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Transcript of Islam
A Bit of History...
What does a Muslim believe?
Islam = Submission. In fact, the word "Islam" implies that peace can only be found through submission to Allah.
Islam is fiercely monotheistic.
The Koran is the actual word of God as revealed to Mohammad, and it is thus perfect.
The Koran itself is only true when written in Arabic - any translation is de facto an interpretation and thus not correct. Many Muslims try to learn Arabic as well as speak their native tongue.
A Muslim endeavors to live by the Koran and attain Paradise. Otherwise, one goes to hell.
Muslim practice is dominated by adherence to the Five Pillars:
Witnessing the faith ("There is no god by Allah, and Mohammad is his prophet.")
Prayer (five times per day)
Charity (almsgiving to widows and orphans is crucial)
Fasting - No food or water during daylight hours during Ramadan. Fasting is intended to increase one's focus on spiritual matters and empathy for the poor.
Pilgrimage - All Muslims must try to make a trip Mecca to circle the Kaaba. The Kaaba is believed to be the stone where Abraham nearly sacrificed Ishmael. (This sounds familiar, but weird...) The Kaaba was a site of Arab worship and pilgrimage long before the advent of Islam.
All Muslims believe they are part of the "Ummah", or community of Muslims. But, there are still significant divides in the Ummah.
Islam is the second largest and fastest growing faith in the world with over 1.5 Billion adherents. It seems like maybe we should know a little bit more about it so we can better understand the world around us.
Just for comparison, here are the populations of the other major faiths:
Christianity ---- 2.3 Billion
Hinduism ---- 1 Billion
Buddhists ---- 500 Million
Islam was founded by Mohammad, a native of present day Saudi Arabia, when he had a revelation from the angel Jibril while meditating in the desert. The angel asked him to "recite" the revelation, and this became the Koran ("Koran" = "recitation").
Say what? Jibril? That sounds like "Gabriel", the messenger angel! Yes, it does. Mohammad was exposed to and well-versed in both the already old Jewish and rapidly growing Christian traditions. In fact, his wife's uncle was a Christian.
Mohammad received these revelations from 606AD to 632 AD.
Mohammad's wife, Khadija, was the first convert to Islam. She was much older than him and a widowed but successful business woman (merchant/trader) even before they met.
Islam grew rapidly during and after Mohammad's life. It united the disparate tribes of Arabia under one religious identity.
Sunni Islam - Majority sect; 85-90%
Shia Islam - Minority sect; 10-15%
Sufi Islam - Very small minority sect that emphasizes mystical experiences
There is more to this than just the difference in numbers. Some of the conflict between Sunnis (such as the Pashtuns) and Shiites (the Hazaras) come from historical religious differences. The split in Islam can be traced to when Mohammad died and a successor was needed. One group (Sunnis) supported a strong male leader, Abu Bakr, who had no blood ties to Mohammad. The other (Shiites) supported Ali, a relative of Mohammad. There are also differences in how Islamic law (sharia) is understood and applied. But, it goes beyond religion and history, too. The Sunni/Shiite divide is also ethnically and culturally based and is one key to understanding world conflict.
Afghanistan - The Sunni Taliban banned prayer at Shiite mosques and systematically persecuted and killed Shiites.
Iraq - The majority Shia population was ruled by the minority Sunni ruling class, including Saddam Hussein. Since he was deposed, Al Qaeda, a largely Sunni organization with ties to Saudi Arabia, has called for "full scale war on Shiites in Iraq".
Syria - Almost 3/4 of Syrians are Sunni. But the government of Bashar Assad is Alawite, a Shia sect. Part of the revolution in Syria is an uprising of the majority Sunnis against an oppressive Shiite regime. Interestingly, many Christians in Syria have supported the Assad regime in the past because it has protected them.
This list could go on and on and includes Nigeria, Bahrain, Yemen...