Islam began to take shape much later than other world religions and dates back to the 7th century A.D. By that time, the tenets of Christianity, which was already the state religion in Western European countries and the Byzantine Empire, had taken shape almost wholly. The cradle of Islam is in the Arabian Peninsula, from which this religion spread around the world. Also, I am unfamiliar with how Islam works, and I would like to improve my understanding.
To begin with, I wanted to ask about how the belief system in Islam is structured-what is the place of man is, and how God is represented in the religion. As it turns out, according to the doctrine of Islam, the world was created by the one and all-powerful God – Allah. Through the centuries and millennia, Allah has sent prophets to earth, messengers of Heaven, revealing to people his mysteries and guiding them to the true way. However, according to Muslim doctrine, people have gradually distorted and perverted the teachings of the prophets. The last prophet in Islam is Mohammed, whose teachings are the only undistorted ones. The prophet believed that Judaism and Christianity only preceded the new religion, Islam. God, in his opinion, gave full revelation and abrogated much of what was previously contained in the Old and New Testaments. According to the Quran, the holy book for Muslims, a true believer must entrust his life entirely to Allah, be virtuous, and pray at the proper time.
At this point, I wanted to ask how the belief system and its ideals are practiced as a group of believers coming together. The ritual side of the Muslim religion is primarily revealed through the study of the five pillars of Islam. For example, the exercise of faith involves the recitation of a dogma proclaiming the principle of monotheism (Akhtar, 2020). Further, every adult Muslim is obliged to perform prayer (namaz). It is performed at a specific time, with a special ritual associated with its implementation. Group or collective, prayer is more auspicious and more valuable to Allah; hence it entails more rewards. For example, on Fridays, there is an extraordinary collective prayer, Salat al-Jum’a, with many people in attendance.
Believers are supposed to pay tax (alms) for the benefit of needy adherents of Islam. Allah, in the Holy Qur’an, has outlined various uses of money – it can be used to help the needy and alleviate the plight of the poor. Muslims are obliged to fast, and the fasting takes place during the daylight hours, from sunrise to sunset. During the month of Ramadan, all Muslims’ lives begin to flow in a uniform style, different from that of the other months, which contributes to the unity of believers. According to Islamic tradition, every adherent of this religion is obliged to make a pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina at least once. During the pilgrimage, Muslims from all over the world come together to perform uniform rituals. People of all languages and nations can engage in mutual exchanges, strengthen their brotherly relations, and establish ties for cooperation.
It was vital for me to learn what myths in Islam express religious beliefs and the history of religion. I was told that according to Islamic beliefs when Muhammad was 40 years old, he proclaimed himself a messenger and a prophet of the one God. He then began actively preaching a new monotheistic religion in Mecca, which he named Islam. Meanwhile, the local Meccan nobility reacted negatively, if not hostilely, to the sermons of the new-found prophet. Therefore, Muhammad and the members of his religious community left Mecca to escape the persecution of the pagans and settle in another city, Medina. This event is referred to in Islam as the Hijrah and is considered the beginning of the Muslim chronology. In Medina, Muhammad was first able to build a core of adherents to the new religion successfully. He united the Arab population of the city and soon founded the so-called ummah, the first Muslim community.
There are many traditions and customs in Islam that are closely intertwined with the family and domestic sphere. Therefore, Muslim rituals concerning funerals, weddings, and other events play a significant role. For example, the already mentioned namaz is a primary obligation for everyone who professes Islam. In addition, according to Muslim traditions, a marriage is valid only if the appropriate rites (nikah) have been performed. Khitan is the Muslim rite of circumcision for boys 7-10 years old. Majlis, an ancient Arabic word that has become firmly ingrained in the vocabulary of all Muslims worldwide, translates as an event in which those present listen to something while sitting down. At such gatherings, the name of Allah is exalted, the Koran is read, and most importantly, a sermon is preached. The funeral rites in Islam have much in common with pre-Islamic traditions. A Muslim rite of ablutions and washing with incense and camphor is performed over the deceased’s body.
In Islam, the behavior rules are established by Sharia law; they are enshrined in the Quran and the Sunna. Muslims are obliged to follow them throughout their life strictly. The Sharia is a unified system and regulates Muslims’ socio-economic, political, domestic, marital, and other relations. The norms of Sharia in Muslim countries have the character of religious legislation. At the same time, unlike other religions, Shariah considers the circumstances of each individual’s life, and thus the normativity of the Shariah is not absolute.
The critical terms for Islam as a religion in terms of human emotion are devotion and the pursuit of self-improvement and kindness. The purpose of the Qur’an is not to answer the question of what man is. Instead, this holy book explains what people should and should not do, the purpose of their lives, and what is good and evil. Since God is the source of all goodness and perfection in Islam, his vicars must be the model of perfection and beneficence. With a strong sense of devotion and sincere performance of rituals, a Muslim acquires a readiness to be a helpful citizen in a morally sound society.
As a rule, the material culture of Muslim society is generally considered to be mosques and their interiors, book art, faience, and carpets. Mosques and minarets are modeled after the Caliphate period, indicating the influence of historical roots on modernity. God in the countries of Islam could not be depicted but could be designated by letters and signs, so his image in art became symbolic. It should be noted that works of applied arts and crafts play an essential role in the heritage of Muslim culture.
The concept of holiness in Islam did not arise immediately and was formed gradually. In the Qur’an, people who have received the particular favor of God are called friends of Allah. The category of holiness was created during the formative period of Sufism. There is no official canonization of saints in the Islamic tradition, as in Christianity, for example. One of the aspects of sainthood in Islam can be described as the secret stay of saints in this world. People are allowed to partake of holiness through service to God and by keeping them from sin.
I believe that both Islam and Christianity explain the origin of God and the emergence of religions themselves with equal and sufficient conviction. Islam regards a situation in which the interests of the individual prevail over the interests of society as unjust. However, in today’s world, individualism is becoming the dominant ideology, which can cause difficulties. From the perspective of Islam, life is mutual mercy, love, cooperation, and mutual assistance between all members of the human community (Molloy, 2021). Therefore, this religion succeeds in responding positively to the challenges of universal justice. I think it is the behavior of people that is more important for Islam than the faith itself. I have found that there are many similarities between my upbringing and the way my opponent was raised. In addition, there are similarities in that we have to pray and fast, and there are similar rituals of everyday life.
I found the experience interesting because it allowed me to deepen my knowledge of a previously unfamiliar religion. Before the interview, I had not anticipated such strong parallels between Christianity and Islam; it surprised me a lot. As additional questions, I would have liked to learn about the radical movements of Islam, specifically their origins. Otherwise, it seemed to me that I received reasonably comprehensive information about this religion.
Akhtar, S. (2020). The Quran and the secular mind: A philosophy of Islam. Routledge.
Molloy, M. (2021). Experiencing the world’s religions: Tradition, challenge, and change. McGraw Hill.