The Inclusivity of Islam Essay
The Inclusivity of Islam
There exists today an innumerable count of religions. This situation occurs simply because the definition of religion includes, “a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects” (religion, n.d.). Since this definition does not specify what the ‘number of persons’ includes, two people might share a common belief and call it a religion. Many of the world’s leading identified religions, are permeated with the idea, perception, or determination that one religion is preferred, or better, or more right, over another. This is not the case within the religion of Islam. This faith tradition “offers hope for salvation to the righteous and God-fearing of all religions” (Masud, 2005). In this sense, Islam is more inclusive than many other religions. There is much about this faith that is not widely known, properly identified, or openly discussed; especially in light of recent media events.
According to the CIA’s World Factbook, documentation of religious adherents is noted as, “Christians 33.03% (of which Roman Catholics are 17.33%, Protestants 5.8%, Orthodox 3.42%, Anglicans 1.23%), Muslims 20.12%, Hindus 13.34%, Buddhists 5.89%, Sikhs 0.39%, Jews 0.23%, other religions 12.61%, non-religious 12.03%, atheists 2.36%” (CIA,2004). Today, nearly one-fifth of the world’s population adheres to the Islam faith. Islam traces its spiritual roots back to Abraham and his son Ishmael.
Ishmael is said to be the son of Abraham by his slave wife, Hagar. Christian Old Testament scriptures indicate that Hagar and her son were taken into the dessert and removed from the family because of the jealousy of Abraham’s wife Sarah. Tradition tells that Abraham and his son Ishmael built a sanctuary to God, whom Ishmael called Allah. This sanctuary, known as the Ka’bah, is the holiest of holy sanctuaries in the Islamic faith. It is also written that Abraham’s son, Isaac, called God Abba (meaning father) where Ishmael called God Allah, meaning the same. Where Judaism follows the traditions of God through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; Islam follows the traditions of the same deity God through Abraham, Ishmael and subsequent elected leaders.
The mission of Islam is to reform society, to actively combat oppression and corruption by inviting all that is good, enjoying all that is right, and forbidding all that is wrong. Additionally, Islam not only calls people back to faith, but creates a moral order in the world as the embodiment of God’s commandments (Fisher, 2002)
To the faithful followers of Islam (called Muslims) the doctrine of Islam is simplistic. The word islam is Arabic which is synonymous with peace, purity, acceptance and commitment. As a religion, “Islam calls for complete acceptance of the teachings and guidance of God. A practicing Muslim is one who freely and willingly accepts the supreme power of God and strives to organize his life in total accord with the teachings of God” (Fisher,2002). Devout Muslims believe that Islam encompasses any monotheistic religion, since all monotheistic religions honor God called by different names and having different attributes. Islam also honors the prophets of these other faiths as messengers of Allah. There are many attributes of the one God of Islam. These attributes include:
Allah’s Unity: Allah is one person, essence and being. He is not, as Christians believe, three persons in one being, but rather one tightly connected deity.
Allah’s Sovereignty: Allah is the primary cause of all events that have, are, and will ever take place.
Allah’s Omniscience: Allah knows all things, past, present, and future. Allah is not in time, but transcends it. Allah sees time as an ever present now.
Allah’s Omnipotence: Allah is all powerful, displayed in nature and His ability to do as he pleases, which implies the power to do so.
Allah’s Eternality: Allah never had a beginning and will never have an end. He is uncaused and necessary. It is impossible for Allah to ever not be.
Allah as Revealer: Allah is seen in nature and in the pinnacle of creating, man, but chiefly in His direct contact with the prophets he chose. Allah has revealed Himself to every nation, but that over the course of time only four of these revelations were kept, namely, the Law of Moses, the Psalms of David, the Gospel of Jesus, and chiefly, the Qur’an (Robinson, 1995).
Muslims believe there are many attributes of God, and these attributes are presented in the divine revelations of the Qur’an as given to the Prophet Muhammad.
The foundations of the Islamic faith include 5 pillars. These pillars are patterns for worship and highly detailed prescriptions for social conduct. The basic premise underlying each pillar is that Allah is to be present in every aspect of human existence. The pillars provide adjunctions against specific behaviors and positive measures which commend human aspects of kindness, justice and charity. The 5 pillars of this faith include: believing and progressing the unity of God by providing an informed choice for people to believe, continual prayer, zakat or spiritual tithing, frequent fasting, and hajj, or the pilgrimage to the city of Mecca at least once in a Muslim’s lifetime. In addition, “all persons are equal before God; goodness is the only criterion of worth” (Masud, 2005).
The Qur’an is the sacred text of Islam and is a series of revelations that were given to Muhammad; who was considered to be the perfect model of the teachings of the Qur’an. These texts emphasize the religious unity of Jews, Christians and Muslims as all members of the foundational membership of the monotheistic faith. The text mentions prophets and highly recognized figures from the Jewish and Christian sacred texts of the Torah and the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. Tradition tells that Muhammad the prophet ascended through the 7 heavens where he met with the former prophets and teachers including Adam, Abraham, Ishmael, and Jesus. Divine inspiration was given to Muhammad to be the Qur’an which is the final corrective in the continuing tradition that was started with Judaism and Christianity.
Devout Muslims believe memorization of the Qur’an is the ultimate respect to Allah. Reciting the Qur’an is said to provide healing and soothing qualities. Memorization of the Qur’an by Muslims begins at a very early age of childhood, as children memorize easily and benefit from a lifetime of dedication to the words of the Qur’an. In this manner, an entire life is affected rather than simply the adult years.
Muhammad is the prophet of Islam. Muhammad was born in 632 c.e. and died at the age of 62. Being born into a family of split faith traditions of Judaism and Islam, Muhammad was identified as the prophet who would provide the final directives from Allah on how to live a Godly life. His experiences during times of revelation have been documented and are followed today. While the Islamic faith detests division of any form, there exists division within this faith. However, this division comes in the fashion of who rightfully succeeded Muhammad, and is not a division within the beliefs of the doctrine.
When Muhammad died, he had not identified a successor to lead the Muslim people. Tradition tells that Muhammad transferred his spiritual light to Fatima, the wife of his cousin ‘Ali. There is one faction of Muslims who believe ‘Ali should have been the rightful successor. These are the Shi’a, or Shiites. Shiites maintain that the true lineage of Muhammad should have been his successors. Following Muhammad’s death, the faithful followers elected Abu Bakr, Muhammad’s faithful friend and staunch supporter, as the Caliph; or successor to the prophet. Caliphs have been elected by the people since Abu Bakr. These followers are the Sunnis. While Sunnis follow the elected Caliph, Shiites follow the successor in the lineage of Muhammad.
Yet another distinction within the Muslim community is the Sufites. Those who follow Sufism are devout Muslims who live lives of poverty; believing that Allah will provide for their needs, just as He does the birds of the air, if one only has trust and faith. Sifites receive criticism from some Muslims indicating that they should not live with their heads so far in the heavens that their feet are not on the ground.
Judaism, Christianity and Islam each find its traditions dating through the Jewish lineage to Abraham; who is considered to be the father of all faiths. Many theologians agree that Judaism is the foundation of Christianity, and Islam builds on Christianity to be the final corrective word from God, Abba, Allah. The biggest differentiation between these three faith traditions is seen in the ‘humanness’ of God. The Jewish tradition sees God as the Creator, Christianity acknowledges God as a triune being of Creator, Christ and Holy Spirit, and Islam views Allah as one and only authority to which a life should be lived in complete surrender. Each tradition identifies a time or day of judgment when all beings will be accountable for the actions of their life.
In the end, who will be ‘right’ or will all be the same?
CIA, 2004, electronically retrieved on October 25, 2007 from http://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/print/xx.html
Fisher, M. P., 2002, Living Religions, 5th Edition, Prentice-Hall, Ch. 10, pg. 367
Fisher, M. P., 2002, Living Religions, 5th Edition, Prentice-Hall, Ch. 10, pg. 369
Masud, E., 2005, The Truth About Islam, electronically retrieved October 24, 2007 from http://www.twf.org/Truth.html
religion. (n.d.). Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1). Retrieved October 25, 2007, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/religion
Robinson, B.A., 1995, electronically retrieved on October 27, 2007 from http://www.religioustolerance.org/islam.htm
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