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Islam – The Fastest Growing Religion in the World

ISLAM:

The Religion of Muslims and Mohammed

Islam is a monotheistic religion that believes in the prophecy of Abraham through the Qur’an,which is considered to be the verbatim word of god (Allah), and Mohammed’s (600CE) example . Mohammed is considered to be the last prophet of god. Any adherent to the religion is called Muslim.

Practitioners believe god is all-powerful, incomparable, and that the purpose of their existence is to worship god. Muslim adherents believe their faith is a complete and universal truth passed down from Abraham, Noah, Adam Moses, and Jesus. They consider the Qur’an to be the final revelation of god and believe strongly in 5 pillars or concepts at the foundation of Islam.

Islam_Mosque

The Five Pillars:

  1. Faith – the creed of Islam recited under oath
  2. Prayer – also known as salat, these are rituals prayers during the day
  3. Zakat – alms giving and supporting the poor
  4. Fasting – performed usually during Ramadhan
  5. Pilgrimage to the mecca to follow in Abraham’s footstep ritualistically

There are two primary sects of the religion: Sunni(75-90%) and Shia(10-20%). 13% of Muslims live in Indonesia, 25% in South Asia, 20% in the Middle East, and 15% in Sub-Saharan Africa. Its followers comprise 23% of the world’s population.

Islam in the Modern World

Islam is one of the most submissive religions in the world. They recite oaths of submission to god’s will and believe the purpose of their existence is to worship god, which puts them in a state of complete surrender. This surrender leads to them feeling safe and at peace with their existence under god. They consider the Qur’an to be the true and unaltered word of god. They believe their holy books are the truth.68% and 80% of Shias lived in four countries: Iran, Pakistan, India and Iraq. Islam also has many laws that affect nearly every aspect of life for adherents. Islam has many very strict beliefs which has led to misinterpretation and misunderstanding over the past millennia, especially within the religion of Islam. One of these misunderstood concepts is the concept of Jihad.

Most Muslims are NOT Violent!

It is important to understand that even though people in America and the Western world think that Islam might be a violent religion, it is the exact opposite. 6.5% of the Muslims in the world felt that the attacks of 9/11 were justified and represents about 65 million Muslims; still a very large population, but a small percentage of the 1.65 billion muslims.

There are a few beliefs in Islam that when combined, create beliefs that create room for justify truly extremist acts such as 9/11, because of various verses in the Qur’an and different influential leaders promoting extremist action. There is absolutely an in-group that is created within the believers of Islam where the believers feel that they are special and correct in their beliefs, especially opposed to Christians, Jews, and other western religions.

The beliefs of Jihad, Predestination, and many of the literal interpretations of the Qur’an have led to an explosive anti-hero/terrorist movement in many of the sects that are highly devotional and in poorer countries with less education and rights. This has led to holy wars in the 1980s in Northern Africa and the Middle East and culminates in Osama Bin Laden’s declaration jihad against the United States and subsequent attacks on New York on September 11th. Bin Laden was a part of al-Quaeda whose goal was Islamic world domination, but this is an extremist group. The vast majority is Muslims are not members of al-Quaeda or ISIS and even the members of those groups are most likely deluded and heavily traumatized.

ISIS: An Evolution from Al-Quaeda

ISIS, or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria is a salafi jihadist militant and extremist group that has proclaimed itself the caliph recently, on June 29th 2014, which means religious, military, and political power of muslims worldwide. Of course, the vast majority of muslims want nothing to do with this, but the insurgence has spread recently into northern Africa and has gained momentum. The group has significant momentum since it is formed from the remaining members of al-Qaeda, but at this point the two have separated completely in ideologies and ISIS has become a unique entity in and of itself. The Syrian Civil war was an excuse for extremists to militarize in conjunction with Iraqi militants and jihadists fleeing the presence of the United States military.

Now the two forces of al-Qaeda and ISIS are competing for militant recruitment in places like Yemen and Syria. There is also a presence in the Philippines, Libya, Pakistan, Algeria, Egypt, Nigeria, Afganistan, and of course in Iraq.

The goal of the group is to found the Sunni Islamic State under the caliph who is believed to be the successor to Muhammed. This Salafi group promotes religious violence and regards all others as infidels or apostates. This is a waves of religious fundamentalism that enforces rituals with capital punishment and execution. The religion is their foundation for growing power of the religious state.

This is one of the most interesting sects of the religion, but represents a minority; though they are proficient at using social media to display their horrific actions. They are regarded by the western world as extremist terrorists and rightfully so. Even the majority of their own religion deem them to be deluded extremists.

Positive Aspects of the Islamic State

The vast majority of the adherents of Islam do not fit the profile I described above. In fact, the majority of the Muslims that I have met have been extremely kind and well-wishing, welcoming and neighborly. I even met a very peaceful guy from Yemen while I was in India whose family was involved in the Civil War. It is very sad for everyone to see this kind of violence and trauma and there is not much logic that can explain why it occurs.

Ritual Prayers

Salah or Salat must be performed five times a day with no exemptions. Salat is intended to focus the mind upon god and is seen as a personal communication with him of gratitude and worship. Lines of the Qur’an are recited in Arabaic. Mosques are places that are available for prayer, or as places or study, or learning.

Discipline

Both fasting, alms giving to the poor, and pilgrimages are required in the religion, yielding trials of great difficulty for adherents.

Home Life

The religion is primarily focused on life at home, though many religious texts sanctify the beating of women. There is special etiquette and diet including no meat, carrion, alcohol, or blood. Marriage in Islam is a civil acceptance where the groom is required to pay for the bride as a part of their contract.

Criticisms of Islam

Criticism of Islam has existed since its inception, for obvious reasons as the religion is a reformation from Judaism and Christianity. Early criticism came from Christians as radical heresy and later appeared more significantly from Judaism.

The majority of the criticisms are the morality of the life of Mohammed, issues relating the authenticity of the Qur’an and other questions of human rights, especially in regards to women. The questions of the founder’s authenticity and the authenticity of holy works are the criticisms of every major religion including christianity, Judaism, and Buddhism.

Conclusion

Islam obviously has its own ups and downs as a religion, but its impact upon the civil rights of humans has to be mitigated if the religion will survive in the western world. However, much of the extremist propaganda is currently growing in northern Africa and the Middle East, of particulate note to the United States and Europe. This will be a religion whose ideals are dynamic and that changes drastically to fit the changing cultures of its proprietors.

 

I would love to hear about any experiences that you have had with the Islamic adherents that you have met or any other surprises you have gotten from adherents of the religion. Check back in a week to pagayogi.com for my next article on the ideals of Islam and how terrorism and heroism have intersected to form an ideology that is changing the world.

References:

  1. Wikipedia
  2. Islam Origins
  3. An Overview of Islam
  4. The Belief System of Islam
  5. Problems in Modern Islam
  6. The Biggest Problem in Islam
  7. Heavy Review of Islam
  8. 25 Deadly Terrorist Attacks
  9. FBI on Terrorism
  10. Islam and Violence

 

Islam – The Fastest Growing Religion in the World Read More »

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Questioning Faith

“This is what happens when you give yourself to love completely, my son” the priest sighed, continuing to stare at the crucifix. His own distaste at the particularly vivid depiction was apparent. It was almost like Jesus was there.

The boy, only eight, looked up again at the statue, hung over the altar in the center of the church. He wondered how they had lifted it there. He was so used to seeing the crucifix that it had almost no effect on him. It’s not that he didn’t love Jesus, but he didn’t understand what it meant. Why was this nice man, who had helped many people, killed for what he had done? And why was everyone so concerned about it? He had learned about Albert Einstein in second grade, he had done a book report on him. Why wasn’t Albert Einstein in the church? He had also learned about Gandhi in first grade, and also wondered why Gandhi wasn’t in the church. There were lots of people he had never heard of, Peter, Judas, Luke, Matthew, but none of the people he had learned about in his history classes.

“Father, I don’t understand, why is Jesus the one above the altar? We learned about mother Theresa and Gandhi, and Martin Luther King in school. Why aren’t they in the church, or above the altar?”

“Well, my son, there are really many reasons why Jesus is your savior.”

“My savior?” said the boy. “What does that mean?”

“That means he came to Earth, to save you from your sins.”

“What sins father?” said the boy. He obviously did not understand.

“Whenever a human is born, they are born with sin my son. This is the story of Adam and Eve, in the book of Genesis. Eve, the woman, bit the apple when she was tempted by satan, the serpent, and unearthed the path of knowledge for humanity. This is our essential flaw, that our ancestors chose for us.”

“But I don’t want to be bad father! I want to be good, like Jesus, and Mary, and Joseph!”

“Then ask Jesus for forgiveness, my son. I can help you with this.” The priest said with a kind smile. “I have studied Jesus for my whole life, so we can talk about him together.” The priests smile grew with each word, excited to help this child learn more about god and Jesus.

“Aren’t we talking about him right now?” said the boy.

“Well, you need to confess your sins. Otherwise, god cannot forgive you.”

“But if god already knows my sins, like you said today when you said god is all-powerful, all-knowing, all-knowing and all-forgiving, doesn’t he just forgive me? I don’t mean to forget my homework, or leave my gym shorts at home, so won’t god just forgive me?”

“No my son. You need to recognize your sins as sins in order for them to be forgiven. You have to ask, god will answer in his own way.”

“So if I ask god for a new bike, he’ll give me one if I’m good?!?” the boy said with newfound enthusiasm in his eyes. The priests smile faded into a heart laugh, full of empathy.

“No, my son, god does not work like that.”

“So I can ask for forgiveness and he gives it without question, but he won’t give me a new bike if I’m good? What gives? I thought god was all-powerful and if I’m good, I think I should get a bike. Don’t you, father?”

“Things appear in our lives when they are meant to my son. God will give you this gift if he sees fit to award you with it. And yes son, I think you should get a bike. Maybe you should talk to your parents about it.”

“Good idea!” the boy said enthusiastically, but the priest could tell that he still had questions.

“What else concerns you, my son? Why do you look like you are still in contemplation. Can I answer any more questions for you?” he said slowly, making sure the boy felt comfortable to express his feelings. He prided himself on making his church safe and available for the youth, after all, they are the future.

“Well, I still don’t understand what made Jesus so special. Why can’t I be like Jesus? I want to do miracles and help the poor and teach people about happiness and love, just like him!”

“Jesus was special my son. He is god’s son and he sacrificed himself, despite his own divinity, to show humanity the power of love.” He gestured to the altar. “This is the ultimate love, my son.”

“But so did Martin Luther King and all of the martyrs. I just don’t understand why Jesus was different from them.” the boy looked ashamed and hung his head.

“Doubt is a part of faith my son. It makes you stronger, there is no shame.” He held the boy’s head up and looked into his eyes. “Jesus was different, because he chose. He knew that he was going to die, yet he chose to continue on his path. That is what makes him special, son. That is why he was the son of god.” The priest released his gaze and looked back to the cross. “He chose to suffer, to come to Earth, to teach us how to love, despite knowing that he would be crucified.”

“Wow.” The boy sat for a moment in thought. “So while he was in heaven, he decided that he would go to Earth, even though he would be tortured and killed? So Jesus knows the future?”

“Of course, my son. Jesus and God are the same.”

“But why didn’t god to come to tell us himself? Why did he need to have a son?”

“Because God does not take human form, my son. His divinity is too complete. Jesus needed to be sent so that we could see and understand.”

“But doesn’t that mean that he isn’t all powerful? If he had to send his son instead of himself, then he couldn’t come to teach us, right?” the boy now looked confused and disappointed. His brow was heavy.

The priest took his time to respond. He knew that his answer would be important, “I don’t think it is a question of power, or of god not being powerful enough to come himself. Jesus is god in human form. They are the same, there is no difference.”

“But Jesus died,” the boy said with certainty. “Doesn’t that mean that god died?”

The priest looked down. No one had ever asked him this before. “Well, god can’t die son. In the same way, Jesus can’t die. That’s why he rose from the dead. Because he was God, and death has no power over God.”

“But Jesus isn’t around now… If he was all-powerful, why did he only stay for 40 days after he died and was resurrected, instead of living for all of eternity with humanity? Wouldn’t that be more representative of his love, rather than dying for sins? He could still talk to us and teach us so much! He could be the world leader!”

“That’s not how it works, son.”

“How do you know? You aren’t Jesus, maybe you don’t know him as well as you think…”

“Son, I have spent my life studying Jesus’ work. I eat, sleep, and live by his work. Why do you think I don’t know Jesus?” the priest said with serious consternation. The smile was gone.

“Well, what if he is different from the stories. I mean, what makes the Bible different from any other book? I really don’t understand it, because my mom showed me the Veda and some Buddhist scriptures, and they have the same stories as the bible. What makes it so special?”

“Well, son, it was written by God.” The priest’s smile returned in full force.

“How do you know?” The priest’s smile faded into a frown, to match the boy’s seriousness. The priest could tell that he wasn’t going to stop.

“Faith, my son. I believe the Bible was written by god, and therefore I study it and live by it.” the priest talked slowly and deliberately, making sure to put some serious resonance in his voice.

“So you just believe? You don’t think about it? It’s really hard for me to believe that someone was eaten by a whale and lived, or that Jesus rose someone from the dead father. How can you just believe these things?” The boy looked concerned, confused, and frustrated, all at the same time.

“I do think about it son. But my faith is greater. So I believe in these godly. So that my soul can find eternal repose in Heaven, with God and Jesus.”

“Father, I just don’t understand. What if they are wrong and you have wasted your life worshipping Jesus as God when he was like you and me and Martin Luther King? A human, and not a God?”

“Son, now its my turn to play the skeptic.” As the priest spoke, a wry smile came to his lips, though it was a grin of understanding, rather than deceit.

“My boy, I can see God within you, even as we speak. His will is strong in you and the strong question, search, and decide for themselves. So I will tell you what I learned from Voltaire, ‘I believe in God because if he does exist, I will be eternally rewarded in heaven. If God does not exist, then there is nothing after death and my faith will have not mattered in the first place.’”

The boy looked strongly at the priest, as though he was deciding something. Then, without warning, he hugged the priest. “Thank you, father.”

Then the boy walked from the church, unconvinced and uncertain, but knowing that he could return whenever he needed to.

 

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