What is Islam?
Religion can be defined as a belief in the existence of a God or Gods who created the world and still exists. He gives man a spiritual nature that is present even after the body dies. A particular system of worship and faith based on the belief is also referred to as a religion. Considering the definitions, Islam is therefore a religion recognized in most parts of the world. Prophet Muhammad was asked about his second revelation and he said that the first thing God created was a pen that was followed by a tablet and spoke to the pen. Everything abovementioned can be considered as evidence to prove that Islam is a religion, since religion is ‘the belief in God as a creator’.
Waraqah and Khadijah were the fast people to believe in the religion. It is obvious from the dialog of Waraqah and Muhammad when the first told the latter that he would be called a liar and ill-treated if one day God knew he would help His cause. This makes Waraqah a believer in the system. Khadija’s encouragement and support to Muhammad after consultations with Waraqah also showed that she believes in the system (Introduction to Islam reader 19).
A political entity
State of government, conflict, and rivalry between two or more parties concerned with power or status within an organization with distinct and real existence is the definition of a political entity. Conflict and rivalry was evident from the beginning of Muhammad’s mission. We are told that he declared their polytheism as false and extremely sinful. His message came as a direct refutation to all they stood for. This portrays the conflict between Islam and Muhammad’s own Quraysh tribes’ people who were adherents of pagan cults of western Arabia. He says the pagan religion is sufficient to condemn them, including his own Grandfathers, to eternal hellfire. The rivalry even worsened to the extent that Muhammad organized them to seek refuge with the ruler of Axum (Esposito 615). There is an evidence of the power and status within an organization when we are told of Muhammad having followers who included close relatives, in addition to a few meccans of leading clans.
According to Esposito, J. L. (1999) prophet Muhammad was de facto ruler of the town (yathrib), as well as arbiter of their disputes (The Oxford History of Islam (1st ed.)). De facto ruler is a political leader, not a religious one, hence Islam can be viewed as a political entity. This went even further bringing beleaguered followers from Mecca to safety in Yathrib and even renaming the city after him “the prophets city”, which is commonly referred to as the ‘beginning of Islam’s life as a political force (Esposito 622). The highest point that gives us enough evidence of Islam as a political entity is when Muhammad took charge of Yathrib exiles that opposed Islam and took their belongings, trying to extend his influence. This was his message, sent through the Quraysh of Mecca. In addition, he entered a struggle to win other towns through raids, hostages, and disrupting the commercial status of Mecca and other towns of Arabia, becoming the most powerful political leader in the western part of Arabia.
Generally, most religions have leaders; however, when those die others are born and chosen. In this case, after Muhammad’s death there was a debate on whether the communities should have their own leaders or stick together. In the end, they agreed to have one khalifa (successor) who would collect tax from the followers. This proved the existence of a government/political entity, which went on to conquer its neighbors through the means of war to expand its territories.
Civilization is simply the improvement from a primitive stage of human society to a more developed one, in terms of behavior or manners. Islam, in its self, has lots of evidence of civilization, especially from the times of Prophet Muhammad to those of Almanzor (Abu Amir al-Mansur), where armies were formed to fight those who resisted Islam or recognized other religions. These armies fought tirelessly, winning battles, and taking charge of many territories around the world. Civilization signs were evident after Almanzor’s death in 1002. This was also seen when Islam spread around Africa, through the Kharijites who used the trade approach, as the one that opposed armies and war (Introduction to Islam reader 20).
The development of a Persianate variant of Islamic culture also brought out the evidence of civilization. Islam was embraced in other languages, not only Arabic, as it was before. This made the spread of Islam to other cultures simple, since it became translated into languages that people understood.
The three aspects that are religion, politics, and civilization are linked together. Religion is a belief in super natural beings that did/does exist. Considering the fact that a belief has to be spread across humanity or rather has to be a movement to be recognized, Islam is a religious movement. To facilitate proper running of the movement to achieve its goal and tackle the rise of both internal and external issues, there has to be a leadership. The leadership brought the necessity of the ranks in the politics that were to be further held even when some die. In addition, it was to figure out how to achieve more than what other competitors could accomplish. As time goes by, the movement has to change its tactics to embrace the new and existing cultures (Introduction to Islam reader).
In conclusion, Islam is a recognized religion in the world today, since its members, the number of who is pretty high, believe in the existence of a supernatural being. It is a fast growing religion because it has vastly spread around the world. It has powerful leaders who engage themselves in the political arena. As it was explained above, Islam has three main facets, namely religion, political entity, and civilization.