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Islam

In Arabic, Islām means "submission" (understood as submission to God) and is described as a Dīn or Deen, meaning "way of life" and/or "religion." Etymologically, it is derived from the same root as, for example, Salām meaning "peace" (also a common salutation). The word Muslim is also related to the word Islām and means one who "surrenders" or "submits" to God.

Followers of Islam, known as Muslims, believe that God (or, in Arabic, Allāh) revealed his direct word for mankind to Muhammad (c. 570–632) and other prophets, including Adam, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. Muslims assert that the main written record of revelation to humankind is the Qur'an, which they believe to be flawless, immutable, and the final revelation of God. Muslims believe that parts of the Bible and the Torah have been forgotten, misinterpreted, or distorted by their followers. With that perspective they view the Qur'an as corrective of Jewish and Christian scriptures.

Muslims hold that Islam is essentially the same belief as that of all the messengers sent by God to mankind since Adam, with the Qur'ān (the one definitive text of the Muslim faith) codifying the final revelation of God. Islamic teaching sees Judaism and Christianity as derivations of the teachings of certain of these prophets - notably Abraham - and therefore acknowledges their Abrahamic roots, whilst the Qur'an calls them People of the Book. Islam has three primary branches of belief, based largely on a historical disagreement over the succession of authority after Muhammad's death; these are known as Sunni , Shi'ite and Kharijite.

The basis of Muslim belief is found in the shahādatān ("two testimonies"): lā ilāhā illā-llāhu; muhammadur-rasūlu-llāhi — "There is no god but God; Muhammad is the messenger of God." In order to become a Muslim, one needs to recite and believe these statements. All Muslims agree to this, although Sunnis further regard this as one of the five pillars of Islam.

There are six basic beliefs shared by all Muslims:

Belief in God, the one and only one worthy of all worship.
Belief in all the Prophets and Messengers (sent by God).
Belief in the Books sent by God.
Belief in the Angels.
Belief in the Day of Judgment (Qiyamah) and in the Resurrection.
Belief in Destiny (Fate) (Qadaa and Qadar in Arabic).
The Muslim creed in English:

"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."

The fundamental concept in Islam is the oneness of God (tawhid). This monotheism is absolute, not relative or pluralistic in any sense of the word. God is described in Sura al-Ikhlas, (chapter 112) as follows: Say "He is God, the one, the Self-Sufficient master. He never begot, nor was begotten. There is none comparable to Him."

 

In Arabic, God is called Allah, a contraction of al-ilah or "the only god". Allāh thus translates to "God" in English. The implicit usage of the definite article in Allah linguistically indicates the divine unity. In spite of the different name used for God, Muslims believe in the same deity as the Judeo-Christian religions. However, Muslims completely disagree with the Christian theology concerning the unity of God (the doctrine of the Trinity which sees Jesus as the eternal Son of God), seeing it as akin to polytheism. As it says in the Qur'an, "O People of the Scripture! Do not exaggerate in your religion nor utter aught concerning Allah save the truth . The Messiah , Jesus son of Mary , was only a messenger of Allah , and His word which He conveyed unto Mary , and a spirit from Him . So believe in Allah and His messengers , and say not "three" . Cease! ( it is ) better for you! Allah is only One God . Far is it removed from His transcendent majesty that he should have a son . His is all that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth . And Allah is sufficient as its defender." [Chapter 4 : Surah 171]

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.

Sunni Islam's most fundamental tenets are referred to as the Five Pillars of Islam2, while Shia Islam has a slightly different terminology, encompassing five core beliefs (the "roots of religion") and ten core practices (the "branches of religion".) All Muslims agree on the following statements, which Sunnis term the Five Pillars of Islam, and Shia would consider two of the Roots of Religion and four of the Branches of Religion:

-"Shahadah": The Testimony that there is none worthy of worship except God and that Muhammad is his messenger.
-"Salah": Establishing of the five daily Prayers (salah).
-"Zakat": The Giving of Zakaah (charity), which is one fortieth (2.5%) of the net worth of savings kept for more than a year, with few exemptions, for every Muslim whose wealth exceeds the nisab, and 10% or 20% of the produce from agriculture. This money or produce is distributed among the poor.
-"Ramadhan": Fasting from dawn to dusk in the month of Ramadan (sawm).
-"Hajj": The Pilgrimage (Hajj) to Mecca during the month of Dhul Hijjah, which is compulsory once in a lifetime for one who has the ability to do it.

All Muslims further agree on two of what the Shia call the Roots of Religion:

The Justice of God ('Adl).
The Resurrection (Me'ad).


and four of what the Shia call the Branches of Religion:

Enjoining what is good (Amr-bil-Ma'roof).
Forbidding what is evil (Nahi-anil-Munkar).
Striving to seek God's approval (Jihad).
Paying the tax on profit (Khums).

while two "branches", and one "root", are specifically Shia:

The belief in the divinely appointed and guided imamate of Ali and some of his descendants (Imamah).
To love the Ahl-ul-Bayt and their followers (Tawalla).
To hate the enemies of the Ahl-ul-Bayt (Tabarra).

The Qur'an is the sacred book of Islam. It has also been called, in English, the Koran and the Quran. Qur'an is the currently preferred English transliteration of the Arabic original; it means “recitation”.

Muslims believe that the Qur'an was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad by the Angel Gabriel on numerous occasions between the years 610 and Muhammad's death in 632. In addition to memorizing his revelations, his followers are said to have written them down on parchments, stones, bones, sticks, and leaves.

Muslims believe that the Qur'an available today is the same as that revealed to Prophet Muhammad and by him to his followers, who memorized his words. Scholars accept that the version of the Qur'an used today was first compiled in writing by the third Caliph, Uthman ibn Affan, sometime between 650 and 656. He sent copies of his version to the various provinces of the new Muslim empire, and directed that all variant copies be destroyed. However, some skeptics doubt the recorded oral traditions (hadith) on which the account is based and will say only that the Qur'an must have been compiled before 750.

There are also numerous traditions, and many conflicting academic theories, as to the provenance of the verses later assembled into the Qur'an. (This is covered in greater detail in the article on the Qur'an.) Most Muslims accept the account recorded in several hadith, which state that Abu Bakr, the first caliph, ordered Zayd ibn Thabit to collect and record all the authentic verses of the Qur'an, as preserved in written form or oral tradition. Zayd's written collection, privately treasured by Muhammad's widow Hafsa bint Umar, was used by Uthman and is the basis of today's Qur'an.

Uthman's version organized the revelations, or suras, roughly in order of length, with the longest suras at the start of the Qur'an and the shortest ones at the end. More conservative views state that the order of most suras was divinely set. Later scholars have struggled to put the suras in chronological order, and among Muslim commentators at least there is a rough consensus as to which suras were revealed in Mecca and which at Medina. Some suras (eg surat Iqra) were revealed in parts at separate times.

Because the Qur'an was first written [date uncertain] in the Hijazi, Mashq, Ma'il, and Kufic scripts, which write consonants only and do not supply the vowels, and because there were differing oral traditions of recitation, as non-native Arabic speakers converted to Islam, there was some disagreement as to the exact reading of many verses. Eventually, scripts were developed that used "points" to indicate vowels. For hundreds of years after Uthman's recension, Muslim scholars argued as to the correct pointing and reading of Uthman's unpointed official text, (the rasm). Eventually, most commentators accepted seven variant readings (qira'at) of the Qur'an as canonical, while agreeing that the differences are minor and do not affect the meaning of the text. The form of the Qur'an most used today is the Al-Azhar text of 1923, prepared by a committee at the prestigious Cairo university of Al-Azhar.

The Qur'an early became a focus of Muslim devotion and eventually a subject of theological controversy. In the 8th century, the Mu'tazilis claimed that the Qur'an was created in time and was not eternal. Their opponents, of various schools, claimed that the Qur'an was eternal and perfect, existing in heaven before it was revealed to Muhammad. The Mu'tazili position was supported by caliph Al-Ma'mun. The caliph persecuted, tortured, and killed the anti-Mu'tazilis, but their belief eventually triumphed and is held by most Muslims of today. Only reformist or liberal Muslims are apt to take something approaching the Mu'tazili position.

 

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.

Masjid al-Nabawi in Medina. The mosque also has a tomb of prophet Muhammad and the first two caliphs, Abu Bakr and Umar ibn al-KhattabThe Qur'an speaks of God appointing two classes of human servants: messengers (rasul in Arabic), and prophets (nabi in Arabic and Hebrew). In general, messengers are the more elevated rank, but Muslims consider all prophets and messengers equal. All prophets are said to have spoken with divine authority; but only those who have been given a major revelation or message are called messenger.

Notable messengers include Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses(Musa), Jesus(Isa), and Muhammad, all belonging to a succession of men guided by God. Islam demands that a believer accept most of the Judeo-Christian prophets, making no distinction between them. In the Qur'an, 25 specific prophets are mentioned.

Mainstream Muslims regard Muhammad as the 'Last Messenger' or the 'Seal of the Prophets' based on the canon. However, there have been a number of sects whose leaders have proclaimed themselves the successors of Muhammad, perfecting and extending Islam, or, whose devotees have made such claims for their leaders. However, most Muslims remain unaffected by those claims and simply regard those said groups to be deviant from Islam.

Islamic eschatology is concerned with the Qiyamah (end of the world) and the final judgement of humanity. Like Christianity and some sects of modern Judaism, Islam teaches the bodily resurrection of the dead, the fulfillment of a divine plan for creation, and the immortality of the human soul; the righteous are rewarded with the pleasures of Jannah (Paradise), while the unrighteous are punished in Jahannam (a fiery Hell, from the Hebrew ge-hinnom or "valley of Hinnom"; usually rendered in English as Gehenna). A significant fraction of the Qur'an deals with these beliefs, with many hadith elaborating on the themes and details. Other beliefs include the Angels, the Jinns (a species of beings not composed of solid matter, but of fire), and the existence of magic (the practice of which is strictly forbidden).

 

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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Islam".