James Retson (Feb 9 2004)

Islam is the proper name to use when referring to the religion practiced by Muslims. It is an Arabic word that means two things: to surrender to God and to acquire peace in your soul. A Muslim is a follower of Islam. Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world outpacing Christianity , Buddhism and all other belief systems through a mixture of conversion and natural increase.

There are two sects of Sunni and Shi'a in Islam. Sunnis are estimated to make up 85% of the world's Muslim population. There is only one Shi' a dominated country, Iran with significant Shi's minorities found in Iraq, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and India.  Sh´'a is an Arabic word meaning party or faction. It has now become synonymous with a community.

The Quran which is often spelled Koran in English is believed by Muslims to be the literal speech of God as revealed to the Prophet Muhammad. The word Quran means "The Reading".

Islam, Forced Conversion and War

The Koran speaks to the issue of killing:

2:190-193 reads:

Fight for the sake of God those that fight against you, but do not attack first.  God does not love the aggressors. Slay them whenever you find them.   Drive them pout of the places from which they drove you. Idolatry is worse than carnage.  But do not fight them within the precincts of the Holy Mosque unless they attack you there; if they attack you put them to the sword.  Thus shall the unbeliever be rewarded: but if they mend their ways, know that god is forgiving and merciful.

The Qur'an forbids forcing someone to convert to the faith: 2:256 " There shall be no compulsion in religion.  True guidance is now distinct from error.  He that renounces idol-worship and puts his faith in god shall grasp a firm handle that will never break. God hears and knows all."

6:151 Come, I will tell what your lord has made binding on you....and that you shall not kill- for that is forbidden by God-except for a just cause.  Thus God exhorts you, that you may grow in wisdom.

Core Beliefs

Belief in God

Belief in the angels

Belief in the revealed Books of God

Belief in God's many prophets.

Accepting that there will be a Last Day

Belief in the divine measurement of human affairs

Belief in a life after death

Major Sins in Islam

Committing idolatry,  Stealing from an orphan,  Committing adultery or fornication,  Disobeying parents, Collecting interest in investments, Accusing a chaste woman falsely, Giving false testimony, Committing murder or suicide, Committing infanticide, Enslaving a free person, Engaging in slander and gossip

Virtuous deeds in Islam

Speaking the truth, Being kind to family, Honouring parents, Giving in charity,  Feeding the poor,  Fighting against injustice,  Freeing slaves,  Returning borrowed property, Studying and learning,  Being kind to animals

Four Stages of Life in Islam

Life in the Womb: Physical life begins at conception, the Shari'ah (Islamic Law) states the fetus has rights.  No one has the right to kill a baby in the womb. Abortion is quite forbidden.

Life in the world, Life in the grave, The Next Life

Appendix A Books on Islam

Ahmad, Hazrat Mirza Bashir-ud-din Mahmud (1985) Introduction to the Study of The Holy Quran, London: The London Mosque

Dawood, N.J.(1990) The Koran, New York: Penguin

Emerick, Yahiya, (2002) The Complete Idiot's Guide to Understanding Islam, Indianapolis: Pearson Education Company

Esposito, John L. (1999) The Islamic Threat, Myth or Reality, Oxford: University Press

Huntington, Samuel P. (1996) The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996

Lewis, Bernard (1993) Islam and the West, New York: Oxford University Press, 1993

Lewis, Bernard (2003) Islam Infidels ?, New York: Oxford University Press, 1993

Maqsood, Ruqaiyyah (1994), Teach Yourself Books: Islam, London: Hodder Headlines Pic

Appendix B Web Sites a History of Islam