The word Islam means "surrender" or "submission"—submission to the will of God. A follower of Islam is called a Muslim, Islam's central teaching is that there is only one all-powerful, all-knowing God, and this God created the universe. This rigorous monotheism, as well as the Islamic teaching that all Muslims are equal before God, provides the basis for a collective sense of loyalty to God that transcends class, race, nationality, and even differences in religious practice. Thus, all Muslims belong to one community, the umma, irrespective of their ethnic or national background.
Within two centuries after its rise in the 7th century, Islam spread from its original home in Arabia into Syria, Egypt, North Africa, and Spain to the west, and into Persia, India, and, by the end of the 10th century, beyond to the east. The Muslim community comprises about 1 billion followers on all five continents, and Islam is the fastest-growing religion in the world. At any time, a non-Muslim can convert to Islam by declaring himself or herself to be a Muslim.
Islamic doctrine emphasizes the oneness, uniqueness, transcendence, and utter otherness of God. As such, God is different from anything that the human senses can perceive or that the human mind can imagine. The God of Islam encompasses all creation, but no mind can fully encompass or grasp him. Belief in the message of Muhammad comes second only to belief in the one God. Muhammad was the last in a series of prophets and messengers. Through his messengers God had sent various codes, or systems of laws for living, culminating in the Qur'an (Koran), the holy book of Islam. Qur'an preserved by God from any distortion or falsification.
There are the five pillars of Islam, the essential religious duties required of every adult Muslim who is mentally able. The five pillars are the most central rituals of Islam and constitute the core practices of the Islamic faith.
- The profession of faith
- The five daily prayers
- Pilgrimage to Mecca
Hinduism is the predominant and indigenous religious tradition of the Indian Subcontinent. Hinduism is known to its followers as Sanatana Dharma (a Sanskrit phrase meaning "the eternal law", "the eternal law that sustains/upholds/surely preserves"), amongst many other expressions. Generic "types" of Hinduism that attempt to accommodate a variety of complex views span folk and Vedic Hinduism to bhakti tradition, as in Vaishnavism. Among other practices and philosophies, Hinduism includes a wide spectrum of laws and prescriptions of "daily morality" based on the notion of karma, dharma, and societal norms. Hinduism is a conglomeration of distinct intellectual or philosophical points of view, rather than a rigid common set of beliefs.
Hinduism is formed of diverse traditions and has no single founder. Among its direct roots is the historical Vedic religion of Iron Age India and, as such, Hinduism is often called the "oldest living religion" or the "oldest living major religion" in the world.
A large body of texts is classified as Hindu, divided into Sruti ("revealed") and Smriti ("remembered") texts. These texts discuss theology, philosophy and mythology, and provide information on the practice of dharma (religious living). Among these texts, the Vedas are the foremost in authority, importance and antiquity. Other major scriptures include the Upanishads, Pura?as and the epics Mahabharata and Ramaya?a. The Bhagavad Gita, a syncretistic treatise from the Mahabharata, is of special importance. It combines Vedanta, Yoga, and some Samkhya philosophy into its discussion of good conduct and life.
Christianity, the most widely distributed of the world religions, having substantial representation in all the populated continents of the globe. In the late 1990s, its total membership exceeded 1.9 billion people A community, a way of life, a system of belief, a liturgical observance, a tradition—Christianity is all of these, and more. Each of these aspects of Christianity has affinities with other faiths, but each also bears unmistakable marks of its Christian origins. Thus, it is helpful, in fact unavoidable, to examine Christian ideas and institutions comparatively, by relating them to those of other religions, but equally important to look for those features that are uniquely Christian.
Any phenomenon as complex and as vital as Christianity is easier to describe historically than to define logically, but such a description does yield some insights into its continuing elements and essential characteristics. One such element is the centrality of the person of Jesus Christ. That centrality is, in one way or another, a feature of all the historical varieties of Christian belief and practice. Christians have not agreed in their understanding and definition of what makes Christ distinctive or unique. Certainly they would all affirm that his life and example should be followed and that his teachings about love and fellowship should be the basis of human relations. Large parts of his teachings have their counterparts in the sayings of the rabbis—that is, after all, what he was—or in the wisdom of Socrates and Confucius. In Christian teaching, Jesus cannot be less than the supreme preacher and exemplar of the moral life, but for most Christians that, by itself, does not do full justice to the significance of his life and work.
Christianity teaches that Jesus is the Son of God, God having become human and the savior of humanity. Because of this, Christians commonly refer to Jesus as Christ or Messiah. The three largest groups in the world of Christianity are the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox churches, and the various denominations of Protestantism. The Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox patriarchates split from one another in the East–West Schism of 1054 AD, and Protestantism came into existence during the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century, splitting from the Roman Catholic Church Christians believe that Jesus is the Messiah prophesied in the Hebrew Bible, referred to as the "Old Testament" in Christianity. The foundation of Christian theology is expressed in the early Christian ecumenical creeds which contain claims predominantly accepted by followers of the Christian faith. These professions state that Jesus suffered, died, was buried, and was resurrected from the dead to open heaven to those who believe in him and trust him for the remission of their sins (salvation). They further maintain that Jesus bodily ascended into heaven where he rules and reigns with God the Father.
Confucianism, an intellectual, political, and religious tradition, or school of thought, that developed a distinct identity in the 5th century bc from the teachings of Chinese philosopher Confucius. Confucianism advocates reforming government, so that it works for the benefit of the people, and cultivating virtue, especially in government officials. It encourages respect for elders and legitimate authority figures, for traditional beliefs, for ritual practices, for education, and for close family bonds. Confucianism originated as an "ethical-sociopolitical teaching" during the spring and autumn but later developed metaphysical and cosmological elements in theHAn Dynasty. Following the abandonment of Legalism in China after the Qin Dynasty, Confucianism became the official state ideology of China. During the Song dynasty, the philosopher Zhu Xi made an extremely ambitious and ultimately extremely influential synthesis of philosophy that supported the basic stance of Confucius and Mencius. The core of Confucianism is humanism, the belief that human beings are teachable, improvable and perfectible through personal and communal Endeavour especially including self-cultivation and self-creation. Confucianism focuses on the cultivation of virtue and maintenance of ethics, the most basic of which are ren, yi, and li. Ren is an obligation of altruism and humaneness for other individuals within a community, yi is the upholding of righteousness and the moral disposition to do good, and li is a system of norms and propriety that determines how a person should properly act within a community Cultures and countries strongly influenced by Confucianism include mainland china, Taiwan, Korea, Japan and Vietnam as well as various territories settled predominantly by Chinese people, such as Singapore. Although Confucian ideas prevail in these areas, few people outside of academia identify themselves as Confucian, and instead see Confucian ethics as a complementary guideline for other ideologies and beliefs, including Christianity, democracy, Marxism, capitalism.
Judaism, religious culture of the Jews (also known as the people of Israel); one of the world's oldest continuing religious traditions.
an integrated cultural system encompassing the totality of individual and communal existence. It is a system of sanctification in which all is to be subsumed under God's rule—that is, under divinely revealed that is, under divinely revealed models of cosmic order and lawfulness Judaism originated in the land of Israel (also known as Palestine) in the Middle East. Subsequently, Jewish communities have existed at one time or another in almost all parts of the world, a result of both voluntary migrations of Jews and forced exile or expulsions (see Diaspora). According to the American Jewish Yearbook, the total world Jewish population in the year 2000 was estimated at 13.2 million, The mind of God is manifest to the traditional Jew in both the natural order, through creation, and the social-historical order, through revelation. The same God who created the world revealed himself to the people, Israel, at Mount Sinai. The content of that revelation is the Torah ("revealed instruction"), God's will for humankind expressed in commandments (mizvoth) by which individuals are to regulate their lives in interacting with one another and with God. By living in accordance with God's laws and submitting to the divine will, humanity can become a harmonious part of the cosmos. It is primarily as a community bound together in obedience to God's Torah that the Jews view their role in the larger human community. By testifying to the unity of God and the centrality of the divine will as revealed in the Torah, they seek to draw the attention of all humanity to the unique God of all creation.
For the religious Jew, the entirety of life is a continuous act of divine worship. "I keep the Lord always before me" (Psalms 16:8), a verse inscribed on the front wall of many synagogues, aptly characterizes Judaic piety.
Buddhism, a major world religion, founded in northeastern India and based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, who is known as the Buddha, or Enlightened One. See Buddha.
Originating as a monastic movement within the dominant Brahman tradition of the day, Buddhism quickly developed in a distinctive direction. The Buddha not only rejected significant aspects of Hindu philosophy, but also challenged the authority of the priesthood, denied the validity of the Vedic scriptures, and rejected the sacrificial cult based on them. Moreover, he opened his movement to members of all castes, denying that a person's spiritual worth is a matter of birth. See Hinduism.
Buddhism today is divided into two major branches known to their respective followers as Theravada, the Way of the Elders, and Mahayana, the Great Vehicle. Followers of Mahayana refer to Theravada using the derogatory term Hinayana, the Lesser Vehicle.
Buddhism has been significant not only in India but also in Sri Lanka, Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar (formerly known as Burma), and Laos, where Theravada has been dominant; Mahayana has had its greatest impact in China, Japan, Taiwan, Tibet, Nepal, Mongolia, Korea, and Vietnam, as well as in India. The number of Buddhists worldwide has been estimated at between 150 and 300 million. The reasons for such a range are twofold: Throughout much of Asia religious affiliation has tended to be nonexclusive; and it is especially difficult to estimate the continuing influence of Buddhism in Communist countries such as China. The Buddha lived and taught in the northeastern Indian subcontinent some time between the 6th and 4th centuries BCE. He is recognized by Buddhists as an awakened or enlightened teacher who shared his insights to help sentient beings end ignorance (avidya) of dependent origination, thus escaping what is seen as a cycle of suffering and rebirth.
Zoroastrianism is a religion and philosophy based on the teachings of prophet Zoroaster and was formerly among the world's largest religions It was probably founded some time before the 6th century BC in Greater Iran.
In Zoroastrianism, the creator Ahura Mazda is all good, and no evil originates from him. Thus, in Zoroastrianism good and evil have distinct sources, with evil trying to destroy the creation of Mazda and good trying to sustain it. Mazda is not immanent in the world, and His creation is represented by the Amesha Spentas and the host of other Yazatas, through whom the works of God are evident to humanity, and through whom worship of Mazda is ultimately directed. The most important texts of the religion are those of the Avesta of which a significant portion has been lost, and mostly only the liturgies of which have survived. The lost portions are known of only through references and brief quotations in the later works, primarily from the 9th to 11th centuries.
In some form, it served as the national or state religion of a significant portion of the Iranian people for many centuries. The religion first dwindled when the Achaemenid Empire was invaded by Alexander III of Macedon. After which it collapsed and disintegrated and it was further gradually marginalized by Islam from the 7th century onwards with the decline of the Sassanid Empire. The political power of the pre-Islamic Iranian dynasties lent Zoroastrianism immense prestige in ancient times, and some of its leading doctrines were adopted by other religious systems. It has no major theological divisions (the only significant schism is based on calendar differences), but it is not uniform. Modern-era influences have a significant impact on individual and local beliefs, practices, values and vocabulary, sometimes complementing tradition and enriching it, but sometimes also displacing tradition entirely.
Taoism (also spelled Daoism) refers to a philosophical or religious tradition in which the basic concept is to establish harmony with the Tao which is the mechanism of everything that exists. The word "Tao" (or "Dao", depending on the Romanization scheme) is usually translated as "way", "path" or "principle", although the word literally means "nature" as in the nature of all things as well as the natural world. Taoism had not only a profound influence on the culture of China, but also on neighboring countries. While the philosophical Taoism is not institutionalized, the religious Taoism is institutionalized and present in multiple countries. Taoist philosophy is deeply rooted in contemporary China, and is an unavoidable part of modern Chinese life. Daoism developed, along with Confucianism, during the Warring States period of Chinese history, from the 5th to the 3rd centuries bc. This was one of the times when China's usually strong central government was weak and civil wars were frequent among feudal lords of small Chinese states. Taoist philosophy was a reaction against the chaotic violence and the arbitrary laws and strict social hierarchy in the states. It encouraged people to seek harmony with nature and with other human beings through a simple life and through calm meditation on the unity underlying all things in the universe.
Taoist propriety and ethics emphasize the Three Jewels of the Tao: compassion, moderation, and humility, while Taoist thought generally focuses on nature, the relationship between humanity and the cosmos health and longevity; and wu wei (action through inaction). Harmony with the Universe, or the source thereof (Tao), is the intended result of many Taoist rules and practices.
Reverence for ancestor spirits and immortals are common in popular Taoism. Organized Taoism distinguishes its ritual activity from that of the folk religion, which some professional Taoists (Dàoshi) view as debased. Chinese alchemy (including Neidan), astrology, cuisine, Zen Buddhism, several Chinese martial arts, traditional Chinese medicine, feng shui, and many styles of qigong have been intertwined with Taoism throughout history.
Shinto is the indigenous spirituality of Japan and the Japanese people. It is a set of practices, to be carried out diligently, to establish on between present day Japan and its ancient past. Shinto practices were first recorded and codified in the written historical records of the Kojiki and Nihon Shoki in the 8th century. Still, these earliest Japanese writings do not refer to a unified "Shinto religion", but rather to disorganized folklore, history, and mythology. Shinto today is a term that applies to public shrines suited to various purposes such as war memorials, harvest festivals, romance, and historical monuments, as well as various sectarian organizations. Practitioners express their diverse beliefs through a standard language and practice, adopting a similar style in dress and ritual, dating from around the time of the and Periods.
The word Shinto ("Way of the Gods") was adopted from the written Chinese combining two Kanji meaning "spirit" or kami meaning a philosophical path or study Kami are defined in English as "spirits", "essences" or "deities", that are associated with many understood formats; in some cases being human-like, in others being animistic, and others being associated with more abstract "natural" forces in the world (mountains, rivers, lightning, wind, waves, trees, rocks). Kami and people are not separate; they exist within the same world and share its interrelated complexity.
There are currently 119 million observers of Shinto in Japan, although a person who practices any manner of Shinto rituals may be so counted. The vast majority of Japanese people who take part in Shinto rituals also practice ancestor worship. However, unlike many monotheistic religious practices, Shinto and Buddhism typically do not require professing faith to be a believer or a practitioner, and as such it is difficult to query for exact figures based on self-identification of belief within Japan. Due to the syncretic nature of Shinto and Buddhism, most "life" events are handled by Shinto and "death" or "afterlife" events are handled by Buddhism—for example, it is typical in Japan to register or celebrate a birth at a Shinto shrine.
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