Islam in brief

Islam in brief


The religion known as Islam originated in the seventh century of the common era in Arabia in the city of Mecca, a center of trade at which gathered diverse peoples, including those from the Jewish and Christian faiths. At the center of Mecca was a cuboid structure known as the Kaaba. According to Muslim traditions, the Kaaba was first built by the prophet Adam and then rebuilt by the prophet Abraham for the worship of the one god, Allah. However, by the seventh century, the Kaaba had turned into a major pilgrimage site where different Arab venerated idols. Some of the residents of Mecca rejected the worship of idols. Prominent among these was Muhammad, son of Abdullah, who is known in the city as the trustworthy. In the year 610 at the age of 40, Muhammed was on retreat in a mountain cave during the month of Ramadan when he is said to have been visited by the angel Gabriel who commanded him, “Recite,” and revealed words which Muhammad felt had been written on this heart. These revelations, Muslims believe, continued over the next 23 years, and eventually came to be collected as the Quran. They declare that God is one, overturning the polytheistic foundations of seventh century Arabia religion. They also questioned the economic inequalities of society by calling for social justice and particularly the care the poor and oprhans, reminding people that they were accountable to God for their actions. The Quran declares itself to be the latest in a long line of revelations from God to humanity explicitly affirming the truth of the Torah, the psalms, and the Gospels, and teaching about faith through stories about Moses, Joseph, Mary and Jesus, and other the prophets. The Quran states that the message of divine unity is universal, for God has sent messengers to every nation and people. Tradition places the total number of prophets at 124,000. In the Quran, Muhammad and his followers, as well as the previous prophets and their followers, are all called Muslim, a word that literally means a person who has submitted to God. Understood in a general sense, everything in the universe is Muslim in its submission to the creator, silently singing his praises. Muhammed began his mission teaching to a small group of followers in Mecca, but soon found himself ostracized by the Meccan aristocracy, who were unwilling to part ways with the traditions of their forefathers. In the year 622, facing severe persecution, Muhammad fled from Mecca to the oasis city of Yathrib, now known as Al Madinah Al Munawarah, the city of light, or simply Medina. This event, called the Hijrah, or emigration, marks the beginning of the Islamic calendar. In Medina, Muhammad was able to organize his followers into a community for the first time. He negotiated both war and peace with the Meccans and the surrounding tribesmen, eventually conquering Mecca in the year 630. By the end of Muhammad’s mission, he had provided what the Quran calls a beautiful example of the way to live in accordance with God’s will, which Muslims from then until today have endeavored to emulate. When Muhammad passed away in 632, there were disagreements among his companions about succession and the nature of political and spiritual authority. In the course of time, these would lead to the split between what we today call Sunni and Shia Islam. Other forms of diversity within the Islamic community, or Ummah, would develop over the centuries. Early Muslim leaders and dynasties expanded the borders of Islamic civilization through to Spain, Central South and Southeast Asia, Africa, and even into Eastern Europe. In the process, Islamic concepts were adapted to local contexts, at times accepting ideas and modes of expression from traditions as diverse as Greek philosophy and Confucianism. The ever-developing traditions of faith, practice, and spirituality unfolded as Muslim communities emerged and involved in diverse settings across the globe. Muslim traders, mystics, scholars, poets, rulers, and architects all contributed to the shaping of distinctive regional cultures as trans-regional Islamic notions and traditions interacted with local communities to produce distinctive forms of law, statecraft, theology, art, architecture, and science. Like other world religions, Islam, too, has been invoked to support and legitimize diverse and even contradictory values. For example, interpretations of Islam have been used to both liberate and oppress women or to promote peace and provide arguments for war. In more recent times, Islam has been utilized by a variety of nation states to legitimize a range of political ideologies. As a result, the experience of being Muslim today is often deeply influenced by the political context one is living in. Diversity of interpretation has always been an essential aspect of the Muslim experience as particular groups have turned towards different individuals for guidance. From religious scholars to members of the prophet’s family considered divinely appointed to spiritual guides who teach to the sanctity of their characters and the wisdom of their insight. It is helpful to think of Islam in terms of both unity and diversity. Muslims believe in one god, Allah, whom they worship and conceive of in different ways. The prophet Muhammad provides the single most important model of how Muslims should live an exemplary life of faith, but there are diverse understandings of how this model should be followed. The single most important text in Islam, the Quran, is interpreted in diverse ways and for diverse purposes, and as a single Muslim community that this diversified through cultural contexts, beliefs, and practices, and the diverse authorities whom they follow

3 thoughts on “Islam in brief”

  1. The background music is very loud and annoying. It impedes listening and understanding. It's also Hindu classical music which is totally inappropriate for a documentary on Islam and Muslims. A very big mistake there.

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