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Islam and Muslims

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Foreword

Today in England there are some 2 million Muslims out of a population of almost 60 million. That is there are more Muslims than Christian Methodists. These pages trace the history of their Islamic faith and demonstrate how the English have been very much influenced by the world Islamic scene for about 1000 years. The section concludes with a look at the conditions in the Islamic world in the past 50 years as they, at last obtained freedom, or thought they did, from the shackles of Western Christian colonialism. Also we look at the simultaneous rise in Islamic militant fundamentalism which so worries the West and embarrasses the majority of the Muslims who live in England.

Introduction and Summary

The Founder, Mohammed preaches justice and equality
About 1500 years ago (570-632 AD) a man was born in Mecca in present day Saudi Arabia who created a "new" religion. His name was Mohammed or to give him his full Arabic name Mohammed ibn Abdullah. When Mohammed was about 40, whilst fasting in the desert (a common custom for Arabs of this period) he claimed to be visited by God in the guise of Archangel Gabriel. Over the next 20 years he had many of these visitations, a number in response to specificcover problems he had at the time. As Mohammed could neither read nor write the Archangel instructed Mohammed to speak (or preach or recite) about what he had heard. After his death these recitations were written down as remembered by his followers and are available for all to read in the Koran. Mohammed's main message was coincidentally much the same as Jesus? that is equality and justice for everybody in a world where a natural human trait seems to be that if you are rich and powerful you tend to exploit the poor and weak. However Mohammed went further than Jesus and has provided a detailed list of how a good Muslim should behave in many day to day situations.

The Koran
The Koran is the "Bible" for Muslims, but being a series of instructions, actually recitations as they were given to Mohammed, it is much more difficult for first time students to read than the Christian Bible which is more like a story book. Further the Koran is written for Arabic readers and loses most of its literary magic in translation. Arabic readers claim that much of the Koran is so beautiful to listen to that it can be compared to listening to the best poetry or the best music. (This statement might be blasphemous to a Muslim, as one can't compare even the best music to the word of God.) Indeed it was not uncommon for an Arab to be immediately converted to Islam by simply listening to parts of the Koran when spoken in Arabic.

Muslims become the most powerful block in the world
After the death of Mohammed the Islamic message was spread rapidly along the Arabic trading routes and created the biggest empire of the day, from the Atlantic coast of Spain, via North Africa and Arabia, Iran, India all the way to the spice islands of present day Indonesia (Java). The tribes of Arabia came under one ruler for the first time. When some 300 years later they were joined by the nomadic Turks and then Mongols, they became the most powerful trading block in the world peaking some 500 years ago when the Mongol/Turkic Ottomans made their headquarters in Istanbul. The Mediterranean Sea at that time was called an Islamic lake and was closed to "Western" shipping and trade. Only the might of the English navy at its peak some 200 years ago finally broke their stranglehold in the Mediterranean. This Islamic blockade forced the Christian traders to find another route for the lucrative spices and silks and there followed the "western" discovery of the Americas by mistake.

The Islamic world today
Today this vast religious Islamic block is still intact in spite of efforts by the Christian English and other Christian missionaries to convert the Muslims in the British Empire to Christianity. (Actually the number of converts was almost nil). Indeed the barbaric imperial English trading buccaneers brought back many a story of "superior cultures" particularly from India. Such messages fell on deaf ears back home in London. A typical response would be "the man's gone native". However this Islamic block never followed the English lead with the Industrial Revolution and has fallen well behind the "West" in economic wealth. The relationship between religion and science which was rebalanced in England and the rest of Europe during the Enlightenment (circa 1750-1850) was never followed in the Islamic block. The result is that other than the oil rich states, most of this proud old Islamic territory has third world status. It would be wrong to blame this on traditional Islam as when the Arab states had their version of the Enlightenment over 1000 years ago they became the world leaders in trade, culture and science. On the other hand many modern Islamic leaders run undemocratic totalitarian regimes which stifle "progress". It is the concept of moving towards a western democratic, laissez faire, secular and scientific culture and its associated lack of morals which many of today's Islamic leaders are vehemently against. Some of the reasons why may be apparent from this site. There are now some 2 million Muslims living in Britain, mainly immigrants from Pakistan and Bangladesh plus Islamic Asians fleeing ethnic persecution by Africans in Uganda and Kenya. Many now live happily amongst secular western English and many favouring a western or part western way of life. The aim must be for integration and the elimination of religious extremes which always results in strife. Perhaps these paragraphs on the Islamic religion will go some way to minimising common misunderstandings.

Early Developments - Mohammed

1500 years ago

Mohammed the creator of Islam, said to be the last of the great prophets of the single God religions (monotheism, others include Abraham, Moses and Jesus), was born in present day Saudi Arabia in the then rich trading town of Mecca. Mohammed himself worked in the trading and transport field and travelled far and wide within the regular camel trains of the period. He worked for a female boss some 15 years older than himself who he eventually married. He was troubled by the barbaric nature of human life, present even within the confines of wealthy city of Mecca. (Then a desert oasis).

Mecca was at the cross roads of the major east west caravan routes and the local merchants became very wealthy. Mohammed's main concern was that the rich did nothing to help the poor, rather the opposite, they exploited them for cheap labour. During one of his regular fasting and thinking trips to remote desert retreats he had a vision that he was given a message from God by the Archangel Gabriel. Basically he was told to do something about the human cruelty he saw every day in Mecca. From that day he tried to persuade the rich that they should trade ruthless business tactics for compassion and piety and those who were starving and out of work should be cared for. "On whose authority" the traders would ask. On the authority of Allah (God) was his reply. This did not cut any ice with the rich who wanted to increase their wealth, not share it amongst the poor and on top of all that, who was this Allah anyway. Up, to this time Arabs were still worshipping Gods like the Sun or the Moon, the rain Gods and the fertility Gods. Mohammed was forced to flee Mecca or he would have been assassinated. He went north to the smaller town of Medina with his wife and family.

Medina (250 miles north of Mecca, originally called Yathrib)
In Medina he met a tribe of Jews for the first time and was relieved to find another group of people who were dedicated to following a one almighty and compassionate God rather than the normal series of pagan gods. During this period he had many visitations from his new Allah when he prayed for solutions to his many social problems and he found the instructions he was getting very similar to the rules of life followed by his new friends the Jews. Mohammed asked if he could join up with his new friends but the Jews, perhaps out of jealousy or "who is this new bloke getting direct messages from God?", told him to go his own way. Thus Islam was born. (Note the similarity with Jesus' relationship with the Jews). Mohammed was a persuasive preacher and soon he had a substantial Arabic following. He returned to Mecca with such a crowd that the Meccans let him back into the city without a drop of blood being shed. Before Mohammed died he had brought most of the warring Bedouin tribes of the huge Arabian peninsular under one ruler, himself. His ticket, based on his instructions from God and his experience with the Jews was:-

The Basic Theology of Mohammed, ISLAM

The Koran and the Hadith

The Koran was written some 1500 years ago and the Hadith over the next 200 years. This compares with the older Bible where the New Testament is about 2000 years old and the Old Testament more than 2500 years old.
Mohammed's message:

  • There are not lots of Gods, one for each occasion, but one supreme being, "Allah." This puts Islam on a par with Jews and Christians although Mohammed who could not read or write had never met or even heard of a Jew or a Christian when he received his first vision from the Archangel Gabriel.
  • Allah is full of compassion and requires humans to create a just world.
  • To help the poor the rich must always show compassion and provide 2.5% of their wealth annually to the poor to help reduce inequalities.
  • Muslims (those who follow the Islamic faith) should pray to Allah three times a day. It was originally two but Mohammed put it up to three to be on a par with his Jewish friends. Mohammed eventually increased it to five. When at prayer Muslims should face towards Mecca. It was originally Jerusalem a place that Mohammed never went to other than in a dream whilst praying to Allah. However when Mohammed split with the Jews, who faced Jerusalem when praying, he instructed his disciples to face Mecca which was conveniently in the opposite direction.
  • Muslims should fast for one month every (Lunar) year. Which is approximately 11 months. The purpose of this inconvenience is to remind the wealthy of the poor people who have not got enough food to eat. "Ramadan."
  • Muslims once in their life should travel to Mecca to get forgiveness for their sins. This pilgrimage is called the Hajj and takes place every year, two months after Ramadan. At this time they should particularly remember the story of Ibrahim (Abraham) and his son Ismail who God told him to kill (sacrifice) as a test of his faith in God The story is told both in the Bible, the Jewish Torah as well as the Koran. Muslims trace their direct ancestors back to Abraham and his line commenced by his son Ismail.
  • Muslims should believe there is a life after death.

The Koran
The rules of Islam can be found in the Koran which are the instructions given to Mohammed when he was visited by Archangel Gabriel over a period of about 20 years. The "recitations" (not in date order in the Koran rather by order of length) are beautifully written by Mohammed's disciples in flowing "musical" Arabic poetry which of course looses much of its magic when translated. The above rules come from the Koran. Here are a few more from both the original Koran and other collections of his (or better God's ) instructions written down over the following 200 years (The Hadith collections). Examples of the most topical ones we hear of today have been selected. The origin of each extract has been shown.

The Hadith
The six most important contributors to the Hadith collection were:-

  • Sahih Tirmidhi
  • Sunan Nasa'I
  • Sunan ibn Majah
  • Sunan Abu Dawud
  • Sahih Muslim
  • Sahih Bukhari

It should also be noted that whereas the teachings of the Koran are cast in stone that other texts may be updated by the top religious leaders of the day. An Ayatollah would fall into this category. (The best known Ayatollah of recent times perhaps would be Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran, 1900-1990)

The Koran and the Hadith collections contain thousands of instructions so that a Muslim does not have to look very far to see how to behave in the majority of day to day situations.

Common social rules spelt out in the Koran and the Hadith

Religious wars, Jihad
What is permissible in the name of Allah?
Mohammed lived during tough barbaric times and had to defend himself and Islam against many aggressors (like rich Arabic merchants.) Further, in Medina some of the Jews he was living along side, although they had signed their allegiance to Mohammed, organised a rebellion with the help of some local Arab tribes. Mohammed and his followers although outnumbered defended themselves successfully and held the offending Jews in captivity. Mohammed allowed the Jews to appoint their own judge and being a Jew handed out the punishment prescribed in the ancient Jewish texts:- (Torah/Bible Deuteronomy ch7 v 2) "When the Lord our God gives them over to you, and you defeat them, then you must utterly destroy them and make no covenant with them and show them no mercy." All the Jewish rebels were then assassinated as instructed by the scriptures. (Then over 1000 years old). As was customary in those days, the victor took the wife of the vanquished and marry her to make sure she was looked after permanently. Hence the man could acquire a number of wives. This also demonstrates that he, Mohammed, had absolutely nothing against the Jewish race. A general guide to when a military Jihad is permissible under Islamic law is when:-

  1. In the defence of Islam, but not in aggression.
  2. To restore peace and freedom of worship
  3. When lead by an Islamic spiritual leader.
  4. Women, children, old and sick people are not to be harmed

Many Islamic theologians would argue that a Jihad is actually an internal battle with one's self to get rid of evil thoughts but: -
Note also quotations from the Koran.

  • The response to a wound is an equal wound back. (Koran Surah 42;40) note this is similar to the Jewish view from the Torah/Old Testament "An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth."
  • Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you, but do not go beyond the limits. (Koran, Surah 2:190)
  • If two sides quarrel make peace between them. But if this fails then fight against the one that transgresses until he complies with the laws of God. (Koran, Surah 49:9)

Islamic Punishment
Punishment meted out in some Islamic states seems pretty harsh or even barbaric particularly in places like Saudi Arabia and in Afghanistan under the Taliban. Is this supported by the Islamic texts? Whatever the views on this tough Islamic justice, the fact is that such misdemeanours as stealing, drunkenness or adultery are almost unknown in Saudi Arabia. So does the end justify the means?

  • Stealing: The punishment for theft is the removal of the offending hand at the wrist! The fact that there are not many one handed people in Islamic countries only goes to show that this is an effective deterrent. (If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go to hell; Hadith Mark 9:43)
  • Drunkenness. The Islamic faith forbids the drinking of any alcoholic drink. The punishment in some Islamic countries (viz. Saudi Arabia) is a public flogging. However Mohammed did not comment on the private drinking of alcohol only a public display of drunkenness. Koran.
  • Adultery. This is a very serious offence in Islamic law but must be witnessed by four people for the sin to be proved. (Note for comparison; adultery, to be proven, needed to be witnessed in Christian England 50 years ago.) The penalty in some Islamic countries (viz. Saudi Arabia) is dealt with either by stoning or beheading!

Islamic rules in Marriage

  • Polygamy. A man can have more than one wife under Islamic law. (Marry as many women as may seem good for you, two, three, four. But if you feel you may not be able to act justly, then marry one woman only. (Koran Surah 4:129). This perhaps got a bit excessive under the Ottomans when one Sultan had over 1400 wives.
  • Arranged and forced marriages. A forced marriage is forbidden but an arranged marriage is customary. (Mohammed's first wife Aisha asked him, "was it necessary to consult the girl involved" "Yes she must be consulted" Hadith, Muslim)

Islamic dress code
There is no dress code for men other than when they go to a mosque. On the other hand, Muslim women must abide by strict rules when outside their house. These rules are designed to protect women from lecherous glances or worse from men. The custom has two origins. Mohammed's wives took to wearing a veil (hijab) to cover the face to give them some privacy in public as they had become so famous. The habit of women living in separate parts of the house to men (Purdah) coupled with the rule that they must be completely covered from head to toe (with the chador or burqua) when in public does not originate from Islam but from countries like India and Persia. In both countries it was seen as a kind of snobbish way for females to dress. In India for the high Hindu casts and for rich Persian Christians. (Mohammed said to his wife's younger sister, "when a girl reaches puberty it is not proper that anything other than her face and her hands should be visible in public." Hadith Abu Dawud.)

Islamic Rules relating to food
As we have seen, Mohammed lived along side Jews for some years and the rules on forbidden foods and food preparation are virtually exactly the same for both religions. Pig meat, that is pork and bacon are considered unclean and must not be eaten. This is based on the observed revolting eating habits of the local pigs, who being allowed to run around the village were seen to scavenge and even to eat human excrement. Most other foods available everyday in western shops are allowed but the animal slaughter houses must use the Halal (or Jewish Kosher) method of letting the blood drain from the animal as soon as it is killed. (Oh, believers, eat of the good things that we have provided for you and be grateful to God if it is him who you worship. He has only forbidden you meat of an animal that has died by itself, and blood, and the flesh of pigs. Koran Surah 2:172)

The Spread of Islam from Arabia to Spain in the west and Indonesia in the East

The beginnings of the huge Islamic empire about 1300 years ago which peaked some 400 years ago

After Mohammed died in AD 632 his mantle was taken up by his cousin, Caliph Alu Bakr who completed the conquering of the rest of the tribes in the Arabian peninsular and also advanced westwards into Palestine. (The word Caliph is the title given to the head of the Islamic movement. The title remained until the fall of the Ottoman Empire in 1924 some one thousand three hundred years later.) Arabia at this time was flanked by the Roman Byzantine Empire to the west and the Persian (now Iranian) empire in the east. Both these mighty empires and leaders in civilisation were crumbling. Within 100 years the Caliphs had brought Islam as far as Pakistan in the East (then called Sind) and were ruling the whole of Spain and all countries of the North African coastline to Morocco in the west. The Caliph's armies entered France and marched north as far as Tours (only 200 miles south of Paris) where they were stopped by Charlemagne's Germanic Frankish predecessor. (This is why Charlemagne was made head of the newly formed Holy Roman Empire by the then very nervous Christian Pope). 
It was said that the Arabs lost interest in the battle as they all agreed that the climate was too inclement. 

At this time a movement westwards on the north side of the Mediterranean was stopped by the down but not out Roman/Greek Byzantines with their headquarters in Constantinople (the name was changed to Istanbul some 700 years later when the Islamic forces finally conquered this natural fortress town guarding the sea lane between the Black and Mediterranean seas).

The Islamic armies, as rulers, had much to commend them.
Their territories prospered.
The Islamic Renaissance and Reformation.
When the Caliphs conquered a new country they followed the teachings of Mohammed and did not try and convert "men of the book" (that is Jews or Christians who like Muslims were working to written works/scriptures). This had a number of very beneficial effects.

  1. At the time the Muslims were expanding westward the Jews were using much the same route across North Africa. This resulted in a continuing cultural interchange particularly in Spain and elsewhere for 700 years and of course the Arabs could make use of the Jewish honed financial skills.
  2. On the borders with the Byzantine Empire the Muslim Arabs learnt much from the Greek/Roman classical scholars to the extent that Islam had both a Renaissance and a Reformation more than 700 years before the Roman Catholic Church. Constantinople was the centre of much historical culture and learning particularly in the study of Greek Mythology and Philosophy.(This was totally absent from Rome and the rest of Western Europe as the Vandals destroyed all written works when they sacked Rome and the rest of the Roman Empire around 400 AD). This is a huge theological study in itself. The Islamic Arabs were very interested in this Greek mythology and many of the old texts were translated from the original Greek to Arabic for study by the Islamic theological leaders. (These old writings typified by the logic developed by Aristotle as to the reason why there should be a God influenced Islamic thinking for the next 1000 years. These same writings which kick started the Christian Renaissance and Reformation did not reappear in western Europe until 1460)

Problems of succession and Theological development
The problems the Caliphs had over the next few hundred years were threefold:-

  • How do you appoint the next ruler in a religiously dominated empire?
  • What is the relationship between the Religious and secular rulers?
  • What steps are taken to bring a theology up to-date as new ideas come to light and who is responsible.

None of these problems have been solved satisfactorily, even today.
Sunni and Shia branches of Islam and theological agonies
Arguments about who should be the next Caliph resulted in a split of Islam into two branches, Sunni, a mainstream sect and an elite more fundamentalist Shia group. With such a huge empire there were further splits as various centres of power and learning grew up 1000s of miles apart. As well as Mecca, there were soon power bases in Damascus (Syria), Alexandria (Egypt), Cordoba (Spain) and Baghdad (Iraq). This resulted in a weakening of the Empire held together mainly with a common religion and helped by a common language.

Theological debates
All religions go through periods of self examination and trauma. Islam is no exception. Muslims as well as Jews and Eastern Orthodox Christians and much later Western Christians all came to the conclusion that a belief in God relies on either a revelation or a logical analysis which proves the case. (This excludes fear, for example "if you don't believe in God you will go to hell and eternal damnation") Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Mohammed were lucky, they all had revelations. Aristotle and later many others relied on logic. There is a third which is common to all religions around the world and that is Mythology. The Muslims learnt of Greek logic and mythology from the Byzantines. 

Following the death of Mohammed the Islamic world first used logic to satisfy themselves of the existence of Allah and when this did not work tried mythology. As with all religions, mystics claim that if you want to meet with God, one way of doing it is to prepare the body and the mind for such an experience. The best known preparation is Yoga, but the poor Muslims tried everything from fasting to dancing. (The Christians did not go through this self examining agony until around 1650-1750 some time after the Reformation. The western Christian belief in God up to that time had been very often through fear and coercion.)

Exposure to the ancient Greek world encouraged Muslims to study Astronomy, Maths and Medicine and they became world leaders in this field until the western scientific Renaissance around 1650.

1000 years ago

  • Disintegration of the Arab dominated Islamic world.
  • Invasion by Central Asian Turks and Mongols.
  • Further expansion of the Islamic empire.
  • The Christian Crusades.

By 800 AD, that is some 250 years after the huge Arabic led Islamic geographical expansion, the Empire had broken up into at least ten sub-cultures mainly separated by large distances but also separated by theological aims. The main centres were:- 

  • Baghdad(the main centre)
  • Mecca
  • Damascus
and in the west, 
  • Cairo
  • Alexandria
  • Cordoba in Spain

The Empire was therefore vulnerable to any major outside attack and of course it came. The first to arrive were the Seljuk Turks (1038) nomadic residents from modern day Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. Although the Arabs initially beat them off they asked the Turks if they would like to join forces, as the Arabs saw in the Turks a superb fighting machine (The best horse cavalry in the world at the time.) It did not take long for the Turks to be fully integrated with the Arabs with many Turks ending up as generals in the Arab armies. The Turks rapidly adopted the Islamic faith and lived peacefully with the Arabs often in commanding positions in high office. 
More importantly the Turks pushed back the frontiers with the Byzantine Empire and settled in central Anatolia. (Now central Turkey) This was too close to Constantinople for comfort and the "Roman" emperor was forced to call on the Christian Pope in Rome for help. The first Crusade was in 1096 and they re-took Jerusalem from the Muslims. Indeed the Byzantine ruler was lucky to get any help at all from the Pope in Rome at that time as the Eastern Christian Church in Constantinople had spit away from Rome for Theological and Political reasons some 40 years earlier, (in 1054). Naturally the Pope would have been aware of the potential of the Islamic threat to Europe as one of his predecessors had had to appoint a Holy Roman Emperor/General for that very purpose (The Islamic Arabs attacked France some 350 years earlier.) The now famous Turkish Ruler/general, Saladin retook Jerusalem for the Muslims in 1187.

The second wave of invaders from the east
The birth of the Islamic Ottoman Empire, the most powerful nation in the world for the 300 years prior to the growth of the British Empire.
In 1281 the grandson of the famous Mongol warrior, Genghis Kahn arrived in Anatolia and started the foundations of a new Islamic empire that would last a further 500 years. His name was Osman and his empire became known as the Ottoman Empire (Click here for more details). 

Osman and his successors were good Muslims in the sense of allowing their victims to keep the religion of their birth. The extent of the Ottoman territory was similar to that of the Arabs 100 years after the death of Mohammed. The main differences being the loss of Spain to the Christian King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella in 1492. The compensation was the conquering of Constantinople and the whole of the Balkans by 1453. The Ottomans were ruling Arabia, Egypt and by treaty with the Islamic Algerian pirate, Barbarossa the whole of Mediterranean Africa by 1516. It is interesting to compare the treatment by the re-conquering Christians of the Muslims and Jews in Spain with the treatment by the conquering Muslim of the Christians and Jews in the Balkans and Constantinople city. In Spain all non Christians were expelled or killed unless they converted to Christianity. (Spanish Inquisition). On the other hand the Muslim conquerors in Constantinople which was the centre of the Eastern Christian church, let non Muslims keep their faith, all be it that they were effectively second class citizens. Christians could regain their status if they joined the Sultan's elite army called the Janissaries which many of them did and formed the most formidable army of the period.

The Ottomans moved the Centre of the Islamic world to Istanbul and became custodians of the Islamic centres of Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem. Many of the Churches in Istanbul were converted into Mosques and the centre of Orthodox Eastern Christianity was forced eventually to move to Russia.

500 Years ago
Now three Islamic superpowers. 1500 to 1750
The Arab traders had spread the Islamic message from the Atlantic coast of Spain to the Philippines on the edge of the Pacific by 1000 AD. 500 years ago this Islamic world was split into three main empires all founded by Islamic Turkish warlords from present day Turkmenistan to Kazakhstan east of the Aral Sea.

  • The Ottoman Empire (1300-1918) Headquarters Istanbul Turkey
  • The Safavid Empire (1502-1706) Headquarters Isfahan Persia (Iran now)
  • The Mughal (Mongol) Empire 1520-1750) Headquarters Delhi India

Each of the three major dynasties maintained and developed their Islamic societies and were culturally and economically equal to, or in advance of, Europe. However all three had reached or passed their zeniths by 1750 at a time when Europe was on the threshold of their massive cultural and economic gains fuelled by Christian Europe's Religious and scientific "Enlightenment" and England's Industrial Revolution. In addition to these superpowers Islamic territories included Indonesia, Philippines, and the present day states around present day Uzbekistan. The latter had already fallen from economic prosperity created by being on the overland "Silk Route" from Europe to China. This trade had been transferred to sea routes.

250 Years ago to 50 years ago

  • Christian Europe's turn to build global empires
  • The beginning of the end of the golden age of Islam

Now it was the turn of the European traders to "conquer" the world. England, France, Holland, Spain and Portugal had established their positions in the East by following the great Portuguese explorer Vasco Da Gama. He sailed round both the south of Africa and the south of America to reach the eastern spice islands, as the short routes through the Mediterranean were blocked by the Ottomans. There was no long term resistance from the local Islamic Empires in the East to these new European powerhouse traders who in essence were really only fighting amongst themselves for local domination. The English who had started the Industrial revolution were eventually dominant in most areas in the East and the huge and powerful British Empire was created. India, Burma and Malaysia are the good examples.

India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
By 1800 the "Christian" English were ruling the Islamic/Hindu territories in India. (At that time including Pakistan and Bangladesh). Some 150 years later (1947) the English gave India back to the Indians but the country immediately split into Muslim and Hindu parts. The old Sind territory where Islam had been first established by the Arabs became Pakistan and the eastern province of Bengal where the English had their first headquarters became Islamic East Pakistan and later Bangladesh. India has now, therefore been self governing for 50 years.

The Ottoman Collapse
See also the section on this site describing the Ottoman Empire in detail.
The Ottoman Empire collapsed to just Turkey from about 1830 to 1920
200 Years ago the huge Ottoman Islamic Empire still covered the following areas of the world.

  1. Turkey 
  2. Greece and The Balkans
    • Greece was the second to get independence from the Ottomans (1830) (See Egypt later) This involved many years of terrorist/freedom warfare and considerable help from the English. The Greeks returned to an Eastern Orthodox Christian country after 500 years of Islamic rule.
    • The Balkans. The Crimea war 1853-1856 was England plus their new friend France (The English had just finally beaten Napoleon 1815) against Russia, to stop the Russians getting their much needed access to the Mediterranean Sea. Note; the Crimea had been Ottoman territory and is in the north Black Sea area next to the Balkans. The result was a draw, but Russia was kept out of the now "British" Mediterranean and the Balkan states got their independence from the Ottomans as follows: Romania 1878, Serbia 1878 GO, Bosnia RC annexed by Austria 1908, Albania M 1912, Bulgaria 1908. This territory has remained a political and religious tinder box ever since. 

      Note above M= Muslim, RC= Roman Catholic Christian, and GO= Greek Orthodox Christian. 

      All these countries are a mixture of cultures and religions which had remained calm under the Islamic Ottomans and then later under the strong leader Tito. Unless under strong central leadership, this mixture of religions seem unable to live together in peace as we have seen in the last 20 years with the Croatian, Bosnian and Kosovan religious wars. Also the island of Cyprus known to many English as an idyllic holiday destination was taken by the English from the Ottomans in 1878. Cyprus like the Balkans is a tinder box which requires the Christian Greek Orthodox and Muslim peoples to live in different parts of the Island divided by a permanent United Nations military presence.
  3. Arabia including Lebanon, Palestine and present day Israel plus Iraq
    The Islamic Ottomans were ruling this territory until the end of World War One, 1914-1918, after which the Christian English and the Christian French carved up the spoils between them. The English ruled everywhere initially with the exception of central Arabia which had been ruled by the Saud family on and off since 1746. (Nobody was interested in this desert area until oil became so valuable) The Saudi area did not include either Mecca or Medina which were in the coastal area of the Red Sea extending down to Aden which was under English rule. The English gave Syria and Lebanon to the French in 1920 and ruled in Iraq, Palestine and an area larger than present day Jordan called Trans-Jordan. It should be noted that Jews had been returning to their "Promised Land" in Palestine since about 1800.
  4. North Africa including, Egypt, Sudan, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco
    The huge and historical country of Egypt gained independence from the Ottomans in 1805 under the Islamic leader Mohammed Ali. However as the English arch enemy, Napoleon of France, invaded Egypt to cut off the English access to India. The English were forced to counter attack and threw Napoleon out. The Christian English then ruled the Islamic state of Egypt from 1882 onwards along with Sudan from 1898.

    The remainder of Islamic North Africa was split between the Christian countries of France, Spain and Italy. Libya to Italy in 1911, Tunisia to France in 1881 and Algeria and Morocco to a mixture of France and Spain. Indeed the north part of Islamic Algeria become part of Christian Metropolitan France in 1881. Then and now almost 50% of Africa (the whole of the north) is Islamic making it the second largest Islamic area geographically in the world

Persia/Iran
The third centre of Islam is Persia which changed its name to Iran in 1935. As opposed to India and the Ottoman territories, the Iranians were never ruled by a foreign power but on the other hand were not strong enough to rule any other country over the last 1500 years. 200 years ago the English were vying with the Russians for influence in the territory. Indeed the old Soviet empire bordered Iran to the north. Tobacco was one of the main wealth creators in the region but the powerful English soon gained sole foreign trading rights which further depressed an already weak economy. Oil was discovered in 1908 in the Zagros mountains close to the borders with Iraq. The powerful English again gained exclusive rights to exploit this wealth which turned out to be 10% of the total world's reserves. The last great Persian dynasty, the Kajars ruled from 1794-1925 was marked with local suppression of human rights and continuous conflicts between The English and the Russians. During the second world war, Islamic Iran was ruled jointly by Christian Britain and Christian Russia.

The last 50 years

  • Freedom from Christian rulers at last? Alas no.
  • The Jewish problem.

1950-1980
The last 50 years has been dominated by the collapse of the British and any remnants of the other European Empires which gave hope to the many colonialised Islamic territories of freedom from "oppressive" Christian rule. Unfortunately for many Islamic nationalists, European domination was almost immediately replaced with the sinister rivalry between two new superpowers Russia and the US as they both vied for global domination. The Americans were concerned to safeguard their Middle Eastern (all Islamic) oil suppliers. The Communist Russians were very nervous of their huge potentially troublesome Islamic underbelly, Uzbekistan etc. (see Central Asia later) The Islamic areas of the oil rich Middle East plus their neighbours were once again "carved up" as follows.

  • To Russia: Iraq, Egypt and Syria
  • To the US: Saudi Arabia and Iran plus non Islamic, indeed Jewish, Israel

The Jewish problem
Jews from Europe and North Africa began returning to their Biblical "Promised Land" in Palestine some 200 years ago (then very much part of the Islamic Ottoman Empire) and cultivated much of the land which was being ignored or poorly managed by the Arabs. 100 years ago a Zionist (Jewish nationalist) movement was formed with the prime goal of achieving some parcel of land in the world which Jews could call their own. The obvious place was the Biblical "Promised Land" then Islamic Palestine. On the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire after the First World War, Palestine, came under English rule, as authorisation by the League of Nations. The Arab nationalists were expecting much from the British who with the help of Englishman, Lawrence of Arabia had been helping them to get independence from the Turks. Whilst at the same time the English, in charge of the future of Palestine were planning a mass immigration by Jews. A hopeless conflict of interests. In 1917 British foreign secretary Arthur Balfour wrote to the head of the British Zionist movement, Baron Rothschild and promised the full support of the English to enable then to re-occupy Palestine. The English were never able to achieve this because of the, not surprisingly, strong resistance from the local Palestinian Arabs. The "Balfour Declaration" was abandoned in 1939.

After the Second World War (1939-1945) when some six million Jews in Eastern Europe and Germany had been gassed to death (ethnic/religious genocide) by the Nazi Germans, the English continued to rule Palestine but handed the decision for the future of the country over to the United Nations. Palestine was thence split into two, some for Jews, some for Palestinian Islamic Arabs, with the holy city (holy for Jews, Christians and Muslims) of Jerusalem under international administration. When the English military withdrew in 1948, the Arabs in the surrounding countries immediately attacked with the avowed intention of pushing the Jews "out into the Mediterranean sea". This was the first of a number of Israeli Jewish / Arab Muslim conflicts which in essence the Jews always won even when heavily outnumbered by Arabs and gained much territory in the process. The Israelis used US weaponry and the Arabs Russian. The strict Islamic society of Saudi Arabia has never entered these bloody conflicts perhaps because they are armed by the US. On the other hand the more populous Islamic country of Iraq has (with Russian arms support).

The last 20 years

  • The age of Islamic fundamentalism
  • The collapse of Russia and the Soviet Block and the end of the Cold War
  • The US, now the sole dominant world power.
  • The old Ottoman territories, Iran and the Indian Subcontinent.

The world scene is now very much the US and the rest. The Americans now spend more money on weapons than the next five to ten (depending on the exchange rate) largest military spending countries added together. Even the old Western enemy, the Russians, under Mr Putin feels if you can't beat them, join them and he talks about joining the Americans with the Star Wars 2 project. Recent Balkan conflicts in which the Americans have been involved as world peace keepers has seen the Americans seemingly sitting comfortably infront of computer screens, firing deadly accurate rockets at offending terrorists/freedom fighters. The same thing happened in Islamic Afghanistan. The Islamic world is not even in a second economic or military division and other than the oil rich states have only third world status. Islamic rhetoric describes Americans as Satanists (from Iran) or Zionists (from Iraq). Why, when the rest of the West would see them as secular capitalists? There is certainly no equality of opportunity between Islamic states and the United States in to-days world. But is the difference a result of religion? The premier of capitalist Italy, Signor Berlusconi certainly thinks so. And his country has been suffering under a dogmatic and suppressive Roman Christian Church for almost 2000 years. Perhaps he knows something that we don't. These pages do not attempt to answer these questions but as an indicator simply looks at the present position of many of the Islamic states which are now finally free from Western Christian colonial domination and can finally experiment with self rule.

Turkey
The headquarters of the once mighty Islamic Ottoman Empire now reduced to almost third world status in spite of attempts to Westernise. The capital has moved from historic Istanbul, eastwards to Ankara but political and cultural alliances have moved westwards towards Europe. (Istanbul is in Europe and Ankara is in Asia Minor.) To underline this, Turkey joined NATO in 1952 and applied for EC membership in 1987. However this application is currently frozen largely because of an appalling Human Rights record. Turkey's population, large by European standards at 65 million, is 98% Islamic but the government is secular. The balance of power is held by the Army Generals who are said have more brains and more education than the majority of the politicians. Other quotations are: (from books written by Stephen Kinzer)

  • "View modern Turkey as a backward land plagued by vast social inequalities, grotesque human rights violations and a callous, corrupt and militaristic regime"
  • "if any country is going to prove that Islam can co-exist with modernity and democracy, it will almost certainly be Turkey"
  • "Hundreds of regional party bosses, mayors and members of parliament are fanatic nationalists, ignorant demagogues and scheming crooks"
  • "In a sense this is a reassuring system because it guarantees that if voters make a mistake, generals will step in and make things right"

The Balkans, Serbia, Bosnia, Croatia, Albania
The Muslims here, inspite of being the ruling classes for some 500 years find themselves in a minority and the underdogs. Top dogs are the Serbs (Orthodox Christian church) with moral support from Orthodox Christian Russia. Also in the Balkans are the Roman Catholic Croatians and Bosnians. The US with the help of the English had to quell a genicidal bloodbath, basically between Christians and Muslims. 
Slobodan Milosevic the leader of the Orthodox Christian Serbs has been indicted for war crimes:-assassinating Muslims. (2001)

North Africa, the second largest single coherent Islamic territory
Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Chad, Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea. (Ethiopia is Coptic Christian-similar to Orthodox Christian)

Historic Egypt became free from Ottoman rule some 200 years ago and thence the English had friendly if not dominant relations. Egyptian King Farouk signed an alliance with the British in 1936 which lasted through World War 2 when Cairo was the headquarters of the victorious North African British Army (The Desert Rats). Then in a military coup, Nasser took Egypt away from this special relationship and went as far as commandeering the Suez Canal. Egypt has been self governing ever since and has been material as the only Islamic state along with Syria who has stood up to the tiny state of Israel. Recently Islamic fundamentalism has done nothing to encourage the wealthy Western tourists to visit this historic land and improve the local economy.

Islamic Libya which did not exist as a country until 1951, is the only oil rich state in the North African block and Dictator Colonel Gaddafi seems intent on spending oil money on tyranny, such as funding any terrorist group who might be persuaded to do damage to the West. Recently he has even been accused of funding a local African dictator outside the Islamic block, Mugabe of Zimbabwe. The reasons behind this are not yet obvious.
Islamic Algeria has independence from the Roman Catholic Christian French at last but many from Algeria find Christian France a better country to live in.

Middle East
Iraq
Saddam Hussein, like Gaddafi rules oil rich Islamic Iraq as a military dictator. He has demonstrated his desires to expand his territory into other oil rich areas with attacks on Islamic Iran and Islamic Kuwait. The War with Iran was a costly draw. As occupation of Kuwait was seen as a precursor to Saudi Arabia the US reacted and rapidly drove the Iraqis back into Iraq. (The Gulf War). Saddam's view on the tensions with the "Satanic" West, publicly stated in 2001 on Iraqi TV after the destruction of the Twin Towers in New York, are "The Masterminders of Zionism are, therefore, working together to engineer a clash between Christianity and Islam, on the assumption that this and only this could secure a chance to dominate the world".

Saudi Arabia
The largest oil exporter in the world, part of the British Commonwealth along with most of the area including Iraq until the 1960s. The country which has been ruled by the Saud Royal family since 1923 and on and off since 1746, have recently chosen a strict interpretation of the Koran for it's 19 million Islamic inhabitants. Women, if seen at all in public, will always be covered from head to toe and in general never work out side the house. It is not uncommon for foreign workers to disappear for some months on end and to be tortured until they confess to crimes that they could not have possibly committed. In the mean time the West stands by and accepts huge contracts for military hardware. There is effectively a permanent presence of US and English military personal in a training and support role. When Iraq invaded and occupied Kuwait in 1990, as a stepping stone to taking some of the Saudi Oil fields the West was therefore in a good position to come in and defend the Oil fields on behalf of the Saudis. Iraq was easily beaten in the so called Gulf War. Some Islamic zealots notably Saudi billionaire, Osama bin Laden, feel Western presence on this sacred Islamic soil warrants terrorist actions against Western targets until the US pulls out of Saudi Arabia, the custodians of Mecca and Medina. (Viz. the destruction of the New York Twin Towers on 11 September 2001)

The Arab Sheikhdoms in the Gulf.
Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, United Arab Emirates (Dubai, Abu Dhabi etc), Oman.
250 years ago these countries did not exist. Generally oil is their birth mark. Prior to oil being discovered around 1930, fishing and pearl diving would be the main occupation. The English have had friendly relations with the whole area, some going back some 150 years. Kuwait has the largest per capita production of oil in the world though some of their production is shared amicably with Saudi Arabia as borders in the dessert were vague until recently. Fellow Islamic state, Iraq has been a threat to Kuwait for many years. The English saw off a threatened invasion in 1961 and the US and the British had to drive out an Iraqi occupation force in 1990 (Gulf War). All Gulf States have close proximity to Iran and indeed none of the Gulf Arab states could defend themselves against a quick land/oil/gas grabbing attack from Islamic Iran. All these territories south to Dubai have huge numbers of guest workers. In Dubai it is some 80%. These foreign, temporary residents come from places like Egypt, Palestine, Yemen, Iran, Pakistan and India plus the Philippines for the most menial tasks. None of these people have a vote and none can own land or a company. Human rights is generally acceptable. In Bahrain this should be aided by the chief of police who is an Englishman.(Though no push over). In some of the states local women have a vote and Bahrain is about to change from a totalitarian ruling King (Emir) to an elected (by men and women) democratic constitutional monarchy modelled on the UK. Many of the Gulf States are now known to Western tourists (no Israelis welcome) of any persuasion who enjoy winter sunshine and desert safaris perhaps with some Champagne to wash down the traditional roast, desert mutton. Islamic fundamentalism is non existent.

Indian sub-continent
Pakistan
This ancient and historic land and one of the earliest civilisations based round the fertile land of the Indus river basin now supports some 145 million people of whom 97% are Muslim. After the English withdrew from India in 1947, Muslims and the majority Hindu activists, split the Indian subcontinent into three territories based on Religion in a bloody civil war. Pakistan has been a self governing Islamic republic ever since. The people have proven difficult to manage due to diverse population groups divided by geography, language, race and extremes of wealth and poverty, resulting in unstable governments interspaced by military coups. The billions of dollars spent on the development of a Nuclear Arsenal has done nothing to improve the lot of the millions in poverty. The efforts by local Muslim fundamentalists to try and start a war with nuclear neighbour India, alarms the majority of Pakistanis not to mention the rest of the world. The West has totally failed to work out a concept of Nuclear disarmament which Islamic militants in Pakistan, being the only Islamic country with "The Bomb" would now find it, under the current climate, almost impossible to accept.

Iran
Although geographically and environmentally a rugged country there is enough water to allow local farmers to feed 80% of the almost 70 million population of mainly Shia Muslims. Oil was discovered in 1901. Iran was the first major Islamic country to return to almost medieval Islamic fundamentalism when, in the late 1970s the local religious leaders and university students rebelled against the Western freedoms being introduced by the US backed Shah (like freedom of speech and emancipation of women). Their religious leader, living in exile in Paris returned and introduced press censorship, the withdrawal of women's rights and prison and torture with out trial. Ayatollah Khomeini vision was to cleanse Iran of all western evil and export the concept of a fundamentalist Islamic state to the rest of the Islamic world. Iran retains this mission today but finds being surrounded by Sunni main stream Muslims a disadvantage to exporting this vision.

This brief of Islam would not be complete without looking at the currently alarming position in:

Central Asia
The Central Asia we are looking at is the huge area, sometimes described as the underbelly of Russia. Indeed the whole area was, some 20 years ago, a significant part of the old Soviet Union. The reason that this forms part of a History of England site is fourfold:

  • Many of the new Islamic residents of England being from Pakistan, have connections in the area
  • A number of Mosques in England collect funds and organise support for the Islamic militants in the area
  • Many English business people travel to this area as it is full of Oil and Gas
  • Like Afghanistan which is on the southern boundaries of Central Asia, the area is a potential hotbed for Islamic fundamentalists and Islamic Jihads

Geographical area and population
In terms of size we are looking at something almost as big as the United States of America. 2000 miles wide by 1000 miles north to south, compared with the US approximately 3000 miles by 1200 miles. The central area is about 40 deg. north of the Equator which again is the same as the US. Chicago and Tashkent in Uzbekistan are both about 42 degrees north. This Central Asian area borders Turkey in the West, China in the East, Russia in the North and the following countries in the South:- Iraq, Iran, and Pakistan.
Whereas the US is one country, Central Asia includes the following:- (from west to east, population in brackets) Georgia(5), (plus Chechnya in Russia), Armenia(3), Turkmenistan(4), Uzbekistan(21), Tajikistan(5), Kyrgyzstan(4). Plus to the north the huge country of Kazakhstan(16) and to the south the now well known Afghanistan (16). This is 8 countries hosting 74 million mainly Islamic people, mostly in abject poverty, compared with the US which has a population of some 260 million of whom the vast majority are Christian and very comfortably off. The boarders of most of these countries are artificial, created by Stalin some 70 years ago to deliberately break up the natural ethnic groups under the heading of "divide and rule". Three other territories need to be considered as potentially part of this Central Asian Islamic area.

  1. Firstly the bordering western China province of Xinjiang which with many underground Muslims, is or wishes to be part of any Central Asian Islamic revival(10)
  2. And secondly Pakistan (140) plus the unhappy Muslims in India(100)
  3. Also Turkey in the West (60). This gives a potential of about 400 million Muslims in this central contiguous Asian area many of whom are looking for an Islamic revival to pull them out of poverty. This provides a serious common point for discussion giving the Americans two huge allies perhaps for the first time namely, Russia and China.

A brief early history
Some of these countries spawned the Turks of Turkey and the Islamic Ottoman Empire as can be guessed by their names. They mingled with the Islamic Arabs some 1300 years ago and ended up creating the main Islamic centres of the world. Ottoman, Iranian and Indian. Most of these countries were on or close by the famous "Silk Route" from the Mediterranean to China, much used by the early Arabs. In this way the local people prospered and were introduced to the Islamic faith. When the Silk trading route was transferred to the sea, the area stagnated and remained largely medieval as in the early European middle ages.

Last 100 years
The whole area with the exception of Afghanistan was colonised by Russia who particularly under Stalin suppressed or tried to eliminate the Islamic religion as he did Christians in European Russia. The Russians were aware of the potential of Central Asian Oil and Gas but did nothing to exploit it, preferring to drill in Siberia where they trusted the locals. Perhaps millions were killed by Stalin to suppress their Islamic faith.

Last 10 years
With the collapse of the Soviet Empire, the whole Central Asian area lost its markets for cotton, which you can't eat and which Stalin insisted they grew almost to the exclusion of their traditional crops. They also lost a supplier for essential goods, like food, at a price they could afford. Worse Stalin had ordered the cotton areas to be irrigated from the scarce life giving river waters flowing into the Aral Sea. The scheme was a disaster and much of the area is currently not useful for growing anything.

The rebirth of Islam

With mass poverty and mass unemployment, religion is very often seen as a hope for a better future. There has been a mass rebuilding of Mosques and a mass religious revival much to consternation of many of the local rulers who still favour a secular society such as under the Russians. Each country has its own distinctive underground fundamentalist Islamic society funded from the following sources:- Turkey, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Osama bin Laden. Recruitment is easy as the local Islamic rulers seem to have plenty of money. If things get a bit hot and the Islamic leaders need to disappear for a few months, Afghanistan is waiting for them. The central aims of the local Islamic rulers is quite simple:- "To create a cohesive central Asian Islamic state under one supreme ruler." Method Jihad.

The most powerful and militant Islamic movement is the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) under the leadership of Juma Namangani and Mohammed Tahir Farooq. They posted a jihad on the Internet in August 1999 in Uzbek and English against the "corrupt secular" government of Uzbekistan and President Karimov.

The events of 11 September 2001 changed everything. Observers will have noted that the US persuaded some of these countries to supply bases to support the attack on the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. This is because the local secular governments would wish to court the West to counter the growth of Islamic fundamentalism and to invest in their oil and gas fields which would turn some of them into mini Saudi Arabias. (Notably, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. This method of getting some 70 million people out of the poverty trap seems to be of little interest to the local religious zealots but at least the US, the only country in the world which can afford to significantly help the area, has a toe hold and its presence is currently seen as being non threatening even to the Russians and Chinese. (A threat to the Islamic movements of course)

In England today
In secular England it is not unknown for white Anglo-Saxons to convert to the Islamic faith even though after 11 September 2001 Muslims are looked on extremely suspiciously. Some young Anglo-Saxon girls are disillusioned with Western Culture which to them seems to only encourage alcoholic drunkenness and frequent casual sex. Islam not only bans both alcohol and premarital sex but also provides a brotherhood of friends and a purpose for living which they say is a message not heard from either English secular or Christian leaders. These young girls would claim that there is nowhere in the Koran which restricts women's freedom to develop a satisfying career so long as when married she accepts that she must ensure all family needs are her responsibility. She is not forbidden to delegate these responsibilities to a third party.

On the other hand some Asian immigrants to England or children of Asian immigrants find that the interpretation of Islam taught them by their parents or Religious leaders is less attractive to them than their own "updating" of Islam to embrace a western culture in the twenty first century. Both groups of children are free to go their own way in England so long as they are brave enough to take the plunge and the parental flak.

There are a few Asians in England who have been influenced by propaganda from local extreme religious leaders who have encouraged them to emulate the actions of the Islamic leaders in some Muslim totalitarian states particularly in joining the world movement for a jihad to create the largest ever World Islamic State to the exclusion of other beliefs. This movement does not fit comfortably in any Western society (or the Koran) which preaches freedom of actions, thoughts and belief for all sexes, races and creeds. There can be no doubt that when Europe, at the time of the Enlightenment permitted this freedom for the first time, economic progress was meteoritic.

Glossary of Islamic words

 

now seen regularly in the English press.

Al Qaeda Literally The Base. Now used as the name of Osama bin Laden's terrorist network
Ayatollah Islamic religious leader of the Shi'ite sect.
Burqa The dress worn by Islamic women who wish to show extreme modesty in public. Only the hands and feet are visible. The wearer looks out through a mask.
Chador Similar to above.
Eid ul-Adha This a major festival which lasts 4 days taking place after the Hajj.
Eid Pronounced "eed" This is the feast which takes place at the end of the Ramadan fast.
Hadith Islamic instructions which support the Koran. They were added to by Muslims up about 200 years after the death of Mohammed. The Koran cannot be modified but an Ayatollah can modify the instructions in a Hadith.
Hafiz Somebody who knows the Koran off by heart.
Hajj The pilgrimage to the holy town Mecca in Saudi Arabia. Every Muslim must make this journey once in their life time.
Halal This is similar to Kosher. That is the method of killing animals in a slaughter house.
Hijab A simple veil worn by Islamic women in public. It must cover the hair. Ittis very similar to a western headscarf which was always worn to church 50 years ago unless the woman wore a hat.
Ikhwan-ul-Muslimeen or Muslim Brotherhood. A movement started around 1930 in Egypt advocating suppressed Islamic countries under Western colonial rule to seek independence and set up an Islamic state.
Iman A leader of a congregation or prayer leader. Not high up in the hierarchy. See also Mullah.
Jihad Originally the internal struggle a person must go through to become a good Muslim. Later and currently also used to describe a holy war against non Islamic people.
Khalifa or Caliph
A leader in the Islamic world who inherited his position like a King in the Western world. Following Mohammed most of the leaders in the first 200 years inherited their position and were called Caliphs
Khitan Circumcision This is a custom in Islam exactly as it is in the Jewish faith. Originaly God told Abraham around 2500 BC or 4500 years ago to cut the foreskins from the penis of all the males in his tribe. The idea being that every time a male takes hold of his penis which he does regularly, he will be reminded that this was done in the name of God. Generally it is done to all male babies on their 8th day.
Masjid or Mosque Building for worship like a Church in Christianity or a Synagogue in Judaism
Minaret This it the tower of a Mosque similar to the spire or tower of a church. The Minaret is used by the Muezzin who calls Muslims to prayer, as bells are used in a Christian church.
Mujahedeen A fighter who undertakes a jihad.
Mullah Islamic prayer leader.
Polygamy This is a marriage when the man has more than one wife. Generally outlawed in the West. When Mohammed lived some 1400 years ago a man might take several wives. This was considered a socially sensible thing to do and also a kindness because as men were often killed at war there were many more women than men. It avoided "old maids".
Purdah The seclusion of women
Qur'an or Koran The book where all the messages from God received by Mohammed were written down. The prime religious text for Muslims.
Ramadan The annual fasting month in the Islamic calendar.
Sharia The way an Islamic country sets out the local rules. (Islamic law based on the Koran and the Hadith)
Shia The strict Islamic code as practiced in Iran by the Shi'ite Muslims.
Sufi The branch of Islam preached by the mystics. It is less strict than the other sects.
Sunni The mainstream branch of Islam
Surah A chapter in the Koran
Ulema Body of Islamic scholars.
Wahhabi The extreme Islamic faith practiced in Saudi Arabia.