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Shia Islam - Essay Example

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Islam is the second most widespread religion in the world. It is a monotheistic faith, and its followers are called Muslims. The very word Islam in Arabic denotes submission, in this particular case to God called Allah. In general terms, Muslims believe that Allah was bringing his holy word to mankind through numerous prophets, Adam, Moses, and Jesus among them, and that Mohammed (c…
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Download file to see previous pages At the same time, Islam asserts that while in the Gospels and in Torah there originally were correct messages, with time they were misinterpreted and wrongly edited by people. Thus, Koran corrects all those wrongs.
Speaking about the other essential characteristics of Islam Sharia should be mentioned, which is the Arabic term for Islamic law interpreted by Islamic scholars, and it is also called the law of Allah. One of the main features of law in Islam is that there is no separation between religious and secular aspects of life. Indeed, Sharia regulates not only religious practices, but as well different aspects of life, like business, economics, general matters of political governance and international relations, social matters, and daily goings-on of people. Again, the Quran is the main source of law in Islam. The second such source is the sunnah, which is the compilation of words and deeds of Mohammed and the early community of Muslims. As the third source of law serves consensus of the Muslim community called Ijma, and the fourth source is the principle of reasoning by analogy, also termed Qiyas. Islamic laws that are explicitly formulated in the Quran are known as hudud laws. Among other things, they ban homicide, non-marital sex, consumption of alcohol, and engagement in gambling. The Quran also spells out laws of marriage, principles of inheritance and compensation for inflicted harm, and of course rules of immediate religious application like prayer, fasting, and charity. At the same time, it should be noted that the mentioned regulations often leave quite a lot of room for interpretation, so their practical realizations may differ. To help with practical utilization of postulates of Islamic law, Muslim scholars, also named the ulema, explicate systems of Muslim law that stem from these general rules, and to exemplify them often refer to the ways in which Mohammed and other religious authorities interpreted the principles of Islamic law. Taking into consideration the fact that today not all Muslims can read the original Arabic Quran, the need in such interpreters is increased (Schimmel 1992). On the basis of what we have discussed, we can see that Islamic law is absolute, because it covers almost every aspect of life of a Muslim, and requires a strict observance of its regulations and instructions.
While what we have generally outlined is the common religious ground for all the Muslims, there are still different denominations within the Islamic religion. The largest Islamic denomination is the group professing what is known as the Sunni Islam. In fact, approximately 85% of all the Muslims in the world are of the Sunni denomination, and are called Sunnis. At the same time, a significant portion of followers of Islam, known as Shiites, belong to the denomination of Shia Islam. Actually, around 15% of the wolrds Muslims are of this denomination, and in some countries they constitute the Muslim majority, such as for instance in Iran with its 90% of Shia population and in Yemen, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, and Iraq, where Shiites form a less prominent majority (Esposito 1998, ch.5). Let us concentrate on the exploration of the differences between Shia and Sunni denominations, including the initial divide between them, with the aim to obtain a better understanding of the less numerous Shia group.
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