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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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