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History of Islam

Beliefs and practices

Oneness of God
Profession of Faith

Major figures

Household of Muhammad
Prophets of Islam
Companions of Muhammad

Texts & Laws


Major branches


Societal aspects


See also

Vocabulary of Islam

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Islam (Arabic: الإسلام; al-'islām ) is a monotheistic religion based upon the teachings of Muhammad. It is the second-largest religion in the world today, with an estimated 1.4 billion adherents, known as Muslims.<ref>Teece, Geoff (2005). Religion in Focus: Islam. Smart Apple Media, p. 10.</ref>

Muslims believe that God revealed the Qur'an to Muhammad and that Muhammad is God's final prophet. Muslims consider the Qur'an and the traditions of Muhammad in the Sunnah to be the basic sources of Islam.<ref>Ghamidi(2001), Sources of Islam</ref><ref>Esposito, John, John Obert Voll [1996]. Islam and Democracy. US: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-510816-7., pp.41</ref> Like Judaism and Christianity, Islam is an Abrahamic religion.<ref>Vartan Gregorian (2003). Islam: A Mosaic, Not a Monolith. Washington D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, p. ix. ISBN 0-8157-3283-X.</ref>

Today, Muslims may be found throughout the world, particularly in the Middle East, North Africa, and South and Central Asia. Only about 20 percent of Muslims originate from Arab countries.<ref> John L Esposito (2002). What Everyone Needs to Know About Islam. Oxford University Press US, p. 2. ISBN 0-19-515713-3.</ref> Islam is the second largest religion in many European countries, such as France, which has the largest Muslim population in Western Europe, and the United Kingdom.<ref> Template:Cite web </ref><ref> Template:Cite web </ref>



Main article: Aqidah

Muslims believe that God revealed his final message to humanity through Muhammad ibn Abdullah (c. 570 - July 6, 632) via the angel Gabriel.<ref>Watton, Victor, (1993), A student's approach to world religions: Islam, Hodder & Stoughton, Introduction. ISBN 0-340-58795-4</ref> Muhammad is considered to have been God's final prophet, the "Seal of the Prophets". The revelations Muhammad preached form the holy book of Islam, the Qur'an. The Qur'an is believed to be the flawless final revelation of God to humanity, valid until the day of the Resurrection.

Muslims hold that the message of Islam - submission to the will of the one God - is the same as the message preached by all the messengers sent by God to humanity since Adam. From an Islamic point of view, Islam is the oldest of the monotheistic religions because it represents both the original and the final revelation of God to Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad.<ref> Esposito, John, What Everyone Needs to Know About Islam, p. 4-5 </ref> <ref>42:13</ref> Members of all sects of Islam believe that the Qur'an codifies the direct words of God.

Islamic texts depict Judaism and Christianity as prophetic successor traditions to the teachings of Abraham. The Qur'an calls Jews and Christians "people of the Book," and distinguishes them from polytheists. In order to reconcile discrepancies between the earlier prophets and the Qur'an, Muslims claim that Jews and Christians forgot or distorted the word of God after it was revealed to them. The majority of early Muslim scholars, and some modern ones, believe it was just distortion in interpretation of the Bible. However, others believe that there was also textual distortion, that Jews changed the Tawrat (Torah), and Christians the Injil (Gospels) by altering the meaning, form and placement of words in their respective holy texts. <ref> Encyclopedia of the Qur'an, Qur'an and Polemics article </ref> <ref> MARTIN ACCAD, The Gospels in the Muslim Discourse of the Ninth to the Fourteenth Centuries: an exegetical inventorial table (part I), Islam and Christian–Muslim Relations, Vol. 14, No. 1, 2003</ref>


Main articles: Allah, God, Islamic concept of God, and Tawhīd

The fundamental concept in Islam is the Oneness of God or tawhīd: monotheism which is absolute, not relative or pluralistic. The Oneness of God is the first pillar of Islam's five pillars which is also called the Shahadah (The two testimonies). By declaring the Shahadah, a Muslim attests to the belief that there are no gods but God, and that Muhammad is God's messenger.

In Arabic, God is called Allāh. The word is etymologically connected to ʾilāh "deity".<ref>The name "Allah" is a singular neuter noun.</ref> A common misconception is that Muslims consider Allāh to be a different deity than that worshipped by Christians and Jews. However, Allah is simply the Arabic word for "God". The word predates Muhammad and, at least in origin, does not specify a god different from the one worshipped in Judaism and Christianity, two other Abrahamic religions. Allāh is also used by Arab speaking Christian and Jewish people to refer to God as they worship him. The usage of the definite article in Allah linguistically indicates the divine unity. Muslims believe that the God they worship is the same God of Abraham. Muslims reject the Christian doctrine concerning the trinity of God, seeing it as akin to polytheism.

God is described in a sura of the Qu'ran as: "...God, the One and Only; God, the Eternal, Absolute; He begetteth not, nor is He begotten; And there is none like unto Him." <ref>Qur'an 112:1-4</ref>

No Islamic visual images or depictions of God are meant to exist because such artistic depictions may lead to idolatry. Moreover, Muslims believe that God is incorporeal, making any two- or three- dimensional depictions impossible. Such aniconism can also be found in Jewish and some Christian theology. Instead, Muslims describe God by the names and attributes that he revealed to his creation. All but one sura of the Qur'an begins with the phrase "In the name of God, the Beneficent, the Merciful".


The first sura in a Qur'anic manuscript by Hattat Aziz Efendi.
Main article: Qur'an

The Qur'an is considered by Muslims to be the literal, undistorted word of God, and is the central religious text of Islam. It has also been called, in English, the Koran and, archaically, the Alcoran. The word Qur'an means “recitation”. Although the Qur'an is referred to as a "book", when Muslims refer in the abstract to "the Qur'an", they are usually referring to the scripture as recited in Arabic - the words themselves - rather than to the printed work or any translation of it.

Muslims believe that the verses of the Qur'an were revealed to Muhammad by God through the Angel Gabriel on numerous occasions between the years 610 and his death on July 6 632. Some modern Western historians have concluded that Muhammad was sincere in his claim of receiving revelation, "for this alone makes credible the development of a great religion." <ref name="Camb"> The Cambridge History of Islam (1970), Cambridge University Press, p.30 </ref> These historians generally decline to address the further question of whether the messages Muhammad reported being revealed to him were from "his unconscious, the collective unconscious functioning in him, or from some divine source", but they acknowledge that the material came from "beyond his conscious mind" <ref name="Camb"/>

Modern Western academics generally reject the notion that the Qur'an of today is markedly different from the words Muhammad claimed to have been revealed to him. In fact, the source of ambiguity in the quest for historical Muhammad is more the lack of knowledge about pre-Islamic Arabia. <ref> F.E. Peters, The Quest for Historical Muhammad, International Journal of Middle East Studies (1991) p.291-315 </ref> To interpret the Qu'ran, Muslims use a form of exegesis known as tafsir.

Most Muslims regard paper copies of the Qur'an with veneration, washing as for prayers before reading the Qur'an. Worn out Qur'ans are not destroyed as wastepaper, but burned. Many Muslims memorize at least some portion of the Qur'an in the original Arabic, usually at least the verses needed to recite prayers. Those who have memorized the entire Qur'an are known as a hafiz. Muslims believe that the Qur'an is perfect only as revealed in the original Arabic. Translations, they maintain, are the result of human effort, and are deficient because of differences in human languages, because of the human fallibility of translators, and (not least) because any translation lacks the inspired content found in the original. Translations are therefore regarded only as commentaries on the Qur'an, or "interpretations of its meaning", not as the Qur'an itself. Many modern, printed versions of the Qur'an are parallel text ones, with a vernacular translation facing the Arabic text.


Main article: Muhammad

Muhammad, also Mohammed, Mohamet, and other variants<ref>Mahound, a term used in the past by Christians to vilify Muhammad cf. John Esposito (1999) p.250, meaning 'devil' or 'spirit of darkness', a thoroughly distorted view of Muhammad in the medieval West, cf. Schimmel, Islam: An Introduction, 1992. For some usage of this term in literature see for example William Shakespeare (1832) "Hamlet: And As You Like It." p.80, or Dante who uses this term in his Divine Comedy cf. Bernard Lewis (2002) p.45. William Montgomery Watt states: "Of all the world's great men none has been so much maligned as Muhammad. At one point Muhammad was transformed into Mahound, the prince of darkness." Bernard Lewis states that "The development of the concept of Mahound started with considering Muhammad as a kind of demon or false god worshipped with Apollyon and Termangant in an unholy trinity. Finally after reformation, Muhammad was conceived as a cunning and self-seeking impostor." cf. Lewis (2002) p.45. In recent times Salman Rushdie, in his book "The Satanic verses", chose the name Mahound to refer to Muhammad. Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwah that condemned Rushdie to death and called for his execution. cf. John Esposito (1999) p.250</ref><ref>Welch, noting the frequency of Muhammad being called as "Al-Amin", a common Arab name, suggests the possibility of "Al-Amin" being Muhammad's given name as it is a masculine form from the same root as his mother's name, A'mina. cf. Encyclopedia of Islam, Muhammad article; The sources frequently say that he, in his youth, was called with the nickname "Al-Amin" meaning "faithful, trustworthy" cf. Carl W. Ernst (2004), p.85 </ref> was an Arab religious and political leader who established Islam. He is considered the greatest prophet in Islam and as the final messenger sent with revelation to mankind, he is venerated and honoured as such. Muslims do not regard him as the founder of a new religion, but rather believe him to be the last in a line of prophets of God and regard his mission as one of restoring the original monotheistic faith of Adam, Abraham and other prophets of Islam that had become corrupted by man over time.<ref name="EspositoI"> John Esposito (1998) p.12; (1999) p.25; (2002) p.4-5</ref> <ref name="EoI"> Encyclopedia of Islam, Muhammad article </ref> <ref name="Peters"> F. E. Peters, Islam : a guide for Jews and Christians, Princeton University Press, ISBN 0-691-11553-2, p.9 </ref>

For the last 23 years of his life, beginning at age 40, Muhammad reported receiving revelations from God. The content of these revelations, known as the Qur'an, was memorized and recorded by his followers. <ref> The term Qur'an was invented and first used in the Qur'an itself. There are two different theories about this term and its formation, that are discussed in Quran#Etymology cf. Encyclopedia of Islam article on Qur'an.</ref> These memories and recordings were then compiled into a single volume shortly after his death.

All Muslims believe that Muhammad transmitted the revelations he received perfectly:

"And if the apostle were to invent any sayings in Our name, We should certainly seize him by his right hand, And We should certainly then cut off the artery of his heart: Nor could any of you withhold him (from Our wrath)." Qur'an 69:44-47

The understanding that Muhammad did commit sin does exist among Sunnis. However, the doctrine of sinlessness of Muhammad is also more or less incorporated into Sunnis' beliefs. Some Sunni scholars believe that the doctrine of the sinlessness of the Prophets originated with the Shi'a, specifically in connection with the Imamate, and was transmitted to the Sunnis via the Sufis and Mu'tazila.<ref>The Sinlessness of the Prophets in Light of the Qur'an, by R. Azzam, USC-MSA Compendium of Muslim Texts, March 27, 2000, retrieved March 27, 2006</ref> Shi'a scholars disagree.<ref>Are Prophets of Allah not Sinless?, by Ali A. Khalfan, May 07, 2005, retrieved March 27, 2006</ref>


Main article: Sunnah

Sunnah literally means “trodden path” and it refers, in common usage, to the normative example of Muhammad, as recorded in traditions known as hadith about his speech, his actions, his acquiescence to the words and actions of others, and his personal characteristics.<ref>Encyclopedia of Islam and the Muslim world, p.666</ref> According to some opinions of Islamic scholars, the sunnah is the tradition of Abraham’s religion which Muhammad revived and reformed, after making certain additions. <ref>16:123</ref><ref>Ghamidi(2001), Sources of Islam</ref>

The emulation of Muhammad's example and authentic hadith reports originating from the Companions of Muhammad started from the ninth century. Earlier sources, however, reflect a more flexible use of the term. Shortly after Muhammad's death, actions of the Rightly Guided Caliphs were also considered to be sunnah. This concept continued in Shi'a Islam in which Shi'ite imams are also a source of sunnah. Malik ibn Anas, author of Al-Muwatta, the earliest extant manual of Islamic law, used sunnah but treated the existing practice of the Muslims of Medina as a more reliable source of that sunnah than hadith.<ref name="enc_sun">Encyclopedia of Islam and the Muslim world, p.667</ref>

During Muhammad ibn Idris ash-Shafi`i's time, these flexible concepts of Sunnah were challenged. Ash-Shafi`i challenged other groups in his times and insisted Sunnah can only be known from reliable hadith reports. He also championed the traditionalist argument that Sunnah is equivalent to revelation of God.<ref name="enc_sun"/> From the tenth century onward, the canonical collections of hadith, especially the collections of Bukhari and Muslim, became virtually synonymous with Sunnah, exerting a profound and pervasive impact on Islamic culture.<ref name="sun2">Encyclopedia of Islam and the Muslim world, p.668</ref>

Sunnah is the biggest point of contention among contemporary Muslims. Qur'an only Muslims reject Sunnah altogether, while revivalists like Maududi differentiate between Muhammad's action as a prophet and as a normal human.<ref name="sun2"/>


Main article: Hadith

Hadith are traditions relating to the words and deeds of Muhammad. Hadith collections are regarded as important tools for determining the Sunnah, or Muslim way of life, by all traditional schools of jurisprudence. A hadith was originally an oral tradition relevant to the actions and customs of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. Starting the first Islamic civil war of the 7th century, those receiving the hadith started to question the sources of the saying.<ref></ref> This resulted in a "chain of transmission", for example "A told me that B told him that Muhammad said". The hadith were eventually recorded in written form, with their chain of transmission recorded, and were collected into large collections mostly during the reign of Umar II during 8th century, something that solidified in the 9th century. These works are still today referred to in matters of Islamic law and history.

Western academics view the hadith collections with caution as historical sources. Bernard Lewis states that "the collection and scrutiny of Hadiths didn't take place until several generations" after Muhammad's death and that "during that period the opportunities and motives for falsification were almost unlimited." In addition to the problem of oral transmission for over a hundred years, there existed motives for deliberate distortion. Early Muslim scholars were also concerned that hadiths may have been fabricated, and thus developed a whole science of criticism to distinguish between genuine sayings and those that were errors or frauds. Modern historians point out that a chain of authorities may be easily forged and that rejection of some relators implies the victory of one thought over the others. <ref> The Arabs in History, by Bernard Lewis, p. 33-34 </ref> <ref> F.E. Peters, The Quest for Historical Muhammad, International Journal of Middle East Studies (1991) p.291-315 </ref>

Hadith is considered an authoritative source of revelation, second only to the Qur'an.<ref>Esposito(2003),p. 101</ref> In Islamic jurisprudence, the Qur'an contains many rules for the behavior expected of Muslims. However, there are many matters of concern, both religious and practical, on which there are no specific Qur'anic rules. Muslims believe that they can look at the example of Muhammad and his companions to discover what to imitate and what to avoid. Muslim scholars also find it useful to know how Muhammad or his companions explained the revelations, or upon what occasion Muhammad received them. Sometimes this will clarify a passage that otherwise seems obscure. Hadith are a source for Islamic history and biography. For the vast majority of devout Muslims, authentic hadith are also a source of religious inspiration.


Main article: Qiyamah

Qiyamah is the Muslim equivalent of the Christian belief in the Last Judgement. Belief in Qiyâmah is part of Aqidah and is a fundamental tenet of faith in Islam. The trials and tribulations of Qiyâmah are explained in both the Qur'an and the Hadith, as well as in the commentaries of the Islamic scholars such as al-Ghazali, Ibn Kathir, and Muhammad al-Bukhari, who explain them in detail.

Muslims believe that Allah will hold every human, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, accountable for his or her deeds(74:38) at a preordained time unknown to man. The archangel Israfil, will sound a horn sending out a "Blast of Truth". This event is also found in Jewish eschatology, in the Jewish belief of "The Day of the Blowing of the Shofar", Yom Terua. Traditions say Muhammad will be the first to be brought back to life.<ref>Esposito(2003), p.264</ref>

Bodily resurrection is much insisted upon in the Qur'an, which challenges the Pre-Islamic Arabian concept of death.<ref>The new Encyclopedia of Islam(2001), p.383</ref> Resurrection is followed by judgement of all souls. According to the Qur'an, sins that can consign someone to hell include lying, dishonesty, corruption, ignoring God or God's revelations, denying the resurrection, refusing to feed the poor, indulgence in opulence and ostentation, the economic exploitation of others, and social oppression.<ref name="enc_m">Encyclopedia of Islam and Muslim world(2004), p.565</ref>

Islamic descriptions of Heaven are described as physical pleasures — sometimes interpreted literally, sometimes allegorically. Heaven is most often described as a cool garden with running streams with unlimited food and drink. Some interpretations also promise enormous palaces staffed with multitudes of servants, and perfect, perpetually-virgin spouses. The Muslims who will not inherit heaven will be punished with a temporary stay in hell, and will go to heaven later as long as there is "one atom of faith in their hearts," according to Muhammad. Some, but not all, Muslims also believe that people who do not accept Muhammad after hearing his message, will receive eternal damnation in hell; just as those who did not believe in Jesus and Moses at their respective periods after hearing of their messages will also receive eternal damnation in hell. The descriptions in the Qur'an of hell are also very descriptive. Skin is burned off a person's body and then replaced so it can be burned off again. <ref>As for those who reject Our Signs, We will roast them in a Fire. Every time their skins are burned off, We will replace them with new skins so that they can taste the punishment. Allah is Almighty, All-Wise. (4:56)</ref> Boiling water is forced down people's throats which rips their bowels apart.

Five Pillars of Islam

The Five Pillars of Islam is the term given to what are understood among many Muslims to be the five core aspects of Islam. Shi'a Muslims accept the Five Pillars, but also add several other practices to form the Practices of Religion.


The basic creed or tenet of Islam is found in the shahādatān ("two testimonies"): 'ašhadu 'al-lā ilāha illā-llāhu wa 'ašhadu 'anna muħammadan rasūlu-llāh; "I testify that there is none worthy of worship except God and I testify that Muhammad is the Messenger of God."<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> As the most important pillar, this testament can be considered a foundation for all other beliefs and practices in Islam. Ideally, it is the first words a new-born will hear, and children are taught to recite and understand the shahadah as soon as they are able to. Muslims must repeat the shahadah in prayer, and non-Muslims must use the creed to formally convert to Islam.<ref>Nigosian, S A (2004). Islam: Its History, Teaching, and Practices. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press.</ref>


Muslims performing salat (prayer).

The second pillar of Islam is salat, the requirement to pray five times a day at fixed times.<ref name=davidB> David B. Doroquez The five Pillars of Islam: The foundation of a Faith and its People </ref><ref name=coim>Kobeisy, Ahmed Nezar (2004). Counseling American Muslims. Praeger/Greenwood, 22-23. ISBN 0-313-32472-7. </ref> Each salat is performed facing towards the Kaba in Mecca.<ref name=davidB/> However, in the early days of Islam, when it was based primarily in Mecca, Muslims offered salat facing towards Jerusalem. <ref name=james>Lindsay, James (2005). Daily Life in the Medieval Islamic World. Greenwood Press, 142-143. ISBN 0-313-32270-8.</ref>

Salat is intended to focus the mind on God; it is a personal communication with God, expressing gratitude and worship.<ref name=davidB/> According to the Qur'an (29:40) the benefit of prayer "restrains [one] from shameful and evil deeds"<ref name=coim/>. Salat is compulsory but there are flexibilities under certain circumstances. <ref name=heday>Hedáyetullah, Muhammad (2002). Dynamics of Islam. Trafford Publishing, 53-55. ISBN 1-55369-842-8.</ref> For example in the case of sickness or lack of space, a worshipper can offer salat while sitting, or even lying, and the prayer can be shortened when travelling. <ref name=heday/>

The salat must be performed in the Arabic language to the best of each worshipper's ability (although any du'a, or extra prayers said afterwards need not be in Arabic), and the lines are to be recited by heart, although beginners may use written aids. The worshipper's body and clothing, as well as the place of prayer, must be cleansed. <ref name=heday/> All salat should be conducted within the prescribed time period or waqt and with the appropriate number of raka'ah. While prayers may be made at any point within the waqt, it is considered best to begin them as soon as possible after the call to prayer is heard.


Zakat, or alms-giving, is giving charity to the poor and needy by able Muslims, based on the wealth that one has accumulated. It is a personal responsibility intended to ease economic hardship for others and eliminate inequality.<ref>Lloyd Ridgeon (2003). Major World Religions: From Their Origins to the Present. New York, NY: RoutledgeCorizon, p. 258.</ref> It consists spending a fixed portion of one's wealth for the poor or needy, including people whose hearts need to be reconciled, slaves, those in debt, and travelers. A Muslim may also donate an additional amount as an act of voluntary charity, known as sadaqah, in order to achieve additional divine reward.

There are two main types of zakat, zakat on traffic, which is a per head payment equivalent to cost of around 2.25 kilograms of the main food of the region paid during the month of Ramadan by the head of a family for himself and his dependents, and zakât on wealth, which covers money made in business, savings, income, crops, livestock, gold, minerals, hidden treasures unearthed, and so on.

The payment of zakât is obligatory on all Muslims. In current usage it is interpreted as a 2.5% levy on most valuables and savings held for a full lunar year, if the total value is more than a basic minimum known as nisab (3 ounces or 87.48g of gold). At present (as of 16 October 2006), nisab is approximately US $1,750 or an equivalent amount in any other currency.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>


Sawm, or fasting, is an obligatory act during the month of Ramadan. Muslims must abstain from food, drink, and sexual intercourse from dawn to dusk during this month, and are to be especially mindful of other sins. The fast is meant to allow Muslims to seek nearness to God as well as remind them of the needy. During Ramadan, Muslims are also expected to put more effort into following the teachings of Islam by refraining from violence, anger, envy, greed, lust, harsh language, gossip, and to try to get along with each other better than normal. All obscene and irreligious sights and sounds are to be avoided. The fast is an exacting act of deeply personal worship in which Muslims seek a raised level of closeness to God. The act of fasting is said to redirect the heart away from worldly activities and its purpose being to cleanse your inner soul, and free it of harm.

Fasting during Ramadan is not obligatory for several groups for whom it would be excessively problematic. Children before the onset of puberty are not required to fast, though some do. Also some small children fast for half a day instead of a whole day so they get used to fasting. However, if puberty is delayed, fasting becomes obligatory for males and females after a certain age. According to Qur'an, if fasting would be dangerous to people's health, such as to people with an illness or medical condition, or elderly people, they are excused. Diabetics and nursing or pregnant women are usually not expected to fast. According to hadith, observing the Ramadan fast is not allowed for menstruating women. Other individuals for whom it is usually considered acceptable not to fast are those in battle, and travelers who intended to spend fewer than five days away from home. If one's condition preventing fasting is only temporary, one is required to make up for the days missed after the month of Ramadan is over and before the next Ramadan arrives. If one's condition is permanent or present for an extended amount of time, one may make up for the fast by feeding a needy person for every day missed.<ref>Arshad Khan (2003). Islam 101: Principles and Practice. Lincoln, Nebraska: Writers Club Press, p.54.</ref>


Image:Supplicating Pilgrim at Masjid Al Haram. Mecca, Saudi Arabia.jpg
The hajj to the Kaaba in Mecca is an important practice for Muslims to perform

The Hajj is a pilgrimage that occurs during the Islamic month of Dhu al-Hijjah in the city of Mecca. Every able-bodied Muslim who can afford to do so is obliged to make the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in his or her lifetime. Mecca is so important because it was the place where Muhammad was said to have lived and gained his prophet status. The government of Saudi Arabia issues special visas to foreigners for the purpose of the pilgrimage. Entrance to Mecca itself is forbidden to non-Muslims, and the entire city is considered a holy site in Islam.

The pilgrim, the hajji, is honoured in his or her community. For some, this is an incentive to perform the Hajj. Islamic teachers say that the Hajj should be an expression of devotion to God, not a means to gain social standing. The believer should be self-aware and examine his or her intentions in performing the pilgrimage. This should lead to constant striving for self-improvement.<ref>Goldschmidt, Arthur (2002). A Concise History of the Middle East. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, p. 48.</ref>

Islamic law

Image:Masjid Nabawi. Medina, Saudi Arabia.jpg
Masjid al-Nabawi (Mosque of the Prophet)
Main articles: Sharia and Fiqh

The sharia (Arabic for "well-trodden path") is Islamic law, determined by traditional Islamic scholarship. The Qur'an is the foremost source of Islamic jurisprudence, or fiqh. The second source is the sunnah of Muhammad and the early Muslim community, which clarifies points that are vague in the Qu'ran. The role of hadith is a disputed one in Islamic law. According to a few scholars, such as Imam Shafi'i, it is secondary to the Qur'an, whereas others, such as Imam Malik and the Hanafi scholars, hold it second to sunnah and often reject a hadith if it goes against established practices. Ijma (consensus of the community of Muslims) and qiyas (analogical reasoning) are generally regarded as the third and fourth sources of Sharia, but have been contested by some scholars.

Shi'a jurisprudence holds that hadith is secondary to the Qur'an, disregarding without further inquiries those hadith that contradict or abrogate Qur'anic verdicts. Also, qiyas and Ijma are not used as tools, while logic is. In contrast to Sunni's, Shi'a only follow the Ahl al-Bayt, or family of Muhammad with regards to fiqh, outright rejecting the views of those Muslims who fought with the Ahl al-Bayt.

Islamic law covers all aspects of life, from broad topics of governance and foreign relations all the way down to issues of daily living. Islamic laws that were covered expressly in the Qur’an were referred to as hudud laws and include specifically the five crimes of theft, highway robbery, intoxication, adultery and falsely accusing another of adultery, each of which has a prescribed "hadd" punishment that cannot be forgone or mitigated. The Qur'an also details laws of inheritance, marriage, restitution for injuries and murder, as well as rules for fasting, charity, and prayer. However, the prescriptions and prohibitions may be broad, so how they are applied in practice varies. Islamic scholars, the ulema, have elaborated systems of law on the basis of these broad rules, supplemented by the hadith reports of how Muhammad and his companions interpreted them.

In current times, as Islam has spread to non Arabic speaking countries such as Iran, Indonesia, Great Britain, and the United States, not all Muslims understand the Qur'an in its original Arabic. Thus, when Muslims are divided in how to handle situations, they seek the assistance of a mufti, an Islamic judge who can offer them advice based on the sharia.



Main article: Mosque

A mosque is a place of worship for Muslims. Muslims often refer to the mosque by its Arabic name, masjid. The word "mosque" in English refers to all types of buildings dedicated for Islamic worship, although there is a distinction in Arabic between the smaller, privately owned mosque and the larger, "collective" mosque (masjid jami), which has more community and social amenities. The primary purpose of the mosque is to serve as a place of prayer. Nevertheless, mosques are also for their importance to the Muslim community as meeting place and a place of study. They have developed significantly from the open-air spaces that were the Quba Mosque and Masjid al-Nabawi in the seventh century. Today, most mosques have elaborate domes, minarets, and prayer halls, demonstrating Islamic architecture.

According to Islamic beliefs, the first mosque in the world was the Kaaba, which was built by Abraham on an order from God. When Muhammad lived in Mecca, he viewed Kaaba as his first and principal mosque and performed prayers there together with his followers. Even when the pagan Arabs performed their rituals inside the Kaaba, Muhammad held the Kaaba in very high esteem. When Muhammad conquered Mecca in 630, he converted the Kaaba into a mosque, which has since become known as the Masjid al-Haram, or Sacred Mosque. The Masjid al-Haram was significantly expanded and improved in the early centuries of Islam in order to accommodate the increasing number of Muslims who either lived in the area or made the annual Hajj, or pilgrimage, to Mecca, before it acquired its present shape in 1577 in the reign of the Ottoman sultan Selim II.<ref name="Haram">Weinsinck, A.J. "Masdjid al-Haram.". Encyclopaedia of Islam Online. Ed. P.J. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C.E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel and W.P. Heinrichs. Brill Academic Publishers. ISSN 1573-3912.</ref>

The first thing Muhammad did upon arriving with his followers near Medina after the emigration from Mecca in 622 was build the Quba Mosque in a village outside Medina.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> Today, for the majority of Muslims Masjid al-Haram in Mecca, the Masjid al-Nabawi in Medina and Masjid al-Aqsa in Jerusalem are considered the three holiest sites in Islam.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>

Islamic calendar

Main article: Islamic calendar

Islam dates from the Hijra, or migration from Mecca to Medina of Muhammad and his followers. Year 1, AH (Anno Hegira) corresponds to AD 622 or 622 CE, depending on the notation preferred (see Common Era). It is a lunar calendar, but differs from other such calendars (e.g. the Celtic calendar) in that it omits intercalary months, being synchronized only with lunations, but not with the solar year, resulting in years of either 354 or 355 days. Therefore, Islamic dates cannot be converted to the usual CE/AD dates simply by adding 622 years. Islamic holy days fall on fixed dates of the lunar calendar, which means that they occur in different seasons in different years in the Gregorian calendar.

Customs and behavioral laws

Practitioners of Islam are generally taught to follow some specific customs in their daily lives. Most of these customs can be traced back to Abrahamic traditions in Pre-Islamic Arabian society.<ref>Ghamidi(2001), Sources of Islam</ref> Due to Muhammad's sanction or tacit approval of such practices, these customs are considered to be Sunnah (practices of Muhammad as part of the religion) by the Ummah(Muslim nation). It includes customs like saying Bismillah (in the name of God) before eating and drinking<ref>Sunan al-Tirmidhi 1513</ref> and then using the right hand for the purpose,<ref>Sahih Muslim 2020</ref> saying As-Salamu Alaykum (peace be upon you) when meeting someone and answering with Wa alaykumus-Salam (and peace be upon you),<ref>Sahih Bukhari 6234</ref> saying Alhamdulillah (all gratitude is for only Allah) when sneezing and responding with Yarhamukallah (God have mercy on you),<ref>Sahih Bukhari 6224</ref> and similarly saying the Adhan (prayer call) in the right ear of a newborn and the Iqama in his/her left. In the sphere of hygiene, it includes clipping the moustache, shaving the pubes, removing underarm hair, cutting nails, and circumcising the male offspring;<ref>Sahih Muslim 257</ref><ref>Sahih Muslim 258</ref> cleaning the nostrils, the mouth, and the teeth;<ref>Sahih Muslim 252</ref> cleaning the body after urination and defecation,<ref>Sunan Abu Da'ud 45</ref> and also abstention from sexual relations during the menstrual cycle and the puerperal discharge,<ref>Qur'an 2:222</ref> a ceremonial bath after the menstrual cycle, puerperal discharge, and Janabah (seminal/ovular discharge or sexual intercourse).<ref>Qur'an 4:43, 5:6</ref> Burial rituals include the funeral prayer<ref>Ghamidi, Various types of the prayer</ref> of the bathed<ref>Sahih Bukhari 1254</ref> and enshrouded dead body in coffin cloth<ref>Sahih Muslim 943</ref> and burying it in a grave. Festivals sanctioned by Sunnah are Eid ul-Fitr and Eid ul-Adha, which are celebrated on the 1st of Shawwal and the 10th of Dhu al-Hijjah<ref>Sunan Abu Da'ud 1134</ref> respectively.<ref name="cul">Ghamidi(2001), Customs and Behavioral Laws</ref>

Muslims, like Jews, are restricted in their diet. Food prohibitions include swine, blood, meat of dead animals except fish and locusts,<ref>Al-Zamakhshari. Al-Kashaf, vol. 1, (Beirut: Daru’l-Kitab al-‘Arabi), p. 215</ref> and all intoxicants including alcohol. All meat must come from a herbivorous animal slaughtered in the name of God by a Muslim, Jew, or Christian.<ref name="die">Ghamidi(2001), The dietary laws</ref>

See also: Islamic dietary laws


See also: Jihad and Itmam al-hujjah

Jihad is to strive or struggle in the way of God, and is sometimes referred to as the sixth pillar of Islam, although it has no official status.<ref name="jih">Esposito(2003), pp.93</ref> Jihad has a wider meaning in Islamic literature. It can be striving to lead a good Muslim life, praying and fasting regularly, being an attentive spouse and parent or working hard to spread the message of Islam.<ref>John Esposito(2002). Unholy war: terror in the name of Islam, Oxford University Press, US. ISBN 0195154355. pp.26</ref> Jihad is also used in the meaning of struggle for or defence of Islam, the holy war. Despite the fact that Jihad is not supposed to include aggressive warfare, this has occured, as exemplified by early extremists like Kharijites and contemporary groups like Egypt's Jihad Organization (which assasinated Anwar Al Sadat) as well as Jihad organizations in Lebanon, the Gulf states, and Indonesia.<ref name="jih"/>

In Muhammad's time, after Itmam al-hujjah (completion of the proof, a doctrine in Islam related to prophets), polytheists of Arabia were asked for submission to Islam as a condition for exoneration and the others for jizya and submission to the political authority of the Muslims for exemption from death punishment and for military protection as the dhimmis of the Muslims.<ref name="jgh">Ghamidi(2001), The Islamic Law of Jihad</ref> Islamic scholars have different opinions on Jihad, however, there is a consensus that armed struggle against persecution and oppression will always continue.<ref name="jgh"/>


Main article: Divisions of Islam

Part of a series on the Islamic creed:

Sunni Five Pillars of Islam

Shahādah - Profession of faith
Salat - Prayer
Zakât - Paying of alms (giving to the poor)
Sawm - Fasting during Ramadan
Hajj - Pilgrimage to Mecca

Sunni Six articles of belief

Tawhīd - Oneness
Nabi and Rusul - Prophets and Messengers
Kutub - Divinely Revealed Books.
Malā'ikah - Angels
Qiyâmah - Judgment Day
Qadar - Fate

Shia Twelvers
Principles of the Religion

Tawhīd - Oneness
Adalah - Justice
Nubuwwah - Prophethood
Imamah - Leadership
Qiyâmah - Judgment day

Shia Twelvers
Practices of the Religion

Salat - Prayer
Sawm - Fasting during Ramadan
Hajj - Pilgrimage to Mecca
Zakât - Poor-rate
Khums - One-fifth tax
Jihad - Struggle
Amr-Bil-Ma'rūf - Commanding good
Nahi-Anil-Munkar - Forbidding evil
Tawalla - Loving the Ahl al-Bayt
Tabarra - Disassociating Ahl al-Bayt's enemies

Shia Ismaili 7 pillars

Walayah - Guardianship
Taharah - Purity & cleanliness
Salat - Prayers
Zakât - Purifying religious dues
Sawm - Fasting during Ramadan
Hajj - Pilgrimage to Mecca
Jihad - Struggle


Salafi/Kharijite Sixth pillar of Islam.

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There are a number of Islamic religious denominations, each of which have significant theological and legal differences from each other but possess similar essential beliefs. The major schools of thought are Sunni and Shi'a; Sufism is generally considered to be a mystical inflection of Islam rather than a distinct school. According to most sources, present estimates indicate that approximately 85% of the world's Muslims are Sunni and approximately 15% are Shi'a.<ref> John L Esposito (2002). What Everyone Needs to Know About Islam. Oxford University Press US, p. 2. ISBN 0-19-515713-3.</ref><ref>Sunni and Shia Islam, Country Studies, retrieved April 04, 2006</ref>


The Sunni are the largest group in Islam. In Arabic, as-Sunnah literally means "principle" or "path." The sunnah, or example of Muhammad is described as a main pillar of Sunni doctrine, with the place of hadith having been argued by scholars as part of the sunnah. Sunnis recognize four major legal traditions, ormadhhabs: Maliki, Shafi'i, Hanafi, and Hanbali. All four accept the validity of the others and a Muslim might choose any one that he/she finds agreeable to his/her ideas. There are also several orthodox theological or philosophical traditions. The more recent Salafi movement among Sunnis, adherents of which often refuse to categorize themselves under any single legal tradition, sees itself as restorationist and claims to derive its teachings from the original sources of Islam.


Shi'a Muslims, the second-largest branch of Islam, differ from the Sunni in rejecting the authority of the first three caliphs. They honor different accounts of Muhammad (hadith) and have their own legal traditions. The concept of Imamah, or leadership, plays a central role in Shi'a doctrine. Shi'a Muslims hold that leadership should not be passed down through a system such as the caliphate, but rather, descendants of Muhammad should be given this right as Imams. Furthermore, they believe that the first Imam, Ali ibn Abu Talib, was explicitly appointed by Muhammad to be his successor.

See also: Historic background of the Sunni-Shi'a split


Sufism is a mystical form of Islam followed by some Muslims within both the Sunni and Shi'a sects. Sufis generally believe that following Islamic law is only the first step on the path to perfect submission; they focus on the internal or more spiritual aspects of Islam, such as perfecting one's faith and subduing one's own ego. Most Sufi orders, or tariqas, can be classified as either Sunni or Shi'a. However, there are some that are not easily categorized as either Sunni or Shi'a, such as the Bektashi. Sufis are found throughout the Islamic world, from Senegal to Indonesia. Their innovative beliefs and actions often come under criticism from Salafis, who consider certain practices to be against the letter of Islamic law.


Image:Dome of the rock distance.jpg
A view of the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, a holy site in Islam

Another sect which dates back to the early days of Islam is that of the Kharijites. The only surviving branch of the Kharijites are the Ibadi Muslims. Ibadism is distinguished from Shiism by its belief that the Imam (Leader) should be chosen solely on the basis of his faith, not on the basis of descent, and from Sunnism in its rejection of Uthman and Ali and strong emphasis on the need to depose unjust rulers. Ibadi Islam is noted for its strictness, but, unlike the Kharijites proper, Ibadis do not regard major sins as automatically making a Muslim an unbeliever. Most Ibadi Muslims live in Oman.

Islam and other religions

The Qur'an contains both injunctions to respect other religions, and to fight and subdue unbelievers during war. The Qur'an respects Jews and Christians as fellow monotheists following Abrahamic religions. The Qur'an however claimed that "it was restoring the pure monotheism of Abraham which had been corrupted in various, not clearly specified, ways by Jews and Christians." <ref> The Cambridge History of Islam, p.43-44 </ref> (the charge of altering the scripture may mean no more than giving false interpretations to some passages, though in later Islam it was taken to mean that parts of the Bible are corrupt.<ref> Watt, Muhammad: Prophet and Statesman, p.116 </ref>)

Until relatively modern times, tolerance in the treatment of non-believers, at least as it is understood in the West after John Locke, was neither valued, nor its absence condemned by both Muslims and Christians.<ref>Bernard Lewis (1995) p. 211, Mark Cohen (1995) p.xix </ref> The fair and usual definition of tolerance as understood and applied in pre-modern times was that: "I am in charge. I will allow you some though not all of the rights and privileges that I enjoy, provided that you behave yourself according to rules that I will lay down and enforce." <ref name=LewisBrandeis1>Lewis, Bernard. "The New Anti-Semitism", The American Scholar, Volume 75 No. 1, Winter 2006, pp. 25-36. The paper is based on a lecture delivered at Brandeis University on March 24, 2004.</ref> Traditionally Jews and Christians living in Muslim lands, known as dhimmis were allowed to "practice their religion, subject to certain conditions, and to enjoy a measure of communal autonomy" and guaranteed their personal safety and security of property, in return for paying the jizya (a per capita tax imposed on free adult males) to Muslims. <ref> Lewis (1984), pp. 10, 20 </ref> They had several social and legal disabilities. Many of the disabilities were highly symbolic. The most degrading one was the requirement of distinctive clothing, invented in early medieval Baghdad, though its enforcement was highly erratic and a practice not found in the Qur'an or hadith. <ref> Lewis, Bernard. Semites and Anti-Semites: An Inquiry Into Conflict and Prejudice, 1999, W. W. Norton & Company press, ISBN 0-393-31839-7, p.131. </ref> However, persecution in the form of violent and active repression was rare and atypical <ref> Lewis (1984) p. 8,62 </ref> While recognizing the inferior status of dhimmis under Islamic rule, Bernard Lewis, Professor Emeritus of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University, states that in most respects their position was "very much easier than that of non-Christians or even of heretical Christians in medieval Europe":<ref> Lewis (1984) p. 62, Mark Cohen (1995) p. xvii </ref> For example, in contrast, Dhimmis rarely faced martyrdom or exile, or forced compulsion to change their religion, and they were mostly free in their choice of residence and profession. <ref> Lewis (1999) p.131 </ref> Most conversions were voluntary and happened for a number of different reasons. However there were forced conversions mostly in the 12th century under the Almohad dynasty of North Africa and al-Andalus as well as in Persia. <ref> Lewis (1984), pp. 17, 18, 94, 95; Stillman (1979), p. 27 </ref>

Related faiths

The Yazidi, Druze, Bábísm, Bahá'í Faith, Berghouata and Ha-Mim religions either emerged out of an Islamic milieu or have beliefs in common with Islam in varying degrees; in almost all cases those religions were also influenced by traditional beliefs in the regions where they emerged, but consider themselves independent religions with distinct laws and institutions. The last two religions no longer have any followers. Sikhism's holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib, contains writings not only by Sikh saints but by Hindu and Muslim writers <ref name="parrinderp259">Parrinder, Geoffrey (1971). World Religions: From Ancient History to the Present. United States: Hamlyn Publishing Group Limited, 259. ISBN 0-87196-129-6.</ref>.


Image:Califate 750.jpg
The territory of the Caliphate in the year 750
Main article: History of Islam
Further information: Caliph and Islamic Golden Age

Islam began in Arabia in the 7th century under the leadership of Muhammad, who united the tribes of Arabia under Islamic law. Muhammad died in 632 without appointing a successor or leaving in place a system for choosing one. As a result, the caliphate was established. Caliph is the title for the leader of the Ummah, or community of Islam. It is a transliterated version of the Arabic word "Khalīfah" which means "successor". Muhammad's revelations were compiled as the Qur'an, which was accepted as a supreme authority, limiting what a caliph could legitimately command. However, the early caliphs believed themselves to be the spiritual and temporal leaders of Islam, and insisted that obedience to the caliph in all things was the hallmark of the good Muslim. The role became strictly temporal however, on the rise of the ulama.

After the first four caliphs (Abu Bakr, Umar ibn al-Khattab, Uthman ibn Affan, and Ali ibn Abi Talib), know as the Rightly Guided Caliphs, the title was claimed by the Umayyads, the Abbasids, and the Ottomans, as well as by other competing lineages in Spain, Northern Africa, and Egypt. Within a century of Muhammad's death, an Islamic state stretched from the Atlantic Ocean in the west to central Asia in the east; however, it was soon riven by civil war. Afterwards, there were always rival dynasties claiming the caliphate, and many Islamic states or empires offered only token obedience to an increasingly powerless caliph. The title has been defunct since the Republic of Turkey abolished the Ottoman caliphate in 1924.

Despite this fragmentation of Islam as a political community, the empires of the Abbasid caliphs, the Mughals, Safavid Persia and the Ottomans were among the largest and most powerful in the world. Many Islamic centers of culture and science produced notable scientists, astronomers, mathematicians, doctors and philosophers during the Golden Age of Islam. Technology flourished; there was much investment in economic infrastructure, such as irrigation systems and canals; stress on the importance of reading the Qur'an produced a comparatively high level of literacy in the general populace.

Islam at its geographical height stretched for thousands of miles. Islamic conquest into Christian Europe spread as far as southern France. After the disastrous defeat of the Byzantines at the Battle of Manzikert in 1071, Christian Europe, at the behest of the Pope, launched a series of Crusades and for a time captured Jerusalem. Saladin, however, recaptured Palestine and defeated the Shiite Fatimids.

In the 15th century and 16th centuries three major Muslim empires were created: the Ottoman Empire in much of the Middle East, Balkans and Northern Africa; the Safavid Empire in Iran; and the Mughul Empire in India. These new imperial powers were made possible by the discovery and exploitation of gunpowder, and more efficient administration.<ref>Armstrong (2000) p. 116</ref>

By the end of the 19th century, however all three had declined due to internal conflict and were later destroyed by Western cultural influence and military ambitions. Following World War I, the remnants of the Ottoman Empire were parceled out as European protectorates or spheres of influence. Many Islamic countries have been formed from these protectorates, such as Iraq, Iran, and Lebanon. Islam and Islamic political power have become much more influential in the 21st century, particularly due to Islamic control of most of the world's oil.[citation needed]Islamicization, the process of the conversion of societies to Islam, originally closely followed the rapid growth of the Arab Empire in the first centuries after Muhammad's death. Muslim dynasties were soon established in North Africa, the Middle East and Persia and the the indigenous population gradually cobverted to Islam. Although the expansion of Muslim empires eventually slowed, conversion to Islam continued in other ways. Muslim countries dominated trade in the Indian Ocean and the Sahara and it was through trade, Sufi preachers, and interaction with locals that Islam grew in areas such as the Sahel and the East Indies.

Contemporary Islam

Distribution of Islam per country. Green represents a Sunni majority and blue represents a Shia majority.
See also: Islam by country and Demographics of Islam

Although the most prominent movement in Islam in recent times has been fundamentalist Islamism, there are a number of liberal movements within Islam and reformists, which seek alternative ways to align the Islamic faith with contemporary questions.

Early Sharia had a much more flexible character than is currently associated with Islamic jurisprudence, and many modern Muslim scholars believe that it should be renewed, and the classical jurists lose their special status. This would require formulating a new fiqh suitable for the modern world, e.g. as proposed by advocates of the Islamization of knowledge, and would deal with the modern context. One vehicle proposed for such a change has been the revival of the principle of ijtihad, or independent reasoning by a qualified Islamic scholar, which has lain dormant for centuries.[citation needed] This movement does not aim to challenge the fundamentals of Islam; rather, it seeks to clear away misinterpretations and to free the way for the renewal of the previous status of the Islamic world as a centre of modern thought and freedom.[citation needed]

Many Muslims counter the claim that only "liberalization" of the Islamic Sharia law can lead to distinguishing between tradition and true Islam by saying that meaningful "fundamentalism", by definition, will eject non-Islamic cultural inventions — for instance, acknowledging and implementing Muhammad's insistence that women have God-given rights that no human being may legally infringe upon. Proponents of modern Islamic philosophy sometimes respond to this by arguing that, as a practical matter, "fundamentalism" in popular discourse about Islam may actually refer, not to core precepts of the faith, but to various systems of cultural traditionalism.

Commonly cited estimates of the Muslim population today range between 900 million and 1.5 billion people (cf.; estimates of Islam by country based on U.S. State Department figures yield a total of 1.48 billion, while the Muslim delegation at the United Nations quoted 1.2 billion as the global Muslim population in September 2005.[citation needed]

Only 18% of Muslims live in the Arab world; 20% are found in Sub-Saharan Africa, about 30% in the South Asian region of Pakistan, India and Bangladesh, and the world's largest single Muslim community (within the bounds of one nation) is in Indonesia. There are also significant Muslim populations in China, Europe, Central Asia, and Russia.

Political and religious extremism

The term Islamism describes a set of political ideologies derived from Islamic fundamentalism.<ref>Encyclopedia of the Orient</ref> Most Islamist ideologies hold that Islam is not only a religion, but also a political system that governs the legal, economic and social imperatives of the state according to interpretations of Islamic Law.

Islamic extremist terrorism refers to acts of terrorism claimed by its supporters and practitioners to be in furtherance of the goals of Islam. Its prevalence has heavily increased in recent years, and it has become a contentious political issue in many nations.

The validity of an Islamic justification for these acts is contested by some Muslims.<ref>Islam Denounces Terrorism Harun Yahya</ref><ref>Muslims against Terrorism</ref> Islamic extremist violence is not synonymous with all terrorist activities committed by Muslims: nationalists, separatists, and others in the Muslim world often derive inspiration from secular ideologies.<ref>The Philosopher of Islamic Terror New York Times</ref>

Criticism of Islam

Main article: Criticism of Islam
The neutrality of this section is disputed.
Please see the discussion on the talk page.

The earliest surviving written criticisms of Islam are to be found in the writings of Christians who came under the early dominion of the Islamic empire. One such Christian was John of Damascus (born c. 676), who was familiar with both Islam and Arabic. The second chapter of his book, The Fount of Wisdom, titled 'Concerning Heresies' presents a series of discussions between Christians and Muslims. John claimed a Nestorian monk influenced Muhammad.<ref name="John of Damascus1"> The Muslim World, Volume XLI (1951), pages 88-99, [1] </ref><ref name="John of Damascus2"> De Haeresibus by John of Damascus. See Migne. Patrologia Graeca, vol. 94, 1864, cols 763-73. An English translation by the Reverend John W Voorhis appeared in THE MOSLEM WORLD for October 1954, pp. 392-398. </ref>

Some medieval ecclesiastical writers portrayed Muhammad as possessed by Satan, a "precursor of the Antichrist" or the Antichrist himself.<ref name="Oussani"> Mohammed and Mohammedanism, by Gabriel Oussani, Catholic Encyclopedia, retrieved April 16, 2006</ref> Maimonides, one of the foremost rabbinical arbiters and philosophers in Jewish history, saw the relation of Islam to Judaism as primarily theoretical. Maimonides has no quarrel with the strict monotheism of Islam, but finds fault with the practical politics of Muslim regimes. Maimonides criticised what he perceived as the lack of virtue in the way Muslims rule their societies and relate to one another.<ref> The Mind of Maimonides, by David Novak, retrieved April 29, 2006 </ref>

In recent years, Islam has been the subject of criticism and controversy, and is often viewed with considerable negativity in the West.<ref>Ernst, Carl (2002), Following Muhammad : rethinking Islam in the contemporary world, University of North Carolina Press, ISBN 0-8078-2837-8 p. 11</ref> Islam, the Qur'an, and Muhammad, have all been subject to both criticism and vilification, some of which has been dismissed as a product of Islamophobia.<ref> Ernst (2002) p. 11 </ref> Notable modern critics include Evangelical leader Pat Robertson, who stated that Islam wants to take over the world, that radical Muslims are "satanic", and that Osama Bin Laden was a "true follower of Muhammad".<ref>"Evangelical broadcaster Pat Robertson calls radical Muslims 'satanic'", Associated Press, 2006-03-14. Retrieved on 2006-07-21.</ref><ref>"Top US evangelist targets Islam", BBC News, 2006-03-14. Retrieved on 2006-07-21.</ref> Some critics argue that in Islam women have fewer rights than men and that non-Muslims under the dhimmi system have fewer rights than Muslims.[citation needed] According to Freedom House, Saudi Arabia relegates women to second-class citizenship. "Women are not treated as equal members of society. They may not legally drive cars, and their use of public facilities is restricted when men are present. ...Laws discriminate against women in a range of matters including family law, and a woman's testimony is treated as inferior to a man's in court." <ref>[2]</ref>

There is a body of modern Western scholarship about the origins of the Qur'an which uses different methods from traditional Islamic exegesis and which is perceived by some to be critical of Islam. This includes the work of such scholars as John Wansbrough, Patricia Crone and Christoph Luxenberg. Luxenberg's conclusions have been cited by Ibn Warraq who is prominent as a general critic of Islam.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>

See also

Further information: List of Islamic and Muslim-related topics


<references />


External links

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