Saylor.org's Ancient Civilizations of the World/Islamic Faith and Practice
Islam (الإسلام) is a monotheistic and Abrahamic religion articulated by the Qur'an, a text considered by its adherents to be the verbatim word of God (Allāh) and by the teachings and normative example (called the Sunnah and composed of Hadith) of Muhammad, considered by them to be the last prophet of God. An adherent of Islam is called a Muslim.
Muslims believe that God is one and incomparable and the purpose of existence is to love and serve God. Muslims also believe that Islam is the complete and universal version of a primordial faith that was revealed at many times and places before, including through Abraham, Moses and Jesus, whom they consider prophets. They maintain that previous messages and revelations have been partially changed or corrupted over time, but consider the Qur'an to be both the unaltered and the final revelation of God. Religious concepts and practices include the five pillars of Islam, which are basic concepts and obligatory acts of worship, and following Islamic law, which touches on virtually every aspect of life and society, providing guidance on multifarious topics from banking and welfare, to warfare and the environment.
With about 1.6 to 1.7 billion followers or 22 to 24% of earth's population, Islam is the second-largest and one of the fastest-growing religions in the world.
Articles of faith
The core beliefs of Islam are that there is only one god – unitary and beyond comprehension – and that Muhammad is the prophet of God, the last in a series of prophets beginning with Adam. The Qur'an is upheld as the eternal, literal word of God, and revelations to earlier prophets, as seen in the Jewish Torah and Christian Gospels, are believed to have become distorted by human intervention. Muslims believe that the Qur’an was revealed to Muhammad through the angel Gabriel, and belief in angels as God’s servants is part of the Islamic tradition. Belief in the Day of Judgment, when all people will undergo bodily resurrection and be judged by God, is another core tenet. While Sunni and Shi’a Muslims adhere to these basic beliefs, Shi’a also believe in the Imamate, the line of infallible spiritual and political leaders who succeeded Muhammad, beginning with his cousin and son-in-law, Ali.
Islam's most fundamental concept is a rigorous monotheism, called tawhīd. God is described in chapter 112 of the Qur'an as: "Say: He is God, the One and Only; God, the Eternal, Absolute; He begetteth not, nor is He begotten; And there is none like unto Him." (112:1-4) Muslims repudiate the Christian doctrine of the Trinity and divinity of Jesus, comparing it to polytheism, but accept Jesus as a prophet. In Islam, God is beyond all comprehension and Muslims are not expected to visualize God. God is described and referred to by certain names or attributes, the most common being Al-Rahmān, meaning "The Compassionate" and Al-Rahīm, meaning "The Merciful."
Muslims believe that creation of everything in the universe is brought into being by God’s sheer command “‘Be’ and so it is,” and that the purpose of existence is to love and serve God. He is viewed as a personal god who responds whenever a person in need or distress calls him. There are no intermediaries, such as clergy, to contact God who states "We are nearer to him than (his) jugular vein"
Note: "Allāh" is the term with no plural or gender used by Muslims and Arabic-speaking Christians and Jews to reference God, while "ʾilāh" is the term used for a deity or a god in general.
Belief in angels is fundamental to the faith of Islam. The Arabic word for angel (Arabic: ملاك malak) means "messenger", like its counterparts in Hebrew (malakh) and Greek (angelos). According to the Qur'an, angels do not possess free will, and worship God in total obedience. Angels' duties include communicating revelations from God, glorifying God, recording every person's actions, and taking a person's soul at the time of death. They are also thought to intercede on man's behalf. The Qur'an describes angels as "messengers with wings—two, or three, or four (pairs): He [God] adds to Creation as He pleases..."
Revelations: the Qur'an and Hadith
The Islamic holy books are the records which most Muslims believe were dictated by God to various prophets. Muslims believe that parts of the previously revealed scriptures, the Tawrat (Torah) and the Injil (Gospels), had become distorted—either in interpretation, in text, or both.The Qur'an (literally, “Reading” or “Recitation”) is viewed by Muslims as the final revelation and literal word of God and is widely regarded as the finest piece of literature work in the Arabic language.
Muslims believe that the verses of the Qur'an were revealed to Muhammad by God through the archangel Gabriel (Jibrīl) on many occasions between 610 CE until his death on June 8, 632 CE. While Muhammad was alive, all of these revelations were written down by his companions (sahabah), although the prime method of transmission was orally through memorization. After the death of Muhammad, it was compiled in the time of Abu Bakr, the first caliph, and was standardized under the administration of Uthman, the third caliph.
The Qur'an is divided into 114 suras, or chapters, which combined, contain 6,236 āyāt, or verses. The chronologically earlier suras, revealed at Mecca, are primarily concerned with ethical and spiritual topics. The later Medinan suras mostly discuss social and moral issues relevant to the Muslim community. The Qur'an is more concerned with moral guidance than legal instruction, and is considered the "sourcebook of Islamic principles and values".[ Muslim jurists consult the hadith, or the written record of Prophet Muhammad's life, to both supplement the Qur'an and assist with its interpretation. The science of Qur'anic commentary and exegesis is known as tafsir.
When Muslims speak in the abstract about "the Qur'an", they usually mean the scripture as recited in Arabic rather than the printed work or any translation of it. To Muslims, the Qur'an is perfect only as revealed in the original Arabic; translations are necessarily deficient because of language differences, the fallibility of translators, and the impossibility of preserving the original's inspired style. Translations are therefore regarded only as commentaries on the Qur'an, or "interpretations of its meaning", not as the Qur'an itself.
Muslims identify the prophets of Islam (nabī) as those humans chosen by God to be his messengers. According to the Qur'an, the descendants of Abraham and Imran were chosen by God to bring the "Will of God" to the peoples of the nations. Muslims believe that prophets are human and not divine, though some are able to perform miracles to prove their claim. Islamic theology says that all of God's messengers preached the message of Islam—submission to the will of God. The Qur'an mentions the names of numerous figures considered prophets in Islam, including Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus, among others. Muslims believe that God finally sent Muhammad (Seal of the Prophets) to convey the divine message to the whole world (to sum up and to finalize the word of God). In Islam, the "normative" example of Muhammad's life is called the Sunnah (literally "trodden path"). This example is preserved in traditions known as hadith ("reports"), which recount his words, his actions, and his personal characteristics. Hadith Qudsi is a sub-category of hadith, regarded as the words of God repeated by Muhammad differing from the Quran in that they are "expressed in Muhammad's words", whereas the quran are the "direct words of God". The classical Muslim jurist ash-Shafi'i (d. 820) emphasized the importance of the Sunnah in Islamic law, and Muslims are encouraged to emulate Muhammad's actions in their daily lives. The Sunnah is seen as crucial to guiding interpretation of the Qur'an. Six of these collections, compiled in the 3rd century AH (9th century CE), came to be regarded as especially authoritative by the largest group in Islām, the Sunnites. Another large group, the Shīʾah, has its own Ḥadīth contained in four canonical collections
Resurrection and judgment
Belief in the "Day of Resurrection", Yawm al-Qiyāmah is also crucial for Muslims. They believe the time of Qiyāmah is preordained by God but unknown to man. The trials and tribulations preceding and during the Qiyāmah are described in the Qur'an and the hadith, and also in the commentaries of scholars. The Qur'an emphasizes bodily resurrection, a break from the pre-Islamic Arabian understanding of death.
On Yawm al-Qiyāmah, Muslims believe all mankind will be judged on their good and bad deeds. The Qur'an lists several sins that can condemn a person to hell, such as disbelief, and dishonesty; however, the Qur'an makes it clear God will forgive the sins of those who repent if he so wills. Good deeds, such as charity and prayer, will be rewarded with entry to heaven. Muslims view heaven as a place of joy and bliss, with Qur'anic references describing its features and the physical pleasures to come. Mystical traditions in Islam place these heavenly delights in the context of an ecstatic awareness of God.
In accordance with the Islamic belief in predestination, or divine preordainment (al-qadā wa'l-qadar), God has full knowledge and control over all that occurs. This is explained in Qur'anic verses such as "Say: 'Nothing will happen to us except what Allah has decreed for us: He is our protector'..." For Muslims, everything in the world that occurs, good or evil, has been preordained and nothing can happen unless permitted by God. According to Muslim theologians, although events are pre-ordained, man possesses free will in that he has the faculty to choose between right and wrong, and is thus responsible for his actions. According to Islamic tradition, all that has been decreed by God is written in al-Lawh al-Mahfūz, the "Preserved Tablet".
Islam revolves around five basic requirements for its practitioners, known as the Pillars. The Pillars of Islam are five basic acts, considered obligatory for all believers. The Quran presents them as a framework for worship and a sign of commitment to the faith. They are:
- Shahadah-a creed all Muslims are required to say that there is no God but Allah and Muhammad was his messenger.
- Salat-prayer, to be done five times a day, comprising of reciting Qur'anic verses
- Zakat-giving to the poor
- Sawm-fasting from dawn to dusk during the holy month of Ramadan
- Hajj- pilgrimage to Mecca, to be done at least once if financially and physically able
The Shahadah, which is the basic creed of Islam that must be recited under oath with the specific statement: "'ašhadu 'al-lā ilāha illā-llāhu wa 'ašhadu 'anna muħammadan rasūlu-llāh", or "I testify there are no deities other than God alone and I testify that Muhammad is the Messenger of God." This testament is a foundation for all other beliefs and practices in Islam. Muslims must repeat the shahadah in prayer, and non-Muslims wishing to convert to Islam are required to recite the creed.
Ritual prayers, called Ṣalāh or Ṣalāt, must be performed five times a day. Salah is intended to focus the mind on God, and is seen as a personal communication with him that expresses gratitude and worship. Salah is compulsory but flexibility in the specifics is allowed depending on circumstances. The prayers are recited in the Arabic language, and consist of verses from the Qur'an.
A mosque is a place of worship for Muslims, who often refer to it by its Arabic name, masjid. The word mosque in English refers to all types of buildings dedicated to Islamic worship, although there is a distinction in Arabic between the smaller, privately owned mosque and the larger, "collective" mosque (masjid jāmi`). Although the primary purpose of the mosque is to serve as a place of prayer, it is also important to the Muslim community as a place to meet and study.
Zakāt is giving a fixed portion of accumulated wealth by those who can afford it to help the poor or needy, and also to assist the spread of Islam. It is considered a religious obligation (as opposed to voluntary charity) that the well-off owe to the needy because their wealth is seen as a "trust from God's bounty". The Qur'an and the hadith also suggest a Muslim give even more as an act of voluntary alms-giving (ṣadaqah).
Fasting, (ṣawm), from food and drink (among other things) must be performed from dawn to dusk during the month of Ramadhan. The fast is to encourage a feeling of nearness to God, and during it Muslims should express their gratitude for and dependence on him, atone for their past sins, and think of the needy. Sawm is not obligatory for several groups for whom it would constitute an undue burden. For others, flexibility is allowed depending on circumstances, but missed fasts usually must be made up quickly.
The hajj means "pilgrimage". It is one of the largest pilgrimages in the world, and a religious duty that must be carried out at least once in their lifetime by every able-bodied Muslim who can afford to do so.The hajj is a demonstration of the solidarity of the Muslim people, and their submission to God (Allah in the Arabic language).
The pilgrimage occurs from the 8th to 12th day of Dhu al-Hijjah, the 12th and last month of the Islamic calendar. Because the Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar, eleven days shorter than the Gregorian calendar used in the Western world, the Gregorian date of the hajj changes from year to year. Ihram is the name given to the special spiritual state in which Muslims live while on the pilgrimage.
The hajj is associated with the life of Islamic prophet Muhammad, but the ritual of pilgrimage to Mecca is considered by Muslims to stretch back thousands of years to the time of Abraham (Ibrahim). Pilgrims join processions of hundreds of thousands of people, who simultaneously converge on Mecca for the week of the Hajj, and perform a series of rituals: Each person walks counter-clockwise seven times around the Kaaba, the cube-shaped building which acts as the Muslim direction of prayer, runs back and forth between the hills of Al-Safa and Al-Marwah, drinks from the Zamzam Well, goes to the plains of Mount Arafat to stand in vigil, and throws stones in a ritual. The pilgrims then shave their heads, perform a ritual of animal sacrifice, and celebrate the three day global festival of Eid al-Adha.
"Islam" (Wikipedia) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islam