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An Introduction to Islam

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AN INTRODUCTION TO ISLAM
To observant Muslims, ritual prayer is as natural as sleeping or eating. Islam is not just one component of its believers' lives, a set of beliefs remembered on special occasions. Rather, for the devout, it is a way of life. Its tenets and rules permeate almost everything, often including politics and government.
In a world swayed by misunderstanding of cultural differences, Islam and its adherents often are stereotyped and caricatured, branded with the violent or sexist image of a small minority of zealots. In reality, Islam is no better characterized by acts of Middle Eastern terrorists, for example, than is Christianity by acts of Northern Ireland's terrorists.
Islam is an ancient religion with profound historical and theological ties to Judaism and Christianity. All three religions worship the same God, acknowledge large parts of the same Bible and revere Adam, Noah, Abraham and Moses. And, as do Christians, Muslims regard Jesus as the messiah.
In fact, Islam teaches that it represents the modern mainstream of a primordial, monotheistic religion that began with the earliest humans. Over millennia, the religion took form with the early Jewish prophets, was modified significantly by Jesus and finally shaped by Muhammad, the final prophet, who died in 632.
Among Muhammad's most important acts was rejection of the old Jewish concept of a "chosen people." Instead, he taught that all people are born Muslim and that anyone -- regardless of color, nationality or social standing -- can join the Muslim community simply by submitting to God and reciting the words known as the shahadah: "There is no deity but Allah (God), and Muhammad is his messenger."
Because of its powerful, cross-cultural appeal, Islam has won the hearts and minds of an estimated 1.6 billion people around the world, making it the second largest religion. Christianity has…...

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