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Islam Religion in the Arab World
Description of the Islamic Religion
Three Muslim Divisions
Black Muslims in the United States a. Influence of Louis Farrakhan b. Influence of Malcolm X
Islam is the name given to the religion preached by the Prophet Muhammad in the 600's AD. This Arabic word means surrender or submission. God is known as Allah, which means The God. A person who submits to Allah and follows the teachings of Islam is called a Muslim. This paper discusses the beliefs and practices of Islam in Iraq verses the practice of Islam in the United States specifically by African-Americans and how they were influenced by Malcolm X
The word 'Islam' has the dual meaning of 'peace' and 'submission to the will of God'. Those that follow this religion believe in only one God. It traces its lineage right hack to Prophets Abraham and Adam and describes itself as a continuation of the message of Judaism and Christianity. Both Jesus and Moses are seen as Prophets and have exalted positions in Islam. The religious texts of Islam are the Qur'an and the biography of the Prophet Muhammad (New Internationalist, 2002).
Muslims believe that the Qur'an is the Word of God and is also a commentary on the life of the Prophet Muhammad. Muhammad was born about AD 570 in the Arabian city of Mecca. Muslims believe that around AD 610, he began to receive revelations from Allah that were transmitted by the angel Gabriel. The Qur'an is spread over a period of twenty-three years. It was during this period that the Prophet Muhammad received the revelation, and has to be seen in the context of those twenty-three years. These revelations lead to the writing of the religious book called the Qur'an and occurred in the cities of Mecca and Medina.
Many people compare the Qur'an with the Bible. However, the Qur'an is not like the Bible, or any other conventional book. While the Qur'an does contain some Biblical stories, like those of the Prophets Noah and Lot, they are not found in a single place. They occur in bits and are repeated throughout the entire book. So, at first sight, it looks like the Qur'an is full of repetitions.
The message of the Qur'an is to be repeated as an oral text. Muslims are to carry the Qur'an in their heart, so it is required that followers memorize and recite the verses frequently. This is easy to do, because many of the verses are repeated throughout the text. While the arrangement of the verses does not follow a chronological order, many of its verses are commenting on the action that is taking place in a particular time in the life of the Prophet Muhammad. This is why it is easy for Muslims to quote the Qur'an out of context. Roughly a third of the Qur'an is devoted to the discussion of the attributes of God.
The second third is devoted to extolling the virtues of reason, thinking, reflection, study, knowledge and wisdom. The last part is devoted to issues of law, legislation and public policy.
The teaching and practices are basically universal and with the central concept of Islam being tawhid or the oneness of God. For Muslims, there is one God who is the lord of the universe. People owe worship and obedience to God before any other thing. God is one, the creator, the all-knowing. In relations with humanity, God is the lawgiver, judge, and restorer of life after death. Muslims believe that children are born without sin and that all people can lead themselves to salvation once God has shown them the way. Believers in Islam achieve salvation by following the revealed books of God's messengers. They also believe in heaven and hell, where people go after death based on their actions during life.
In Islam, Muhammad is the final messenger of God, sent to confirm the authentic teachings of previous prophets. God also sent him to correct the alterations that followers of previous religions had introduced into God's original teachings. For Muslims, Muhammad's mission includes all humanity and is not limited to a specific region, group, or community. Therefore, his life serves as a model for all men and women. The example of Muhammad's sayings and acts, the Sunna, is presented in written collections called the Hadith.
There are five basic beliefs or pillars of the Islamic faith.
Every action performed in obedience to God is considered an act of worship in Islam. Most devout Muslims take care in their daily lives to respect their parents and elders, to be kind to animals and human beings, and to do their daily tasks to the best of their ability. The formal acts of worship called the Five Pillars of Islam provide the framework for all aspects of a Muslim's life. The five pillars are known as shahada, prayer, almsgiving, fasting, and the pilgrimage.
Shahada is the first pillar and is considered the basis of all other pillars of the faith. Shahada is an Arabic word that means an act of bearing witness. It consists of two statements: "I bear witness that there is no God but Allah," and "I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah."
Muslims are required to pray five times a day. Muslims believe that prayer reinforces belief in Islam because it reduces the likelihood of disobeying God by committing sins. The movement of the sun determines a prayer's timing. A crier called a muezzin makes the call to prayer.
Almsgiving is required as a way of assisting the poor. The Arabic term for almsgiving is zakat, which means purification. Muslims can cleanse their wealth by giving a certain percentage of it to the needy and recognizing that all things ultimately belong to God. Every Muslim must fast in the month of Ramadan the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. The Islamic calendar is lunar, so each month follows the phases of the moon and lasts 29 or 30 days. As a result, Ramadan falls at different seasons of the year. Muslims believe that the first verses of the Qur'an were revealed to Muhammad during Ramadan about AD 610. The Qur'an commands Muslims to make a hajj or pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in their lifetime if they are physically and financially able to make the journey. The hajj takes place over the first several days of the 12th month of the Islamic calendar.
Most actions in Islamic law are not obligatory. People who fail to perform acts that are recommended are hardly ever punished. Most forbidden actions that are defined within the writing of the Qur'an. They include adultery, gambling, cheating, consuming pork or alcoholic beverages, and lending money at interest. The Qur'an details severe punishments for such crimes as murder, theft, and adultery. Crimes are punished harshly because they violate not only the rights of the victim, but also the commands of God. The Qur'an seeks to lessen the severity of these punishments, however, by urging Muslims to practice mercy and not yield to revenge.
The Islam faith teaches respect for parents, protection for orphans and widows, and charity to the poor. It also teaches many basic values. The virtues of faith in God, kindness, honesty, hard work, honor, courage, cleanliness, and generosity are continuously stressed. Heads of families must treat household members kindly and fairly. A wife has rights against her husband and may sue for divorce in cases of physical abuse, lack of financial support, or the inability to produce a child. Islam also teaches that a person must not refuse requests for help, even if they seem unnecessary.
About ninety-five percent of Iraq's people are Muslims. There are three Muslim divisions in Islam. The great majority of Muslims belong to the Sunni division. Sunni Muslims call themselves by this name because they claim to follow the Sunna of Muhammad. They follow a traditional and widely held interpretation of Islam.
Most of the conservative Muslims that Westerners call fundamentalists are Sunnis. Like fundamentalists of other religions, these Muslims follow a strict approach to religion. They reject modern and popular interpretations of Islamic law, which they view as too permissive. They insist instead on precise adherence to the Qur'an and Hadith, as they interpret those writings.
The other Muslims belong to the Sunni division. Central and southwestern Iraq is a mixture of Sunni and Shiite Arab populations. The Kurds are part of the Sunnites religious group. This name comes from the Sunnites' claim that they follow the Sunna example of Muhammad or the prophet of Islam. The Sunnites call themselves "the people of the established way and the community." They claim to follow faithfully the Islamic community's beliefs and practices and thus to represent true Islam. It is for this reason that Sunnites are sometimes called orthodox Muslims. Most high-ranking members of Iraq's ruling Baath Party are Arab Sunni Muslims. Many Shiites resent the Sunni monopoly on governmental power.
The next largest division is the…[continue]
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