Question

I. Islam

Given recent and current political events, it is imperative that students take a little time, if they haven’t already, to understand the religion known as Islam.

Islam, which means “submission” in Arabic, was founded by Muhammad, who lived in the seventh century in and around Mecca, in what is now known as Saudi Arabia. Muhammad was illiterate. Muslims (as followers of Islam are called) thus believe it was a miracle that God (Allah) revealed himself to Muhammad, revelations which were recorded in the sacred text known as the Qur’an (sometimes spelled ‘Koran’).

The teachings of Muhammad did not arise in a vacuum. His thought was influenced by Arabic religions, as well as by the two major religions of the Middle East, Judaism and Christianity. Some basic teachings on Islam will seem familiar to students of those religions.

There is only one God, Allah, and his teachings are revealed by Muhammad in the Qur’an.
God is stern but merciful.
There are other spiritual beings besides Allah, namely, angels and jinn.
Allah has a purpose for humankind, but humans also have free will.
There exist a heaven and a hell, where the righteous will be rewarded and the wicked punished, respectively.
There are five things that one must do to be a good Muslim, generally referred to as the “five pillars of Islam” (see Hopfe pp. 357-359). These are: (i) repetition of the Creed, (ii) daily prayer, (iii) almsgiving, (iv) fasting, and (v) pilgrimage to Mecca.

Other beliefs and teachings of Islam are detailed in the chapter.

II. Baha’i

The Baha’i chapter can be found here: http://myreligionkit.com/StuPage.html. Scroll down until you see our text, then click on the link for the chapter.

Baha’i is a religion that spun off from Islam. There are important differences, which perhaps mark Baha’i off from most major world religions. According to Baha’i, all religions come from the same source. There have been many messengers of God throughout history, all with the message that we are one and the work of one God.

III. World Religions Charts

You will have to do two World Religion Charts , one each on Christianity and Islam.

Students are expected to:

Recognize the similarities and differences between the major religious belief systems
Explore openly and critically the codes of conduct and ethics that arise from religious thought in various religious traditions
Understand the development of Islam and its historical ties to Christianity and Judaism.
Be familiar with the biography of the Prophet Muhammad and understand his place in Islamic tradition and thought.
Understand the importance of the Qur’an and its major teachings.
Identify the Five Pillars of faith.
Understand how the Baha’i faith originated within Islam.
Understand the concept of continuous revelation and its implications for Baha’i religious attitudes.

LEARNING OUTCOMES:

Evaluate and compare various religious beliefs and traditions.

Recognize what distinguishes a religion from other forms of belief.

For a Muslim living in one of the first world countries (e.g. Germany, England, the United States, etc.), how feasible would it be to practice the Five Pillars of Faith? Which of the Five Pillars would be most doable and which would be the most challenging? Think of different occupations that would present special obstacles to the practice of the Five Pillars: an emergency room nurse or physician, someone working in a day care center, a sales clerk in a large department store, anattorney, etc., and discuss how someone in these professions might be able to follow the Five Pillars.

Religion and politics have been intertwined in various times and places, and to various degrees, throughout human history. How are political and religious concerns related? How are they different? How should the two be coordinated?

In your opinion, to what extent can a religious system bring about universal social and political harmony?

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For a Muslim living in one of the first world countries (e.g. Germany, England, the United States, etc.), how feasible would it be to practice the Five Pillars of Faith? Which of the Five Pillars would be most doable and which would be the most challenging? Think of different occupations that would present special obstacles to the practice of the Five Pillars: an emergency room nurse or physician, someone working in a day care center, a sales clerk in a large department store, an attorney, etc., and discuss how someone in these professions might be able to follow the Five Pillars.

Generally speaking, all five pillars of Islam would be doable for a devout Muslim living in the West. Of course, the extent of observing all five pillars depends on how earnestly one wants to adhere to Islamic teachings and if one is ready to put up with certain difficulties it may create. However, some of the pillars of Islam are easier to follow than others. I would say that the easiest of all five is perhaps shahada, or confession of faith. Western countries allow for religious freedom, and Muslims are free to follow their religion. Paying alms should be relatively easy as well, as long as a Muslim is willing to spend on a charitable cause. I cannot see any major problem with a pilgrimage, or hajj. People in first world countries often enjoy better standards of living than those living elsewhere, and it may be actually easier for Muslims from the West to travel to Mecca than those from many predominantly Muslim countries. The same can be said about fasting. As long as an individual is motivated enough, he or she can follow any dietary preferences in the West.
The only pillar I foresee major problems with would be prayer. Muslims are commanded to pray five times per day, at designated intervals. This may be difficult depending on one’s professional duties. For example, hospital workers, fast food industry workers, or production chain workers would have hard time fitting the prayer time into their work schedules....

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