Islam

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Islam is the predominant religion in the Middle East and is the second-largest religion in the world. Not limited to the Middle East, it has approximately 1.4 billion members, 80% of which are non-Arabs. It is one of the fastest growing religions in the world. Its adherents are called "Muslims" (also spelled Moslem), historically "Musselman", "Muhammedans", or even simply "Turks" in Europe and North America. In Arabic, a Muslim is "one who submits to God" (Allah).

Muslims, like Jews and Christians, are monotheistic and trace their roots to Abraham. However, they receive their instruction from the Qur'an (also spelled Koran). Islam's beginnings can be traced back to the 7th century under the leadership of Muhammad and his followers. Islam is largely based on pre-existing Arabian paganism, Jewish, Christian and Zoroastrian influences. [1] [2] The vast majority of Muslims also consider haddith literature, the traditional teachings and sayings of Muhammad, as secondary religious scripture.

An universalizing (evangelizing) religion, it spread throughout the world by military conquest and Muslim missionaries. The moral and legal code of Islam is called Sharia law, which has received widespread criticism for its anachronistic and unjust laws and barbaric punishments.

Contents

Five pillars of Islam

There are five principles that are generally considered mandatory practices by Muslims:

  • This is only one god Allah. Muhammad is his (greatest and final) messenger/prophet.
  • Prayer five times a day, facing in the direction of Mecca.
  • Tithing, including 2.5% of capital assets.
  • Fasting and holiness during the holy month of Ramadan.
  • Pilgrimage to Mecca at least once, if possible.

Branches

The main sects with Islam are Sunni (~80% of Muslims) and Shai (10-20%). There are several minority branches outside mainstream Islam, including:

Other movements within Islam:

Criticism

"We have to acknowledge that Islam has doctrines like jihād and martyrdom and death to apostates which are central to the faith in which they aren't in other faiths"

Sam Harris [3]

Sharia law

Main Article: Sharia law

Sharia law is based upon a literal interpretation of the Qur'an and the hadith; being extrapolated upon where required by Fiqh - which is Islamic jurisprudence. The extrapolations may vary depending on the sect and the school of thought followed by different scholars, however the core laws of Sharia remain the same across the different schools of fiqh and the sects. Sharia law is widely criticised for containing unjust laws and mandating cruel punishments.

Fundamentalism

Islamic fundamentalism is fairly strong in middle-eastern regions, one result being the oppression of women. Spurred by, though unlikely exclusively due to, inflammatory passages of the Qur'an, there have been instances of terrorism in the name of Islam, including suicide bombings, beheadings and public stonings.[4][5] Many Muslim fundamentalists adhere to a traditionalist Salafi interpretation of Islam. Some terrorist organizations follow or promote an extreme version of Salafi Islam.

Moderate Muslims are more prevalent in Europe. However, there are still a minority of extremists who campaign and protest with the intent of silencing criticism of Islam and Muhammed. The protection of religion from criticism, sometimes referred to as "religious defamation", is incompatible with liberal norms such as freedom of speech.

Islam is often called a "religion of peace" but the Qur'an contains many violent quotations. [6] Most contemporary Muslims believe there is no religious obligation to use force to spread Islam. In 2011, a Gallup poll found that 78% of American Muslims believe that violence that kills civilians is never justified. This makes Muslims less bloodthirsty than Christians (38%-39%) or atheists (56%). [7]

Controversial practices

There are some traditional Islamic practices that are not clearly or explicitly specified in Sharia law but are still characteristic of Islam.

Islam has traditionally encouraged women to wear head coverings, such as a Hijab. Young girls are excluded from this practice. Sharia law states that people should dress modestly but is unclear as that what is required for modesty. [8] Adoption of this practice is largely influenced by culture, with some cultures imposing pressure not to wear the headscarf. The Turkish government has banned headscarves in public office or at universities. [9]

More fundamentalist interpretations of Islam practice gender segregation for non-relatives.

References

  1. [1]
  2. [2]
  3. CNN, Harris: Islam is "mother lode" of bad ideas, 13 Oct 2014
  4. [3]
  5. [4]
  6. Just a few of many violent quotes from the Qur'an
  7. [5]
  8. [6]
  9. [7]

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