Islam (from Arabic, literally – surrender to [God]) is a monotheistic world religion. Along with Judaism and Christianity refers to the “Abrahamic”, revelative tradition. Islam originated in the northwest of Arabia, in Mecca, where (as in all Arabia) paganism dominated. The founder of the new monotheistic religion, the prophet Muhammad (about 570-632) began his sermon at the age of 40 years. Persecuted by the Meccan polytheists, he, along with a few followers, moved to Medina in 622 (this year the “Hijra”, the migration, then became the starting point of the Muslim lunar calendar). Here in the next ten years, the Prophet managed to rally around the Arab population of the city, and then convert to Islam Mecca and most of the tribes of the Arabian Peninsula. The spread of Islam continued with the four “righteous” Caliphs – the successors of the Prophet (Abu Bakr, Omar, Osman and Ali, ruled 622-661), and then under the Umayyads (661-750) and the Abbasids (750-1258), encompassing a vast expanse from the Middle Volga to Madagascar and from the borders of China to the south of France. In the Muslim empire – the caliphate – a new world culture developed, assimilating various cultural traditions (including the philosophical and scientific heritage of antiquity) and reaching its greatest development in the 9th-12th centuries. The fall of Baghdad laid the end of the “golden age” of Islam and the Arab-Muslim culture under the pressure of the Mongols in 1258 and the destruction of the Abbasid caliphate. Formerly, a single cultural space has gradually broken up into many relatively independent areas: Arabic, Iranian, Turkish, Islam in the Indian subcontinent, etc. In the modern world, Islam is practiced by about 1.5 billion people, mostly in the countries of Asia and Africa. Most Muslims (85-90%) are Sunni; the rest are Shiites.
The two main sources of the creed of Islam are the Qur’an and Sunnah, or Hadith (“traditions” about the Prophet, his sayings and deeds). From the Muslim point of view, they represent different types of Revelation – “God-given” (or “dictated”, wholly derived from God, both in content and verbal expression) and “inspired” (whose verbal design predominantly belongs to the Prophet himself). Of the various collections of hadiths, the most authoritative is considered to be “al-Bukhari” (“reliable”). From the hadith, various biographies (from the Arabian alphabet from Muhammad) of Muhammad were compiled.
Islam does not know such an institution as the church, and dogmatists, in the sense that would be true concerning Christianity; a certain exception is Shi’ism. At the same time, a kind of canonical dogma developed in Sunnism, which consists of the following principles: belief in God, angels, prophets (including Moses and Jesus), Scriptures (including the Torah and the Gospel), Judgment Day (sometimes they are attached to them and faith in predestination). The five main tenets correspond to the five main religious duties, known as the “five pillars of Islam”: the confession of faith (“shahada”, the utterance of the formula of initiation – “I testify that there is no deity except God and Muhammad is his messenger”), daily five times prayer (“Salaat”, “namaz”), fasting in the month of Ramadan (“sahuum”, “uraza”), alms (“zakat” – at a rate of 2.5% of income), pilgrimage (at least once in life, if possible ) to Mecca (“khaujj”).
Separating the Judeo-Christian monotheism, Islam claims a greater rigor and consistency in the implementation of the unitary principle. In such dogmas as the Trinity and the Incarnation, Islam sees a departure from true monotheism, a dimming of its primordial purity. With the idea of the absolute transcendence of God, aniconism (iconoclasm) of Islam is associated, excluding the image not only of God but also of people and animals. As in Judaism, the basis for the anti-figurism of Islam was also the fear of idolatry. The Sunna develops another motive, specific for Islam: God is the only “formator” (Moussavi) of creatures that it is inadmissible to compete in creating such images.
The Quranic picture of the world, like the biblical picture, is theocentric and in a certain sense anthropocentric. But Muslim anthropology (like the Jewish one), unlike the Christian one, does not attach much importance to original sin. According to Islam, God forgave the forefathers (Adam and Eve) their sin, which removes the need for redemptive divine self-sacrifice (the crucifixion of Jesus). The sacred history set forth in the Qur’an is spiritually cyclical, being concentrated around prophets, whose missions are essentially identical.
The social doctrine of Islam is permeated with egalitarianism, solidarity, activism and anti-asceticism. “The best of you,” says the Prophet, “is not one who for the sake of heaven neglects the earthly and not the one that does the opposite; the best of you is the one that takes from both. ” Following this attitude, the Muslim ethics rejects celibacy, blesses labor and wealth. In classical Islam, activist orientation often coexisted with the dogma of divine predestination. The prevalent understanding of this dogma called upon man to make every effort to realize his intentions, to change the existing state of things, hoping for the assistance of the Almighty, and what turns out to be beyond his control, then he should be stoically accepted as predetermined. Over time, in part because of the activities of the Sufi mystics, in the religious consciousness of Muslims, divine determinism was perceived primarily in the spirit of inactive fatalism and quietism.
The classical political theory of Islam, established in the conditions of the caliphate, defends the unity of religion and state. But here again, the political ideal is not unconditionally theocratic. Therefore, some researchers avoid applying the epithet “theocracy” to the medieval Muslim realities, and if they are allowed to use it, then necessarily with refinements like “executive”, “protective” and even “secular” theocracy. Many modern Muslim reformers believe that power in Islam can only be secular because Islam does not know “spiritual”, priestly power. In a strict sense, the theocratic (or rather, hierocratic) idea is characteristic of Shiite Islam.
The culture of Islam is characterized by “orthopraxis,” a predominant orientation toward developing “right behavior”, rather than forming “the right faith.” Hence the primacy of law over dogmatism in it. In fiqh (including, in addition to the legal issues proper, cultic issues), civil and criminal law first developed, and the state and international were less developed. As an independent scientific discipline, the theory and methodology of law developed – “usl-fiksh”, within the framework of which the doctrine of the four “sources” of law was formed: two “material” sources – the Koran and the Sunnah; and two “formal” ones – consensus (ijmā) and judgment by analogy (kiyā̄s).
From various perspectives – madhhabs of fiqh, formed in the 8th and 10th centuries, four have survived to date – Hanafi, Shafi’i, Malikit and Hanbal. The most widespread of them (which is held by about a third of all Muslims in the world) is Hanafism, officially adopted at the beginning of the 16th century in the Ottoman Empire and now predominant among the Muslims of the CIS. The Mazhabs differ in the theory and methodology of fiqh, as well as in some religious and legal details. All talk is considered equally legitimate. It is symbolic that in the corners of the sacred space around the Kaaba (in Mecca) for a long time there is one institution of four interpretations. Such tolerance for legal diversity is sometimes confirmed by the saying of the Prophet: “The difference in the opinions of my community is a sign of God’s mercy.” Kabbalism, which is simultaneously a theological school, stands apart in this respect. His adherents, especially Wahhabis, are distinguished by their rejection of dissent, literalism in the understanding of sacred texts, intolerance of all sorts of innovations, extreme rigor in observance of religious rites and norms.
In close connection with fiqh, such religious disciplines as the Quranic (especially exegesis) and hadith studies developed. From the need for a deeper understanding of God-revealed data, speculative theology was born, the main problems of which were the question of the correlation of divine attributes and divine essence, as well as predestination and freedom of will. As a result of the assimilation of ancient philosophy, especially Aristotelianism, Arabic-speaking Peripatetism arose, the largest of which were Abū ʿAlī al-Ḥusayn ibn ʿAbd Allāh ibn Sīnā (Avicenna) and Ibn Rushd (Averroes).
The mystical trend in Islam is represented primarily in Sufism. Originated during the Umayyads, the Sufi movement initially took ascetic forms, expressing social protest against the sharp differentiation of the Muslim community, the luxurious and idle life of the ruling elite. Later, in the 8th and 9th centuries, Sufism emerged in a course oriented toward mystical knowledge of God and contrasting itself with the scholasticism of theology, the legalism and ritualism of fiqh. In the next two centuries, the disparate Sufi communities and cloisters began to unite in the Order of the Tariqah, each of which has its system of mystical practices, rites of initiation and investment, external insignia. Thanks to the activities of these orders, Sufism from the 13th century turned into the main form of “popular” Islam. Along with the institutionalization of Sufism, his philosophical self-reflection developed, reaching its peak in Illuminativism-Ishraqism as-Suhraward, and especially in the ontism-wudhudism of Ibn ‘Arab.
The two main trends of Islam – Sunnism and Shiism – arose as a result of the split of the Muslim community over the supreme power, marked by the civil war of 657 between the Caliph Ali and his rival Mu’awiyya. In the course of this war, a group of Kharijigi (“rebels”) emerged, combining political egalitarianism (election of the caliph, for which any member of the community, regardless of his social or ethnic background, can claim) with dogmatic fatalism. Supporters of the same Al ‘(cousin, disciple and son-in-law of the prophet Muhammad), later called “Shiites”, defended the heredity and the sacredness of the caliphate (Imamat). In time, however, along with political differences, theological evolved.
Sunnism, finally formed in the 10th century, acts as a “majority” Islam, expressing the opinion and customs, the theory and practice of the majority of the members of the community, in contrast to peripheral groups. Hence, the orientation toward the “correct” doctrine, which is the middle between the extremes (which, by definition, must be erroneous), characteristic of Sunni Islam, as well as conformism (or pragmatism), the establishment of the legitimization of the status quo, the legalization of established beliefs, rituals and institutions (the latter is considered the result of a consensus-ijmā ‘Muslim community that is infallible). As the median developed, in particular, Sunni theology, developed by the two schools of Kalama – Asharit and maturitic. The very name of the Sunnis – “Ahl-as-Sunna” (abbreviated as “Sunnah”) means “adherents of the Sunnah”, the tradition of the Prophet as a model for imitation (but this is not the difference from the Shiites, for they also claim to follow the Sunnah) . Many scholars identify as the “Muslim Reformation” the process of renewal of Islam, which began in the mid-19th century and was presented by Jamal ad-Din al-Afghani, his Egyptian disciple Muhammad ‘Abdu, Turk Namik Kemal, Indians Amir Ali and Muhammad Iqbal. In parallel with this trend, the fundamentalist trend developed, the extreme form of which is the Puritan movement that arose in Arabia under the leadership of Muhammad Ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab and known as Wahhabism. In the 19th century, two branches of Islam appeared, far beyond its previous framework, the first in Shiite Islam (Iran), the second in Sunni (India): Bahaism, with its ideology of interfaith peace and harmony, and Ahmadiyya, distinguished for its syncretic messianism. Traditional for Islam, a close relationship with the state remains in modern conditions. In some countries, Islam is recognized as a state or official religion. Under the slogans of Islam, many political parties and organizations operate.