Islam: Sacred places, the family system, Sharia, Sunni and Shia
The most sacred place in Islam is the Ka’ba in Makkah, Saudi Arabia. The Ka’ba is a mosque (built by Abraham according to Muslim tradition) built around a black stone. The Prophet Muhammad designated Makkah as the holy city of Islam and the direction (qibla) in which all Muslims should offer their prayers. The Ka’ba is believed to be the first place that was created on earth and the place at which heavenly bliss and power touches the earth directly. Makkah is located in the Hijaz region of western Saudi Arabia.
Muhammad moved his ministry to Madina soon after his revelations began in 610 CE. The principle revelations were conveyed to Muhammad through the angel Gabriel. These visions continued with him until his death in madina in 632 A.D. . By that time Islam had swept aside all other religions on the Arabian peninsular. In the 100 years after the prophet’s death the Arabs ruled a vast empire stretching from Spain to India and north into Russia. Madina became the centre for the expanding empire. As the adopted capital and city where Allah’s word spread through Muhammad Madina is second only to Makkah as a pilgrimage city. Muhammad is buried in Madina’s mosque of the prophet.
Jerusalam is considered the third Holiest City in Islam. Allah himself blessed the city in the Qur’an and appointed her as the first qibla of Islam, meaning that it was Jerusalem, and not Mecca, that served as the spiritual as well as geographical focus for Muslims’ prayers during the early years of Islam. It is reported that the Prophet Muhammad said, “There are only three mosques to which you should embark on a journey: the sacred mosque (Mecca, Saudi Arabia), this mosque of mine (Madinah, Saudi Arabia), and the mosque of Al-Aqsa (Jerusalem).
The family system in Islam
The family, which is the basic unit of civilization, is now disintegrating. Islam’s family system brings the rights of the husband, wife, children, and relatives into a fine equilibrium. It nourishes unselfish behavior, generosity, and love in the framework of a well-organized family system. The peace and security offered by a stable family unit is greatly valued, and it is seen as essential for the spiritual growth of its members. A harmonious social order is created by the existence of extended families and by treasuring children.
Sharia is an Islamic religious law that governs not only religious rituals, but aspects of day-to-day life in Islam. Sharia, literally translated, means “the way.”
Traditional theory of Islamic jurisprudence recognizes four sources of sharia: the Quran, sunnah (authentic hadith), qiyas (analogical reasoning), and ijma (juridical consensus). Different legal schools—of which the most prominent are Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi’i, Hanbali and Jafari—developed methodologies for deriving sharia rulings from scriptural sources using a process known as ijtihad. Traditional jurisprudence distinguishes two principal branches of law, ʿibādāt (rituals) and muʿāmalāt (social relations), which together comprise a wide range of topics. Its rulings assign actions to one of five categories: mandatory, recommended, neutral, abhorred, and prohibited. Thus, some areas of sharia overlap with the Western notion of law while others correspond more broadly to living life in accordance with God’s will.
Sects : Sunni vs Shia
Sunni Muslims are the largest denomination of Islam and are known as Ahl as-Sunnah wa’l-Jamā‘h or simply as Ahl as-Sunnah. The word Sunni comes from the word sunnah, which means the teachings and actions or examples of the Islamic prophet, Muhammad. Therefore, “Sunni” refers to those who follow or maintain the sunnah of Muhammad. In many countries, overwhelming majorities of Muslims are Sunnis, so that they simply refer to themselves as “Muslims” and do not use the Sunni label. The Sunnis believe that Muhammad did not specifically appoint a successor to lead the Muslim ummah (community) before his death, and after an initial period of confusion, a group of his most prominent companions gathered and elected Abu Bakr, Muhammad’s close friend and a father-in-law, as the first caliph of Islam. Sunni Muslims regard the first four caliphs (Abu Bakr, `Umar ibn al-Khattāb, Uthman Ibn Affan and Ali ibn Abu Talib) as “al-Khulafā’ur-Rāshidūn” or “The Rightly Guided Caliphs.” Sunnis also believe that the position of caliph may be attained democratically, on gaining a majority of the votes, but after the Rashidun, the position turned into a hereditary dynastic rule because of the divisions started by the Umayyads and others. After the fall of the Ottoman Empire in 1923, there has never been another caliph as widely recognized in the Muslim world.
Shia Islam is the second-largest denomination of Islam, comprising 10–13% of the total Muslim population in the world. Shia Muslims, though a minority in the Muslim world, constitute the majority of the populations in Iran, Iraq, Bahrain and Azerbaijan as well as a plurality in Kuwait, Yemen and Lebanon. In addition to believing in the authority of the Qur’an and teachings of Muhammad, Shia believe that Muhammad’s family, the Ahl al-Bayt (the “People of the House”), including his descendants known as Imams, have special spiritual and political authority over the community and believe that Ali ibn Abi Talib, Muhammad’s cousin and son-in-law, was the first of these Imams and was the rightful successor to Muhammad, and thus reject the legitimacy of the first three Rashidun caliphs.
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