The Islamic concept of angels is almost identical with the Christian belief that angels are God’s messengers, his link with mortal man. †¢ Last Judgment Like Christians, Moslems believe in a Judgment Day, when righteousness will be rewarded and wickedness will be punished. The Koran’s description of Judgment Day is generally similar to the Bible’s, although the details differ (Nasr, 1999). B. Is there any religious obligations in Islam? a. ) Obligations A Moslem has five religious obligations, called the â€Å"Five Pillars. † They are: †¢ Profession of Faith. A Moslem’s most essential obligation is the repetition of this creed: â€Å"There is no God but Allah; Mohammed is His prophet. † †¢ Prayer Prayers must be said five times each day. They may be said either privately or at the mosque. In public worship, men and women are usually separated. A worshiper precedes prayer with a ritual washing. He then faces the holy city of Mecca and follows a fixed ritual of recitation and prostration. On Fridays, a worship service at the mosque is required. Besides the ritual prayers, the service includes a reading from the Koran and a sermon (Lippman, 2002). †¢ Almsgiving Moslems are expected to contribute generously to their religion. The money is used to maintain the mosques and to help the poor. †¢ Fasting Moslems cannot eat or drink during the daylight hours of Ramadan, the ninth month of their lunar year. †¢ Pilgrimage Once in his lifetime, every Moslem who is financially and physically able must travel to Mecca. This pilgrimage is called the hajj, or hadj. A Moslem who has made it is a hajji. The pilgrim participates in a number of observances: 1) Circling the Kaaba It is the pilgrim’s first and last act. The Kaaba is a sacred structure in one corner of which is embedded the Black Stone, a meteorite that fell in ancient times and acquired symbolic significance. The pilgrim circles this structure seven times, kissing the Black Stone each time (Lippman, 2002). 2) The Running It consists of trotting seven times between two low hills on opposite sides of Mecca. This act represents a search for water by Hagar, mother of Ishmael, whose story from the Old Testament was adopted as part of Moslem tradition (Lippman, 2002). 3) The Standing The Standing at the Plain of Arafat, 25 miles (40 km) east of Mecca, consists of a day of meditating and praying, facing Mecca. 4) Stoning the Pillars at Mina Stoning the Pillars at Mina, 5 miles (8 km) east of Mecca, is an act in which pilgrims throw seven stones at pillars, symbolically attacking the devil. 5) Feast of Sacrifice Feast of Sacrifice consists of the slaughtering of an animal by pilgrims who can afford to as a thanksgiving to Allah. a) Religious War Some Moslems consider it an obligation to spread Islam by force, or holy war (jihad). This belief is not specifically stated in the Koran. b) What is an Islamic Law? The basic ethical code of Islam comes from the Koran. The most important rule is that all Moslems are bothers. The Koran encourages charity, authorizes slavery, and prohibits wine, gambling, and the eating of pork. A Moslem may have as many as four wives, and divorce is permitted. Divorce is effected by the husband telling his wife three times â€Å"I divorce thee. † The Koran does not provide a political structure for Islam and Mohammed did not reveal how the religion should be organized after his death. His close associates elected a successor, called a caliph, to take his place as a leader—but not as a prophet. This system was called the caliphate and survived until 1924. At the present time, there is no universal Moslem leader (Lippman, 2002). C. What are the Sects of Islam? There are two great divisions of Islam—the Sunnites (traditionalists) and the Shiites (legitimists). The Sunnites are the orthodox Moslems and are in the majority. The Shiites believe that Ali, Mohammed’s son-in-law and the fourth caliph, had divine powers. They claim that he was the first legitimate caliph and that his heirs, also divinely inspired, were the rightful rulers of Islam. These rulers are called imams (Klein, 2005). The Shiites broke off from orthodox Islam beginning about 679 and soon divided into a number of sects. The Imami, or Twelvers, recognize a continuing series of purely secular imams. Another sect, the Ismailis, or Seveners, recognize the same first six imams as the other sects and a seventh not recognized by the others. Historically there have been numerous extreme offshoots of the Ismailis, including the notorious Assassins. The only important group to break off from the Sunnites in modern times is the Wahhabis, who have attempted to rid the faith of what they consider corruptions. The movement began in Arabia in the 1970’s and was marked by a series of bloody wars during the 19th century. The Wahhabis have ruled Saudi Arabia since the 1920’s (Klein, 2005). IV. Conclusion Islam is a severe but simple religion. Moslems consider it to be an extension of Christianity and Judaism, but they believe the Christian Trinity is blasphemy and deny the divinity of Jesus. There is no ordained ministry or priesthood, although there are religious teachers, called ulama, or mullahs, and religious orders consisting of sufis (mystics) called dervishes. Islam’s holy book is the Koran (or Qur’an). References 1. Ahmed, Akbar S. (2002). Discovering Islam: Making Sense of Muslim History and Society. Routledge. London. 2. Endress, Gerhard. An Introduction to Islamic History (Edinburgh University, 1999). 3. Friedmann, Yohanan (2003). Tolerance and Coercion in Islam: Interfaith Relations in the Muslim Tradition. Cambridge University Press. New York. 4. Lippman, T. W. Understanding Islam: an Introduction to the Moslem World (New American Library, 2002). 5. Klein, F. A. The Religion of Islam. London: Curzon, 2005. Reprint of classic study, first published, 1996. 6. Nasr, Seyyed Hossein. Ideals and Realities of Islam. London: Allen & Unwin, 1999. Standard textbook. 7. Roberts, D. S. Islam: a Concise Introduction. New York: Harper & Row, 2002. Accessible information on varied aspects of the Islamic world. 8. Ruthven, Malise (2000). Islam in the World. Oxford University Press. Oxford.

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