|Religion 21st Century|
Islam the most recent of “world religions.”
Islam is the most recent of “world religions.” Islam emerged from the teachings of the Arab prophet, Muhammad in the 7th century. Islam means "submission to God.”The Quran,the revered text of Islam, is said to be Muhammad's record of instructions from God. As with Jesus in Christian doctrine, the identity of Muhammad as a real, historical person is in doubt. The Quran developed over centuries with many contributors. What remains is a text of the religious, social, and political tenets that became the foundation of Islam and Islamic civilizations.
Muslims believe that Muhammad restored the monotheistic faith of Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and other prophets. They believe that Jews and Christians distorted God’s instructions by altering the original texts and introducing false interpretations. Muslims believe their central text, the Quran is the true word of God. Islamic law (Sharia) was derived from the Quran and expanded into a common law based on interpretations and rulings of Islamic courts that govern all aspects of Islamic society. Two major denominations are the Sunni (85%) and Shia (15%). Fighting between the two Islamic groups began in the 7th century and continues today. Other Islamic groups have retained their ethnic identities and continued with regional conflicts based on tribal identities, which often supersede Islamic identity.
In terms of a 21st century outsider’s view of Islam, Jihad is the most disturbing of Islamic concepts. To Islamic fundamentalists, Jihad describes military exertion against non-Muslim combatants in the defense or expansion of the Islamic state, the ultimate purpose of which is to establish the universal domination of Islam. Jihad is both history and a self-fulfilling prophesy.
Arabs mounted military campaigns with the goal of creating an Arab-Islamic empire. Rodenbeck stated: “Few events in history have had so swift, profound and far-reaching an impact as the arrival of Islam. Within a mere 15 years of the Prophet Muhammad’s death, in A.D. 632, his Arab followers had conquered all the centers of ancient Near Eastern civilization. They had erased a great and enduring regional power, Persia; reduced its brilliant rival, Byzantium, to a rump state; and carved from their territories an empire as vast as that of Rome at its height. Within 100 years, Muslim armies were harrying the frontiers of Tang dynasty China in the east, while 5,000 miles to the west, they had charged across Spain to clash with the Merovingian princes of what is now France. Arab armies created an empire based entirely upon a single faith, bound by its laws and devoted to its propagation. It uprooted long-embedded native religions, like Zoroastrianism in Persia, Buddhism in Central Asia and Hinduism in much of the Indus Valley. It transformed Arabic from a desert dialect into a world language that, for centuries, supplanted Latin and Greek as the main repository of human knowledge.”
Maureen Dowd wrote: "When I was in Saudi Arabia, I had tea and sweets with a group of educated and sophisticated young professional women. I asked why they were not more upset about living in a country where women’s rights were strangled, an inbred and autocratic state more like an archaic men’s club than a modern nation. They told me, somewhat defensively, that the kingdom was moving at its own pace, glacial as that seemed to outsiders. How could such spirited women, smart and successful on every other level, acquiesce in their own subordination? I was puzzling over that one when it hit me: As a Catholic woman, I was doing the same thing. I, too, belonged to an inbred and wealthy men’s club cloistered behind walls and disdaining modernity (the Roman Church). I, too, remained part of an autocratic society that repressed women and ignored their progress in the secular world. I, too, rationalized as men in dresses allowed our religious kingdom to decay and to cling to outdated misogynistic rituals, blind to the benefits of welcoming women’s brains, talents and hearts into their ancient fraternity. To circumscribe women, Saudi Arabia took Islam’s moral codes and orthodoxy to extremes not outlined by Muhammad; the Catholic Church took its moral codes and orthodoxy to extremes not outlined by Jesus. In the New Testament, Jesus is surrounded by strong women and never advocates that any woman — whether she’s his mother or a prostitute — be treated as a second-class citizen. "