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Understanding Islam

Religion is a complex thing for both kids and adults. It means so many different things to everyone - faith, community, history, power, family, and understanding the universe. It's easy to think of Islam as a scary or threatening thing when every time you turn on the TV you see images of Islamic terrorists killing and being killed, but is that what Islam is really about? Read on to get the basic info on one of the world's most misunderstood religions.

What is Islam?

More than one billion Muslims (followers of Islam) believe in Allah (God). They believe that Jesus was a prophet (messenger), not the Son of God, and they believe that Mohammed was the last prophet to visit the earth. According to Islam, Mohammed brought the Qur'an (the Muslim holy text) to the world in the seventh century. Muslims believe in the teachings of the Bible, the Torah (a Jewish text) and the Qur'an. In essence, just like Christianity is an extension of Judaism, Islam is an extension of Christianity. All three faiths have several different beliefs and traditions but they all believe in essentially the same God.

What Do Muslims Believe?

You could spend a lifetime studying Islam because, like any other religion, it's a complicated thing. Here's the rundown on the very basic principles:

  • Belief in One God (that would be Allah, if you haven't been paying attention).
  • Belief in all of God's messengers.
  • Belief in all of God's sacred texts (the Bible, Torah, and Qur'an).
  • Belief in angels.
  • Belief in Judgment Day, Heaven, Hell and Life after Death.
  • Belief that everything that will ever happen has already been decided by God (predestination).

Islam and Terrorism

Religion - Islam or any other - can provide an enormous sense of comfort, understanding and community to people. On the flip side, it can act as a shield for people to hide behind when they want to do something wrong. Islam teaches peace, personal freedom, tolerance and charity - the same basic principles taught by Christianity and Judaism. A lot of war-torn countries happen to be in countries that are predominantly Muslim so it's easy to get confused about what is causing the violence. The Qur'an doesn't advocate war anymore than the Bible does but some people use it as an excuse to commit terrible acts of violence. It's important to understand that these people don't accurately represent the more than one billion Muslims worldwide. Religious stereotyping is as lame as racism, sexism and all other prejudices.

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