Islam Today

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Islam is a religion that is both controversial as well as at the height of American interest. Islam is the term used for the religion begun by Mohammed in Arabia in the early 600's. The word Islam translates to mean "Submission" or "to the will of God". The people who practice Islam are called Muslim meaning "one who submits". Muslims adhere to five main practices of Islam, often referred to as the "five pillars of Islam". To many Islam is considered to be not just a religion but a way of life. Islam teaches its followers to live in peace and harmony with the Creator, oneself, other people and the environment. (Islam Today, 2001-2007). Muslims also believe that Mohammed is the very last Prophet and Messenger of God to mankind. Mohammed is considered to be the summation of all of the prophets before him. His life and history provide examples for which Muslims live their lives by. These sayings, examples and records of Mohammed's life make up the second most important text of Islam and are called the Hadith. The most important text of Islam is the Quran. The Quran is considered the most holy book because it is considered by Muslims to be the exact word of God transmitted through the angel Gabriel to Mohammed. The main focus of the Quran is monotheism but it also encompasses all aspects of life even ideas that in the West would be considered non religious. Today Muslims have become established as minorities in places like North America. Due to the stigma that has been unfortunately attached to the Islamic religion after 9/11 Muslims have become persecuted or treated unfairly because of their religion more often than in the past. However, most Muslims in America are educated, peaceful people who seek to live in peace and harmony among themselves and others in their community. Muslims have established success in business as well as in many academic institutions, community centers and organizations, schools and places of worship thus creating social and economical benefits for their communities. The place of worship in Islam is called a mosque. This is where sermons are performed as well as the place that most come to pray on Friday afternoons. Muslims perform five prayers each day, these prayers are performed facing toward Mecca, where the "great mosque" or "house of God" is located. On Fridays in the afternoon, Muslims are encouraged to pray as a gathered community in congregational mosques and listen to a sermon. The prayers performed are ritualistic in that there is a sequence of physical postures and the prayers are said in Arabic. The performance of the five daily prayers is required of all Muslims who are able. I visited the Al Huda Athens Islamic Center for a tour and to speak with some of the Muslim college students about their way of life. If not for the small wooden sign placed in the front window the building would have looked like every other two story building on campus, brick with large while columns on the front. Unsure of the proper manner to enter, I rang the door bell and waited for a response. After waiting a few minutes, I knocked on the wooden door, decorated with a sticker of a Quranic verse. It read, "La illaha il Allah, Muhammad rashol Allah." ("There is no God greater than God, and Muhammad is his prophet.") Moments later the door was opened by a girl, probably about Twenty years old. She introduced herself as Nida, it was she that had responded to my email asking for an interview with someone in the Muslim Students Association, she was the secretary and said she would be happy to talk with me. I was shocked that she wasn't wearing the traditional hijab on her head that I had assumed that all Muslim women wore. Once inside I was promptly instructed to remove my shoes by an inscription on the floor. In the entry way were shelves of books, tapes, DVDs and CDs on Islam. Ready in hand was my blue head scarf, I asked timidly if I should put it on. The girl told me that many...
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