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Introduction, Part 1

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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." 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." 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 attack. 3

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Topics discussed in this essay:

bulletOrigin of Islam
bulletAbout Muhammad (pbuh)
bulletAbout Islam
bulletImportant Texts

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Origin of Islam:

The name of this religion, Islam, is derived from the Arabic word "salam," which is often interpreted as meaning "peace." However "submission" would be a better 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.

Most religious historians view Islam as having been founded in 622 CE by Muhammad the Prophet (peace be upon him).* He lived from about 570 to 632 CE). The religion started in Mecca, when the angel Jibril (a.k.a. Jibreel; Gabriel in English) read the first revelation to Muhammad (pbuh). (Mohammed and Muhammed (pbuh) 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 (peace be upon them) by adding this phrase or an abbreviation "(pbuh)" after their names. 

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

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

Followers of Islam are called Muslims. "Allah" is an Arabic word which means "the One True God." 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 (pbuh) was in some way divine.

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About Muhammad (pbuh) :

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. 6

Many unusual events have been recorded about Muhammad's (pbuh) 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.
bulletAs 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. 4

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 (pbuh) 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.

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 (pbuh)  became the most powerful leader in Arabia, and Islam was firmly established throughout the area.

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About Islam:

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

Believers are currently concentrated from the West coast of Africa to the Philippines. 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 (Peace be upon them). Muhammad's (pbuh) 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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Sponsored link:

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Important texts:

There are six main texts consulted by Muslims:

bulletThe Qur'an (Recitation) are the literal words of God in their original Arabic language. Muslims believe that it was dictated to Muhammad by the archangel Jibril over an interval of 23 years. The text was originally in oral and written form; it was later assembled together into a single book, the Qur'an. Its name is often spelled "Koran" in English. This is not recommended, as some Muslims find it offensive. It is the only book that is considered free of tahrif (error).
bulletThere are four additional revealed books:
bulletThe Suhuf-i-Ibrahim (Scrolls of Abraham/Ibrahim) which most Muslims believe have been lost.
bulletThe Tawrat (a.k.a Tawrah or Taurat) This is the Pentateuch, the first five books from the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament). Many Muslims believe that the text has been altered by ancient Hebrews.
bulletThe Zabur which many Muslims believe are the Psalms from the Hebrew Scriptures. According to the Qur'an, the Zabur was revealed to David when he was king of Israel.
bulletThe Injil (a.k.a. Injeel). These are the Gospels, referred to as the words of Jesus, Some Muslims believe that this consists of the entire Christian Scriptures (New Testament); others believe it refers to only the four canonical Gospels. The Injil are also believed to have been distorted and corrupted over time. Other Muslims believe that the Injil is not a book, but a lost group of teachings written by the apostles or authors connected to the apostles.
bulletThe Hadith, which are collections of the sayings of Muhammad (pbuh). They are regarded as the Sunnah (lived example) of Muhammad.  The Quran gives legitimacy to the Hadith. It states: "Nor does he say aught of his own desire. It is no less than inspiration sent down to him" (53:3-4). However, the writings are not regarded as having the same status as the Holy Qur'an; the latter is considered to be God's word. The great Islamic scholar Yahya bin Sharaf Ul-Deen An-Nawawi compiled a collection of 43 sayings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). It is is now known as "Al-Nawawi's Forty Hadiths" 5

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Islamic beliefs:

bulletIslam considers six fundamental beliefs to be the foundation of their faith:
  1. 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. 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; (peace be upon them). Muhammad's message is considered the final, universal message for all of humanity.
  5. The 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. One translation of the Qur'an, 98:1-8, states: "The unbelievers among the People of the Book and the pagans shall burn for ever in the fire of Hell. They are the vilest of all creatures." ("People of the Book" refers to Christians, Jews and Muslims). Paradise is a place of physical and spiritual pleasure where the sinless go after death
  6. The supremacy of God's will.
bulletOther beliefs include:
bulletGod did not have a son.
bulletJesus (pbuh) is a prophet, born of the Virgin Mary. They regard the Christian concept of the deity of Jesus (pbuh) to be blasphemous; it is seen as a form of polytheism.
bulletJesus (pbuh) was not executed on the cross. He escaped crucifixion and was taken up into Paradise.
bulletThe existence of Satan drives people to sin.
bulletMuslims who sincerely repent and submit to God return to a state of sinlessness.
bulletAll people are considered children of Adam. Islam officially rejects racism.
bulletAll children are born on Al-Fitra (a pure, natural state of submission to Islam). His parents sometimes make him Christian, Jewish, etc.
bulletWhen 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.
bulletAlcohol, illegal drugs, eating of pork, etc. are to be avoided.
bulletGambling is to be avoided.

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Please continue to Part 2 of this topic

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Sponsored links:

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References used:

  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. "His birth," at: http://www.geocities.com/ No longer online.
  5. Yahya bin Sharaf Ul-Deen An-Nawawi , "Al-Nawawi's Forty Hadiths" at: http://www.dartmouth.edu/ No longer online.
  6. "Muhammad and the power of religious imagery," Religion Link, 2006-FEB-08, at: http://www.religionlink.org/tip_060208.php

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Copyright � 1995 to 2007 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Last update: 2007-OCT-29
Author: B. A. Robinson
Hyperlinks checked: 2005-APR-23

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