9: Islam


  • Adherents: 1.5 billion (2nd largest)
  • Do They Proselytize? Yes.
  • Dogmatic? Yes.
  • Theistic? Yes.
  • Major populations: Middle East & Indonesia


I. Non–Exclusive Monotheism

American Muslims
Ft. Jackson, South Carolina

Key Terms

  • Islam
  • Qur’an
  • Hadith
  • Five Pillars
  • 613 CE the Prophet Muhammad ends paganism
  • Origins of Islam
  • Muhammad is to the Muslims as
    • Moses is to the Jews
    • John the Baptist is to the Christians
  • God and Allah are the same

Qur’an 2:136

We believe in God and the revelation given to us, and to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob and the Tribes of Israel, and that which was given to Moses and Jesus, and to all the prophets of the Lord. We make no distinction between them, for to God we have surrendered

II. An Abrahamic Religion

  • Connected to Abraham
  • Part of God’s covenant
  • Respect many of the same prophets
  • Monotheistic
  • Revealed scripture
  • Day of Judgment

III. What does Islam mean?

  • A. Semitic Languages vs. Greek Languages
    • Classical Arabic, Hebrew, Syriac, Aramaic are Semitic languages
    • Greek or Latin languages combine roots to create meaning
      • astro (star) + logos (study) = astrology (the study of the stars)
  • B. The Semitic Root S-L-M
    • Semitic languages operate differently
    • They are built around 3-letter roots (triliteral roots) that carry meaning
    • S-L-M is the root of Islam
      • Salaam - Arabic for peace
      • Shalom - Hebrew for peace
      • Salamah - Arabic for safety
      • Mushlam - Hebrew for perfect
      • Shalem - Hebrew for whole or complete
      • Salim - Arabic for unbroken
      • Islam - associated with peace, refuge, perfection, and completeness
    • Islam has come to mean humility or submission

IV. Origins of Islam: Muhammad

  • Muhammad’s early life
    • Born in Mecca, 570 CE
    • Orphaned, raised by his uncle
    • Worked as a merchant and shepherd
  • Muhammad and the Qur’an
    • 610: Meditating in a cave, Muhammad is visited by the angel Gabriel, and is commanded to recite the Qur’an to the Meccans
    • 613: About 3 years after Muhammad begins to receive the Qur’an, he begins preaching publicly
    • Muslims denounce polytheism and are persecuted by Meccans
    • 615: Many Muslims flee to a Christian kingdom in Abyssinia (Ethiopia)
  • From Mecca to Medina and Back
    • 620s: Muhammad is warned of a plot to assassinate him
    • 622: Muhammad leads his followers to Medina (1 A.H.)
    • 630: Muhammad marches on Mecca and the Muslims take control of the city and of the Ka’ba
    • 630-632: Muhammad is the spiritual and political leader of Mecca, Medina, and the outlying territory until his death in 632
    • 632: Abu Bakr, father-in-law to Muhammad, assumes political control
  • The “Seal of the Prophets”
    • Muhammad is the last prophet of God (Qur’an 33:40)
    • This ensures the Qur’an is the final and ultimate word of God


V. A Brief Intro

Al–Fatiha (The Opening)
Sura 1, Qur’an

In the Name of Allah,
the Compassionate, the Merciful

Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds, The Compassionate, the Merciful,
Master of the Day of Judgment,
Only You do we worship, and only 
You do we implore for help.
Lead us to the right path, 
the path of those You have favored
Not those who have incurred
Your wrath or have gone astray.

  • Most sacred text is the Qur’an, a received text from God to Gabriel to Muhammad
  • Hadith are traditional sayings and deeds attributed to Muhammad

VI. The Qur'an

  • A. The Qur’an as Clarification
    • Literally means the recitation in Arabic
    • Muhammad was visited by the angel Gabriel and told to recite God’s words
    • Conceived of as a correction of God’s teachings
    • The Qur’an is envisioned as the final attempt by God to deliver His word
  • B. Textual Precursors of the Qur’an
    • Followers of God are People of the Book and brought biblical narratives to Arabia
    • Diatessaron, a second-century Christian gospel–harmony popular to Syrian Christians may be a contribution
    • Describes the Torah, Psalms, and Gospel as being authentic in original form, but corrupted over time
    • Also alludes to Scrolls of Abraham, Scrolls of Moses, and Book of John the Baptist
  • C. The Preservation of the Qur’an
    • Qur’an preserved in its original language
    • Christian Bible has gone from Aramaic to Greek to Medieval Latin to Modern English
  • D. The Uniqueness of the Qur'an
    • Defies normal textual conventions
    • No beginning, middle, end
    • No chronological or thematic order
    • No continuity between parts
    • Divided into 114 suras, grouped by origin of where it was written (Medina or Mecca)
    • Suras made of non-rhyming ayats (verses)
    • Longer suras are at the beginning and smaller suras are at the end
    • Length of the New Testament
    • 20 years after Muhammad’s death, Uthman compiled a definitive Qur’an that is still read today 
  • E. After the Qur’an: The Hadiths
    • Second to Qur’an in importance
    • Collection of sayings from Muhammad
    • Various interpretations and degree of honor held for hadiths
    • Not universally accepted
    • Three sources of corruption: political conflict, sectarian prejudice, and desire for clarification

VII. Exegesis: Traditions of Muslim Interpretation

  • A. Sunni
    • The Community
    • Majority (about 85%) of Muslims are Sunni
    • Originally, the followers of the Caliphate after Muhammad’s death
    • No centralized power setting dogma of belief
    • Social and political authority invested in Caliphs, rulers
    • Religious authority belongs to religious community
    • Diverse beliefs

  • B. Shia
    • Minority (about 15%) of Muslims are Shia
    • Originally, the followers of Ali, Muhammad’s closest male heir
    • Led by Imam, who provides spiritual and political direction
    • Social, political, and religious authority invested in the Imam, a direct descendent of Muhammad who is sinless and infallible
    • Divided into various branches like Twelver Shiism and Ishmaili Shiism

  • C. Ultra–Conservative Sunni Islam: Wahabbism
    • Started in 18th century by a Sunni, Muhammad al–Wahhab
    • Turn away from modernism and return to earliest form of Islam
    • Kingdom of saudi Arabia
    • Bans against secular music, dancing, alcohol, smoking, movies, etc.
    • Saudi Arabia is the only Wahabbist country

  • D. Islamism (Radicalized Islam)
    • Politicization of Islam that intends to overthrow non–Muslim governments
    • Non–Muslim countries are considered
      • Dar al–Islam: Islamicate countries
      • Dar al–Harb: Countries at war
      • Dar al–Hudna: countries of calm
      • Most American Muslims consider America to be Dar al–Salaam: a peaceful country

  • E. Progressive Islam
    • Opposite of Islamist ideology
    • Diversity of opinion, modernization, gender equality, individual rights
    • Some consider this to be a reformation
    • Seek a way for countries to thrive together


VIII. Protecting Islam

  • A. Against Idols
    • Refusing to portray God is in reverence to God’s greatness
    • Traditional for Muhammad not to be depicted also
      • Because it may encourage idol–worship
    • Most Westerners are aware of this sensitivity
    • Depictions of Muhammad have occurred in some Muslim communities 

  • B. Jihad
    • Two versions of jihad (Arabic: struggle) mentioned in the Qur’an
      • “Greater jihad” - internal struggle for piety
      • “Lesser jihad” - armed struggle to defend Islam

  • C. The Veil
    • Typically legally mandatory in conservative Islamicate countries
    • Not mentioned in the Qur’an
      • Text only says to dress modestly (Qur’an 24:30)
      • In contrast, Christian women are instructed to “cover their heads” (I Cor. 11:5-7)
    • Reason Christian women do not follow this command? Modern life

Nawawi Hadith #3

Islam has been built upon five things
on testifying that there is 
no god save Allah,
and that Muhammad is His Messenger;
on performing Salat;
on giving the Zakat;
on Hajj to the House;
and on fasting during Ramadan.

The Declaration of Faith

    لَا إِلَّهَ إِلَّا الله مُحَمَّدٌ رَسُولُ الله

There is no god but God
And Muhammad is His Messenger.

IX. The Five Pillars

  • A. Shahadah (Declaration of Faith)
    • From the verb: to testify, confess
    • Declaration of Faith before two Muslim witnesses
    • Belief in the oneness of God
    • Belief in the finality of the prophethood of Muhammad

  • B. Zakat (Alms)
    • Yearly payment on profits, typically 2.5%
    • Giving alms is required, though there are rules to ensure justice
    • “Charity” is a different concept; Additional charity is wonderful, but not a requirement
    • Promotes solidarity with the community because hardships are shared by all
    • Traditionally collected by the state; more unregulated today

  • C. Sawm (Fasting)
    • Fasting, a form of asceticism
    • Abstain from food, drink, smoking, and worldly pleasures
    • During the entire lunar month of Ramadan, Muslims fast during daylight hours and reflect on the bounty of God
    • Those exempt from fasting: pregnant women, those who have not reached puberty, those who are infirm

  • D. Hajj (Pilgrimage)
    • Holy pilgrimage to Mecca in present–day Saudi Arabia
    • Takes place from the 8th to 13th month of the Islamic calendar
    • Should be performed once if one is physically and financially capable
    • Everyone on Hajj must wear simple white garments with no mark of national or financial identity in a ‘castless’ atmosphere
    • Mecca has become a synonym, the world over, for a state of peace

  • E. Salat (Prayer)
    • The “tent pole” of Islam
    • Ritualized daily prayer performed five times a day featuring Qur’anic recitation and bodily movements indicating submission to God
    • Sets the tone for the day and divides the day into intervals
    • Prayers are a microcosm and daily reminder of the five pillars: Shahadah-one recites the declaration of faith; Salat is performed; Sawm-one refrains from engaging in the world during prayer; Hajj-one turns attention to Mecca; Zakat-a portion of the day is given to Allah