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Introduction to Islam. Mohammed M. Hafez, Ph.D. National Security Affairs Department Naval Postgraduate School NS3330 Middle East 2009. Islam – Definitions and Demographics. Islam - Submission to Allah , which is Arabic for God Approximately 1.1 to 1.8 billion Muslims worldwide.

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Introduction to Islam

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Introduction to Islam

Mohammed M. Hafez, Ph.D.

National Security Affairs Department

Naval Postgraduate School

NS3330 Middle East


Islam – Definitions and Demographics

  • Islam - Submission to Allah, which is Arabic for God

  • Approximately 1.1 to 1.8 billion Muslims worldwide

Most Muslims Are Not Arabs

Islam – Demographics

  • 85-90% of Muslims are Sunnis

  • 10-15% are Shiites

Origins of Islam - Muhammad

  • Pre-Islamic Arabia - Jahiliyyah

    • Social inequality

    • Internecine fighting among tribes

    • Polytheistic (idol worshiping) society

  • 570 A.D. - Ordinary man, Muhammad, was born

  • 610 A.D. - Muhammad receives a revelation from God

  • 632 A.D. - Muhammad dies after spreading Islam to Arabia

Origins of Islam - Successors

  • After Muhammad’s death, he was succeeded by four leaders:

    • Abu Bakr al-Siddiq

    • Umar Ibn al-Khattab

    • Uthman Bin `Afan

    • Ali Bin Abi Talib

  • Sunnis consider these to be Al-Khulafa al-Rashidun (Rightly-Guided Caliphs)

  • Majority of Shiites (Twelver) only see Ali as the legitimate leader

Origins of Islam – Five Pillars

  • Shahada ~ Confession of faith:“There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet”

  • Salaat ~ Prayer toward Mecca observed five times a day

  • Zakat ~ Almsgiving or purification tax (approximately 2.5 percent of one’s wealth) for the poor

  • Siyaam ~ Fasting from food, water, and all other pleasures of life from sunrise till sunsetobserved during the holy month of Ramadan

  • Hajj ~ Pilgrimage to Mecca once during a lifetime

Origins of Islam – Essential Beliefs

  • Monotheism -In line with the Judeo-Christian tradition, Islam is a monotheistic creed that believe there is only one God. The unity of God (tawhid) is central to Islam

  • People of the Book -Muslims recognize the divine origins of Jewish and Christian doctrines, but believe the original message has been subverted by Jews and Christians. Islam is the final prophecy

Origins of Islam – Essential Beliefs

  • Universalism -Islam is a religion for all humanity and applies at all times and places

  • Judgment Day -Muslims believe that one day – when the world comes to an end – everyone will stand for judgment in front of God.

  • Eternity in Heaven or Hell -Muslims believe in life after death, when believers and sinners will live in heaven or hell based on their deeds as well as God’s mercy and compassion

Shariah – Islamic Law

  • Shariah as “the way” of God and His divine laws for humanity

  • Shariah has come to denote specific rules and laws that could be implemented by Muslims in personal lives as well as in public matters and disputes

Sources of Sunni Shariah

  • Qur’an- Revealed word of God sent to the Prophet Muhammad, the final of all monotheistic apostles that began with Abraham, Moses, Jesus, etc.

  • Sunna - Sayings (hadith) and outward conduct of the prophet Muhammad as recalled through a chain of oral transmission from one person to another beginning with the companions of the Prophet

    • Sahih (Bukhari, Muslim)

    • Da`iif (Apocryphal, weak)

  • Ijma`a - Consensus of the companions, scholars, Muslims

  • Qiyas – Analogical reasoning based on accepted sources

Schools of Islamic Jurisprudence

Four major Sunni schools of jurisprudence: Hanafi, Shafi`i,Maliki, Hanbali; Shia have their own jurisprudence, the best known is the Ja’afari school

Sunni-Shiite Divide

  • Shiite comes from Shia of Ali … “Followers of Ali”…”Partisans of Ali”

  • Shiites are a minority in Islam, but majority in Iran, Iraq, Bahrain

    • 10-15% of Muslims worldwide

Origins of the Sunni – Shiite Divide

  • Origins is a political dispute over who should lead the Muslim community after the death of the Prophet Muhammad – Who has the legitimate authority to rule?

    • Should rule go to any Muslim?

    • Should it go only to the companions of the Prophet?

    • Should it go only to Prophet’s family and blood descendants?

Origins of the Sunni – Shiite Divide

  • Shiite view is that only those who are from the Prophet’s family and their direct male descendants should rule

  • After death of the Prophet, Shiite view is that Ali should have been chosen as leader

  • Sunni view is that Abu Bakr al-Siddiq was correctly chosen

Sunni View



  • Sunni view is that the four caliphs that came after the Prophet are legitimate leaders and are considered Rightly-Guided

  • After the four, Muslim rulers were not so great (or as great)

Abu Bakr

Sunni View as Legitimate Rulers




Twelvers (Imamis)

  • Largest Shiite sect; largest number of Muslims after Sunnis

  • Iran (90%)

  • Iraq (60%)

  • Lebanon

    (South and Beirut, 35%)

  • Bahrain (80%)

  • Kuwait (35%)

  • Saudi Arabia

    (Eastern province 10-15%)



Fatima married to…

1. Ali (d. 661)

2. Hassan (d. 669)

3. Hussein (d. 680)

4. Ali Zayn al-Abidin (d. 714)

Shiite Divisions






5. Muhammad al-Baqir (d. 731)

Zayd (d. 740)

6. Jafar al-Sidiq (d. 765)

7. Musa al-Kazim (d. 799)

Isma`il (d. 760)

8. Ali al-Rida (d. 818)

9. Muhammad al-Jawad (d. 835)

10. Ali al-Hadi (d. 868)

11. Hasan al-Askari (d. 874)

12. Muhammad al-Mahdi (occultation)

Key Terms You Must Know

  • Tawhid(verb: Affirming God’s monotheism; No God but Allah)

  • Sunna(Way of the Prophet Muhammad)

  • Hadith (Saying of the Prophet Muhammad)

  • Khulafa al-Rashidun (Rightly-Guided Caliphs)

  • Sahaba(Companions of the Prophet Muhammad)

Key Terms You Must Know

  • Ijtihad(Reasoning or deriving an Islamic ruling based on Islamic texts)

  • Fatwa(Islamic legal ruling based on a question or issue)

  • Hijra (Migration; referring to Prophet Muhammad’s migration from Mecca to Medina)

  • Fiqh (Jurisprudence)

  • Ulema(Muslim scholars of Islamic jurisprudence)

Key Terms You Must Know

  • Fitna(civil discord, chaos, fighting among Muslims)

  • Imam (Person who leads prayer; for Shiites it has the added meaning of ultimate religious authority after the Prophet Muhammad and source of religious knowledge)

  • Kafir (Infidel; unbeliever)

  • Takfir(verb: Act by one Muslim calling another Muslim kafir, infidel)

Key Terms You Must Know

  • Murted (Apostate; person who abandons Islam by renouncing the faith or converting to another religion)

  • Jahiliyyah(Literally means ignorance; when Islam came, the period preceding the rise of Islam came to be known as the age of jahiliyyah. Sometimes defined as paganism)

  • Shirk (Polytheism or belief in multiple Gods; opposite of monotheism)

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