Islam: An Introduction


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One issue that readers may have with Islam: An Introduction is that Professor Raudvere speeds through the sections on Islamist thinkers. We learn a little about Taqi al-Din Ahmad ibn Taymiyya and Muhammad Ibn Abd al-Wahhab and the conservative Hanbali tradition that they both drew on to form ideas that would be picked up by later Islamists. But it feels a bit rushed. A more nuanced understanding of Islam is certainly needed in the English-speaking world and this book will contribute to that.

But it is still worth a read. He is a freelance journalist and part-time English teacher who lives and works in the UK and Turkey. Click here to cancel reply.

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Introduction to Islam – Smarthistory

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Non-Muslims, the people of the book Christians and Jews , are not required to pay Zakat but another tax, called Jizyah. Fasting from dawn to sunset during the month of Ramadan, the ninth month in the Islamic lunar calendar, is required of those whose health permits. The Islamic lunar calendar is 11 days shorter than the Gregorian calendar, thus the annual shift of Ramadan's occurrence in relationship to the Gregorian calendar.


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  • It is a complete fast, requiring that nothing be taken into the body but needed medication. During Ramadan there is an emphasis on piety and religious observances. Those who are ill or traveling do not have to fast during Ramadan but must compensate by fasting and by contributing to the Zakat. Ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, That ye may learn self-restraint, The pilgrimage to Mecca once in one's lifetime is required of all those who have the physical and financial ability to make the journey.

    The practice derives from the divine mandate given Muhammad to rebuild the first temple of worship to God in Mecca.

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    The pilgrimage requirement makes this desert city a gathering place for people from all parts of the world once a year. The rituals of the hajj were established by the Prophet.

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    They emphasize repentance, resulting in forgiveness by God. The practice also strengthens the bond among the faithful from all walks of life and regions of the world. It is performed during the Islamic lunar month of Dhu al-hijja. Within today's city, at the center of the Sacred Mosque is the focal point of Islamic prayer worldwide—the Ka'ba.

    The meter-high 48' , roughly cubical structure was first built as a place for worship of the one God by Ibrahim Abraham and Isma'il Ishmael , and it is thus a physical reminder of the links between Islam and the dawn of monotheism, between the Qur'an and previous revelations, and between the Prophet Muhammad and earlier Messengers of God.

    The Qur'an does not state the number and manner of prayers; these were established by the Prophet. The required individual prayers are said five times a day: at dawn, noon when the sun is at the center of the sky , afternoon when the sun is halfway to sunset sunset, and night after sunset but before sunrise.

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    The only required communal prayer is the Friday noon prayer. Prayers can also be communal; that is, in fact, the preferred way. When so conducted, the prayers are led by an im am, who is usually either a person schooled in Islam or simply one among the group who is more knowledgeable, older, or recognized by the others as being especially pious.

    Muslims stand shoulder to shoulder and kneel a number of times, depending on whether it is the morning prayer twice or the late-night prayer four times. Standing shoulder to shoulder, irrespective of status in life, symbolizes equality before God. In Islam, as the Prophet said, no man is better than another save for his piety, which only Allah can judge. At each kneeling, the Muslim places his forehead on the ground, a symbol of the equality of all men, humility, worship of the Creator, and the fact that from earth we come and to earth we return.

    All praying Muslims face Mecca, where the Ka'ba is located. It is the qibla the direction which provides unity and uniformity for all Muslims. At an earlier time, it was the practice to face Jerusalem, the second holiest city in Islam. The Ka'ba holds the remnants of Abraham's temple. In the only European nation with a Muslim majority, Albania's population again throngs to the mosques since the downfall of Communism in The imam does not necessarily have any special religious status in Sunni tradition just because he is the prayer leader However, he could be a person whose schooling or training conferred on him special status, as is the case with the ulema or scholars, plural of alem.

    One attains this status after having pursued an extensive education in theology throughout secondary, college, and graduate study at a theological university. Before prayers, Muslims are required to perform ablutions, which include washing the face, arms, and feet in a ritual prescribed by the Prophet. This is not only for the purposes of cleanliness, but to provide a break from prior activity.

    Before ablutions and prayers, a Muslim must confirm within himself his intention to pray. The prayers are usually announced by means of a summons or call to prayer the adhan by the muadhin, who chants or intones it. There is no particular religious status conveyed by this responsibility; the muadhin is usually a pious member of the community who has a particularly strong or resonant voice.

    The call to prayer starts with "Allahu akbar" God is great , words frequently used by Muslims either in prayers or in other contexts as a reaffirmation of the oneness and omnipotence of the Creator. The expression "al-hamdu lillah" thanks be to God is also among the phrases most commonly used by Muslims.

    They are used in any situation in which a grateful or thankful response is apposite. They are a reminder that God's will and bounty are everything. The mosque is a symbol of the uncompromising nature of Islamic monotheism. It has a distinctive architecture, which includes a minaret for the call to prayer. It does not contain any images that might be associated with religious idolatry, which Islam forbids. The architecture of mosques built over fourteen centuries in various parts of the Muslim world is an unsurpassed artistic legacy.

    The floors of mosque are sometimes covered with straw mats or rugs. Muslims remove their shoes before entering so as not to soil the place where they touch their foreheads to the floor to pray. Let there be no no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error: whoever rejects evil and believes in God hath grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold, that never breaks. And God heareth and knoweth all things.

    The Qur'an is the principal source of Islamic law, the Sharia. It contains the rules by which the Muslim world is governed or should govern itself and forms the basis for relations between man and God, between individuals, whether Muslim or non-Muslim, as well as between man and things which are part of creation.

    The Sharia contains the rules by which a Muslim society is organized and governed, and it provides the means to resolve conflicts among individuals and between the individual and the state. There is no dispute among Muslims that the Qur'an is the basis of the Sharia and that its specific provisions are to be scrupulously observed.

    The Hadith and Sunna are complementary sources to the Qur'an and consist of the sayings of the Prophet and accounts of his deeds. The Sunna helps to explain the Qur'an, but it may not be interpreted or applied in any way which is inconsistent with the Qur'an. Though there are other sources of law—i. Other sources of law and rules of interpretation of the Qur'an and the Hadith and Sunna follow in accordance with a generally accepted jurisprudential scheme.

    The Qur'an contains a variety of law-making provisions and legal proscriptions interspersed throughout its chapters suwar and verses ayat. A number of rules exist for interpreting these provisions, such as the position of a given ayah within the context of the surah, which in turn is interpreted in accordance with its place in the sequence of revelations, its reference to other revelations, and its historical context in relation to particular conditions which existed at the time of the given revelation.

    These and other rules are known as the science of interpretation ilm usul aI-fiqh. According to these rules, for example, one initially is to refer to a specific provision and then to a general provision dealing with a particular situation. No general provision can be interpreted to contradict a specific provision, and a specific rule will supersede a general proposition. A general provision, however, is always interpreted in the broadest manner, while a specific provision is interpreted in the narrowest manner.

    Reasoning by analogy is permitted, as are applications by analogy, except where expressly prohibited. Simplicity and clear language are always preferred. Similarly, the clear spirit of certain prescriptions cannot be altered by inconsistent interpretations. A policy-oriented interpretation within the confines of the rules of jurisprudence is permissible and even recommended, as is the case with the doctrine of ijtihad progressive reasoning by analogy.

    If the Imam errs it is better that he errs in favor of innocence pardon than in favor of guilt punishment. Muslim scholars do not consider Islam to be an evolving religion, but rather a religion and legal system which applies to all times. It is, therefore, the application that is susceptible to evolution.

    Indeed, the provisions of the Qur'an are such that by their disciplined interpretation, with the aid of the Hadith and Sunna and other sources of interpretation, Islam can, as intended, provide the solution to contemporary social problems. Fourteen centuries ago Islam was a spiritual, social, and legal revolution.

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