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Islamic Beliefs and Practices

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Islamic Beliefs and Practices

The Qur'an states that all Muslims must believe in God, his revelations, messengers, angels and the Day of Judgment. Muslims believed God revealed his final message to the last prophet, Muhammad, and this is what made up the Qur'an. Muslims also believe in other prophets such as Jesus, Adam, Noah, Abraham and Moses. Islam states that all of these prophets preached the people must have submission to the will of the one God. Part of the Islamic faith is that followers must adhere to the 5 Pillars of Islam. The first pillar is the shahada, which is the repetition of the creed "there is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is the Prophet of Allah". Muslims are required to recite this creed during prayer. The second pillar is called Salat, which means prayer. Muslims must pray five times a day: on rising, at noon, in the mid-afternoon, after sunset and before going to sleep. They pray facing Mecca, and recite a proscribed prayer while kneeling with their head to the ground. The third pillar is Zakat, or almsgiving. Muslims who can afford it must give about 2.5% of their income to support other Muslims and the Islamic faith. Almsgiving is seen as part of Islam's tradition of an emphasis on equality. The fourth pillar is Sawm, which means fasting. During the holy month of Ramadan Muslims do not eat, drink, engage in sexual activities or smoke from sunrise until sunset. They believe fasting eliminates impurities in the body and initiates a new spiritual awakening. The fifth and final pillar is the Hajj or pilgrimage. Every Muslim that is financially able to is required to make a pilgrimage to Mecca, demonstrating their devotion to Allah. During the pilgrimage Muslims visit holy sites and circle the Kabha seven times. There is also a sixth pillar that many Muslims believe in called Jihad. This concept is widely misunderstood by many Westerners. Jihad has two separate meanings, one is the inner Jihad and the other the outer Jihad. The inner Jihad is a fight within oneself to become a virtuous and obedient Muslim. The outer Jihad deals with protecting Islam from outside forces and furthering its cause.

Brief History of Islam

Before the rise of the Islamic faith the Arab people were mostly polytheists who believed in multiple gods. The region know today as Sandi Arabia, it was in the time of the sixth century, a very fierce place to live where many religions influence the region. Into this scene came Muhammad (570-632), the Prophet of God. Muhammad was a trader of goods who lived around the city of Mecca, but later in his life around the age of forty he started to receive his first visions, this was also the beginnings of the Qur'an. Muhammad established the social order that would become Islam and preached there was only one God, Allah. Muhammad then had a fierce struggle with the rulers of Mecca and neighboring cities who were fearful of this new faith. Muhammad then fought many battles which he came out victorious and eternally took the city of Mecca which then became the holy city it is today. Muhammad began preaching in Mecca, but then founded the city-state of Medina blending church and state, which is a characteristic of many Muslim countries to this day. His message was so powerful that Islam soon spread to North Africa, Persia, Europe, Egypt, Jerusalem and Turkey. When Muhammad died in 632 there was much disagreement over who would become the new head of the Muslim community. Some people believed Muhammad's friend should become the next Caliph, while others believed his cousin and son-in-law should be the next leader. This disagreement would eventually lead to the spilt in Islam between the Sunni and Shiites. The Sunnis believe the best qualified person should be the leader of Islam while the Shiites believe only relatives of Muhammad should lead.

It was after this time that the conquest of Islam began, which lead to the conquest of North Africa, and Spain.

The army of Islam seemed unstoppable, till they were finally defeated by the Franks lead by Charles Martel, aka Charles the Hammer, in the epic battle of Tours in 732. In 750 the Golden Age of Islam began. The Golden Age was a time of new legal, philosophical and religious developments. Islamic law known as Sharia, was greatly advanced. During this time Muslims defended their lands during the Crusades, and established Baghdad as the capital of the Muslim World. The Golden Age ended in 1258 with the rise of the Ottoman, Mughal and Safavid Empires and the sacking of Baghdad by the Mongols. The Ottomans were from Turkey and were able to conquer Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire, under Mehmed II in 1453. Under the rule of Suleyman the Magnificent (1520-66) the Ottomans gained control of Baghdad, Belgrade and pushed all the way to Vienna where they were finally stopped. The Safavids were Shiites in Persia who established Shiite rule in the area. The Mughals took over India and created a state that ruled from Kabul to Bengal. The Ottoman Empire ended in 1918 with its defeat by the allied powers in World War I and the creation of the modern independent nations, such as Iraq, Iran, and Syria.

Demographics

1 The Muslim population in 2007 was calculated to be between 1.1-1.8 billon people. Approximately 85% are Sunni and 15% Shiite.

2 30-40 countries in the world have a Muslim majority.

3 Arab people account for 20% of the Muslim population.

4 South and Southeast Asia have the highest populations of Muslims with Indonesia, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh having over 100 million Muslims each.

5 There are approximately 20 million Muslims in China.

6 Islam is becoming the second largest religion in many European countries and is the third largest in the US.

Rationale

We feel that Islam is misrepresented in the United States. Many people believe that all Muslims are radicals and want to bring about the downfall of the United States. People see Islam as a distant and backward religion that is always at odds with Christianity. Our project will seek to change some of these beliefs and show Islam as it truly is.

Interview:

Our group decided to interview an Islamic person from the South Bay Islamic Association in Mountain View. We conducted the interview on March 4, 2008 at 1:00 PM. The man we met was an older man around his mid-forties, who is an immigrant

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