Islam: History, Beliefs and Modern Meaning

A Muslim is someone who identifies himself as a follower of the Islamic religion. Muslims believe that their sacred text, the Koran, is the absolute word of God as it was revealed to the prophet Muhammad. In the Arabic language it means Muslim, “he who submits to God (or faith)”. Muslims believe in the existence of a single God, to whom they refer as Allah. It is believed that this powerful divinity communicated through a number of earthly prophets, including Jesus Christ.

Beliefs and sacred texts

The five pillars of Islam are the main tenants of the Muslim religion. The basis of this belief system is rooted in the daily practice of prayers, in the strict observance of Ramadan, in almsgiving and in the obligation to visit at least once in life the holy place of Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Muhammad, the founder of Islam, is called “the seal of the prophets”. Members of the Muslim faith strive to live a life that is pleasing to God in order to gain a place in Paradise after death. The sacred texts of the Muslim faith include the Koran, which is considered the final testament of God, as well as the Hadith documenting the life and teachings of the prophet Muhammad.

History of Islam

It has been widely accepted that the Islamic religion began during the first part of the seventh century in the geographical areas of Mecca and Medina. It is believed that the Islamic prophet Muhammad was born around the year 570 and that Muslims believe they started receiving revelations from God (Allah) at the age of 40. After escaping from Mecca and entering Yathrib (later called Medina ), Muhammad was joined by a group of followers in what Muslims call hijra which is considered the beginning of the Islamic faith.

Geographical dispersion of Muslims today

At the moment there are over a billion Muslims living around the world making it the second largest religion. Why it started in the Middle East Islam is the dominant faith in this geographical area and in some parts of Africa. Islam is the main religion in countries like Afghanistan, Algeria, Bangladesh, Egypt, Gambia, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Morocco, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Turkey and Jordan. Significant Muslim populations can also be found in India, Russia, China, as well as parts of Western Europe and North America. Islam continues to be one of the fastest growing religions in the world.

Continuous growth of faith

According to the Pew Research Center forum on religion and public life, the number of Muslims is expected to increase by 35% over the next 20 years. This is faster than the growth rate expected for other world religions such as Christianity and Judaism. In Europe alone it has been estimated that Muslims will constitute 10% of the total population within a relatively short period of time. Part of the reason for the growth of the Islamic faith are the high fertility rates of its followers and the relatively young average age of current Muslims.

Prophets and important religious leaders

In addition to Mohammed, important Islamic prophets include figures such as Ibrahim or Abraham whose willingness to sacrifice his son Ishmael plays a role in the Islamic festival of Eid al-Adha. Muslim believers cite Isa or Jesus as one of the most significant prophets of the faith. It is thought that Isa received the Gospel from Allah (God). The long history of Islam also includes a vast array of influential leaders such as Muhammad Iqbal (1877-1938), Ruhollah Khomeini (1902-1989) and Nobel Peace Prize winner Anwar Sadat (1918-1971).

Seven Islamic and teaching schools

The Islamic faith is composed of several distinct sects each with their own set of beliefs and practices. The branches of religion include Sunnis, Sh’ites, Sufis and Ahmadiyya. Most modern Muslims identify themselves as Sunnis while the sh’iti can be further divided into Twelvers, Seveners and Fivers. The Sufi sect is believed to adhere to a more mystical belief system while the relatively new Ahmadiyya derive from the traditional Sunni and Shia branches of Islam.

Relationship with Christianity and Judaism

Both Islam and Christians are monotheistic faiths that share a number of historical similarities. Both Muslims and Christians recognize that Jesus Christ is a key figure in their respective traditions, but while Christians believe that Christ was the Son of God, Muslims see his role as that of an important prophet. Like Islam and Christianity, Judaism can also trace its roots back to the Middle East region. Tensions between Muslims and Jews are often in the news due to the ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict over disputed territorial claims. Despite efforts for a peaceful resolution, violence continues to plague this area of ​​the Middle East and no resolution appears to be on the immediate horizon.

Challenges and controversies

The Islamic religion currently faces many significant challenges both internally and in terms of status and perception worldwide. Perhaps the biggest problem of modern Muslims is the growing phenomenon of “Islamophobia”. This fear or hatred towards those of the Muslim faith seems to derive from the roles of Muslim extremists taking place in a number of international terrorist organizations, such as ISIS and Boko Haram. In the Western world, Muslims continue to face a growing degree of prejudice and racist fanaticism based on misinformation and widespread prejudice about their traditions and their belief system. In many countries, the rights of Islamic women have also been the subject of controversy,

Rights of Muslim minorities in non-Muslim countries

As the number of Muslims continues to increase, a variety of traditionally non-Muslim countries have seen the Islamic population increase significantly in their home countries. Because of this growth, a great deal of attention has recently been paid to minority rights and issues related to religious housing. In Western countries such as the United States and Canada, issues relating to Islam, such as a space for adequate prayer and women’s rights and freedoms, had to be addressed not only by their respective governments, but also in relation to society in general. Another significant problem concerns the old Islamic system of sharia and ancient practices such as honor killing and female genital mutilation. The latter is a tough system, more cultural than religious,

Historical meaning and inheritance

It is believed that before the rise of Islam most Middle Eastern residents enrolled in a set of religions based on the existence of a variety of gods. The most powerful of all these deities was Allah, who was to become the central figure in the Muslim faith. Because of its long and long history, as well as its origins in the Arabian Peninsula, Islam has played an important role in shaping the cultural landscape, politics and lifestyle of those living in the Middle East. Because of the strong traditions and beliefs of his followers, Muslim immigrants who have moved to other areas of the world continue to place great importance in maintaining their faith and raising their children according to the principles of their religion.

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