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Experts give overview of Islam’s founding & tenets

RIDGECREST, N.C. (BP)–Rudy Gonzalez, Tal Davis and N.S.R.K. Ravi of the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board’s interfaith evangelism team reviewed various facets of Islam during the National Conference on Islam Aug. 15-17 at the LifeWay Ridgecrest Conference Center.

Among the components of their recap of Islam:

Description: Islam is the fastest-growing world religion, founded by Muhammad (570-632 AD), an Arab who claimed he received supernatural revelations from God (Allah) through the angel Gabriel. These revelations were written down by others and compiled into a book called the Koran. Islam claims 1.2 billion followers worldwide.

Purpose: The ultimate goal of many Muslims is to extend the “Ummah” (community of Islam) throughout the world and then rule it according to Islamic law. Islam claims to be the restoration of original monotheism and thus supersedes both Judaism and Christianity. Islamic law teaches that conversion may be achieved through persuasion or subjugation, but some hold that if these fail, “infidels” may be eliminated if necessary.

Beginnings: Islam began with Muhammad’s perceived visions and revelations. Because Muhammad could neither read nor write, he memorized the revelations and ordered his followers to write them down. These writings became Islam’s holy book, the Koran. Muhammad at first feared his revelations came from a jinn, or evil spirit, but later he accepted their source as divine and taught that he alone was the true recipient of Allah’s truth.

Source of Authority: Muslims accept only the Koran as the Word of God. They believe Allah’s earlier revelations in the Bible have been corrupted by Jews and Christians and are therefore untrustworthy.

Religious Duties: Every Muslim must practice at least five fundamental religious duties. Known as the Pillars of Islam, they are:

— The confession of faith or Shahada: “There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet.” If a Muslim repudiates the Shahada, it nullifies his or her hope of salvation.

— Prayer or Salat. The Muslim must recite prayers while facing Mecca five times a day.

— The observance of Ramadan, a month of fasting throughout the daylight hours to commemorate the first revelation of the Koran to Muhammad.

— Almsgiving or Zakat. Muslims are required to give 2.5 percent of their currency, plus other forms of wealth, as determined by a complicated system that purifies their remaining wealth.

— Pilgrimage, or Hajj, to Mecca, Muhammad’s place of birth. Every Muslim who is physically and financially able must make this trek at least once is his or her lifetime.

— Some Islamic scholars consider Jihad (“endeavor, strive, struggle, holy war”) as the sixth pillar of Islam and consider Jihad superior to the obligatory acts of prayer, fasting, almsgiving and pilgrimage. This view is not universally held in Islam.

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