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Islam

Part 1

Introduction

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Quotations:

bullet"The best jihad [struggle] is (by) the one who strives against his own self for Allah, The Mighty and Majestic," by the Prophet Muhammad. 1 More info on "jihad."
bullet "It is a declaration of the truth and light to show the right path. It is the wise, the complete exhortation and a clear message...it is the embodiment of the fairest statements and Divine words of wisdom." by Islamic scholar Abdur Rahman I. Doi, referring to the Qur'an 2
bullet "[T]his is nothing but a manifestation of injustice, oppression and tyranny...and it is amongst the greatest of sins." by Sheik Abdul-Azeez Aal ash-Sheik, grand mufti of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and head of the Council of Senior Scholars, speaking about the 9-11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. 3

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Topics discussed in this essay:

bulletOrigin of Islam
bulletAbout Muhammad
bullet Growth of Islam

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Origin of Islam:

The name of the religion Islam is derived from the Arabic word "salam," which is often interpreted as meaning "peace." However "submission" is a preferred translation. A Muslim is a follower of Islam. "Muslim" is an Arabic word that refers to a person who submits themselves to the will of God.

Many Muslims are offended by the phrases "Islamic terrorist" or "Muslim terrorist," which have been observed so often in the media; they are viewed as oxymorons. That is, if one is a terrorist, one cannot be a Muslim; if one is a Muslim, one cannot be a terrorist.

Most religious historians view Islam as having been founded in 622 CE by Muhammad the Prophet.* He lived from about 570 until 632 CE, when he died unexpectedly). The religion started in Mecca, when Muslims believe that the angel Jibril (a.k.a. Jibreel; Gabriel in English) read the first revelation to Muhammad. (Mohammed and Muhammed are alternative spellings for his name.) Islam is the youngest of the world's very large religions -- those with over 300 million members -- which include Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism. 

* Muslims traditionally acknowledge respect for Muhammad, Jesus and other prophets by adding the phrase "peace be upon him" or an abbreviation "(pbuh)" after their names. 

However, many -- if not most of the followers of Islam -- believe that:

bulletIslam existed before Muhammad was born,
bulletThe origins of Islam date back to the creation of the world, and
bulletMuhammad was the last and by far the greatest of a series of Prophets.

"Allah" is an Arabic word which means "the One True God" in Arabic. Christians who speak Arabic refer to their deity "Yahwea," as "Allah."

An alternative spelling for "Muslim" that is occasionally used is "Moslim"; it is not recommended because it is often pronounced "mawzlem": which sounds like an Arabic word for "oppressor". Some Western writers in the past have referred to Islam as "Mohammedism"; this is deeply offensive to many Muslims, as its usage can lead some to the concept that Muhammad the Prophet was in some way divine.

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About Muhammad, as believed by most Muslims:

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. Omid Safi, assistant professor of religion and philosophy at Colgate University, commented that Muhammad was probably the first religious leader to rise up in the "full glare of history." 4

Many unusual events have been recorded about Muhammad's birth and childhood:

bulletHis mother said "When he was born, there was a light that issued out of my pudendum and lit the places of Syria."
bulletAlso 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."
bulletHis foster family had many experiences of amazingly good luck while he was in their care.
bullet The angel Jibril visited the boy when he was a young child, ripped his chest open, removed his heart, extracted a blood clot from it, and returned him to normalcy. 5

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 subsequently raised 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 12; sources differ). Later, as a youth, he was employed as a camel driver on the trade routes between Syria and Arabia. As an adult, Muhammad 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 various indigenous Pagan religions in the area.

After he married, he was able to spend more time in meditation. At the age of 40, (circa 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 became firmly established throughout the area.

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Growth of Islam:

By 750 CE, Islam had invaded China, India, and countries along the Southern shore of the Mediterranean including Spain. By 1550 they had besieged Vienna. Wars resulted, expelling Muslims from Spain and Europe. Since their trading routes were mostly over land, they had not developed extensive sea trade (as for example the English and Spaniards did). As a result, the old world's occupation of North America in the 16th century CE was left to Christians.

Currently, Muslims are concentrated from the West coast of Africa to the Philippines. The country of Indonesia has the largest number of Muslims. In Africa, in particular, they are increasing in numbers, largely at the expense of Christianity.

Many do not look upon Islam as a new religion. They feel that it is in reality the faith taught by the ancient Prophets, Abraham, David, Moses and Jesus. They view Muhammad's role as the last of the Prophets was to formalize and clarify the faith and to purify it by removing foreign ideas that had been added in error.

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This topic continues in Part 2

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Jihad explained," by the Institute of Islamic Information and Education at: http://www.irshad.org/
  2. Abdur Rahman I. Doi. Sharia, "The Islamic Law," Ta Ha Publishers, (1984), Page 21.
  3. "Shaykh 'Abdul-'Azeez Aal ash-Shaykh says attacks are an 'oppression, injustice and tyranny...' ," 2001-SEP-17, at: http://www.fatwa-online.com/news/
  4. "Muhammad and the power of religious imagery," Religion Link, 2006-FEB-08, at: http://www.religionlink.org/
  5. "His birth," at: http://www.geocities.com/ This site is no longer online.

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Site navigation: Home page > World Religions > Islam > here

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Copyright © 1995 to 2017 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Last update: 2017-MAY-29
Author: B. A. Robinson

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