Islam Is One of the Largest Thesis

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Islam is one of the largest and fastest growing religions in the world, and its tenets have permeated the culture and politics of many regions of the globe. The religion is staunchly monotheistic. Islam borrows much from its predecessor faiths Christianity and Judaism and collectively the three Middle Eastern religions are referred to as being "of the Book," since all three value the Old Testament as a sacred text. However, Islam represents a significant divergence from both Christianity and Judaism. Clashes between Islam, Christianity and Judaism have as much to do about clash of culture and power struggles as about differing theologies.

The evolution of Islam, like the evolution of Christianity, has been inextricably woven in with the evolution of political structures and social institutions. At its most fundamental interpretation, Islam espouses theocratic governments. With Islam faith, politics, and social norms are often found together.

Islam was founded in Arabia during the 7th century of the Common Era. Its founder is Muhammad, who was born in Mecca in the year 570. Muhammad was known as "a respected businessman in Mecca," which is now a city in Saudi Arabia and the major pilgrimage site for Muslims worldwide (Voll). Muslims believe that God revealed a spiritual doctrine to Muhammad via the archangel Jibril/Gabriel. Most Muslims also believe that Islam did not actually begin with Muhammad. Rather, God gradually revealed the one true religion through a series of prophets, with the most recent and most important being Muhammad (BBC).Download full Download Microsoft Word File
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TOPIC: Thesis on Islam Is One of the Largest and Assignment

After his revelation and encounter with the archangel in 610, Muhammad then transmitted the word of God in the holy text the Qur'an. The Qur'an remains the central sacred text of Islam and is the basis of the religion's doctrine and worldview. After he began preaching, Muhammad came to be viewed as a Prophet of God as well as an important community leader. His story resembles that of Jesus, as Gabriel heralded their religious careers and both became subversive political and religious figures. Just as Christianity was a divergent sect of Judaism, so too was Islam an attempt to reconnect with believers and to redefine the monotheistic faith that had already rapidly spread throughout the Middle East and Europe. Islam is therefore a relatively new religion, and is the youngest of the world's major organized faiths.

The Old Testament story of Abraham is also a major part of the Muslim faith. Abraham is believed to be the father of the Muslim people and is "considered to be neither a Jewish person, nor a Christian person nor a Muslim, but somebody who…essentially and intrinsically knows that there is really only one God," (Siddiqui). Muhammad is viewed similarly. Muslims believe that unlike Jews or Christians, Muhammad had correctly interpreted God's word. Former prophets like Abraham, Moses, and Jesus transmitted the word of God but only incompletely. The Qur'an is therefore viewed as the irrefutable word of God revealed through the Prophet Muhammad.

In Arabia during the time of Muhammad, religious and political leadership were both tribal. After Muhammad gathered a significant following at Mecca, his "popularity was seen as threatening by the people in power," (BBC). The people in power were tribal in their social structure and polytheistic in their faith. In fact, Mecca was already an established pilgrimage site for the local pagan faith (Voll).

Thus booted out of Mecca, Muhammad shifted focus to a town called Yathrib in 622. The people of Yathrib not only welcomed but actually invited Muhammad to "to serve as their arbiter and judge," (Voll). Yathrib would come to be known as Medina, "The City of the Prophet."

Muhammad's migration from Mecca to Medina is called the hijrah, meaning migration (BBC). Like Mecca, Medina remains a holy pilgrimage site for Muslims because of Muhammad's hijrah. The hijrah from Mecca to Medina is viewed as such a significant turning point of faith that the year 622 is officially viewed as the start of the Muslim calendar. Pilgrims convene each year at both Mecca and Medina to commemorate the formative years of Islam; in fact, the pilgrimage is viewed as a sacred duty of all Muslims. At Medina, Muhammad was able to gain sufficient support to return to and conquer Mecca as well as the surrounding areas of Arabia. Muhammad was from that point forward recognized as a religious prophet throughout the region and due to his increasing political prowess it did not take long for him to unite Arabian tribes under the rule of Islamic law.

Muhammad died "unexpectedly" in 632, leaving a significant vacuum of power ("What Is Islam"). That vacuum of power was at the root of the problems plaguing Islam today. The religion of Islam is divided into two camps: Sunni and Shi'a because of the controversy of who would succeed Muhammad's leadership in 632. Muhammad's brother in law Abu Bakr was one claimant to power, and Muhammad's son in law Ali was another.

Abu Bakr initially succeeded in controlling Muslim power after the death of Muhammad. He assumed the role of "caliph," which means simply successor. Abu Bakr successfully expanded the growing Islamic political, social, and religious trend throughout the Arabian Peninsula. However, he died only two years later.

Abu Bakr's successor Umar/Omar became the second Caliph and under Umar, Islam spread as far north as Syria and Palestine. In 637, Islam and Christianity experienced their first significant showdown when Islam defeated the Byzantine presence in Jerusalem. When Umar died, the third Caliph was Uthman. Uthman was assassinated after he "ordered a complete revision of the Quran," ("What is Islam"). The growing tensions did not cease and only grew worse when the fourth Caliph was named Ali: Muhammad's son in law and Fatima's husband. He, too, was murdered. His reign lasted only two years. Therefore, the religion of Islam experienced a bloody beginning. The factions of Shi'a and Sunni emerged after the assassination of Ali. Shi'a literally means "faction," and Shi'a Muslims were and still are those who believed that Ali was the righteous successor of Muhammad (Voll). Sunni Muslims supported the Caliphate lineage that had begun with Abu Bakr. Somewhat ironically, Sunni Muslims also recognize Ali as a valid caliph of Muhammad. The first four caliphs are referred to as the "age of the Rightly Guided Caliphate," (Voll).

In spite of the political division in early Islam, the religion and its leadership created a vast empire within only a few generations. The armies of Islam had grown powerful enough to conquer all of the former Persian and Byzantine empires. Islam rapidly spread into Northern Africa and from there to Spain, where the empire became particularly strong. However, the French staved off the Muslim encroachment past the Pyrenees. Around the same time in the East, Islam had spread throughout the entirety of Central Asia, and well into China and India. A similar showdown between Christian and Muslim powers that took place in Europe and in the Middle East also occurred in South East Asia when Spanish forced captured the northern part of the Philippines around the same time Muslim forced gained control of much of the southern part as well as the Indonesian archipelago ("What is Islam?"). All throughout the period of empire expansion, Islam was plagued with civil wars. Therefore, Islam was and still is more than just a religious belief system.

The religion is interconnected with politics and sociology. However, Islam is also a spiritual belief system that centers on what are known as the Five Pillars. First, Muslims believe in one and only one God and also believe that Muhammad is his prophet. Second, Muslims pray five times a day, in a special manner using prostrations performed symbolically always facing Mecca. Third, fasting is a pillar of Islam and practiced most intensely during the month of Ramadan. The fourth pillar of Islam is almsgiving or charity work, and the fifth pillar is pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina, a task which is undertaken at least once during the course of a worshipper's lifetime. Pilgrimage to Mecca is called the hajj and is ideally performed in the twelfth month of the Muslim lunar calendar (PBS). The Five Pillars of faith represent the most basic distillation of Islam.

In addition to the Five Pillars, Islam proscribes six articles of faith. Belief in Allah/the one God is the first of the six articles of faith just as it is the first pillar of faith. The second article of faith is a belief in angels. Belief in the holy books of Islam is the third article of faith. The Qur'an is the only Muslim book that is considered to be the direct word of God, transmitted through the prophet Muhammad. In addition to the Qur'an, Islam also offers a canon of other religious texts that offer guidance on religious, social, and political matters. The most important Muslim religious writings after the Qur'an is the Hadith. Unlike the Qur'an, the Hadith is a collection of sayings attributed to Muhammad as a human being, as a prophet of God. The Hadith… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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