Islam is the second largest of the religious traditions in the world. It has over one billion adherents. While the Islamic world includes Muslim countries stretching from North Africa to Southeast Asia, significant numbers of Muslims may be found throughout the entire world. Historically, Islam is often viewed as a religious tradition which originated in seventh century Arabia with the prophet Muhammad and the divine revelation which he received from God that is recorded in the Quran.
Islam as statecraft: How governments use religion in foreign policy
However, it is most important to realize that Muslims do not view Islam as a new religion. Therefore, Jews, Christians, and Muslims are all followers of the same living God—cousins in a common family with a common ancestor, Abraham. Muslims believe that the Quran is the final and complete revelation of God to all people.
The central fact of the Muslim religious experience is Allah. The God of the Quran is one and transcendent, creator and sustainer of the universe, and the overwhelming concern of the believer. The word "Islam" means "submission;" a Muslim is one who submits to God, one who is a servant of God. This is not a mere passivity; rather, it is submission to the Divine Will, a duty to realize actively God's will in history. Thus, the Quran teaches that God has given the earth to man as a "divine trust" and that it is a person's duty and mission, as God's agent, to strive to realize God's will. The Muslim's divinely mandated vocation is communal as well as individual.
The Islamic community or state ummah is the dynamic vehicle for the realization of God's will and, as such, should serve as an example to the rest of the world since all humanity is called to worship and serve the one God. Muslims look first to the Quran which contains God's commands and second to the example sunna of the prophet Muhammad who serves as the embodiment of Islamic values, as a living model for the community.
Traditions or reports Hadith of the prophet's words and deeds were preserved and written down by the early Muslim community. On the basis of these two sources, the Islamic way of life was developed and expressed comprehensively in the Shariah—Islamic Law. Shariah literally means "the path," the road or way that all Muslims are to follow. Muslim law reflects the fact that Islam is a total way of life in which there is an organic relationship between religion, politics, and society. Islam emphasizes practice over belief. As a result, law, not theology, has always been the most important area of concern to Muslims, for it provides the "straight path" Shariah which the Muslim must follow to realize God's Will.
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At the heart of the law are five fundamental obligations or duties which constitute the five pillars of Islam: 1 the confession of faith, 2 worship, 3 almsgiving, 4 fasting, and 5 the pilgrimage to Mecca. A Muslim is one who confesses that there is no God but God and that Muhammad is the messenger of God. Islam affirms a radical monotheism in which the doctrine of the oneness of God is dominant. God is the creator, ruler, and judge of the world. He is merciful and compassionate, but He is also a just judge.
The second part of the confession of faith is the affirmation of Muhammad as the messenger of God, the last and final prophet, who serves as a model for the Muslim community. Though he is the ideal Muslim as Husband, father, leader, and judge, he was human, not divine. Muslims are called to prayer five times each day dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset, and evening by the muezzin who stands atop the tower minaret of the mosque. This prayer is preceded by ablution, a cleansing of the body which purifies and thus prepares the Muslim for entering the presence of God.
Facing the holy city of Mecca, Muslims worship by standing, kneeling, and prostrating while reciting verses from the Quran. On Friday, the noon prayer should be said preferably at a mosque with a congregation. At other times, any place where a Muslim prays is acceptable; a mosque is not a consecrated building but rather a place of gathering. Since there are no priesthood and no sacraments in Islam, any Muslim may lead the prayer and may officiate at weddings, burials, etc. Though there is no clergy, a clerical class did develop consisting of religious scholars ulama and local religious leaders mullahs.
It requires the more fortunate members of the Islamic community to share their wealth with the less fortunate. Once every year, Islam prescribes a rigorous fast throughout the month of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. During this period, abstention from food, drink, and sex from sunrise to sunset is required of all healthy adult Muslims. The emphasis is not on self-mortification and abstinence, as such, but rather on self-discipline and reflection.
Islam as statecraft: How governments use religion in foreign policy
The end of Ramadan is marked by a feast of the breaking of the fast Id al-Fitr. Just as five times each day Muslims throughout the world are united as they face Mecca in worship, so each year many travel physically to Mecca, sacred city of Islam, where they have traveled spiritually. The equality of the pilgrimage is symbolized by exchanging one's ordinary clothing for the ihram, a white, seamless garment.
Islam, then, provides its followers with an integrated, holistic way of life which was revealed by the God of Abraham, Isaac, Moses, and Jesus to Muhammad one final time and which was subsequently recorded in the Quran. Those who hold a religious view of the universe reject scientism not only on philosophical but also on scientific grounds, and assert that scientism is not verified by the objective findings of natural sciences.
The world of nature, when properly studied, reveals a remarkable structure of order, balance, and proportion, all of which point to a higher principle in the universe. God's "invisible hand" is seen most clearly in the cosmos, which humans must not only use for their practical, worldly needs but also understand in order to appreciate God's grace.
Thus the sciences, which study nature, God's great work of art, can only enhance one's belief in God. The scientistic critics of religion misuse scientific theories and facts and create a pseudo-religion called scientism. Far from contradicting each other, Islam and science complement each other.
Thus Farid Wajdi, one of the most prolific writers of modern Islam, states in his hefty work Islam in an Age of Science , published in Arabic in the middle of the last century, that "science in all ages supports and confirms Islam and Islam helps and backs its learning. A more recent version of this view has been popularized by the work of Harun Yahya, the pen name of Adnan Oktar, a Turkish scholar and popularizer of Islam. Through numerous publications, videos, and Internet resources, Yahya has launched a major attack against Darwinism and evolutionary theory and defended monotheistic creationism as a scientifically proven doctrine.
His work is also a typical example of what some have called "the scientific exegesis of the Qur'an. The construction of science as a way of deciphering God's signs in the cosmos has led some Muslim scholars to interpret Qur'anic verses according to the findings of modern natural sciences. In turn, scientific discoveries have been interpreted to show their compatibility with religious belief. Some have gone even further and tried to prove not only that the Qur'an is compatible with scientific facts, but that it predicted new scientific discoveries fourteen centuries ago, and that this should be seen as a miracle of the Qur'an and demonstrate that it is the word of God.
From the creation of the universe and the formation of clouds to the genesis of the fetus, Qur'anic verses as well as the sayings of the Prophet of Islam have been analyzed with a view toward explaining their scientific precision and truth. Best exemplified by the French medical doctor Maurice Bucaille 's The Bible, the Qur'an and Science , published in , this approach has led to what is called "scientific exegesis" al-tafsir al-ilmi, al-tafsir al-fanni of the Qur'an.
Its primary focus is to prove the miraculous nature of the Qur'an by using recent scientific discoveries. Today, there are numerous publications in various languages advocating a pious interpretation of modern natural sciences. The pietistic interpretation of modern science in the name of Islamic compatibility fails to address the deep philosophical differences between the Islamic scientific tradition and the secular outlook of modern science.
Muslims and Islam: Key findings in the U.S. and around the world
As William Chittick argues in his Science of the Cosmos, Science of the Soul: The Pertinence of Islamic Cosmology in the Modern World , it is misleading to think that the goals of the traditional natural sciences are the same as those of modern science. It is also wrong to assume that premodern science is different from modern science only in the advancement of techniques, methods, and the accumulation of scientific data.
The qualitative differences in the overall outlook of classical and modern science are too obvious to ignore. As George Saliba discusses in his Islamic Science and the Making of the European Renaissance , the rise of the Islamic scientific tradition cannot be relegated to the Muslim encounter with the Greco-Hellenistic tradition and its appropriation by successive generations of Muslim scholars and scientists. A more complex set of circumstances were at work in the formation of the Islamic scientific heritage, and they were underlined by both philosophical considerations and practical necessities, which will be examined below.
The second view of science in the Muslim world, which we may call the "epistemic view," takes its cue from contemporary philosophy of science and focuses on the social and historical bases of scientific theories. Its proponents criticize modern Western science on epistemological grounds and make use of the postmodern critiques of natural sciences and their philosophical claims.
The epistemic view of science considers the sciences of nature like any other human enterprise: historically grounded, socially bounded, culturally situated, and economically motivated. Led by the work of T. Kuhn, P.
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