The Religion of Islam

Islam is a religion based on the belief in one Supreme Being, called Allah and the teachings in the Qur’an. The adherends of Islam are called Muslims and they are required to surrender to Allah and to recognize Muhammad as last of all prophets. Islam claims to be a continuation of worshiping the God of Abraham and practice of the ancient Israelites (People of Israel) like Judaism and Christianity. In Islam is an organized system of beliefs, practices, ceremonies and worship activities to Allah according to the guidelines revealed to Muhammad. This religion affects the life of the adherents of Islam, called Muslims. This can be seen on the way they dress, the food the eat, how they speak and the way they relate to each other.

Qur’an

The Qur’an contains the messages that have been given to Muhammad when he was 40 years old in Western Arabia. According to traditional Islamic faith, the angel Gabriel dictated Muhammad the word of Allah in Arabic language over a period of 23 years. The scribes who were Muhammad's followers memorized the Quran and repeated the verses to Muhammad in order to gain approval or disapproval of each verse. This has been registred in the Hadith, a set of records of what most Muslims believe are words and actions of Muhammad with his acceptance. The Qur’an was compiled into a book one with 114 chapters after Muhammad's death in 632, called Sura. Content of the Qur’an contains doctrines about Allah, stories of the early prophets, history of Muhammad, ethics, law and life after death.

Islamic beliefs

The Islamic beliefs (imaan) are important to Muslims. The six main beliefs and practices in Islam are as follows:

1. Allah

Muslims believe that Allah alone is worthy of worship without a partner. Allah cannot be described, but gives revelations with his word, angels or inspiration.

2. Qur’an

Allah has given mankind holy books: Scrolls (Suhof) to Abraham, Torah (Tawrat) to Moses, Psalms (Zabur) to David, Gospel (Injil) to Jesus the Messiah and Qur’an to Muhammad.

3. Angels

Muslims believe in supernatural beings created for the purpose of worshiping and obeying Allah.

4. Prophets

Believing in prophets is another article of faith for a Muslim. There are six major prophets: Adam, Noah (Nuhu), Abraham (Ibrahim), Moses (Musa), Jesus (Isa) and Mohammed. Muslims call Muhammad the last and greatest prophet.

5. Destiny

Every event is according to the Muslim belief because of the will of Allah. However, Allah has given free will so that people have a choice between right and wrong.

6. Judgment Day

According to the belief of Muslims, there will be a last day of humanity and after that everyone will be tested for their actions. Good people will go to paradise and bad people will go to hell

Islamic Practices

1. Prayer (salat)

Muslims pray five times a day according to a schedule.

2. Fasting (sawm)

Muslims fast during the ninth month of the Islamic calendar (Ramadan) by daylight.

3. Alms (zakat)

Muslims should give a small portion of their income to poor community members.

4. Pilgrimage (Hajj)

Muslims with adequate health and finances should visit Mecca.

5. Human dignity

Islam has some guidelines for gender equality and color range.

Branches in Islam

Most Muslims, about 90%, are the Sunnis, who follow the original teachings of Muhammad. Sunni’s may interpret the Qur’an in many ways, there is no central authority for it. The Shi’a (also called Shi’ites) believe that Ali ibn Abi Talib, Muhammad’s son-in-law was the true successor of the leadership in Islam. They have more central figures and community leaders, the highest one is the ayatollah. A mystical branch of Islam is Sufism. Their members are Sufis, who have a greater focus on the inward experience of God and on spiritual doctrines. The Ahmadiyya is an Islam sect that doesn’t recognize Muhammad as last prophet, but believes that Mirza Ghulam Ahmad is the last prophet.

Spread of Islam

Islam is a religion with a promotor-mind. The expansion of this religion was made possible through military conquering, trade and mission activities. Muhammad started a war with Mecca (Quran 9:5), which was conquered in 630. When Muhammad died in 632, almost all Arabian pensinuala was already unified under Islam. A political-religious state had been created for the Muslims, called caliphate with as leader a caliph. Under Rashidun and Umayyad caliphs in seventh and eight century, the empire of the Islam had been expanded to borders with France, India and Russia. The speed of conversion of the local population through merchants and Islam promotors was slow and could take many centuries. The result was that in the middle ages Islam reached Southeast Europe, areas south of Sahara in Africa, Central and Southeast Asia. The spread of Islam had a tremendous contribution to establish monotheism in many parts of the world. Today, Islam is the religion with the most adherents after Christianity. Because of migration of Muslims for economical reasons, Islam is spread over almost all countries. Most Muslims are proud when they hear that “Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world”. In some countries there is a growth of Muslims because of immigration and higher fertility, but there is no growth with new converts [1].

Weakening of Islam

It was not a strong point for Islam that already in the time of Muhammad a Muslim converted to Christianity. His name was Ubayd-Allah ibn Jahsh and he could not find a Savior in Islam, but praised Jesus and glorified him who lives forever. He refuted the Muslims by saying that he can see, but they not [2]. For many years the military forces of Islam were victorious to expand its territory. But in 732 a strong Muslim army of the Umayyads was defeated in France. It was a turning point. Since then, Islam lost more and more territory till they lost its last West European area at the end of the middle ages. After 12th century, the Muslims lost their superiority in science, because by law the Qur’an was made the authority of the truth [3]. Science became dominated by Jews and Christians, with the result that the French leader Napoleon conquered the Muslim mainland Egypt in 1798. Another weakness of Islam is that there is no respect for secular labor as service to God [4], or economic success as evidence of God’s grace [5]. Except some Arab countries with oil resources, most Muslim countries are underdeveloped and appreciate support from non-Muslim countries. Muslims are looking at economic stronger countries with many Christians and millions of Muslims have migrated since last century. Modernization of society made Islam a religion with many issues. Thanks to optimal human reproduction practices, Islam had many centuries a much higher fertility than the rest of mankind, however this came to an end this century. Birth rate of most Muslim countries is declining faster than worldwide average [6]. Today, the decline of Islam can be observed in Indonesia and Africa. In Islam’s biggest country Indonesia, Muslim population decline went from 96% in 1947 to 87% in 2018. Christian population tripled in the same period [7]. Even faster is the weakening of Islam in Africa: “Islam used to represent ... Africa’s main religion … The number of Muslims in Africa has diminished to 316 million, half of whom are Arabs in North Africa … When we realize that the entire population of Africa is one billion people, we see that the number of Muslims has diminished greatly from what it was in the beginning of the last century … Every year, 6 million Muslims convert to Christianity.” [8]. Because of the modernization, communication of Muslims with non-Muslims have been increased in a short period of time. It had the result that more and more adapt to other lifestyles than Islam, including Christianity. A significant number of Muslims in Europe and North America have converted to Christianity [9].

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