Islam Essentials of Islam I. Monotheistic religious tradition originating in the 7th century CE under the prophet Muhammad ibn Abdullah (570-632 CE). II. The term “Islam” literally means “submission” or “surrender.” A Muslim is a person who submits or surrenders himself to God. III. Like Judaism and Christianity, Islam is a religion based on sacred scripture. For Muslims the foundation of Islam is the Qur’an, a text allegedly dictated to the prophet Muhammad by the angel Jibreel (Gabriel) IV. Central to Islam is belief in God as an allpowerful, wholly transcendent being who created the universe and controls its every detail. The Arabic word for “God” is “Allah,” which is a contraction of “al” (the) and “ilah” (God). According to Islam, God has ninety-nine names, each of which signifies some aspect of God’s nature. God is, for example, “the merciful” and “the just.” V. Islam is continuous in several respects with the religious traditions of Judaism and Christianity. A. Islam accepts some of the fundamental ideas and stories found in Judaism and Christianity: Ethical Monotheism Divine Creation of the Universe Story of Adam and Eve God Spoke to the Patriarchs and Prophets (e.g., Abraham, Moses, Elijah) Coming Day of Final Judgment Bodily Resurrection from the Dead Afterlife in Hell for the Wicked B. Muslims trace their ancestry back to Abraham, specifically to his son Ishmael. The Qur’an says much about the patriarch Abraham. C. Islam accepts some of the teachings of Jesus, but they regard Jesus only as a prophet of God. Islam explicitly rejects the Christian claim that Jesus is God. D. Muslims believe the Qur’an to be the infallible and eternal Word of God, and Muhammad is the final prophet in the history of prophets: “seal of the prophets.” Prophets and Messengers Islam distinguishes between prophets and messengers. A Prophet (nabi) conveys a message from God to a specific people at a specific time. A Messenger (rasul) is a prophet sent to a specific community but his message is universally binding sacred law (shari`ah). Muslims regard Muhammad not merely as a prophet but as a messenger of God. Life of Muhammad I. Muhammad (570-632 CE) was born in Mecca, in what is today Saudi Arabia. Born into the Quraysh tribe, he was raised primarily by his grandfather and uncle. II. As an adult Muhammad worked as a caravan driver for a wealthy widow named Khadijah. Muhammad subsequently married Khadijah in 595 CE. III. At age 40, while on a religious retreat in a cave at Mount Hira (near Mecca), Muhammad is said to have received his first revelation from God. • A being of light came to Muhammad and held before his eyes a cloth covered with writing. He was told to recite what was written. • Muhammad was initially skeptical of the revelation, but became convinced that the being of light was the angel Jibreel (Gabriel) and that the message was from God. Mount Hira IV. Muhammad received many subsequent revelations, which he shared with his family and friends. They became the first Muslims. V. When Muhammad first began to share his revelations with the general public, the population was skeptical of the purported revelations. • Muhammad proclaimed only one true God, Allah, as the object of worship. This contradicted the belief system of many of his contemporaries who were polytheists. This, along with Muhammad’s opposition to statues and images, threatened the Meccan pilgrimage trade. • Muhammad also denounced usury and the failure to keep fair contracts. This contradicted many widespread business practices at the time. VI. 619: Mohammad and many of his followers faced opposition by the Meccan population. Some of Muhammad’s followers, concerned with their safety, fled to Ethiopia. Muhammad’s wife (Khadijah) and uncle (Abu Talib) died within a couple of months of each other. VII. Night of Ascent: In 620 Muhammad had a religious experience in which he was transported to Jerusalem and from there the angel Jibreel (Gabriel) guided Muhammad into heaven, where he conversed with many of the great prophets of the past. Dome of the Rock (in Jerusalem) VIII. 622: Muhammad arrived in the city of Yathrib (250 miles north of Mecca) to arbitrate between two feuding tribes. Muhammad established the first Islamic commonwealth at Yathrib, which became known as the “city of the Prophet” or Medina (“the city”). Mosque in Medina IX. 624: In response to Muslim raids on Meccan caravans returning from Syria, the Meccans sent an army to Medina. In the Battle of Badr, the Muslims defeated the Meccans. X. 625: the Meccans prevailed over the Muslims in battle at Mount Uhud (near Medina), where Muhammad was badly injured. XI. 627-628: Meccans attacked Medina in the Battle of the Trench (627). The Muslims withstood the attack. The Meccans were consequently forced to seek a truce (628). XII. 630: The Quraysh breached the truce established two years earlier. Muhammad sent an army to Mecca to conquer Mecca. The Meccans surrendered without opposition and accepted Islam. XIII. 632: Muhammad’s death. “Within 80 years the Muslims would administer the largest empire the world had ever known, stretching from southern France through North Africa and the Middle East into India and Central Asia” (Hussain and Ayoub, in Oxtoby and Segal (eds), World Religions, p. 205). Five Pillars of Islam I. Creed (Shahadah): “There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his messenger.” The creed is a simple affirmation of monotheism, and it expresses belief also in Muhammad as a messenger of God. II. Prayer (Salat): Muslims are called on to pray five times a day (before dawn and at midday, midafternoon, sunset, and nighttime). A. Prayers are preceded by water cleansings. B. Prayer is announced by a muezzin, who calls out from the top of a tower (minaret) connected to the mosque. C. Muslims pray toward the holy city of Mecca. D. Public prayer is offered on Fridays. III. Charity to the Poor (Zakat): Islam requires that Muslims donate a certain percentage of their total income, herds, and produce each year to the poor. In addition, Muslims are also expected to perform regular acts of generosity and charity for the poor. IV. Fasting During Ramadan (Sawm): Muslims abstain from food and drink from dawn until dusk during the 9th month of the Muslim (lunar) calendar. Fasting is a widespread practice within the religious traditions of the world. V. Pilgrimage to Mecca (Hajj): A Muslim is expected to visit the holy city of Mecca at least once during their lifetime. The Holy Qur’an I. The sacred scripture of Islam is called the Qur’an. “Qur’an” means “the recitation.” Muslims believe that the text of the Qur’an (in Arabic) was revealed to Muhammad during a 22 year period by the angel Jibreel (Gabriel), roughly between 610 and 632 CE. II. The Qur’an is only fully authoritative in Arabic, the original language of the Qur’an. Translations are regarded as interpretations. The first official version of the Qur’an was produced within 20 years of Muhammad’s death. III. The Qur’an is divided into 114 chapters (surahs). The order of the surahs is not chronological. The final surahs (also the shortest) are generally believed to be earliest teachings of Muhammad, whereas the longer surahs represent Muhammad’s later teachings. 113 Surahs are preceded by the invocation “in the name of God, the All-merciful, the Compassionate.” IV. The Qur’an discusses historical persons found in the Jewish and Christian scriptures (e.g., Abraham, Moses, Jesus), provides practical admonitions about everyday life, describes events in the life of the prophet Muhammad, and lays out a variety of religious doctrines (e.g., ethical monotheism, creation, sin, righteousness, day of final judgment, the afterlife, relationship between Islam and other religions). “In the name of God, The Compassionate, The Merciful. Praise be to God, Lord of the Universe, The Compassionate, the Merciful, Sovereign of the Day of Judgment! You alone we worship, and to You alone we turn for help.” (Opening of the Qur’an) V. In addition to the Qur’an, Muslims accept the Hadiths (“recollections”), a collection of sayings of Muhammad, as a document of secondary but great importance to the faith.