Islām (Arabic: الإسلام, "submission (to God)") is a monotheistic faith and the world's second-largest religion. Followers of Islam, known as Muslims, believe that God (or, in Arabic, Allāh) revealed His will to Muhammad (ca. 570–632 CE) and other prophets, including Adam, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. The Muslims hold that the main written record of revelation to mankind is the Qur'an.
In Arabic, Islām means "submission" and is described as a Dīn, meaning "way of life" and/or "religion." Etymologically, it is derived from the same root as, for example, Salām meaning "peace" (also a common salutation). The word Muslim is also related to the word Islām and means "one who surrenders" or "submits" to God, or a "vassal" of God.
Since Islam, like Judaism and Christianity, claims descent from the monotheist tradition of the biblical patriarch Abraham, it sees itself as an Abrahamic religion. Muslims hold that it is essentially the same belief as that of all the messengers sent by God to mankind, with the Qur'ān (the one definitive text of the Muslim faith) codifying the final revelation of God. Unlike Christianity, Islam has not undergone any period of reformation; however, that is essentially the goal of various liberal movements within Islam. Islam has two primary branches of belief, based largely on a historical disagreement over the succession of authority after Muhammad's death; these are known as Sunnite and Shi'ite. Some consider Sufism (mystic Islam) as another branch of Islamic faith, although many Sufi orders consider themselves to be Sunni or Shia; it is found more or less across the Islamic world, though bearing distinctive regional variations, from Senegal to the Indian subcontinent.
The basis of Muslim belief is found in the shahādatan ("two statements"): lā ilāhā illā-llāhu; muḥammadur-rasūlu-llāhi — "There is no god but God; Muhammad is the messenger of God." One needs to recite and believe these statements in order to become a Muslim. All Muslims agree to this, although Sunnis further regard this as one of the five pillars of Islam.
Six Articles of Belief
There are six basic beliefs shared by all Muslims:
The Muslim creed in English: I believe in Allah; and in His Angels; and in His Scriptures; and in His Messengers; and in The Final Day; and in Fate, that Good and Evil are from Allah, and Resurrection after death be Truth.
Main article: Allah
The fundamental concept in Islam is the unity of God (tawhid). This monotheism is absolute, not relative or pluralistic in any sense of the word. God is described in Sura al-Ikhlas, (chapter 112) as follows: Say "He is Allah, the one, the Self-Sufficient master. He never begot, nor was begotten. There is none comparable to Him."
In Arabic, God is called Allah, a contraction of al-ilah or "the deity". Allāh thus translates to "God" in English; it is not grammatically a proper name, unlike the Israelite divine name Yahweh or the Christian usage of Jesus as a personal divine name. The implicit usage of the definite article in Allah linguistically indicates the divine unity. In spite of the different name used for God, Muslims assert that they believe in the same deity as the Judeo-Christian religions. However, Muslims disagree with the Christian theology concerning the unity of God (the doctrine of the Trinity and that Jesus is the eternal Son of God).
Although no Muslim visual images or depictions exist of God (because artistic depictions are considered idolatry), Muslims define God by the many divine attributes mentioned in the Qur'an, also commonly known as the 99 names of Allah. All but one Surah(chapter) of the Qur'an begins with the phrase "In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful". These are consequently the most important divine attributes in the sense that Muslims repeat them most frequently during their ritual prayers (called salah in Arabic).
Main article: Prophets of Islam
The Qur'an speaks of God appointing two classes of human servants: messengers (rasul in Arabic), and prophets (nabi in Arabic and Hebrew). In general, messengers are the more elevated rank. All prophets are said to have spoken with divine authority; but only those who have been given a major revelation or message are called messenger. According to the Hadith, there are 124 thousand messengers sent by Allah to different nations.
Notable messengers include Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad, all belonging to a succession of men guided by God. Muslims generally regard Muhammad as the 'Last Messenger' or the 'Seal of the Prophets'; however, this is disputed by the Ahmadi movement. Islam demands that a believer accept all of the prophets, making no distinction between them. In the Qur'an, twenty five specific prophets are mentioned.
Main article: Sharia
Muslims in Islamic societies have traditionally viewed Islamic law as essential to their religious outlook. For Muslims living in secular Western countries sharia ceases to be relevant as law, but remains a source of personal ethics (for example, the avoidance of pork and alcohol). The Qur'an is the foremost source of Islamic jurisprudence; the second is the Sunnah (the practices of the Prophet, as narrated in reports of his life). The Sunnah is not itself a text like the Qur'an, but is extracted by analysis of the Hadith (Arabic for "report") texts, which contain narrations of the Prophet's sayings, deeds, and actions of his companions he approved.
In recent times, Islamic law has often been questioned by liberal movements within Islam.
There is no official authority who decides whether a person is accepted to, or dismissed from, the community of believers, known as the Ummah ("Family"). Islam is open to all, regardless of race, age, gender, or previous beliefs. It is enough to believe in the central beliefs of Islam. This is formally done by reciting the shahada, the statement of belief of Islam, without which a person cannot be classed a Muslim. It is enough to believe and say that you are a Muslim, and behave in a manner befitting a Muslim to be accepted into the community of Islam.
Main article: Islamic eschatology
Islamic eschatology is concerned with the Qiyamah (end of the world) and the final judgement of humanity. Like Christianity and some sects of modern Judaism, Islam teaches the bodily resurrection of the dead, the fulfillment of a divine plan for creation, and the immortality of the human soul; the righteous are rewarded with the pleasures of Jannah (Paradise or the garden of Heaven, from the Hebrew gan or garden), while the unrighteous are punished in Jahannam (a fiery Hell, from the Hebrew ge-hinnom or "valley of Hinnom"; usually rendered in English as Gehenna). A significant fraction of the Qur'an deals with these beliefs, with many ahadith elaborating on the themes and details.
The Five Pillars of Islam
For the Sunni sect, the Five Pillars are the five most important obligations of a Muslim under Sharia law, and which devout Muslims will perform faithfully, believing them to be essential to pleasing Allah.
The Five Pillars of the Sunni sect are:
The Five Pillars of the Shia sect are:
Main article: Qur'an
The Qur'an is the sacred book of Islam. It has also been called, in English, the Koran and the Quran. Qur'an is the currently preferred English transliteration of the Arabic original (قرآن); it means “recitation”.
Muslims believe that the Qur'an was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad by the Angel Gabriel on numerous occasions between the years 610 CE and Muhammad's death in 632 CE In addition to memorizing his revelations, his followers are said to have written them down on parchments, stones, bones, sticks, and leaves.
Most scholars agree that the version of the Qur'an in use today was compiled by the third Caliph, Uthman ibn Affan, sometime between 650 and 656 CE. He sent copies of his version to the various provinces of the new Muslim empire, and directed that all variant copies be destroyed. However, some skeptics doubt the recorded oral traditions (hadith) on which the account is based and will say only that the Qur'an must have been compiled before 750 CE, the date of the earliest known complete Qur'anic manuscript -- or at least the earliest one accepted as correctly-dated by all researchers.
There are also numerous traditions, and many conflicting academic theories, as to the provenance of the verses later assembled into the Qur'an. (This is covered in greater detail in the article on the Qur'an.) Most Muslims accept the account recorded in several hadith, which state that Abu Bakr, the first caliph, ordered Zayd ibn Thabit to collect and record all the authentic verses of the Qur'an, as preserved in written form or oral tradition. Zayd's written collection, privately treasured by Muhammad's widow Hafsa bint Umar, was used by Uthman and is the basis of today's Qur'an.
Uthman's version organized the revelations, or suras, roughly in order of length, with the longest suras at the start of the Qur'an and the shortest ones at the end. Later scholars have struggled to put the suras in chronological order, and among Muslim commentators at least there is a rough consensus as to which suras were revealed in Mecca and which at Medina. Some suras (eg surat Iqra) were revealed in parts at separate times.
Because the Qur'an was first written in the Hijazi, Mashq, Ma'il, and Kufic scripts, which write consonants only and do not supply the vowels, and because there were differing oral traditions of recitation, there was some disagreement as to the correct reading of many verses. Eventually scripts were developed that used "points" to indicate vowels. For hundreds of years after Uthman's recension, Muslim scholars argued as to the correct pointing and reading of Uthman's unpointed official text, (the rasm). Eventually, most commentators accepted seven variant readings (qira'at) of the Qur'an as canonical, while agreeing that the differences are minor and do not greatly affect the meaning of the text.
The Qur'an early became a focus of Muslim devotion and eventually a subject of theological controversy. In the eighth century CE, the Mu'tazilis claimed that the Qur'an was created in time and was not eternal. Their opponents, of various schools, claimed that the Qur'an was eternal and perfect, existing in heaven before it was revealed to Muhammed. The Mu'tazili position was supported by caliph Al-Ma'mun. The caliph persecuted, tortured, and killed the anti-Mu'tazilis, but their belief eventually triumphed and is held by most Muslims of today. Only reformist or liberal Muslims are apt to take something approaching the Mu'tazili position.
Most Muslims regard the Qur'an with extreme veneration, wrapping it in a clean cloth, keeping it on a high shelf, and washing as for prayers before reading the Qur'an. Old Qur'ans are not destroyed as wastepaper, but deposited in Qur'an graveyards. The Qur'an is regarded as an infallible guide to personal piety and community life, and completely true in its history and science.
From the beginning of the faith, most Muslims believed that the Qur'an was perfect only as revealed in Arabic. Translations were the result of human effort and human fallibility, as well as lacking the inspired poetry believers find in the Qur'an. Translations are therefore only commentaries on the Qur'an, or "translations of its meaning", not the Qur'an itself.
For further discussion see the main article, Qur'an.
Islamic view of Jews and Christians
Main article: People of the Book
There are two schools of thought in Islam regarding Judaism and Christianity: those that assert that all three religions worship the same God, and those that assert that Judaism and Christianity are corruptions of the True message of God.
Inclusivistic Thought in Islam
Some Muslims, who believe that people of faith in Islam, Christianity, and Judaism all serve the same God, cite verses such as the following:
Exclusivistic Thought in Islam
Other Muslims believe that Judaism and Christianity started out with the same message as Islam, but that eventually, due to their abandonment of adherence to strict monotheism, the followers of Moses earned God's anger (by worshipping the Golden Calf, mentioned in the Biblical account of Moses, and later Ezra) and the followers of Jesus Christ went astray (by worshipping Jesus Christ). It is popularly held by the vast majority of Muslims that the Holy Taurah (revelation given to Moses) and the Holy Injil (revelation given to Jesus Christ) have been corrupted over time and that the present day Bible and Torah share little or no resemblance to the original message. According to Islam, Muhammad was sent during a time of spiritual darkness and once the Qur'an was finally established, all past revelations were abrogated, making the Last Testament not only for the Arab nation but for all mankind until the Day of Judgement.
The shared struggle between Christians and Muslims against the predominant Judaism and polytheistic religions at the time is evident in the following verse: "Strongest among men in enmity to the believers wilt thou find the Jews and Pagans; and nearest among them in love to the believers wilt thou find those who say, 'We are Christians': because amongst these are men devoted to learning and men who have renounced the world, and they are not arrogant." [Qur'an, 5:82 (Yusufali)]
Some parts of the Qur'an attribute differences between Muslims and non-Muslims to tahref-ma'any, a "corruption of the meaning" of the words. In this view, the Jewish Bible and Christian New Testament are true, but the Jews and Christians misunderstood the meaning of their own Scripture, and thus need the Qur'an to clearly understand the will of God. However, other parts of the Qur'an make clear that many Jews and Christians used deliberately altered versions of their scripture, and had altered the word of God. This belief was developed further in medieval Islamic polemics, and is a mainstream part of both Sunni and Shi'ite Islam today. This is known as the doctrine of tahref-lafzy, "the corruption of the text". Either way the Quran clearly states that the necessary information which was written in the previous scriptures can also be found in the Quran: "And We have sent down to you (O Muhammad) the Book (this Qur’aan) in truth, confirming the Scripture that came before it and Mohaymin (trustworthy in highness and a witness) over it (old Scriptures). So judge among them by what Allah has revealed" [al-Maa’idah 5:48]
Historically, Islamic scholars have agreed that the Qur'an gives "People of the Book" special status, allowing those who live in Muslim lands (called dhimmi—protected people) to practice their own religions and to own property. People of the Book were not subject to certain Islamic rules, such as the prohibitions on alcohol and pork. Under the Islamic state, they were exempt from the draft, but were required to pay a tax known as jizyah, part of which went to charity and part to finance churches and synagogues. (They were, however, exempt from the zakat required of Muslims.) This agreement has in the past led to Islamic countries practicing religious toleration for Christians and Jews, although they were never accorded the full status enjoyed by Muslims.
One verse of the Qur'an says "God forbids you not, with regards to those who fight you not for [your] faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them; for God loveth those who are just." (Qur'an, 60:8), which is interpreted as a clear admonition not to be disrespectful or unkind to non-Muslims. According to a hadith, Muhammad said to his people "The one who murders a dhimmi [non-Muslim under protection of the state] will not smell the fragrance of Paradise, even if its smell was forty years travelling distance" [Sahih Ahmed].
Islam and other religions
Main article: Islam and other religions
Historical origin of Islam
The growth of Islam today
Islam is the largest religion after Christianity. According to the World Network of Religious Futurists (http://www.wnrf.org/news/trends.html), the U.S. Center for World Mission (http://www.religioustolerance.org/growth_isl_chr.htm), and the controversial Samuel Huntington, Islam is growing faster numerically than any other religion; this growth is attributed to a higher birth rate, and, disputed, higher rate of conversion than other religions. In the U.S., more people convert to Islam than any other faith, especially amongst African Americans.
The religion of Islam brought by Muhammad began in the Hejaz region of present-day Saudi Arabia in about 610 CE, and according to adherents.com (http://www.adherents.com) it now comprises 1.3 billion believers, 23% of the world's population. However, only 18% of Muslims live in the Arab world; a fifth is found in Sub-Saharan Africa, about 30% in the Indian subcontinental region of Pakistan, India and Bangladesh, and the world's largest single Muslim community (within the bounds of one nation) is in Indonesia. There are also significant Islamic populations in China, Europe (especially in the Mediterranean countries), the former Soviet Union, and South America. There are approximately 7 million believers in the USA and Canada. If the current growth rate of 1.76% per year (as of 2004) is simply extrapolated, Islam may reach 2 billion adherents shortly before 2030; it will not overtake Christianity before the 2070s, however, but since world population is projected to curb before that time, this estimate is unreliable.
Denominations of Islam
There are a number of Islamic religious denominations, each of which has significant theological and legal differences from each other. The major branches are Sunni, Shi'a and Sufi Islam, although Sufism is often considered an extension of either Sunni or Shi'a thought. All denominations, however, follow the five pillars of Islam and believe in the six pillars of faith (mentioned earlier).
The Sunni sect of Islam comprises the majority of all Muslims (about 90%). It is broken into four similar schools of thought (madhhabs) which interpret specific pieces of Islam, such as which foods are halal (permissible) differently. They are named after their founders Maliki, Shafi'i, Hanafi, and Hanbali. Each school of thought differs on minor issues, although they agree on major points.
Shia Islam comprises most of the Muslims that are not counted among the Sunni. The Shia consist of one major school of thought known as the Jafaryia or the "Twelvers", and a few minor schools of thought, as the "Seveners" or the "Fivers" referring to the number of infallible leaders they recognise after the death of Muhammad. The term Shia is usually taken to be synonymous with the Jafaryia/Twelvers.
While some consider the Islamic mysticism called Sufism to constitute a separate branch, most Sufis can easily be considered Sunni or Shia. Sufism is the hardest to understand by non-practitioners because on first sight it seems that sufis are either of Shiah or Sunni denomination, but it is true that some sects of Sufism can be categorised as both Sunni and Shiah whilst others are not from either denomination. The distinction here is because the schools of thought (madhhabs) are regarding "legal" aspects of Islam, the "dos" and "don'ts", whereas Sufism deals more with perfecting the aspect of sincerity of faith, and fighting one's own ego. Other people may call themselves Sufis who may be perceived as having left Islam (or never followed Islam). There are also some very large groups or sects of Sufism that are not easily categorised as either Sunni or Shiah, such as the Bektashi or those that can be categorised as both at the same time, eg the Brelvi.
According to Shaikh al-Akbar Mahmood Shaltoot, Head of the al-Azhar University, the Ja'fari school of thought, which is also known as "al-Shia al- Imamiyyah al-Ithna Ashariyyah" (i.e., The Twelver Imami Shi'ites) is a school of thought that is religiously correct to follow in worship as are other Sunni schools of thought. This means that some regard there as being five schools of thought, while others say only four, counting the Shia as a different group.
Another denomination which dates back to the early days of Islam are the Kharijites. Members of this group in the present day are more commonly known as Ibadhi Muslims. A large number of Ibadhi Muslims today live in Oman.
Another more recent group are the "Wahhabis", though some classify them as the conservative branch of the Hanbali school of Sunni Islam. "Wahhabism" is a movement founded by Muhammad ibn Abd al Wahhab in the 18th century in what is present-day Saudi Arabia.
Another recent group is the Ijtihadists, which represents a wide variety of views alternatively known as progressive, liberal or secular Muslims. They may be either Sunni or Shiite, and generally favour the development of personal interpretations of Qur'an and Hadith. See: Liberal Islam
Religions based on Islam
The following groups call themselves Muslims, but are not considered Islamic by most Muslims:
The following religions might be said to have evolved or borrowed from Islam, but consider themselves independent religions with distinct laws and institutions:
Sikhism is widely seen as a syncretic mix of Hinduism and Islam, though its history lies in the wars between local Indian peoples and invading Muslim armies. The philosophical basis of the Sikhs is deeply-rooted in Hindu metaphysics and certain philosophical practices, while Muslim values like tawhid and rejection of image-worship inform much of Sikh ideology.
The following religions might have been said to have evolved from Islam, but are not considered part of Islam, and no longer exist:
Islam in the modern world
Although the dominant movement in Islam in recent times has been religious fundamentalism, there are a number of liberal movements within Islam which seek alternative ways to reconcile the Islamic faith with the modern world.
Islamic traditions have several sources: the Qur'an, the hadiths, and interpretations of both by scholars. Over the centuries, there has been a tendency towards fundamentalism, with interpretations being regarded as immutable, even those that consist of folk religion not directly traceable to the prophet Muhammad.
Early shariah had a much more flexible character than is currently associated with Islamic jurisprudence, and many modern Muslim scholars believe that it should be renewed, and the classical jurists should lose their special status. This would require formulating a new fiqh suitable for the modern world, e.g. as proposed by advocates of the Islamization of knowledge, and would deal with the modern context.
This movement does not aim to challenge the fundamentals of Islam; rather, it seeks to clear away misinterpretations and to free the way for the renewal of the previous status of the Islamic world as a center of modern thought and freedom. See Modern Islamic philosophy for more on this subject.
The claim that only liberalisation of the Islamic Shariah law can lead to distinguishing between tradition and Islam is countered by many Muslims by saying that 'fundamentalism' rejects the cultural inventions e.g. they will accept that men and women have God given rights and duties that no human can infringe on but it rejects riba (interest). Fundamentalism as referred to often means traditionalism which is a separate issue. A good example of a fundamentalist organisation is Hizb ut-Tahrir  (http://www.hizb-ut-tahrir.org/english/).
Islam around the world
See: Islam by country
Muslims of interest and renown
1 Shia muslims do not believe in absolute predestination (Qadar), since they consider it incompatible with Divine Justice. Neither do they believe in absolute free will since that contradicts God's Omniscience and Omnipotence. Rather they believe in "a way between the two ways" (amr bayn al‑'amrayn) believing in free will, but within the boundaries set for it by God and exercised with His permission.
2 The Egyptian Islamic Jihad terrorist group claims, as did a few long-extinct early medieval Kharijite sects, that Jihad is the "sixth pillar of Islam." Some Ismaili groups consider "Allegiance to the Imam" to be the so-called sixth pillar of Islam. For more information, see the article entitled Sixth pillar of Islam.
Online academic sources
Islam and the arts and sciences
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