OceanSide church of Christ
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Victor M. Eskew
This is the second article in a series on Islam. The purpose of this series is to introduce our readers to some of the basic elements of the religion of Islam. These lessons are designed to do several things. First, they will give our readers a better understanding of the world religion called Islam. Second, they will enable our readers to comprehend the things that are happening in our nation and throughout the world. Third, these articles will help all to see the contrast between Christianity and Islam.
In our last article, we briefly introduced you to four things: 1) The definitions of Islam and Muslim, 2) The founder of Islam, a man named Muhammad, 3) The holy book of Islam, the Qur’an, and 4) The holy sites of the Islamic faith. In this article, we want to continue to introduce you to some of the basic elements of Islam.
Thousands and thousands of people around the world are becoming Muslims. Some might wonder: “How does a person become a Muslim?” It is not a difficult process. Becoming a Muslim involves the acknowledgement of six core beliefs of the Islamic faith. First, one must believe in the oneness of Allah. Muslims believe that only one being is divine. They do not believe in polytheism, and, they reject the doctrine of the Trinity of the Christian faith. Second, a believer must acknowledge all of God’s messengers. The names of many of these messengers are familiar to all, Adam, Moses, and Jesus Christ. In addition to these, one must acknowledge that Muhammad is God’s final messenger to the world. Third, one who embraces Islam must believe in God’s holy books. The Qur’an is the most popular and well-known book, but there are additional holy books that must be acknowledged as well. We will study these in more detail in later installments. These books involve the laws that govern the Islamic religion. Three other beliefs must be confessed to become a Muslim: a belief in angels, a belief in the Day of Judgment, and a belief in divine destiny. If a person is willing to profess his faith in these six things, he can instantly become part of the membership of Islam.
Once a person has become a Muslim, there are core practices that become part of one’s life. There are five practices that are called “The Pillars of Islam.” The first pillar is the Declaration of Faith. This is also called “shahadah.” The declaration simply says: “There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his messenger.” Most Muslims will state is with these words: “Allah is the only God, and Muhammad is his prophet.” These two acknowledgements lie at the heart of Islam. Everything hinges upon these two affirmations.
The second Pillar of Islam is prayer. Every Muslim is supposed to pray to Allah five times a day. These prayers are to be said at specific times. They also involve specific movements and words. Additional prayers can also be spoken at these times as well.
The third Pillar Islam is called “Zakat.” This is an amount of money required to be given each year. “Zakat is payable at 2.5% of the wealth one possesses above the nisab” (www.irusa.org, “Zakat”). The word zakat means “purification, growth, and blessing. This offering, better known as a tax, reminds the Muslim of the blessings he has received from Allah. These funds are collected at the mosque and are used to aid Islamic causes throughout the world.
The fourth Pillar of Islam is fasting. Fasting is done during the month Ramadan, Islam’s holy month. It is done from sunrise till sunset each day. This fast includes abstinence from food, drink, and sexual pleasures. Allowances are made for the elderly, the sick, the mentally ill, pregnant, nursing and menstruating women.
The fifth Pillar of Islam is called Hajj. This duty involves a one-time pilgrimage to Mecca by the believer. To fulfill the requirements of Hajj, the trip must be taken during the last month of the Islamic year, the month Dhu al-Hijja. Again, exceptions are made for those who are physically or financially unable to make the trip.
Let’s shift of focus now to the two major groups of Muslims in the world. In the news, we often hear the words “Shiites” and Sunnis.” These two groups formed after the sudden, unexpected death of Muhammad in 632. The question arose about who was qualified to be a successor to “the prophet.” The Shiites believed that the successor should be a direct descendant of Muhammad. The Sunnis believed that a pious person who would follow the prophet’s customs would be an acceptable leader. Today, about 10% of Muslims are Shiites and 90% are Sunnis. The division runs deep and has been the cause of many struggles and wars among the Muslims.
In this last section, let’s look at a few statistics regarding the Muslim world.
1. More than 50 countries have Muslim majority populations.
2. Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and India have the largest Muslim populations.
3. In the United States, there are between six and seven million Muslims.
4. Presently, there are 3186 mosques, worship centers, in the United States.
5. Muslims in the U.S. tend to be affluent with 60% having a bachelor’s degree and 50% making over $50,000 annually.
6. Eight out of ten Muslims are registered to vote in the U.S.
7. The party distribution among Muslims is: Democrat (42%), Republican (17%), and Independent (28%).
Islam has a presence in almost every country in the world. The principle goal of Islam is
to bring Islamic law to every nation in the world. Islam is not going away. In fact, every day it is growing stronger. Citizens of the United States, and especially Christians, must become educated about Islam. We hope this series of articles will contribute to this education.