Islam

Islam

[is-lahm, iz-, is-luhm, iz-]
Islam, [Arab.,=submission to God], world religion founded by the Prophet Muhammad. Founded in the 7th cent., Islam is the youngest of the three monotheistic world religions (with Judaism and Christianity). An adherent to Islam is a Muslim [Arab.,=one who submits].

Believers Worldwide

There are more than 1 billion Muslims worldwide, fewer than one fifth of whom are Arab. Islam is the principal religion of much of Asia, including Indonesia (which has the world's largest Muslim population), Malaysia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Jordan, the Arabian Peninsula states, and Turkey. India also has one of the world's largest Muslim populations, although Islam is not the principal religion there. In Africa, Islam is the principal religion in Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia, Djibouti, Gambia, Guinea, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Senegal, Somalia, and Sudan, with sizable populations also in Chad, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Tanzania (where the island of Zanzibar is predominantly Muslim), and Nigeria.

In Europe, Albania is predominantly Muslim, and, historically, Bulgaria, Bosnia, Macedonia, and Georgia have had Muslim populations. Elsewhere in Europe, significant immigrant communities of Muslims from N Africa, Turkey, and Asia exist in France, Germany, Great Britain, and other nations. In the Americas the Islamic population has substantially increased in recent years, both from conversions and the immigration of adherents from other parts of the world. In the United States, the number of Muslims has been variably estimated at 2-6 million; 20% of the population of Suriname is Muslim.

Islamic Beliefs

At the core of Islam is the Qur'an, believed to be the final revelation by a transcendent Allah [Arab.,=the God] to Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam; since the Divine Word was revealed in Arabic, this language is used in Islamic religious practice worldwide. Muslims believe in final reward and punishment, and the unity of the umma, the "nation" of Islam. Muslims submit to Allah through arkan ad-din, the five basic requirements or "pillars": shahadah, the affirmation that "there is no god but God, and Muhammad is the Messenger of God"; salah, the five daily ritual prayers (see liturgy, Islamic); zakat, the giving of alms, also known as a religious tax; Sawm, the dawn-to-sunset fast during the lunar month of Ramadan; and hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca. The importance of the hajj can hardly be overestimated: this great annual pilgrimage unites Islam and its believers from around the world.

The ethos of Islam is in its attitude toward Allah: to His will Muslims submit; Him they praise and glorify; and in Him alone they hope. However, in popular or folk forms of Islam, Muslims ask intercession of the saints, prophets, and angels, while preserving the distinction between Creator and creature. Islam views the Message of Muhammad as the continuation and the fulfillment of a lineage of Prophecy that includes figures from the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament, notably Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and Jesus. Islamic law reserves a communal entity status for the ahl al-kitab, People of the Book, i.e., those with revealed religions, including Jews and Christians. Islam also recognizes a number of extra-biblical prophets, such as Hud, Salih, Shuayb, and others of more obscure origin. The chief angels are Gabriel and Michael; devils are the evil jinn.

Other Islamic obligations include the duty to "commend good and reprimand evil," injunctions against usury and gambling, and prohibitions of alcohol and pork. Meat is permitted if the animal was ritually slaughtered; it is then called halal. Jihad, the exertion of efforts for the cause of God, is a duty satisfied at the communal and the individual level. At the individual level, it denotes the personal struggle to be righteous and follow the path ordained by God. Communally, it involves both encouraging what is good and correcting what is not and waging war to defend Islam.

In Islam, religion and social membership are inseparable: the ruler of the community (caliph; see caliphate) has both a religious and a political status. The unitary nature of Islam, as a system governing relations between a person and God, and a person and society, has contributed to the appeal and success of Islam.

The evolution of Islamic mysticism into organizational structures in the form of Sufi orders was, from the 13th cent. onwards, one of the driving forces in the spread of Islam (see Sufism; fakir). Sufi orders were instrumental in expanding the realm of Islam to trans-Saharan Africa, stabilizing its commercial and cultural links with the Mediterranean and the Middle East, and to SE Asia.

Holidays and Honorifics

The original feasts of Islam are id al-fitr, corresponding to the breaking of the fast of Ramadan, and id al-adha, coinciding with the pilgrimage to Mecca. Shiite Islam also celebrates id al-ghadir, the anniversary of Muhammad's declaration of Ali as his successor. Other Islamic holidays include al-mawlid al-nabawwi, Muhammad's birthday, and al-isra wa-l-miraj, the anniversary of his miraculous journey to Jerusalem and ascension to Heaven. Among the Islamic religious honorifics are shaykh, a generic term refering to a religious scholar or a mystic master; qadi, a religious judge (handling particular cases); mufti, a religious authority who issues general legal opinions; and mullah, a synonym of shaykh used in the Persian-speaking world.

Interpretation of the Qur'an

The revealed word of Islam, the Qur'an, in a formal Arabic which became more archaic with time, required explication. The Sunna, the spoken and acted example of the Prophet, collected as hadith, is an important traditional source that is used to supplement and explicate the Qu'ran. The Sunna is almost as important to Islam as the Qur'an, for in it lie the elaborations of Qur'anic teaching essential to the firm establishment of a world religion. There are disagreements in the hadith, and aspects of interpretations of the Qur'an and the Sunna have varied so much as to be contradictory at times. These situations are resolved by reference to one of the most important of the sayings attributed to the Prophet, "My community will never agree in an error." This leeway also allowed Islam to expand by incorporating social, tribal, and ethnic traditions. For example, with the exception of inheritance and witness laws, Islamic rights and obligations apply equally to men and women. The actual situation of women is more a function of particular social traditions predating Islam than of theoretical positions. For more information on Islamic law, see sharia; for discussions of the major branches of Islamic theology, see Shiite, Sunni.

Bibliography

See F. Rahman, Islam (1966); M. Jameelah, Islam and Modernism (1968); P. K. Hitti, History of the Arabs (10th ed. 1970); P. M. Holt, ed., Cambridge History of Islam (2 vol., 1970); M. G. S. Hodgson, The Venture of Islam (3 vol., 1974); C. Glassé, Concise Encyclopedia of Islam (1991); J. L. Esposito, Islam (rev. ed. 1992) and The Oxford Dictionary of Islam (2003); A. Schimmel, Islam (1992); D. Waines, An Introduction to Islam (1995); J. I. Smith, Islam in America (1999).

Karimov, Islam 1938-, Soviet and Uzbekistani political leader, president of Uzbekistan (1991-). He joined the Soviet Communist party in 1964, rose steadily, and became head of the Uzbek SSR party in 1989. He was elected president of an independent Uzbekistan in 1991 and soon led a crackdown against his political opposition, Islamists, and others. His term was extended by referendum in 1995, and he was reelected in 2000. but international groups questioned the fairness of both elections. A 2002 referendum extended his term to 2007, when he was again reelected in an election criticized as undemocratic. One of the most autocratic Central Asian leader, he maintains complete control over the media and has stifled any attempt at criticism of him or his regime.
or Black Muslims

African American religious movement that mingles elements of Islam and black nationalism. It was founded in 1931 by Wallace D. Fard, who established its first mosque in Detroit, Mich. Fard retired into obscurity and his assistant Elijah Muhammad, who founded a second temple in Chicago, took over in 1934. He asserted the moral and cultural superiority of Africans over whites and urged African Americans to renounce Christianity as a tool of the oppressors. His teachings also included the traditional Islamic tenets of monotheism, submission to God, and strong family life. The Nation of Islam grew quickly after World War II, and in the early 1960s it achieved national prominence through the work of Malcolm X. Leadership disputes led Malcolm to form a separate organization and finally to his assassination in 1965. In the 1970s Elijah Muhammad was succeeded by his son, Wallace D. Muhammad (b. 1933), who renamed the organization the American Muslim Mission. In 1985 he dissolved the Mission, urging its members to become orthodox Muslims. A splinter group headed by Louis Farrakhan retains the movement's original name and principles. In the early 21st century there were approximately 10,000 members of the Nation of Islam.

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Major world religion founded by Muhammad in Arabia in the early 7th century AD. The Arabic word islam means “submission”—specifically, submission to the will of the one God, called Allah in Arabic. Islam is a strictly monotheistic religion, and its adherents, called Muslims, regard the Prophet Muhammad as the last and most perfect of God's messengers, who include Adam, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and others. The sacred scripture of Islam is the Qurhamzahān, which contains God's revelations to Muhammad. The sayings and deeds of the Prophet recounted in the sunna are also an important source of belief and practice in Islam. The religious obligations of all Muslims are summed up in the Five Pillars of Islam, which include belief in God and his Prophet and obligations of prayer, charity, pilgrimage, and fasting. The fundamental concept in Islam is the Sharīaynāh, or Law, which embraces the total way of life commanded by God. Observant Muslims pray five times a day and join in community worship on Fridays at the mosque, where worship is led by an imam. Every believer is required to make a pilgrimage to Mecca, the holiest city, at least once in a lifetime, barring poverty or physical incapacity. The month of Ramadan is set aside for fasting. Alcohol and pork are always forbidden, as are gambling, usury, fraud, slander, and the making of images. In addition to celebrating the breaking of the fast of Ramadan, Muslims celebrate Muhammad's birthday (see mawlid) and his ascension into heaven (see miaynrāj). The aynImacrd al-Adsubdothsubdotā festival inaugurates the season of pilgrimage to Mecca. Muslims are enjoined to defend Islam against unbelievers through jihad. Divisions occurred early in Islam, brought about by disputes over the succession to the caliphate (see caliph). About 90percnt of Muslims belong to the Sunnite branch. The Shīaynites broke away in the 7th century and later gave rise to other sects, including the Ismāaynīlīs. Another significant element in Islam is the mysticism known as Sufism. Since the 19th century the concept of the Islamic community has inspired Muslim peoples to cast off Western colonial rule, and in the late 20th century fundamentalist movements (see Islamic fundamentalism) threatened or toppled a number of secular Middle Eastern governments. In the early 21st century, there were more than 1.2 billion Muslims in the world.

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