Thus, the West imports over 70% of oil from the Muslim East, which constitute absolute majority among OPEC members (Rex 5). The aspiration of Muslim countries to unite contributes to strengthening the authority of Islam in the world, which is reflected in the creation of such influential organizations as the Universal Islamic League, the Organization of the Islamic Conference with the chair at the UN headquarters, and the Afro-Asian Islamic Organization (Rex 8). Knowledge of the specifics of Islam, analysis of the reasons for the stability of religion in the Muslim world and popularity beyond its borders help overcome prejudice and serve as the basis for the harmonious development of contemporary society.
Islam belongs to the category of monotheistic world religions. The word ‘Islam’ has several meanings, and is literally translated as ‘peace’ (Burchardt and Michalowski 4). The people who submitted to Allah are called Muslims in Islam (Burchardt and Michalowski 5). From the point of view of the Quran, Islam is the only true religion of humanity; all prophets were its followers (Burchardt and Michalowski 5). The sermons of the Prophet Muhammad, who received information about the new religion in the form of the Quran, presented the final form of Islam (Burchardt and Michalowski 7). Monotheism assumes belief in one God. Usually, when it comes to Islam, the word “Allah” is used to denote God, even in a non-Arabic language. The Quran, the holy book of Islam, expresses the will of Allah. According to the teachings of Islam, the Quran is the direct, eternal and uncreated word of God (Burchardt and Michalowski 7). The Quran consists of 114 suras (chapters) and about 6,600 ayahs (verses) (Burchardt and Michalowski 11). The Meccan and Medina suras are distinguished chronologically. In the Meccan suras, the focus is on the doctrines of prophecy, eschatology, spirituality, and ethical issues (Burchardt and Michalowski 11). The most important postulate and the leitmotif of the entire Quran is the doctrine of monotheism (tawhid) (Burchardt and Michalowski 13). The Revelations of the Medina period give more attention to social and economic issues, problems of law, family relations, and the story of the ancient prophets (Burchardt and Michalowski 13). Therefore, Islam is characterized by all the attributes of a monotheistic religion.
Islam is formed based on fundamental tenets. The primary postulate is faith in Allah, the creator of all things (Alavi 6). It includes a number of provisions, the main being monotheism. The second postulate is faith in angels, creatures created by Allah from the light; doers of God’s will (Alavi 9). Another postulate is faith in the Scriptures sent down by Allah through the prophets. This refers to the Divine Revelations, sent down in different periods of the history of humankind. From the point of view of Muslim theologians, modern versions of all holy books, except the Quran, are distorted (Alavi 9). The next postulate is faith in the prophets. The believers are ordered to accept the Quran and the Sunnah as true messengers of Allah. They were sent to different nations and tribes, but only Muhammad was the envoy to all humanity (Alavi 11). One of the postulates is faith in the Day of Judgment. It includes belief in the end of the world, the coming resurrection, God’s Judgment, and the presence of Hell and Paradise (Ahira) (Alavi 15). Finally, one of the fundamental tenets is faith in predestination. Muslims believe that Allah has predetermined the fate of all things (Kadar), that is, all events occur according to the Creator’s plan (Alavi 17). Thus, Islam as a religion the main postulates of which reflect its essence.
Shia and Sunni Directions
In the framework of Islam, there are two main directions, namely Shia and Sunni. Muslims split into Sunnis and Shiites for political reasons (Moore 228). In the second half of the 7th century, after the end of the reign of Caliph Ali in the Arab Caliphate, disputes arose as to who would take his place (Moore 229). The fact is that Ali was the son-in-law of the Prophet Mohammed, and some Muslims believed that power should be passed to his descendants (Moore 229). They were called “Shiites”, which in Arabic means “Ali’s power” (Moore 230). Other followers of Islam questioned the exclusive privilege of Shiites and offered the majority of the Muslim community to choose another candidate from the descendants of Muhammad, explaining his position with extracts from the Sunnah, the second source of Islamic law after the Quran, and became known as ‘Sunnis’ (Moore 231). Currently, Sunnis make up about 85–87% of Muslims, and the number of Shiites does not exceed 10% (Moore 231). In addition to the political component, the groups have some differences in the interpretation of the postulates of Islam. The Sunnis recognize only the Prophet Muhammad; the Shiites equally respect Muhammad and his cousin Ali (Moore 228). Sunnis and Shia choose the highest power differently as well. For the Sunnis, it belongs to the elected or appointed ecclesiastics, and for Shiites, the representative of the highest authority must be exclusively from the Ali’s clan (Moore 228). Further, they have divergent views on the position of Imam. For the Sunnis, this is the spiritual person running the mosque (Moore 233). For Shiites, it is the spiritual leader and descendant of the Prophet Mohammed (Moore 232). Moreover, the Sunnis study the entire text of the Sunna, and the Shiites only learn the part that tells about Muhammad and his family members (Moore 232). Finally, only Shiites believe that one day in the face of the “hidden imam” a messiah will come (Moore 234). Thus, Shiites and Sunnis differ in the interpretation of some of the main points of Islam.
Influence of Upbringing in Islam
In Islam, influence of upbringing is fundamental for the adoption of faith by the next generation. Consideration of the religion in the context of public education and world culture allows building a three-level structure for understanding and assimilating its moral and cultural values and spiritual wealth (Giladi 586). The first level is a block of educational material, which includes knowledge of the essence of Islam, its history, development, social, legal, economic and political aspects (Giladi 586). Based on the educational programs of most Muslim states, young people in the public education system should know the religion of their ancestors, at least the basic ideas (Giladi 587). The second level is associated with the formation of a religious worldview in the family and confessional educational institutions (Giladi 587). Finally, the third level is characterized by the degree of an individual’s involvement in the implementation of the precepts of Muslim dogma (Giladi 587). Consequently, the above components are the foundation of education in modern Islam.
Within the education system of modern Islam, its structural directions should also be highlighted. Traditionally, education consists of six components, which, on the one hand, reflect the trends of the modern worldview, and on the other hand, retain the basic tenets of Islam as the basis of schooling (Giladi 589). First, we should emphasize the religious component of education. It explains the need for children to follow the pillars of Islam, namely, worship in the form of al-Shahadat, namaz, fasting, and al-Haj (Giladi 589). Next, the moral aspect implies a complex of moral and ethical principles that should be instilled in a child from early childhood. These guidelines should be the core of his psychological personality. As a result of moral education, a child growing up with faith in Allah and brought up in fear of God will feel His control and responsibility for his actions (Giladi 587). The next component of education in Islam is physical. The task of this aspect of education is to form a strong, healthy person who can experience the joy and satisfaction of the benefits that he brings to his family and society (Giladi 587). The intellectual component is another important aspect. Intellectual education forms in the child a desire to comprehend the sciences and discover the surrounding world. The main efforts should be applied to the mastery of religious knowledge, helping to achieve peace and happiness in this and other world (Giladi 590). Next is the psychological component (Giladi 590). This aspect implies cultivating a healthy, stable psyche, the manifestation of which in a child is courage, independence, striving for perfection, goodness, and love, as stipulated in the Quran (Giladi 591). The last is the social component. The task of this aspect is to teach the child to observe the social norms of behavior established by the Shari’a.
Importance of Knowledge of Islam
The increasing role of this religion in the modern world determines the importance of the knowledge of Islam. In the second half of the 20th century, the gradual unification of different countries began (Mehdi 230). At the same time, some dreadful trends associated with Islam emerged. First, this is extremism of a number of Muslim organizations, such as the Brothers – Muslims, Gray Wolves, Al Qaeda and others (Mehdi 230). Such groups appeared in the period of struggle of the Islamic states against colonization, and after the end of the liberation wars, they directed their activities against the governments of their countries. Extremists do not settle even today; hiding behind Islamic slogans, they destabilize the situation in India, Sudan, Algeria, Chechnya, and other countries (Burchardt and Michalowski 6). Military operations are continual in Afghanistan, the border areas of Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan (Burchardt and Michalowski 8). The behavior of extremist groups generates distrust in the entire Islamic world.
The formed prejudice against Islam is a threat to modern equilibrium in international and intercultural relations. The opinion that all Muslims are prone to extremism is wrong. Most conflicts are based on political and economic differences, not religious ones (Burchardt and Michalowski 9). Many politicians simply distort the ideas of Islam and give separate statements a completely different meaning, calling for the struggle against the “infidels” and sowing discord among nations in order to achieve their goals (Burchardt and Michalowski 9). In many European countries, as a result of migrations, there are communities that profess Islam, which aggravates the situation in the states and provokes interethnic hostility (Mehdi 239). These facts revealed the urgent need to overcome confrontation between Muslims and non-Muslim peoples and the barriers that divide them. It is important to have knowledge about Islam in order to liquidate prejudice and foster cultural tolerance.
Conclusion: Cultural Tolerance
The basis of the harmonious development of modern society is the knowledge of the specifics of Islam as a factor in overcoming preconceptions against the followers of this religion. Islam is the second largest monotheistic world religion. Its disciples are divided into Shiites and Sunnis in connection with political and dogmatic views. Education in modern Islam, on the one hand, corresponds to the main world trends, and on the other hand, preserves the religious foundation. The development of extremism in Islam has shaped a negative image of religion within other cultures. Therefore, overcoming this prejudice is key to the formation of cultural tolerance.