Quick Start

Islam, while still an Abrahamic religion, is distinct from any of the Christian religions. Muslims consider Islam to be the original and true monotheistic faith of the prophets; Abraham, Moses, Jesus and finally Muhammed. It was to Muhammad, God's final prophet, that the angel Gabriel revealed the full truth in the form of the Holy Qur’an. Muslims believe that the Qur'an and the words and deeds of Muhammad are the fundamental sources of God’s divine will. Muslims are generally required to observe the Five Pillars of Islam, which are the five duties that unite the Islamic faithful together. Muslims consider all branches of Christianity and Judaism to have a distorted or incomplete version of God’s message due to missing revelation, misinterpretation or deliberate alteration of the divine word of God. Indeed, specifically, missing out the Qur'an can be seen as the greatest failure in this.


The six core articles of belief shared by all three of the main branches of the faith.

  1. Belief in God (Allah), the one and only one worthy of all worship (tawhid).
  2. Belief in all the Prophets (nabi) and Messengers (rusul) sent by God
  3. Belief in the Angels (mala'ika).
  4. Belief in the Books (kutub) sent by God (most importantly the Qur'an).
  5. Belief in the Day of Judgment (qiyama) and in the Resurrection (life after death).
  6. Belief in Destiny (Fate, Divine preordainment and Predestination) (qadar).

Ulema and the Religious hierarchy of Islam

Ulema (sing. Alim) are a class of highly educated and influential religious scholars, teachers, philosophers and lawyers that make up the core the Muslim clergy. Their primary roles are as the religious and legal scholars of Islam, who are the arbiters of shari’a law and bear responsibility for its interpretation to rest of the Islamic World. There are many types of Ulema; ranging from the Mullah who have spent time studying the scared laws of Islam and the teachings of those who have come before, to the Mujaddid who understand the deepest mysteries of Islamic theology and are able to radically reinterpret the tenants of the religion.

All classes of Alim exert a considerable control over social and cultural matters within the Muslim world, though their direct sphere of influence is often limited to very localised regions (ie their congregation). The influence of any Alim is based upon their understanding, interpretation and exhortation of Islamic law (fiqh) and the traditions of the prophet (hadith). However they are not just clergymen and prophets; their education and position in society often lead them to fulfil roles as advisors or ambassadors to political and military leaders. Indeed it is not unheard of for them to be warlords or politicians, Muhammad himself being the best example of this.

Classes of Ulema:

  • Mullah/Imam - Those educated in Islamic theology and sacred law; the leader of a local Mosque or a teacher in a Madrasah
  • Mujtahid - A true scholar of Islamic religious law who often serves as a Judge or Lawyer.
  • Mujaddid - A person whose understanding of Islam is so great that they can renew its understanding throughout the Muslim world, only the greatest of religious scholars could claim to deserve this title

The Religious Denominations of Islam

There have been a number of ideological schisms in Islam since the death of the prophet leading to distinct sects within Islam which share similar core beliefs but which have diverged substantially in some aspects of Islamic theology and law.


Sunnis believe that four spiritual leaders, or Caliphs, were the rightful successors to Muhammad; since God did not specify any member of Muhammad’s family to succeed the prophet. The Sunnis place particular importance on some of the early hadiths of Islam, the most important being those of the scholars Bukhari and Muslim.


Shi’a muslims believe that that Ali ibn Abi Talib, as the cousin and son-in-law of Muhammad, was his rightful successor, and they call him the first Imam. The Imams who have succeeded Ali ibn Abi Talib are the political and religious leaders of Shi’a Islam. They are considered to be infallible by their followers and rule by the right of divine appointment.


While all Muslims believe that they are on the pathway to God and will become close to God in Paradise — after death and after the “Final Judgment” — Sufis also believe that it is possible to draw closer to God and to more fully embrace the Divine Presence in this life, making this branch of Islam the most mystical offshot of the faith. The chief aim of all Sufis is to seek the pleasing of God by working to restore within themselves the primordial state of fit described in the Qur'an. In this state nothing one does defies God, and all is undertaken by the single motivation of love of God.

Five Pillars

The five pillars are the practices that are required of Muslims of all denominations in one form or another.

  • The Shahadah. This is the basic creed or tenet of Islam: “I testify that there is none worthy of worship except God and I testify that Muhammad is the Messenger of God.” Muslims must repeat the shahadah in prayer, and non-Muslims wishing to convert to Islam are required to recite the creed.
  • Salah. The act of ritual prayer, which must be performed five times a day. Each salah is done facing towards the Kaaba in Mecca. Salah is intended to focus the mind on God, and is seen as a personal communication with him that expresses gratitude and worship. The prayers are recited in the Arabic language, and consist of verses from the Qur'an
  • Zakat. Alms-giving. This is the practice of giving based on accumulated wealth, and is a religious obligation for all Muslims who can afford it. A fixed portion of wealth is spent to help the poor or needy, and also to assist the spread of Islam.
  • Sawm. The fast during the month of Ramadan. Muslims must not eat or drink from dawn to dusk during this month. The fast is to encourage a feeling of nearness to God, and during it Muslims should express their gratitude for and dependence on him, atone for their past sins.
  • The Hajj. Is the pilgrimage during the Islamic month of Dhu al-Hijjah to the city of Mecca. Every able-bodied Muslim who can afford it must make the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in his or her lifetime, those who have made the Hajj are held in high regard in Islamic communities. Rituals of the Hajj include walking seven times around the Kaaba, touching the Black Stone, running seven times between Mount Safa and Mount Marwah, and symbolically stoning the Devil in Mina.
islam.txt · Last modified: 2009/04/03 13:36 by innokenti
Except where otherwise noted, content on this wiki is licensed under the following license:CC Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported