Islam is a monotheistic Abrahamic religion based on the teachings of Muhammad (or often Mohammed and other variants), a seventh century Arab who, according to Muslim belief, was an agent of divine action. Muhammad also claimed birth to the descendents of Abraham. Muhammed claimed to have received revelations from Allah via the archangel Gabriel, which were written in the Qur'an (Koran) - thus forming the core teachings of Islam.
The word "Islam" means "submission" (to Allah) in Arabic. Islam as originally designed in the Qur'an presents itself as an Abrahamic faith and has Moses in it as well as Jesus as a prophet in Islam, but not as God's son. Islam has been criticized for some time, due to its demanding of strict submissiveness especially of women, and its predisposition to being violent suspicious of other faiths and attacking other faiths deemed a threat to Islam, as a result there have been over 20,000 terrorist attacks committed by extremist Muslims since 2001. A more recent strain of Islam has combined European totalitarianism and a virulent anti-Semiticism. This version is called Jihadism, Islamism, radical Islam or militant Islam. Without the historic institution of the Caliph, this form degenerates into terrorist stateless activity that strikes at the heart of civilized man. Moderate Muslims have denounced the Jihadist terrorists and believe that mainstream Islam has become corrupted over the years that there needs to be an Islamic Reformation similar to that of the Protestant Reformation.
There are small groups of largely Westernized Muslims who publicly reject Islamism. Such moderate Muslim conservatives are in the Republican Party, known as the Muslim Republicans. One of America's Founding Fathers, Thomas Jefferson, who was a religious libertarian, declared: "freedom for the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and the Mohammedan, the Hindu and infidel of every denomination."
Issues of Islam have arisen in the 2012 US Presidential campaign. Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney has said that: "Radical, violent Islamists pose a threat to Americans and others around the world." and that "they take a very different view of Islam than the Muslims I know." Romney has said that when he lived in Detroit he knew Muslims, as Detroit has a large Muslim population, and says "They are peace-loving and America-loving individuals. I believe that very sincerely. I believe people of the Islamic faith do not have to subscribe to the idea of radical, violent jihadism. Former Republican presidential nominee candidate Ron Paul, a libertarian conservative, says that America should not fear Islam and said that America should just embrace people of all faiths. American conservative author Margaret Hoover believes that the Republican Party needs to recognize Muslim Republicans, noting an example of Muslim Republican youth Suhail Khan who she describes as "one of thousands of Muslim Americans who work to promote Christian-Muslim understanding". Candidates for the Republican nomination like Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum strongly criticized Islamic extremism.
Multiculturalists ignore or minimize violence in the history of Islam and exaggerate Christian atrocities to advance a moral equivalence. Proponents of this view often cite the Great Crusades--an unsuccessful attempt by Western Christians to retake parts of the Byzantine Empire that had been conquered by Islamic armies--and various religious wars which were later fought in Europe between branches of Christianity. However, they brand critics of Islamism “racists” and “Islamophobes” for exposing today’s threats by jihadists.
A follower of Islam is called a "Muslim" or "Moslem", a term which means "one who submits (to Allah)". The older terms "Mohammedan" and "Muhammedan" ("follower of Muhammad"), have fallen out of use.
There are no clergy, but there are religious teachers, or Imams, who have their followings. All Muslims are supposed to follow the teachings of Muhammad, whom they believe to be Allah's (الله in Arabic) last and greatest prophet. The teachings of Muhammad are transmitted through the Qur'an, the Hadith, and the Sunnah. The Sunnah is a general term for "the life and doings of the Prophet", which all Muslims are called on to replicate. The faith teaches that the Archangel Gabriel appeared to Muhammad in a cave reciting verbatim a revelation from Allah. The first word that Gabriel says to Muhammad is "Iqra" or "Recite/Proclaim",which is found in the 96th Sura of the Qur'an.
Muslims believe that God revealed the Qur'an (or Koran) to Muhammad. The key miracle of Islam comes from the historical condition of the illiterate and uneducated Muhammad, as the Qur'an is composed in an erudite and complex form of Arabic prose and poetry. The Qur'an was not written down in a systematic fashion until a decade after Muhammad died, preferable transmission being through oral recitation. The Qur'an is considered by muslims to be the pure and holy word of God, uncreated and eternal. In Islamic theology the term uncreated is very important, as it implies that there is no author for the Qur'an, only the delivering of the word to Muhammad who delivered it to the Sahab and the Salaf (The Companions and the Pure), who delivered it to the scribe delegated to record it in the reign of the Caliph Uthman bin Affan.
Like Christianity and Judaism, Islam originated in the Middle East. Islam claims to trace its roots back to Abraham through his son Ishmael. Muslims do not believe that Muhammad was the founder of Islam, rather that he restored the original faith of Abraham and the prophets that followed as recorded in the lost books of the Tawrat and Injil.
Based upon this belief, the Bible, both the Old and New Testaments, is believed to have become corrupted through the translations and misinterpretations accumulated over several millenia. The criticism of the Torah centers around the reconstruction of the existing Biblical text required after the "Babylonian captivity". The criticism of the New Testament centers in the many disputed gnostic texts which contradict the orthodox biblical canon. Interestingly, Islamic jurisprudence accepts that the Injil was complete and whole up until the revelation of Muhammad. Therefore there is some inconsistency in the claims made against the New Testament. For more information, see The Bible versus the Qur'an.
Islam is the worlds second largest religion, with over 1.6 billion followers, the number of Muslims is rapidly growing, mainly due to conversions, high birth rates, and redefinitions of the term 'Muslim'. Conversions to Christianity (from any faith or lack thereof) outnumber those to Islam, but cannot keep up with the birthrate discrepancy. 
Indonesia has the largest Muslim population in the world.
According to Islamic belief, in approximately 610 A.D., Muhammad, a 40-year-old merchant of the Quraysh tribe in Mecca, located in the Hijaz (now eastern Saudi Arabia), was commanded by the angel Gabriel (or Jibreel) to "recite" the message of Allah (The Muslim god). Gabriel said mankind had lost sight of Allah's previous messages to earlier prophets, Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Solomon, and Jesus, among others, and that Muhammad was to spread Allah's message to all people so that mankind would know how to live, how to show respect for Allah, and how to prepare for the judgment day.
The message to Muhammad was to be God's last and fullest revelation, a direct copy of the Umm Al Khitab, the mother of all books located in heaven next to God; Muhammad was the "seal of the prophets." Muhammad won some converts to Islam in his local area, but his monotheist preaching threatened to undermine the profitable polytheist pilgrim traffic supporting many Meccan merchants. In 622 A.D., the merchants drove Muhammad and his followers out of Mecca to the city of Yathrib (later renamed Medina, or the city - as in the city of the prophet). This flight (hijra) from Mecca to Medina marks the beginning of the Muslim lunar calendar, and is celebrated each year in the Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca.
Muhammad's forces, composed of the sahaba (companions) from Mecca ,and the Ansar (allied tribes from Yathrib) started attacking the trade caravans going in and out of Mecca, cutting off its economic lifeline. After a series of battles between the Meccans and Muhammad's forces, Mecca finally accepted Muhammad's ultimatum to succumb and convert to Islam. The city welcomed the prophet back in 630. Muhammad died in 632.
Tribal elders in a traditional council called the "Shura" elected Abu Bakr to be Muhammad's successor, or Caliph (Khalifa). Abu Bakr united the tribes of the Arabian peninsula during his two years as head of the new faith. Upon his death, the elders elected Umar ibn al-Khattab the next Caliph. During Umar's ten year reign, Islam invaded and spread through conquest and negotiation into Egypt, Syria, Palestine, Iraq, and parts of Iran. Umar was assassinated by a Persian (modern day Iran) in 644, and was succeeded by Uthman ibn Affan, who continued the invasions to spread Islam into North Africa, Cyprus, the rest of Iran, Afghanistan, and parts of India and Pakistan. Over the next two centuries, Islamic armies continued to expanded Islam's empire into sub-Saharan Africa, Spain, South-east and Central Asia, and Turkey.
The Muslim armies conquered and superseded the ancient Sassanid and Byzantine empires which had ruled before. Within a generation of Muhammad's death Muslim armies occupied an empire stretching from the Nile river to the far off Iranian province of khorasan. Reasons for the rapid conquest are varied and obscure. The Arab armies were more akin to tribal war bands raiding and settling where and when they could. The Byzantine and Sassanid empires had been at war for centuries. The constant simmering conflict between Constantinople and Persia reached a climax in the early 7th century. The Sassanids conquered briefly Egypt and the Levant threatening the central Byzantine heartland of Anatolia. Under the military reforms of the emperor Heraclius, the Byzantine army consolidated and counter attacked, recapturing all that they had lost and capturing the Sassanian capital of Ctesiphon in 628.
This brief end of the Roman-Persian wars disrupted the frontier areas which had predicated their economies on raiding and mercenary activities. Two major areas in Arabia were directly affected. The Lackmid tribe and the Gassanid tribe both acted as mercenaries for the Persians and Romans. The official religion of both tribes analogically mirrored that of their overseers. Monophysite Christianity was common, particularly of the Jacobite sect. The death of Muhammad and the subsequent Ridda wars occupied these warrior tribes until the reign of Caliph Umar. Additionally, there was great religious unrest in the levant and Egypt. These areas resented the ruinous taxes and the harsh orthodoxy imposed by the emperor in Constantinople.
The same climate was present in the Sassanid realm with the rise of the dualism of the Manicheans. Under the Caliph Umar ,the Arab tribes which had concluded the infighting following the death of Muhammad were allowed to raid into the Byzantine and Sassanid fronteirs. The weakened state of both regimes from both military and economic exhaustion and religious unrest made them fertile picking grounds for the tribal warbands. The Arabs were chiefly successful in holding these areas in that they upheld a lightweight regime of low taxes based in the Islamic laws and distant government. Rather than employing an army of bureaucrats and nobility, the early Arab empire was more favorable towards maintaining the existing government structures under the leadership of Arab tribes. In this atmosphere it is hardly surprising to note the reports from both Muslim and Christian sources of peaceful capitulation and invitation of the invading forces.
Divisions Within Islam
Uthman was assassinated in 656 A.D. by soldiers who then installed Ali ibn Abu Talib, Muhammad's son-in-law, as Caliph. Ali's followers believed Muhammad had chosen Ali to be Muhammad's heir, and had disagreed with the selections of Abu Bakr, Umar, and Uthman as Caliphs. Ali's claim to the position was challenged by Muawiyah, a kinsman of the murdered Uthman. Five years later, Ali was assassinated by Kharjites, religious dissidents who broke away from the main body of Muslims because they rejected Ali's accepting arbitration to resolve his leadership dispute with Muawiyah. Ali's supporters, or the Shiah al-Ali (or Shiat Ali, partisans of Ali) believed that Ali was the true Caliph and was, in part, divinely inspired. Ali's sons, Hassan and Husayn followed as Shia Caliphs, Hassan dying in 669 or 670 A.D., possibly by poisoning, and Husayn slain by soldiers of his rival, the Sunni Caliph Yazid, in 680 A.D.
The Shia Muslim community has divided further as followers coalesced around several of Ali's descendants or successors, called Imams. The "twelvers," predominant in Iran, believe the twelfth Imam is in hiding and will reveal himself just before judgement day. Ismailis rejected the seventh Imam and practice a spirituality that seeks hidden meaning in scripture. Ismailis ruled much of North Africa as the Fatimid Dynasty of Egypt in the tenth through the twelfth centuries, and today are found primarily in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India. The Sunni majority reject the premise that men can be divine, including Muhammad, Ali, or Jesus, and did not accept any of the Imams who followed Ali. Sunnis remain more committed to traditions and less inclined to accept Shia mysticism. Today, about 15% of the world's Muslims are Shia and 85% are orthodox Sunni.
There are other factions within Islam. Sufis, a name possibly derived from the wool garments they wear, developed around mystical practices and trance-induced revelations. Sufis are found today in Turkey, Syria, and parts of Africa. Other movements have taken reform tracks, such as the Unitarians of Saudi Arabia, also called Wahhabis after their 18th century reformist founder Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab. The conservative Wahhabis are found today in Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Today the Wahhabi line has a tendency to produce extremists, such as Osama Bin Laden. Some critics would argue that the Taliban of Afghanistan took conservative reform to an extreme. Other sects or break-away groups include, among others, the Alawis found in Syria and Turkey, the Druze in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Israel, the Ibadhis (Kharjites) in Oman and Africa, the Ahmadiya of Pakistan, and the Zaydis of Yemen.
During his lifetime, Muhammad's companions learned and later transcribed the verses (surrahs) of the Qur'an as Muhammad spoke them. In Islam, the teachings of Mohammed were believed to be direct divine revelation from God.
The third Caliph, Uthman, collected and codified the various versions of the surrahs into one written Qur'an that became the standard Arabic text used by the world's Muslims today. The Qur'an is longer than the Bible and written in general order of longest chapters to shortest rather than in any order of when they were spoken, sometimes making the work appear to be confusing. In all there are 114 chapters. Most of the later recorded sayings of Mohammed, which were also more warlike, actually appear earlier in the text. Present-day Muslims look first to the Qur'an as a guide to life, then to the Sunnah, or the way of the Prophet (his life as an example for others) as recorded by his early companions, and then to the Hadith, a collection of the Prophet's sayings, comments, advice, and descriptions.
Frequently, Muslims disagreed over how to interpret certain passages in the Qur'an, the Sunnah, or the Hadith in their search for the ideal life and perfect path to heaven. From these interpretations Sunni Muslims developed four schools of law, or interpretations of law, named after their founders or early leaders: the Hanbali, considered the most strict school and predominant today in Saudi Arabia; Shafi, the school of widest acceptance, found in Egypt, parts of Palestine-Syria, south Arabia, and the Far East; Maliki, prevalent in North Africa, Sudan, and Nigeria; and Hanafi, considered the most moderate school, predominant in Ottoman Turkey and today found primarily on the Levant and Indian subcontinent. Frequently, Muslim countries have two separate legal systems, one for civil, criminal, or commercial law, and a second, and separate, system for religious law. Religious courts and their judges (qadis) might handle issues dealing with marriage, divorce, child custody, inheritance, religious education, charitable or religious property (Waqf), or family matters. Among Middle Eastern countries, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen have Shariah courts serving alongside their secular courts or have adopted Shariah (Islamic law) as the basis of their legal systems.
Sunni Islam does not have a priesthood or clerical hierarchy to conduct religious services or interpret scripture, but it does have prayer leaders, called Imams, and religious scholars, called Ulama, who often are educated men familiar with the Qur'an and able to offer commentaries on Qur'anic verses. Sunni Muslims also respect the teachings and interpretations of scholars, judges, and academics who may interpret laws, write treatises on Sharia (religious law) or Hadith, and issue Fatwas, religious declarations intended to enlighten or guide Muslims.
Shia Islam has a hierarchy that resembles a priesthood. Mullahs are prayer leaders, but usually do not interpret religious law. Mujtahids are religious scholars who may interpret law or passages from the Qur'an or Hadith. The lower order of Mujtahids are called Hojjatolislam. Ayat Allah (literally sign of God, also Ayatollah) is a higher order of Mujtahid who may issue Fatwas, or religious edicts, in addition to leading Islamic schools, interpreting religious law and the Qur'an, and offering sermons or discourses on proper Islamic behavior.
Five Pillars of Islam
- Shahadah (Profession of Faith) -The Shahadah is the Muslim profession of faith. 'ašhadu 'al-lā ilāha illā-llāhu wa 'ašhadu 'anna muħammadan rasūlu-llāh, a loose English translation reads "There is none worthy of worship except God, and Muhammad is the messenger of God" This testament can be seen as the foundation of all of the other tenets of Islam.
- Salat (Ritual Prayer) -All Muslims are required to Pray to God five times each day while facing Mecca.
- Zakat (Charity) Able Muslims must donate to the poor based on the wealth one has accumulated. In current usage it is interpreted as 2.5% of the value of most valuables and savings held for a full lunar year.
- Sawm (Fasting) All able-bodied Muslims (children, pregnant women, the elderly, and the ill are exempt) must fast during daylight hours during the daylight hours of the entire month of Ramadan. According to Muslims, this purifies the body and soul. Some Muslim sects allow military, police and emergency services personnel to receive an exemption from fasting from an imam, on the grounds that their work supports the community or national good.
- Hajj (Pilgrimage) All able-bodied Muslims must make a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in their lives.
Other Aspects of Islam
Jihad is the "effort" or "struggle" each Muslim faces in the everyday trials of life, such as the effort to get better grades in school, or the striving to achieve better results from a job, or the struggle to avoid sinful temptations. Jihad also can be applied to warfare; participating in jihad in Allah's cause was the third most important good deed listed in the Hadith, after prayer and honoring one's parents. Jihad often was a rallying cry for the military spread of Islam in the seventh through tenth centuries against non-Muslims.
Osama bin Laden and Fundamentalists
Osama bin Laden, a follower of a particular brand of Islam popular in Saudi Arabia, has stated that Islam is at war with the United States and its allies. Some observers maintain that the number of Islam fundamentalists is growing and poses a threat to the West. But other observers differentiate between conservative "fundamentalists" and the "extremists" who follow murderers such as bin Laden or other terrorists. In several major Islamic nations, bin Laden had the support of the majority of people in the early years after the 9/11 attacks. As he lost battles with the West and started to target fellow Muslims his popularity waned.
People of the Book
Christians and Jews are called "people of the Book" in the Qur'an and are considered earlier forerunners to Islam and viewed as brothers as long as they pay an extra tax when under Islamic rule. Islam, tracing its roots back to Abraham through his son Ishmael instead of Isaac as the Jews did, believes that they are the descendants of God's promise. Islam believes that both the Old and New Testament were corrupted and corrected by the Qur'an, but there is still an earlier link between the three religions. The view of Jews and Christians varied within different parts of the Qur'an and Islamic history. Much of current Islamic culture, even in places that were once very tolerant such as Egypt, has seen an upsurge in persecution and violence against Christians and Jews.
Women in Islam
In pre-Islamic times women's rights were defined by tribal laws which differed amongst the tribes. Some women had absolute equity and the ability to hold power, while some women were treated worse than chattel; bride prices, unlimited polygamy, and female infanticide were a common theme. Islamic law offered a path for which Muslim men could regulate women in a legal system based on Muslim principles of jurisprudence on the Arabian peninsula. Treated merely as individual sex objects, women were granted very limited rights but as distinct legal individuals; forced to marry who their parents tell them to, women are required not to directly object in order for the marriage contract to have some form of validity.
Unlike the pre-Islamic times where unlimited polygamy occurred, Sharia law limits polygamy to a maximum of four wives at any one time, though the use of "temporary" marriage in effect rendered this restriction meaningless. Once married, only men are entitled to divorce any time they please. The reality of traditional Sharia law as applied in the modern era has shocked the modern conscience. These restrictions on women were put into place over a thousand years ago, and there has been little progress since. Women are still not allowed to drive a car, they cannot ride bicycles, are unable to vote, have been prohibited from traveling abroad without permission, and they can't use public facilities when men are present.
Women in Islam are treated as inferiors to men in almost every regard. In Sharia, the testimony of one man equals that of five women. Women are required to cover the head and body in public, by wearing the hijab. Hijab is applied in different ways: a small scarf around the head and western street clothes may be acceptable in Cairo or Damascus but a full length opaque Burqa was enforced in Taliban Afghanistan. As of 2008, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Pakistan are the most significant Middle Eastern countries where the government requires women to wear some form of restrictive garb, though cultural pressure in most Islamic countries offers women little choice but to submit to the dictat of hijab. Women who disgrace their family are put to death in "honor killings"; buried halfway or sometimes up to their neck so they cannot run, women, who are in most cases victims, are stoned to death.
Islamic dress is a regular grounds for conflict in multicultural education
Treatment of women varies widely by country. In the Islamic state of Saudi Arabia women are forbidden from driving a car, traveling in public without their husband or a male family member as an escort, leaving their home without wearing Islamic dress, working or voting. Though not formally forbidden from owning property, they have no way of obtaining this as work is forbidden and only males are permitted to inherit - should a man die, his brothers, sons and father will all inherit before his wife. These restrictions are part of Sharia law and enforced by the police and a special Islamic office. Pakistan has similar restrictions, but to a lesser extent. In contrast, Turkey has a majority Muslim population and yet grants women some rights similar to those of men including property ownership, employment, and education to university level.
Muslim apologists suggest the extremely repressive policies of countries such as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are cultural rather than religious, though these are the countries were traditional Islam is strongest. They point to the more moderate Islam practiced in Turkey as a demonstration that Islam and womens' rights are compatible, ignoring the efforts of traditionalists in Turkey to end the few freedoms women were granted by men.
Muslim women's status is controversial. Whilst Muslim men control and oppress Muslim women by compelling them to remain hidden behind the veil, sequestered in the home, and ignorant of the world by denying them access to education and worldly opportunities, Islamic apologists defend some practices. These men claim that many of the restrictions on women, such as the veil, are cultural traditions that pre-date Islam and are intended to protect women from predatory men. Unfortunately, such Muslim men ignore the fact that if a predatory man or group of rapists were to sexually assault a Muslim woman in Islam, she would be punished under Sharia law for "allowing" such an act to occur, and she would likely receive hundreds of lashes and years of jail time; the predatory man or men commonly go unpunished.
Mecca, Medina, and Jerusalem
Muhammad's home city of Mecca was the site of his earliest preaching and conversions, and is the location of the Kaaba, traditionally held to be the foundation stone of the first mosque built by Adam and later restored by Abraham, and now the focus of the annual pilgrimage (hajj). Some historians suggest that the Kaaba, a black stone probably meteoric in origin, was venerated by pre-Islamic polytheistic religions.
At first, Jerusalem was Islam's holy city and the focus of prayers, but Mecca became the center of Islam after Muhammad's return in 630. Medina, because of its early association with Muhammad and as the site of Muhammad's tomb, is second in importance to Mecca. Jerusalem is revered by Muslims as the site of Solomon's temple, Abraham's near sacrifice of his son Ishmael, and the scene of Muhammad's miraculous midnight journey, the latter two now enshrined in the Dome of the Rock mosque. According to the Qur'an (Surrah 17:1, Isra) and Hadith, Muhammad and Gabriel were taken on winged mules from Mecca to Jerusalem, where they ascended through the seven heavens to the presence of Allah. During the visit, Muhammad learned, among other points, that Muslims were to pray five times each day and to honor Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and the other prophets.
Observant Muslims are not supposed to eat pork and in general do not have dogs as pets; both swine and canines are considered unclean. Muslims can have dogs for safety. Muslims are prohibited from drinking alcoholic beverages, gambling, and from collecting interest on financial transactions.
Female Genital Mutilation and Honour Killings
FGM (also known as female circumcision) is mentioned in Hadith as an "honorable" condition for a woman, and act to carry out. It is a pre-Islamic tradition in parts of sub-Saharan Africa and the Arab world, though not in Coptic Egypt as some Islamic apologists claim. Female circumcision is not called for nor is it supported by the Qur'an.
Another pagan practice practice continued in Islamic countries is honor killing, in which a brother, father, or uncle "restores" or "defends" a family's honor by killing the sister, daughter, or niece that "dishonored" the family through supposedly, "promiscuous" behaviour. This "promiscuous" activity often includes women from Islamic societies living in the West aspiring to a more open lifestyle. The "honor killing" is more ancient, and pagan in origin, but tolerated and practised more or less openly in some Muslim societies. Honor killings are not supported by the Qur'an and are directly commanded against with the Surah "Who so ever kills a human being for other than manslaughter or corruption in the earth, it shall be as if he has killed all mankind, and who so ever saves the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind."
Islam and Christianity
See also: Dhimma
While Muslims do not believe Jesus to be the Son of God or in the Resurrection, they consider Him and His mother to be of God's most important prophets (Marian and Isa) otherwise known as Mary and Jesus. However, the Qur'an warns against worshipping Jesus, Muhammad, and other humans for fear of idolatry.
The Qur'an states that non-believers will be punished, though the nature of the punishment is not specified (same as similar statements in the Bible and the Torah):
|“|| Surely, disbelievers are those who said:
'Allah is the third of the three (in a Trinity).' But there is no god but One, Allah. And if they cease not from what they say, verily, a painful torment will befall the disbelievers among them.
Will they not repent to Allah and ask His Forgiveness? For Allah is Oft Forgiving, Most Merciful.
The Messiah , son of Mary, was no more than a Messenger; many were the Messengers that passed away before him. His mother was a Siddiqah (i.e. she believed in the words of God and His Books ). They both used to eat food (as any other human eat). Look how We make the signs clear to them, yet look how they are deluded away (from the truth)."
- (Qur'an 5:73-75)
However, Islam does recognize Christians and Jews as "people of the book" since both refer to one God only, and recognize Abraham (Ibrahim in Arabic) as a founding prophet.
Sharia is the body of Islamic law. The term means "way" or "path"; it is the legal framework within which public and some private aspects of life are regulated for those living in a legal system based on Muslim principles of jurisprudence. It is not actually part of the canonical Qur'an; that is to say, it is not believed to be the direct word of God by Muslims, but rather the interpretation of it.
Sharia deals with many aspects of day-to-day life, including politics, economics, banking, business law, contract law, sexuality, marriage, divorce, and social issues. Most Islamic scholars regard Sharia as the body of precedent and legal theory established during the early stages of the Islamic Empire, though a few scholars also believe contemporary legal cases can and should shape the law, though such thinkers may be subject to ridicule and even threats from Islamists.
Sharia law proscribes often brutal punishments for acts, that, in the western world, are relatively minor. For example, under sharia law, converting from Islam is punishable by death, whilst women found guilty of adultery is punishable by stoning to death, which often includes many rape victims, as Sharia courts often regard a rape victim as guilty of adultery unless she can provide four witnesses to the act of rape. In cases involving the death penalty of corporal punishment, methods of carrying out the punishment are often barbaric, and include public beheading, chopping off of the hand, and flogging. Many Islamist groups have been attempting to have Shariah courts set up in European countries, initially to rule over civil cases between Muslims in Europe.
Additional archaic terms for Muslims include, but are not limited to, "Hagarene" and "Saracen." The term Hagarene was more common in post-crusade Europe as it made specific reference to the biblical mother of Ishmael. Ishmael in the Muslim faith plays an analogous theological role to Isaac. Muslims do not use it today to avoid confusing worship of Muhammad with worship of Allah
Michelle Malkin highlights a group of Ex-Muslims hoping to change the terms of debate about Islam in Europe. Maryam Namazie, the head of the British group said "Too many things in the media and government policies have been geared to pandering to the political Islamic movements and Islamic organizations."  Ex-Muslims include Ibn Warraq, Wafa Sultan, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Mark A. Gabriel, Walid Shoebat, and Mosab Hassan Yousef.
Most contemporary critics of Islam are either atheists or nominally religious: Ibn Warraq (author), Wafa Sultan (psychiatrist), Ayaan Hirsi Ali (author), Hugh Fitzgerald (of JihadWatch), David Horowitz (author), Oriana Fallaci (author), Geert Wilders (politician), Sam Harris (author), Pamela Geller (blogger), Bill Maher (comedian) and the crowd at they Ayn Rand Institute. The notable exception is Robert Spencer, who while a devout Catholic, criticizes Islam as a political ideology. Political critics include Herman Cain and Rick Santorum. Neither Ronald Reagan (who help mujahideen fight atheistic communists) nor George W. Bush (“Islam means peace”) saw Islam as the problem. Commentators note that the conservative response to fundamental Islam is a far cry from the complete and unequivocal condemnation of Communism during the heyday of the Cold War. Dinesh D’Souza argues that Muslims are God-fearing conservatives.
- Arab American
- Islamic republic
- Jihadism, an extremist, take on Islam
- In the midst of a Maelstrom: the Holy Spirit and silence: an essay encounter of Israeli Messianic Jew and Egyptian Muslim in Alexandria
- List of countries by number of Muslims
- Armour, Rollin. Islam, Christianity, and the West: A Troubled History (2002) excerpt and text search
- Armstrong, Karen. Islam: A Short History (2002) excerpt and text search
- Berkey, Jonathan P. The Formation of Islam: Religion and Society in the Near East, 600-1800 (2002) excerpt and text search
- Campo, Juan Eduardo. Encyclopedia of Islam (2009), basic introduction
- Esposito, John J. The Oxford History of Islam (2000) excerpt and text search
- Glasse, Cyril. The New Encyclopedia of Islam ( 2nd ed. 2008)
- Lewis, Bernard. Islam in History: Ideas, People, and Events in the Middle East (2001), by leading conservative historian excerpt and text search
- Martin, Richard C. et al. Encyclopedia of Islam & the Muslim World (2003), more advanced
- Newby, Gordon. A Concise Encyclopedia of Islam (2002) excerpt and text search
- Robinson, Chase F. ed. The New Cambridge History of Islam (Volume 1) (2009), summarizes advanced scholarship
- Ruthven, Malise, and Azim Nanji. Historical Atlas of Islam (2004)
- Schimmel, Annemarie. Islam: An Introduction. (1992)
- Sonn, Tamara and Mary Williamsburg. A Brief History of Islam (2004) excerpt and text search
- Wheatcroft, Andrew. Infidels: A History of the Conflict Between Christendom and Islam (2005) excerpt and text search
- Islam and Christianity - excellent article comparing and contrasting the two.
- Qur'an online in English
- Sahih Bukhari (Hadith collection) online in English
- Sahih Muslim (Hadith collection) online in English
- Sunan Abu-Dawud (Hadith collection) online in English
- Malik's Muwatta (Hadith collection) online in English
- Congressional Research Service, "Islam: A Primer", Report for Congress (2003), a work in the public domain and the source of part of this article 
- Islamists Torch Pope in Effigy, Again
- Muslims Saving Jews During World War II. By Shane Dixon Kavanaugh.
- Difference Between Islam and Muslim
- A Turkish Delight: they think so in Israel too!
- Turkey's Islamic scholar, Rabbi Meir Lau, and Cain speechless before Abel
- ↑ Brannon Wheeler. Moses in the Qur'an and Islamic Exegesis. Routledge, 2002.
- ↑ Muhammad Ata ur-Rahim, Ahmad Thomson. Jesus: Prophet of Islam. TTQ, INC., 2003.
- ↑ http://www.thereligionofpeace.com/
- ↑ Michaelle Browers, Charles Kurzman. An Islamic Reformation? Lexington Books, 2004.
- ↑ Daniel Pipes (June 30, 1998). Distinguishing between Islam and Islamism.
- ↑ http://www.muslimrepublicans.net/
- ↑ John A. Garraty, Story of America Beginnings to 1877, (1992) Holt, Rinehart and Winston, pg 706.
- ↑ http://www.muslimrepublicans.net/
- ↑ http://www.muslimrepublicans.net/
- ↑ Margaret Hoover, American Individualism: How a New Generation of Conservatives Can Save the Republican Party, Random House Digital, Inc., 2011, pg 202.
- ↑ http://www.muslimrepublicans.net/
- ↑ http://www.bcbsr.com/topics/charity.html
- ↑ Additional archaic terms for Muslims include "Hagarene", and "Saracen". Saracen as a term for Muslims was limited to the Crusade era, although it makes frequent re-appearances in pre-modern polemics. Hagarene was a more common term in pre-modern works, as it denotes the biblical connection of Hagar the mother of Ishmael who is reported as the patriarch of Islam. Additional names for Muslims in pre-modern and Medieval works are generally derived from misspellings.
- ↑ Proclaim! (or read!) in the name of thy Lord and Cherisher, Who created- Created man, out of a (mere) clot of congealed blood: Proclaim! And thy Lord is Most Bountiful,- He Who taught (the use of) the pen,- Taught man that which he knew not.(Surah 96:1-5)
- ↑ World Christian Encyclopedia
- ↑ Translation of AL-Jazeerah interview between Maher Abdallah and Shiekh Ahmed Katani
- ↑ Daniel Pipes. "Islamic Fundamentalists are the New Big Threat to the West", Sept 16, 1994.
- ↑ Theodore Dalrymple. "All or Nothing: The quest for a moderate Islam may be futile.", June 4 2006.
- ↑ Dinesh D'Souza. "Who Speaks For Islam", Sept 15, 2009.
- ↑ On Anniversary of bin Laden’s Death, Little Backing of al Qaeda. Pew Research Center (April 30, 2012).
- ↑ Linda Rae Bennett, Women, Islam and Modernity (2005)
- ↑ http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/islam/islamethics/abortion_1.shtml
- ↑ Christian Churches of God Articles on Islam, March 10, 2007
- ↑ 
- ↑ http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/6148590.stm
- ↑ http://saudiwoman.wordpress.com/2009/08/25/punishment-in-saudi-arabia/
- ↑ http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,422661,00.html
- ↑ Schimmel, (1992)
- ↑ Ex-Muslims stand up in Britain
- ↑ Lindsay Downey. "Santorum delivers warning about radical Islam during Naples appearance", March 23, 2013.
- ↑ Jason Pappas (Sept 5, 2004). The Conservative Response to the Islamic Threat..
- ↑ Dinesh D’Souza (2007). The Enemy At Home. Doubleday.
- ↑ Some of the text for this article was taken from "Islam: A Primer", Congressional Research Service Report for Congress (2003), a work in the public domain