Islam


Islam
   Literally, ‘submission’ to the will of God. The word islam is etymologically related to the Arabic word salam and so carries a connotation of ‘peace’ as well. As one of the great monotheistic religions, Islam recognizes an important continuity with the Judeo-Christian lineage, viewing its predecessors not so much as alternative religions, but rather as incomplete, misunderstood or corrupted versions of itself. Of the three, Islam is the most uncompromisingly monotheistic, insisting upon God’s absolute unity and uniqueness. Like Judaism and Christianity, it holds that God is the all-knowing and allpowerful Creator of the universe, that He has created it for a purpose, that He is personally concerned with the particularities of human affairs, and that He intervenes in history at pivotal moments. For Muslims, the most important of these interventions occurred between 610 and 632 ce, when God chose Muhammad as His last and greatest prophet and disclosed a series of revelations to him through the angel Jibril. These revelations, known collectively as the Qur’an, provide human beings with a law that makes known God’s will and specifies certain beliefs and practices. On the Last Day, or the Day of Resurrection (yawm al-qiyama), God will judge each person based on whether or not he or she lived in accordance with His will and accordingly reward them in Paradise (al-janna, lit. ‘the Garden’) or punish them in Hell (al-nar, lit. ‘the Fire’). Like Judaism (but unlike Christianity), Islam has a pronounced legalistic dimension. The Qur’an’s requirements and prohibitions, supplemented by reports of the deeds and sayings of Muhammad and his companions, were soon codified by various schools of jurisprudence as Islamic law (shari‘a). The five ‘pillars’ of Islam (arkan alislam) comprise the basic practices required of every Muslim: the shahada or profession of faith (‘There is no god but God and Muhammad is His Messenger’), salat or the prayer ritual (performed five times daily), zakat or the giving of charity, sawm or fasting during the month of Ramadan, and hajj or making the pilgrimage to Mecca. These observances function as a kind of external sign of submission to the will of God, but Muslims generally agree that it must be accompanied by an interior faith or belief (iman) as well. It should be noted that Islam signifies not only the religion revealed to Muhammad by God and its codification as Islamic law, but also the community (umma, milla) of the faithful. In spite of this general sense of identity and solidarity, there are various tendencies, schools, movements and sects within Islam. The most fundamental of these differences is the division between the Sunnis and the Shi‘ites, which primarily has to do with the theologico-political question of who should lead the Muslim community.
   Further reading: Esposito 1991/2004; Hodgson 1974; McAuliffe 2001–6; Rahman 1979

Islamic Philosophy. . 2007.

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