Islam: Finds Its Way

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Retaining its emphasis on an uncompromising monotheism and a strict adherence to certain essential religious practices, the religion taught by Muhammad to a small group of followers spread rapidly through the Middle East to Africa, Europe , the Indian subcontinent, the Malay Peninsula , and China. By the early 21st century there were more than 1. Although many sectarian movements have arisen within Islam, all Muslims are bound by a common faith and a sense of belonging to a single community.

This article deals with the fundamental beliefs and practices of Islam and with the connection of religion and society in the Islamic world. The history of the various peoples who embraced Islam is covered in the article Islamic world. From the very beginning of Islam, Muhammad had inculcated a sense of brotherhood and a bond of faith among his followers, both of which helped to develop among them a feeling of close relationship that was accentuated by their experiences of persecution as a nascent community in Mecca. In ce , when the Prophet migrated to Medina , his preaching was soon accepted, and the community-state of Islam emerged.

Thus, there is not only an Islamic religious institution but also an Islamic law , state, and other institutions governing society.

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Not until the 20th century were the religious private and the secular public distinguished by some Muslim thinkers and separated formally in certain places such as Turkey. The period of Islamic conquests and empire building marks the first phase of the expansion of Islam as a religion.

They were, however, required to pay a per capita tax called jizyah , as opposed to pagans, who were required to either accept Islam or die. A much more massive expansion of Islam after the 12th century was inaugurated by the Sufis Muslim mystics , who were mainly responsible for the spread of Islam in India , Central Asia, Turkey, and sub-Saharan Africa see below. Beside the jihad and Sufi missionary activity, another factor in the spread of Islam was the far-ranging influence of Muslim traders, who not only introduced Islam quite early to the Indian east coast and South India but also proved to be the main catalytic agents beside the Sufis in converting people to Islam in Indonesia , Malaya, and China.

Glossary of Islam

Islam was introduced to Indonesia in the 14th century, hardly having time to consolidate itself there politically before the region came under Dutch hegemony. The vast variety of races and cultures embraced by Islam an estimated total of more than 1. All segments of Muslim society, however, are bound by a common faith and a sense of belonging to a single community. With the loss of political power during the period of Western colonialism in the 19th and 20th centuries, the concept of the Islamic community ummah , instead of weakening, became stronger.

The faith of Islam helped various Muslim peoples in their struggle to gain political freedom in the midth century, and the unity of Islam contributed to later political solidarity. Divided into suras chapters of unequal length, it is the fundamental source of Islamic teaching. It is considered preferable and more meritorious to pray with others, if possible, as one body united in the worship of God, demonstrating discipline, brotherhood, equality, and solidarity.

As they prepare to pray, Muslims face Mecca, the holy city that houses the Kaaba the house of God believed to have been built by Abraham and his son Ismail.

It requires an annual contribution of 2. In Islam, the true owner of things is not man but God. People are given their wealth as a trust from God. Zakat, developed fourteen hundred years ago, functions as a form of social security in a Muslim society. This is used to support the poor and needy.

During this month-long fast, Muslims whose health permits must abstain from dawn to sunset from food, drink, and sexual activity. Fasting is a practice common to many religions, sometimes undertaken as penance, sometimes to free us from undue focus on physical needs and appetites.

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In Islam the discipline of the Ramadan fast is intended to stimulate reflection on human frailty and dependence upon God, focus on spiritual goals and values, and identification with and response to the less fortunate. At dusk the fast is broken with a light meal popularly referred to as breakfast. Families and friends share a special late evening meal together, often including special foods and sweets served only at this time of the year. Many go to the mosque for the evening prayer, followed by special prayers recited only during Ramadan.

Glossary of Islam - Wikipedia

Some will recite the entire Quran one-thirtieth each night of the month as a special act of piety, and public recitations of the Quran or Sufi chanting can be heard throughout the evening. Families rise before sunrise to take their first meal of the day, which must sustain them until sunset. The pilgrimage season follows Ramadan. Every year over two million believers representing a tremendous diversity of cultures and languages travel from all over the world to the holy city of Mecca to form one community living their faith.

Many who are on pilgrimage also perform the umrah rituals before, during, or after the hajj. However, performing the umrah does not fulfill the hajj obligation. Differences in religious and cultural practices are therefore wide-ranging. Although there are no denominations in Islam such as exist in the Christian faith Roman Catholic, Methodist, Episcopalian, Lutheran, etc.

While all Muslims share certain beliefs and practices, such as belief in God, the Quran, Muhammad, and the Five Pillars of Islam, divisions have arisen over questions of political and religious leadership, theology, interpretations of Islamic law, and responses to modernity and the West.

The division of opinion about political and religious leadership after the death of Muhammad led to the division of Muslims into two major branches — Sunnis 85 percent of all Muslims and Shiis 15 percent. See next question. In addition, a small but significant radical minority known as the Kharijites should be mentioned. Although they have never won large numbers of followers, their unique theological position has continued to influence political and religious debate up to the present day.

Sunni Muslims believe that because Muhammad did not designate a successor, the best or most qualified person should be either selected or elected as leader caliph. Shiis consider the sayings, deeds, and writings of their Imams to be authoritative religious texts, in addition to the Quran and Sunnah. Shiis further split into three main divisions as a result of disagreement over the number of Imams who succeeded Muhammad. The Kharijite world was separated neatly into believers and nonbelievers, Muslims followers of God and non-Muslims enemies of God.

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These enemies could include other Muslims who did not accept the uncompromising Kharijite point of view. Sinners were to be excommunicated and were subject to death unless they repented. If he fell from this state, he was outside the protection of law and must be deposed or killed. Differences of opinion about political and religious leadership have led Sunnis and Shiis to hold very different visions of sacred history.

Sunnis experienced a glorious and victorious history under the Four Rightly Guided Caliphs and the expansion and development of Muslim empires under the Umayyad and Abbasid dynasties. Shiis, on the other hand, struggled unsuccessfully during the same time period against Sunni rule in the attempt to restore the imamate they believed God had appointed. Therefore, Shiis see in this time period the illegitimate usurpation of power by the Sunnis at the expense of creating a just society.

Divisions of opinion also exist with respect to theological questions. One historical example is the question of whether a ruler judged guilty of a grave mortal sin should still be considered legitimate or should be overthrown and killed. Most Sunni theologians and jurists taught that the preservation of social order was more important than the character of the ruler.

They also taught that only God on Judgment Day is capable of judging sinners and determining whether or not they are faithful and deserving of Paradise.

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Therefore, they concluded that the ruler should remain in power since he could not be judged by his subjects. Ibn Taymiyya was the one major theologian and jurist who made an exception to this position and taught instead that a ruler should and must be overthrown.

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For Ibn Taymiyya this made them no better than the polytheists of the pre-Islamic period. Other examples of divisions over theological questions include arguments over whether the Quran was created or uncreated and whether it should be interpreted literally or metaphorically and allegorically. Historically, Muslims have also debated the question of free will versus predestination.

Introduction to Islam - Belief - Oprah Winfrey Network

That is, are human beings truly free to choose their own actions or are all actions predetermined by an omniscient God? What are the implications of such beliefs upon human responsibility and justice? Islamic law provides one of the clearest and most important examples of diversity of opinions. Islamic law developed in response to the concrete realities of daily life. However, many pious Muslims became concerned about the influence of rulers on the development of the law. They wanted to anchor Islamic law more firmly to its revealed sources and make it less vulnerable to manipulation by rulers and their appointed judges.

Although each city produced a distinctive interpretation of the law, all cities shared a general legal tradition.