Handout 2: Islam Fact Sheet
Dates from: 622 CE in Mekka (in Saudi Arabia)
Note: Muslims believe Islam is the only true religion and has no beginning; 622 CE is the date the Islamic calendar began, keyed to an important event in Muhammad's life
Adherents: 1.8 billion (80-90% Sunni; 10-20% Shiite)
Ranking: Second, behind Christianity
Prophets: Muhammad (last and final prophet); also Adam, Noah, Abraham, Ishmael, Joseph, Moses, David, John the Baptist, Jesus, and others
Texts: Holy Qur'an (Qur'an) – primary scripture; also the Hadith (literally "report" or "tradition"), a collection of books chronicling sayings and actions of the Prophet Muhammad and his followers. The original language of Qur'an and Hadith is Arabic. The Qur'an is considered sealed; that is, permanently unalterable.
Sunni Islam does not have formal clergy. However, “imam” is a term of respect for one who leads prayers, or sometimes a religious professional.
Shiite Islam has a hierarchical clergy; Shiite “mullahs” range up to the highest rank of “ayatollah," the most prominent teachers of Islamic law. A few, known as “mujtahids,” are prominent Islamic religious scholars to whom followers look for interpretations of Islamic law. Under Islamic rule in Iran (which is majority Shiite), the top ayatollah is given the role of “faqih” (which means “jurisprudent") and political power as the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic. In Shiite Islam, "imam" is the highest rank of all, only applicable to 12 direct descendants of the prophet Muhammad over about ten generations. The last of these imams is said to be a messiah, called the Mahdi. It is said that he disappeared in the ninth century CE but will return. Shia believe that the Mahdi lives forever, as the Hidden Imam, and will make himself known on the Day of Resurrection. Until then, mujtahids lead followers as representatives of the Hidden Imam.
- Ramadan—a month-long holiday observed with fasting during daylight hours and prayer, commemorates when Muhammad was given the Qur'an by the angel Gabriel. The day after the end of Ramadan, Eid al-Fitr, is a holy day celebrated with decorations and gift giving.
- Ashura—(Shia) marks an occurrence in 680 CE when the Prophet’s grandson Hussein and 70 Muslims were martyred in an uprising in the Iraqi town of Karbala
- Eid Mawlid al-Nabi—celebrates the birth of the Prophet. Conservative Muslims do not celebrate this holiday or any birthday
- Eid-al-Adha—marks the end of the Hajj. Traditionally, some Muslims celebrate this three-day festival by sacrificing an animal and sharing the meat with family and the needy.
Terms and Fundamental Precepts
- Five Pillars of Islam—profession of faith ("There is one God and Muhammad is his prophet"), prayer toward Mekka five times a day, giving to the poor and performing community service, fasting during the month of Ramadan, and making a pilgrimage to Mekka
- Muslim—a follower of Islam
- Mekka—in Saudi Arabia, main holy city of Islam; location of the Kaa'ba
- Shia—branch of Islam with 154 to 200 million adherents; grant authority to lineage of Ali (cousin of Muhammad) and Sunni—branch of Islam with 940 million adherents; grant authority to lineage of caliphs who retained leadership direct descendants of Muhammad; Shia or Shiite is a shortening of Shiat Ali, which means "Partisans of Ali" over the claims of Muhammad's descendants to being his rightful heirs as leaders (Caliphs) of the Islamic community.
- (p.b.u.h.), meaning "peace be upon him," notation appearing after Muhammad's name in English; also appears as (s.a.w.), for the transliteration of the Arabic sallallahu alaihi wasallam of the same meaning
- As Salaam Alaikum—traditional Muslim greeting; means "Peace be unto you."
- Hijra—migration of Muhammad and his followers to Medina in year 622 CE, after which Islam spread rapidly; also the beginning of the Islamic calendar
- Sunna (or Sunnah)—way of life prescribed in Islam, based on teachings and practices of Muhammad (therefore on both Qur'an and Hadith)
- Hajj—a pilgrimage to Mecca which every Muslim is expected to undertake at least once during life; one of the Five Pillars of Islam
- ummah—community, especially the community of believers; can refer to a group of individuals or the body of Islamic nations
- ablution—cleansing with water, performed before prayer
- hijab—headscarf worn by some Muslim women
- halal—lawful; literally "allowed by Allah;" permitted under Islamic law
- Kaa'ba—the cube-shaped building in Mekka which houses relics of Muhammad; the place all Muslims face when they pray
Shared with Unitarian Universalism
- Value of caring for those less fortunate than oneself
- Value of social justice
- Value of strong families
- Value of commitment to and acting on what one believes most important
- Rejection of the Trinity and the divinity of Jesus, yet respect for Jesus as an important prophet and teacher
- Acceptance of the validity of multiple religions, limited in Islam to the “People of the Book,” namely Judaism and Christianity
- In Singing the Living Tradition , the Unitarian Universalist hymn book), Hymns 180 and 188 and Readings 509, 607, 609, and 610 come from Islamic tradition.