Islam

Islam articulated by the Qur’an, a religious text considered by its adherents to be the verbatim word of God (Allāh), and, for the vast majority of adherents, by the teachings and normative example (called the sunnah, composed of accounts called hadith) of Pbuh Muhammad (c. 570–8 June 632 CE). An adherent of Islam is called a Muslim (sometimes spelled “Moslem”). Muslims believe that God is one and incomparable and that the purpose of existence is to worship God. Nearly all Muslims consider Pbuh Muhammad to be the last prophet of God.

Muslims also believe that

  • Islam is the complete and universal version of a primordial faith that was revealed many times before through prophets including Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus.
  • As for the Qur’an, Muslims consider it to be both the unaltered and the final revelation of God.
  • Religious concepts and practices include the five pillars of Islam, which are obligatory acts of worship, and following Islamic law, which touches on virtually every aspect of life and society, from topics ranging from banking and welfare, to family life and the environment.
  • Islam began in the early-7th century. Originating in Mecca, it quickly spread in the Arabian peninsula.
  • Most Muslims are of one of two denominations: Sunni (~75–90%) or Shia (~10–20%).

Islam is means “voluntary submission to God”

Muslim, the word for an adherent of Islam, “one who submits” or “one who surrenders”. Believers demonstrate submission to God by serving God, following his commands, and rejecting polytheism.

Concept of God

Islam’s most fundamental concept is a rigorous monotheism, called tawḥīd.

  • God is described in chapter 112 of the Qur’an as: “Say: He is God, the One and Only; God, the Eternal, Absolute; He begetteth not, nor is He begotten; And there is none like unto Him.”
  • In Islam, God is beyond all comprehension and Muslims are not expected to visualize God. God is described and referred to by certain names or attributes, the most common being Al-Rahmān, meaning “The Compassionate” and Al-Rahīm, meaning “The Merciful”
  • Muslims believe that the creation of everything in the universe was brought into being by God’s sheer command, “‘Be’ and so it is,” and that the purpose of existence is to worship God. He is viewed as a personal god who responds whenever a person in need or distress calls him. There are no intermediaries, such as clergy, to contact God who states, “I am nearer to him than (his) jugular vein.”
  • Allāh is the term with no plural or gender.

Angels

Belief in angels is fundamental to the faith of Islam.

  • Angels do not possess free will, and therefore worship and obey God in total obedience. Angels’ duties include communicating revelations from God, glorifying God, recording every person’s actions, and taking a person’s soul at the time of death. Muslims believe that angels are made of light. They are described as “messengers with wings—two, or three, or four (pairs):
  • Pictorial depictions of angels are generally avoided in Islamic Art, as the idea of giving form to anything immaterial is not accepted.
  • Muslims believe that angels cannot be seen with the naked eye, and prophets such as Pbuh Muhammad received revelation from them only in a spiritual sense.

Revelations

  • The Islamic holy books are the records which most Muslims believe were dictated by God to various prophets.
  • The Qur’an (literally, “Reading” or “Recitation”) is viewed by Muslims as the final revelation and literal word of God and is widely regarded as the finest literary work in the Arabic language.
  • Muslims believe that the verses of the Qur’an were revealed to Pbuh Muhammad by God through the archangel Gabriel (Jibrīl) on many occasions between 610 CE until his death on June 8, 632. While Pbuh Muhammad was alive, all of these revelations were written down by his companions (sahabah), although the prime method of transmission was orally through memorization.
  • The Qur’an is divided into 114 suras, or chapters, which combined, contain 6,236 āyāt, or verses. The chronologically earlier suras, revealed at Mecca, are primarily concerned with ethical and spiritual topics. The later Medinan suras mostly discuss social and moral issues relevant to the Muslim community.
  • The Qur’an is more concerned with moral guidance than legal instruction, and is considered the “sourcebook of Islamic principles and values”. Muslim jurists consult the hadith (“reports”), or the written record of Prophet Pbuh Muhammad’s life, to both supplement the Qur’an and assist with its interpretation. The science of Qur’anic commentary and exegesis is known as tafsir. The set of rules governing proper pronunciation is called tajwid.
  • Muslims usually view “the Qur’an” as the original scripture as revealed in Arabic and that any translations are necessarily deficient, which are regarded only as commentaries on the Qur’an.

Prophets

  • Muslims identify the prophets of Islam as those humans chosen by God to be his messengers. According to the Qurʼan, the prophets were instructed by God to bring the “will of God” to the peoples of the nations.
  • Muslims believe that prophets are human and not divine.
  • Muslims believe that God finally sent Pbuh Muhammad as the last law bearing prophet (Seal of the Prophets) to convey the divine message to the whole world (to sum up and to finalize the word of God).
  • In Islam, the “normative” example of Pbuh Muhammad’s life is called the Sunnah (literally “trodden path”). Muslims are encouraged to emulate Pbuh Muhammad’s actions in their daily lives and the Sunnah is seen as crucial to guiding interpretation of the Qur’an. This example is preserved in traditions known as hadith, which recount his words, his actions, and his personal characteristics. Hadith Qudsi is a sub-category of hadith, regarded as verbatim words of God quoted by Pbuh Muhammad but is not part of the Quran.

A hadith involves two elements- a chain of narrators, called sanad, and the actual wording, called matn. Hadiths can be classified, by studying the narration, as “authentic” or “correct”, called Sahih, “good”, called Ḥasan or “weak”, called Ḍaʻīf  among others.

  • Muhammad al-Bukhari collected over 300,000 hadith, but only included 2,602 distinct hadith that passed the tests that codified them as authentic into his book Sahih al-Bukhari, which is considered by many to be the most authentic source after the Quran.

Resurrection and judgment

Belief in the “Day of Resurrection”, Yawm al-Qiyāmah is also crucial for Muslims.

On Yawm al-Qiyāmah, Muslims believe all mankind will be judged on their good and bad deeds and consigned to Jannah (paradise) or Jahannam (hell). The Qurʼan lists several sins that can condemn a person to hell, such as disbelief in God, and dishonesty; however, the Qurʼan makes it clear God will forgive the sins of those who repent if he so wills. Good deeds, such as charity, prayer and compassion towards animals, will be rewarded with entry to heaven. Muslims view heaven as a place of joy and bliss, with Qurʼanic references describing its features and the physical pleasures to come. Mystical traditions in Islam place these heavenly delights in the context of an ecstatic awareness of God.

Five pillars

The Pillars of Islam (arkan al-Islam; also arkan ad-din, “pillars of religion”) are five basic acts in Islam, considered obligatory for all believers. The Quran presents them as a framework for worship and a sign of commitment to the faith. They are

(1) the creed (shahadah),

(2) daily prayers (salat),

(3) almsgiving (zakah),

(4) fasting during Ramadan and

(5) the pilgrimage to Mecca (hajj) at least once in a lifetime if you are financially and physically able to. Both Shia and Sunni sects agree on the essential details for the performance of these acts.

Testimony

The Shahadah, which is the basic creed of Islam that must be recited under oath with the specific statement: “‘ašhadu ‘al-lā ilāha illā-llāhu wa ‘ašhadu ‘anna muħammadan rasūlu-llāh“, or “I testify that there is no god but God, Pbuh Muhammad is the messenger of God.” This testament is a foundation for all other beliefs and practices in Islam. Muslims must repeat the shahadah in prayer, and non-Muslims wishing to convert to Islam are required to recite the creed.

Prayer

Ritual prayers, called Ṣalāh or Ṣalāt must be performed five times a day. Salat is intended to focus the mind on God, and is seen as a personal communication with him that expresses gratitude and worship. Salat is compulsory but flexibility in the specifics is allowed depending on circumstances. The prayers are recited in the Arabic language, and consist of verses from the Qur’an. The prayers are done with the chest in direction of the kaaba.

A Mosque / Masjid is a place of worship for Muslims, the primary purpose of the mosque is to serve as a place of prayer, it is also important to the Muslim community as a place to meet and study.

Alms-giving

Zakāt is giving a fixed portion of accumulated wealth by those who can afford it to help the poor or needy and for those employed to collect Zakat; also, for bringing hearts together, freeing captives, for those in debt (or bonded labour) and for the (stranded) traveller. It is considered a religious obligation that the well-off owe to the needy because their wealth is seen as a “trust from God’s bounty”. Conservative estimates of annual zakat is estimated to be 15 times global humanitarian aid contributions. The amount of zakat to be paid on capital assets (e.g. money) is 2.5% (1/40) per year, for people who are not poor. The Qur’an and the hadith also urge a Muslim to give even more as an act of voluntary alms-giving called Sadaqah.

Fasting

Fasting, from food and drink (among other things) must be performed from dawn to dusk during the month of Ramadhan. The fast is to encourage a feeling of nearness to God, and during it Muslims should express their gratitude for and dependence on him, atone for their past sins, and think of the needy. Sawm is not obligatory for several groups for whom it would constitute an undue burden. For others, flexibility is allowed depending on circumstances, but missed fasts usually must be made up quickly.

Pilgrimage

The pilgrimage, called the ḥajj , has to be done during the Islamic month of Dhu al-Hijjah in the city of Mecca. Every able-bodied Muslim who can afford it must make the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in his or her lifetime. Rituals of the Hajj include: spending a day and a night in the tents in the desert plain of Mina, then a day in the desert plain of Arafat praying and worshiping God, following the foot steps of Abraham. Then spending a night out in the open, sleeping on the desert sand in the desert plain of Muzdalifah, then moving to Jamarat, symbolically stoning the Devil recounting Abraham’s actions. Then going to Mecca and walking seven times around the Kaaba which Muslims believe was built as a place of worship by Abraham. Then walking seven times between Mount Safa and Mount Marwah recounting the steps of Abraham’s wife, while she was looking for water for her son Ismael in the desert before Mecca developed into a settlement.

Law and jurisprudence

The Shariʻah is Islamic law and constitutes a system of duties that are incumbent upon a Muslim by virtue of his or her religious belief.

The Quran set the rights, the responsibilities and the rules for people and for societies to adhere to. Pbuh Muhammad provided an example, which is recorded in the hadith books, showing how he practically implemented those rules in a society.

Islamic law covers all aspects of life, from matters of state, like governance and foreign relations, to issues of daily living. The Qur’an defines hudud as the punishments for five specific crimes: unlawful intercourse, false accusation of unlawful intercourse, consumption of alcohol, theft, and highway robbery. The Qur’an and Sunnah also contain laws of inheritance, marriage, and restitution for injuries and murder, as well as rules for fasting, charity, and prayer.

Scholars

Islam, like Judaism, has no clergy in the sacerdotal sense, such as priests who mediate between God and people. However, there are many terms in Islam to refer to religiously sanctioned positions of Islam. In the broadest sense, the term ulema is used to describe the body of Muslim scholars who have completed several years of training and study of Islamic sciences. A jurist who interprets Islamic law is called a mufti and often issues judicial opinions, called fatwas. A scholar of jurisprudence is called a faqih. Someone who studies the science of hadith is called a muhaddith. A qadi is a judge in an Islamic court. Honorific titles given to scholars include shiekh, mullah and maulvi. Imam is a leadership position, often used in the context of conducting Islamic worship services.

  • Education is considered very important to Muslims, so that they could distinguish between right and wrong, but when it comes to entry into heaven, the most noble in the sight of God are the most righteous and they may be honest, compassionate and helpful to others but not necessarily very educated.

Etiquette and diet

Many practices fall in the category of adab, or Islamic etiquette. This includes greeting others with “as-salamu `alaykum” (“peace be unto you”), saying bismillah (“in the name of God”) before meals, and using only the right hand for eating and drinking.

  • Islamic hygienic practices mainly fall into the category of personal cleanliness and health. Circumcision of male offspring is also practiced in Islam.
  • Muslims are restricted in their diet. Prohibited foods include pork products, blood, carrion, and alcohol.
  • All meat must come from a herbivorous animal slaughtered in the name of God by a Muslim, Jew, or Christian, with the exception of game that one has hunted or fished for oneself. Food permissible for Muslims is known as halal

Family life

  • The basic unit of Islamic society is the family, and Islam defines the obligations and legal rights of family members.
  • The father is seen as financially responsible for his family, and is obliged to cater for their well-being.
  • The division of inheritance is specified in the Qur’an, which states that most of it is to pass to the immediate family, while a portion is set aside for the payment of debts and the making of bequests.
  • The woman’s share of inheritance is generally half of that of a man with the same rights of succession.
  • Marriage in Islam is a civil contract which consists of an offer and acceptance between two qualified parties in the presence of two witnesses. The groom is required to pay a bridal gift (mahr) to the bride, as stipulated in the contract.
  • The Quran (verse 4:3) limits the number of wives to four and only if a man could treat them with fairness and equity.
  • Most families in the Islamic world are monogamous as the rule is a conditional permission not a recommendation.
  • Polyandry, a form of polygamy, where a woman takes on two or more husbands is prohibited in Islam. With Muslims coming from diverse backgrounds including 49 Muslim-majority countries, plus a strong presence as large minorities throughout the world there are many variations on Muslim Weddings. The Nikah mut‘ah is practised by Shia Muslims. Sunni Muslims practice Nikah Misyar, a similar marriage arrangement. Sunni Muslims also practice Nikah ‘urfi.

Jihad

Jihad means “to strive or struggle” (in the way of God). Jihad, in its broadest sense, is “exerting one’s utmost power, efforts, endeavors, or ability in contending with an object of disapprobation”.

  • Jihad is the only form of warfare permissible in Islamic law and may be declared against illegal works, terrorists, criminal groups, rebels, apostates, and leaders or states who oppress Muslims. Most Muslims today interpret Jihad as only a defensive form of warfare. Jihad only becomes an individual duty for those vested with authority.

History

Pbuh Muhammad (610–632)

During the last 22 years of his life, beginning at age 40 in 610 CE, Pbuh Muhammad reported revelations that he believed to be from God, conveyed to him through the archangel Gabriel (Jibril). Pbuh Muhammad’s companions memorized and recorded the content of these revelations, known as the Qur’an.

During this time, Pbuh Muhammad in Mecca preached to the people, imploring them to abandon polytheism and to worship one God.

Various Eras:

  • Caliphate and civil strife (632–750)
  • Classical era (750–1258)
  • Pre-Modern era (1258–20th century)
  • Modern times (20th century–present)

Sunnis

The largest denomination in Islam is Sunni Islam, which makes up 75%–90% of all Muslims. Sunni Muslims also go by the name Ahl as-Sunnah which means “people of the tradition [of Pbuh Muhammad]”. These hadiths, recounting Pbuh Muhammad’s words, actions, and personal characteristics, are preserved in traditions known as Al-Kutub Al-Sittah (six major books).

Sunnis believe that the first four caliphs were the rightful successors to Pbuh Muhammad; since God did not specify any particular leaders to succeed him and those leaders were elected. Sunnis believe that anyone who is righteous and just could be a caliph but they have to act according to the Qur’an and the Hadith, the example of Pbuh Muhammad and give the people their rights.

The Sunnis follow the Quran, then the Hadith. Then for legal matters not found in the Quran or the Hadith, they follow four madh’habs (schools of thought): Hanafi, Hanbali, Maliki and Shafi’i, established around the teachings of Abū Ḥanīfa, Ahmad bin Hanbal, Malik ibn Anas and al-Shafi’i respectively.

Shia

The Shia constitute 10–20% of Islam and are its second-largest branch.

While the Sunnis believe that a Caliph should be elected by the community, Shia’s believe that Pbuh Muhammad appointed his son-in-law, Ali ibn Abi Talib, as his successor and only certain descendants of Ali could be Imams. As a result, they believe that Ali ibn Abi Talib was the first Imam (leader), rejecting the legitimacy of the previous Muslim caliphs Abu Bakr, Uthman ibn al-Affan and Umar ibn al-Khattab.

Shia Islam has several branches, the most prominent being the Twelvers (the largest branch), Zaidis and Ismailis.

Sufism

Sufism or Tasawwuf, according to its adherents, is the inner mystical dimension of Islam.

  • Sufism as purely based upon the tenets of Islam and the teachings of Pbuh Muhammad.
  • Sufism (Tasawwuf) is a mystical-ascetic approach to Islam that seeks to find divine love and knowledge through direct personal experience of God. By focusing on the more spiritual aspects of religion, Sufis strive to obtain direct experience of God by making use of “intuitive and emotional faculties” that one must be trained to use.

A comprehensive 2009 demographic study of 232 countries and territories reported that 23% of the global population, or 1.57 billion people, are Muslims.

The term “Islamic culture” could be used to mean aspects of culture that pertain to the religion, such as festivals and dress code. It is also commonly used to denote the cultural aspects of traditionally Muslim people.

Architecture: Perhaps the most important expression of Islamic art is architecture, particularly that of the mosque (four-iwan and hypostyle).

Calendar

The formal beginning of the Muslim era was chosen to be the Hijra in 622 CE, which was an important turning point in Pbuh Muhammad’s fortunes. The assignment of this year as the year 1 AH (Anno Hegirae) in the Islamic calendar was reportedly made by Caliph Umar. It is a lunar calendar with days lasting from sunset to sunset. Islamic holy days fall on fixed dates of the lunar calendar, which means that they occur in different seasons in different years in the Gregorian calendar. The most important Islamic festivals are Eid al-Fitr on the 1st of Shawwal, marking the end of the fasting month Ramadan, and Eid al-Adha  on the 10th of Dhu al-Hijjah, coinciding with the pilgrimage to Mecca.

Source – Wikipedia, Religious discussions

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