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General Essay on Islam

General Essay on IslamThe rise of Islam began with the Prophet Muhammad, who
was born in about 570 in the city of Mecca, in central western Arabia. From about
the age of forty until shortly before his death in 632 Muhammad received
frequent revelations from Allah delivered through the angel Gabriel. These were
written down into 114 chapters or suras and collected together a generation after
the death of Muhammad. The revelations are collectively known as the Qur'an,
the sacred book of Islam.

A second source of authority for Muslims is the Hadith (which literally means
"statement") . The Hadith consists of a collection of sayings and deeds of the
Prophet and his companions which were transmitted by a chain of authorities and
written down between the ninth and eleventh centuries. (Individual sayings or
traditions of the prophet and his companions are also known as hadith.) The
example set by the Prophet as recorded in the Hadith is known as the Sunnah, a
term that literally means "w ell-trodden path". The Sunnah provides the
normative basis upon which Muslims conduct their lives.

The main sectarian division in Islam is between the Sunni and Shi'a traditions.
Sunni and Shi'a share the same prophetic revelatory event described in the
Qur'an and the Sunnah: they each accept as fundamental Allah's unity and the
mission and mes sage of Muhammad. The division between the two traditions
derives from the question of who is authorised to rule over the community of
Muslims (Ummah). For the Sunni, authority to rule was originally in the hands of
the community , which appointed a caliph (vice-regent/president) to rule on its
behalf. They recognise the first four caliphs as Muhammad's legitimate
successors.

The Shi'a, however, placed authority solely in the hands of the fourth caliph, Ali,
who was also the Prophet's cousin and son-in-law, and his descendants. Shi'ism
has developed its own system of law and theology; its own clergy; festivals and
places of pilgrimage; and a special religious ethos characterised by a fervour to
suffer for the cause.
In spite of the division between Sunni and Shi'a, Islam has avoided the extensive
fractural divisions that have occurred in some other major world religions. There
have of course been various splits, but many of these were the result of slightly
variant approaches to jurisprudence and theology rather than actual sectarian
divisions caused by doctrinal differences. The various jurisprudential and
theological schools in Islam tend to be referred to with the Arabic word
"Madhhab" (which means "a path that is walked along") since the term does not
suggest any value judgements with regard to the style of Islam that is being
practised. Muslims who affiliate themselves to different theological or
jurisprudential madhhabs will worship in the same mosque. There is no sense of
denominational difference here, and it is inappropriate to regard the different
madhhabs as sects.

The terms sect or independent group can, however, be used to refer to those
groups which, through developing doctrines and practices clearly at odds with
Qur'anic teaching or the traditions of the Prophet, have placed themselves
outside of main stream Islam. Four such major sects have emerged from within
the Sunni tradition: Kharijiyyah, Mu'tazilah, Wahhabiyyah and Ahmadiyyah. Three
have arisen from within Shi'a: Isma'iliyyah, Nusayriyyah and Qarmatiyyah. These
are all regarded by orthodox Muslims as heretical. Other groups that have
emerged from within the Shi'a tradition are the Druzes, the Babis and the Baha'is.
Although these groups emerged from within the Shi'a branch of Islam they do not
consider themselves to be Muslims but are independent traditions in their own
right.
Fundamentals and History
There are few people on earth today who have not heard something about Islam.
Islam is one of the most prominent religions in the world today with at least 750
million people practicing. Islam is a voluntary relationship between an individual
and his creator. Islam emerged in Arabia during the early 7th century. Islam
means "submission" in Arabic, which is the basis for the religion---submitting to
the Will of God. Islamic religion is formed on the foundations of Islamic life,
variety and unity is Islam, and Islam and its nonbelievers. The Islamic people had a
new faith in their religion and kept their hopes high to conquer and spread the
religion. They changed the society that was used across the lands and brought a
new religion that would keep the people high in assurance that they'll always
have a good spirit.

The foundations of Islamic life are based on a sacred text called the Qu'ran. The
Qu'ran is a record of the exact words revealed by God through the Angel Gabriel
to the Prophet Muhammad. The Qu'ran is the prime source of every Muslims'
faith and practice. It deals with all the subjects which concern us as human
beings: wisdom, doctrine, worship, and law, but its basic theme is the relationship
between God and his creatures. At the same time it provides guidelines for a just
society, proper human conduct and an equitable economic system. From the time
the Qu'ran was revealed, until this day there has always been a large number of
Muslims who have memorized all of the Qu'ran, letter by letter. Not one letter of
the Qu'ran has been changed over the centuries.

Another source for the basis of Islamic life is al-Hadith, or sunnah. This is a vast
body of transmitted stories and sayings attributed to the Prophet and his
comparisons. Unlike the Qu'ran, these stories are not assembled in a single,
absolutely accepted text. There are actually many collections of Hadith. Over
time, during the first few centuries of Islam, it became obvious that many so-
called hadith were in fact spurious sayings that had been fabricated for various
motives, at best to encourage believers to act righteously and at worse to corrupt
believers' understanding of Islam and to lead them astray. Since Islamic legal
scholars were utilizing hadith as an adjunct to the Qu'ran in their development of
the Islamic legal system, it became critically important to have reliable collections
of hadith. While the early collections of hadith often contained hadith that were
of questionable origin, gradually collections of authenticated hadith called sahih
were compiled. Such collections were made possible by the development of the
science of hadith criticism, a science at the basis of which was a critical analysis of
the chain of (oral) transmission (isnad) of the hadith going all the way back to
Muhammad. The two most highly respected collections of hadith are the
authenticated collections the Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim. In addition to
these, four other collections came to be well respected, although not to the
degree of Bukhari and Muslim's sahih collections. These four other collections are
the Sunan of Tirmidhi, Nasa'i, Ibn Majah, and Abu Da'ud. Together these four and
the two sahih collections are called the "six books" (al-kutub al-sitta). Two other
important collections, in particular, are the Muwatta of Ibn Malik, the founder of
the Maliki School of law, and the Musnad of Ahmad ibn Hanbal, the founder of
the Hanbali School of law.

The third source that provides an important basis for the faith is the biography of
the Prophet of God---Muhammad. Muhammad ibnu Abdillah was born in Mecca
in the year 569 CE. Orphaned at an early age, Muhammad was cared for by his
uncle. He earned his living as a trader and a Shepard among the Bedouins, and
was known by his people as al-amin (the trustworthy one). When he was 25, he
married Khadija. When Muhammad reached the age of 40, the angel Gabriel
came to him with revelations that established his prophethood. Muhammad was
first ordered to instruct his immediate family on Islam, including his beloved wife
Khadija, but eventually it was revealed to him that he should begin delivering the
message to all of mankind. In the next 20 years of his life, he communicated the
message of Allah to his people, and set an example for how each human being
should lead her or his life. This is especially valuable since Muhammad is the last
Prophet of Allah. In the year 632, the year of his death, the Prophet delivered his
famous last sermon.

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