Wednesday, February 21, 2007

A Primer on Islam


There are approximately 1.3 billion Muslims worldwide that primarily reside in South and Southwest Asia, Sub-Saharan and North Africa, and the Middle East. Islam, the way of life for Muslims, is derived from the word peace in the Arabic language and denotes submission to Allah (God in the Arabic language). Muslims believe that God is One, Absolute, and Eternal without a likeness in the material creation. They believe in the chain of prophecy beginning with Adam and including Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and Christ Jesus. Prophet Muhammad is believed to be the conclusion of this prophet chain, who reaffirmed the teachings of all of the previous prophets and culmination of all of their missions.

What are the 5 pillars of Islam?

1) Shahadah/Testimony – Witnessing the Oneness of God
2) Salah/Prayer – Performing the 5 ritual prayers per day at fixed times
3) Zakah/Charity – Paying minimum of 2.5% charity from wealth per year
4) Sawm/Fasting – Fasting the Month of Ramadan (9th Month on Lunar Calendar)
5) Hajj/Pilgrimage – Pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in a lifetime

What are the articles of faith in Islam?

1) Belief in the Oneness of God, who is the Creator, the Unique, the All-Powerful, and the All-Knowing. This belief is also solidified in the understanding that God was not born nor does he give birth.
2) Belief in all of God’s Prophets and Messengers, who were mortals that came to teach a unified message to humanity worshipping none except God. Islam makes no distinction between prophets meaning there are no distinctive categories such as good prophets/greater prophets and lesser prophets. It is believed that God sent 124,000 prophets to humanity, but only 25 are mentioned by name in The Qur’an. Some of these mentioned in The Qur’an are Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, John the Baptist, Christ Jesus, and Muhammad.
3) Belief in all of God’s Books that were revealed as sources of guidance for humanity. Some of these books are the scrolls of Abraham, the Torah, the Psalms, the Gospels, and the Qur’an, which was the last of God’s revealed books. The Qur’an is only in the Arabic language.
4) Belief in the Angels, who are beings made of light. In Islam, all angels are totally obedient to the direct commands of God; hence, there are no bad angels. God’s two chief angels in Islam are Gabriel and Michael.
5) Belief in the Day of Judgment when this material world will come to an end, and all of humanity will be resurrected and judged upon their faith and their deeds.
6) Belief in God’s Measure that He has set the natural boundaries for what is good and what is wrong.

Are there different denominations in Islam?

Islam does not have formally recognized denominations with their own central hierarchies; however, there are varying schools of thought relating to jurisprudence.
These different schools arose over differences of interpretation of political events and regional customs; the differences have little to do with “theological” differences.

Sunnis, who constitute the vast majority of the Muslim World (80%), have 4 major schools of thought (Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi`i, and Hanbali).

Shi`ahs, who constitute approximately (15%) of the Muslim World, have 3 major schools of thought (Zaydi, Ja`fari, and Isma`ili). Shi`ahs are primarily found in Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Arabian Gulf States, India, and Pakistan.

Ibadi constitute approximately (5%) of the Muslim World. Ibadis are primarily found in Oman and East Africa.

What is Jihad?

Jihad means exertion or struggle in the Arabic language. Jihad does not mean holy war. In fact, there is no term called holy war in The Qur’an or the traditions of Prophet Muhammad. It is a central and broad Islamic concept that includes struggle against evil inclinations within oneself, struggle to improve the quality of life in society, struggle in the battlefield for self-defense (e.g., - having a standing army for national defense), or fighting against tyranny or oppression.

What is Hijab?

Hijab literally means screen in the Arabic language. Hijab means more than just a head scarf that Muslim women use to cover their hair; hijab is modest dress that covers curvature of the body. Muslim men are also to dress in a modest manner, not just Muslim females.

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