Origins of Islam
Islam means submission to Allah (God).
The word Islam means "entering into a condition
of peace and security with God, through allegiance or surrender to him".
was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad who lived from 570 CE to 632 CE in
Mecca in modern-day Saudi Arabia. Muhammad was called to prophethood when
God dictated the Quran to him through the archangel Gabriel. Although he
gained a small following in his tribe, Muhammad was initially persecuted for
his beliefs. In 622 CE he fled to Yathrib, now called Medina, where the
first Muslim political community was formed.
Enlisting the help of nomadic
Arab clans, Muhammad returned to Mecca, stripping the city of all signs of
pagan belief. He was generous to those he defeated, however, and many
converted to Islam. Two years later, in front of the Ka'ba in Mecca, he
declared Islam the religion of the people, saying he had fulfilled his
mission and that he left behind him the Book of Allah and a set of clear
Muhammad (or Mohammed), A.D. 570-632, is the
founder of the world religion of Islam and is regarded by Muslims as the
messenger and prophet of God (Allāh), the last and the greatest in a series
of prophets of Islam. Muslims consider him the restorer of the original,
uncorrupted monotheistic faith (Islam) of Adam, Abraham and others. The name
Muhammad literally means "Praiseworthy".
Born in 570 CE in the Arabian city of Mecca, he
was orphaned at a young age and was brought up by his uncle. He later worked
mostly as a merchant. Discontented with life in Mecca, he retreated to a
cave in the surrounding mountains for meditation
and reflection. According to Islamic beliefs it was here, at age 40, in the
month of Ramadan, where he received his first revelation from God. Three
years after this event Muhammad started preaching these revelations
publicly, proclaiming that "God is One", that complete "surrender" to Him is
the only way acceptable to God, and that he was a prophet and messenger of
God, in the same vein as Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Jesus, and other
Muhammad gained few followers early on and
migrated to Medina in the year 622. This historic event, the Hijra, marks
the beginning of the Islamic calendar. The revelations (or Ayats, lit.
"Signs of God"), which Muhammad reported receiving until his death, form the
verses of the Quran, regarded by Muslims as the “word of God”, around which
his religion is based. Besides the Quran, Muhammad’s life (sira) and
traditions (sunnah) are also upheld by Muslims.
At the end of the tenth year after the
migration to Medina, Muhammad carried through his first truly Islamic
pilgrimage. In 632 a few months after returning to Medina from his Farewell
pilgrimage, Muhammad fell ill and died.
Quran (Koran) is the source of all certainty.
It is a a later revelation, superseding and correcting errors in the Bible.
Muhammad received the Quran as a copy
of the eternal Quran which is inscribed in heaven.
History and Spread of Islam
By the time of Muhammad's death, many people of the Arabian Peninsula had
begun to follow Islam. A series of caliphs and dynasties led the Muslim
community after Muhammad's death, creating an Islamic empire that expanded
as far as modern-day Pakistan in the east, Spain in the north, and North
Africa to the south. This was a period of great intellectual, cultural and
spiritual vitality. In Spain, Islamic civilization lasted until 1492 when
the Christian monarchs regained power. After the collapse of the Empire,
Islam remained the dominant religion in most Middle Eastern countries and
significant pockets throughout North Africa and Asia.
Muslims do not require an intermediary between themselves and God. Imams
religious teachers and leaders of prayer in the mosques – do, however, play
a significant role. They are often formally educated in matters of religion
and jurisprudence, and systems exist for settling questions of law and
Sharia is the sacred law of Islam, based on the
divine revelations contained in the Qur'an and sunna. Muslims should live
their lives by Sharia. It embraces every aspect of life, including family
relations, inheritance, taxation, purification and prayer and observes no
distinction between secular and religious law.
Ijma means 'the agreement of Islam.' It is an
important mechanism for resolving theological conflicts because it is
embodies a sense of past community in present action.
Sunni and the Shi'a
Islam is divided into two main sects, the Sunni
and the Shi'a. This division arose over the order of caliph succession in
the first century of the Islamic calendar.
Shi'ites believe that the true authority and
leadership of Muslims after Muhammad's son-in-law, Ali, continued through a
line of imams (religious teachers). Sunnis uphold the supremacy of the
caliphs, the line of rulers elected by the people and mandated to guard the
prophetic legacy in the administration of community affairs. This gave rise
to the development of Shari'a law.
Shi'ites constitute less than 10 per cent of
world's Muslims, and possess many internal divisions. The largest
contemporary Shi'a group are the Ithna'asharis, or Twelvers. Shi'ites are a
majority in Iran.
Sunni Muslims constitute 90% of the world's
Muslims and are considered the orthodox face of Islam. The al-Azahr, a
Islamic university in Cairo, is conventionally regarded as the highest
authority in Sunni Islam.
The Shi'a developed a hierarchy in line with
their beliefs in the succession of rule; in Iran, this finds expression in
the system of ayatollahs (senior interpreters and arbiters of religious
Animals have souls and so need to be
slaughtered in a special way. This is the meaning of halal (permitted).
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