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.
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- Why are Pakistan’s ‘moderate’ clerics defending Salman Taseer’s murderer? | Hamad Ali (guardian.co.uk)
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- Ibn al-Rwanadi’s concluding thoughts on the history of Islam. (paulmarcelrene.wordpress.com)
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Gordon D. Newby, however, suggests that this definition is simplistic. The jihad, he says, can be divided into two types—the lesser and the greater jihad.
While the lesser jihad may involve armed conflict against evil†, it doesn’t always. Different Muslim groups have different views about the necessity of violence. And some see jihad more in terms of missionary activity.
The greater jihad, Newby says, involves a personal struggle against the evil influences within oneself. Just as in other religions we hear about “spiritual warfare,” this type of jihad is about combating evil within the self.
A third type of jihad, mentioned at Wikipedia, involves the struggle to make society better. And some say that any kind of righteous struggle can be a “jihad” of sorts. For instance, some called Mahatma Gandhi’s struggle against British colonialism a “jihad.”
For more on this controversial concept, see Newby’s entry for jihad in A Concise Encyclopedia of Islam (pdf).
† Newby doesn’t qualify this idea. But most would say that the understanding of “evil” is something that can be influenced by human bias.
- The Doctrine of an-Nasikh wa’l Mansukh: Abrogation in the Qur’an and the Idea of a Hijacked Religion (everythingislam.wordpress.com)
- New, Free Egypt: Prominent Cleric Says Financial Problems Can Be Solved By Conducting Jihad Raids To Capture “Slaves, Women And Children To Sell Like Groceries”… (atlasshrugs2000.typepad.com)
- Know Islam (maldivianapostates.wordpress.com)
- “Bin Laden And The Greater Jihad” and related posts (indi.ca)
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The Koran¹ is the Holy Book of the Muslims, believed to be the word of God sent through the angelic messenger Gabriel to the apparently illiterate Mohammed. According to tradition, Mohammed recited the revelations to his fellows who set them to writing.
The translation of the Koran into non-Arabic languages is not sanctioned by some conservative Muslims, although more liberally-minded Muslims seem to favor translations of their scripture into several different languages. In Lebanon, a pop music star was given a five year prison sentence for setting verses of the Koran to his songs.
The Koran incorporates much of Jewish and Christian scripture but with significantly different meanings. Jesus, for instance, is not depicted as the son of God. Instead, Jesus and his mother Mary are apparently sent to provide good examples for mankind.
Also, the Koran teaches that Jesus, as a respected prophet, did not really die by crucifixion, and his death contributed nothing towards the salvation of Mankind (Surah 3:38-50).
Not unlike the Old Testament but quite unlike the New Testament (NT), holy war (killing in defense of the Muslim faith) is sanctioned in certain circumstances. This is called jihad. Unlike the NT, it’s rightful for men to have sex with not only their wife but also with “female slaves.”
Polygamus marriage is also sanctioned. That is, one man may have several wives. One woman, however may not have several husbands.
Interestingly, in his book Prayer of the Warrior, the Catholic writer Michael H. Brown talks about an alleged apparition where the Blessed Virgin Mary tells onlookers that a Muslim man living in a small Yugoslavian village is a saint. Apparently all of the Catholics in attendance were shocked to hear that this non-Christian man was favored by the Virgin Mary.
¹ See Wikipedia for alternate spellings: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qur%27an
- “New Translation Prompts Debate on Islamic Verse,” The New York Times, by NEIL MacFARQUHAR Published: March 25, 2007
- Learning koran with monaza . (inception1.wordpress.com)
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- Lesley Hazleton: On reading the Koran (irshadonline.wordpress.com)
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- Sarah Palin on Facebook: Don’t Burn the Koran (politicsdaily.com)
- With Help From Terry Jones, Florida Church Burns Koran (newser.com)
- Muhammad Unmosqued (atlasshrugs2000.typepad.com)
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Malcolm X (1925-65)
Formerly Malcolm Little, he was arrested and imprisoned for burglary. While in jail Little converted to The Nation of Islam, a religious group founded in Detroit.
At one point in his career he taught that whites were devils, inferior to blacks and doomed to disappear from the globe. In his own words:
Thoughtful white people know they are inferior to Black people. Even [Senator James] Eastland knows it. Anyone who has studied the genetic phase of biology knows that white is considered recessive and black is considered dominant.¹
This strange and hostile brand of scientism was based on the teachings of Fard Muhammad (1891-?), the controversial founder of The Nation of Islam.
Watched by the FBI, Fard Muhammad claimed that the morally inferior “blue-eyed devils” would be destroyed by the appearance of a space ship, an event that would mark global Armageddon.²
Little came to take up the new name “Malcolm X” and ultimately became a Sunni Muslim and black leader, believing that Islam was the religion of choice because it was non-racist.
Malcolm X also advocated a black nation – that is, racial segregation – in the southern USA.
Later, however, his views became more moderate. Instead of focusing on a separate black nation he became a spokesman for human rights, especially among blacks.
Malcolm X toured the United States promoting black solidarity and was assassinated in 1965 by a group of three rival Muslims in Harlem. Since then he has become something of an icon for political activists, artists and pop musicians.
To this day he remains controversial. Some see him as a racist and black supremacist with leanings towards violence. Others see him as one of the greatest and most influential blacks in American history, inspiring figures like Muhammad Ali, liberation movements like Black Power and emancipatory slogans such as “Black is Beautiful.”
² Melanie King, Prophets, Seers & Visionaries, 2009, p. 130.
- Richardson: Malcolm X & Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial (nydailynews.com)
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