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7-10-2010 ISLAM
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
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 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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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