Islam – Concept, history, beliefs and the place of women

We explain what Islam is, what its branches are, its history and main beliefs. In addition, the place of women and what is the Koran.

What is the Islam?

The Islam is one of the great religions monotheists of the world, the second in importance after Christianity. It has about 1.8 billion faithful worldwide (25% of the population global).

It is a Abrahamic religion, such as Judaism and Christianity, their sister religions, identified with the tradition spiritual inaugurated by the first Jewish patriarch, Abraham (Ibrahim), who would have been born around 1813 a. C.

However, Islam distinguishes itself from the other two in the election of his prophet, Muhammad (Muhammed), and his holy book, the Koran, although he also accepts as sacred texts the Jewish Torah (the Christian Pentateuch), the Biblical Psalms and the Gospel.

Islam venerates Allah exclusively (Allah), whose name comes from the Semitic voice The, also used in the Bible. Their god is unique and their representations, judged as idolatry, are not tolerated. The followers of Islam are called “Muslims” (from Arabic muslim, “Which submits”), and is divided into four religious branches, which are:

  • Sunism, the majority branch worldwide, are devoted to both the Koran and the Sunna (hence their name), the collection of sayings and deeds attributed to the Prophet Muhammad. According to his interpretation, the prophet should happen as Leader from Islam an Arab from the tribe of Quraish, from which he himself came.
  • Shiism, although it represents between 10 and 15% of the world’s Muslim population, it is the second most important branch of Islam, and its followers understand that the Caliph Ali Ali Abn Tálib was succeeded by the Prophet Muhammad, so “Shiite” would mean “supporter of Ali ”(in Arabic chíat-u-Ali).
  • Jariyism, the third in importance, his name means “he who goes out” (jariyí), since its origins come from a division within Shi’ism, in the year 657. Unlike the Shiites and Sunnis, who had conservative ideas of who should be the leader of the Muslims, the jariyíes considered that that should be a free decision of the community. His doctrine starts from the fact that no Muslim can have faith and act badly at the same time, even if it is the caliph, who should in that case be dismissed by the people themselves.
  • Sufism, name used for different orthodox or heterodox esoteric groups linked to Islam, so in the beginning it was not recognized as part of the official body of religion. According to the followers of Sufism, Muhammad would have inaugurated “the way” (tariq), of which there is a background in the Quran: a set of methods, forms and rites of purification of the soul, mystical interpretation and of God’s relationship with the cosmos. Thus, it differs from the rest of Islam in that it pursues proximity to God through holiness (walaya).

Islam history

The history of Islam is vast and complex. As is usually the case with the great religions, it had a huge impact on the politics and the society from its region of origin and throughout the world.

Its origins date back to the 7th century Arabian peninsula, with the arrival of the Prophet Muhammad to what was populated by various tribes and nomadic or semi-nomadic communities, such as the Bedouins, and small populations of farmers who occupied the oases of the north or the most fertile and dense areas of the south (nowadays Yemen and Oman).

These settlers followed their own polytheistic religions, or were Jews, Christians or followers of Zoroastrianism. They had as a sacred city Mecca, where was the sacred wall of Zamzam and the temple of the Kaaba.

On the outskirts of the city, Muhammad had a religious revelation at 40, and he dedicated himself to preaching what he said was the ancient and true religion, which Jews and Christians had degraded. Thus unified the region and began the State Muslim. With his death in 632, that State was left to its successors, the caliphs, who were in charge of taking religion further.

Between the 6th and 7th centuries, the newborn Islamic Empire conquered from India, North Africa and Central Asia, to the Iberian Peninsula and the Mediterranean, during three successive dynasties: Orthodox caliphs, Umayyad caliphs and Abbasid caliphs.

In the year 945, the Seljuks or Muslim Turks seized the empire, thus beginning their decline, characterized by political decentralization and the loss of territories. After defeating the Byzantines in 1071, Muslims faced the Christian kingdoms of the West in a series of conflicts known as the Crusades.

Upon completion, Saladin (1138-1193) emerged, who unified the Caliphate and regained Orthodox traditions, driving the Golden Age of Islam. This culminated in the invasion of the Mongols from the east, who ended up with the Abbasid caliphate but eventually converted to Islam, spreading religion to new ends of Eurasia.

The rise of the powerful European empires in the 18th and 19th centuries sentenced the end point of Islam as power world. The last of its political representatives was the Ottoman Empire, dissolved after the First World War and segmented into a series of European protectorates.

Islam reaches the 21st century in a state of dispersion, with varied practices in nations more or less orthodox, and even a considerable presence in western nations. In addition, he suffers the bad reputation of the terrorist radicalism that arose with the confrontation of the United States with fundamentalist groups such as al-Qaeda or Islamic State (Daesh).

The Quran

The holy book of Muslims is the Quran, also called Alcorán or Qurán, where the word of Allah would be contained, revealed to the Prophet Muhammad by the Archangel Gabriel (Gibril).

While the prophet was alive, his teachings were transmitted orally, or transcribed on leather, palm, bone, etc., until they were compiled on paper during the Utman ibn Affan caliphate, when they were formulated in its 14 modern chapters, divided into Turn in verses.

In the Quran Mythical characters from the Christian and Hebrew tradition are present, like Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses or even Jesus of Nazareth, who are regarded as prophets of God, that is, Islamic prophets. However, it is Muhammad in the Islamic tradition who has, as it were, the last word.

The Quran It was written in classical Arabic, language in which it is usually recited during the liturgy, although today it has been translated into innumerable languages. Translations are considered versions of the original, never equivalent to it, with a purely didactic, educational value.

Islam beliefs

The Islam believe in the existence of a single god, Allah, creator, sustainer and sovereign of Universe, which has been revealed to different prophets since the beginning of time, one of them including Jesus of Nazareth. In fact, the qualities that Muslims attribute to God are not very different from those proposed by Jews and Christians, although with considerable differences.

For example, the God of Islam It is unique and indivisible, unlike the dogma of the Christian trinity. It is also irrepresentable, so does not allow the cult of images or representations, as Christianity does (at least the Catholic, with his saints). In addition, its sacred text, the Quran, is the only one not misrepresented over the years.

On the other hand, Islam believe in the existence of angels, which are divine creatures that serve as an intermediary between the humanity and the creator, and they never disobey his commands.

He also believes in predestination, and that Allah’s will is behind everything that happens, harmful or beneficial, since what he does not want to happen could not happen.

Lastly, Islam believe in a life after death, as well as in a judgment before Allah, in which to each person a book will be delivered by the angels with their earthly works or with their sins. This will happen on Resurrection Day or yawn-al Qiyämah.

Islam symbol

Just as Christianity identifies with the cross, the symbol with which Islam is traditionally associated is the crescent, or even more so the crescent and star: a crescent with a star on its concave side, sometimes with eight rays at its ends.

Its origin dates back to the Byzantine Empire, where it was associated with the Romanized version of Artemis, Diana the hunter, and was drawn with the moon’s ends facing up, as if they were horns.

This symbol passed to the Ottoman Empire, conquerors of Byzantium, and was so associated with Islam that today it appears on many flags of Islamic nations, such as Algeria, Turkey, Tunisia, Libya, Pakistan, Mauritania, Malaysia, Northern Cyprus, Azerbaijan, etc.

In other flags and representations, more affiliated with the Shiite current, Ali’s saber can also be found.

Islamic rites

Islamic rites are summarized in the “pillars” of Islam, as follows (according to Sunni doctrine, the majority):

  • The Shahada or testimony, which dictates that “There are no gods, only God, and Muhammad is his prophet.”
  • The salat or prayer, which must be done five times a day: at dawn, at noon, at mid-afternoon, at twilight and at night, always pointing the body towards Mecca. Every Friday there should be a community prayer in the mosque.
  • The azaque or mandatory alms, which leads the faithful to give part of their money to the less favored (usually 2.5%), at a given time.
  • The sawn or fast, which must be done every ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar, the month of Ramadan. Muslims should refrain from sexual intake or contact until the sun goes down, except in cases of health ailments, pregnancy or age, but in those cases they must be compensated with help to third parties or fasts at other times of the year.
  • The hajj or pilgrimage to Mecca, which you must do at least once in your life, as long as there are resources for it.

On the other hand, there is an Islamic law: Sharia. It is considered divine Law or incarnation of Allah’s will, and that every Muslim should follow both publicly and privately. It contains the guidelines for each situation of ordinary life, among which the prohibition of homicide, adultery, alcohol consumption and gambling.

Depending on the degree of religious commitment of a nation, this law can be practiced to the letter, or it can be the inspiration of the laws Modern of it.

The woman in Islam

Much has been said about the role that women occupy within the order of things proposed by Islam, according to Arab traditions and the sacred texts of this religion. But the truth is that Islamic law speaks of “complementation” between men and women, and nowhere does it establish that they should occupy a specific role, such as that of housewives.

Even so, the Quran makes clear the mandate of the man over his wife, as does the Old Testament of the Bible. Therefore, the role of women in an Islamic nation will depend on the degree of fundamentalism of the culture and the degree of separation that exists between State and religion.

Thus, there are very strict nations regarding the female role, marriage and divorce, in which women are required to be away from home or in the presence of strangers to cover their hair, torso or even the whole body, with a burka.

On the other hand, the polygamy It is allowed in some nations, if man has the resources to give his wives a decent life. In exchange, he is responsible for them, and must grant him permission to leave, study or perform certain tasks. In contrast, female genital mutilation, common elsewhere, is not a typical Islamic custom.

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