The religion of Islam is the acceptance of and obedience to the teachings of God which He revealed to His last prophet, Muhammad   .  Muslims believe in one, unique, incomparable God, Who has no son nor partner, and that none has the right to be worshipped but Him alone.  He is the true God, and every other deity is false.

The Quran is the literal word of God, which He revealed to His Prophet Muhammad  through the Angel Gabriel. It was memorized by Muhammad , who then dictated it to his Companions.  They, in turn, memorized it, wrote it down, and reviewed it with the Prophet Muhammad .  Moreover, the Prophet Muhammad  reviewed the Quran with the Angel Gabriel once each year and twice in the last year of his life.  Not one letter of the Quran has been changed over the centuries.

Muslims believe in the prophets and messengers of God, starting with Adam, including Noah, Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and Jesus (peace be upon them).  But God’s final message to man, a reconfirmation of the eternal message, was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad .  Muslims believe that Muhammad  is the last prophet sent by God.  Muslims believe that all the prophets and messengers were created human beings who had none of the divine qualities of God.

Muslims believe in the Day of Judgment (the Day of Resurrection) when all people will be resurrected for God’s judgment according to their beliefs and deeds.

Muslims believe in Al-Qadar, which is Divine Predestination, but this belief in Divine Predestination does not mean that human beings do not have freewill.  Rather, Muslims believe that God has given human beings freewill.  This means that they can choose right or wrong and that they are responsible for their choices.

The belief in Divine Predestination includes belief in four things: 1) God knows everything.  He knows what has happened and what will happen.  2) God has recorded all that has happened and all that will happen.  3) Whatever God wills to happen happens, and whatever He wills not to happen does not happen.  4) God is the Creator of everything.

5 Pillers of Islam:  Salat: performing ritual prayers in the proper way five times each day. Zakat: paying an alms (or charity) tax to benefit the poor and the needy. Sawm: fasting during the month of Ramadan. Hajj: pilgrimage to Mecca.

Sunnis:  80-85% Add to the Quran the life and sayings of Mohammed (sunna) collected in the hadith.   Four schools depending on the amount of weight given to the Quran, the hadiths, and reason in interpreting Islam through a consensus of elders.  Wahhabi movement in Saudi Arabia: extreme opposition to new ways especially Western culture.

Shi’ites: 15%, Iran and Iraq.  Mohammed’s son-in-law Ali and descendents (imams) are only authorities.

Sufis: mystical, emotional connection to Allah vs. legalism of orthodox Islam.  Monastic, sometimes extreme asceticism and emotionalism (fakir, dervish)

Sharia: the ‘way,’ Islamic law as applied to everyday life, including the government. Theocracy is the ideal.

Jinn: lower spiritual beings (“genie”), usually bad, remnant of Arabic animism.

Final Judgment: Good deeds weighed against bad; paradise and hell. No pre-death assurance of heaven. (Unless one dies fighting for Allah).

Golden Age: Abbasid Caliphate, 750-1258 AD.  Baghdad of Arabian Nights; tolerance and preservation of Greek texts.

Jihad: literally “struggle” in the name of Allah. Jihad of the heart, mouth and pen as well as sword, gradually more emphasis on “holy war”.

Taboos: no pork, no alcohol (so invented coffee!), no gambling

Discussion Questions:

1. How might the simplicity of Islam be appealing?  

2. Review and comment on the Five Pillars of Islam.