For that reason, selected words of wisdom taken from their sacred books have been included under each religion.
Major religious groups
As we mentioned at the beginning of this book, there are about ten major religions in the world. Although Sikhism is not considered a major religion or a revealed faith, it is included in this section for the benefit of the reader. To simplify the study of comparative religions, the scholars classify these faiths into various categories based on certain criteria. Another criterion that can be used in classifying these religions is their ethnic aspect.
Some religions have appeal to their own people and are, therefore, called ethnic. Preaching to outsiders and conversions in these ethnic faiths have always been uncommon. Other faiths claim to be of more universal: appeal, have been vigorous in missionary work and have actively sought conversions.
On this basis, the major religions could be divided into:. This journey became known as the Hijra also spelled Hegira or Hijrah , and marks the beginning of the Islamic calendar. Some seven years later, Muhammad and his many followers returned to Mecca and conquered the region.
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A series of leaders, known as caliphs, became successors to Muhammad. This system of leadership, which was run by a Muslim ruler, became known as a caliphate.
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Abu Bakr died about two years after he was elected and was succeeded in by Caliph Umar, another father-in-law of Muhammad. Islam also spread throughout areas in Europe, Africa, and Asia. The caliphate system lasted for centuries and eventually evolved into the Ottoman Empire , which controlled large regions in the Middle East from about until , when World War I ended the Ottoman reign.
When Muhammad died, there was debate over who should replace him as leader. This led to a schism in Islam, and two major sects emerged: the Sunnis and the Shiites.
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Sunnis make up nearly 90 percent of Muslims worldwide. They accept that the first four caliphs were the true successors to Muhammad. Shiite Muslims believe that only the caliph Ali and his descendants are the real successors to Muhammad. They deny the legitimacy of the first three caliphs.
Other, smaller Muslim denominations within the Sunni and Shiite groups exist. Some of these include:.
It contains some basic information that is found in the Hebrew Bible as well as revelations that were given to Muhammad. The text is considered the sacred word of God and supercedes any previous writings. Muhammad himself was never taught to read or write. The book is written with Allah as the first person, speaking through Gabriel to Muhammad.
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It contains chapters, which are called surahs. This faith-based code of conduct directs Muslims on how they should live in nearly every aspect of their lives.
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Sharia law requires men and women to dress modestly. It also outlines marriage guidelines and other moral principles for Muslims. If crimes are committed, Sharia law is known for its harsh punishments. Adultery can carry the penalty of death by stoning. However, many Muslims do not support such extreme measures. While some Muslims use their faith to justify terrorism, the vast majority do not. In fact, Muslims are frequently victims of violence themselves.
Recent surveys have found that in countries with high Muslim populations, the majority of Muslims have overwhelmingly negative views of terrorist groups like ISIS. While Muslims aim to clear up misconceptions about their faith, the religion continues to spread rapidly.
Experts predict Islam will surpass Christianity as the largest religion by the end of the century. Unlike Jesus Christ, the Prophet Muhammad was a theologian, a preacher, a warrior and a politician, all at once. He was also the leader and builder of a new state, capturing, holding and governing new territory.
Religious and political functions, at least for the believer, were no accident. They were meant to be intertwined in the leadership of one man. It is difficult to overstate the centrality of divine authorship. This does not mean Muslims are literalists; most are not.