Unformatted text preview: the laws of states.
The most recent form of Middle-Eastern monotheism
Muslims believe that in 610 Muhammad (571-632)
began to receive messages from God (Allah), via the
angel Gabriel. These messages were written down and
constitute the Koran. Muhammad insisted that Islam
was not a new religion but was a restatement of faith in
the religion of Abraham, purified of mistakes introduced
by the Jews.
The message of the Koran is that there is only one
God. This God, the creator of the universe and of human
beings, is all-powerful, all-knowing, all-just, and allloving. God has established ethical commands and
imposed a moral responsibility on all human beings to
be good. There will be a final day of judgment; those
who are worthy will be rewarded with eternal life in
paradise; those who are unworthy will spend eternity in
the flames of hell. Muslims believe in angels, in Satan,
and in demons.
Like the Jews, Muslim Arabs claim descent from
Abraham (Arabs through Abraham’s eldest son, Ishmael,
Jews through Abraham’s second son, Isaac). Muslims
also accept many other biblical figures, such as Adam,
Noah, Moses, and Jesus, as prophets. They believe that
Muhammad was the last of the prophets.
Islam does not have elaborate creeds and statements
of faith. There are only five essential duties of Muslims,
the “pillars of Islam.” To be a Muslim one must: 1.
Believe that there is only one God and Muhammad is his
prophet, 2. Pray five times a day, 3. Fast during the
daylight hours during the month of Ramadan, 4. Give Essentials of Modern World History. Wk 8: Mid-East and North Africa, 1453-1914, © D. G. Rowley, 2004. Rev. 2011. 1 alms to the needy and to care for widows and orphans,
and 5. Make the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in
one’s lifetime (or if poverty makes this impossible, to
sincerely want to make the pilgrimage).
Islam is divided into two traditions, Sunni and Shi’a.
They sometimes come into conflict with one another, but
the conflict is political and not religious. Neither denies
that the other is faithful to the religion of Islam.
The division between Sunni and Shi’a appeared
immediately after the death of Muhammad, when the
question arose: who was the proper Caliph (successor to
the Prophet). Some people believed that this question
should be decided by consensus among the community
of the faithful; others believed that leadership of the
Islamic community was inherited from Muhammad by
his son-in-law, Ali, and by Ali’s descendants.
The Arab Empires (to be described below) became
Sunni—believing that the Caliph was chosen by the
community. (This served the interests of the wealthy and
powerful elements in Muslim society. Although it
sounds democratic, there were no secret and impartial
elections, and the Caliph turned out to be the leader with
the support of the army.) Sunnis believe that “the
community of the faithful cannot err” and therefore have
been tolerant of practices and attitudes that come from
traditional Arab society and not from the Koran. Sunni
Islam is therefore very adaptable, and it is the form of
Islam that spread...
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