Islam is the world’s second great monotheistic religion (Armstrong, 2002). Islam, an Arabic word, comes from a root word meaning commitment or surrender: hence the foundation of Islam is submission to the will of the Only God, Allah. The word ‘Muslim’ also itself means ‘one who lives his life according to Allah’s will (Esposito, 2002). Allah also has laid down the five pillars of foundations of Islam which are: 1. Confession of faith (shahada): the basic idea of Islam which is submission to Allah’s will 2. Prayer (salat): An exercise done five times daily to remember Allah’s influence in a Muslim’s life
3. Fasting (Roza): In the month of Ramadan for a month 4. Almsgiving (Zakat): Annually by rich Muslims at the rate of 21/2% of wealth 5. Pilgrimage (hajj): Once in a lifetime What holidays or events are important to your religion and why? The Muslims follow the Islamic calendar which is based on the position of the moon and their holidays fall accordingly to it. This includes 1. New Year which for them is the first day of Hijra (migration) when we celebrate Prophet Muhammad’s departure from Mecca to Medina in AD622 2. 12th Rabi-ul-awwal that is the birthday of the Holy Prophet (PBUH)
3. Shab-e-Baraat (night of forgiveness): In preparation of Ramadan, Muslims seek to forgive old grievances against each other and beg for mercy from their Lord 4. Lailat-ul-Qadr (night of power) when the Holy Quran was revealed to the Holy Prophet. It takes place on the 27th of Ramadan. 5. Eid-ul-Fitr which takes place after Ramadan and is like Christmas to the Muslims 6. Hajj: The pilgrimage which constitutes the fifth pillar of Islam is one of the most important events in the Muslim calendar and takes place in the month of Hajj 7.
Eid-ul-Azha: Another Christmas type celebration which celebrates the end of the Meccan pilgrimage and animal sacrifices are made during the three days How does your group handle conflict? What are some examples of conflict? If there are criminal or family conflicts, they can be resolved through Islamic courts which decide the cases according to Shariah or the Islamic law. These are practiced in almost al Muslim countries though such Shariah courts are disallowed in western countries and over there Muslims must follow the law of the country they are residents of.
One of Britain’s MPs recently suggested that Shariah courts be allowed in Britain also but this created uproar by non-Muslims who were afraid of Islamization. Other then that, if the solution of an issue is not mentioned in the Quran or its explanation is murky, knowledgeable Islamic scholars gather together to find an answer to a certain problem and it then becomes a rule of the Shariah. This practice has been prescribed by Allah to keep Islam updated with emerging problems in this fast changing world. What is the focus of your religion? The focus of Islam for Muslims is again submission to Allah’s will.
This can be done through reading, understanding and following the word of God, which Muslims believe to be the Holy Quran. They should also follow the teachings of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) called the Sunnah and only then can they live the life of a true and complete Muslim. For the Western world though, the focus of Islam has always been its fascist beliefs and what they consider to be its outdated traditions, not understanding that there is only a minority of Muslims who distort the name of Islam by interpreting it so harshly. Who are your current leaders? Who are leaders of the past?
Like most religions, Muslims have also had pious men of God lead them by example. There have been a total of 124000 prophets sent by Allah though the Quran only mentions 25 of them. The first prophet was Hazrat Adam and the final and undoubtedly the greatest prophet was our last prophet, Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH). Allah revealed in the Quran that no more prophets shall come after the Holy Prophet (PBUH). After the prophets, came numerous Caliphs or religious leaders. Currently, tough there are learned Islamic scholars in the Muslim world; there are no leader as such.
The Holy Prophet (PBUH) in the words of Allah was the Seal of the Prophets. How do your members participate and what is expected? All Muslim males are required to congregate in a mosque for the five daily prayers, especially the afternoon Friday prayers (Clark, 2003). For Muslim women, assembly in mosques is not mandatory. Other then that, all Muslims are required to uphold the basic principles of Islam by fulfilling all their obligations. Are there any special requirements, such as fasting, personal sacrifice? Fasting is the third pillar of Islam and without fasting, a Muslim is incomplete.
It is prescribed for Muslims in the form of a month long abstinence from food and drink, accompanied by intense devotional activity. Physical relations and swear words are also prohibited to be performed or uttered. Similarly, smoking, losing temper, telling lies and all negative activities are also discouraged. Fasting, as is made clear by Allah, is not to be taken as self torture but mainly a way for Muslims to learn about patience, fortitude and self sacrifice and also to realize the plight of the needy and poor. During Eid-ul-Azha, Muslims are also required to sacrifice goats in God’s way and share the meat with the poor.
Where do you see your religion in 25 years? What changes have occurred recently? Keeping in mind the fast growing popularity of Islam, I see Islam in 25 years, as the world’s largest religion. This is because as the concept of religion is dying in the west and more churches are being converted to museums and restaurants, Muslims, now more than ever are embracing their faith with a greater fervency and non-Muslims are also converting to Islam which they accept as a complete way of life and not just a religion. Muslims have now grown more receptive to Western ideas and Ijtehad or consensus helps keep Islam updated with the modern world.
How has the modern world changed the direction and or movement of your religion? The recent of War on Terror, which often tends to depict Islam as a rigid and extremist religion has resulted in more Muslims delving deeper to understand their religion (Lewis, 2004). This has led to increased knowledge of Islam and a growing number of Muslims defending their faith as actually a very flexible one. My religion’s name has been besmirched by a few misguided individuals who believe suicide bombings and terrorist activities are completely acceptable in the eyes of God which is not at all the case.
Islam’s very basis is peace. Are there any other validated forms of the religion practiced? What are some of the factors that have contributed to changes in ideas or customs? The Muslim sect is predominantly divided into Sunnis (around 80%) and Shiahs. The major difference between them is the way in which divine guidance is discovered. Sunni Muslims take their stand on the consensus of the community making known the Sunna (Holy Prophet’s example) of the Holy Prophet (PBUH). Shiah Muslims look instead to inspired teachers and Imams who are descendents of the Holy Prophet (PBUH).
Other sects include the Aghakhanis who are followers of the Aga Khan who considers himself a spiritual leader sent by God. His followers believe the five pillars of Islam to be non-mandatory, preferring to give charity to the poor instead. They don’t share the Muslim taboo associated with drinking. Many believe theses changes have occurred due to undue influence of the West. Other sects are the Qadianis and Bohris. Conclusion Muslims all over the world follows a religion known as Islam which is a monotheistic religion. The word Islam means to submit oneself to god.
There are almost 2 billion Muslims around the world practicing the teaching of Islam making it the second largest religion of the world. The follows the teachings of Prophet Mohammad on whom a holy book Quran was revealed. The faith of a Muslim is based on five pillars of Islam that are tauheed, salaat, zakat, hajj, and fasting. References Book Armstrong. (2002). Islam: A Short History. Esposito, J. L. (2002). What everyone needs to Know about Islam. Clark. (2003). Islam for Dummies. Lewis. (2004). The Crisis of Islam.
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