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What the Jews call the Torah, the Muslims call Tawrat: the first five books of the Old Testament. The Old Testament book of Psalms is also held dear to Muslims and is called Zabur, and the New Testament writing of Jesus are called Injil (Robinson). Muslims also believe in lost writings of Abraham, referred to as the Suhuf-i-Ibrahim (Robinson).
Other beliefs that are central to the Muslim faith include belief in a Day of Judgment, which is a similar concept to the Christian and Jewish one. However, unlike Christians, Muslims do not ascribe to the idea of a personal savior who offers forgiveness via mercy and atonement (Robinson). Muslims, Christians, and Jews share in common a dualistic worldview that pits good against evil; Christianity and Islam are especially outspoken in references to Satan. Some Muslim social laws such as the dietary regulations against pork consumption were derived from the Jewish law. Like Christians, Muslims also believe in angels. The shared heritage among the "peoples of the Book" makes ongoing warfare between the groups perplexing if not deplorable.
The term jihad has been distorted as a term that only denotes a religiously motivated war. However, jihad has a spiritual component that refers just as much to the personal struggle between temptation and righteousness or the interpersonal struggles of maintaining a Muslim community (BBC). As the BBC points out, "there are so many references to Jihad as a military struggle in Islamic writings that it is incorrect to claim that the interpretation of Jihad as holy war is wrong." The history of Islam illustrates the relevance of war to the preservation of the religion; preserving Islam at all costs is viewed as a religious duty for many adherents of the faith.
As with many religions, the personal spiritual practice differs sharply from the social and political elements of Islam. To the personal adherent, belief in God, belief in the Qur'an, praying, observing Ramadan, charitable work and other tenets of the faith are what comprise Islam. The Muslim community is united in part by shared religious, theological, cosmological, and moral beliefs. The religious leaders of Muslim spiritual groups are called Imams.
Islam experienced a period of enlightenment not unlike the one that spread throughout Europe during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. In fact, the Muslim golden era took place when Christian Europe underwent its Dark Ages: when learning and education was suppressed under an oppressive and corrupt Catholic regime and the monarchs that supported it. Islam became a major hub of academic development, and the Arabic culture contributed so significantly to mathematics that the numerical system still used in most parts of the world today is an Arabic one. Arabic language has also become infused with English and other European languages. During Muslim rule in Spain, Jews were offered far greater freedoms than they were in Christian Europe. Therefore, the history of Islam is not only about war.
The Ottoman Empire represented the culmination of Muslim global domination. The empire stretched from Europe throughout the Middle East and only fell after World War One. For centuries the Ottomans successfully presided over disparate regions of the world such as in Eurasia, the Middle East and Central Asia. However unified the empire was under Ottoman rule, Islam could not obliterate the diverse ethnic identities that had characterized the regions. Current fiascos in the Middle East and Central Asia can at least in part be traced to colonialism: first by the Muslims and then by the modern nation-states.
BBC. "Introduction: The Prophet Muhammad." Religion and Ethics: Islam. Retrieved April 29, 2009 from http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/islam/history/muhammad_1.shtml
Hakim, Salman. "History of Islam." 2009. Retrieved April 29, 2009 from http://www.mnsu.edu/emuseum/cultural/religion/islam/history.html
PBS. Islam: Empire of Faith. Retrieved April 29, 2009 from http://www.pbs.org/empires/islam/faithbelief.html
Robinson, B.A. "Islam." Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance. 2007. Retrieved April 29, 2009 from http://www.religioustolerance.org/isl_intr.htm
Siddiqui, Mona. "Abraham in Islam." Religion and Ethics: Islam. Retrieved April 29, 2009 from http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/islam/history/ibrahim.shtml
Voll, John O. "Islam." In Encyclopedia of Politics and Religion, ed. Robert Wuthnow. Washington, D.C.: Congressional Quarterly, Inc., 1998, pp. 383-393. Retrieved April 29, 2009 from http://www.cqpress.com/context/articles/epr_islam.html
"What Is Islam?" TruthNet. Retrieved April 29, 2009 from http://www.truthnet.org/islam/whatisislam.html[continue]
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