This depends on both what is meant by “modernity” and the varied interpretations by Muslims on this subject. If by modernity one means science, the scientific method and technological advances, then we know that scientific exploration and technological innovation flourished in the Islamic cultures of the Middle Ages, commonly known as the Golden Age of Islam. And today, millions of Muslims are involved, often in leading positions, in the fields of science, mathematics, medicine, engineering and other scientific fields. If by modernity one means democracy and individual rights such as freedom of thought, expression religion, and conscience, then Muslim attitudes vary. While some Muslims view these rights as secondary to religious principles conveyed by Islam, others, including, as we explain in the introduction to these questions, consider these rights to be fundamental principles of Islam; a Pew poll of Muslims worldwide taken in 2013 showed substantial majorities in favor of democracy and religious freedom. Some Muslims cite the tradition of ijtihad (independent thinking) as an essential aspect of Islamic scholarly tradition that fosters reform, reinterpretation, and the exploration and advocacy of new ideas. However many Muslims, like members of other religious groups, are concerned about the devastating effects that modernity and its accompanying technological advances, when influenced only by factors relating to economic profit and short-term gain, have had upon our environment and the world.
Category: ISLAM AND MODERNITY
While the Qur’an describes situations where women can initiate divorce, the ease with which she can do so is often informed by interpretations or practices of Islam that vary widely from country to country. In some Muslim-majority countries, a woman can get a divorce relatively easily while in other countries the continuing influence of patriarchy makes this much more difficult.
While divorce is generally allowed in Muslim communities, there is a hadith (prophetic saying) describing divorce as “the most hated lawful thing,” because it breaks up the family. Muslims generally encourage couples considering divorce to make use of counseling and mediation. However, if these attempts fail, divorce as a last option is allowed and may, in some situations, be the best attainable outcome.
Since polygamy was only permitted to provide for widowed women and their children, this purpose would not be served by polyandry, i.e. the marriage of a woman to more than one man, hence there was no point in permitting it.
It depends on the conditions. We believe that monogamy is the ideal in marriage, as reflected in God’s creation of life in pairs of male and female, as mentioned in various Qur’anic verses. Where polygamy is illegal, then it is illegal for Muslims to marry more than one wife, which is the case in the U.S. and other Western as well as in many Muslim countries. The Qur’an does, however, allow men to marry more than one wife with the condition that he treat all wives equally, a standard that even the Quran warns is difficult to achieve, clearly implying a preference for monogamy. The Qur’an declared polygamy permissible 1400 years ago in the context of war, when caring for orphans was a major concern; polygamy in this situation was supposed to assist widowed women with children who otherwise would have been left to fend for themselves in a brutally patriarchal social order. Polygamy was, of course, not peculiar to the Arabian peninsula; it was widespread in many cultures, including that represented by the Hebrew Bible, where the Patriarchs are all depicted as having multiple wives and Israelite kings had harems numbering in the hundreds.
This depends on what one means by “arranged marriage” and on the culture one is dealing with. If by “arranged marriage” one means simply that a couple first meets through referrals by family or friends (“matchmaking”) and then is free to choose to marry or not, this is still a common practice among Muslims, although increasingly young Muslims, like young people of any other religion, are meeting in school, at work, or online. If, however, “arranged marriage” refers to a situation in which a person (this can impact both the man or the woman, but is generally associated with the woman) is forced into a marriage against his or her will, then many contemporary Muslims cite prophetic sayings that uphold a woman’s right to accept or reject a marriage proposal.
Marriage ceremonies among Muslims, like marriage ceremonies everywhere, vary widely in different locales and cultures. However, the actual Islamic marriage ceremony generally includes the bride and groom, the bride’s father or guardian, an officiator, and two witnesses. The ceremony includes the marriage proposal and acceptance and the presenting of a gift called mahr by the groom to the bride. The wedding celebration after the ceremony varies widely from culture to culture, but generally involves food, special clothing, and some form of celebration. In some societies, there may also be several days of celebration leading up to or after the wedding.
Today there is great diversity in both thinking and practice on this question. Traditionally, Muslim men may marry women who are of the “People of the Book,” generally defined as Christians and Jews. In this case, a Muslim husband must guarantee the right of his Christian or Jewish wife to worship God according to her religious beliefs. The reverse, i.e., a Muslim woman marrying a man outside her religion, has traditionally not been allowed, on the grounds that her husband might not guarantee her the right to practice her religion, since he may not to have the same obligation to respect her religion that a Muslim has towards his Christian or Jewish wife. Therefore, for the protection of her freedom of religion, a Muslim woman has traditionally been required to marry a man who will give her the right to practice her faith—that is, a Muslim. This view is based on the patriarchal assumption that the man wields the dominant power in the household and has, therefore, been called into question by some contemporary Muslims, who also cite the absence of a specific text prohibiting such a marriage.
Individual Muslims follow differing guidelines in this matter. Our understanding from the Qur’an and hadith (prophetic sayings) is that people of the opposite gender should avoid situations, relationships, or actions that might lead to a violation of the principle that couples should abstain from sexual intimacy until after marriage.
This is a misconception concerning Islamic history. According to historians, there have been thousands of female Muslim scholars throughout Islamic history, many of whom were teachers of renowned male scholars. Some notable examples include:
- Rabi’ah Bint Mu’awwad, a great scholar of fiqh (jurisprudence), who taught scholars of Medina.
- A’isha bint Sa’d bint ibn Abi Waqqas, whose pupils included Imam Malik.
- Sayyida Nafisa, the granddaughter of Hasan, whose pupils included Imam Shafi’i.
- A’isha bint Abu Bakr, wife of the Prophet and narrator of over 2,000 hadith (prophetic sayings).
- Dr. Kecia Ali, professor of Religious Studies at Boston University.
- Dr. Asifa Quraishi, professor of Law at the University of Wisconsin Law School, who in 2010 was part of a public delegation accompanying Hillary Clinton to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.
- Dr. Amina Wadud, author of the books Qur’an and Woman and Inside the Gender Jihad and cofounder of the organization Sisters in Islam.
- Dr. Zainab Alwani, professor of Islamic Studies at Howard University, Vice President of the Fiqh Council of North America.
- Dr. Intisar Rabb, professor of Law at Harvard Law School and a director of its Islamic Legal Studies Program.
- Dr. Hafez Barazangi, research fellow at the Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Cornell University.
- Dr. Laleh Bakhtiar, noted author and translator, famous for her translation of the Quran into English.
- Dr. Aminah McCloud, professor of Religious Studies and Director of Islamic World Studies Program at DePaul University.
- Dr. Ingrid Mattson, professor of Islamic Studies and the London and Windsor Community Chair in Islamic Studies at Huron University College at the University of Western Ontario in London, Canada.
In recent decades women have been heads of state in several Muslim-majority nations:
- Sheikh Hasina, prime minister of Bangladesh, 1996-2001 and 2009-present.
- Khaleda Zia, prime minister of Bangladesh, 1991-1996 and 2001-2006.
- Benazir Bhutto, prime minister of Pakistan, 1998-1990 and 1993-1996.
- Tansu Çiller, prime minister of Turkey, 1993-1996.
- Megawati Sukarnoputri, president of Indonesia, 2001-2004.
- Tawakul Karman, a leader of the Arab Spring in Yemen, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011.
- Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan, famous for her defense of women’s right to education, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014.
- Dr. Ingrid Mattson of the U.S. served two terms as the president of the largest Muslim membership organization in the country, the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA).
- Maha Elgenaidi, founder and CEO of Islamic Networks Group (ING).
- Azizah al-Hibri, founder and president of KARAMAH: Muslim Women Lawyers for Human Rights.
- Tayyibah Taylor, late founder, publisher, and editor-in-chief of Azizah magazine.
Domestic violence and spousal abuse violate the Islamic principle of respect for human dignity; if severe enough, they may even violate the principle of respect for life. According to classical Islamic law, spousal abuse is grounds for a Muslim woman to initiate divorce. The extant biographies of Muhammad record him as never having hit a woman or even a child and as condemning those who did.
This depends on the family’s culture and circumstances; it is not necessarily based on religion. According to the scholars we rely on, nothing in the Qur’an or hadith (prophetic saying) prohibits women from working. In fact, in most Muslim communities, Muslim women work outside the home. Increasing numbers of Muslim women throughout the world are employed in various highlevel professions, including those that are male dominated, such as medicine and engineering. This is true even in countries known to have a conservative understanding of Islam, such as Saudi Arabia.
There are 50 Muslim-majority countries in the world. They differ widely on women’s rights, depending on a variety of factors, including political development, social and economic circumstances, and cultural views and practices; even within a single country, there may be considerable differences because of region (urban or rural), education, and even family circumstances. Religion may or may not play a significant role in the rights women have. So, for example, in many Muslim-majority countries women are involved at the highest levels of education, employment, and politics, with many female physicians, engineers, lawyers, and other professionals. Muslim women have been heads of state in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Turkey, Kosovo, and Pakistan. In other countries, women’s freedoms are seriously inhibited due to oppressive patriarchal attitudes and practices.
Yes, there are many verses and sayings that speak to the issue of women’s rights. They include the following: Equal responsibilities and reward: “For the men who acquiesce to the will of God, and the women who acquiesce, the men who believe and the women who believe, the men who are devout and the women who are devout, the men who are truthful and the women who are truthful, the men who are constant and the women who are constant, the men who are humble and the women who are humble, the men who give charity and the women who give charity, the men who fast and the women who fast, the men who are chaste and the women who are chaste, and the men and women who remember God a lot, God has arranged forgiveness for them, and a magnificent reward.” (Qur’an, 33:35) “And their Lord answered them, ‘I am never unmindful of the work of a worker among you, male or female. You are from each other.’” (Qur’an, 3:195) “Whoever does right, male or female, and is a believer, We will revivify with a good life; and We will pay them their due according to the best of what they have done.” (Qur’an, 16:97) Right to earn money: “. . . to men is allotted what they earn and to women what they earn.” (Qur’an, 4: 32) Right to inherit: “For men is a share of what the parents and close relatives leave, and for women is a share of what the parents and close relatives leave, be it little or much – an obligatory share.” (Qur’an, 4:7) Rights of a daughter: “Whosoever has a daughter and does . . . not insult her, and does not favor his son over her, God will make him enter into paradise.” (Hadith/Prophetic saying) “Whoever has three daughters and treats them kindly, they will be a protection for him against the Fire.” (Hadith/Prophetic saying) “Parents cannot force daughters into a marriage.” (Hadith/Prophetic saying) Rights of a wife: “The best of you is the best to his family, and I am the best among you to my family.” (Hadith/Prophetic saying) Rights of a mother: “Paradise lies under the feet of mothers.” (Hadith/Prophetic saying)
What the Qur’an is understood to say about women’s rights depends on the interpretation of the Qur’an in specific communities and cultures.
Many Muslims, in America and elsewhere, advocate and demand complete equality between men and women. Women hold and have held many positions of authority and leadership in the American Muslim community. In Muslim-majority countries women today work as physicians, businesswomen, engineers, and lawyers and have served as heads of state. In other Muslim communities, depending on social, historical, and cultural conditions, the position of women is very different and is not equal either in theory or practice.
The answer again depends on whom you are talking to. The Qur’an instructs both men and women to be modest, but how this is practiced varies greatly. One understanding of modest dress for men in some Muslim traditions requires them to cover from the navel to knee and to dress modestly in loose-fitting clothing. The traditional clothing worn by Muslim men in such places as South Asia, where they wear a loose shirt and pants, or in some Arab countries, where men wear what looks like a long dress (jalaba) and a headscarf (kuffiyah), differs little in the extent of covering from the traditional dress of Muslim women. While it is not as common to see this type of male dress in America, many Muslim men grow a beard and wear a head covering that resembles a skull cap, as do observant practitioners in some other religious traditions.
Women in some Muslim cultures understand modesty to require covering their whole body including their faces and therefore when in public wear a burqa (which covers the body and face) or niqab (a covering for the face that leaves the eyes exposed)
The answer to this question depends on whom you’re talking to. Some Muslim women accept an interpretation of the Qur’an established in the formative period of Islam that references Quranic verses and hadith (prophetic sayings) as obligating women to cover their hair and much of their body for the sake of modesty. The wearing of hijab is, however, a matter of free choice by women in most of the Muslim world. Women who choose to wear it do so for a variety of reasons: as a sign of identity, as an act of devotion to their faith, or to indicate that they do not want to be judged by their physical characteristics.
The Arabic word hijab literally means “curtain.” When used to refer to dress, it either implies modest dress that includes a head scarf or refers only to a head scarf. “Hijab” is often incorrectly used interchangeably with the terms burqa and niqab. “Hijab” is generally used to refer to a headscarf, ”burqa” to a covering of the entire body including the face, while “niqab” refers to a face covering that conceals most of the face but exposes the eyes. Some Muslim women wear hijab while others do not and expressions of hijab vary greatly by culture, individual taste, and conviction.
The Oxford Dictionary defines modesty as “behavior, manner, or appearance intended to avoid impropriety or indecency.” What constitutes modesty is understood differently by Muslims in different cultures, and can include the type of dress as well as the level of interaction with the opposite gender. For some Muslims, modesty also includes humility towards God and other people.
Sunni and Shi’a Muslims give differing accounts for the origin of their division. Shi’a Muslims trace the division to the death of the Prophet Muhammad, when Abu Bakr was chosen as caliph rather than Ali. In the Shi’a view, Ali and his followers had a religious basis for their position that the caliph, or successor, must come from the Prophet’s family. Sunni Muslims trace the division to the killing of Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, along with his family in Karbala, Iraq, by one of the Umayyad Caliph Yazid’s generals, fifty years after the death of the Prophet Muhammad. The people of Iraq regretted their failure to support Hussein that resulted in his death. Subsequently they began a political movement to overthrow the Umayyads, who were not only responsible for his death but had also become corrupt and dynastic rulers. Attempts to overthrow the Umayyads were unsuccessful until the Abbasid revolution in 750 C.E. After the Abbasids came to power, however, the people who supported rule by the descendants of Hussein were increasingly suppressed. Sunnis believe that this political dispute then took on a more theological nature, with the supporters of Ali’s line as the legitimate leaders of the Muslim community becoming the precursors of the Shi’as.
Category: SUNNI AND SHIA DIVISION
The majority of both Sunnis and Shi’as share the core beliefs of Islam—the oneness of God and the prophethood of Muhammad—and adhere to the Five Pillars. The main differences between them today are their sources of knowledge and religious leadership. In addition to the Qur’an and hadith, the Shias and the many sects that comprise them rely on the rulings of their Imams and resulting variations in beliefs and practices. Historically, the difference originated from the question of succession after the death of the Prophet Muhammad and is related to differing views about appropriate leadership for the Muslim community. Shi’as believe that succession to the spiritual and political rule of the Muslim community lies only with the family and certain descendants of the Prophet Muhammad. Sunnis believe that the Muslim community was free to choose the most qualified person as ruler. Shi’as believe that God chose Muhammad’s cousin Ali, who was married to his daughter Fatima, to be the Prophet Muhammad’s successor, and that Muhammad formally announced this before his death. Shi’as also view Ali as the first in a line of Imams, or preeminent religious leaders, whom they regard as the spiritual and political successors to Muhammad. In contrast, Sunnis believe that Muhammad did not appoint any particular person as his spiritual or political successor.
Category: SUNNI AND SHIA DIVISION
It varied depending on the location and period of time. In early Islamic empires, some Muslim rulers were not concerned with conversion to Islam. Conversion to Islam, even in areas under the control of Muslims, was a gradual process fostered through interaction, intermarriage, and missionary efforts emphasizing spirituality (Sufism). There are also areas such as Indonesia (now the largest Muslim-majority country) and parts of Southeast Asia that were never conquered by Muslims but where Islam spread through missionary activity by merchants and Sufis. In many areas currently or formerly ruled by Muslims, large segments of the population have maintained their ancestral religions. For example, Christians have continued to flourish in largely Muslim Lebanon, and Hinduism remained a majority faith through centuries of Muslim rule. This is not to say that Muslims have never violated the principle stated in the Qur’an that “there is no compulsion in religion.” Some forced conversions occurred, for example, in the Horn of Africa during the 17th-century wars between Christian Ethiopians and Muslim Somalis, as they did in other times and places. Today we believe that forced conversions or violating the religious rights of people of other faiths are as much a violation of Islamic principles as the forced conversion of the Germanic tribes under Charlemagne or the forced conversions of some Native Americans or African slaves under colonial rule are seen as violations of Christian principles in the eyes of most modern Christians.
Category: ISLAMIC HISTORY
The Nation of Islam is a nationalistic movement that began in the early 20th century, whereas Islam is a religion that was revealed in the 7th century. The original Nation of Islam was also a single, hierarchical organization. However, in 1975 Elijah Muhammad’s son W.D. Muhammad disbanded the organization and moved his followers towards traditional Islam. The Nation of Islam was revived within a few years by various individuals, with the organization headed by Louis Farrakhan being the most prominent of these. Today, followers of his organization number less than 100,000 people, far fewer than the number of African-Americans who follow Islam. In ideology the Nation of Islam differs from the beliefs of the majority of Muslims in two major ways: the founder of the movement, W.D. Fard, is considered God incarnate, and Elijah Muhammad is considered a prophet. While there are other differences between the two, the Nation has adopted many Islamic traditions, such as women’s dress, holidays, and some Islamic terms.
Although Buddha was not mentioned among the 25 prophets named in the Qur’an, some Muslim scholars suggest that, because of the high moral standards he advocated, Buddha may have been among the “unknown prophets” who, the Qur’an proclaims, were assigned for every nation. The same may have been true of founders or major figures in other religious traditions.
Muslim historians and scholars describe the history of the Qur’an and the efforts of Muslims since the early days of Islam to preserve the Qur’an in its original form. During the Prophet Muhammad’s life, scores of people memorized, recited, and wrote down the Qur’an. Shortly after the death of the Prophet Muhammad, the Qur’an was compiled and transcribed by experts who carefully verified every verse by matching it against both the written word and memorized verses. The completed transcript was then copied and distributed across the growing Islamic empire. These copies served as the basis for all copies of the Qur’an written or printed since. While translations of the Qur’an may vary, all copies of the Qur’an in Arabic contain nearly identical language. This standardization, coupled with the millions of people who continue to memorize the entire Qur’an, ensures the text’s authenticity.
While the majority of Muslims believe in the five holy books or scriptures mentioned in the Qur’an as original revelations to the prophets (the Scrolls as revealed to Abraham; the Torah as revealed to Moses; the Psalms as revealed to David; the Gospel as revealed to Jesus), they do not believe that they have been preserved in the original form or language in which they were first revealed. However, we believe that the Qur’an contains the same principles included in these previous scriptures.
We believe that hatred or subjugation of people of other faiths violates the Islamic principles of respect for human dignity and for freedom of religion and conscience. We understand the Qur’an explicitly to forbid the forcible imposition of religion when it states “there is no compulsion in religion” (2:256) and describes religious pluralism as part of God’s plan. The existence of old churches, temples, and synagogues throughout the Muslim world in places like Egypt, Turkey, Palestine, Jordan, Syria, India, and Bosnia and the existence of minority religious populations in those areas demonstrates that this command was historically followed by many Muslim societies.
Why are there references in the Qur’an that are highly critical of Christians and Jews? Is that not equivalent to anti-Semitism?
The Qur’an contains passages critical of those who fought against the early Muslims, including some pagans, Christians, Jews, and even hypocrites within the Muslim community. These passages speak to the specific historical circumstances in which they were revealed. They are not condemnations of Jews and Christians in general but of the behaviors of specific people— including, as noted, some Muslims. We hold that respect for freedom of religion and conscience is basic to our vision of Islam.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the English word “infidel” means “a person who does not believe in religion or who adheres to a religion other than one’s own.” The word infidel is often wrongly conflated with the Arabic word kafir. In the Qur’an, “kafir” usually refers to a person who not only rejects the beliefs of Islam but also takes a hostile stance toward Muslims and their religion; it is used primarily to refer to the Meccans who attacked and fought against the Muslim community. We strongly believe that people of other faiths should be treated with love and respect, affirming the Islamic principle respect for freedom of religion and conscience.
The Qur’an refers to the followers of the previous Abrahamic holy books as “People of the Book,” which is generally interpreted to mean Jews and Christians. The Qur’an references their special status in its mention of the lawfulness of the meat of People of the Book and the allowance for marriage to women from these religious groups. As it does with Muslims, the Qur’an describes some as pious and righteous adherents to their religions, while pointing out that others fail to follow the commandments that were sent to them. The Qur’an also takes issue with some of the beliefs of Judaism and Christianity, such as the belief in the Trinity.
We believe that respect for freedom of religion and conscience is a basic Islamic principle, and we believe that diversity, including religious diversity, is part of God’s divine plan. Moreover, we believe that the salvation of all people, Muslims included, lies with God alone.
What good is “free will” if everything is predestined? If God already knows if we are going to heaven or hell, why doesn’t He just put us there?
We believe that, unlike angels or animals, humans have the free will to choose to do good or evil in this life and that even though God knows people’s ultimate destination, they themselves do not have that knowledge. Therefore, whatever actions people commit are based on their free will, for which they are held accountable.
Category: FREE WILL
If a person is a good person throughout his or her life, but does not believe in God, will he/she go to hell?
We believe that God rewards whoever behaves righteously in this life and that God knows the innermost secrets of human hearts and will judge everyone with absolute justice.
Category: DAY OF JUDGMENT
We believe that only God knows where a person will end up in the afterlife, since only God knows a person’s intentions, deeds, circumstances, and limitations. We also believe that God will judge human beings according to His complete justice on the Day of Judgment based on both their beliefs and actions, taking into account the opportunities and abilities that He gave them. In the Qur’an, God’s ninety-nine names include “the Judge” and “the Just.”
Category: DAY OF JUDGMENT
It is believed by Muslims that Adam built the original Ka’bah and that Prophets Abraham and his son Ishmael rebuilt and consecrated it as the first house of worship to God.
The Ka’bah is the cube-shaped building covered with a black cloth in Mecca that is believed by Muslims to have been the first house of worship to God. Muslims throughout the world face towards the Ka’bah when they perform each of their daily prayers.
How do very busy students or professionals (e.g., firefighters) find the time to pray five times a day?
Depending on their schedules, Muslims probably will not need to perform all five prayers while on the job since the prayers are spread throughout the day. In addition, each of the five prayers has a window of time during which each prayer can be performed. This time frame extends from about one hour to as long as four hours depending on the specific prayer and the time of year, since the times shift depending on the season and length of day. Throughout most of the year, the prayer time for the noon prayer does not end while students are at school, so they can perform it when they return home. During the time of year when the prayer time ends while students are still in school, they can take a few minutes during recess or lunch to pray. Students can ask their teachers if they can pray in the classroom or library. In the case of Muslim firefighters, if they are in the midst of fighting a fire and are unable to take a break to pray, they will perform the missed prayer as soon as they are able to, along with the next prayer.
The separation of men and women in prayer is not universal among Muslims. In the mosque built around the Ka’bah, men and women are not separated, but pray together in circular formation around the shrine. In Turkish mosques women pray in balconies above the prayer hall for men, and in some American mosques women pray parallel to men while in others they pray behind the men. The reason usually adduced for this practice involves notions of modesty. The Muslim ritual prayer is very physical in nature, involving standing, bowing, and prostrating oneself. While in congregational prayers, Muslims are supposed to stand side by side and shoulder to shoulder with those next to them. Many Muslim cultures have considered it distracting or immodest to have men and women praying side by side or to have women prostrate themselves in front of men.
Each prayer (Salat) lasts 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the prescribed length of the prayer and the number and length of Qur’anic verses recited. Other factors may also influence the length of time a Muslim prays, including the number of additional (non-obligatory) prayers one chooses to perform, and the pace at which one recites the Qur’an.
Prayer among Muslims can take many forms. Three very common forms are Salat (ritual prayer), Dhikr (remembrance of God, which usually involves the repetition of God’s names), and Du’a (supplication, or asking God for a need or desire or for forgiveness).
Since only 20% of all Muslims are Arabs, the Qur’an has been translated into and is read in many other languages, with multiple English translations. However, because Muslims consider the original Arabic text to be the literal word of God, during ritual prayers, the Qur’an is recited in its original Arabic language (just as some Catholic churches still perform mass in Latin or synagogues perform part of their prayer in Hebrew). In order to fully comprehend the Qur’an for instruction and spiritual enrichment, non-Arab Muslims also read the translation in their native language.
The celebration of Christmas, although it certainly has theological dimensions for many Christians, is a part of various Christian cultures and not a part of Muslim cultures. Among Muslims, even the celebration of Muhammad’s birthday is a subject of wide debate.
Muslims generally believe that she is the Virgin Mother of the Prophet Jesus. An entire chapter in the Qur’an is named after her. The chapter called Mary (Maryam in Arabic) and other verses in the Qur’an emphasize her piety, righteousness, and status as an exemplar for all people, male and female.
Most of the Qur’an depicts itself as a text addressed to Muhammad; it therefore talks less about Muhammad than it does to Muhammad about other subjects, including previous prophets such as Jesus.
Muslims overwhelmingly revere Jesus and believe that he was born to the Virgin Mary through an act of God, just as Adam is believed to have been created by God without a father or mother. The Qur’an describes his conception and birth, as well as his many miracles such as healings of the sick. The Qur’an also emphasizes that Jesus was a great prophet of God, as well as a messenger who received revelation from God, but that he was, like all other prophets, only a human being.
The actual age of Aisha at the time of her marriage to Muhammad is disputed, but, the marriage could not have been consummated until she reached puberty. In many cultures, women are or were married years before a marriage is consummated. The custom of early betrothal and marriage continued until the late 19th and early 20th century in much of the world, including Europe and North America.
Polygamy was common in 7th-century Arabia, as it has been in many other cultures, especially for a political leader; for instance, the patriarchs in the Hebrew Bible are shown as having multiple wives, and the kings of Israel are described as having harems numbering in some cases into the hundreds. According to Muslim historians, the Prophet Muhammad’s marriages were contracted to assist needy widows and divorcees and to solidify the community of Muslims by forging alliances among the tribes in and around Medina. In light of the time and place, there was nothing unique or unusual about Muhammad marrying several women.
Jesus was a non-violent reformer while Muhammad fought in wars. Why is there a difference between Jesus and Muhammad in terms of their approach?
This question, as posed, assumes that there is only one way of looking at Jesus, as a “non-violent reformer.” This is not the case, just as it is not the case with Muhammad, who has been and is seen in many different ways by Muslims. In his book Jesus through the Centuries, church historian Jaroslav Pelikan depicts and analyzes the varied views of Jesus at different times and in different cultures. He devotes a whole chapter to Jesus as both “Prince of Peace” and instigator of divine warfare—sometimes at one and the same time. The representations of Muhammad are likewise multiple. In her book The Lives of Muhammad, Kecia Ali writes “Far from being uniform or non-changing, both non-Muslim and Muslim views of Muhammad have been diverse, multifaceted, and subject to dramatic changes over the centuries.” Even when one considers Jesus and Muhammad as historical figures, it is important to keep in mind a significant difference between their positions. Jesus founded a community of believers that was politically powerless and had to function in the shadow of the overwhelming power of the Roman Empire. Muhammad, on the other hand, eventually found himself at the head of a new political community in Medina and was therefore called upon to function as a political and even military leader. Whatever differences one may find between Muhammad and Jesus should not obscure the fact that, in our vision of Islam, both Christianity and Islam uphold the principle of respect for life.
Why did some Muslims respond with protest and violence against portrayals of Muhammad in cartoons and film?
This question refers to protests, sometimes erupting into lethal violence, as in the recent attack in Paris, against cartoons published in a French satirical weekly and against the film The Innocence of Muslims. These protests raise the question of freedom of expression, and the instances of violence clearly violated the principle of respect for life. The great majority of American Muslims and many Muslims elsewhere affirm freedom of expression even for material that is offensive. Muslim leaders and organizations worldwide, even in countries that restrict the publication of such offensive material, vigorously condemned the instances of violence. Violent reaction to these images was almost certainly fueled by political issues rather than purely by anger at the offensive images. Libyan President Mohamed Magariaf insisted that the Benghazi attack, claimed to be a spontaneous response to caricatures of Muhammad published in Denmark, was in fact long planned by militants, while the Paris atrocities were the work of militants who may well have been striving to recruit French Muslims to al-Qaeda by creating an incident that would isolate them from other French people. In either case, the images served only as a pretext.
There is no specific teaching in traditional Islamic sources forbidding images of the Prophet Muhammad, and in fact one can find representations of Muhammad and other prophets in different periods of Islamic history. What scholars warn against is the worship of such images, which in more recent times has led some groups to promote the idea that it is forbidden to represent the Prophet Muhammad.
The majority of Muslims believe that the Prophet Muhammad is the final prophet on the grounds that the Qur’an and hadith state so.
Some Muslim scholars hold the view that there were female prophets. Two of the women regarded by these scholars as prophets are Asiyah, the wife of Pharaoh, and Mary the mother of Jesus, because they both received revelation from God. Whether one takes the position that they were prophets who brought a specific message to their people or not, Muslims revere them as two amongst the many righteous and saintly women mentioned in the Qur’an.
That depends on which prophet we are talking about. In many cases, the stories of the prophets in the Qur’an are similar to the stories that are in the Bible. Some examples include: the story of Noah and his ark; the story of Abraham and Sarah and the birth of their son Isaac, who is also considered a prophet; the story of Jacob and his twelve sons, including Joseph, who is also considered a prophet; and the most oft-mentioned prophet in the Qur’an, Moses, and the story of his mission in Egypt to rescue his people. Some of the major differences between the biblical account of some of these prophets and the Qur’an stem from the fact that the Qur’an holds that all prophets were immune from major sins. The stories of Prophet Jesus are close to the Bible in their descriptions of his virginal birth and miracles but differ sharply in their account of the divinity of Jesus and crucifixion; the Qur’an states that Jesus was only a man, not divine, and that before the crucifixion Jesus was taken into heaven and replaced by a person who looked like him.
Satan (Shaytan in Arabic) is believed to be a third type of creation, in addition to humans and angels, known as a “jinn.” Humans are said to have been made from clay, angels from light, and jinn from fire. While the Qur’an teaches that some jinn are good and submit to God, it states that others, such as Iblis or Shaytan (Satan), try to tempt people to do evil, as in the belief about Satan in traditional Christian theology.
Angels are mentioned many times in the Qur’an and hadith (prophetic sayings). Unlike humans, angels are described as not possessing free will but as being by nature assigned to specific duties. Two of the most prominent angels mentioned by name in the Qur’an are Gabriel (Jibril) and Michael (Mikhail). Gabriel is the angel of revelation and Michael is the angel of compassion.
This is a challenging issue for all religions that proclaim a belief in a God who is at once omnipotent and beneficent. We believe that God tries people in different ways, through both hardship and ease. While the cause of suffering is not always evident, the way that people respond to difficulty is a test of their moral fiber. Responding to hardship with patience and fortitude is a virtue for which we believe a great reward is promised in this life and the afterlife. Additionally, there may be a silver lining behind every difficulty. For instance, major disasters often bring out the best in people, inspiring them to perform remarkable acts as they respond to their own or another’s hardship with compassion and courage and come to the aid of those in need. Muslims also take comfort in their belief that life doesn’t end after death.
Category: Allah (GOD)
The primary sources of knowledge about Islam are the Qur’an, which Muslims generally believe is the divinely revealed word of God, and the Sunnah, which refers to the example or precedent of the Prophet Muhammad (i.e., what he said, did, approved, disapproved, caused, ordered, or allowed to happen). Much of what is known about the Sunnah is from the collection of sayings or reports known as hadith, or prophetic tradition. The hadith describe actions of the Prophet Muhammad or actions that his companions attributed to his teachings. Hadith also elaborate and provide context to the Qur’an. For Shi’as, in addition to the aforementioned, the rulings of the twelve Imams are considered a primary source. Other sources may exist for different Muslim sects. In addition to these primary sources, Muslims have also traditionally relied on the following: scholarly consensus, that is, the agreement of knowledgeable scholars upon a particular issue; and analogical reasoning, which means applying principles or laws derived from the Qur’an and Sunnah to similar situations not explicitly addressed by them. The lived experience of Islam, which naturally varies widely not only in different cultures but also with different individuals, also impacts and determines a Muslim’s understanding and practice of Islam.
Muslims practice their faith in many different ways, but the major practices for both Sunni and Shi’a Muslims are known as the Five Pillars, which include: the profession of faith, namely that there is only one God, and that Muhammad is the Messenger of God; the five daily prayers; required annual donation to charity in the amount of 2.5% of one’s excess wealth; fasting during daylight hours in the month of Ramadan; and making a pilgrimage to Mecca once in a lifetime, if one is mentally, physically, and financially able.
The six major beliefs in Islam, as understood by the majority of Sunni Muslims, are: belief in God; belief in angels; belief in God’s prophets/messengers; belief in God’s revelations in the form of holy scriptures sent to the messengers; belief in an afterlife that follows the Day of Judgment on which people will be held accountable for their actions and compensated accordingly in the afterlife; and belief in God’s divine will and His knowledge of what happens in the world.
Islam’s primary message, as understood by the overwhelming majority of Muslims, is the continuation of the monotheistic, Abrahamic tradition’s belief in one God. The three major dimensions of Islam include beliefs, ritual practices, and the goal and effort to improve one’s character and actions. There are six major beliefs in Islam. There are also five central practices which are referred to as the Five Pillars. The last dimension of Islam focuses on good works and excellence in character in both one’s spiritual relationship with God and one’s everyday actions.
Islam is the name of a religion, as Christianity and Judaism are names of religions. The Arabic word “Islam” is based on the root “slm,” which means peace or surrender to God. Combining both translations results in the combined meaning “the state of peace through following God’s guidance.” Islamic is an adjective that modifies a non-human noun, as for example, “Islamic art,” “Islamic architecture,” “Islamic beliefs,” etc. This term should not be used to refer to a person. A follower of Islam is called a Muslim, or “one who is in a state of peace by following God’s guidance.” While the term Arab has been used in the past to refer to members of a Semitic ethnic group from the Arabian Peninsula, today the word “Arab” refers to people from Arabic-speaking countries, most of which are in the Middle East and North Africa. The term Arabian was historically used to describe an inhabitant of the Arabian Peninsula. Today “Arabian” is used as an adjective to describe a non-human noun (e.g., Arabian coffee); it should not be used to refer to people. The following questions about basic Muslim beliefs (2 through 12) are answered in accord with the scholars mentioned above, reflecting majority Sunni views.