Recent terrorist events have brought forth much comment and analysis. But even before then, the words Muslim and Islam were rarely mentioned in the context of anything good, interesting or useful. Islam is a proselytizing religion and as such acts more akin to a system of government masquerading in spiritual form. Conversion of disbelievers and non-Muslims (kafir, meaning infidel) to Islam is encouraged as a religious duty for all Muslims and the introduction of sharia law is a longstanding goal for Islamist movements globally, including in Western countries.
Following the Paris slaughter, Nigel Farage again spoke with his customary courage, clarity and common sense about what happened but, more importantly, he dared to touch on why. He rightly said we should be more ready to affirm our Judeo-Christian heritage. In my opinion, if we do not act soon (now would be good) we are in danger of being the authors of our own demise.
Despite the foregoing, I thought I’d dig a little further and this article is the result. I have not knowingly presented the facts in any order designed to create a particular mindset in those who read this and I regret any errors I may have made. While I hope it will prove informative I have needed to be selective and it is a synopsis of a very broad and highly topical subject. In compiling this I have seen nothing to endear me to Islam and I am most thankful not to be subjected to its stifling, often regressive, mental and physical strictures, nor do I wish to see this country succumb to it.
First, the basics. Arabic is the liturgical language of this religion and Islam translates as submission, which, in this specific context, means to the will of its one god, Allah (the God). Muslim, the name for an adherent of the faith, means one who surrenders, again, by extension, to the will of Allah. Allah’s messenger on Earth was the Prophet Muhammad (ca AD570 to 632, various spellings include Mohamed, Mohammed and Mahomet). Upon suffering persecution and learning of a plot to kill him, Mohamed fled (hijra) from Mecca to Medina in AD622, from which year Islam bases its calendar of 12 lunar months of 354 days. The Gregorian year 2015 is 1436AH (from the Latin Anno Hegira, the year of flight)).
Its holy book is the Koran (or Quran, derived from the verb meaning to read or recite). It is composed of writings accepted by Muslims as revelations made to Mohamed by Allah through the angel Gabriel. Its place of worship is a mosque (ultimately from masjid, temple and sajada, to prostrate oneself). Islam has about 1.8 billion followers or 23% of world population, is the second-largest religion (after Christianity with 31.5%) and one of the fastest-growing major religions in the world. It is divided into two main streams, Sunni (75-90%) and Shia (10-20%). The cause of this internecine division relates to the enduring dispute over who is considered to be the natural successor to Muhammad as guardian of the religion. Islam considers creating images of animate beings as idolatry and this aversion has been used to explain the prevalence of calligraphy, tessellation and abstract themes in Islamic artistic culture.
Islam’s most fundamental concept is a rigorous monotheism and that the creation of everything in the universe was brought into being by Allah’s sheer command. Muslims believe that Allah is one and incomparable and that the purpose of existence is to worship Allah. Muslims also believe that Islam is the complete and universal version of a primordial faith that was revealed many times before through prophets including Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. They maintain that the previous messages and revelations have been partially misinterpreted or altered over time but consider the Koran to be both the unaltered and the final revelation of Allah.
Religious concepts and practices include the five pillars (of which more later) and adhering to Islamic law (sharia), which touches on virtually every aspect of life and society, providing guidance on diverse topics ranging from crime, sex, politics, hygiene, diet, prayer, etiquette, fasting, banking and welfare, to family life and the environment. In its strictest and most historically coherent definition, sharia is considered the infallible law of Allah. Attempts to impose sharia have been accompanied by controversy, violence, and even warfare. According to sharia theory leaving Islam (apostasy), expressing contempt for Islam (blasphemy) and religious conversion of Muslims is prohibited. Not all Islamic scholars agree with this interpretation. Leaving Islam is a sin and a religious crime.
The five pillars are the basic acts in Islam, considered obligatory for all believers. The Koran presents them as a framework for worship and a sign of commitment to the faith. They are (1) the shahadah (creed), (2) salat (daily prayers), (3) zakat (almsgiving), (4) sawm (fasting during Ramadan) and (5) hajj (the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in a lifetime).
Islamic laws and cultural customs impact various stages of a Muslim women’s life, including her education, employment opportunities, rights to inheritance, female circumcision, dress, age of marriage, freedom to consent to marriage, marriage contract, dowry, permissibility of birth control, divorce, sex outside or before marriage, her ability to receive justice in case of sex crimes, property rights independent of her husband and when prayers are mandatory for her.
Muslims believe all mankind will be judged on their good and bad deeds and consigned to either Jannah (paradise) or Jahannam (hell). The Koran states, “So whomever does an atom’s weight of good will see it (chapter 99:7) and whomever does an atom’s weight of evil will see it (99:8).
As with so many religions, high ideals can be poorly practised or simply ignored.