Islam: Exploring Religion

By: Sierra Latshaw, Surbhi Kumar, and Anushka Limaye

Origin of the Religion

  • Origin of the religion: Islam originated mainly in the areas near the Arabian Peninsula in 622 CE.
  • Basic religious beliefs: The religion was founded based on the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad, whose teachings are recorded in the Qur’an, the sacred book of the Muslims. People who practice Islam believe in only one God, Allah, and pray to him five times a day, fulfilling one of their Five Pillars of Faith. The Pillars include fasting, charity, a profession to His faith, daily prayer, and the pilgrimage to Mecca.
  • Classification of religion: Islam is a universalizing religion since it tries to appeal to people from other religion and believes that everyone should be Muslim.
  • Branches or divisions of the religion: Islam has two main denominations, Shi’a and Sunni, with 80% of Muslims being Shi’a and 20% Sunni. The initial reason for division amongst a religion was political; when the death of the Prophet Muhammad occurred, the Muslim nation was trouble with the question of who would take over after him. The Sunni Muslims believed that a person capable of the job should be the Prophet, while the Shi’a Muslims thought the throne should only belong to those in Muhammad’s bloodline. Over time, the political differences broadened to include spiritual as well; both Sunni and Shi’a Muslims believe the same core ideas, but the application varies greatly.

Geographic Distribution

  • Muhammad's successors had many followers which they would organized into armies. The armies then took control of many places in Africa, Asia, and Europe. After Muhammad's death his followers conquered Palestine, the Persian Empire, and India. When they conquered they forced Arabs to convert to Muslims. They then lost Northern Europe to Christians but still conquered Southern Europe and Turkey. Also Arab traders who were converted to Muslims spread their religion through trade and relocation.

  • Cities associated with the prophet Muhammad. Makkah is the holiest place as it was Muhammad's birth place. The Ka’ba inside of Makkah, a holy shrine with powers directed to Allah (their god) Madinah, 350 kilometers north of Makkah where Muhammad received his first adherents and became the city's chief advisor His tomb is there today inside Islam's second Mosque.

  • Islam is practiced in many places today however it is most concentrated in parts of Africa and the Middle East.

  • The number of Islam followers is estimated around 2 million people.
  • Distribution of Followers: see picture below

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Unique Features

Places of Worship

A muslim prays in the mosque, home, or basically anywhere but impure places(such as the bathroom) as long as one prays in the direction of Mecca/Makkah, and has clean hand and feet and a praying mat. Men and women don't often pray together. When praying, there is often a prayer song that has meaning relating to the Qur'an. An example of a prayer song is portrayed below.

A Beautiful Muslim Prayer


Impact on Social and Family Structures:

In terms of marriage, muslim women can only marry a muslim man that their parents (usually) choose. Men usually marry muslim women, but can marry a christian or jewish girl under certain circumstances. Socially, a woman cannot go out into public without a headscarf(again, usually.) Extremists groups, like the Taliban in Afghanistan, would not allow women to leave the house without a male relative, or without an Afghani burkha, which covered the whole body, including the face, and only had a thin netting around the eye area so that the wearer could see. This was because it is immodest for a woman to show body parts that might cause men to commit sin. A woman displaying arms, legs, hair, ears, and sometimes the face might induce a man to commit a sin that he would not have committed if not for the woman. Most muslim women only wear the headscarf, not the full face veil. Muslims are also socially expected not to mingle too much with infidels(unless doing missionary work),

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Impacts on Cultural Belifs and Expectations:

Muslims are expected to remain modest, not to eat pork, to adhere to the five pillars of Islam(prayer, fasting, charity, pilgrimmage(if one can afford it and is healthy enough), following the creed), women to wear a burkha or to cover themselves completely(except for the hands and feet, and usually face), men to wear prayer caps while praying(taqiyah or kufi), and to believe in only one god, Allah. Culturally, Islam is incorporated into many traditions, like celebrations or prayers before tests or interviews.

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Essential Question

How do the Five Pillars of Faith affect how a Muslim lives?