In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings Islam is all over the news. Many question the religion as a while while the terrorist acts that are often linked to the religion are carried out by Islam extremists.
The word Islam is translated to “submission to the will of God.” Islam is the second largest world religions with one billion followers following Christianity. Muslims believe that there is only one God and that the one God is called Allah. Muslims teach that God sent prophets to humans to shows us how to live in accordance with his teachings. These prophets include Jesus, Moses, Abraham and the final prophet, Muhammad. The sacred text of the Muslims is the Qur’an.
The five Pillars of Islam are central to the Islamic faith. These Pillars of Faith are:
- Shahadah: declaration of the faith
- Salat: praying fives times per day
- Zakat: paying alms/ giving money to charity to benefit the needy and poor
- Sawm: fasting during Ramadan (Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, during this month Muslims must give up food, drink, smoking, and sexual activity during the daylight hours)
- Hajj: a pilgrimage to Mecca
Islam has six main beliefs:
- belief that there is one God named Allah
- belief in angels
- belief in the holy books
- belief in the prophets (Abraham, Moses, David, Jesus, Muhammad)
- belief in a Day of Judgement
- belief in predestination (Allah has knowledge of everything, but that humans have free choice)
Allah is omniscient and omnipotent. Allah cannot be seen or heard, he is just. Muslims connect with Allah through prayer and reciting the Qur’an. The Qur’an is meant to be sung.
One Islamic term that gets thrown around in the media whenever Islam is discussed is Jihad which means holy war. The term Jihad is used in three different references:
- a Muslim’s inner struggle to live a proper Islamic
- the struggle to build a good society
- a “Holy War,” the struggle to defend Islam
Another characteristic of the Islam faith is hijab which is the covering that is worn by women to cover everything but the hands and face.
Muslim worship takes place in a place called a mosque. Outside of the mosque Muslims must take off their shoes and carry out a ritual washing before prayer. Inside, everyone sits on the floor to create equality among everyone. One wall in the mosque called the mihrab shows the direction of Mecca which all worshipers must face while they pray. Women and men must sit separately to prevent distraction, but most women stay home to pray.
Muslims take firm stances on many ethical issues:
- against abortion unless it harms the mother’s life
- capital punishment is exercised, but forgiveness is preferred
- against euthanasia
- no central belief in stem cells (Islam does not have a central authority)
- all living creatures were made by Allah and should be respected
- no sexual acts are permitted outside of marriage and contraception is allowed between husband and life