Chapter 6
The Story of Islam
Islam in Canada
• Islam is among the fastest-growing religious groups in Canada.
• Fewer than half the 650 000 Muslims living in Canada were born here.
– Canadian Muslims come from India and Pakistan, Arab and Middle
Eastern countries, and more than 30 other nations.
• Most Canadian Muslims live in urban centres, such as the Greater Toronto
Area, and 61% live in Ontario.
• Being Muslim in Canada is challenging.
– Many Muslims feel the media has portrayed them and Islam in a
negative light since the World Trade Center attacks on September 11,
• Muslims feel the goodness and wisdom in their traditions can contribute to
Canadian and global culture.
The History of Islam
Islam around the World
• There are 1.5 billion Muslims worldwide—only Christianity has more
• Muslims come from diverse parts of the world and have diverse cultural
• Islamic religion includes Africans from Nigeria, Arabs from Iraq, southern
Asians from Pakistan and Indonesia, and other ethnic and cultural groups.
Muhammad and the Origins of Islam
• Muhammad was born in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, in 570 CE.
Mecca at the Time of Muhammad’s Birth
• In the 7th century, the Arabian Peninsula was a desert with only a few
Jews, Christians, and polytheistic nomadic tribes lived there.
Mecca was the site of an annual pilgrimage to the Kaaba, a cube-shaped
structure that held 360 deities.
The Kaaba is the house of Allah, and is believed to be directly below God’s
throne in heaven.
In 630 CE, Muhammad restored the Kaaba by cleansing it of deities, leaving it
only the house.
Muhammad’s Early Life
• His parents died when he was very young.
• He grew up under protection of his clan, particularly his uncle Abu Talib.
• His uncle was a trader, so Muhammad travelled with him throughout Arabia
and neighbouring countries.
• He became a trader and earned the titles “the trustworthy one” and “the
righteous one.”
Muhammad Receives the Qur’an
• Muhammad was troubled by the inequalities of Meccan society.
• He believed in one God and devoted his prayers at the Kaaba to Allah.
• In 610 CE, he received a revelation on Mount Hira.
– The Angel Gabriel uttered the direct words of Allah to Muhammad while
he was in a state of ecstasy, so he could remember the exact words later.
– Muhammad continued to receive revelations until his death in 632 CE.
• Muhammad’s sayings were recorded and collected in the Qur’an after his
Struggles in Mecca
• Muhammad’s first convert to Islam was his first wife, Khadijah.
• Few people converted in the early years between 610 CE and 622 CE.
• Muhammad preached that God is one, that all must surrender to Allah alone,
and that he was the Messenger of Allah.
• This teaching was not welcome news to the merchants of Mecca.
• Their business relied on the pilgrims who travelled to Mecca to honour the
gods of the Kaaba.
• Even Muhammad’s own tribe turned against him, and his life was in danger.
• In 622 CE, the people of Medina offered Muhammad protection from
persecution and he led the people of Islam there.
– This migration became known as the hijra.
• Muhammad set up his first community there and lived there the rest of his life.
• The community was governed by things told in his revelations.
Return to Mecca
• Many Meccans joined Muhammad in Medina.
• The Meccans who remained in the city fought back, but were defeated.
• There were more battles, but Muhammad eventually negotiated a truce with
the Meccans in 628 CE.
When the Meccans later broke the truce, Muhammad marched on Mecca with
a large force.
The Meccans were outnumbered and surrendered without a fight in 630 CE.
Mecca accepted Islam, and Muhammad returned to Medina.
In 632 CE, Muhammad made one last pilgrimage to Mecca.
This pilgrimage became a Muslim ritual called the hajj.
Islam after Muhammad
The Expansion of Islam
• Abu Bakr became the Muslim caliph after Muhammad died.
• Islam spread rapidly through Arabia; by 637 CE, Muslims occupied Jerusalem.
• Muslim rulers did not generally force conquered people to convert to Islam.
• Within 150 years of Muhammad’s death, Islam had spread across northern Africa
to Spain and as far east as central Asia.
Shi’ite and Sunni
• Islam split early on into Shi’ite and Sunni, because people could not agree on
who should succeed Muhammad.
Ali, Muhammad’s cousin, thought he should succeed because he was a direct
Ali’s followers chose leaders based on their blood relationship to Muhammad.
– Muslims who follow this branch of Islam are called Shi’ite.
Other Muslims thought the person best suited for the position should lead,
regardless of ancestry.
– Muslims who follow this branch of Islam are called Sunni.
Sunnis emphasize a person’s direct relationship with Allah; Shi’ites place greater
emphasis on the role and the authority of religious leaders.
Today, about 90% of Muslims are Sunni, and about 10% are Shi’ite.
The Five Pillars of Islam
• The Five Pillars of Islam are the ritual acts by which Muslims express their
faith and identify themselves as Muslim.
• The Five Pillars describe in practical terms how Muslims are to worship, or
what it means to be Muslim.
The First Pillar: Creed (Shahadah)
• The Shahadah is the Muslim profession of faith: “There is no God but Allah,
and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.”
• This is the underlying belief of Islam.
• The Shahadah is the sign of belonging to the Muslim community.
• A person only has to say it aloud in front of two witnesses to be legally
considered a Muslim.
The Second Pillar: Prayer (Salat)
• Salat is the ritual prayer of praise to God that Muslims say five times a day.
– It involves quiet verbal prayer and gestures.
• Prayer can take place anywhere, as long as the place is clean.
• On Fridays, Muslims attend mosque for prayer.
• Muslims can also pray privately throughout the day; these prayers are called
The Third Pillar: Almsgiving (Zakat)
• Muslims who have more than a certain amount of money or goods must
donate a portion to the needy, to help build mosques, or to similar causes.
• It helps to share wealth in a Muslim society more fairly.
The Fourth Pillar: Fasting (Sawm)
• Fasting takes place during the month of Ramadan, the month in which
Muhammad first received the message of Allah.
• During daylight hours of Ramadan, Muslims abstain from food, evil thoughts,
drinking, smoking, and sex.
• In the evenings, families and friends gather to break the day’s fast with a light
• Ramadan ends with the 3-day feast of Eid al-Fitr.
The Fifth Pillar: Pilgrimage (Hajj)
• A pilgrimage to the Kaaba in Mecca is required only once in a lifetime.
• Only Muslims who can afford it or whose health allows are expected to go.
• It is the supreme experience for Muslims.
Pilgrimage Clothing
• On their way to Mecca, pilgrims wear special clothing called ihram.
• Men wear two seamless garments made from white cloth.
• Women wear clothes that leave only their faces and hands uncovered.
• Ihram emphasizes equality and reminds pilgrims that in death they will leave
all material things behind.
The Kaaba
• The Kaaba is the cube-shaped shrine in the centre of the Great Mosque in
• It is the holiest place for Muslims.
• On entering the Great Mosque, pilgrims circle the Kaaba seven times.
Marking Time
The Five Pillars and Festivals
• The five pillars help guide Muslims on how to order their time.
– All of daily life is permeated with the Shahadah.
– The salat ritual prayer creates the rhythm of daily life.
– The fast of Ramadan is held in the lunar month named after the fast.
– The pilgrimage to Mecca is done in a particular lunar month.
Life-Cycle Rituals
• The first sound a newborn hears is the call to prayer, spoken into the baby’s
right ear.
A naming ceremony is held in the presence of family and friends.
Hair is often cut from the baby’s head or its head is shaved.
The hair is weighed and the equivalent amount in silver is given to the poor.
The naming ceremony is also used as an entrance rite for adults converts to
Sometimes converts receive an Islamic name in Arabic, but this is not a
Muslims believe males should be circumcised.
• Some marriage practices are traced back to Muhammad, but many are the
product of local cultures.
The Qur’an allows males to practise polygamy, but most male Muslims do not
practise it.
Marriage establishes a bond between the families of the bride and groom, as
well as between the spouses.
– For this reason, many marriages are arranged.
Islamic law sets the rights and responsibilities between the husband and the
wife and their families.
Divorce is permitted but is strongly discouraged.
The wedding ceremony (nikah) is simple.
The Qur’an is read, vows are exchanged in front of witnesses for both
partners, and the leader of the mosque often performs the ceremony.
• The last words of a dying Muslim should be the Shahadah, the proclamation
of faith.
• After the person dies, the corpse is washed, covered, and buried as soon as
• The body is buried with the face toward Mecca, imitating the direction of
The Muslim Community (Umma) and the Rituals
of the Five Pillars
The Worldwide Community of Islam
• The Five Pillars help Muslim believers express membership in the umma, or
Muslim community.
• Islam has no central authority, hierarchy, or priests; the imam is not a priest.
• Salvation is achieved through community, like in the Catholic Church.
• Wherever Muslims live, the rituals of the Five Pillars bind them together.
The Mosque
• Muslims gather to pray in a mosque.
• Muhammad built the first mosque at the end of the hijra from Mecca to
• Muslims have since built mosques wherever there is a Muslim community that
gathers for worship.
Friday Prayer
• Men perform the Friday prayer after midday, together at a mosque.
• Women may join them or pray at home.
• After the call to prayer, the imam leads the congregation and gives a sermon
that shows how the Qur’an can be applied to everyday life.
• In countries such as Canada, many employers grant Muslim workers time on
Friday to pray.
Features of the Mosque
• All mosques have some common features and routines.
• Muslims are called to prayer 5 times a day by a prayer caller from the top of a
tower beside or in the mosque.
• Worshippers perform ritual washing in a courtyard and remove their shoes
before entering the prayer area.
• The prayer hall is a large open area that is usually carpeted.
• Sometimes the hall is divided, with one section for men and one for women.
– Salat involves movement, and mixing men and women in these actions
could lead to distractions or impure thoughts.
• When praying, Muslims must face the direction of Mecca.
• This direction is shown by an alcove or recessed area.
Central Beliefs
The Qur’an
• The Qur’an is the voice of Allah spoken to the Prophet Muhammad by the
Angel Gabriel.
It gives guidance on how to worship, behave, and see the world.
In Muslim homes, the Qur’an is wrapped to keep it clean and is placed on the
highest piece of furniture in the room.
Most children learn Arabic to read the Qur’an in its original language.
Anyone who memorizes the whole Qur’an is given the title of hafiz or
Organization of the Qur’an
• The Qur’an is divided into 114 Suras, which are like chapters.
• Each sura has a name (such as The Star, The Cow, and The Resurrection) and a
number, and is divided into verses.
• Most Suras begin with “In the name of Allah, the Compassionate, the
• The Qur’an is not written in a sequential pattern, where one idea builds on
– It is more like a piece of classical music, with repetitive themes and
dramatic movements.
The Interpretation of the Qur’an: Sunna and Hadith
• It was originally believed that the Qur’an did not need interpretation.
• After Muhammad’s death, as Islam spread to new countries, cultures, and
languages, many Muslims needed help understanding the Qur’an.
Two sources that complement the Qur’an are the Sunna and the Hadith.
The Sunna is a collection of Muhammad’s own words and actions, as
memorized and recorded by his inner circle of family and friends.
– “Sunna” means “beaten path.”
The Hadith is a record of Muhammad’s words, actions, and statements about
current religious practices by others, and whether he approved of those
It also gives stories about what Muhammad was like in person.
It is not based on first-person accounts by Muhammad’s inner circle, and some
of the texts are still being debated by Islamic scholars.
A Muslim with a problem will first consult the Qur’an, then the Sunna or Hadith
to find out what Muhammad said or did in a similar situation.
Together, the three books form the law (called shariah in Arabic) for Muslims.
Themes in the Qur’an
• Recurring themes are woven throughout the Qur’an:
People need to submit to the will of Allah.
Allah requires that people pray.
Allah is beyond easy definition and has many dimensions.
Tawhid: The Unity of God
• Tawhid is an Islamic term that describes the unity of God.
• Anything that distracts one from this unity, such as money, possessions,
nationalism, or reputation, is to be avoided.
Creation and the Qur’an
• Many verses in the Qur’an portray a view of creation similar to Christian and
Jewish ones.
1) Since Allah is the Creator of all things, the creation has dignity. When
we violate the dignity of creation, we are harming Allah’s work.
2) Allah sent prophets to warn people to return to paths of justice and
mercy; Muslims show their devotion by observing Allah’s moral
commands, striving personally and publicly to follow God’s will,
and by doing rituals such as prayer and zakat.
3) A final judgment and resurrection of the faithful will take place at the
end of time.
The Role of Jesus in Islam
• For Muslims, Jesus (’Isa) is a revered prophet.
• They accept that Jesus was born of a virgin, Mary (Maryam).
• The Qur’an says the Gospels are a source of guidance and light.
• However, Muslims believe that the Gospels were not transmitted correctly.
• They believe that Jesus was an important prophet, but not the Son of God.
• Muslims believe Jesus was not crucified, but replaced on the cross by another
person and taken to heaven to live.
• They expect Jesus to return on the Day of Judgment and defeat the enemies of
• He will die after establishing the Kingdom of God on Earth and be buried in
Medina beside Muhammad.
• Sufis are mystics.
• One group of Sufis is called whirling dervishes.
• They spin around, accompanied by special music, to create a state of
consciousness where they can reach an ecstatic union with the sacred.
• Some conservative Muslims frown on this practice.
Shariah Law
Shariah is the set of moral rules that Muslims follow.
It was set out by Allah.
It sets the path for Muslims to live a devout life.
It also consists of legal rules that help govern Muslim society.
Origins of Shariah
• There are three sources for determining shariah:
1. the Qur’an
2. the Sunna
3. the Hadith
• To adapt shariah to situations not covered in the Qur’an, Sunna, or Hadith,
Muslim legal experts provide interpretations, called fiqh.
Implementing Shariah
• Shariah law sets out five categories of human actions:
– Obligatory actions or duties (following the Five Pillars)
– Recommended actions (e.g., charity work)
– Neutral actions (actions not addressed by Shariah)
– Discouraged actions (e.g., divorce)
– Forbidden actions (e.g. murder, adultery)
Shariah Law in Canada
• In Canada, Muslims observe shariah in non-legal moral aspects of behaviour.
• Some people wish to apply shariah to resolve certain types of legal disputes,
such as family disputes, marriage, and divorce.
• Some Muslim and non-Muslim Canadians fear that the equality rights of
women, which are part of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms,
could be threatened if shariah replaces civil law on these matters.
Fatwas: Interpretations of Scripture for Today
• A fatwa is a religious opinion on Islamic law delivered by a scholar.
• It can be issued on any matter, from a difficult legal problem to an everyday
Family Life
Gender Roles
• From a Canadian perspective, Arabia during Muhammad’s time was a harsh
patriarchal society.
The Qur’an greatly improved the position of women in Arabia, and women were
treated better there than in many other cultures.
In Canada today, husbands and wives share household chores and child rearing.
Often, women’s work is in the home and men’s work takes place outside it.
The challenge for many Muslims in Canada is to find gender roles that respect
Canadian laws and nurture families, but still reflect the teachings of Islam.
• Women’s clothing is based on virtues of modesty and respect.
• Except when with immediate family, women are not to wear revealing clothing.
• Styles vary around the world:
– Some women wear a garment that covers their whole bodies when they
are outside their homes; it may or may not cover their faces.
– Some wear Western clothing with a headscarf or veil, such as the hijab.
– Others dress modestly according to the customs of their particular
• Men are expected to be covered at least from the navel to the knees.
• Muslim schools are called madrasas.
• Courses include Arabic, Quranic studies, shariah (Islamic law), Hadith, logic,
and Muslim history.
• Certain foods are allowed (halal) and others, such as alcohol, are forbidden
• Meat has to be slaughtered in a ritual way, while the name of Allah is said.
• Muslims may eat kosher food when halal foods are not available.
• Catholics, Jews, and Muslims affirm the joy of sexual relationships between
husband and wife.
They agree on the two purposes of conjugal love: the good of the spouses
themselves, and the transmission of life.
Islam teaches that sexual relations cause ritual impurity, so a ritual
purification happens before people engage in formal prayer after sex.
Premarital sex, masturbation, homosexual acts, and pornography are sins.
Islam is not against artificial birth control, but joined with Catholics at the UN
conference in 1994 condemning government-imposed birth control
Interreligious Dialogue
Islam and the Catholic Church
A Difficult Encounter
• Catholics and Muslims are engaged in dialogue to learn and to overcome
In the past, Muslims crossed paths with Christians and Jews since all three
religions began in the Middle East.
Muslims see Islam as the correction, completion, or fulfillment of Judaism and
Muhammad is believed to be the final Messenger of God.
Muhammad did not reject previous messengers of God from Judaism and
Christianity, such as Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus.
– He believed they were authentic messengers of God.
Under Islamic rule, Christians and Jews had special status, their properties
were protected, and they were free to worship God.
– But, they had to pay a special tax and did not have equal rights with the
majority of the population.
Many of these Christians later converted to Islam.
Islamic Tolerance
• Catholicism’s relationship with Islam has not been easy.
• In the Eastern Church, Muhammad was often presented as a deceiver and
heretic, and Islam as a false religion.
The Qur’an was said to be a work of humans and not divine revelation.
Islam was feared because much of the growth of Islam was by means of
forceful expansion.
Muslim capture of Christian holy places and the constant threat to
Constantinople led to nine Crusades against Muslims rulers by Christians
between 1095 and 1272.
In 1492, all Muslim forces were expelled from Spain by the Catholic rulers
Ferdinand and Isabella.
Some efforts were made to use dialogue:
– St. Francis of Assisi visited the Sultan of Egypt to try to convert him.
– Peter the Venerable initiated the first translation of the Qur’an.
– St. Thomas Aquinas wrote a long theological debate.
The 21st century has had bloody clashes between Muslims and Christians in
Nigeria, Sudan, Iraq, and Indonesia.
– Many Christians have left Islamic countries for the West.
The Catholic Church Re-examines Islam
• The Second Vatican Council said the Church rejects nothing of what is true and
holy in other religions, and urged Catholics to enter into dialogue with them.
• Although both religions claim to possess universal truth and the final
revelation, dialogue between Christianity and Islam does occur.
• The points the two religions agree on are:
– There is only one God
– God spoke with humans
– Humans desire to submit wholeheartedly to God’s demands
– There will be a resurrection of the dead, last judgment, and reward for
good deeds
– A moral life of justice and peace has great value
– God is worshipped through prayer, almsgiving, and fasting
“We are brothers and sisters in the faith of Abraham”
—Pope John Paul II
• There are important issues that separate the two religions.
• Muslims believe in One God; whereas Catholics believe in One God in Three Persons.
• In Islam, the word of God is in a book (the Qur’an ); whereas in Catholicism, the Word of
God is a person—Jesus.
• In Islam, Muhammad is final Messenger of God, completing the message of the prophet
Jesus; for Catholics, Jesus is the Son of God and the fulfillment of all revelation.
“We are brothers and sisters in the faith of Abraham”
—Pope John Paul II
• There are important issues that separate the two religions.
• Muslims believe in One God; whereas Catholics believe in One God in Three
• In Islam, the word of God is in a book (the Qur’an ); whereas in Catholicism,
the Word of God is a person—Jesus.
• In Islam, Muhammad is final Messenger of God, completing the message of the
prophet Jesus; for Catholics, Jesus is the Son of God and the fulfillment of all

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