Islam has an estimated 1.9 billion followers, making it the second largest religion worldwide, reported by Pew Research Center. The word Islam is an Arabic word which translates to “submission” or “s This paper will explore its founder and its quests throughout history, practice of Five Pillars of Life, the status of women in this religion, and its challenges and struggles. Moreover, the similarity and differences between Islam and Christianity, will also be discussed.
Just like Christians and Jews, Muslims view themselves as children of Abraham. But unlike Christians and Jews who claim descent from Abraham and Sarah’s son Isaac. Muslims claim descent from Ismail, Abraham’s first born son with Hagar. They also believe in angels, Satan, prophets, revelation, moral responsibility, divine judgement, and reward or punishment.
The first Muslim communiy was founded by their prophet Muhammad ibn Abd Allah. He was born in the small western Arabian town in Mecca. Orphaned at such a young age, he was raised by his uncle, Abu Talib. The revelations he received through visions and sounds were collected to form the Quran, the sacred book of Muslims. Some of these revelations are warning to people that there is only one God, some of it the righteous way of living. Preaching in Mecca was not easy as his followers grew, opposition also grew. As the situation has gotten worse, he has migrated to Medina also known as hijira. It marked the new beginning of his life, as he became a political and religious leader in Medina (“A History of Islamic Societies”). Upon Muhammad’s death, his followers met several problems. First one would be who would be his successor. This problem led to feud amongst its members. In 633, Muslims won the battle of al-Aqraba which helped extend their power over eastern Arabia. As the Arabs conquered the whole Middle East, North Africa, Spain, and Transoxania, Islamic culture was dispersed in these areas.
Throughout history there are various interpretations of Islamic Law, however they practice Five Pillars of Islam which unite all the Muslims.According to the book WOrld Religions Today, the first pillar is The Declaraion of Faith also known as Shahadah, where they profess “There is no God but the God and Muhammad is the messenger of God.” Secondly, Salat, where they pray five times a day (in dawn, noon, mid afternoon, sunset, and evening). Third pillar is Almsgiving also known as Zakat. It is their duty to help the less fortunate by contributing 2.5 percent of their annual wealth and assets. Fourth is The Fast of Ramadan also known as sawm, in the ninth month of Islam’s lunar calendar, they abstain from food, drink, and sex from early morning to early evening . They end the month of Ramadan by holding Id al-Fitr, the Feast of Breaking Dawn. Lastly, the Pilgrimage to Mecca also known as hajj, where Muslims go an pilgrim’s journey to Mecca, at least once in their lifetime.
The status of women in society is still one of the major global issues we face today. It is no different with Islam community, the status and role of women is still an ongoing topic. In Quran, it states that men and women are equal before God (Q. 33:35). Being a wife and mother is their primary role. Which is no different on how it was (or is) in other religions. Quran also teaches that wives are subordinate to their husbands (Q.2:228). It is globally known that Muslims practice polygyny, it is permitted in Quran (Q. 43). It might be good for the male Muslims, but for a woman myself, it is very disrespectful. First of all, it is not not healthy. Engaging to numerous people gives someone a high chance of getting a sexually transmitted disease. And the possibility of giving it to all their wives is very high. Moreover, women’s right to inherit, to dissolve her own marriage, to receive her downry is often refused. According to the book, the practice of veiling and seclusion(purdah) of women is never said in Quran but it does state to behave and dress modestly (Q:24:30-31.) This practice caused the institution of purdah to cut off many women’s access to the mosque, the social, and educational center of the community which furthered lowered their status in society. In light to this darkness, in 1920’s to 1960’s laws regarding marriage, divorce, and inheritance were reformed. Reform includes restricting male to practice polygyny. A wife’s ground for divorce was increased. It is good to see government taking action to spread gender equality.
One of the major problems Islam faces is stereotyping and discrimination. Discrimination against Muslims happen everyday. They are often stereotyped as terrorists. It is due to events that happened in the past. Extremist groups and Islamic Jihad attacked Christian churches, businesses, foreign tourists, and security forces. The bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993, these extremist groups lead by Osama Bin Laden were the major suspect. In 1993, eighteen American soldiers were killed in Somalia. In 1998, American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were bombed. October 2000, suicide attack against the USSS Cole happened. However, it is the 9-11 attack that the Muslim extremists were considered as a global threat. These series of acts of terrorism caused the stereotyping and discrimination against the innocent Muslims.
My religion is Christianity. Before taking this course, I only had little knowledge about Islam. It is amazing to know that Muslims also believe they are children of Abraham. But the difference is they claim descent of Ishmael. While Christians claim they are descent of Isaac. Both religions believe that there is only one God. Chritians believe in the concept of original sin while Muslims do not acknowledge this (“Islam & Christianity: A Revealing Contrast”). Muslims believe in “Allah gives grace only to whom he pleases (surah 5:54)” but for Christians, “God gives grace to all those who receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior (John 1:17; Romans 5:15)”.
In conclusion, the conquest of Muslims in the Middle East, North Africa, Spain, and Transoxania helped them disperse Islamic culture throughout these regions which is one of the greatest factors on Islam being the second largest religion in the world. The practice of Five Pillars of Life unite all the Muslims. The status of women in Islam communtiy has become a lot better than it was in the past. Unfortunately, events in the past which are done by extremists caused the major problem Muslims face today, discrimination. Religions are different in their own ways, their practices, rituals, and certain beliefs but it is splendid to know that both Muslims and Christians believe in one and only God.
- Lipka, Michael, and Conrad Hackett. “Why Muslims Are the World’s Fastest-Growing Religious Group.” Pew Research Center, Pew Research Center, 6 Apr. 2017, https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/04/06/why-muslims-are-the-worlds-fastest-growing-religious-group/.
- Lapidus, Ira Marvin. A History of Islamic Societies. Cambridge University Press, 2014.
- Esposito, John L., et al. World Religions Today. Oxford University Press, 2009.
- Gauss, James F.. Islam & Christianity: A Revealing Contrast. United States, Bridge-Logos, 2009.