Islam: Firmly rooted in a twisted version of the Old Testament and the Mosaic Law.

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The teachings of Islam are set forth in the Qur’an (Koran), which is divided into 114 chapters or surahs. These are supplemented by hadith, “sayings,” a record of the actions and utterances of Muhammad, which at first were transmitted by oral tradition and later written down.

The Qur’an and hadith form the basis of the shari’a, the Holy Law, which lies at the foundation of the Islamic state, and which constitutes a rich body of legislation covering all aspects of public and private life.

Less clearly defined is the ijam, which may roughly be described as “consensus” and refers to the common opinion of the believers regarding particular interpretations of Islamic teaching. This in turn is guided by the Sunna, or accepted “tradition.”

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Father John Hardon, S.J.: A Primer On Islam

Doctrine and worship in the Koran

Islam is a glomeration of sects and traditions that bewilder the Western mind. Yet after thirteen centuries, the followers of Mohammed are somehow united and their unity traceable to a common devotion to the Koran. It is the duty of every Moslem, man, woman, or child, to read the Koran and understand it according to his capacity. There runs through the book a consistent body of doctrine and of practical obligations which has remained in all ages the inspiration of the Muslim religion.

Unexpectedly, the famous Shahada or profession of faith, “There is but one God, and Mohammed is the Apostle of God,” nowhere occurs as such in the Koran. The nearest equivalent, often called the Islamic Credo, is found in the surah of Women: “You who believe, believe in God and His apostle, and the Book which He revealed to His apostle, and the Book which he revealed to those before him. Whoever denies God and His angels and His books and His apostle and the day of judgment has strayed far away from the truth.”1

While the Koran itself is central, three other sources of Islamic doctrine and practice are recognized by orthodox Moslems: tradition or Qunnah, community agreement or igmah, and the principle of analogy called gijas.

Tradition as a source of revelation is co-equal with the Koran in binding power and authority. It consists of all the sayings, explicit or implicit, of Mohammed, which he did not personally set down in the Koran.

Consensus of believers is more difficult to define and has occasioned endless dispute and schism. But in theory it means that whenever a sizeable portion of the Moslem faithful agrees on some cardinal issue of doctrine or ritual, this becomes part of the creedal structure of Islam.

The method of analogy finds special application in the field of morals and conduct, where a new situation is evaluated by comparison with a similar one in the past. Understandably the principle of gijas lends itself to arbitrary interpretation and, in fact, has been the cause of grave tension and conflict in Moslem jurisprudence.

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Additional articles on Islam

Interview with a Coptic Orthodox Priest who has a 60 million dollar al Qaeda bounty on his head

FP: You always document your discussions with Islamic sources. Why do Muslim clerics and imams have such a difficulty discussing what Islam itself teaches and instead just attack you personally?

Botros: I think the answer is obvious. The Islamic sources, the texts, speak for themselves. Muslims have no greater enemy than their own scriptures—particularly the Hadith and Sira—which constantly scandalize and embarrass Muslims. To date, I have done well over 500 different episodes dedicated to various topics regarding Islam. And for every one of these episodes, all my material comes directly from Islam’s textual sources, particularly usul al-fiqh—the Koran, hadith, and ijma of the ulema as found in their tafsirs.

So what can the sheiks of Islam do? If they try to address the issue I raise based on Islam’s texts and sharia, they will have no choice but to agree—for instance that concubinage is legal, or that drinking camel urine is advocated. The only strategy left them, then, is to ignore all that I present and attack my person, instead.

And when well-meaning Muslims ask their leaders to respond to these charges, one of their favorite responses is to quote the Koran, where it says “Do not ask questions of things that will hurt you.”

FP: So what does it say about a religion whose religious teachers and members have to ignore their own theological texts because they cannot endure what those texts really say? What sense does any of this make?

Botros: Again, this is a reflection of the fact that Islam is less a faith, more a vehicle for empowerment. As you say, what is the point for a person to closely guard and follow a religion that he himself has to rationalize, ignore, minimize, constantly reinterpret, dissemble over, and so forth? The fact is, most Muslims do not know what is in their own texts; at best, they know, and here and there try to follow, the Five Pillars. This is why the issues I broach often traumatize Muslims—like a freshening slap across the face: a short, sharp, shock. The stubborn, who take it as an attack of “us versus them,” irrespective of truths, just fume and plot to kill me; the other, more reasonable Muslims, who are really searching for the truth, end up waking up to the biggest hoax perpetrated on the human race in 1400 years, and many come to the ultimate Truth.

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New book provides insights into Islam for Catholics, others

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Despite Islam’s profession of a simple, clear faith, this religion is not well known to most Westerners. The media presents many news stories about Muslims without offering any real explanation of Islam and its tenets. Rarely does one encounter an article or program which explains the essential differences between secular Arab nationalism and Islamic religious movements. Many Western Christians remain unclear about the differences between the various Muslim sects: How do Sunni and Shiite differ? What are Wahhabi Muslims?

Since the conflicts in the Middle East have involved America in two wars and terrorism has inflicted horrors upon our own shores and abroad, the sale of the Koran in its English translation has greatly increased in the United States. Many American Christians want to better understand Islam but find that the more closely they approach this enigmatic faith, the more complex it seems. Since the Koran is not organized chronologically or thematically, it is difficult for the non-Muslim to make sense of it. The Koran appears so strange to Western eyes that many readers find it difficult to find a firm starting point to read it with comprehension.

Another problem in understanding Islam stems from the many conflicting ideas existing within it. Is it a religion of peace or a religion of warlike jihad? Does jihad mean the individual struggle to submit to God more completely or does it refer to the universal struggle against every non-Muslim society and structure? If Islam teaches so many good things about Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary, why do Muslims have so many difficulties with Christian beliefs?

Read more, including excerpts, at Matt C. Abbott’s column