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Islam, the fastest-growing religion on Earth, has become a "hot topic" due to its connection with the recent terrorist attacks in the United States. Although it is a topic that has been covered in the past by Adequacy.org, I think that it is time that we offer an objective overview of the Muslim religion (our technically-inclined readers may consider this in the same tradition as the "HOWTO" article or the "RFC").
Ever since the events of September 11th, much has been written on Islam. As a personal witness to the tragedy, I remember wondering what form of twisted religious thinking would advocate the deaths of thousands of innocents? With some time spent in research, I believe I have come to an answer. I myself, am obviously not a follower of Mohammed, so this article, unlike almost all others on Islam, is not a preachy attempt to convert you to the "way of allah". Rather, the purpose is to offer an explanation of Islam that clearly defines what the religion means to a non-believer.
Early History of Islam
The beginnings of Islam can be traced back to 570 AD, when an Arab shephard, named Mohammed (which means "worthy of praise") was born near Mecca, in what is now Saudi Arabia. Mohammed was given to spending a great deal of his time holed up in caves, away from people, where he would pray and meditate to the pagan gods which his primitive people worshipped. At the age of forty, according to tradition, Mohammed recieved a message from the angel Gabriel, which he transcribed into what is now the Holy Koran (the question of whether an itinerant sheepherder could actually be literate is still debated in non-Islamic circles, although it is taken as blind dogma amongst believers). After achieving a few token converts, Mohammed and his followers were forced to flee to Ethiopia, where they were kindly recieved by the Christians already living in exile there.
After several years in Africa, Mohammed decided it was time to return to his homeland, so he gathered his followers, and captured the city of Yathrib, which they renamed to Medina. From this central location, the followers of "the Prophet" launched attacks on merchants headed to Mecca, with the intention of disrupting the economic power of their enemies (the parallels to the more recent activities of modern Muslims are, I think, obvious). Mohammed and his followers, through their tactic of attacking harmless businessmen, eventually weakened the city so greatly that in 630 Mecca fell to the invading Islamic hoardes. After brutally supressing the local Christian and Jewish communities, Mohammed died in 632, survived by his ten wives.
All Islamicists, no matter which splinter sect they belong to, believe in certain "irrefutable" tenets. These are collectively referred to as the "Pillars of Islam". There are seven of these, and I shall cover each individually.
The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His apostle, and strive with might and main for mischief through the land is: execution or crucifixion (Surah 5:33)Furthermore, the death of a non-Muslim is not considered a crime: No Muslim should be killed for killing a kafir (infidel). (Vol 9:50), and any Muslim killed in the jihad is guarenteed rewards, either in this life or the next:
The person who participates in Jihad in Allah's cause and nothing compels him to do so except belief in Allah and His apostle, will be recompensed by Allah either with a reward or treasure (if he survives) or will be admitted to paradise (if he is killed). (Vol 1:35)It should be clear that the suicide bombers of Sept. 11th believed that they would be sent to paradise, their station in Heaven improved with each "American dog" they killed.
It is hard to ignore Islam today. With terrorism, anthrax scares, and war, this fast-growing faith will play a much larger role in the future of America. In spite of all this, let us not forget that there are some Islam sects which espouse peace over violence, which is in some ways similar to America's own ideals. With a better understanding of Islam, we can prepare ourselves better for the coming times of crisis.