Introduction: Part 2
Topics discussed in this essay:
|A Muslim's duties as described in the Five Pillars of Islam are:
- To recite at least once during their lifetime the shahadah (the creed: "There
is no God but God and Muhammad is his Prophet"). Most Muslims repeat it at least
- To perform the salat (prayer) 5 times a day, if possible. This is recited while orienting
one's body with qibia (the shorter of the two great circle routes towards
the Kaaba at Mecca) This is generally North East in the U.S. 4 The
five prayers are:
- To donate regularly to charity through zakat. This is a 2.5% charity tax
on the income and property of middle and upper class Muslims. Believers are
urged to make
additional donations to the needy as they feel moved.
- To fast during the lunar month of Ramadan. This is believed to be the month
that Muhammad (pbuh) received the first revelation of the Qur'an from God.
- if economically and physically able, to make at least one hajj (pilgrimage) to Mecca.
|Jihad (struggle) is probably the most misunderstood religious word in
existence. It often mentioned on Western TV and radio during news about the Middle
East, where it is implied to be a synonym of "holy war" - a call to fight
against non-Muslims in the defense of Islam. The vast majority of Muslims have an entirely different definition of Jihad. It
is seen as a personal, internal struggle with one's self. The goal may be achievement in a
profession, self-purification, the conquering of primitive instincts or the attainment of
some other noble goal. 2 More details.
||Calendar: Muslims follow a lunar calendar which started with the hegira, a 300 mile trek
in 622 CE when Muhammad (pbuh) relocated from Mecca to Medina.
Al-Hijra/Muharram is the Muslim New Year, the
beginning of the first lunar month. The beginning of the year 1431H
occurred on 2009-DEC-18 of the Gregorian calendar.|
|Separation of church and state: Originally, in Islamic countries, there was no separation between religious and civil
law, between Islam and the state. Muhammad and his successors were both
religious and political leaders. Turkey became a secular
state during the 20th century. This is a controversial move in conservative Islamic circles.|
|Proselytizing: Muslims are not required to actively recruit
others to Islam. In the Qur'an, Allah told Muhammad that "You certainly
cannot guide whomever you please; It is Allah who guides whom He will. He
best knows those who accept guidance." (28:56). Muslims are expected
to explain Islam to followers of other faiths, but it is up to Allah to
guide those whom he wishes to.
|Suicide: This is forbidden. The Qur'an clearly states: "Do
not kill yourselves as God has been to you very merciful" (4:29). Only
Allah is to take a life. Since death must be left up to Allah,
physician assisted suicide is not allowed. On
the other hand, Muslim physicians are not "encouraged to artificially
prolong the misery [of a person who is] in a vegetative state."
The main holy days are listed below. They are scheduled according to a
lunar calendar and thus happen about eleven days earlier each month.
|Al-Hijra/Muharram is the Muslim New Year, the
beginning of the first lunar month.
||For Sunni Muslims, Ashura is a day of fasting that was originally observed by Jews to recall when God saved the Children of Israel from the Pharoah in Egypt. Muhammad made it compulsory for Muslims as well.|
For Shiite Muslims, Ashura recalls an event circa 680-OCT-20 CE
in Iraq when an army of the Umayyad regime martyred a group of 70
individuals who refused to submit to the Caliph. One of the martyrs
was Imam Husain, the youngest grandson of Prophet Muhammad.
|Mawlid al-Nabi is a celebration of the birthday of the
Prophet Muhammad, the founder of Islam in 570 CE. "The Mawlid
al-Nabi was first observed around the thirteenth century and was
preceded by a month of celebration. The actual day of Muhammad's
birthday included a sermon, recitation of litanies, honoring of
religious dignitaries, gift giving, and a feast. The festival spread
throughout the Muslim world and is celebrated in many countries today.
However, some conservative sects (e.g., the Wahhabiyah) consider the
celebration to be idolatrous."
|Ramadan is the holiest period in the Islamic year; it is held
during the entire 9th lunar month of the year. This was the month in
which the Qura'n was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad. The first day of Ramadan is listed
above. It is a time at which almost all Muslims over the age of 12 are expected
to fast from sunup to sundown.
al-Fitr (a.k.a. "'Id") is the first day of the 10th month
-- i.e. the day after the end of Ramadan. It is a time of rejoicing.
Houses are decorated; Muslims buy gifts for relatives.
| Id al-Adha (a.k.a. the Feast of Sacrifice
or Day of Sacrifice) occurs during the 12th month of the Islamic year.
This is the season of the Haj (pilgrimage
to Mecca). It recalls the day when Abraham intended to follow the instructions
of God, and sacrifice his son Ishmael. (This is not a typo; Muslims
believe that Abraham was prepared to sacrifice his elder son Ishmael;
Judeo-Christians believe that Isaac was involved in the near sacrifice).
The dates for the past, current, and future years are listed
elsewhere on this web site.
Beliefs about Jesus (pbuh), within Islam and Christianity:
Traditional Christians and Muslims have certain beliefs in common concerning
They both accept that:
|His birth was miraculous.|
|He was the Messiah.|
|He cured people of illness.|
|He restored dead people to life.|
However, they differ from Christians in a number of major areas. Muslims do not
|In original sin (that everyone inherits a sinful nature because of Adam and Eve's
|That Jesus (pbuh) was killed by crucifixion. Muslims believe that he escaped
being executed, and later
reappeared to his disciples without having first died.|
|That Jesus (pbuh) was resurrected (or resurrected himself) circa 30 CE.|
|That Jesus ascended bodily to heaven after his
||Salvation is dependent either upon belief in the resurrection of Jesus
(pbuh) (as in Paul's writings) or belief that Jesus is the Son of God (as in the Gospel of John).
They agree with various statements in the synoptic gospels (as in Matthew 25) that salvation and
the attainment of Heaven/Paradise is achieved through good works.|
There are different traditions within Islam. The main
|Sunni Muslims: These are followers of the Hanifa, Shafi, Hanibal and Malik schools.
They constitute a 90% majority of the believers, and are considered to be main
stream traditionalists. Because they are comfortable pursuing their faith within secular
societies, they have been able to adapt to a variety of national cultures, while following
their three sources of law: the Qur'an, Hadith and consensus of Muslims.
|Shi'ite Muslims: These are followers of the Jafri school
who constitute a small
minority of Islam. They split from the Sunnis over a dispute about the successor to
Muhammad (pbuh). Their leaders promote a strict interpretation of the Qur'an and
close adherence to its teachings. They believe in 12 heavenly Imams (perfect teachers) who
led the Shi'ites in succession. Shi'ites believe that the 12th Imam,
the Mahdi (guided one), never died but went into hiding waiting for
the optimum time to reappear and guide humans towards justice and
||Sufism: This is a mystic tradition in which followers seek inner knowledge
directly from God through meditation and ritual and dancing. This tradition developed
late in the 10th
century CE as an ascetic reaction to the formalism and laws of the Qur'an.
There are Sufis from both the Sunni and Shi'ite groups. However, some
Sunni followers do not consider Sufiism to be a valid Islamic practice. They incorporated ideas from Neoplatonism, Buddhism, and
Christianity. They emphasize personal union with the divine. In the Middle
East, some Sufi traditions are considered to be a separate school of
Islam. In North and sub-Saharan Africa, Sufism is more a style and an
approach rather than a separate school.|
Islam does not have denominational mosques.
Members are welcome to attend any mosque in any land.
The Egypt Air tragedy:
An Egypt Air airliner crashed of the east coast of New England, with
the loss of all of the lives on board. The cause of the crash is unknown;
some people suggested that an officer on the plane had committed suicide,
thus murdering all of the occupants. The co-pilot
allegedly recited the "Shahada" shortly before the plane
descended. Shahada means "testimony." It states: "There is no god but God, and Muhammad
is his messenger." This was described by some uninformed media writers
as "a Muslim death prayer." It is not. The Shahada is a prayer recited
by many Muslims every day. It affirms the unity of God, and that Muhammad
(pbuh) is His
Prophet. It is no more a death prayer than is the Christian Lord's prayer.
There are over 70 other groups which originated within Islam and broke away from the
Sunni or Shi'ite faith communities. Some are:
|Baha'i Faith: This
religion attempts to
integrate all of the world religions. It was originally a break-away sect from Islam but
has since grown to become a separate religion. Members are heavily
persecuted in some Muslim countries because they are regarded as
apostates to the true Muslim faith. Oppression is particularly heavy in
|Ahmadis: Followers of the Ahmadiyya Movement believe
that God sent Ahmad as a Messiah, "a messenger of His in this age who has claimed
to have come in the spirit and power of Jesus Christ. He has come to call all
people around one Faith, i.e. Islam..." |
The movement's founder was Hazrat
Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835-1908). He was born in Qadian, India. He felt that he had a
mandate from God to correct a serious error within Christianity. Most Christians believe
that Jesus (pbuh) is a member of the Godhead. "...because Jesus, whom God sent as a
Messiah to the Israelites was taken for a God, Divine jealousy ordained that another man
[Ahmad] should be sent as Messiah so that the world may know that the first Messiah was
nothing more than a weak mortal."
After his death, the community elected a series of Khalifas (successors). The current
and "Fourth Successor (Khalifatul Masih IV), to the Promised Messiah was chosen
in the person of Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad" on 1982-JUN-10.
Community currently has more than 10 million members worldwide. They prefer
to call themselves "Muslims of the Amadiyya sect." They are very heavily persecuted in Pakistan. They regard themselves
as a reform movement within Islam. 3
|Black Muslim Movement (BMM): This is largely a black urban movement in
the US. One driving force was a rejection of Christianity as the religion of the
historically oppressing white race. It was started by Wallace Fard who built the first
temple in Detroit. Elijah Muhammad (born Elijah Poole) established a second temple in
Chicago and later supervised the creation of temples in most large cities with significant
black populations. They taught that blacks were racially superior to whites and that a
racial war is inevitable. The charismatic Malcolm X was perhaps their most famous
spokesperson; he played an important role in reversing the BMM's anti-white beliefs. In its
earlier years, the movement deviated significantly from traditional Islamic beliefs
(particularly over matters of racial tolerance the status of the BMM leaders as prophets).
This deviation is being reversed.|
Islam is growing rapidly and is now followed by more than 20% of the world's
population. Christianity is not growing; its popularity has been stuck at about 33% of the
worlds population for many decades. It is in decline in the United States (in terms of
"market share"). Christian attacks on Islam are inevitable. Most criticisms are
not well grounded in reality:
|Islam is often blamed for female genital mutilation. But it
is obvious that FGM is grounded in cultural tradition, not religious belief,
in those countries where it is
practiced. In some countries, the mutilation is practiced by Animists,
Christians, and Muslims.
|A number of anti-Islamic books have been written recently, criticizing some Islamic
countries for lack of religious tolerance, equality for women, lack of democracy, etc. One
of the most famous of these books is "Why I am Not a Muslim" by Ibn
Warraq, an ex-Muslim. Many reviews
by readers of this controversial book are available on-line from the Amazon.com web site.
An excellent rebuttal of the book by Jeremiah D. McAuliffe, Jr., titled "Trends
and Flaws in Some Anti-Muslim Writing as Exemplified by Ibn Warraq" is at:
|Some conservative Christian web sites include attacks on Islam. They base their position
on the inerrancy of the Bible, and their belief that
Christianity is the only valid religion. An essay by Ric Llewellyn at http://www.seafox.com is typical.
He makes heavy use of emotionally loaded, judgmental terms, such as: false religion, false
doctrines, dubious beginnings, fanaticism, irrational, accursed, religious bondage, cults,
wicked doctrines, etc. It is our belief that these attacks are counter-productive. The
main result of these web pages is to demonstrate the degree of intolerance and hatred held
by their Webmasters; this does not reflect well on Christianity.|
|The media has historically disseminated a very negative image of Islam. It
overwhelmingly reports on the beliefs and practices of the most conservative wing of the
religion. Many non-Muslims are unaware that a moderate wing even exists in Islam. A number
of anti-defamation groups have been organized to combat these negative portrayals.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations is a
leader in this field.|
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- "Correctional Institution's Guide to Islamic Religious Practices,"
by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). Excerpts are available
http://www.cair-net.org/downloads/correctionalguide.pdf You need software to read this file. It can be obtained free from:
- "His birth," at:
- Louis Hammann, "Ahmadiyyat: An introduction," at:
- "Calculating Qibla Direction," at:
- Shadid Athar, "Euthanasia and Physician Assisted Suicide,"
Copyright © 1995 to 2011 by Ontario Consultants
on Religious Tolerance
Last update: 2011-MAR-28
Author: B. A. Robinson
Hyperlinks checked: 2001-OCT-15