There are different traditions within Islam. The main
Sunni Muslims: These are followers of the Hanifa, Shafi, Hanibal and Malik schools.
They constitute a 90% majority of the believers, and are considered to be main
stream traditionalists. Because they are comfortable pursuing their faith within secular
societies, they have been able to adapt to a variety of national cultures, while following
their three sources of law: the Qur'an, Hadith and consensus of Muslims.
Shi'ite Muslims: These are followers of the Jafri school
who constitute a small
minority of Islam. They split from the Sunnis over a dispute about the successor to
Muhammad. Their leaders promote a strict interpretation of the Qur'an and
close adherence to its teachings. They believe in 12 heavenly Imams (perfect teachers) who
led the Shi'ites in succession. Shi'ites believe that the 12th Imam,
the Mahdi (guided one), never died but went into hiding waiting for
the optimum time to reappear on Earth and guide humans towards justice and
Sufism: This is a mystic tradition in which followers seek inner knowledge
directly from God through meditation and ritual and dancing. This tradition developed
late in the 10th
century CE as an ascetic reaction to the formalism and laws of the Qur'an.
There are Sufis from both the Sunni and Shi'ite groups. However, some
Sunni followers do not consider Sufiism to be a valid Islamic practice. They incorporated ideas from Neoplatonism, Buddhism, and
Christianity. They emphasize personal union with the divine. In the Middle
East, some Sufi traditions are considered to be a separate school of
Islam. In North and sub-Saharan Africa, Sufism is more a style and an
approach rather than a separate school.
Islam does not have denominational mosques.
Members are welcome to attend any mosque in any land.
An Egypt Air airliner crashed of the east coast of New England, with
the loss of all of the lives on board. The cause of the crash is unknown;
some people suggested that an officer on the plane had committed suicide,
thus murdering all of the occupants. The co-pilot
allegedly recited the "Shahada" shortly before the plane
descended. Shahada means "testimony." It states: "There is no god but God, and Muhammad
is his messenger." This was described by some uninformed media writers
as "a Muslim death prayer." It is not. The Shahada is a prayer recited
by many Muslims every day. It affirms the unity of God, and that Muhammad is His
Prophet. It is no more a death prayer than is the Christian Lord's prayer.
There are over 70 other groups which originated within Islam and broke away from the
Sunni or Shi'ite faith communities. Some are:
Baha'i Faith: This
religion attempts to
integrate all of the world religions. It was originally a break-away sect from Islam but
has since grown to become a separate religion. Members are heavily
persecuted in some Muslim countries because they are regarded as
apostates to the true Muslim faith. Oppression is particularly heavy in
Ahmadis: Followers of the Ahmadiyya Movement believe
that God sent Ahmad as a Messiah, "a messenger of His in this age who has claimed
to have come in the spirit and power of Jesus Christ.He has come to call all
people around one Faith, i.e. Islam..."
The movement's founder was Hazrat
Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835-1908). He was born in Qadian, India. He felt that he had a
mandate from God to correct a serious error within Christianity. Most Christians believe
that Jesus is a member of the Godhead. "...because Jesus, whom God sent as a
Messiah to the Israelites was taken for a God, Divine jealousy ordained that another man
[Ahmad] should be sent as Messiah so that the world may know that the first Messiah was
nothing more than a weak mortal."
After his death, the community elected a series of Khalifas (successors). The current
and "Fourth Successor (Khalifatul Masih IV), to the Promised Messiah was chosen
in the person of Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad" on 1982-JUN-10.
Community currently has more than 10 million members worldwide. They prefer
to call themselves "Muslims of the Amadiyya sect." They are very heavily persecuted in Pakistan. They regard themselves
as a reform movement within Islam. 3
Black Muslim Movement (BMM): This is largely a black urban movement in
the US. One driving force was a rejection of Christianity as the religion of the
historically oppressing white race. It was started by Wallace Fard who built the first
temple in Detroit. Elijah Muhammad (born Elijah Poole) established a second temple in
Chicago and later supervised the creation of temples in most large cities with significant
black populations. They taught that blacks were racially superior to whites and that a
racial war is inevitable. The charismatic Malcolm X was perhaps their most famous
spokesperson; he played an important role in reversing the BMM's anti-white beliefs. In its
earlier years, the movement deviated significantly from traditional Islamic beliefs
(particularly over matters of racial tolerance the status of the BMM leaders as prophets).
This deviation is being reversed.
Islam is growing rapidly and is now followed by more than 20% of the world's
population. Christianity is not growing; its popularity has been stuck at about 33% of the
worlds population for many decades. It is in decline in the United States (in terms of
"market share"). Christian attacks on Islam arecommon. Most criticisms are
not well grounded in reality:
Islam is often blamed for female genital mutilation. But it
is obvious that FGM is grounded in cultural tradition, not religious belief,
in those countries where it is
practiced. In those countries where it it practiced, mutilation is done by Animists,
Christians, and Muslims.
A number of anti-Islamic books have been written recently, criticizing some Islamic
countries for lack of religious tolerance, equality for women, lack of democracy, etc. One
of the most famous of these books is "Why I am Not a Muslim" by Ibn
Warraq, an ex-Muslim. Many reviews
by readers of this controversial book are available on-line from the Amazon.com web site.
An excellent rebuttal of the book by Jeremiah D. McAuliffe, Jr., titled "Trends
and Flaws in Some Anti-Muslim Writing as Exemplified by Ibn Warraq" is at: http://idt.net/
Some conservative Christian web sites include attacks on Islam. They base their position
on the inerrancy of the Bible, and their belief that
Christianity is the only valid religion. An essay by Ric Llewellyn at http://www.seafox.com is typical.
He makes heavy use of emotionally loaded, judgmental terms, such as: false religion, false
doctrines, dubious beginnings, fanaticism, irrational, accursed, religious bondage, cults,
wicked doctrines, etc. It is our belief that these attacks are counter-productive. The
main result of these web pages is to demonstrate the degree of intolerance and hatred held
by their Webmasters; this does not reflect well on Christianity.
The media has historically disseminated a very negative image of Islam. It
overwhelmingly reports on the beliefs and practices of the most violent wing of the
religion. Many non-Muslims are unaware that a moderate wing and other wings even exist in Islam. A number
of anti-defamation groups have been organized to combat these negative portrayals.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations is a
leader in this field.