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7-10-2010 ISLAM Founder Islam is the correct name for the religion often called Mohammedanism, which arose in the seventh century AD under the leadership of Mohammed. Islam means submission to the will of Allah (God translated into Arabic). The members of this religion call themselves Muslims, “those who submit”. To the Muslim, the Jewish and Christian scriptures and the Old Testament prophets and Jesus were all channels for Allah’s revelations prior to the final revelation of the true religion, Islam. Mohammed (born 570 AD) lived in Mecca. There was no unified government and tribal confederations held power in different areas. Peace existed primarily as an armed truce in pagan Arabia. The nomads and seminomads lived primarily by herding and force of arms as most of the Arabian peninsula is a desert. The desert Arabs so excelled in fighting that they supplemented their income by raids on settlements and charged “protection fees” to some communities. Author Karen Armstrong characterized these raids as “a sort of national sport in Arabia and an accepted way of making ends meet when times were hard…a rough way of securing a fair circulation of wealth”. Although there were colonies of Jews and Christians, the usual religion was a fairly primitive polytheism. Mohammed was married to a wealthy widow and they had sons (who all died) and of the 4 daughters they had, only 1 (Fatima) survived. When Mohammed was about 40, he began to have visions. While in a cave near Mecca, the angel Gabriel appeared to him. He was given instructions to “recite”. Recite translated into ArabicQur’an…the reciting or reading. The visions were followed by many more. He began to proclaim that Allah was the one true deity and that no other god may be served. He stated that Allah had chosen him to be his messenger to the world. A plot was organized against the life of Mohammed and in 622, he fled to Yathrib with his close companions. This flight, called hegira or hijra, marks the beginning of Islam as a religion. All Muslim dates are calculated from this day and designated A.H.-meaning in the year of the Hijra. Yathrib was renamed Medina-the Arabic word for city, i.e. Medina is the city of the prophet. In Medina, Mohammed became both the political and the religious leader. Economic needs, especially food, soon became pressing. Permission was granted to attack caravans in the name of the new religion: since most of the booty, according to the prophet’s decree, could be kept by the fighters. Many new converts joined the movement. Jews and Christians had been sympathetic to Mohammed’s cause, began to oppose him when the Muslims won a decisive victory over a strong force from Mecca. The direction followers were to face during prayer was changed to face Mecca-which became a center for religious pilgrimage. With that victory, Mohammed felt that Allah had given him a clear sign of his support. There were scores to be settled and Mohammed’s revenge began with assassinations. At this point, Mohammed began to express increased hostility toward Jews and Christians. However, due to their far greater proximity and opposition, it was the Jews who became the primary targets of Mohammed’s wrath. At Banu Qurayza, a massacre took place where six to nine hundred Jewish men were beheaded and Jewish women and children were sold into slavery. This partially explains the conflict we see in motion today with regard to Israel and Muslim countries. Mohammed died in 732 from a fever brought on by old war wounds. Scriptures and Doctrines One of the Five Doctrines of Islam is that Allah revealed his partial will from time to time in the past, but that he finally completed his revelation through Mohammed in the Quran. According to Muslim tradition, the Quran contains only the words of Mohammed when, in a prophetic trance, he served as Allah’s spokesperson. It is composed of 114 chapters (suras), which have been arranged by length. Many of the suras were written down during Mohammed’s lifetime; the rest were put together from memory after his death. The contents are jumbled and since the style is poetic, many allusions are obscure. Muslim doctrine holds that no translation from Arabic can substitute for the original. The teachings of Mohammed have been preserved with more accuracy that those of the founder of any other religion. Since Islam expanded rapidly, many situations arose for which the Quran contained no explicit instructions. Accordingly, non-quranic sayings were compiled over the years and finally were codified in the Hadith (tradition). Five Doctrines 1) There is only one true God, Allah. Allah has 7 characteristics: absolute unity, all-seeing, all-hearing, all-knowing, all-willing and allpowerful. 2) There are angels, chief of who is Gabriel. They also believe in a fallen angel called Iblis, also called Shaitan (the Hebrew Satan). 3) There are 4 inspired books, the Torah of Moses, the Psalms of David, the injil (Evangel) of Jesus and the Quran. The Quran supercedes all previous revelation and abrogates any conflicting claims to truth. Yet Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians are all people of the book and are to be treated with more tolerance than pagans-since they are the custodians of part of Allah’s revelation. 4) There are 28 prophets of Allah, including Mohammed, Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Jonah, Jesus and John. 5) There will be a last day. A Muslim must believe in the resurrection of the body, in a final judgement and a final destiny of heaven or hellAllah’s choice. Heaven is a man’s paradise (women are shown small consideration). Hell is the abode of those who oppose the teachings of Mohammed and the will of Allah. 6) A sixth doctrine is taught, but need not be accepted by the faithful. This is called Kismet (fate). This asserts that all that happens is foreordained. Five Pillars of the Faith 1) Recite the Shahadah (or kalmia-the word), “There is no god but Allah and Mohammed is the prophet of Allah”. This statement must be made publicly. 2) Pray (salat) five times a day facing the holy city of Mecca. 3) Give alms (zakat) to the Muslim community. It should be a voluntary offering-approximately one fortieth of his income. One is to share out of the abundance which Allah gave. 4) Fast during the month of Ramadan. During the daylight hours the Muslim must not swallow even his spittle, and must abstain from sexual enjoyment. The faithful may eat and drink at night. 5) A pilgrimage (Hajj) must be made in a Muslim’s lifetime to Mecca. One is allowed to have another person make the Hajj for him as a proxy. Many pilgrims meet the expenses of the journey by receiving help from those who cannot go. The Hajj has served as a unifying force for Islam over the centuries. 6) A sixth pillar, which is NOT mandatory, is that of Jihad, the Holy War. This is meant to imply only a war in defense of Islam-although it has been used to support aggression. THE ISLAMIC WORLD VIEW The Cosmos-is the creation of Allah and is conceived in a 3 level form of Biblical thought. Mankind lives on earth; Allah resides in a heaven above the earth; and Shaitan and his minions in a hell beneath the earth. Deity-Islam proclaims a strict monotheism with Allah as the sole deity. He has no partners or equals, nor can he have a son. The entire universe is completely under Allah’s authority. Man- Man is a created being composed of body and soul. As a creature, his purpose in life is to obey and serve Allah by complete submission to his will. Women are created a degree below men and are to be obedient to their husbands, who are to treat them with kindness. Man’s plight-Mohammed’s message emphasized that mankind has lost its way and turned from worship and the service of Allah. As long as men follow their own mistaken ways or worship false gods, his life will be without meaning or purpose. Allah permits Shaitan a measure of freedom in this world. The greatest cause of misery for man is the stubborn refusal of infidels to submit to the will of Allah. Salvation-True salvation can be found in complete surrender to Allah. Allah, whose character is to be compassionate and merciful, alone can save or destroy. Conduct-The Quran contains all that is necessary to live a holy life. Eating swine flesh is forbidden. Circumcision is practiced and is traced back to Abraham and his son Ishmael, who are claimed as ancestors. Gambling and drinking alcohol are forbidden. Usury is condemned and generosity commended. Family life is given high praise, but the quramic teaching that women are inferior to men has tended to make them slave’s to their husband’s desires. Men are allowed to have up to 4 wives. Inheritance laws of the Quran are very specific in protecting the rights of widows and orphans, as well as the rights of a wife who is mistreated by her husband. Destiny-One has but a single life in which to decide for or against Allah. THE UNIVERSALISM OF ISLAM The religion proclaimed by Mohammed is simplicity itself. One has only to accept Mohammed’s claim that he was the true and final prophet of Allah and to submit to the will of Allah as revealed in the Quran. The only limitation on the universality of Islam’s message is the teaching that women are inferior to men, but this has not (until recent times) been a significant factor. THE ADAPTABILITY OF ISLAM It is on the score of adaptability that Islam has experienced difficulties. Islam, during most of its history, either has completely dominated the political, economic and social life of an area or has tended to withdraw. THE EXPANSION OF ISLAM In the seventh century when Islam set out to dominate the world, two powers held sway in Mediterranean lands and in western Asia; the Greek Empire of Byzantium and the Sassanian dynasty of Persia. Both were overthrown, and with little resistance, the Muslims marched to Spain in the west and into northwest India on the east. Christian, Jews and Zoroastrians were treated fairly tolerantly and were not forced into conversion. Islam became the dominant religion and political power. Christianity lost many to the new faith, in part because of Islam’s vigorous appeal, but also because of Christianity’s own internal dissentions. Today Islam is carrying on an intensive missionary program, much of it in competition with Christian missions. Most important in the present day expansion of Islam, however, is the fact that Muslim countries average the highest birth rate in the world, further encouraged by the practice of polygamy. No doubt contemporary Islam is much healthier and more aggressive than it has been at any time in the past five hundred years. THE STRUCTURE OF ISLAM There is no real counterpart to the Christian church in Islam, nor are there priests or holy orders per se. The structure is much closer to Judaism, in that men trained in Muslim law guide the affairs of the community. Every Muslim is under the authority directly or indirectly of various religious leaders. The leaders are called the Caliphate (successor) who are believed to have inherited the authority from Mohammed. MAIN SECTS There are two main sectarian movements in Islam, the Shiites and the Sunnis. The Sunnis follow the tradition of the followers of Mohammed (contained in the Hadith) and are the dominant group. The Shiites are partisans of Ali (who claim that Ali was the lefitimate successor to Mohammed.) THE TWO ORDERS An important order of mystics, the Sufis have had great influence. The term Sufi (from the word for wool) refers to the rough wool robes worn by mendicant who have renounced the world. The other order is that of the Wahhabi, which places great importance upon the transcendence of Allah. It is puritanical in practice and fanatically orthodox. The Wahhabi have not only gained control of the holy city of Mecca, but also have great influence in the oil-producing regions of south Arabia. This conservative order represents primarily a reactionb against the degeneration of Islam from within and the influence of Western ways from without.