World Religions Islam: Origins and Foundations of the World Religion
The Prophet Mohammed
"Chatter! Stargazer! Mad poet!" This is what some citizens of Mecca call him. Yet Muhammad was a respected man in the Arabian trading city. A merchant known as "the trustworthy one" has called. And now this: Mohammed has had an apparition. An angel, he says, told him he was a prophet, a messenger from God. And that is why Mohammed now wants to turn people away from their selfish lives, from their belief in idols and spirits or even holy dates.
All believers should pray to only one God: to "Allah". The Meccans do not like this at all. For they worship many different gods, and some families even have their own household gods.
But Mohammed preaches tirelessly – until twelve years after his enlightenment he leaves his homeland, where hardly anyone wants to hear his teachings. The inhabitants of the oasis of Jathrib, many days’ march away, are currently looking for a mediator to end the war between two hostile tribes.
And indeed: He, the stranger, succeeds in ending the dispute. The former opponents join together to form a community. With the departure of Muhammad to Jathrib on 16. July 622 according to the Christian calendar, a new era began for Muslims: the year "1" of Islam.
The emergence of Islam
Islam? This is the name of the faith that Mohammed preaches. "Devotion to God" it is translated. And "those who submit to God Is the translation for the word Muslims. As in Christianity In Islam, too, there are not many gods, but only one, Allah. But unlike Christians in Christianity, Muslims do not worship a holy spirit or a savior like Jesus Christ in their religion.
Muhammad is for the believers a simple, mortal man. His teachings promise a happy, peaceful life to anyone who follows the laws of Allah. And after death? Muslims believe that God will pass judgment on everyone: Those who have obeyed Allah’s laws will go to paradise, but disbelievers and hypocrites will sink into hell.
Muhammad’s God is the same as the one spoken of in the Christian Bible. Muhammad’s followers believe that Allah repeatedly sent prophets like Abraham, Moses and Jesus to proclaim the right faith.
The teachings of Islam
For them, Mohammed is the last and most important of these messengers of God. And Islam for the believers more than a religion. It is the set of rules for everyday life: how to pay your debts? How to clean the hands after the meal? How to punish a thief? Mohammed gives answers to all this. For 22 years he receives messages from Allah. It is said that a shudder comes over him every time before Allah reveals himself to him.
In any case, most of the inhabitants of Jathrib become Muslim, and Mohammed becomes their leader. The oasis is now called Medina: "City of the Prophet". In 630, Muhammad marches with 10,000 men into Mecca, his hometown.
Here stands the Kaaba, a cube-shaped building in the courtyard of the Holy Mosque, where the Arab inhabitants worship their idols. The prophet has the idols destroyed and consecrates the building Allah. Since then, the Kaaba has been the religion’s most important shrine. Muhammad shows mercy to the defeated, and many Meccans join Islam.
But then the prophet dies, presumably on 8. June 632. His teaching of the religion, however, remains: For many followers wrote down on parchment, leather scraps and pieces of bleached bone what Muhammad passed down to them as the word of God. Later, all this is summarized in a book: the Koran.
The faiths of Islam
Mohammed did not appoint a successor. And so the Muslim community falls apart soon after his death: one group, the so-called Sunnis, follows Abu Bekr, who becomes their supreme politician and judge, their caliph. Another group that Shiites, wants to elect Mohammed’s cousin Ali as caliph. When Ali was assassinated in 661, Sunnis and Shiites split – a division that continues to this day.
With the death of the Prophet Muhammad and disagreement over his succession, the separation of the two faith groups begins. The Shiites, followers of the Shia, make up only about one tenth of the faithful Muslims today. Many Shiites live in Iran, Iraq and Azerbaijan. The majority of Muslims belong to the Sunnis, a faith group that believes in the Sunna believes. The Sunna refers to all that Mohammed said and decided according to the tradition of the Koran.
In 1924, the caliphate was finally abolished, leaving Sunnis without a recognized religious leader since that year. For the Shiites, the imam plays an important role. As a spiritual leader, the imam is the religious authority . As a result, the Imam also has a lot of worldly power.
The spread of Islam
Despite disputes within the community – the influence of Muslims is growing worldwide. They conquer Damascus, Jerusalem, Egypt, southern Spain and parts of Afghanistan. When they occupy Byzantium, today’s Istanbul in Turkey, they choose its city emblem as their symbol: the crescent moon, called Hilal.
The conquerors take an example from the Prophet Mohammed and show tolerance toward those of other faiths: Jews and Christians are allowed – against payment of a sum of money – to keep their faith, because their religious writings (the Torah and the Bible) are sacred works for Muslims as well.
Muslim books, the knowledge of the earth and the universe – they help, according to the followers of Allah, to better understand God and the world he created. Islamic researchers therefore have observatories built, draw world maps, discover medicines and mathematical formulas.
Words like algebra, number or alcohol are creations of Muslim scientists. "The ink of the Muslim scholars is more precious than the blood of the martyr (a person who dies for his conviction).", Mohammed is said to have said.
Islam in today’s world
The religion continues to spread over the centuries: Today, some 1.3 billion people live by the precepts of Allah – or about one-fifth of the world’s population – most of them in North Africa and Asia. But also in countries like the USA, Germany, Russia or France.
For most Muslims, Islam is simply their peaceful private faith. Others, however, want to base their entire lives, and even all laws, on religion and prohibit other opinions and beliefs. This happened until recently in Afghanistan, for example, where the laws of Islam were cruelly abused to oppress women, persecute people with different views, ban music and dance, cinema and photography.
In Oman, for example, a small state in the east of the Arabian Peninsula, Islam is the state religion and a sultan rules. Women and girls wear headscarves, yet are not discriminated against and the strict Muslim laws are applied only in a few cases. Yes, the Christians and Hindus living there are even allowed to build churches and temples. Everyone is allowed to pray to his god and live out his religion.
Islam in Germany
The socio-political question of whether Islam belongs to Germany is always the subject of controversy. Because this question is accompanied by questions about social identity and the actual integration of Muslims and the religion.
Islam has been part of the German reality since the 1960s, when so-called guest workers from Muslim countries immigrated to Germany through the Anwerbeabkommen (1961) and settled in this country.
Incidentally, more than twenty percent of the workers recruited at that time were women from Turkey: many single women, but also married women, traveled to Germany in order to be able to support their families financially. A few years later, Muslim workers from North Africa also arrived.
For many of the guest workers, Germany became a new home, and so many brought their families to Germany. For a long time, religious life was conducted in so-called "backyard mosques" The most simple rooms, in which devout Muslims met for prayer, were practiced in the past.
The five pillars of Islam
Become the five most important duties in the life of a Muslim "Pillars of Islam" called.
The first pillar is the confession to Allah and his prophet, Shahada: "There is no deity but God, and Muhammad is the prophet of God." To accept Islam as a faith, it is enough to say this sentence with sincere intention.
Prayer, five times a day, is the second pillar – called Salat. Muslims do not need to go to a mosque, the Islamic house of worship, to read it. You can pray and bow towards Mecca where you are.
The tax on the poor, Sakat, is the third pillar: once a year, Muslims – if they are not poor themselves – are supposed to give 2.5 percent of their income to needy people.
The fourth pillar is called Saum, fasting during Ramadan, the ninth month in the Islamic calendar. During this time, Muslims are not allowed to eat, drink, smoke, or have sexual intercourse while the sun is in the sky. The old, the sick, children, pregnant women and travelers are exempt from fasting.
The fifth pillar, the Hajj, is the pilgrimage to Mecca. Every Muslim should travel to this holy city in Saudi Arabia at least once in his life and circle the Kaaba in the mosque seven times. The Kaaba stands in the center of the "Al-Haram Mosque". In this mosque, pilgrims say prayers and touch a sacred stone set into the Kaaba.
The Koran – the holy book
For Muslims it is clear: Mohammed did not write the Koran, but the holy book comes directly from God. In a cave the angel Gabriel is said to have appeared to the Prophet for the first time. He showed Mohammed an excerpt of the Koran and ordered him to read the text aloud – or so Muslims believe.
These were the first of a total of 6236 verses of the Koran. Even today, the texts of the holy book are recited aloud in the mosque. The Prophet spoke them in Arabic: thus, for Muslims, only the Arabic Koran reflects the true words of Allah.
The Koran is divided into 114 chapters, the suras. They are arranged according to length: The long ones are at the front, the short ones at the back. Only the first and particularly short sura entitled "The Opening" makes an exception. And what does the Koran say? In many suras Allah’s uniqueness is praised. In others, the Last Judgment is described: the day when it will be decided whether each person will go to Paradise or Hell.
But the Koran also contains rules for the everyday life of Muslims, such as how to wash before praying or how to dress. The Koran is therefore a book about God, but also a collection of rules.
Since not all questions of life are answered in the book of the Koran, the deeds and Arabic sayings of Muhammad are considered a kind of supplement to the Koran – summarized in six volumes. The content of these books is called Hadith or Sunnah.
The Qur’an and the Sunna together make up Islamic law: the Shari’ah.
Islamist terrorism: killing for Allah
In the name of every religion injustice has already been committed. And this is also how Islam is misused by some people. You hear about them in newspapers and on the news: Muslims who blow themselves up with bombs or kill people just because they have a different opinion or religion.
In Egypt, for example, there are Muslims who demand that only the rules of the Koran apply in their Arab country. Often referred to as "Islamists called "fundamentalists or "Islamic extremists.
There are several reasons why these people use violence: Some of them believe the world has reverted to the age of godlessness, and feel it is a religious duty to fight all dissenters.
This fight is a "holy war" for them – or "jihad, as some Islamists call him. This word has nothing to do with war, but simply means "to strive". It describes the effort to educate themselves.
Some Islamists see themselves threatened by progress, afraid of losing their Arab culture and Muslim religion. Others are desperate, feeling unfree and oppressed in their countries. Out of their anger and sorrow comes hatred.
And finally, some even have the hope that a death for Islam will immediately bring them to paradise. A false belief, say many Islam experts. And also the vast majority of Muslims want nothing to do with violence. They want to follow the laws of Allah – and simply live in peace.