Muslim

A Muslim is a believer in or follower of Islam. The word Muslim means one who submits and implies complete submission to the will of God. Muslims believe that nature is itself Islamic, since it follows natural laws placed by God.

Thus a Muslim strives to surrender to God's commands every step of the way. There is no distinction made between daily life and religion or politics.

The basic beliefs of Muslims are: belief in God, His angels, His revealed Books, His Messengers, and the Day of Judgement, and affirmation of fate and the Divine Decree, the good of it and the bad of it.

The Five Pillars of Islam on which a Muslim's life is founded are:

  • The Testimony that there is none worthy of worship except God and that Muhammad (صلى الله عليه وسلم) is his messenger.
  • Establishing of the five daily Prayers (Salaah).
  • The Giving of Zakaah (charity), which is generally 2.5% of the yearly savings for a rich man working in trade or industry, and 10% or 20% of the produce for agriculturists. This money or produce is distributed among the poor.
  • Refraining from eating, drinking and having sex from dawn to dusk in the month of Ramadhaan (Sawm).
  • The Pilgrimage (Hajj) to Makkah during the month of Zul Hijjah, which compulsory once in a lifetime for one who has the ability to do it.

Until recently the word was usually spelled Moslem; that spelling is now discouraged. Many English-language writers used to call Muslims "Mohamedans" or "Mohametans", meaning "followers of Mohammed", but this terminology is considered incorrect and insulting, because it is taken to imply that they worship the prophet Muhammad, contrary to the fundamental principles of Islam itself. By contrast, the term "Christian" does correctly imply the worship of Jesus Christ and the belief in his own ideas as divine. Muslims consider Muhammad and Jesus ("Isa") both to have been prophets of God.

Muslim civilization is over fourteen centuries old, and is one of the greatest world civilizations. Early Muslim philosophy is widely credited with being the vital bridge between classical Greco-Roman civilization and the Europeans of The Renaissance. What Europeans call the "Dark Ages" were in fact the golden age of civilization for Muslims and Islam itself, which spread extremely rapidly through Asia to China in its first decades of existence, and then spread more slowly to Africa and Indonesia.

During that time, the principal language of religion and science for all Muslims was Arabic, and for many, it was also the language of daily life. A list of Islamic terms in Arabic provides simple definitions of the most important concepts by which society, religion and law were ruled.

Under the Ottoman Empire and later under colonialism and the British Empire, practices (especially fiqh or jurisprudence) ossified, and failed to keep up with al-urf, or change in culture. Muslim culture began to revive after World War I, and some consider 1979 to be a crucial year when several events (peace between Israel and Egypt, Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and Iranian revolution) conspired to "wake up" the Muslim civilization. Shortly therafter, innovative programs such as the Islamization of knowledge began to emerge, and these are presently spreading widely.

There are 1.2 billion Muslims presently on Earth, almost entirely in the Eastern Hemisphere concentrated on the equator, with some in Europe. Small populations of four million in the US and two million in Canada are the largest in the Western Hemisphere.

The ten countries with the largest Muslim populations (comprising three quarters of the worldwide Muslim population) are as follows (rough estimates in 2002, in millions)

Both the Arab and the Non-Arab Muslims pray in Arabic. Generally the non-Arabic languages of the Muslims are also written in Arabic script with few modifications, therefore the Muslims in non-Arabic countries are able to read the Qur'an with little difficulty

Muslims today disagree significantly on how one should reconcile modernity and enlightenment values with adherence to Islam as a faith and way of life. The Islamist is a new form of Islam which views its teachings as the original, authentic form of Islam, and which views other forms of Islam as corrupted and illegitimate. In contrast, many in Sufi Islam see the incorporation of modern enlightenment values consistent with the original theological program that they believe Islam was based on. In between these two views one can find a wide array of beliefs in Shiite and Sunni Islam.

There are distinctions between those who seek to live their lives as the first three generations of Islam did, and those who seek to change or reform Islam to conform to today's international norms. All the major denominations of Islam are fundamentalist, in the technical sense of the term. The term "fundamentalist" describes a movement to return to what it considers the defining or founding principles of the religion. For religious fundamentalists, their sacred scriptures are the words of God. Fundamentalist beliefs depends on the twin doctrines that God articulated His will precisely to prophets, and that they also have a reliable and perfect record of that revelation, which has been passed down to our day in an unbroken chain of tradition. Since Scripture is the word of God, no one has the right to change it or disagree with it. There are no denominations of Islam that have a liberal theological approach, but there are many individuals who promote such a point of view. For more on these topics, please see the articles on Islamic fundamentalism, Modern Islamic philosophy and Islam.

Muslim culture

One of the tenets of Islam is that all mankind is one, so many Muslims do not reject inter-racial marriage.

See also: Islam -- List of noted Muslims -- List of Islamic terms in Arabic Qur'an -- Muslim names -- Islam in France




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