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Islam

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Islam is a monotheistic religion and totalitarian political system, founded by Muhammad in 622 AD in what is now Saudi Arabia. Its followers are referred to as Muslims. Along with Judaism and Christianity, it is often categorised as an Abrahamic religion.

Contents

Allah

Muslims refer to God as "Allah", which is based on the Arabic words "Al" and "ilah", literally "The Lord". Like "God" in English, Allah is simply the generic Arabic word for the Supreme Being, hence Arabic-speaking Christians and Jews also refer to God as "Allah."

Islam recognises no difference between Allah and the God of Abraham. "Allah" is" and is linguistically related to the words said by Jesus on the cross (Eloi Eloi lama sabachthani). Surah 29 of the Qur'an reads: "And do not dispute with the followers of the Book except by what is best, except those of them who act unjustly, and say: We believe in that which has been revealed to us and revealed to you, and our Allah and your Allah is One, and to Him do we submit."

While the overwhelming majority of Muslims and Islamic scholars [Citation Needed] state that their deity is the same God as the God of Christianity and Judaism, Christians (and Jews) generally reject this idea [Citation Needed] and there are also a few Muslim voices that dispute this idea. The Malaysian government (not a body of religious scholars, and Malaysia being a predominantly Muslim, but non-Arabic speaking country) objects to the term "Allah" being used to refer to the Christian God.[1] Creation Ministries International—a Christian apologetics group—contends that Allah of the Qur'an is significantly different from the God of the Bible.[2]

Texts

The Islamic texts which are important to Muslims are the Qur'an and the Hadiths.

Qur'an

Islam came about through the recording of the words of Muhammad that he said were being revealed to him by God through the angel Gabriel. While Muhammad himself could not read or write, his followers copied down his declarations. These words were eventually recorded together in a book called the Qur'an.

Unlike other religions' holy books, Muslims believe that, because the Qur'an is the literal words of God, and no translation can ever be entirely perfect, only the original Arabic version of the Qur'an is the true Qur'an. This is not to say that translation is forbidden; rather, a translation of the Qur'an is described as being a commentary on the Qur'an, or the meaning of the Qur'an, rather than the Qur'an itself. Muslims believe that paying attention to this distinction prevents the Prophet's intended meaning from becoming corrupted, diluted or diverted, with the result that Islam can remain true to Allah's purpose while other faiths err.

Islam teaches that, as well as the Qur'an revealed to prophet Muhammad, some (but not all) of the earlier prophets received earlier scriptures. Thus, they believe that Moses received the Tawrat (Torah), David the Zabur (Psalms), and Jesus the Injil (Gospel). However, although they believe these books were inspired revelation from God in their original form, they believe that the current versions have been corrupted by Jews and Christians, and the original correct versions have been lost. In response to the loss of these scriptures, rather than restoring the scriptures to their correct form, God chose instead to send a new prophet (Muhammad) with a brand new scripture (the Qur'an).

Hadiths

As well as the Qur'an, an important source of Islamic belief is the Hadith literature, which contains sayings of Muhammad. Unlike the Qur'an, it is not believed this is directly revealed from God; yet, since Muhammad was chosen (they believe) by God to receive revelation, he has the most accurate interpretation of that revelation, so his recorded sayings are very important to understanding that revelation. Furthermore, the Qu'ran itself urges Muslims to listen to the teachings of Muhammad, and to follow his example. One particular category of Hadith, the Hadith Qudsi, claims to be Muhammad quoting the exact words of God, so they can be considered a form of revelation alongside the Qu'ran.

Abrogation

Islam believes in the notion of abrogation, that God can produce a new revelation cancelling and contradicting an older one. Thus some Qur'anic verses are considered to be no longer applicable, due to God having revealed a new verse to replace it. It is believed that Qur'anic verse can abrogate Qur'anic verse, the Qur'an can abrogate Hadith, and Hadith can abrogate Hadith; some have argued that Hadith can abrogate Qur'an, but many Islamic scholars reject that notion, since they believe a lower-ranked source (Hadith) cannot abrogate a higher-ranked one (Qur'an).

Abrogation is of two types: where the abrogated verse remains part of the text, but a new text is provided which overrules it; or where the abrogated verse is removed from the text entirely. In the latter case, there are a number of Hadith recounting verses which were originally part of the Qur'an, but which God (allegedly) told Muhammad to remove, for example a verse providing that ten sucklings of a man upon a woman's breastmilk make marriage unlawful. (Although this provision sounds bizarre, it had a practical application—women were prohibited from associating with men other than their husband or relatives, but if a man drank a woman's breastmilk, he would become legally her stepson, and then they could associate freely, but any marriage or sexual intercourse between them would henceforth be considered incestuous.) An interesting case is the so-called verse of stoning, wherein a verse in the Qur'an providing for the stoning to death of adulterers was removed, even though many Muslims believe it is still to be obeyed despite its deletion. A controversial episode relating to abrogation is that of the Satanic Verses.

Five pillars of Islam

There are five pillars of Islam, which are doctrines to which Muslims are expected to adhere:

  • Shahada - An oath required of all Muslims stating that there is no God but Allah and that Muhammed is his messenger.
  • Salat - Praying five times a day at specific time intervals.
  • Saum - Fasting from sunrise to sundown during the month of Ramadan. Islam functions using a lunar calendar which is 12 days shorter than the solar calendar, and so its months rotate throughout the seasons.
  • Zakat - Compulsory giving of alms to the poor.
  • Hajj - A trip to the cities of Mecca and Medina during the month of Dhul-Hijj where a number of rituals are performed to purify one's self and pray for their friends and family. Muslims are expected to complete the Hajj at least once during their lives if they are able or to aid another to take the Hajj if they are unable.

Islamic ethics

As with many monotheistic religions, Islam establishes an extensive and often debated set of laws and ethical guidelines to which its followers are meant to adhere. Some of these directly correspond to those seen in Judaism, Christianity and other major religions, but others are unique to Islam. There is much controversy about the specific interpretations of some of the instructions given in the holy texts, and disagreements over these instructions spans the whole range of simple semantic arguments to violence between sects and against non-believers.

Slavery

Islamic scriptures sanction slavery and it was thus a common practice until recent centuries. From the time of Muhammad it was common for enemy prisoners to be enslaved and treated as spoils of war. It appears that Muhammad himself took slaves after the move to Medina when he had power.[3][4]

Most if not all countries have now banned it, with Sudan banning it in 2005[5], although there are reportedly still large numbers of slaves in some countries.[5][4] Islam was not unique in sanctioning slavery, even among Abrahamic religions, but the methods by which people became slaves and what rights they had often differed greatly between cultures.

Divisions in Islam

Islam is divided into two major divisions, the Sunni and the Shi'ite, or Shi'a. Originally, this division came about from a dispute over who should succeed Mohammed, although today they also differ in a number of other areas. Sunni make up 80 to 90 percent of Muslims, with most Shi'ite Muslims being in Iran, but in Iraq, Bahrain, and Lebanon, Shi'ite Muslims also outnumber Sunni Muslims.

The "Religion of Peace"

Islam is often labelled the "religion of peace", despite it being the deadliest religion on the planet. The web-site TheReligionOfPeace.com maintains a counter and a list of Islamic terror attacks around the world since the Tue. 11th September, 2001Tue. September 11th, 2001 attacks on the United States, with the number of fatal terror attacks since that time currently (mid-2014) averaging five each day, for a total of over 23,000 attacks.[6] These range from attacks with one death to attacks with multiple deaths, although not all deaths (or attacks) are counted due to a lack of information about some of them.

Followers

Followers of Islam are known as Muslims. Like followers of other religions, they range from those with fierce adherence to the teachings of the religion to those with merely nominal association.

Islamic worldview vs. Christian worldview

Muslims regard Jesus Christ as one of a series of prophets in a succession from Abraham toward Muhammad. They do not deny His virgin birth, but deny that He was crucified or that He was the Son of God or a divine being. Sura 112 states that God does not beget nor is he begotten. They hold that God ascended Him to heaven prior to His crucifixion, and there is no singular consensus for the explanation of His death. Some maintain that an image or body double was seen on the cross; others hold that He was never crucified or that he was brought down early while still alive.

Muslims believe that Allah sent a prophet to warn every nation and people. The Quran recounts many of these prophets, but those known to Judaism and Christianity (such as Adam, Abraham, Moses, Jesus), and others known only to the Islamic tradition (such as the prophets Saleh and Hud). But in addition to those recounted by the Quran, Muslims believe that there were many others which the Quran does not mention. Mainstream Islam believes that Muhammad was the final Prophet, and thus rejects any claims of anyone who came after Muhammad to be a Prophet. Thus they reject the claims of the Ahmadis, the Babis and the Baha'is that there have been prophets post-Muhammad.

Islamic view of Judaism and Christianity

While Islam considers itself to be a continuation of both Judaism and Christianity, it does not accept the holy book of either religion -- believing that both became corrupted over time. Different stories from the Old Testament and New Testament are thus retold in the Qur'an. Nevertheless, Muslims view both Jews and Christians as People of the Book. Historically this placed them in a favored status compared to polytheists or followers of pagan or animist religions. This designation (dhimmi) allowed them a number of freedoms, notably freedom to worship, provided they paid a poll tax known as jizya.

In modern Islamic states there are varying degrees of acceptance of other religions ranging from Saudi Arabia where other religions are outlawed, to states like Iran and Egypt where other religions are permitted but often disfavored either through governmental policy or generalized discrimination, to states like Turkey or Indonesia where secular governments guarantee at least nominal freedom of religion. The relationship between Islam and Judaism in modern times is largely defined by the existence of the state of Israel with the religious relationship and the political relationship often being conflated.

References

  1. "Allah" Just For Muslims, New York Times 5 January 2008
  2. The Koran (Qur'an) vs Genesis on creation.com
  3. Anon., Behind the Veil, chapter 5: Slavery in Islam
  4. 4.0 4.1 Silas, Slavery in Islam
  5. 5.0 5.1 Islam and Slavery, Barnabas Aid April-May 2007. pdf html
  6. Cause for Concern: About the List of Terrorist Attack, TheReligionofPeace.com.
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