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One day Posted on: 2004/3/20 15:27
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one day i will free my self of the maya
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Jews Posted on: 2004/3/20 15:23
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The term "G-d" is used in this essay to respect the Jewish prohibition against spelling the name or title of the deity in full. Dates listed which are prior to the 4th century BCE are approximate.



Early History of Judaism
Circa 2000 BCE, the G-d of the ancient Israelites established a divine covenant with Abraham, making him the patriarch of many nations. The term Abramic Religions is derived from his name. These are the four religions which trace their roots back to Abraham: Judaism, Christianity, Islam and the Baha'i World Faith. The book of Genesis describes the events surrounding the lives of the three patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. (Joseph, who is recognized as a fourth patriarch by Christians is not considered one by Jews). Moses was the next leader of the ancient Israelites. He led his people out of captivity in Egypt, and received the Law from G-d. After decades of wandering through wilderness, Joshua led the tribes into the promised land, driving out the Canaanites through a series of military battles.

The original tribal organization was converted into a kingdom by Samuel; its first king was Saul. The second king, David, established Jerusalem as the religious and political center. The third king, Solomon built the first temple there.

Division into the Northern kingdom of Israel and the Southern kingdom of Judah occurred shortly after the death of Solomon in 922 BCE. Israel fell to Assyria in 722 BCE; Judah fell to the Babylonians in 587 BCE. The temple was destroyed. Some Jews returned from captivity under the Babylonians and started to restore the temple in 536 BCE. (Orthodox Jews date the Babylonian exile from 422 to 352 BCE). Alexander the Great invaded the area in 332 BCE. From circa 300 to 63 BCE, Greek became the language of commerce, and Greek culture had a major influence on Judaism. In 63 BCE, the Roman Empire took control of Judea and Israel.

Four major (and some minor) religious sects had formed by the 1st century CE: the Basusim, Essenes, Pharisees and Sadducees. Many anticipated the arrival of the Messiah who would drive the Roman invaders out and restore independence. Christianity was established initially as a Jewish sect, centered in Jerusalem. Paul broke with this tradition and spread the religion to the Gentiles (non-Jews). Many mini-revolts led to the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple in 70 CE. The Jewish Christians were wiped out or scattered at this time. The movement started by Paul flourished and quickly evolved into the religion of Christianity. Jews were scattered throughout the known world. Their religion was no longer centered in Jerusalem; Jews were prohibited from setting foot there. Judaism became decentralized and stopped seeking converts. The local synagogue became the new center of Jewish life, and authority shifted from the centralized priesthood to local scholars and teachers, giving rise to Rabbinic Judaism.

The period from the destruction of the temple onward give rise to heavy persecution by Christians throughout Europe and Russia. Many groundless stories were spread, accusing Jews of ritual murder, the desecration of the Catholic host and continuing responsibility for the execution of Jesus . Unsubstantiated rumors continue to be circulated today. In the 1930s and 1940s, Adolph Hitler and the German Nazi party drew on centuries of anti-Semitism, and upon their own psychotic beliefs in racial purity. They organized the Holocaust, the attempted extermination of all Jews in Europe. About 6 million were killed in one of the world's greatest examples of religious and racial intolerance.

The Zionist movement was a response within all Jewish traditions to centuries of Christian persecution. Their initial goal was create a Jewish homeland in Palestine. The state of Israel was formed on 1948-MAY-18.

There are currently about 18 million Jews throughout the world. They are mainly concentrated in North America (about 7 million) and Israel (about 4.5 million).



Jewish Texts
The Tanakh corresponds to the Jewish Scriptures, (often referred to as the Old Testament by Christians). It is composed of three groups of books:

the Torah (aka Pentateuch): Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.
the Nevi'im: Joshua, Judges, Samuel (2), Kings (2), Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zachariah, MalachiIsaiah, Amos.
the Ketuvim, the "Writings" including Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, Ruth, Esther, Lamentations, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, Chronicles (2).

The Talmud contains stories, laws, medical knowledge, debates about moral choices, etc. It is composed of material which comes mainly from two sources:

the Mishnah, 6 "orders" containing hundreds of chapters, including series of laws from the Hebrew Scriptures. It was compiled about 200 CE.
the Gemara (one Babylonian and one Palestinian) is encyclopedic in scope. It includes comments from hundreds of Rabbis from 200 - 500 CE, explaining the Mishnah with additional historical, religious, legal, sociological, etc. material. It often records many different opinions on a topic without giving a definitive answer.


Basic Jewish Beliefs:
There is a story in wide circulation about a question asked of Rabbi Hillel -- a notable rabbi from the 1st century BCE. A non-Jew asked the rabbi to teach him everything about the Torah while standing on one foot. Rabbi Hillel responded: "What is hateful to you, don't do unto your neighbor. The rest is commentary. Now, go and study."

Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, (a.k.a. Maimonides) is generally accepted as one of the most important Jewish scholars from Medieval times. He wrote a list of thirteen principles of faith. This list has been generally accepted by Jews for centuries as a brief summary of the Jewish faith. However, the liberal wings of Judaism dispute some of the 13 today.

G-d exists.
G-d is one and unique.
G-d is incorporeal.
G-d is eternal.
Prayer is to be directed to G-d alone and to no other.
The words of the prophets are true.
Moses was the greatest of the prophets, and his prophecies are true.
The Written Torah (first 5 books of the Bible) and Oral Torah (teachings now contained in the Talmud and other writings) were given to Moses.
There will be no other Torah.
G-d knows the thoughts and deeds of men.
G-d will reward the good and punish the wicked.
The Messiah will come.
The dead will be resurrected. 9


Additional Jewish beliefs:
Some additional beliefs found commonly among Jews are:

Some Jews view Jesus as a great moral teacher. Others see him as a false prophet or as an idol of Christianity. Some sects of Judaism will not even say his name due to the prohibition against saying an idol's name.
The Jews are often referred to as G-d's chosen people. This does not mean that they are in any way to be considered superior to other groups. Biblical verses such as Exodus 19:5 simply imply that G-d has selected Israel to receive and study the Torah, to worship G-d only, to rest on the Sabbath, and to celebrate the festivals. Jews were not chosen to be better that others; they were simply selected to receive more difficult responsibilities, and more onerous punishment if they fail.
The 613 commandments found in Leviticus and other books regulate all aspects of Jewish life
The Ten commandments, as delineated in Exodus 20:1-17 and Deuteronomy 5:6-21, form a brief synopsis of the Law
The Messiah (the anointed one of G-d) will arrive in the future and gather Jews once more into the land of Israel. There will be a general resurrection of the dead at that time. The Jerusalem Temple, destroyed in 70 CE, will be rebuilt.
A fetus gains full personhood when it is half-emerged from its mother's body.
Boys reach the status of Bar Mitzvah on their 13th birthday; girls reach Bat Mitzvah on their 12th birthday. This means that they are recognized as adults and are personally responsible to follow the Jewish commandments and laws. Males are allowed to lead a religious service; they are counted in a "minyan" (a quota of men necessary to perform certain parts of religious services). Following their Bar Mitzvah or Bat Mitzvah they can sign contracts; they can testify in religious courts; theoretically, they can marry, although the Talmud recommends 18 to 24 as the proper age for marriage.

The more liberal movements within Judaism differ from some of the above beliefs concerning the source of the Torah, the concept of direct reward and punishment according to one's behavior, etc.



Judaism and Christianity compared:
Although Christians base much of their faith on the same Hebrew Scriptures as Jews, there are major differences in belief:

Jews generally consider actions and behavior to be of primary importance; beliefs come out of actions. This conflicts with conservative Christians for whom belief is of primary importance and actions tend to be derivative from beliefs.
Jewish belief does not accept the Christian concept of original sin (the belief that all people have inherited Adam and Eve's sin when they disobeyed G-d's instructions in the Garden of Eden).
Judaism affirms the inherent goodness of the world and its people as creations of G-d.
Believers are able to sanctify their lives and draw closer to G-d by performing fulfilling mitzvot (divine commandments).
No savior is needed or is available as an intermediary with G-d.



Jewish Practices
They include:

Observation of the Sabbath as a day of rest, starting at sundown on Friday evening.
Strict discipline, according to the Law, which governs all areas of life
Regular attendance by Jewish males at Synagogue
Celebration of the annual festivals including: Passover, or Pesach is held each Spring to recall the Jews' deliverance out of slavery in Egypt circa 1300 BCE. A ritual Seder meal is eaten in each observing Jewish home at this time. Six different foods are placed on the seder plate in the order in which they area eaten: Karpas (vegetables dipped in salt water) recalls the bitter tears shed during slavery
Maror (bitter herbs) to symbolize the bitterness of slavery.
Chazeret (bitter vegetables) also to symbolize the bitterness of slavery.
Choroset (apple, nuts & spices with wine) represents the mortar used by Hebrew slaves.

Also placed on the seder plate, but uneaten during the Seder meal: Zeroa (lamb shankbone) to recall the Passover sacrifice in the ancient temple.
Beitzah (roasted egg) symbolizes mourning, sacrifice, spring, and renewal.


Not placed on the Seder plate, but often eaten, is a boiled egg.

Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year, and is the anniversary of the completion of creation, about 5760 years ago. It is held in the fall.
The 10 days from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, are days of fasting and penitence.
Sukkoth or the Feast of Booths is an 8 day harvest festival; a time of thanksgiving.
Hanukkah or the Feast of Lights is an 8 day feast of dedication. It recalls the war fought by the Maccabees in the cause of religious freedom. It is typically observed in December. Originally a minor Jewish holy day, it has become more important in recent years.
Purim, the Feast of Lots recalls the defeat by Queen Esther of the plan to slaughter all of the Persian Jews, circa 400 BCE.
Shavout, the Feast of Weeks recalls G-d's revelation of the Torah to the Jewish people. It is held in late May or early June.

Rules for calculating Rosh Hashanah and Passover are available online at: http://quasar.as.utexas.edu/BillInfo/ReligiousCalendars.html

The local synagogue is governed by the congregation and is normally led by a rabbi who has been chosen by the congregation. A rabbi is a teacher who has been well educated in Jewish law and tradition.
Any adult male with sufficient knowledge can lead religious services. In reform and some conservative congregations, a woman can also preside. This is often done in those Jewish communities who lack a rabbi.
The Chief Rabbis in France and Great Britain have authority only by the agreement of those who accept it. Two Chief Rabbis in Israel have civil authority in areas of family law.



Jewish Movements:
There are five main forms of Judaism in the world today. However, the most conservative traditions do not necessarily recognize the most liberal as being part of Judaism. This is a common problem among many of the world's great religions:

Conservative* Judaism: This began in the mid-nineteenth century as a reaction against the Reform movement. It is a main-line movement midway between Reform and Orthodox.
Humanistic Judaism: This is a very small group, mainly composed of atheists and agnostics, who regard mankind as the measure of all things.
Orthodox* Judaism: This the oldest, most conservative, and most diverse form of Judaism. Modern Orthodox, Chasidim and Ultra Orthodox share a basic belief in the derivation of Jewish law, even as they hold very different outlooks on life. They attempt to follow the original form of Judaism as they view it to be. They look upon every word in their sacred texts as being divinely inspired.
Reconstructionist Judaism: This is a new, small, liberal movement started by Mordecai Kaplan as an attempt to unify and revitalize the religion. They reject the concept that Jews are a uniquely favored and chosen people. They have no connection at all with Christian Reconstructionism, which is an ultra-conservative form of Christianity.
Reform* Judaism: They are a liberal group, followed by many North American Jews. The movement started in the 1790's in Germany. They follow the ethical laws of Judaism, but leave up to the individual the decision whether to follow or ignore the dietary and other traditional laws. They use modern forms of worship. There are many female rabbis in reform congregations.

* These are the largest forms of Judaism.

A survey conducted in 2001 for the 2002 edition of the American Jewish Year Book indicated that fewer that 10% of American Jews are estimated to be Orthodox. However, Orthodox synagogues represent 40% of all U.S. synagogues. Reform Judaism has 26 percent of all synagogues; Conservatives have 23 percent. "Every other denomination or group representing synagogues - Reconstructionist, Sephardi, Traditional, Humanistic, Gay/Lesbian - accounts for 3 percent or less of synagogue affiliations..." 8 The total number of U.S. synagogues has increased from 2,851 in 1936 to 3,727 in 2001.



Jewish-Christian Relations:
The faith of Israel, as described in the Hebrew Scriptures, had divided into a number of Jewish Sects (the Basusim, Pharisees, Essenes, Saducees, Zealots and others) by the early first century CE. Subsequently, a number of events of momentous importance occurred:

30 CE: Some Jews, following the teachings of Jeshua (known by Christians as Jesus Christ), formed a Jewish Christian reform movement within Judaism under the leadership of James, an apostle of Jeshua.
circa 55 CE: Paul, a Jewish persecutor of Christians, became converted to Christianity and started to organize Pauline Christian churches throughout much of the Roman empire in conflict with the Jewish Christians.
70 CE: The Roman army destroyed the Temple and the rest of Jerusalem.
132 CE: Many Jews accepted Bar Kochba as the Messiah. This led to a hopeless three-year revolt against the Roman Empire. About a half-million Jews were killed; thousands were sold into slavery or taken into captivity. The rest were exiled from Palestine and scattered throughout the known world in what is called the "Diaspora."

Out of these events came two major world religions:

Judaism in its Rabbinical form, centered in local synagogues, scattered throughout the known world, and
Pauline Christianity which later became centered in Rome.

Relations between the two religions became strained. The Christian Scriptures include many examples of anti-Judaism. One of the gospels, written during the last third of the 1st century CE, included the accusation that all Jews, (past, present, and future), are responsible for deicide: the killing of G-d. This form of religious propaganda was serious enough in its original setting, as long as Christianity remained a small reform movement within Judaism. There are many examples of inter-religious friction throughout literature of that era; indeed, it is prevalent today. But when the Christian religion became the official religion of Rome in the late 4th century CE, Christianity became sufficiently powerful to actively oppress and persecute Jews. This led to numerous exterminations of groups of Jews during the Dark Ages, Middle Ages, Renaissance and into the modern era. Ancient Christian teachings and practices paved the way for the Nazi holocaust during World War II.

Today, only a few fringe Christian groups still teach that Jews are responsible for Christ's death. Many Christian denominations teach that the promises that G-d made to the Jewish people have been withdrawn and transferred to the Christian Church. This teaching has led to conflicts over attempts to evangelize Jews. Although anti-Semitism has been abandoned by most in North America, the relationships between Christians and Jews have much room for improvement.
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wizanda
Islam Posted on: 2004/3/20 15:19
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Quotations:
"The best jihad [struggle] is (by) the one who strives against his own self for Allah, The Mighty and Majestic," by the Prophet Muhammad. 1 More info on "jihad."
"It is a declaration of the truth and light to show the right path. It is the wise, the complete exhortation and a clear message...it is the embodiment of the fairest statements and Divine words of wisdom." Islamic scholar Abdur Rahman I. Doi, referring to the Qur'an 2
"[T]his is nothing but a manifestation of injustice, oppression and tyranny...and it is amongst the greatest of sins." Sheik Abdul-Azeez Aal ash-Sheik, grand mufti of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and head of the Council of Senior Scholars, speaking about the 9-11 terrorist attack. 3



Topics discussed in this essay:
Origin of Islam
About Muhammad (pbuh)
About Islam
Important Texts
Beliefs



Origin of Islam:
The name of this religion, Islam, is derived from the word "salam," which is often interpreted as meaning "peace." However "submission" would be a better translation. A Muslim is a follower of Islam. "Muslim" is an Arabic word that refers to a person who submits themselves to the will of God. Many Muslims feel that the phrases "Islamic terrorist" or "Muslim terrorist," which have been observed so often in the media, are oxymorons.

Most religious historians view Islam as having been founded in 622 CE by Muhammad the Prophet (peace be upon him).* He lived from about 570 to 632 CE). The religion started in Mecca, when the angel Jibreel (Gabriel) read the first revelation to Muhammad (pbuh). (Mohammed and Muhammed (pbuh) are alternate spellings for his name.) Islam is the youngest of the world's very large religions -- those with over 300 million members -- which include Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism.

* Muslims traditionally acknowledge respect for Muhammad, Jesus and other prophets (peace be upon them) by adding this phrase or an abbreviation "(pbuh)" after their names.

However, many if not most of the followers of Islam believe that:

Islam existed before Muhammad (pbuh) was born,
The origins of Islam date back to the creation of the world, and
Muhammad (pbuh) was the last of a series of Prophets.

Followers of Islam are called Muslims. "Allah" is an Arabic word which means "the One True God." An alternate spelling for "Muslim" that is occasionally used is "Moslim"; it is not recommended because it is often pronounced "mawzlem": which sounds like an Arabic word for "oppressor". Some Western writers in the past have referred to Islam as "Mohammedism"; this is deeply offensive to many Muslims, as its usage can lead some to the concept that Muhammad the Prophet (pbuh) was in some way divine.



About Muhammad (pbuh) :
Many unusual events have been recorded about Muhammad's (pbuh) birth and childhood:

His mother said "When he was born, there was a light that issued out of my pudendum and lit the places of Syria."
Also at the time of his birth, "...fourteen galleries of Kisra's palace cracked and rolled down, the Magians' sacred fire died down and some churches on Lake Sawa sank down and collapsed."
His foster family had many experiences of amazingly good luck while he was in their care.
As a young child, the angel Jibreel visited the boy, ripped his chest open, removed his heart, extracted a blood clot from it, and returned him to normalcy. 4

While still young, he was sent into the desert to be raised by a foster family. This was a common practice at the time. He was orphaned at the age of 6 and brought up by his uncle. As a child, he worked as a shepherd. He was taken on a caravan to Syria by his uncle at the age of 9 (or perhaps 12). Later, as a youth, he was employed as a camel driver on the trade routes between Syria and Arabia. Muhammad (pbuh) later managed caravans on behalf of merchants. He met people of different religious beliefs on his travels, and was able to observe and learn about Judaism, Christianity and the indigenous Pagan religions.

After marriage, he was able to spend more time in meditation. At the age of 40, (610 CE), he was visited in Mecca by the angel Gabriel. He developed the conviction that he had been ordained a Prophet and given the task of converting his countrymen from their pagan, polytheistic beliefs and what he regarded as moral decadence, idolatry, hedonism and materialism.

He met considerable opposition to his teachings. In 622 CE he moved north to Medina due to increasing persecution. The trek is known as the hegira . Here he was disappointed by the rejection of his message by the Jews. Through religious discussion, persuasion, military activity and political negotiation, Muhammad (pbuh) became the most powerful leader in Arabia, and Islam was firmly established throughout the area.



About Islam:
By 750 CE, Islam had expanded to China, India, along the Southern shore of the Mediterranean and into Spain. By 1550 they had reached Vienna. Wars resulted, expelling Muslims from Spain and Europe. Since their trading routes were mostly over land, they did not an develop extensive sea trade (as for example the English and Spaniards). As a result, the old world occupation of North America was left to Christians.

Believers are currently concentrated from the West coast of Africa to the Philippines. In Africa, in particular, they are increasing in numbers, largely at the expense of Christianity.

Many do not look upon Islam as a new religion. They feel that it is in reality the faith taught by the ancient Prophets, Abraham, David, Moses and Jesus (Peace be upon them). Muhammad's (pbuh) role as the last of the Prophets was to formalize and clarify the faith and to purify it by removing foreign ideas that had been added in error.



Important texts:
There are two main texts consulted by Muslims:

the Qur'an (Recitation) are the words of God. Muslims believe that it was revealed to Muhammad by the archangel Jibril (Gabriel). This was originally in oral and written form; they were later assembled together into a single book, the Qur'an. Its name is often spelled "Koran" in English. This is not recommended, as some Muslims find it offensive.
The Hadith, which are collections of the sayings of Muhammad (pbuh). They are regarded as the Sunnah (lived example) of Muhammad. The Quran gives legitimacy to the Hadith. It states: "Nor does he say aught of his own desire. It is no less than inspiration sent down to him" (53:3-4). However, the writings are not regarded as having the same status as the Holy Qur'an; the latter is considered to be God's word. The great Islamic scholar Yahya bin Sharaf Ul-Deen An-Nawawi compiled a collection of 43 sayings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). It is is now known as "Al-Nawawi's Forty Hadiths" 5



Islamic beliefs:
Islam considers six fundamental beliefs to be the foundation of their faith:

A single, indivisible God. (God, the creator, is just, omnipotent and merciful. "Allah" is often used to refer to God; it is the Arabic word for God.)
The angels.
The divine scriptures, which include the Torah, the Psalms, the rest of the Bible, (as they were originally revealed) and the Qur'an (which is composed of God's words, dictated by the Archangel Gabriel to Muhammad).
The Messengers of God, including Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Jesus and Muhammad -- the last prophet; (peace be upon them). Muhammad's message is considered the final, universal message for all of humanity.
The Day of Judgment when people will be judged on the basis of their deeds while on earth, and will either attain reward of Heaven or punishment in Hell. They do not believe that Jesus or any other individual can atone for another person's sin. Hell is where unbelievers and sinners spend eternity. One translation of the Qur'an, 98:1-8, states: "The unbelievers among the People of the Book and the pagans shall burn for ever in the fire of Hell. They are the vilest of all creatures." ("People of the Book" refers to Christians, Jews and Muslims). Paradise is a place of physical and spiritual pleasure where the sinless go after death
The supremacy of God's will.
Other beliefs include: God did not have a son.
Jesus (pbuh) is a prophet, born of the Virgin Mary. They regard the Christian concept of the deity of Jesus (pbuh) to be blasphemous; it is seen as a form of polytheism.
Jesus (pbuh) was not executed on the cross. He escaped crucifixion and was taken up into Paradise.
The existence of Satan who drives people to sin.
Muslims who sincerely repent and submit to God return to a state of sinlessness.
All people are considered children of Adam. Islam officially rejects racism.
All children are born on Al-Fitra (a pure, natural state of submission to Islam). His parents sometimes make him Christian, Jewish, etc.
When a child reaches puberty an account of their deeds is opened in Paradise. When the person dies, their eventual destination (Paradise or Hell) depends on the balance of their good deeds (helping others, testifying to the truth of God, leading a virtuous life) and their bad deeds.
Alcohol, other drugs, eating of pork, etc. should be avoided.
Gambling should be avoided.

Practices:
A Muslim's duties as described in the Five Pillars of Islam are:

To recite at least once during their lifetime the shahadah (the creed: "There is no God but God and Muhammad is his Prophet"). Most Muslims repeat it at least daily.
To perform the salat (prayer) 5 times a day, if possible. This is recited while orienting one's body with qibia (the shorter of the two great circle routes towards the Kaaba at Mecca) This is generally North East in the U.S. 4 The five prayers are: Fajr (Morning Prayer) which is performed some time between the break of dawn and just before sunrise.
Zuhr (Noon Prayer) offered from just after midday to afternoon.
'Asr (Afternoon Prayer) offered from late afternoon until just before sunset
Maghrib (Sunset Prayer) offered between sunset and darkness
Isha (Night Prayer) offered at night time, often just before sleeping. 1


To donate regularly to charity through zakat. This is a 2.5% charity tax on the income and property of middle and upper class Muslims. Believers are urged to make additional donations to the needy as they feel moved.
to fast during the lunar month of Ramadan. This is believed to be the month that Muhammad (pbuh) received the first revelation of the Qur'an from God.
if economically and physically able, to make at least one hajj (pilgrimage) to Mecca.
Jihad (struggle) is probably the most misunderstood religious word in existence. It often mentioned on Western TV and radio during news about the Middle East, where it is implied to be a synonym of "holy war" - a call to fight against non-Muslims in the defense of Islam. The vast majority of Muslims have an entirely different definition of Jihad. It is seen as a personal, internal struggle with one's self. The goal may be achievement in a profession, self-purification, the conquering of primitive instincts or the attainment of some other noble goal. 2 More details.
Calendar: Muslims follow a lunar calendar which started with the hegira, a 300 mile trek in 622 CE when Muhammad (pbuh) relocated from Mecca to Medina. Al-Hijra/Muharram is the Muslim New Year, the beginning of the first lunar month. The beginning of the year 1434H occurred on 2002-MAR-15 of the Gregorian calendar.
Separation of church and state: Originally, in Islamic countries, there was no separation between religious and civil law, between Islam and the state. Muhammad and his successors were both religious and political leaders. Turkey became a secular state during the 20th century. This is a controversial move in conservative Islamic circles.
Proselytizing: Muslims are not required to actively recruit others to Islam. In the Qur'an, Allah told Muhammad that "You certainly cannot guide whomever you please; It is Allah who guides whom He will. He best knows those who accept guidance." (28:56). Muslims are expected to explain Islam to followers of other faiths, but it is up to Allah to guide those whom he wishes to.
Suicide: This is forbidden. The Qur'an clearly states: "Do not kill yourselves as God has been to you very merciful" (4:29). Only Allah is to take a life. Since death must be left up to Allah, physician assisted suicide is not allowed. On the other hand, Muslim physicians are not "encouraged to artificially prolong the misery [of a person who is] in a vegetative state." 5



Islamic holy days:
The main holy days are listed below. They are scheduled according to a lunar calendar and thus happen about eleven days earlier each month.

Al-Hijra/Muharram is the Muslim New Year, the beginning of the first lunar month.
'Ashura recalls an event circa 680-OCT-20 CE in Iraq when an army of the Umayyad regime martyred a group of 70 individuals who refused to submit to the Caliph. One of the martyrs was Imam Husain, the youngest grandson of Prophet Muhammad.
Mawlid al-Nabi is a celebration of the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad, the founder of Islam in 570 CE. "The Mawlid al-Nabi was first observed around the thirteenth century and was preceded by a month of celebration. The actual day of Muhammad's birthday included a sermon, recitation of litanies, honoring of religious dignitaries, gift giving, and a feast. The festival spread throughout the Muslim world and is celebrated in many countries today. However, some conservative sects (e.g., the Wahhabiyah) consider the celebration to be idolatrous."
Ramadan is the holiest period in the Islamic year; it is held during the entire 9th lunar month of the year. This was the month in which the Qura'n was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad. The first day of Ramadan is listed above. It is a time at which almost all Muslims over the age of 12 are expected to fast from sunup to sundown.
Id al-Fitr (a.k.a. "'Id") is the first day of the 10th month -- i.e. the day after the end of Ramadan. It is a time of rejoicing. Houses are decorated; Muslims buy gifts for relatives.
Id al-Adha (a.k.a. the Feast of Sacrifice or Day of Sacrifice) occurs during the 12th month of the Islamic year. This is the season of the Haj (pilgrimage to Mecca). It recalls the day when Abraham intended to follow the instructions of God, and sacrifice his son Ishmael. (This is not a typo; Muslims believe that Abraham was prepared to sacrifice his elder son Ishmael; Judeo-Christians believe that Isaac was involved in the near sacrifice).

The dates for the current year are listed elsewhere on this web site.



Beliefs about Jesus (pbuh), within Islam and Christianity:
Traditional Christians and Muslims have certain beliefs in common concerning Jesus (pbuh). They both accept that:

His birth was miraculous.
He was the Messiah.
He cured people of illness.
He restored dead people to life.

However, they differ from Christians in a number of major areas. Muslims do not believe:

In original sin (that everyone inherits a sinful nature because of Adam and Eve's transgression)
That Jesus (pbuh) was killed during a crucifixion. Muslims believe that he escaped being executed, and later reappeared to his disciples without having first died.
That Jesus (pbuh) was resurrected (or resurrected himself) circa 30 CE.
Salvation is dependent either upon belief in the resurrection of Jesus (pbuh) (as in Paul's writings) or belief that Jesus (pbuh) is the Son of God (as in the Gospel of John).



Schools within Islam:
There are different schools of jurisprudence within Islam. The main divisions are:

Sunni Muslims: These are followers of the Hanifa, Shafi, Hanibal and Malik schools. They constitute a 90% majority of the believers, and are considered to be main stream traditionalists. Because they are comfortable pursuing their faith within secular societies, they have been able to adapt to a variety of national cultures, while following their three sources of law: the Qur'an, Hadith and consensus of Muslims.
Shi'ite Muslims: These are followers of the Jafri school who constitute a small minority of Islam. They split from the Sunnis over a dispute about the successor to Muhammad (pbuh). Their leaders promote a strict interpretation of the Qur'an and close adherence to its teachings. They believe in 12 heavenly Imams (perfect teachers) who led the Shi'ites in succession. Shi'ites believe that the 12th Imam, the Mahdi (guided one), never died but went into hiding waiting for the optimum time to reappear and guide humans towards justice and peace.
Sufism: This is a mystic tradition in which followers seek inner knowledge directly from God through meditation and ritual and dancing. They developed late in the 10th century CE as an ascetic reaction to the formalism and laws of the Qur'an. There are Sufis from both the Sunni and Shi'ite groups. However, some Sunni followers to not consider Sufiism as a valid Islamic practice. They incorporated ideas from Neoplatonism, Buddhism, and Christianity. They emphasize personal union with the divine. In the Middle East, some Sufi traditions are considered to be a separate school of Islam. In North and sub-Saharan Africa, Sufism is more a style and an approach rather than a separate school.

Islam does not have denominational mosques. Members are welcome to attend any mosque in any land.



The Egypt Air tragedy:
An Egypt Air airliner crashed of the east coast of New England, with the loss of all of the lives on board. The cause of the crash is unknown; some people suggested that an officer on the plane had committed suicide, thus murdering all of the occupants. The co-pilot allegedly recited the "Shahada" shortly before the plane descended. Shahada means "testimony." It states: "There is no god but God, and Muhammad is his messenger." This was described by some uninformed media writers as "a Muslim death prayer." It is not. The Shahada is a prayer recited by many Muslims every day. It affirms the unity of God, and that Muhammad (pbuh) is His Prophet. It is no more a death prayer than is the Christian Lord's prayer.

There is a very strong prohibition against suicide within Islam. A pilot who had decided to commit suicide would realize that he was operating beyond God's mercy, and would definitely not recite the Shahada.



Deviations from Islam:
There are over 70 other groups which originated within Islam and broke away from the Sunni or Shi'ite faith communities. Some are:

Baha'i World Faith: This religion attempts to integrate all of the world religions. It was originally a break-away sect from Islam but has since grown to become a separate religion.
Ahmadis: Followers of the Ahmadiyya Movement believe that God sent Ahmad as a Messiah, "a messenger of His in this age who has claimed to have come in the spirit and power of Jesus Christ. He has come to call all people around one Faith, i.e. Islam..."
The movement's founder was Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835-1908). He was born in Qadian, India. He felt that he had a mandate from God to correct a serious error within Christianity. Most Christians believe that Jesus (pbuh) is a member of the Godhead. "...because Jesus, whom God sent as a Messiah to the Israelites was taken for a God, Divine jealousy ordained that another man [Ahmad] should be sent as Messiah so that the world may know that the first Messiah was nothing more than a weak mortal."

After his death, the community elected a series of Khalifas (successors). The current and "Fourth Successor (Khalifatul Masih IV), to the Promised Messiah was chosen in the person of Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad" on 1982-JUN-10.

The Ahmadiyya Community currently has more than 10 million members worldwide. They prefer to call themselves "Muslims of the Amadiyya sect." They are very heavily persecuted in Pakistan. They regard themselves as a reform movement within Islam. 3

Black Muslim Movement (BMM): This is largely a black urban movement in the US. One driving force was a rejection of Christianity as the religion of the historically oppressing white race. It was started by Wallace Fard who built the first temple in Detroit. Elijah Muhammad (born Elijah Poole) established a second temple in Chicago and later supervised the creation of temples in most large cities with significant black populations. They taught that blacks were racially superior to whites and that a racial war is inevitable. The charismatic Malcolm X was perhaps their most famous spokesperson; he played an important role in reversing the BMM's anti-white beliefs. In its earlier years, the movement deviated significantly from traditional Islamic beliefs (particularly over matters of racial tolerance the status of the BMM leaders as prophets). This deviation is being reversed.



Criticisms of Islam:
Islam is growing rapidly and is now followed by more than 20% of the world's population. Christianity is not growing; its popularity has been stuck at about 33% of the worlds population for many decades. It is in decline in the United States (in terms of "market share"). Christian attacks on Islam are inevitable. Most criticisms are not well grounded in reality:

Islam is often blamed for female genital mutilation. But it is obvious that FGM is grounded in cultural tradition, not religious belief, in those countries where it is practiced. In some countries, the mutilation is practiced by Animists, Christians, and Muslims.
A number of anti-Islamic books have been written recently, criticizing some Islamic countries for lack of religious tolerance, equality for women, lack of democracy, etc. One of the most famous of these books is "Why I am Not a Muslim" by Ibn Warraq, an ex-Muslim. Many reviews by readers of this controversial book are available on-line from the Amazon.com web site. An excellent rebuttal of the book by Jeremiah D. McAuliffe, Jr., titled "Trends and Flaws in Some Anti-Muslim Writing as Exemplified by Ibn Warraq" is at: http://idt.net/~balboa19/warraq/warraq1a.html
Some conservative Christian web sites include attacks on Islam. They base their position on the inerrancy of the Bible, and their belief that Christianity is the only valid religion. An essay by Ric Llewellyn at http://www.seafox.com/islam.html is typical. He makes heavy use of emotionally loaded, judgmental terms, such as: false religion, false doctrines, dubious beginnings, fanaticism, irrational, accursed, religious bondage, cults, wicked doctrines, etc. It is our belief that these attacks are counter-productive. The main result of these web pages is to demonstrate the degree of intolerance and hatred held by their Webmasters; this does not reflect well on Christianity.
The media has historically disseminated a very negative image of Islam. It overwhelmingly reports on the beliefs and practices of the most conservative wing of the religion. Many non-Muslims are unaware that a moderate wing even exists in Islam. A number of anti-defamation groups have been organized to combat these negative portrayals. CAIR, The Council on American-Islamic Relations is a leader in this field.
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wizanda
New age Posted on: 2004/3/20 15:15
Helper
Joined:
2004/3/26 7:04
From Nottingham, UK
Posts: 2017
Quote:

Introduction:
The New Age Movement is in a class by itself. Unlike most formal religions, it has no holy text, central organization, membership, formal clergy, geographic center, dogma, creed, etc. They often use mutually exclusive definitions for some of their terms. The New Age is in fact a free-flowing spiritual movement; a network of believers and practitioners who share somewhat similar beliefs and practices, which they add on to whichever formal religion that they follow. Their book publishers take the place of a central organization; seminars, conventions, books and informal groups replace of sermons and religious services.

Quoting John Naisbitt:

"In turbulent times, in times of great change, people head for the two extremes: fundamentalism and personal, spiritual experience...With no membership lists or even a coherent philosophy or dogma, it is difficult to define or measure the unorganized New Age movement. But in every major U.S. and European city, thousands who seek insight and personal growth cluster around a metaphysical bookstore, a spiritual teacher, or an education center." 1

The New Age is definitely a heterogeneous movement of individuals; most graft some new age beliefs onto their regular religious affiliation. Recent surveys of US adults indicate that many Americans hold at least some new age beliefs:

8% believe in astrology as a method of foretelling the future
7% believe that crystals are a source of healing or energizing power
9% believe that Tarot Cards are a reliable base for life decisions
about 1 in 4 believe in a non-traditional concept of the nature of God which are often associated with New Age thinking: 11% believe that God is "a state of higher consciousness that a person may reach"
8% define God as "the total realization of personal, human potential"
3% believe that each person is God.


The group of surveys cited above classify religious beliefs into 7 faith groups. 2 Starting with the largest, they are: Cultural (Christmas & Easter) Christianity, Conventional Christianity, New Age Practitioner, Biblical (Fundamentalist, Evangelical) Christianity, Atheist/Agnostic, Other, and Jewish, A longitudinal study from 1991 to 1995 shows that New Agers represent a steady 20% of the population, and are consistently the third largest religious group. 2

New Age teachings became popular during the 1970's as a reaction against what some perceived as the failure of Christianity and the failure of Secular Humanism to provide spiritual and ethical guidance for the future. Its roots are traceable to many sources: Astrology, Channeling, Hinduism, Gnostic traditions, , Spiritualism, Taosim, Theosophy, Wicca and other Neo-pagan traditions, etc. The movement started in England in the 1960's where many of these elements were well established. Small groups, such as the Findhorn Community in Inverness and the Wrekin Trust formed. The movement quickly became international. Early New Age mileposts in North America were a "New Age Seminar" ran by the Association for Research and Enlightenment, and the establishment of the East-West Journal in 1971. Actress Shirley MacLaine is perhaps their most famous current figure.

During the 1980's and 90's, the movement came under criticism from a variety of groups. Channeling was ridiculed; seminar and group leaders were criticized for the fortunes that they made from New Agers. Their uncritical belief in the "scientific" properties of crystals was exposed as groundless. But the movement has become established and become a stable, major force in North American religion during the past generation. As the millennium comes to a close, the New Age is expected to expand, promoted by the social backlash against logic and science.



The "New Age" that does not exist:
Major confusion about the New Age has been generated by academics, counter-cult groups, Fundamentalist and other Evangelical Christians and traditional Muslim groups, etc. Some examples are:

Many of the above groups have dismissed Tasawwuf (Sufiism) as a New Age cult. In reality, Sufiism has historically been an established mystical movement within Islam, which has always existing in a state of tension with the more legalistic divisions within Islam. It has no connection with the New Age.
Some conservative Christians believe that a massive, underground, highly coordinated New Age organization exists that is infiltrating government, media, schools and churches. No such entity exists.
Some conservative Christians do not differentiate among the Occult, Satanism, Wicca, other Neopagan religions. Many seem to regard all as forms of Satanism who perform horrendous criminal acts on children. Others view The New Age, Neopagan religions, Tarot card reading, rune readings, channeling, work with crystal energy, etc. as merely recruiting programs for Satanism. In fact, the Occult, Satanism, Neo-pagan religions are very different phenomena, and essentially unrelated. Dr. Carl Raschke, professor of Religious Studies at the University of Denver describes New Age practices as the spiritual version of AIDS; it destroys the ability of people to cope and function." He describes it as "essentially, the marketing end of the political packaging of occultism...a breeding ground for a new American form of fascism."



New Age beliefs:
A number of fundamental beliefs are held my many New Age followers; individuals are encouraged to "shop" for the beliefs and practices that they feel most comfortable with:

Monism: All that exists is derived from a single source of divine energy.
Pantheism: All that exists is God; God is all that exists. This leads naturally to the concept of the divinity of the individual, that we are all Gods. They do not seek God as revealed in a sacred text or as exists in a remote heaven; they seek God within the self and throughout the entire universe.
Panentheism: God is all that exists. God is at once the entire universe, and transcends the universe as well.
Reincarnation: After death, we are reborn and live another life as a human. This cycle repeats itself many times. This belief is similar to the concept of transmigration of the soul in Hinduism.
Karma: The good and bad deeds that we do adds and subtracts from our accumulated record, our karma. At the end of our life, we are rewarded or punished according to our karma by being reincarnated into either a painful or good new life. This belief is linked to that of reincarnation and is also derived from Hinduism
An Aura is believed to be an energy field radiated by the body. Invisible to most people, it can be detected by some as a shimmering, multi-colored field surrounding the body. Those skilled in detecting and interpreting auras can diagnose an individual's state of mind, and their spiritual and physical health.
Personal Transformation A profoundly intense mystical experience will lead to the acceptance and use of New Age beliefs and practices. Guided imagery, hypnosis, meditation, and (sometimes) the use of hallucinogenic drugs are useful to bring about and enhance this transformation. Believers hope to develop new potentials within themselves: the ability to heal oneself and others, psychic powers, a new understanding of the workings of the universe, etc. Later, when sufficient numbers of people have achieved these powers, a major spiritual, physical, psychological and cultural planet-wide transformation is expected.
Ecological Responsibility: A belief in the importance of uniting to preserve the health of the earth, which is often looked upon as Gaia, (Mother Earth) a living entity.
Universal Religion: Since all is God, then only one reality exists, and all religions are simply different paths to that ultimate reality. The universal religion can be visualized as a mountain, with many sadhanas (spiritual paths) to the summit. Some are hard; others easy. There is no one correct path. All paths eventually reach the top. They anticipate that a new universal religion which contains elements of all current faiths will evolve and become generally accepted worldwide.
New World Order As the Age of Aquarius unfolds, a New Age will develop. This will be a utopia in which there is world government, and end to wars, disease, hunger, pollution, and poverty. Gender, racial, religious and other forms of discrimination will cease. People's allegiance to their tribe or nation will be replaced by a concern for the entire world and its people.

The Age of Aquarius is a reference to the precession of the zodiac. The earth passes into a new sign of the zodiac approximately every 2,000 years. Some believe that the earth entered the constellation Aquarius in the 19th Century, so that the present era is the dawning of the age of Aquarius. Others believe that it will occur at the end of the 20th century. It is interesting to note that the previous constellation changes were:

from Aries to Pisces the fish circa 1st century CE. This happened at a time when Christianity was an emerging religion, and many individuals changed from animal sacrifice in the Jewish temple to embracing the teachings of Christianity. The church's prime symbol at the time was the fish.
from Taurus to Aries the ram circa 2,000 BCE. This happened at a time when the Jews engaged in widespread ritual sacrifice of sheep and other animals in the Temple.
from Gemini to Taurus the bull circa 4,000 BCE. During that sign, worshiping of the golden calf was common in the Middle East.


New Age practices:
Many practices are found among New Agers. A typical practitioner is active in only a few areas:

Channeling A method similar to that used by Spiritists in which a spirit of a long dead individual is conjured up. However, while Spiritists generally believe that one's soul remains relatively unchanged after death, most channelers believe that the soul evolves to higher planes of existence. Chanelers usually try to make contact with a single, spiritually evolved being. That being's consciousness is channeled through the medium and relays guidance and information to the group, through the use of the medium's voice. Channeling has existed since the 1850's and many groups consider themselves independent of the New Age movement. Perhaps the most famous channeling event is the popular A Course in Miracles. It was channeled through a Columbia University psychologist, Dr. Helen Schucman, (1909-1981), over an 8 year period. She was an Atheist, and in no way regarded herself as a New Age believer. However, she took great care in recording accurately the words that she received.
Crystals Crystals are materials which has its molecules arranged in a specific, highly ordered internal pattern. This pattern is reflected in the crystal's external structure which typically has symmetrical planar surfaces. Many common substances, from salt to sugar, from diamonds to quartz form crystals. They can be shaped so that they will vibrate at a specific frequency and are widely used in radio communications and computing devices. New Agers believe that crystals posses healing energy.
Meditating A process of blanking out the mind and releasing oneself from conscious thinking. This is often aided by repetitive chanting of a mantra, or focusing on an object.
New Age Music A gentle, melodic, inspirational music form involving the human voice, harp, lute, flute, etc. It is used as an aid in healing, massage therapy and general relaxation.
Divination The use of various techniques to foretell the future, including I Ching, Pendulum movements, Runes, Scrying, Tarot Cards.
Astrology The belief that the orientation of the planets at the time of one's birth, and the location of that birth predicts the individual's future and personality. Belief in astrology is common amongst New Agers, but definitely not limited to them.
Holistic Health This is a collection of healing techniques which have diverged from the traditional medical model. It attempts to cure disorders in mind, body and spirit and to promote wholeness and balance in the individual. Examples are acupuncture, crystal healing, homeopathy, iridology, massage, various meditation methods, polarity therapy, psychic healing, therapeutic touch, reflexology, etc.
Human Potential Movement (a.k.a. Emotional Growth Movement) This is a collection of therapeutic methods involving both individualized and group working, using both mental and physical techniques. The goal is to help individuals to advance spiritually. Examples are Esalen Growth Center programs, EST, Gestalt Therapy, Primal Scream Therapy, Transactional Analysis, Transcendental Meditation and Yoga.

The Canadian Census (1991) recorded only 1,200 people (0.005% of the total Canadian population) who identify their religion as being New Age. However, this in no way indicates the influence of new age ideas in the country. Many people identify with Christianity and other religions, but incorporate many new age concepts into their faith.
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