Birth of Islam and Muhammad's Teachings Thesis

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Birth of Islam and Muhammad's Teachings

Islam, one of the three major monotheistic religions of the world with more than a billion adherents all over the world, has been in the news for all the wrong reasons ever since the 9/11 terror attacks. Almost every terror attack around the world nowadays is invariably attributed to 'Islamic terrorists' and the publicity generated by such attacks tend to put the religion of Islam in an unfavorable light. It is important, therefore, to learn more about the great religion of Islam: its early history, the personality and life of its founder, its basic beliefs, the teachings of the Qur'an, the concept of Jihad in Islam, the various sects in Islam, and the challenges faced by the Muslims and Islam in the modern world. All these topics have been briefly discussed in this research paper about Islam.

The Birth of Islam and Muhammad's Teachings

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Islam originated in the Arabian Peninsula in the 7th century AD when the sacred book of Islam, the Holy Qur'an was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (born in Mecca in 570 AD) in a series of revelations. The new religion of Islam, preached by Muhammad, taught that there was but one God and that Muhammad was His last prophet and messenger. It recognized and respected other founders of major religions such as Abraham, Moses, and Jesus Christ but considered them to be merely prophets of Allah and mere mortals. Muhammad, himself, never claimed divine status for himself, calling himself only a messenger from God (Dallal, 2008).

Thesis on Birth of Islam and Muhammad's Teachings Islam, Assignment

When Muhammad started preaching the new religion of Islam in his home town of Mecca, he was met with extreme hostility by most of the inhabitants since his teachings were a major departure from the existing morals and traditions of the time. Only a few dedicated followers, such as his wife Khadijah, his young cousin Ali, his friend Abu Bakr, and his freed slave, Zayd believed him at the outset. Most of the influential Quraysh tribe, to which Muhammad himself belonged, ridiculed Muhammad and prosecuted his followers. The prosecution and Muhammad's tribulations reached a peak when Muhammad's uncle, who was a man of some influence in the Quraysh tribe and protected him to some extent as well as his beloved wife, Khadijah, died in the same year (around 622 AD).

It was then that Muhammad, along with the rest of the Muslims, decided to migrate to Yathrib -- an oasis to the north of Mecca, whose people were inclined to believe in Muhammad's prophethood. The move to Yathrib (later renamed Medina or the 'City of the Prophet') proved to be a turning point in Muhammad's life and the fortunes of the new religion and in recognition of its importance, the year (622 CE) of the migration (hijra) marks the start of the Islamic calendar (Fisher, 2008, p 381). It was in Medina that Muhammad set up the foundations of an Islamic society and government and the religion of Islam started to flourish.

The Meccans viewed Muhammad's move to Medina with suspicion and declared war on the city. After a period of restraint, when Muhammad built up his forces, open hostilities broke out between the Muslims and Meccans and a number of wars followed. By 630 CE, the followers of Muhammad and the Muslim army had become strong enough to be able to advance on Mecca with such a large force as to conquer the city without significant opposition. In contrast to the tribal traditions of the time, Muhammad even forgave his enemies who had prosecuted him so cruelly when he was in Mecca and declared a general amnesty for everyone. As a result, many Meccans embraced Islam. Prophet Muhammad, however, returned to Medina, which he had made the political and cultural center of Islam, and oversaw the growth of the new religion to most of the Arabian Peninsula as well as northern Africa, and the Persian states of Bahrain, Oman, and Yemen during his lifetime. Muhammad died a natural death in 632 CE (Fisher, 2008, pp. 379-381).

Core Islamic Beliefs

The core doctrine of Islamic religion revolves largely around a strict monotheism (or the Oneness of God), the five pillars of Islam, and its six articles of faith.

The Oneness of God: Islam lays great stress on the "oneness" of God (Tawhid in Arabic) and the strict monotheistic doctrine finds a prominent place in the Qu'ran, and the Sunnah (teachings of Prophet Mohammed). To a Muslim, God is the Almighty Creator and Sustainer of the universe who has no equal and nothing is comparable to Him. In fact, in the Islamic doctrine, even associating any deity or personality with God is considered to be the most deadly sin (Shirq), which God will never forgive. As a corollary to the concept of Tawhid, Muhammad (and all other prophets) is not considered to be divine and is, therefore, not worshipped; Islamic law forbids representations of God and the prophets, and worship toward images and icons is strictly forbidden in Islam (Al-Muhajabah, 2008)

The Five Pillars of Islam: The 'five pillars of Islam' consist of bearing witness to faith (shahada); reciting of the daily prayers (salat), fasting (sawm), the pilgrimage (hajj), and the religious tax (zakat).

Bearing witness to faith (shahada) consists of reciting the kalima, which says, "there is none worthy of worship save Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah." All Muslims, and those who convert to the Islamic faith, recite the kalima as testimony to their faith; they are thus expected to profess and act upon this belief in the oneness of God and the prophethood of Muhammad but to be admitted into the community of Muslims, all one has to do is to recite the kalima ("Pillars of Islam" n.d.).

The daily prayers (salat in Arabic) are the most fundamental rites of Islam, preceded by the ablutions and the call to prayers (adhan) and it is incumbent upon all adult Muslims to pray five times a day at certain times of the day such as dawn (fajr or subh), noon (zuhr), midafternoon (asr), sunset (maghrib), and evening (isha); the prayers are preferably offered in a congregation in a mosque but can also be performed at home. The ritual consists of a sequence of units called bowings (rak'as) during which the worshiper stands, bows, kneels, and prostrates while reciting verses from the Qur'an (Dallal, 2008).

Similarly, fasting is incumbent upon all Muslims during the holy month of Ramadan, when according to a saying of the Prophet (hadith) "the gates of heaven are opened" (quoted by Nasr, n.d.) and the Muslims who fast are rewarded by Allah's special blessings. Fasting consists of abstention from eating, drinking, smoking and sexual intercourse from sunrise to sunset during the month. During the month of Ramadan, the Muslims usually engage in acts of worship beyond the ordinary, such as voluntary night prayer, reciting the Qur'an, and paying voluntary charity to the poor. Some of the benefits that Islamic scholars attribute to fasting are that it introduces physical and spiritual discipline, serves to remind the rich of the misfortunes of the poor, and is supposed to 'purify' the soul of a believer (Dallal, 2008).

The religious tax (zakat) makes it obligatory upon all Muslims of means to give as charity 2.5% of all their savings to the poor every year. The giving of zakat not only aims at an equitable distribution of wealth but also offers a means to a Muslim to 'purify' his or her wealth and to attain salvation. Islam strongly encourages the giving of charity to the poor, the orphans, and the widows but distinguishes between general charity (sadaqa) which is voluntary and zakat which is obligatory (Ibid.)

The hajj (annual pilgrimage) to the Holy Ka'aba is a religious ritual, during which Muslims from all over the world gather in Mecca to celebrate sacrifice made by Abraham. All Muslims who can afford to make the trip to Mecca are obligated to do so, at least once in their lifetime ("Hajj and Eidul-Azha" 2001). There are elaborate obligatory rituals that are to be performed by a hajji during his pilgrimage to the Ka'aba including the shaving of heads by men (although this is not obligatory), putting on seamless white sheets by the women as well as men (symbolizing the equality of all Muslims before God), and prohibition of wearing jewelry or perfumes, sexual intercourse, and hunting during the course of the hajj (Ibid).

The Six Articles of Faith: These are the six basic beliefs of Muslims, which can be categorized as: (1). Belief in Allah; (2).Belief in Angles; (3). Belief in the Books (Scriptures) of Allah; (4). Belief in the Prophets of Allah; (5). Belief in the Day of Judgment and the life here-after; and (6). Belief in the Divine Laws.

The Holy Qur'an

Islam's holy book, the Qur'an is at the heart of the Islamic religion rather than the Prophet himself mainly because Muhammad himself emphasized in his teachings that the one and only, all-knowing, all-powerful… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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