Monotheistic Religion Elements MatrixIslam
September 5, 2007
Top 16 countries that have the highest Islamic population, including Israel, Canada, and the United States. 1.Indonesia: 213,469,356 2.Pakistan: 156,491,617 3.India: 138,188,726 4.Bangladesh: 127,001,272 5.Egypt: 70,530,237 6.Turkey: 68,963,953 7.Iran: 67,337,681 8.Nigeria: 64,385,994
14.Saudi Arabia: 26,417,599
41.United States: 4,140,277
(Central Intelligence Agency, 2007)
Historical Figures and Events
Unlike other great religious leaders, like the Buddha, Moses, and Yeshua of Nazareth (Jesus Christ), Muhammad was born relatively recently, in the late 6th century CE, about the year 570. Muhammad was born in Mecca in Saudi Arabia in 570. Many unusual events have been recorded about Muhammad's birth and childhood. His mother talked about Muhammad's birth and said, "When he was born, there was a light that issued out of my pudendum and lit the places of Syria." She also said at the time of his birth, "...fourteen galleries of Kisra's palace cracked and rolled down, the Magians' sacred fire died down and some churches on Lake Sawa sank down and collapsed (Robinson, 2007)." His foster family had many experiences of amazingly good luck while he was in their care. As a young child, the angel Jibril visited the boy, ripped his chest open, removed his heart, extracted a blood clot from it, and returned him to normalcy. While still young, he was sent into the desert to be raised by a foster family. This was a common practice at the time. He was orphaned at the age of 6 and brought up by his uncle. As a child, he worked as a shepherd. He was taken on a caravan to Syria by his uncle at the age of 9 (or perhaps 12). Later, as a youth, he was employed as a camel driver on the trade routes between Syria and Arabia. Muhammad later managed caravans on behalf of merchants. He met people of different religious beliefs on his travels, and was able to observe and learn about Judaism, Christianity and the indigenous Pagan religions (Robinson, 2007).
After marriage, he was able to spend more time in meditation. At the age of 40, (610 CE), he was visited in Mecca by the angel Gabriel. He developed the conviction that he had been ordained a Prophet and given the task of converting his countrymen from their pagan, polytheistic beliefs and what he regarded as moral decadence, idolatry, hedonism and materialism. He met considerable opposition to his teachings. In 622 CE he moved north to Medina due to increasing persecution. The trek is known as the hegira. Here he was disappointed by the rejection of his message by the Jews. Through religious discussion, persuasion, military activity, and political negotiation, Muhammad became the most powerful leader in Arabia, and Islam was firmly established throughout the area (Robinson, 2007). Central Beliefs
Islam considers six fundamental beliefs to be the foundation of their faith: 1.There is a single, indivisible God. (God, the creator, is just, omnipotent and merciful. "Allah" is often used to refer to God; it is the Arabic word for God.) 2.There are the angels. 3.The divine scriptures, which include the Torah, the Psalms, the rest of the Bible, (as they were originally revealed) and the Qur'an (which is composed of God's words, dictated by the Archangel Gabriel to Muhammad). 4.The Messengers of God, including Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Jesus and Muhammad -- the last prophet. Muhammad's message is considered the final, universal message for all of humanity. 5.That there is a Day of Judgment when people will be judged on the basis of their deeds while on earth, and will either attain reward of Heaven or punishment in Hell. They do not believe that Jesus or any other individual can atone for another person's sin. Hell is where unbelievers and sinners spend eternity. Paradise is a place of physical and spiritual pleasure where the sinless go after death 6.The supremacy of God's will. Other beliefs include: God did not have a son. Jesus is a prophet, born of the Virgin Mary. They regard the Christian concept of the deity of Jesus to be blasphemous; it is seen as a form of polytheism. Jesus was not executed on the cross. He escaped crucifixion and was taken up into Paradise. The existence of Satan drives people to sin. Muslims who sincerely repent and submit to God return to a state of sinlessness. All people are considered children of Adam. Islam officially rejects racism. All children are born on Al-Fitra (a pure, natural state of submission to Islam). His parents sometimes make him Christian, Jewish, etc. When a child reaches puberty an account of their deeds is opened in Paradise. When the person dies, their eventual destination (Paradise or Hell) depends on the balance of their good deeds (helping others, testifying to the truth of God, leading a virtuous life) and their bad deeds. Alcohol, illegal drugs, eating of pork, etc. are to be avoided. Gambling is to be avoided. (Robinson, 2007) Nature of God
Allah is the personal name of the one true God. Nothing else can be called Allah. The term has no plural or gender. This shows its uniqueness when compared with the word "god," which can be made plural, as in "gods," or made feminine, as in "goddess." It is interesting to notice that Allah is the personal name of God in Aramaic, the language of Jesus and a sister language of Arabic (Dar-us-salam Productions, 2007).
The One true God is a reflection of the unique concept that Islam associates with God. To a Muslim, Allah is the Almighty Creator and Sustainer of the universe, who is similar to nothing and nothing, is comparable to Him. The Prophet Muhammad was asked by his contemporaries about Allah; the answer came directly from God Himself in the form of a short chapter of the Qur'an, which is considered to be the essence of the unity or the motto of monotheism. This is chapter 112, which reads: "In the name of Allah, the Merciful, and the Compassionate. Say (O Muhammad), He is God, the One God, the Everlasting Refuge, who has not begotten, nor has been begotten, and equal to Him is not anyone" (Dar-us-salam Productions, 2007).
God is also just. Hence, evildoers and sinners must have their share of punishment, and the virtuous must have God's bounties and favors. Actually, God's attribute of mercy has full manifestation in his attribute of justice. People suffering throughout their lives for his sake should not receive similar treatment from their Lord as people who oppress and exploit others their whole lives. Expecting similar treatment for them would amount to negating the very belief in the accountability of man in the hereafter and thereby negate all the incentives for a moral and virtuous life in this world (Dar-us-salam Productions, 2007).
Islam rejects characterizing God in any human form or depicting him as favoring certain individuals or nations on the basis of wealth, power or race. He created the human-beings as equals. They may distinguish themselves and get his favor through virtue and piety only (Dar-us-salam Productions, 2007).
The concepts that God rested on the seventh day of creation, that God wrestled with one of His soldiers, that God is an envious plotter against mankind, and that God is incarnate in any human being are considered blasphemy from the Islamic point of view (Dar-us-salam Productions, 2007).
The unique usage of Allah as a personal name of God is a reflection of Islam's emphasis on the purity of the belief in God that is the essence of the message of all God's messengers. Because of this, Islam considers associating any deity or personality with God as a deadly sin that God will never forgive, despite the fact that He may forgive all other sins (Dar-us-salam Productions, 2007).
The Creator must be of a different nature from the things created because if he is of the same nature as they are, he will be temporal and will therefore need a maker. It follows that nothing is like him. If the maker is not temporal, then he must be eternal. But if he is eternal, he cannot be caused, and if nothing caused him to come into existence, nothing outside him causes him to continue to exist, which means that he must be self-sufficient. And if he does not depend on anything for the continuance of his own existence, then this existence can have no end. The creator is therefore eternal and everlasting: "He is the First and the Last" (Dar-us-salam Productions, 2007).
He is Self-sufficient or Self-subsistent, or, to use a Qur'anic term, Al-Qayyum the creator does not create only in the sense of bringing things into being, He also preserves them and takes them out of existence and is the ultimate cause of whatever happens to them (Dar-us-salam Productions, 2007).
If the creator is eternal and everlasting, then his attributes must also be eternal and everlasting. He should not lose any of his attributes nor acquire new ones. If this is so, then his attributes are absolute. The Qur'an summarizes this argument in the following verses: "God has not taken to Himself any son, nor is there any god with Him: for then each god would have taken of that which he created and some of them would have risen up over others" (Dar-us-salam Productions, 2007). The Believer's Attitude In order to be a Muslim, that is, to surrender oneself to God, it is necessary to believe in the oneness of God, in the sense of his being the only creator, preserver, nourisher, etc. But this belief, later called Tawhid Ar-Rububiyyah, is not enough. Many of the idolaters knew and believed that only the Supreme God could do all this, but this was not enough to make them Muslims. To tawhid ar-rububiyyah, one must add tawhid al-'uluhiyyah. That is, one acknowledges the fact that it is God alone who deserves to be worshipped, and thus abstains from worshipping any other thing or being. Having achieved this knowledge of the one true God, man should constantly have faith in Him, and should allow nothing to induce him to deny truth (Dar-us-salam Productions, 2007). Texts Koran
The Koran is the holy book of Islam, which is also referred to in English as "Quran", or "Qur'an". The exact meaning of the word Koran is not clear, but there are three main theories. It may either be connected to the word for 'collect'; or to the word for 'tie together'; or perhaps best to the most commonly used word for "read" or "recite," which is an important verb in the book itself (Kjeilen, 2007). The Koran as a book is the result of: 1. Alleged revelations to Muhammad in the period 610- 632 (Muhammad's death). 2. Writing down of these revelations by people around Muhammad in a period probably starting some years after 610, and ending a couple of years after 632. 3. Compilation of these writings stretching from mid-630s and perhaps until mid -650s. 4. Stories relating to Muhammad, largely stories in which he communicates with God, usually concerning contemporary matters. 5. Vowelling and dotting of the text. Ancient Arabic was written without dots, leaving some letters looking identical, and in many cases the lack of vowels would make two different words look identical (Kjeilen, 2007).
Prior to the 5th stage, it was, therefore, up to the memories of the learned to remember what the correct meaning of every word was, but as these learned people died, the early Muslim community found it important to save the exact meaning once and for all, before it was too late (Kjeilen, 2007). Understanding the Koran
Essential to the reading of the Koran are the interpretations of the content. Even in modern times, there are scholars working on interpreting the text, but most of the material available now was performed within the earliest centuries of Islam (Kjeilen, 2007).
As the Koran has a structure, and a language, as well as allusions, which often are difficult for the normal Muslim to understand, a whole science were built around the comprehension of the Koran. The early Muslims studied history, language, and nature science in an effort to understand the Koran better. The product is surprisingly well accepted by the whole Muslim society, and no Muslim child or adult of today, studying the Koran, does this without help from the interpretations built on the early sciences of the Koran (Kjeilen, 2007).
The early efforts of Koranic science have given room for different approaches to the book and its content, but all interpretations are considered equal, and none can be claimed better than the other (Kjeilen, 2007).
There are today 7 ways of reading the Koran, which each of these have two variances, leaving the Muslims with 14 ways of reading the Koran. In modern Koranic science, this applies only to Muslim scholars. The ordinary Muslim reads the Koran without entering this level of complexity (Kjeilen, 2007).
The Koran is divided into 114 suras, which are opened by indications on their origin. The origin is either Mecca or Madina, but it is generally assumed that some suras have content from both towns, even though one is presented as the origin. The whole structure of the Koran is a science in itself, as there is no chronology in it, like the one found in the Bible, and as most of it consists of commandments and warnings, and only a small part are stories (Kjeilen, 2007).
The following can be said about its structure: Except the first sura, 'al-fatiha, 'The Commencement', the longest suras are found in the beginning, and then gradually decreases on to the end of the Koran (Kjeilen, 2007). Use of the Koran
The two main importances of the Koran for the believer are:
1. Being the one and only commandment from God, the Koran is regarded by most as the non-created word of God written on golden tablets in Paradise. This view strongly contended inside the Muslim world in the first centuries became orthodox towards the end of the most fruitful period of Muslim science. Until the middle of the 9th century, (2nd hijra century) the dominating view among theologians was that the Koran was created by God, hence it is his spoken word. For Muslims today, the Koran is seen as a physical proof of Islam.
2. Being the sound of Islam when recited, a holy atmosphere is created, an atmosphere involving God, the world, the truth, and peace. During the moment of reciting the compound becomes sacred, and the moment powerful (Kjeilen, 2007).
The reciting of the Koran is an art known by most Muslims. The most frequently used technique normally involves sitting on the ground with the book in the lap or placed on a specially made low table. This sitting position resembles the lotus position used in eastern religions, but is not at all strict on the upright position of the spine most Muslims bend over the Koran as they read (Kjeilen, 2007).
The reading technique uses a rhythm with around 60 beats a minute. The performance of this rhythm is done with both torso, swaying a little in an oval shape, as well as with the voice and the speed of reading. Surprisingly overlooked by most Western scholars, the reading of the Koran is a meditative moment for a Muslim and it is a ritual that can be performed anywhere anytime (Kjeilen, 2007).
The Koran's actual guidance in everyday life for Muslims must not be overestimated, despite the common misconception that the Koran gives guidance on all aspects of life. As a matter of fact, for most moral and legal questions the answer will not be found in the Koran. This is well illustrated by the many other sources used for the development of Sharia, and in general, most Muslims will think of the Koran as far too complex to be a guide in daily matters if it should be interpreted by a Muslim layman (Kjeilen, 2007).
When a Muslim has problems understanding the real truth of the Koran, he/she will resort to books written by men learned in Islamic sciences or ask the learned in the local society. There are situations where Muslims look up the Koran for guidance, but this will be in cases where they know what to look for, and where to look and feel competent to interpret the content (Kjeilen, 2007). Translations of the Koran
Muslims not speaking Arabic will normally stick to an Arabic version of the Koran. Most of them will learn how to read Arabic text, and learn some Arabic words, and then read the Koran according to the way described above. In general, Muslims will agree that the Koran can never be correctly translated, and that the Arabic original is the only version that is correct. Translations of the Koran are in many cases a fruit of the needs of Western scholars to have a uniform text which is common in between them. Also, the Koranic translations are motivated by curiosity and interest of many non-Muslims (Kjeilen, 2007).
The first translation of the Koran into another language was to Latin in 1143, and this was performed by a monk, who sought understanding of the Crusaders' enemy. From the 18th century, and up until now, the Koran has been translated into most Western languages, and with a steadily increasing quality. Today most Muslims endorse this effort with the hope that some misunderstandings on Islam can be refuted, and also with the hope of conversions by people of the West (Kjeilen, 2007). Word of God or Man?
There is a common idea today that all of the content of the Koran is eternal, and there is a theological idea that the original of the Koran is written on tablets in heaven as said in sura 85:22. A common idea is that these tables are made from gold, as any other material would degrade the book. The heavenly eternal "Koran" cannot be the entire volume of today's Koran; it can only be understood as the core content of the modern book. Virtually all Muslims believe that the modern Koran equals to perfection the heavenly, but this notion must be deemed a misunderstanding. This view was challenged by the prominent Egyptian Mufti (1899-1905), Muhammad Abduh, ascribed many parts of it to the personal thinking of Muhammad himself, hence not being the word of God (Kjeilen, 2007).
Therefore, the Koran must be understood as an amalgamation of 2 forms of content: The message alleged to be from God to Muhammad in order to pass on to humankind. The other elements are stories or passages relating to Muhammad's prophetic activity, as well as God's advice directly on Muhammad's prophetic activity (Kjeilen, 2007). Rituals and Practice
The six most important Islamic holy days are New Year, Ashura, Mawlid, Ramadan, Id al-Fitr. The year 1428, (2007) these holidays are on these dates. JAN-20 (New Year), JAN-29 (Ashura), MAR-31 (Mawlid), SEP-13 (Ramadan), OCT-13 (Id al-Fitr), DEC-20 (Id al-Adha) (Robinson, 2007).
Al-Hijra/Muharram is the Muslim New Year, the beginning of the first lunar month. Ashura recalls an event circa 680-OCT-20 CE in Iraq when an army of the Umayyad regime martyred a group of 70 individuals who refused to submit to the Caliph. One of the martyrs was Imam Husain, the youngest grandson of Prophet Muhammad (Robinson, 2007).
Mawlid al-Nabi is a celebration of the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad, the founder of Islam in 570 CE. Sunni Muslims observed it on the 12th of the lunar month of Rabi'-ul-Awwal in the Islamic calendar. Shi'a Muslims celebrate it five days later. "The Mawlid al-Nabi was first observed around the thirteenth century and was preceded by a month of celebration. The actual day of Muhammad's birthday included a sermon, recitation of litanies, honoring of religious dignitaries, gift giving, and a feast. The festival spread throughout the Muslim world and is celebrated in many countries today (Robinson, 2007).
Ramadan is the holiest period in the Islamic year; it is held during the entire 9th lunar month of the year. This was the month in which the Qur'an was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad. The first day of Ramadan is listed above. It is a time at which almost all Muslims over the age of 12 are expected to fast from sunup to sundown, unless they suffer from health problems which would make fasting dangerous (Robinson, 2007). Id al-Fitr (a.k.a. "Id" and "Eid") is the first day of the 10th month -- i.e. the day after the end of Ramadan. It is a time of rejoicing. Houses are decorated; Muslims buy gifts for relatives. The words "Id" and "Eid" mean festival (Robinson, 2007). Id al-Adha (a.k.a. the Feast of Sacrifice or Day of Sacrifice) occurs during the 12th month of the Islamic year. This immediately follows the Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca). It recalls the day when Abraham intended to follow the instructions of God, and sacrifice his son Ishmael (Robinson, 2007). The purposes, discipline, and activities of Ramadan
The fast is performed to learn discipline, self-restraint and generosity, while obeying God's commandments. Fasting (along with the declaration of faith, daily prayers, charity, and pilgrimage to Mecca) is one of the 'five pillars' of Islam (Robinson, 2007).
Muslims who fall within one of the following categories may elect to not observe the fast: Children under the age of puberty. People who are mentally incapacitated or not responsible for their actions. The elderly. The sick. Travelers who are on journeys of more than about fifty miles. Pregnant women and nursing mothers. Women who are menstruating. Those who are temporarily unable to fast must make up the missed days at another time, or feed the poor. Young children are encouraged to fast as much as they are able.
Muslims may engage in a number of activities during Ramadan: Some read the entire Qur'an. Taraweeh prayers are said every evening during Ramadan. Muhammad observed Al-I'etikaaf (retreat) during the last ten days of Ramadan. Some contemporary Muslims do the same by staying in the mosque over a number of days. They store provisions in a corner of the mosque, and engage in spiritual pursuits, such as prayer, recitation of the Qur'an, glorification of Allah, studying the Hadith, etc (Robinson, 2007).
Islam is built on five pillars. These acts are obligatory on every Muslim adult. Some are done daily, monthly, annually, while one is only required once in a lifetime (Muslimah, 2007). Witnessing-Shahadah To do this one must simply state publicly "Ashadu alla ilaha illa Allah, wa ashadu anna Muhammed ar-rasool Allah". This means, "I bear witness that there is no God other than Allah, and I bear witness that Muhammed is His messenger." It should be a genuine belief from one's heart. The witnessing of the Oneness of Allah is the rejection of any form of deity other than Allah, and the witnessing that Muhammad is his Messenger is the acceptance of him being chosen by Allah to convey his message of Islam to all humanity, and to deliver it from the darkness of ignorance into the light of belief in, and knowledge of the Creator (Muslimah, 2007). Prayer-Salat
In prayer, every muscle and bone of the body joins the soul and the mind in the worship and glory of Allah. Offering of prayers is obligatory upon every Muslim who is sane, mature, and in the case of women free from menstruation and confinement due to child birth. Some requirements must be met in order for the prayer to be valid. These include but are not limited to: Performing wudu - ritually cleaning the body clothes and ground used for prayer. Clothing - one must be covered in the manner according to his gender. Facing the Ka'ba (referred to as the Qibla) Intention - merely saying in your mind that you are attempting to pray, and gain the benefits from It (Muslimah, 2007).
Prayers are required at least five times a day. Other obligatory prayers include the Friday congregational prayer, Eid prayers and the funeral prayer. Times of the five daily obligatory prayers:
2.Zuhr-After the sun begins to decline from its zenith. 3.Asr-Mid-afternoon. 4.Magrib-Just after sunset. 5.Isha-night. (Muslimah, 2007) In addition one is also encouraged but not required to perform prayers during the day and night. Prayer should be offered in its due time, unless there is a reasonable excuse. Delayed obligatory prayers must be made up. In addition to the prescribed prayer, a Muslim expresses gratitude to God and appreciation of his favors and asks for his mercy all the time. Especially at times of, childbirth, marriage, going to or rising from bed, leaving and returning to his home, starting a journey or entering a city, riding or driving, before or after eating or drinking, harvesting, visiting graveyards, and at time of distress and sickness (Muslimah, 2007). Charity-Zakah
Obligatory charity giving is an act of worship and spiritual investment. Zakah does not only purify the property of the contributor but also purifies his heart from selfishness and greed. It also purifies the heart of the recipient from envy and jealousy, from hatred and uneasiness, and it fosters instead good-will and warm wishes for the contributors. It also frees society from welfare, distrust and corruption. Zakah is paid on the net balance after paying personal expenses, family expenses, due credits, taxes, etc. Taxes paid to government do not substitute for this religious duty. The contributor should not seek pride or fame but if disclosing his name and his contribution is likely to encourage others, it is acceptable to do so (Muslimah, 2007). The recipients of Zakah are: the poor, the needy the new Muslim converts the Muslim prisoners of war (to liberate them) Muslims in debt employees appointed to collect Zakah Muslims in service of research or study or propagation of Islam wayfarers who are foreigners in need of help Note that Zakah is obligatory. Muslims can also go above and beyond what they pay as Zakah, in which case the offering is strictly voluntary (blessing will come to those who wish for his brother what he wishes for himself) (Muslimah, 2007). Fasting-Sawm
Fasting is abstaining completely from eating, drinking, and intimate sexual contacts from the break of dawn till sunset. It is a matchless Islamic institution which teaches man the principle of sincere love to God, creative sense of hope, devotion, patience, unselfishness, discipline, etc. Obligatory fasting is done once a year for the period of the month of Ramadan. Fasting during this time is obligatory on every Muslim adult if he is mentally and physically fit and not on a journey. Women are allowed to skip a fasting day due to menstruation, and while nursing a baby (Muslimah, 2007). Pilgrimage-Hajj
It is obligatory to make the pilgrimage to Mecca, at least once in a lifetime. Muslims from all walks of life, from every corner of the globe assemble in Mecca in response to the call of Allah. It is to commemorate the divine rituals observed by the Prophet Abraham, and his son Ishmael, who were the first pilgrims to the house of Allah on earth: the Ka'bah. It is also to remember the great assembly of the Day of Judgment when people will stand equal before Allah. Muslims go to Mecca to glorify Allah, not to worship a man. The visit to the tomb of Prophet Muhammad at Madena is highly recommended but not essential in making the Hajj valid and complete (Muslimah, 2007). Ethics and Morality The Bible has the Ten Commandments, and the Qur'an has similar verses: Do not associate another deity with God. Know therefore that there is no god but God. No visions can encompass Him, but He encompasses all visions. My Lord, make this a peaceful land, and protect me and my children from worshiping idols. There is nothing that equals (like) Him. Do not use God's name in your oaths as an excuse to prevent you from dealing justly. Remember the name of your Lord and devote yourself to Him exclusively. Glorify the name of your Lord morning and evening (Bbc, 2007). Islamic teachings on abortion
Muslims regard abortion as wrong and haram (forbidden), but many accept that it may be permitted in certain cases. All schools of Muslim law accept that abortion is permitted if continuing the pregnancy would put the mother's life in real danger. This is the only reason accepted for abortion after 120 days of the pregnancy. Different schools of Muslim law hold different views on whether any other reasons for abortion are permitted, and at what stage of pregnancy if so. Some schools of Muslim law permit abortion in the first 16 weeks of pregnancy, while others only permit it in the first 7 weeks. However, even those scholars who would permit early abortion in certain cases still regard abortion as wrong, but do not regard it as a punishable wrong. The more advanced the pregnancy, the greater the wrong (Bbc, 2007). Euthanasia and suicide in Islam
Muslims are against euthanasia. They believe that all human life is sacred because it is given by Allah, and that Allah chooses how long each person will live. Human beings should not interfere in this (Bbc, 2007).
Euthanasia and suicide are not included among the reasons allowed for killing in Islam. Do not take life, which Allah made sacred, other than in the course of justice. Allah decides how long each of us will live. When their time comes they cannot delay it for a single hour nor can they bring it forward by a single hour, and no person can ever die except by Allah's leave and at an appointed term. Suicide and euthanasia are explicitly forbidden (Bbc, 2007).
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