"None of you is a believer until you love your neighbor what you love for yourself."
Islam is the second largest religion in the world with about 23% of the world’s population, second only to Christianity, which is followed by about 33% of all people on Earth. Estimates of the total number of Muslims (followers of Islam) range from 0.7 to 1.8 billion worldwide and 1.1 to 7 million in the U.S. If current trends continue, Islam, which is growing at a rate of about 2.9% per year, will become the most popular world religion sometime in the mid-21st century, if the present growth rate remains steady. However, current well published terrorist activities may slow down its rate of growth.
Islam, which literally means "surrender" or "submission," was founded on the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad as an expression of surrender to the will of Allah, the creator and sustainer of the world. The Quran, the sacred text of Islam, contains the teachings of the Prophet Mohammad that were revealed to him from Allah.
Islam is a monotheistic religious tradition that developed in the Middle East in the 7th century C.E. 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. They believe that Mohammad was the last prophet and the Quran to be the final and perfect word of God. However, they believe in both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible .Muslims also believe that Jesus was born of a virgin birth and one of the Books of the Quran is about Mary , the Mother of Jesus, whom Muslims see as a Messiah, but to them Jesus was a great prophet and was not literally the Son of God, as Christians believe.
Islam is the most recently formed of the three Abrahamic Religions which include Judaism and Christianity. According to Islamic tradition, the angel Gabriel appeared to the Prophet over the course of 20 years, revealing to him many messages from God, as found in the Quran. Muslims recognize some earlier Judeo-Christian prophets—including Moses and Jesus—as messengers of the same true God. But in Islam, Muhammad is the last and greatest of the prophets, whose revelations alone are pure and uncorrupted and the Quran is the last, immutable and flawless word of God. They view the Quran as corrective of Jewish and Christian scriptures, which have been corrupted through Christian and Jewish practices.
Muslims hold that Islam is essentially the same belief as that of all the messengers sent by God to mankind since Adam, with the Quran codifying the final revelation of God. Islam sees Judaism and Christianity as derivations of the teachings of certain of these prophets - notably Abraham - and therefore see them as fellow Abrahamic religions, and People of the Book.
It is popularly held by the vast majority of Muslims that the Holy Tawrat (revelation given to Moses) and the Holy Injil (revelation given to Jesus Christ) have been corrupted over time and that the present day interpretations of the Bible and Torah by Christians and Jews share little or no resemblance to the original message of the Profits. According to Islam, Muhammad was sent during a time of spiritual darkness and once the Quran was finally established, all past revelations were abrogated, making it the Last Testament not only for the Arab nation but for all mankind until the Day of Judgement.
One part—often seen as the largest or at least currently the most vocal—focuses on the differences takes an exclusivist and aggressive approach to the differences between Islam and the Judeo-Christian community. Like in other faiths, this can lead to parts of the Muslim community holding beliefs like the necessity of bringing them back to the "Straight Path" by persuasion, force, violence, or even death to all non- believers of Islam.
Life of the Prophet
Muhammad was born in the year 570 in the town of Mecca. He was the first and only son of Abd Allah bin Al-Muttalib and Amina bint Wahb. Abd Allah died before Muhammad's birth and Muhammad was raised by his mother Amina. He grew up in the hill country, learning their pure Arabic.
When Muhammad was five or six his mother took him to Yathrib, an oasis town a few hundred miles north of Mecca, to stay with relatives and visit his father's grave there. On the return journey, Amina took ill and died. Halima, his nurse, returned to Mecca with the orphaned boy and placed him in the protection of his paternal grandfather, Abdul Al-Muttalib. In this man's care, Muhammad learned the rudiments of statecraft. Mecca was Arabia's most important pilgrimage center and Abdul Al-Muttalib its most respected leader. He controlled important pilgrimage concessions and frequently presided over Mecca's Council of Elders.
Upon his grandfather's death in 578, Muhammad, aged about eight, passed into the care of a paternal uncle, Abu Talib. Muhammad grew up in the older man's home and remained under Abu Talib's protection for many years. Chroniclers have underscored Muhammad's disrupted childhood. So does the Qur'an: "Did God not find you an orphan and give you shelter and care? And He found you wandering, and gave you guidance. And he found you in need, and made you independent".
When young boy, Muhammad worked as a shepherd to help pay his keep (his uncle was of modest means). In his teens he sometimes traveled with Abu Talib, who was a merchant, accompanying caravans to trade centers. On at least one occasion, he is said to have traveled as far north as Syria. Older merchants recognized his character and nicknamed him El–Amin, the one you can trust.
In his early twenties, Muhammad entered the service of a wealthy Meccan merchant, a widow named Khadija bint Khawalayd. The two were distant cousins. Muhammad carried her goods to the north and returned with a profit. Impressed by Muhammad's honesty and character, Khadija eventually proposed marriage. They were wed in about 595. He was twenty-five. She was nearly forty.
Muhammad continued to manage Khadija's business affairs, and their next years were pleasant and prosperous. Six children were born to them, two sons who both died in infancy, and four daughters. Mecca prospered also, becoming a well–off trading center in the hands of an elite group of clan leaders who were mostly successful traders.
Mecca's new materialism and its traditional idolatry disturbed Muhammad. He began making long retreats to a mountain cave outside town. There, he fasted and meditated. On one occasion, after a number of indistinct visionary experiences, Muhammad was visited by an overpowering presence and instructed to recite words of such beauty and force that he and others gradually attributed them to God. This experience shook Muhammad to the core. It was several years before he dared to talk about it outside his family.
After several similar experiences, Muhammad finally began to reveal the messages he was receiving to his tribe. These were gathered verse by verse and later would become the Qur'an, Islam's sacred scripture. In the next decade, Muhammad and his followers were at first belittled and ridiculed, then persecuted and physically attacked for departing from traditional Mecca's tribal ways. Muhammad's message was resolutely monotheistic. For several years, the Quraysh, Mecca's dominant tribe, levied a ban on trade with Muhammad's people, subjecting them to near famine conditions. Toward the end of the decade, Muhammad's wife and uncle both died. Finally, the leaders of Mecca attempted to assassinate Muhammad.
In 622, Muhammad and his few hundred followers left Mecca and traveled to Yathrib, the oasis town where his father was buried. The leaders there were suffering through a vicious civil war, and they had invited this Muhammed, well known for his wisdom, to act as their mediator. Yathrib soon became known as Medina, the City of the Prophet. Muhammad remained here for the next six years, building the first Muslim community and gradually gathering more and more people to his side.
The Meccans did not take Muhammad's new success lightly. Early skirmishes led to three major battles in the next three years. Of these the Muslims won the first (the Battle of Badr, March, 624), lost the second (the Battle of Uhud, March, 625), and outlasted the third, (The Battle of the Trench and the Siege of Medina, April, 627). In March, 628, a treaty was signed between the two sides, which recognized the Muslims as a new force in Arabia and gave them freedom to move unmolested throughout Arabia. Meccan allies breached the treaty a year later.
By then, the balance of power had shifted radically away from once-powerful Mecca, toward Muhammad and the Muslims. In January, 630, they marched on Mecca and were joined by tribe after tribe along the way. They entered Mecca without bloodshed and the Meccans, seeing the tide had turned, joined them.
Muhammad returned to live in Medina. In the next three years, he consolidated most of the Arabian Peninsula under Islam. In March, 632, he returned to Mecca one last time to perform a pilgrimage, and tens of thousands of Muslims joined him.
After the pilgrimage, he returned to Medina. Three months later on June 8, 632 he died there at the age of 62, after a brief illness. He is buried in the mosque in Medina. Within a hundred years Muhammad's teaching and way of life had spread from the remote corners of Arabia as far east as Indo-China and as far west as Morocco, France and Spain.
Islam does not have an ordained clergy with authority over rites and rituals. Any Muslim with sufficient knowledge may lead prayers or perform rituals such as weddings or funerals. In the early years of Islam, learned members of the mosque led the prayers and gave the Friday sermon. They were called Imams—literally, those who stand in front. They also taught the basics of Quran and family law, and led the prayers at weddings and funerals. In some places, this job is still done without stipend and shared by several members of the mosque congregation, but in the larger mosques, a full-time imam performs all these duties, and in addition administers schools and Islamic centers, visits the sick, and helps engaged couples prepare for their weddings.
The name "Ayatollah" originates from a passage in the Quran which the Shia, unlike the Sunni, interpret to mean human beings can be regarded as 'signs' or 'evidence' of God.There are a few women who are equal in ranking to the ayatollahs, and are known as Lady Mujtahideh .
The organization of the religious structure varies from denomination to denomination and also varies by geographic region. There is no true central organizational structure in Islam.
Muslims believe that the creation of everything in the universe was brought into being by God's sheer command, "'Be' and so it is ". The Quran states that "Allah created the heavens and the earth, and all that is between them, in six days" (7:54). After completing the Creation, the Quran describes that Allah "settled Himself upon the Throne" (57:4) to oversee His work.
While on the surface this might seem similar to the account related in the Bible, there are some important distinctions. Muslims interpret the description of a "six day" creation as six distinct periods or eons, not days as it is said in the Quran. The length of these periods is not precisely defined, nor are the specific developments that took place during each period.
VISION OF GOD
In accordance with the Islamic belief in predestination, or divine pre-ordainment, God has full knowledge and control over all that occurs. This is explained in Qur'anic verses such as "Say: 'Nothing will happen to us except what Allah has decreed for us: He is our protector'..." For Muslims, everything in the world that occurs, good or bad, has been preordained and nothing can happen unless permitted by God. According to Muslim theologians, although events are per-ordained, man possesses free will in that he or she has the faculty to choose between right and wrong, and is thus responsible for his actions.
In spite of the different name used for God, Muslims assert that they believe in the same deity as the Judeo-Christian religions. However, Muslims strictly disagree with the Christian theology concerning the unity of God (the doctrine of the Trinity and that Jesus is the eternal Son of God), seeing it as akin to polytheism.
No Muslim visual images or depictions of God exist because such artistic depictions may lead to idolatry and are thus prohibited. Moreover, many Muslims believe that God is incorporeal, rendering any two or three dimensional depictions impossible. Instead, Muslims describe God by the many divine attributes mentioned in the Qur'an, and also with the 99 names of Allah. All but one Surah (chapter) of the Qur'an begins with the phrase "In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful". These are consequently the most important divine attributes in the sense that Muslims repeat them most frequently during their ritual prayers (called salah in Arabic, and in India and Pakistan called "namaz").
The two divisions within the tradition are the Sunni and Shi'a, each of which claims different means of maintaining religious authority. Approximately 85% of the world's Muslims are Sunni, and approximately 15% are Shi'a.
Sunnis adopted the belief that leadership should pass to the most qualified person, not through hereditary succession. The Sunni selected Abu Bakr, Muhammad's close companion and trusted adviser, to be Caliph after Muhammad’s death. While the Caliph Abu Bakr was not a Prophet, as the Qur'an had declared Muhammad to be the last of the Prophets, the Caliph had religious prestige as head of the community of believers, the Ummah.
Shi'a), meaning "the party of Ali," constitute the second-largest branch of Islam. Unlike the Sunnis, they believe that the succession of leadership should be hereditary, staying within the Prophet's family. They believe that Ali ibn Abi Talib, as the closest living male relative of Muhammad (cousin, and son-in-law - married to his daughter, Fatima), was his rightful successor, and they called him the first Imam (leader), rejecting the legitimacy of the previous Muslim caliphs.
What created the real schism, the real rupture between Sunni and Shi'a, was when Ali's son and Muhammad's grandson, Hussein, was killed in a rebellion to recover leadership. Hussein, and his small band of followers, about 100 strong, were slaughtered by overwhelming forces of the Umayyad army, perhaps as many as 100,000, at Karbala, a city about 60 miles southwest of modern day Baghdad, Iraq. This is referred to as the Battle of Karbala. The memory of this tragedy, called the "martyrdom of Hussein," created a paradigm, a model, of suffering and protest that has guided, and inspired, Shiis ever since.
Shi'a Islam has several branches, but three major divisions. While these divisions have other differences, such as acceptance of parts of the Hadith (see section Islamic traditions) attributed to rejected either leaders or transmitters, the principle disagreement came into play over succession as to how many imams, or leaders, each community recognized: Fivers (also known as Zaydis), Seveners, and the Twelvers (also known as Ithna Asharis) is the largest of these major divisions. The numbers five, seven, and twelve refer to the number of authorized interpreters of the law, or Imam, that each group accepts.
The Twelvers are the most popular of the Shi'a.
For eleven generations after the death of Mohammad his direct descendants were the CALIPH’s, or the religious leaders of Islamic Shia.
In almost all other respects, there is no difference in religious practices between Sunnis and Shias.
There is a small minority who are members of other Islamic sects.
Sufism is generally considered to be a mystical inflection of Islam rather than a distinct school. It has been defined as "mystical Islamic belief, and practice, in which Muslims seek to find the truth of divine love, and knowledge, through direct personal experience of God." Mysticism is the doctrine that it is possible to achieve communion with God through contemplation and love, without the medium of human reason. It is a spiritual practice followed by both Sunni and Shi'a. Both men and women participate in Sufism. It has been a prominent movement within Islam throughout most of its history.
In contrast to the exterior path of law and rules, they emphasize the more interior path of piety and devotional love. The early Sufis, or mystics, pursued an ascetic lifestyle that emphasize detachment from the material world, repentance for sins, and focus on the Last Judgment. "Little sleep, little talk, little food" are fundamental, and fasting is considered one of the most important preparations for the spiritual life. They dedicated themselves to a life of prayer, fasting, meditation on the Qur'an -- an imitation of Muhammad.
Wahabbism is one of the smaller Islamic sects. Wahabbism is recognized as the official religion of Saudi Arabia. They classify themselves as Sunni, and claim to follow the Hanbali legal tradition (Hanbali is one of the Sunni religious schools). Wahabbism would have probably remained insignificant, and considered heretical by the mainstream, but for twentieth-century oil wealth. It adopts a much more hard-line interpretation of the Qur'an and Hadith. The below excerpts are from an article posted on the independent student newspaper website (TheTriangle.org) at Drexel University, 7/03/2009, and best highlights this hard-line approach:
"America is corrupt! America is immoral! America is ruled by Satan, who employs the Jews to carry out his bidding! If you are still reading this that means that there is still some hope for your soul. I, Sheikh Usama ibn Akhmed, am the president of Wahabbism Now for America. Our organization recognizes the massive moral shortcomings of this immoral culture and attempts to fix it by enforcing the purest form of Islam; this form of Islam, Wahabbism, is the law of the Holy Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and we will impose it on America and all its inhabitants….
Part of America's sin-filled society is due to the excessive freedoms that are available to women. These freedoms promote immorality and promiscuity and must be restricted immediately so that a return to purity can be achieved. When we come to power, we will decree that no women shall be allowed to go to school or work. Education is useless to women, because it is God's will that their duty in life is to stay at home and raise children.
We will also make polygamy legal. Polygamy is required in many cases so as to protect that chastity of women. As women stay unmarried longer, the chance of them being overcome by lust and sin increases. There is no doubt that a woman having one-half of a husband, or one-third or one-fourth of one is better off than the woman having no husband at all.
Of course it goes without saying that soon all shall be forced to convert to our religion and follow our beliefs."
The terms "Wahabi", "Salafi" (and also sometimes Ahle Hadith) are often used interchangeably, but Wahabi has also been called "a particular orientation within Salafism". Salafism appeals to younger Muslims as a way to differentiate themselves from their wrong beliefs of parents and grandparents, because it is seen as pure, stripped of the local, superstitious, and customary Muslim practices of their families' countries of origin. It confers a sense of moral superiority. Salafism has a potent appeal because it underscores Islam's universality.
Salafism reject not only Western ideologies such as Socialism and Capitalism, but also common Western concepts like economics, constitutions, political parties and revolution.
It teaches that Muslims should not engage in Western activities like politics, "even by giving them an Islamic slant." Instead, Muslims should stick to traditional activities, particularly Dawah (meaning "to summon, to invite", referring to God's invitation to live according to his will). Salafis promote Islamic law (Shari'a), rather than an Islamic political program.
Finally, a mention must be made of the distinction between Arabs and Middle Easterners. Not all Arabs are Muslim (about 10% of Arabs are Christian), and most Muslims are not Arabs. Only about 18% of the world's 1.6 billion Muslims are Arab.Some Arabs have a negative view of the Middle Easterners who wear untrimmed beards and sloppy dress.
The sacred text of Islam, the Qur'an, was written in Arabic within 30 years of Muhammad's death. Muslims believe it contains the literal and final word of God. The Old and New Testaments of the Bible are also very important text to Muslims.
Also important is the tradition of the sayings and actions of Muhammad and his companions, collected in the Hadith.
Sunna denotes the practice of Islamic prophet Muhammad that he taught and practically instituted as a teacher of the sharī‘ah and the best exemplar. The sources of sunna are usually oral traditions found in collections of Hadith and Sīra (prophetic biography). Unlike the Qur'an, Muslims do not agree on the same set of texts or sources of Sunnah, and they emphasize different collections of hadith based on to which Islamic school or branch they belong.
Islam is derived from an Arabic word with the basic meaning "to surrender and obey" and it has the literal meaning to submit to the God (Allah).
Islam's basic tenet is "There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is the messenger of God". Muslims follow the Islamic religion. Islam is an unflinchingly monotheistic faith. Muslims believe that Allah revealed his plan to Muhammad and earlier prophets. A person surrenders to the will of Allah by living and thinking in the way Allah has instructed.
The word Allah does not have a plural or gender. Allah does not have any associate or partner, and He does not beget nor was He begotten. Islam began in its present form 1400 years ago in Arabia, but swiftly become a world faith, and now has around 1,200 million adherents. Islam is open to all, regardless of race, age, gender, or previous beliefs. As all wealth is a gift from Allah, one has the duty to help the needy when able to do so.
Nothing shall be legitimate to a Muslim which belongs to a fellow Muslim unless it was given freely and willingly. Like Jews and Christians, Muslims believe that the present life is only a trial preparation for the next realm of existence.
The arabesque, derived from the classical vine scroll, evolved into Islamic art's most distinctive motif. Calligraphy is the most important and pervasive element in Islamic art. Arabic calligraphy was the vehicle that spread the message of Islam and thus became the central, most venerated art form. Islamic art not only invites a closer look but also beckons the viewer to learn more.
The theology of the Islamic scriptures informs most aspects of Muslim life and culture. The Five Pillars of Islam is expressed in the Quran (Koran), which is a practical doctrine that encourages Muslims to:
1. Pray 5 times a day facing Mecca,
2. Fast during the Ramadan holiday,
3. Make a pilgrimage to Mecca during one’s lifetime, if possible,
4. Declare '’There is no god but God, and Muhammad is his prophet’', and;
5. Pay money to the poor (usually 2.5% of income).
There are Six Basic Beliefs shared by all Muslims:
1. Belief in God, the one and only one worthy of all worship.
2. Belief in the Angels.
3. Belief in the Book (al-Quran / Koran) (sent by God).
4. Belief in all the Prophets and Messengers (sent by God).
5. Belief in the Day of Judgment (Qiyamah) and in the Resurrection.
6. Belief in Fate (Qadar).
The Muslim creed in English is as follows:
“I believe in God; and in His Angels; and in His Scriptures; and in His Messengers; and in The Final Day; and in Fate, that Good and Evil are from God, and Resurrection after death be Truth.I testify that there is nothing worthy of worship but God; and I testify that Muhammad is His Messenger.”
Unlike Christianity, Islam did not originally have prohibitions against wealth and profit. Muhammad himself was a merchant.
Most Muslims regard the Qur'an with extreme veneration, wrapping it in a clean cloth, keeping it on a high shelf, and washing as for prayers before reading the Qur'an. Old Qur'ans are not destroyed as wastepaper, but deposited in Qur'an graveyards. The Qur'an is regarded as an infallible guide to personal piety and community life, and completely true in its history and science. From the beginning of the faith, most Muslims believed that the Qur'an was perfect only as revealed in Arabic. Translations were the result of human effort and human fallibility, as well as lacking the inspired poetry believers find in the Qur'an. Translations are therefore only commentaries on the Qur'an, or "translations of its meaning", not the Qur'an itself.
For both males and females, Islam requires that they wear proper, decent, modest, and clean clothes. Muslim women also are instructed by Allah in the Quran to wear as a minimum Hijab (head covering). At home, with her immediate family like her husband children, brothers, uncles, grandfathers and other males (family members who are forbidden to them to marry her), and with other women, a Muslim woman may take her outer garments off, and be free to beautify herself as she wants. Unlawful clothing and adornment. Tight clothing, transparent clothing, clothes that expose those parts of the body which are sexually attractive, extravagant clothes, swim suits, makeup or perfume in public, wigs and hairpieces, gold and silk prohibited to Men only, but lawful for Women.
In theory (although not in practice) Islam rejects all forms of terrorism, extremism, fanaticism and fundamentalism. The religion of Islam guarantees the sanctity of life (the life of a non-Muslim is considered as sacred as that of a Muslim), honor, property, and freedom to embrace and practice any religion they freely choose, and all other conducts as long as those conducts do not hurt others. To terrorize people or spread fear in any society or hurt others; all are considered major sins in Islam; Allah prescribed severe punishments for those who are involved in such actions.
The Islamic Shariah (Laws of Islam) is the divine code of practice which guides a Muslim I all affairs of his/her life, it is divided into two categories: Ebadat (system of worship), and Muamalat (system of dealing). The main source that governs all the laws of Islam is Allah through two channels; the first is the Quran, the book of Allah, and the second is the Sunnah, which is the authentic recording of the sayings, traditions of the Prophet and whatever his companion said or did to which he showed no objection.
The basic rule governing the issue of the lawful and the unlawful is that things are lawful unless one of the sources of the Islamic laws specifies that they are unlawful. In Islam it is prohibited to drink alcohol, use drugs, use interest, and all immoral conducts. It is also prohibited to eat the meat of pork, predators (animals and birds) and all dead animals.
The following is a summary of some of the most important practices:
Prayers: The Muslim prayer is a combination of physical actions, verbal sayings, and an internal feeling in the heart. Muslims are required to be in a state of calmness, serenity and humbleness while performing their prayers. Once the prayer is started, a series of sayings and actions are performed. The sayings include reciting parts of the holy Qur'an, the holy book of Islam, as well as other sayings glorifying God and thanking Him for all of His blessings upon us. It also gives Muslims the opportunity to ask God for anything they desire. This could include asking for help in getting a job, passing an exam, having a child, asking God for forgiveness of sins or anything else. Muslims are required to pray at least five times every day, and are encouraged to pray extra prayers if they can. The required prayers have specific times that they are to be performed at. These are dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset and at night.
Fasting: Fasting means to refrain from having all kinds of food, drink and sexual intercourse from dawn to sunset. Muslims are required to fast during the month of Ramadan every year. Ramadan is a month based on the lunar cycle, as opposed to the solar calendar used today by most people. Therefore, the start and end of the month of Ramadan change each year according to the lunar cycles. Ramadan can be either 29 or 30 days. Muslims are also encouraged to fast on other optional days. It is viewed as a way to cleanse the soul of all worldly desires and devout oneself completely to the obedience of God. It is also an opportunity for wealthy Muslims to experience life without food and drink for a day, which is meant to remind them of the poor and encourage them to have sympathy and to be generous in donating to help the poor and the needy.
Pilgrimage: Also known as the Hajj, the pilgrimage is a physical and spiritual journey that every financially and physically able Muslim is expected to make at least once in their lifetime. Muslims travel to the holy city of Makkah, located in what is known today as Saudi Arabia, to perform the required rites of the pilgrimage. There, they are expected to spend their days in complete devotion to worship and to asking God for forgiveness and for anything else they wish to ask for. They also perform specific rituals, such as walking around the Kaaba, the black cube-shaped building located in Makkah.
Charity: A very important aspect of Islam is giving charity to the poor. Muslims are required to give certain percentages of any type of wealth that they have accumulated. For example, Muslims must give 2.5% of the money they have saved each year. It is important to note that this is not based on income, it is based on savings. A small portion of the money that is sitting in the bank accounts of wealthy people and not helping anyone is used every year to help the poor. This ensures some re-distribution of wealth among Muslims. Also, Muslims are strongly encouraged to make charitable giving a habit. Most Muslims donate to charity on a weekly basis when they attend Friday prayer services at the Masjid, the Islamic place of worship.
Purification: Before performing certain rituals, most importantly before prayers, Muslims are expected to perform a form of purification, known as ablution or "wudu" in Arabic. This involves washing the hands, face, arms and feet with water. Since Muslims are required to pray at least five times every day at various times throughout the day from dawn until the night, this ensures that Muslims maintain a high level of hygiene.
Animal Sacrifice: The term "Animal Sacrifice" may sound weird, unusual or shocking to some people when they first hear or read it. But the reality is that the majority of people in the world do eat the meat of many different kinds of animals. Muslims believe that it is God whom has given us the right to kill these animals and eat them. Therefore, Muslims are required to mention God at the time the animal is killed. This reminds a Muslim that these animals were created by God and that God gave the permission to benefit from them. This is why it is called a "sacrifice", and this is why it is considered a religious practice. Muslims are encouraged to perform animal sacrifice at special occasions in the Islamic calendar. In these special occasions, it is expected that part of the meat of the animal would be donated to the poor.
Beards: Prophet Muhammad ordered Muslims to grow beards, because he didn't want them to look like the Pagans. It was important back then for Muslims to look different than the Pagans for both security and cultural reasons. By making it easier for Muslims to distinguish each other easily, it would certainly enforce safety and security among them. Also, by making Muslims be different than everyone else, it would certainly help them to give up their old Pagan traditions that they were raised with, especially when they're different than everyone else. Growing beards might be encouraged, but is not mandatory in Islam. Prophet Muhammad him had reasons for his time, 1400 years ago, to command the Muslims to grow beards. This doesn't mean that these reasons have to exist today.
Female head dress-Burka, Niqab & Hijab : Similar to Judaism and Catholicism (although mostly ignored by Catholics in modern times) , Islam request Muslim women to cover their heads when entering a Holy building, but Islam goes further requiring women to cover their heads (and sometimes their entire face and body) when in public.
-A Burka covers the entire body including the whole face with a mesh window for the woman to see out of,
-a Niqab covers the whole body including the face with the exception of the woman's eyes. Finally ,
-a Hijab covers the hair and chest and is common among Muslim women in South East Asia and the West.
The Qur'an does not explicitly say you have to cover yourself in this manner.The Qur'an only calls for both men and women to "cover and be modest" Some scholars argue that it is a religious obligation, particularly the more conservative factions within the Muslim world. There are many variations and interpretations. The reference to dress is open to interpretation and has been shaped by centuries of cultures in different nations.
The Major Islamic Holidays are:
Muharram : The Islamic New Year.
The month of Muharram marks the beginning of the Islamic liturgical year. The Islamic year begins on the first day of Muharram, and is counted from the year of the Hegira the year in which Muhammad emigrated from Mecca to Medina (A.D. July 16, 622).The Islamic New Year is celebrated relatively quietly, with prayers and readings and reflection upon the hegira.
Mawlid al-Nabi (12 Rabi 1): Prophet Muhammad's Birthday.
This holiday celebrates the birthday of Muhammad, the founder of Islam. It is fixed as the 12th day of the month of Rabi I in the Islamic calendar. Mawlid means birthday of a holy figure and al-Nabi means prophet.
The day is commemorated with recollections of Muhammad's life and significance. Fundamentalist Muslims, such as the Wahhabi sect, do not celebrate it.
Eid al-Fitr: The Celebration concluding Ramadan.
Ramadan, the month of fasting, ends with the festival of Eid al-Fitr. Literally the "Festival of Breaking the Fast," Eid al-Fitr is one of the two most important Islamic celebrations (Eid al-Adha is the other). At Eid al-Fitr people dress in their finest clothes, adorn their homes with lights and decorations, give treats to children, and enjoy visits with friends and family.
A sense of generosity and gratitude colors these festivities. Although charity and good deeds are always important in Islam, they have special significance at the end of Ramadan. As the month draws to a close, Muslims are obligated to share their blessings by feeding the poor and making contributions to mosques.
Eid al-Adha (10 Dhu'l-Hijjah): The celebration concluding the Hajj.
Eid al-Adha, or the Feast of Sacrifice, commemorates the prophet Abraham's willingness to obey Allah by sacrificing his son Ishmael. According to the Qu'ran, just before Abraham sacrificed his son, Allah replaced Ishmael with a ram, thus sparing his life.
One of the two most important Islamic festivals, Eid al-Adha begins on the 10 day of Dhu'l-Hijja, the last month of the Islamic calendar. Lasting for three days, it occurs at the conclusion of the annual Hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca. Muslims all over the world celebrate, not simply those undertaking the Hajj, which for most Muslims is a once-a-lifetime occurrence.
The festival is celebrated by sacrificing a lamb or other animal and distributing the meat to relatives, friends, and the poor. The sacrifice symbolizes obedience to Allah and its distribution to others is an expression of generosity, one of the five pillars of Islam.
HEAVEN AND HELL
Much like Hinduism and Buddhism, Muslims believe all mankind will be judged on their good and bad deeds. Muslims believe that all souls will be ultimately consigned to Jannah (paradise) or Jahannam (hell).
However, much like Christianity, 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. Muslims view Hell as similar to the Christian Purgatory where Hell is not eternal and one can repent or do good deeds to escape Hell.
The basic social order among Muslims starts with the husband and wife, extends to the family and then outward to friends and neighbors. Next to these come the wider relationships covering the whole of society. The broad principles on which Islam wants people to structure their social lives
are : To co-operate in acts of goodness and righteousness and not to co-operate in acts of sin and injustice. (al-Maidah 5: 2)
It has been stated thusly, at least in Theory:
God created a human couple to herald the beginning of the life of mankind on earth, and everybody living in the world today originates from this couple. The progeny of this couple were initially a single group with one religion and the same language. But as their numbers gradually increased, they spread all over the earth and, as a natural result of their diversification and growth, were divided into various tribes and nationalities. They came to speak different languages; their modes of dress varies; and their ways of living also differed widely. Climates and environments affected their color and physical features. All these differences exist in the world of reality and Islam does not seek to ignore them. But it disapproves of the prejudices which have arisen among mankind because of these differences in race, color, language and nationality. Islam makes clear to all men that they have come from the same parents and are therefore brothers and equal as human beings.
Islam says that if there is any real difference between man and man it cannot be one of race, color, country or language, but of ideas, beliefs and principles. Two children of the same mother, though they may be equal from the point of view of a common ancestry, will have to go their different ways in life if their beliefs and moral conduct differ. On the contrary, two people, one in the East and the other in the West, even though geographically and outwardly separated by vast distances, will tread the same path in life if they share the same code of moral behavior. On the basis of this fundamental tenet, Islam seeks to build a principled and ideological society very different from the racial, nationalistic and parochial societies existing in the world today.
The basis of co-operative effort among men in such a society is not the place of one’s birth but a creed and a moral principle. Anyone, if he believes in God as his Master and Lord and accepts the guidance of the Prophets as the law of his life, can join this community, whether he is a resident of America or Africa, whether he belongs to the Semitic race or the Aryan, whether he is black or fair-skinned, whether he speaks a European language or Arabic. All those who join this community will have the same rights and social status. They will not be subjects to any racial, national or class distinctions. No one will be regarded as high or low. There will be no untouchability. There will be no special restrictions upon them in making marriages, eating and drinking and social contacts. No one will be looked down upon because of his birth of work. No one will claim any distinctive rights by virtue of his caste, community or ancestry. Man’s merit will not depend on his family connections or riches, but only on whether he is better than others in moral conduct or excels others in piety and righteousness.
Such social order, transcending as it does geographical boundaries and the barriers of race, color and language, is appropriate for all parts of the world; on its foundations can be raised the universal brotherhood of man. In societies based on race or nationality only those people can join who belong to a particular race or nation, but in Islam anyone who accepts its creed and moral standards can become a member, possessing equal rights with everyone else. Those who do not accept this creed, while obviously not being received into the community, are treated with tolerance and humanity and guaranteed all the basic human rights.
It is clear that if two children of the same mother differ in their ideas, their ways of life will be different; but this does not mean that they cease to be brothers. In the same way, if two nations or two groups of people living in the same country differ in their fundamental beliefs, principles and ideology, their societies will also certainly differ; yet they will continue to share the common ties of humanity. Hence, the Islamic society offers to non-Muslim societies and group the maximum social and cultural rights that can possibly be accorded.
Because these titles are generally in Arabic (or, sometimes, in Persian), most are not well-known in the English-speaking world. Here are a few that are either well-known or becoming more commonly used
AAKHUND Religious Tutor
AKHUNDZADA Low level Muslim cleric
EL-HAJJ OR HAJI one who has been a pilgrim
AYATOLLAH Shiite term for senior clergyman
BEE – BE HAJI A female pilgrim of Macca (God house)
CHALEE Usher, altar boy
CALIPH a successor of Muhammad and the Shia spiritual head of Islam
EMAM Head of a prayer in a mosque – could be Mullah
FATWA A religious verdict
HAFEZ who memorized the Holy Quran
HAZRAT Descendants of the Caliphs
JIHADI Member of a Jihad party
KHWAAJA Descendants of the Caliph
MALANG (ملنګ) Spiritualist, not formally trained – sometime supported by donation
MAWLANA Senior Religious rank
MIR Descendants of the Prophet Mohammad
MOAZZEN one who call people for daily prayers to a mosque
MUFTEE Great Reverence who can issue religious rulings.
MUJAHID Holy fighters
MUJAHIDIN Plural of Mujahid
MAULAWI Senior Religious rank
PACHAH Descendants of the Caliphs
PEER/PIR title for elder, seer, Wiseman
QARI the person who recites Holy Quran
SAYED Descendants of the prophet Mohammad
SAYEDA A female descendent of the prophet Mohammad
SHAHEED/SHAHID Martyr (becomes part of the dead person`s name)
TALIB A religious student
There is no official authority who decides whether a person is accepted to, or dismissed from, the community of believers, known as the Ummah ("Family"). Islam is open to all, regardless of race, age, gender, or previous beliefs. It is enough to believe in the central beliefs of Islam. This is formally done by reciting the shahada, the statement of belief of Islam, without which a person cannot be classed a Muslim. It is enough to believe and say that you are a Muslim, and behave in a manner befitting a Muslim to be accepted into the community of Islam.
As previously stated, Islam does not have an ordained clergy with authority over rites and rituals. Any Muslim with sufficient knowledge may lead prayers or perform rituals such as weddings or funerals.
PURPOSE OF LIFE
Muslims believe that God is one and incomparable and that the purpose of existence is to worship God.
Like most major religions of the world the words of the Prophet in Islam reflects the true philosophy of the religion. Also, like most all other religions of the world, the words of the various Prophets have been interpreted in different ways by many of the followers of those religions. Perhaps, Islam, more than any other religion, has fallen into that pattern.
Originally, Islam was a religion of Peace and respect for all other people. It is obvious that today it has lost most of that perception in the eyes of others in the World. Today Islam is seem by most of the rest of the world as a religion of intolerance, hate, violence, torture, death and terrorism. It is indeed unfortunate that this has occurred.
Islam was formed on the basis that the words of the Prophets of other religions had been misinterpreted and lost in the practice of those various religions. Then, the same exact thing happened within the Islamic world. The way Islam is practiced and interpreted today is varied by region and denomination, and then again within the various regions and denominations.
Without a true head of the religion Islam it is unlikely that anything will change within the Muslim world anytime soon and the practices of the few will continue to reflect badly on the noble beliefs of the many. Islam lacks a strong leader whom has emerged to enforce the true words of the Profit on the many varied practitioners of the religion. All of this is likely to slow down the spread of the religion across the world and cause many cultures to ban the religious practices of the Islamic faith in many other nations, something which is actually occurring now.
Also, the way the religion has developed is somewhat inconsistent with the spread of modern science and technology, again, very much to the detriment of the Muslim world. As history evolves any and all religions must be able to evolve with it or suffer the consequences.
The Prophet in Islam, Mohammad, was given the words of God during deep mediation on a mountain. Perhaps, the time has come for the Muslim world (other than the Sufi's) to mimic the Prophet and seek truth in mediation and reflection in the words of God. Those that seek to promote their own political and social agenda should also be discouraged by the true believers. If not the Muslim religion will continue to be feared and despised by many in the rest of the world, rightly or wrongly.
Scott Ramsey, August 19th, 2015