Black Spirituality Religion : Tenets Of The Islamic Faith...

Discussion in 'Black Spirituality / Religion - General Discussion' started by Aqil, Oct 21, 2001.

  1. Aqil

    Aqil Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    ISLAM is the name given to the religion preached by the Prophet Muhammad (saw) circa 600 AD. Islam is an Arabic word that means "surrender" or "submission." God is called Allah in the Arabic language, which means, "The God." A person who submits to Allah and follows the teachings of Islam is called Muslim.

    For the Muslim, Allah is unique and without equal. They attempt to think and talk about Allah without either making Him into a thing or a projection of the human self. The Qur'an (Muslim holy book) avoids this by constantly shifting pronouns to discourage believers from inadvertently deifying Allah and creating any physical image of Him.

    In contrast to many other religions, the basic practice of Islam is simplicity itself. The believer worships Allah directly without the intercession of priests or clergy or saints. The believer's duties are summed up in five simple rules; The Five Pillars of Islam: Belief, Worship, Fasting, Almsgiving, and Pilgrimage.

    The first pillar of Islam is for the believer to testify, in Arabic, that "There is no God but the God and Muhammad is His Messenger." This phrase, known as the Shahada, or "profession of faith," is central to Islam, for it affirms both Allah's oneness and the central role of the Prophet. The Shahada appears in daily life in many different ways - from being proclaimed in the call to prayer to being inscribed on flags and coins.

    In contrast to the Judeo-Christian tradition, which exhorts believers not to take the Lord's name in vain, Muslims constantly call on Allah by name in all sorts of situations. For example, when beginning any activity, one might say "Bismillah" ("in the name of God") or when admiring something, one might say "al-hamdu lillah" ("praise be to God").

    The second pillar of Islam is to worship Allah five times a day — at dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset, and nightfall. To do so, the believer washes according to a particular ritual and prostrates himself/herself on the ground in the direction of Mecca, while reciting certain phrases. This rite takes only a few minutes to perform and can be done anywhere. Worshippers are summoned to prayer by a muezzin, who calls the faithful together by saying (in Arabic):

    1. "God is great." (four times)
    2. "I testify that there is no god but God." (twice)
    3. "I testify that Muhammad is God's Messenger." (twice)
    4. "Come to prayer." (twice),
    5. "Come to salvation." (twice)
    6. "God is great." (twice)
    7. "There is no god but God."

    (For the dawn prayer, the muezzin adds, after the second "Come to salvation," the phrase, "Prayer is better than sleep" twice.)


    Muslims believe that the call to prayer by the human voice distinguishes Islam from Judaism, which uses the shofar, or ram's horn, and Christianity, which uses the bell. The first muezzin was Bilal, an Abyssinian African slave who was one of the first converts to Islam.

    In addition to the five daily prayers, all male believers are enjoined to gather together on Friday for the noon prayer and listen to a sermon, called a "khutbah" in Arabic, by the leader of the community. The rules for women's attendance at Friday worship have varied over time and place. In many places today, women also attend Friday worship, although they are segregated from the men and pray behind, beside or above them. As the ruler's name is traditionally invoked in the sermon, the khutbah became an important sign of the ruler's authority.

    The third pillar of Islam is to abstain from food and drink, as well as smoking and conjugal relations, between sunrise and sunset during the month of Ramadan, the ninth month in the Muslim calendar. Abstinence during Ramadan brings Muslims to greater awareness of Allah's presence and helps them acknowledge their gratitude for Allah's provisions in their lives.

    It serves to heighten a sense of community among believers as Muslims around the world join together in the performance of this ritual. The Arabic word "ramadan" comes from a root meaning "to be hot" and suggests that the month originally fell in the summer. But, as Muslims follow the Islamic lunar calendar, the month of fasting can come at any time during the year.

    To distinguish themselves from the Jews, Christians and pagan Arabs, Muslims measure their year by the cycles of the Moon rather than the Sun, so the Muslim lunar year is eleven days shorter than the Christian solar year. Muslims are forbidden to adjust their year by adding an extra month, as the Jews do to keep their lunar calendar synchronized with the seasons. Hence, the months of the Muslim year do not relate to the seasons.

    The Ramadan fast starts at dawn, defined as the moment when the human eye can distinguish a white thread from a black one, and ends at dusk, when the eye is again no longer able to distinguish the difference. The end of the month of Ramadan is always marked by a feast, known as the "Eid al-Fitr," or the "breaking-of-the-fast" feast.

    The fourth pillar of Islam is to give alms to the poor. Muslims are supposed to donate a fixed amount of their property to charity every year. Many pious individuals, from the mightiest rulers to modest merchants, give money to help out the less-fortunate by establishing soup kitchens, hospitals, schools, libraries, mosques, and the like.

    One of the most common forms of charity in medieval Islamic cities was to establish a public-drinking fountain, where fresh, sweet water was distributed freely to all passers-by. Such a drinking fountain was commonly known as a "sabil," from the common Arabic expression "fi sabil allah," literally meaning "in the path of God" and referring to doing something for God charitably or disinterestedly.

    The fifth Pillar of Islam is to undertake the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in one's lifetime, if one is able, during the first days of Dhu'l-Hijja, the twelfth month of the Muslim calendar. People who have performed this pilgrimage, called in Arabic "hajj," earn the epithet "Hajji," which is a title of great respect [e.g., El-Hajji Malik El-Shabazz (Malcolm X)].

    Before entering Mecca, the pilgrim dons a special garment made of two seamless white cloths. The ceremonies of the pilgrimage are associated with the prophet Abraham and center on the Kaaba, which Muslims believe to be the house that Abraham erected for God. The pilgrimage then moves to Arafat, a plain some twelve miles east of the city, where the ceremonies culminate on the tenth day of the month in the "Feast of the Sacrifices." Livestock is sacrificed in commemoration of Abraham's readiness to offer his first-born son Ishmael, and the meat is distributed to the poor. This event is also known as the "Great Feast," and it usually lasts three or four days.

    In contrast to the spontaneous cheer with which people celebrate the end of Ramadan, the celebration of the Great Feast is a more solemn holiday. Although a visit to the Prophet's masjid and gravesite in Medina is not an official part of the pilgrimage, most pilgrims include it in their trip.

    The two foundations of Muslim faith are God's revelations to Muhammad, known as "the Qur'an," or "recitation"; and the reports about Muhammad's life and deeds, which are known as the "hadith," from the Arabic word for "report." The central miracle of Islam is Allah's revelation to Muhammad, whose human fallibilities as a mere mortal are repeatedly mentioned in the Holy Qur'an.

    The revelations that comprise the Qur'an were revealed over a period of more than two decades in two places. The first revelations from the period of Muhammad's residence in Mecca are short and incantatory verses of extraordinary poetic beauty. The later revelations from the period after Muhammad immigrated to Medina are longer, legalistic texts, appropriate to a developing community of believers in need of rules and regulations.

    Prophet Muhammad (saw)and his followers initially committed the revelations to memory, but as these revelations grew in number and complexity, some were probably written down on whatever materials were at hand. After the Prophet died, his followers were pressed to preserve the purity of the revelations and began to write down as many of them as possible. According to the traditional view, a uniform written text of the revelations to Prophet Muhammad (saw) was collected and collated some twenty years after his death.

    The Qur'an as a book is comparable in length to the Gospels. It contains 114 chapters (each called in Arabic a "sura") of varying length. It opens with the "Fatihah," a beautiful short prayer that serves as an invocation in many situations:

    1. In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate.

    2. Praise be to God, Lord of the Worlds.

    3. The compassionate, the merciful.

    4. Master of Judgement Day.

    5. You alone we worship, and to You alone we pray for help.

    6. Guide us in the straight path.

    7. The path of those whom You have favored.

    8. Not of those who have incurred Your wrath, nor of those who have gone astray.


    The other chapters of the Qur'an follow in descending order of length, from the 286 verses of the second chapter, "al-Baqarah" (i.e., "The Cow,") to the final two chapters, which are short prayers of a few lines. The chapters are thus arranged neither in the order in which the verses were revealed nor in a narrative sequence.

    The Qur'an, as God's literal word, can only be comprehended in the majestic and glorious Arabic language in which it was revealed. The necessity of reading the Qur'an in Arabic has meant that all believers should learn the language in order to understand the scriptures. This requirement has created a linguistic bond among believers, particularly as Islam spread beyond the boundaries of Arabia to regions inhabited by speakers of other languages. Having learned to use Arabic as the language of religion, the new converts also used it as a language of literature, science, commerce and social intercourse.

    The primacy of Arabic as the language of Allah's revelation has also helped to preserve the purity of the Arabic language, for Muslims constantly call to mind the noble and magnificent words and phrases of the Qur'an. Although the Arabic language has evolved over the fourteen centuries since the Qur'an was revealed, it has not changed as much as English has changed in the six centuries since the time of Chaucer.

    Finally, the primacy of the Arabic language has encouraged the spread and use of the Arabic script, which is known and used from the shores of the Atlantic to the Pacific to render a variety of languages, including Arabic, Persian, Kurdish, Pashto, Kashmiri, Urdu, Sindhi, Ottoman Turkish, Chaghatay, and Malay.

    The second basis of Muslim faith is the example of the Prophet. As the perfect Muslim, Muhammad served and still serves as the model for all believers. His sayings and deeds were remembered by his associates and preserved in the "Traditions," known in Arabic as "hadith." These Traditions normally take the form of a chain ["so-and-so heard from so-and-so, who heard from so-and-so, that the Prophet said (or did)"], followed by a report of what the Prophet said or did.

    The hadith came to be considered second in authority to the Qur'an, and also helps explain and elaborate the circumstances under which obscure passages in the Qur'an were revealed. The hadith were transmitted orally for several generations before being written down, beginning in the 8th century.

    By the 9th century the jurist, al-Shafii (d. 820) came to consider the "sunnah", or "customs of the Prophet," the second most important root of Islamic jurisprudence after the Qur'an. Together the Qur'an and the hadith, along with consensus and analogy, make up the "Shariah," the rules and regulations that govern the day-to-day lives of Muslims.

    Muslims believe that God had previously revealed Himself to the earlier prophets of the Jews and Christians, such as Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. Muslims therefore accept the teachings of both the Jewish Torah and the Christian Gospels. They believe that Islam is the perfection of the religion revealed first to Abraham (who is considered the first Muslim) and later to other prophets.

    Muslims believe that Jews and Christians have strayed from God's true faith, but hold them in higher esteem than pagans and unbelievers. They call Jews and Christians the "People of the Book" and allow them to practice their own religions. Muslims believe that Muhammad is the "seal of the prophecy," by which they mean that he is the last in the series of prophets God sent to mankind. Muslims abhor the followers of later prophets. This attitude serves to explain the extreme Muslim animosity toward Bahais, followers of a 19-century prophet, who in the Muslim mind is false.

    Islam, followed by more than a 1.2 billion people today, is the world's fastest growing religion, and will soon be the world's largest. The 1.2 billion Muslims make up approximately one quarter of the world's population, and the Muslim population of the United States now outnumbers that of Episcopalians.

    The most populous Muslim countries are Indonesia, Bangladesh, Pakistan and India. The number of Muslims in Indonesia alone (175 million) exceeds the combined total in Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran, the traditional heartlands of Islam. The Muslim population of the West African country of Nigeria exceeds the Muslim population of all the Arab countries combined!

    There are also substantial Muslim populations in Europe and North America, whether converts or immigrants who began arriving in large numbers in the 1950s and '60s. In keeping with tradition, the two main branches of Islam today are "Sunni" and "Shi'ite."

    Beginning in the '70s and '80s Islam re-emerged as a potent political force, associated with both reform and revolution. Given the large number of adherents, it is no surprise that Muslims incorporate a broad and diverse spectrum of positions in regard to liberalism and democracy. Some are secularists who want to disengage religion from politics. Others are reformers, who re-interpret Islamic traditions in support of elective forms of government. Still there are others who reject democracy entirely.

    THE SHARIAH. Islam has two sources of authority. The first is the word of God given in the Qur'an. The second is the "sunnah," the body of traditions that preserves the words and conduct of Prophet Muhammad. Muslim scholars use these sources to understand the principles of the Shariah, an Arabic word that means "the way that leads to God." It refers to the divinely revealed and inspired Islamic law that plays a central role in the lives of Muslims throughout the world.

    Scholars recognize four main sources for interpreting the Shariah and applying it to daily life. They are (1) the Qur'an, (2) the sunnah, (3) extending the reasoning of previous laws to new situations, and (4) the views of Muslim scholars and jurists.

    In theory, all Islamic law is divine in origin. In practice, however, most sources of Muslim law are found in the sunnah rather than the Qur'an, particularly in the part of the hadith that reflects Muhammad's interpretation of the Qur'an's rulings. The practice of deriving present-day laws from the sources of the Shariah is called "fiqh." There are several schools of fiqh, each named after the founder of a method of interpretation. Although most Muslims agree about the major points of Islam, differences do exist, based on the opinions of the different schools of fiqh.

    ETHICS AND MORALS. Actions in Islamic law are judged on five values: (1) obligatory (required), (2) recommended, (3) neutral, (4) disapproved, and (5) forbidden. Most religious duties, such as the Five Pillars, are obligatory. Anyone who fails to perform them may be punished by God or the Islamic state. For example, in many Muslim countries, refusal to fast during Ramadan may result in fines or imprisonment. In some Muslim countries, special organizations ensure that people make their five daily prayers at the proper time and follow accepted standards of dress and behavior.

    Most actions in Islamic law are not obligatory. People who fail to perform acts that are recommended or neutral are seldom punished. Most acts that are clearly forbidden are mentioned in 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.

    ISLAMIC VIRTUES. Islam teaches respect for parents, protection for orphans and widows, and charity to the poor. It also teaches the virtues of faith in God, kindness, honesty, hard work, honor, courage, cleanliness, and generosity. 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.

    SECTS OF ISLAM. There are three historic sects in Islam. The great majority of Muslims belong to the Sunni sect. Sunni Muslims call themselves by this name because they claim to follow the sunnah of Prophet 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. Many Muslims dislike the name "fundamentalists," however.

    The next largest sect in Islam is the "Shiah," whose members are called "Shi'ites." Shi'ite Muslims honor Ali, the cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet, and Ali's descendants, whom they believe should be the leaders of the Muslim community. "Shiah" comes from the Arabic phrase "shiah Ali," meaning "supporters of Ali."

    The largest group of Shi'ites are the Imami Shiah. They are also known as the "Ithna Ashari," or "Twelvers." They see authority as residing in 12 Imams, starting with Ali, who was born in about 600, and ending with Muhammad al-Mahdi, who was born in about 868. They believe this last Imam is still alive, in a miraculous state of concealment from human view. He will return at the end of time to restore justice on Earth.

    A small group of Shi'ites, known as the "Ismaili Shiah," broke away from the Imamis circa 700 AD. One group of Ismailis, known as the "Nizaris," still follow an Imam called Aga Khan IV, who lives in France.

    Today, the "Kharijites" make up the smallest division of Islam. Their name is based on an Arabic word that means "secessionists." They received this name because they were former followers of Ali who broke away in 657 AD. Kharijites are strict Muslims whose beliefs are based on precise adherence to the teachings of the Qur'an and Sunnah as their community interprets them. They are most noteworthy for their belief in equality under God.

    In the first centuries of their existence, they elected their leaders and proclaimed that the best Muslim should lead his fellow believers, even if he was a slave. In some Kharijite communities in Algeria, female scholars and religious leaders serve the needs of women, while male scholars and religious leaders serve the needs of men.
     
  2. Aqil

    Aqil Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    Muslims believe that God had previously revealed Himself to the earlier prophets of the Jews and Christians, such as Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. Muslims therefore accept the teachings of both the Jewish Torah and the Christian Gospels. They believe that Islam is the perfection of the religion revealed first to Abraham (who is considered the first Muslim) and later to other prophets...
     
  3. A007

    A007 Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    Whoa

    I admit that I had a limited understanding of Islam before your informative post, and I am sure that I am still ignorant about a lot of it. But...to what I have just read, all I can say is WOW! I will not stoop to calling your faith obsurd (as you did christianity) but it is clear that it is FAR from perfect.

    Do your research (if you haven't already) and tell me what proof anyone has that the Prophet Mohammad was not just an intelligent writer whom used what HE thought were the best tenents of the Bible and Torah to form HIS own religion for no other reason than to have a lasting legacy?

    What is the difference between him and L. Ron Hubbard who created the Church of Scientology?
     
  4. Aqil

    Aqil Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    Like Jesus, Muhammad is a prophet of God...
     
  5. A007

    A007 Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    And your source for believing Muhammad was a prophet comes from what?

    What proof do you have?
     
  6. Aqil

    Aqil Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    The Holy Qur'an.
     
  7. A007

    A007 Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    The Holy Qur'an could possibly be just a book that he decided to write because he felt like he could fuse the Bible and the Torah and make a better religion and to make himself great.

    L. Ron Hubbard did the same thing (although he had money as his motive) and people believe in it with all of their hearts and a large percentage of their money.

    Do you have any other proof besides the Qur'an?
     
  8. Aqil

    Aqil Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    The above caviling statemtent indicates that you don't read my threads, A007. If you did, you would have known that Prophet Muhammad (saw) could not read nor write...

    I'm not familiar with Hubbard.

    I don't need any other proof...
     
  9. A007

    A007 Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    " The above caviling statemtent indicates that you don't read my threads, A007. If you did, you would have known that Prophet Muhammad (saw) could not read nor write..."

    Then who was the co-author(s)? Someone had to write it down.

    "Don't need any other proof..."

    So isn't it unfair for you to ask everyone else to have proof of the validity of their respective faiths?

    And the statement that you don't need any other proof suggests that you had some in the first place....I submit that you do not. Feel free to prove me wrong.
     
  10. Aqil

    Aqil Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    Bilal the Abyssinian, an African who was the first muezzin, was also the Prophet's personal secretary. He wrote what was recited to him. The word "Qur'an" means "recitation."

    You're beginning to sound silly, A007. Who else have I asked? Have I ever asked you for proof?

    The idiocy of your comments amazes me! My statement was that like Jesus, Muhammad was a prophet of God. Then you queried: "And your source for believing Muhammad was a prophet comes from what?" I said the Holy Qur'an. You then queried: "Do you have any other proof besides the Qur'an?" I said I don't need any other proof. Now you proffer the above fallacious statement, which not only proves that you're wrong, but confused as well...
     
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