Search Results for Islam
Islam [Arabic: surrender] is the religion of Muslims, based on the text of the Koran (or Qur’an).
Islam contains 5 pillars of fundamental belief and practice:
- Ash-Shahada – the belief in only one God.
- Salat – daily prayer, with body facing Mecca, taking place at sunrise, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset and nighttime.
- Sawm – fasting that is obligatory at puberty and also during the 9th month of the Islamic year (Ramadan), believed to be the period when the Koran was written. Eating and drinking is prohibited from dawn to sunset during Ramadan.
- Zakat - giving alms to the less fortunate, the amount being 2.5% of one’s total income.
- Hajj – the pilgrimage to Mecca that all Moslems are obliged to take at least once in a lifetime. Hajj ideally is taken on the eighth day of the twelfth month of the Islamic year.
The Sunni branch of Islam is comprised of about 85% of contemporary Muslims and is often regarded as orthodox form of this religion.
The Shi’ite branch, mostly in Iran, Persia and partly in Iraq, represent about 10% of today’s Muslims.
Historically speaking, the Shi’ites and Sunnis split over a disagreement about the legitimacy of Mohammad’s successors (Caliphs)—not entirely unlike the Protestant refusal to recognize the authority of the Catholic Papacy.
The mystically based, unorthodox branch of Sufism arose partly as a reaction to the beliefs and standardized practices of orthodox Islam. In response, aspects of orthodox Islam have been critical of Sufism, especially in regard to the Sufi belief that a person can be “one” with God.
- The Muslim Next Door (thechristianpundit.org)
- Stephen Schwartz: Islamic Sufism and Jewish Kabbalah: Shining a Light on Their Hidden History (huffingtonpost.com)
- ANALYSIS: Seeking a Spiritual Guide (thinkaloudtoday.wordpress.com)
- Why are Pakistan’s ‘moderate’ clerics defending Salman Taseer’s murderer? | Hamad Ali (guardian.co.uk)
- What are these pillars suposed to do in islam (wiki.answers.com)
- Ibn al-Rwanadi’s concluding thoughts on the history of Islam. (paulmarcelrene.wordpress.com)
- Reblog: Saudi Arabia: Anticipation of Hajj (americanbedu.com)
- SUFISM: Tariqahs (thinkaloudtoday.wordpress.com)
- What is an interesting Islam fact (wiki.answers.com)
Five Pillars of Islam » Islam
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The Bauls are the wandering devotional minstrels of West Bengal, India. They belong to a longstanding bardic tradition that poetically glorifies God while rebuking worldly hypocrisy. Many practice left hand tantra. And living off alms, they are the peace, love and freedom “hippies” of West Bengal.
Today their timeless songs may be heard on trains and at public fairs called melas. The Bauls’ poetry had a tremendous influence on the Nobel Laureate, Rabindranath Tagore, the outstanding Bengali figure who founded the open air, asram-style Visva-Bharati University at Santiniketan.
But perhaps most important about the Bauls, they manage to accept people from both Islam (Sufism) and Hinduism (Vaishnavas) in a country where the tension between these two religious groups is usually so thick you could cut with a knife.
- Review: Two books on Bauls (enfolding.org)
- Tagore-Ocampo memorabilia reveals enigmatic relationship (vancouverdesi.com)
- Where a poet’s vision lives on (ndtv.com)
- Mamata Banerjee paints with artists (vancouverdesi.com)
- Tagore-Ocampo memorabilia reveals enigmatic relationship (indiavision.com)
Cults and Religions – What’s the difference?
Many debate the differences between religion and cults. Some say there’s no difference. In other words, religions are cults and cults are religions. But this kind of thinking arguably doesn’t do justice to the complexities of faith and the supernatural.
One difference seems to be that, in a cult, a charismatic leader is undeservedly glorified. Some say that this would make Abraham, Jesus Christ, Mohammad, Buddha and Mahavira cult leaders. But cults also display a relatively short longevity (after the leader dies, the cult dwindles away). This didn’t happen in Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism or Jainism. So they can’t be called cults by that standard.
Another difference is that cults typically isolate new members from their families and unbelievers. Religions tend to be less drastic, with most (not all, mind you) accepting interfaith relationships.
Steven Hassan, an expert on cults, says
Since all destructive cults believe that the ends justify the means, they believe themselves to be above the law. As long as they believe that what they are doing is “right” and “just,” many of them think nothing of lying, stealing, cheating, or unethically using mind control to accomplish their ends. They violate, in the most profound and fundamental way, the civil liberties of the people they recruit. They turn unsuspecting people into slaves. ¹
Others say the difference between religions and cults is a matter of degree, especially with those religions and cults that attract, institutionally legitimize and reproduce authoritarian personality types and the legalistic beliefs and structured practices that these individuals participate in.
In these instances, religious or cultic affiliation apparently provides a convenient means for the psychologically immature to overlook unresolved emotional issues. Accordingly, some critics of religion maintain that religious affiliation provides a safe but essentially cowardly means for unleashing centuries of culturally and perhaps genetically inherited anger onto those who don’t wish to sacrifice their free will to the dictates of an institution. These critics say that most religious institutions must incorporate (or reject) new developments within the context of their limiting teachings and traditions.
This too, seems somewhat simplistic. For religious believers will often say they are fully choosing to cooperate with God’s will as progressively revealed to them within their particular religious organization. Apparently there’s a richness in their spiritual life that the secular critics just don’t get. And individuals belonging to orgqanizations seen by outsiders as cults often say the same thing. “You don’t understand…”
This can make it difficult to tell the difference between a religion and a cult. Meanwhile, many new religions are cropping up. And some say they’re nothing more than cheap covers created by creepy masterminds aiming to get tax breaks on donations made by gullible believers.
When in doubt, draw a chart
One of the definitions for “cult” in Merriam-Websters dictionary is: “a religion regarded as unorthodox or spurious; also : its body of adherents.”
The following chart compares some of the main beliefs and practices found within religions and cults. This is not the final word. The items in each column don’t universally apply and many of the distinctions made in this chart are debatable. In keeping with the classical sociologist Max Weber, however, this chart offers ideal types.
Ideal types are generalized constructs. They don’t provide precise definitions and they’re not comprehensive. But they are thought-provoking. And that’s their main purpose.
Above chart elaborates on many sources, including Gregg Stebben’s Everything You Need to Know About Religion (The Pocket Professor, Denis Boyles ed., New York: Pocket Books, 1999: 25-26).
¹ Steven Hassan, Combatting Cult Mind Control, Rochester: Park Street Press, 1988, p. 36.
- The beauty and the pain of fundamentalist religion (vridar.wordpress.com)
- Scientology Founder’s Great Grandson Denounces Religion As A Dangerous Cult! (perezhilton.com)
- Granddaughter Of Westboro Baptist Church Founder Defects From Hate-Cult To Speak Out (VIDEO) (addictinginfo.org)
- Scientology should NOT be protected as a religion… (girlygirl.typepad.com)
- Mexican Authorities Raid Sex Slavery Cult Led By Reincarnated Christ Figure (disinfo.com)
- Claimed By The Cult: A Mother’s Fight To Rescue Her Son-Author Recounts Experience Saving Her Son From A Religious Cult (paramuspost.com)
- Author Geneva Paulson Recounts Experience Saving Her Son from a Religious Cult in New Book (prweb.com)
- “Cathy Don’t Go”: A religious cult’s lost new-wave gem (chicagoreader.com)
Contemporary Catholics believe that the Catholic faith follows the authentic teachings of Christ as given to the apostles and recorded in scripture, these teachings being preserved, present and developed through a legitimate and holy apostolic tradition.
Catholics comprise the single largest body of religious believers on the planet, and about half of all Christians.
The Latin and Eastern Catholic Churches together form the “Catholic Church”, or “Roman Catholic Church”, the world’s largest single religious body and the largest Christian church, comprising over half of all Christians (1.1 billion Christians of 2.1 billion) and nearly one-sixth of the world’s population.¹
- Catholic (earthpages.wordpress.com)
- Islamists Kill Scores at Nigerian Roman Catholic Church (nationalreview.com)
- Joe Biden’s Religion: Catholicism or Leftism? (trinityspeaks.wordpress.com)
- 5 YouTube Videos that Turn Heads TOWARDS Catholicism (ignitumtoday.com)
- Catholicism: A Catholic View of Halloween (gingerjar2.wordpress.com)
- Catholicism fast becoming the dominant US religion new poll shows — As Protestant numbers decline, Catholics now come center stage (irishcentral.com)
- Life on a prayer for Jimmy Savile (thecommentator.com)
- How the vice-presidential debate emphasized ‘single-issue’ Catholicism – Articles (religionnews.com)
- 50 years after Vatican II began (coffeeringstheology.wordpress.com)
- Catholicism and Sex Shops: The Struggle for Poland’s Soul (frstephensmuts.wordpress.com)
The definition of evil is informed by one’s core beliefs, and different kinds of arguments try to explain its existence.
Some materialists and scientists scoff at the idea of evil as if it were an antiquated legacy from a superstitious past.
Violent criminals are usually described in the news in psychiatric terms. Murderers are often reported as having a mental illness instead of being possessed by the devil. However, sometimes callous murderers are called “monsters” so the idea of evil can creep in to our essentially scientific worldview.
Meanwhile, savage tyrants and warlords are often viewed through a historical or, perhaps, political lens.
Evil in Christian theology
A basic theological distinction exists between natural evil and moral evil. Natural evil includes “acts of God” such as floods, earthquakes and avalanches. Moral evil is a conscious human choice to turn away from God’s will and participate in some action harmful to self and possibly others.
Duns Scotus classified “intrinsic evil” as acts that are inherently evil and accordingly prohibited. But intrinsically evil acts are not evil because they are prohibited.
In Christian theology evil is often seen as a necessary component of God’s plan of salvation. Here one accepts as an article of faith that God permits evil for some greater good, beyond the comprehension of mere mortals (see Isaiah 55:8-9).
A Christian school of thought, begun by Irenaeus and popularized by John Hick, argues that evil is permitted, but not caused, by God. Why, one might ask, would an all-powerful God permit evil? According to the Irenian school, the answer lies in the idea of ‘soul making.’ A soul freely choosing to abstain from evil is of greater value than one that automatically avoids evil like a programmed robot. The free soul apparently better glorifies God than would a sinless automaton.
Although evil may ravage, test and torment good souls living on earth, the true goal of our finite, earthly life is to be made worthy of eternal heavenly life. According to this perspective the evils of the world act as a crucible. Souls not succumbing to but resisting evil are purified and strengthened toward the good. Evil, then, is necessary. It acts as a kind of hammer that pounds out the soul’s impurities.
God permits some evils lest the good things should be obstructed.
Another Christian argument, influenced by Plato‘s idea of the Forms, is given by St. Augustine. Augustine sees evil as a privatio boni—the absence of good. According to this view, since God is good, evil must be where God is not present. Therefore God doesn’t create evil. It’s a choice. But the theological debates get complicated here, and some ask whether Augustine’s theodicy holds up for both natural and moral evil.
Different branches of Christianity hold different views about what happens to evil souls in the afterlife. Some Churches damn sinners eternally. Martin Luther, for instance, believed that some souls are predestined for hell. Meanwhile, some contemporary Christians pray for the liberation of souls in hell while others do not.¹ And the Catholic Purgatory is neither heaven nor hell, but a difficult preparation for heaven.
Evil in non-Christian religions
Evil in Islam is similar to that of Christianity. But for Muslims it is evil to suggest that Christ is one with God (John 10:30). And the prohibitions in the Koran differ from those of the New Testament. Notably, killing is permitted in the Koran in some circumstances (see http://www.yoel.info/koranwarpassages.htm and http://www.islamreview.com/articles/jihadholywarversesinthekoran.shtml), whereas the very thought of killing is denounced in the New Testament. Many branches of Christianity do, however, entertain the idea of a Just War.
In Hinduism a different view of evil is presented. Evil is permitted to maintain a proper balance of sacred heat or power (tapas) within the universe. Aspects of Hinduism speak to the reality of hell for evildoers. But evil in Hinduism is mostly viewed in terms of personal ignorance and spiritual development, making hellish punishments temporary instead of eternal.
According to this perspective, the evil soul reincarnates on earth until it is cleansed of the ignorance that influenced it to commit bad deeds. This differs dramatically from the Catholic view that souls in hell are eternally damned and, strangely enough, would never want to leave. Unlike the Christian, the Hindu aspires to transcend apparently relative ideas about good and evil through an experiential knowledge of universal truth.
Accordingly, the goal of Hinduism differs from both Christianity and Islam. For the Hindu, heaven is a halfway house on the road to ultimate realization. The reincarnating soul may enjoy periodic visits to different heavens but, though the round of rebirth, it eventually transcends all heavens and ultimately achieves the greatest good of the Brahman. A similar but in some ways different view of evil is presented in Taoism.
An interesting but often overlooked question is whether Christian, Jewish, Islamic, Buddhist, Taoist and Hindu heavens and hells are identical in character. The celebrated Romanian scholar Mircea Eliade notes that heavens and hells are described differently among world religions. But do they all feel the same? We can’t really know but my guess is NO.
Most cultures around the world at some point in history have seen evil as a cause of mental or physical illness. This view is prevalent in Shamanism. And some religious writers, such as the Catholic, Michael Brown, say they feel the presence of evil almost anywhere.
And on the inferiority of evil as compared to good, W. H. Auden writes in A Certain World:
Good can imagine Evil; but Evil cannot imagine Good.
¹ See this excellent discussion: http://forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=329730
- The freewill defense (St. Augustine of Hippo): Part 1 (thatreligiousstudieswebsite.com)
- One’s Good and the Other is Evil (conservativetickler.wordpress.com)
- Why God Won’t Allow Me to Heaven (ichosethebluepill.wordpress.com)
- A Scene from “Doctor Faustus” (alyssajmammano.wordpress.com)
- Medieval Good (ideasandotherstuff.wordpress.com)
- What is evil? (andrewejenkins.wordpress.com)
- Random Musings: the concept of a ‘just war’ (jmatthanbrown.wordpress.com)
- A reading from the Church Fathers: Love the Sinner Hate the Sin (gingerjar2.wordpress.com)
Fasting seems to take five main forms. The first type is found in most traditional religions where specific calendar days or portions of days are set aside for fasting. This type of fasting helps to honor and identify with a religious figure, past events within a religion, or people for whom the religion expresses concern—e.g. the poor.
Fasting on specific calendar days is also said to bring one closer to God. This kind of regular fast sets up the proper conditions for atonement and the expression of gratitude. And some religious people fast to commemorate the dead—that is, mourning and fasting go hand in hand within many faith traditions.
Another type of fasting is found in orthodox religions, particularly Catholicism, where a spiritual aspirant (such as a nun or monk) obtains special permission from a superior to fast in order to mortify natural desires and become closer to God. This arguably isn’t so different from fasting on predetermined calendar days, except that it’s an individualistic instead of a communal fast.
A third type of fasting occurs in other forms of spirituality, such as shamanism and Asian mysticism. Here the practitioner, usually a Shaman, Lama or Guru takes it upon him or herself to abstain from eating to repel or purge evil spirits, become cleansed of spiritual pollution and, in the process, attain higher levels of realization.
Fasting in this instance is usually regarded as a sacrifice that benefits a teacher-healer. It also enables the healer to better help other souls that are still fettered by sin and ignorance.
This healer-disciple approach is not entirely different from Christian teaching and practice. Advanced Christian saints like Faustina Kowalska fasted regularly and apparently “took the sins” of others.
In the New Testament Jesus says some demons can only be purged through a combination of prayer and fasting.
But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting (Matthew 17:21).
However, the Christian saint would never take personal responsibility while interceding for others. All glory and honor is always given to God. By way of contrast, in some non-Christian traditions the teacher is said to be equal to God or God on Earth.
A fourth and more contemporary type of fasting is found when special (usually berry) drinks are taken within a proscribed plan to apparently improve one’s health and sense of well-being. This type of medical/scientific fasting arguably is not qualitatively different from more spiritually-based fasts.
But the conceptual framework concerning cause and effect differs among modern and traditional fasts.
The contemporary medical fast emphasizes physiology, health and biological cleansing, while traditional fasts look to spiritual powers, self-discipline and the purification of the soul.
A fifth type of fasting is political, usually but not always with religious overtones. These types of fasts, also known as a hunger strike, are taken to draw attention to some severe social problem or injustice. In some instances, force feeding by authorities can be a legal procedure.¹
- Fasting Made Me Angry (calvinvoices.wordpress.com)
- Thursday Thoughts: Fasting and Following (jimkane.wordpress.com)
- Guru (earthpages.wordpress.com)
- Letter to God: Anagarika eddie and Michael Clark on Interfaith Unity (epages.wordpress.com)
- The Biltrix of Fasting on Fish (biltrix.com)
- Lenten Reflection 2012: Retreating into the wilderness with Jesus, Day 12. (vinodjohn.wordpress.com)
- Everyone, Catholic or Not, Should Fast for Lent (thegreatone22.wordpress.com)
- Tough Issues of Christianity – Fasting (ptl2010.com)
- The Christian fast (godguysandgirls.wordpress.com)
- Living life in the fast lane (newstatesman.com)
In the popular sense of the term, the idea of the fallen angel denotes something gone wrong with a person or with a purely spiritual being who freely chooses to reject and, therefore, oppose God’s will.
Myths, stories and artistic representations about fallen angels abound. John Milton (1608 – 1674) in Paradise Lost imagines legions of Satanic angels who rebel against God. Massive wars break out, and St. Michael leads the Lord’s Angels, who must overcome ingenious contraptions built by Satan and his fallen army. While St. Michael is prominent in the battle, the final victory is reserved for Christ. So St. Michael stands aside as Jesus defeats the evil army.
Traditionally, we find the notion of the fallen angel in Jewish and Christian lore, and some argue that a very similar idea is found in Hinduism. For in Hinduism the asuras are described as benevolent spiritual beings in the Vedas that devolve in subsequent Hindu scripture to become demons.
In Islam the personification of evil is Shaytan. In the Koran God commands Iblis to bow down before Adam and serve mankind but through his pride Iblis refuses. God allows Iblis to tempt mankind until Judgement Day, at which time he will be cast into hell. In Islamic thought Iblis is often seen as the master jinn, the head of demons allowed to torment humanity. But there is no concept of the “fallen angel” in the Islamic tradition.
To this coolguymuslim adds:
There is no such thing as a fallen angel in Islam. No doubt, in Islam, Iblis a.k.a. Satan is a jinn and he is most evil. However at the same time, he never is nor was an angel. Angels in Islam do not have free will and they cannot disobey God. In terms of Iblis, he used to be a rightous slave of God so much so that he was elevated to the level of angels before he refused to bow down, however, he was never an angel. Jinn, on the other hand, do possess free will and there are good and evil jinn just as there are good and evil humans.¹
Some believe that the powerful “Sons of Man” mentioned in the Old Testament are Fallen Angels. And some contemporary writers believe that aliens are really fallen angels (while others say they are not).
In the fictional Star Wars films, fallen Jedi - like Darth Vader – could be taken as a rough parallel to the idea of fallen angels, mostly because both good and “dark side” Jedi possess paranormal powers and psychic abilities.
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There are at least three main and possibly interrelated ways of conceptualizing God, as well as three main ways of relating to the deity.
First, in monotheism, God is generally seen as an all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good transcendent but immanent (God dwells in creation but is also beyond it) being that created and rules over all of creation (e.g. Christianity, Judaism and Islam).
Some non-Catholics say that the Catholic saints degrade Christianity with a form of polytheism. But this is a misunderstanding. Catholic saints mediate through contemplative prayer, not unlike people living on Earth who pray for one another.
Also, some say the Christian Holy Trinity is polytheistic. But this, too, is a misrepresentation because Christians generally agree that the three persons of the Trinity share a unity of substance which is One.
Meanwhile, some say that the Hindu gods and goddesses are polytheistic. But most Hindus point out that they are manifestations of the Brahman, an unmanifest ground of All That Is.
The third main way of conceptualizing God is expressed in naturalistic pantheism. Here, the forces of nature (and usually the cosmos) are identified with God. Some believe that monotheism and polytheism may coexist within a hierarchy of value. On the individual experiential level, that would mean progressing through a belief in The Many to discovering a (usually described as higher) level of monotheistic worship.
Relating to God
The monotheistic approach to relating to God is aptly described by the Jewish theologian Martin Buber as an I-Thou relationship. This is experienced as a
- feeling of awe
- healthy fear of offending the deity
- keen sense of personal humility
Another way of relating to the deity is seeing oneself as potentially identical to God. This second way is divided into three types:
A third way of relating to God is more about phenomenology, that is, about a person’s unique experience. Michel Henry (1922–2002), for instance, talks about God as the “essence of Life” experienced by the individual. His view of God doesn’t go much beyond that because phenomenologists believe we can’t really know much (if anything) beyond ourselves.
- Shirk (polytheism) (mudasirali.wordpress.com)
- Day 42- Nature spirits and Nature worship (thepurplebroom.wordpress.com)
- Christian Polytheism (audreyashira.wordpress.com)
- The Deity of Jesus Christ (enrichedspirituallife.com)
- Quran AND Science (socyberty.com)
- The Conspiracy of God. (hiwaychristian.wordpress.com)
A lot of New Age writers and alleged channelers talk about or, perhaps, dispense supposed “messages” from Gabriel, along with other angels. While this kind of stuff can be compelling, especially if someone is searching for a higher purpose in life, we really have no way of telling if it’s real, imagined¹ or purposely made up by scammers.
The same charge, of course, has been made against organized religions. Their discourses about angels are often said to be divinely inspired. But… who’s to say for sure?
¹ It would be relatively easy for someone to fool themselves into thinking they were divine prophets for some angel or higher being. All they’d have to do is get in a comfy chair, relax a bit, slip into a slightly meditative consciousness, and then let their imaginations or subconscious run wild. Most likely, this is what Jane Roberts did, who claimed to channel the entity Seth. Another possibility, usually dismissed by contemporary psychiatry but a possibility nonetheless, is that a malevolent spiritual being influences the channeler. So the person is channeling. But not what they think they are.
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Michael Clark, Ph.D
- Uriel, a ‘forgotten’ Archangel (deaconjohn1987.wordpress.com)
- Peter Gabriel (earthpages.wordpress.com)
- Invoking Archangel Gabriel (mytruthsetsmefree.wordpress.com)
- Angels, we affirm: I graciously receive my personal power and use it to my Highest Good. | RenamixTech (angelicwords.wordpress.com)
- Saint of the Day for Sept.15th is St. Gabriel, the Archangel (witchesofthecraft.wordpress.com)
- Marlene Swetlishoff – Archangel Gabriel – 12 January 2012 (aquariuschannelings.com)
- Suzanne Poulson Spooner – God & Gabriel Message – 2 January 2012 (lucas2012infos.wordpress.com)
- God and AA Gabriel ~ New Year’s Message “Live as if You are the Architect of Greatness” (tauksuzanne.com)
- Archangel Gabriel… Please assist and bless my daughter! Thank you! | RenamixTech (angelicwords.wordpress.com)