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Part 4


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This topic is continued here from Part 3 of this topic

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Topics discussed in this essay:

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Schools within Islam:

There are different traditions within Islam.  The main divisions are:

bulletSunni 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.

bullet 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 peace.

bullet 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.

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The Egypt Air tragedy:

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.

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Deviations from Islam:

There are over 70 other groups which originated within Islam and broke away from the Sunni or Shi'ite faith communities. Some are:

bulletBaha'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 Iran.

bulletAhmadis: 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. 

The Ahmadiyya 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

bulletBlack 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.

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Criticisms of Islam:

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:

bullet 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.

bullet 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 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:

bulletSome 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 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.

bullet 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. CAIR, The Council on American-Islamic Relations is a leader in this field.

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A search at for books about Islam:

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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. "Correctional Institution's Guide to Islamic Religious Practices," by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). Excerpts are available at:  You need software to read this file. It can be obtained free from:
  2. "His birth," at:
  3. Louis Hammann, "Ahmadiyyat: An introduction," at:
  4. "Calculating Qibla Direction," at:
  5. Shadid Athar, "Euthanasia and Physician Assisted Suicide," at: 
  6. "Islam," Weebly, undated, at:

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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-DEC-05
Author: B. A. Robinson
Hyperlinks checked: 2001-OCT-15

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