421 - 001




Polygyny, the practice of having more than one wife at the same time, may seem outdated in the modern era.  However, when sūrah 4:3 (“. . . Marry women of your choice, two, three, or four; but if ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly [with them], then [marry] only one . . .”) was revealed to the Prophet Muammad, it produced nothing short of a revolution in the way it improved conditions for women.  


421 - 002


“Divorce” can be defined as the dissolution of the marital bond through a process other than death.  This article describes divorce law in the Muslim world in the period between the consolidation of Islamic legal doctrine (tenth century) until the time when the various states started to codify family law.  It distinguishes between the formal rules on the one hand and practice on the other.  Formal Islamic norms in the field of divorce are important until this day, as most family law codifications are based on (or at least presented as being based on) the classical norms.  However, it is necessary to look at the practices too, as several studies show that often, legal practices differed from the Sharīʿa.


421 - 003


Fasting in Ramaān is considered one of the distinctive features (khaāʾi) of the community (ummah) of the Prophet.  Muslims acknowledge that there is a long tradition of fasting that precedes Islam, since the Qurʾān itself mentions it: “Fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you” (2:183).  The distinctiveness however lies in the specificity of how it is performed (e.g., the amount and time of fasting).  Also the Islamic fast is considered pure worship (“fasting is for Me”) and non-penitential in nature.


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In one of the first divine revelations recorded in the Qurʿān, the prophet Muammad was commanded by Allah to “arise and warn!” (74:1). This is taken by some Muslim scholars to signal the beginning of public preaching of the message, which until then was presumably done privately among the Prophet‘s family and intimate friends.  Hence, almost from the very outset, Islam was to be a proselytizing faith with a mission to bring its message to all who would listen.  In another passage in the Qurʿān Muammad was told, “Invite to the way of your Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious” (16:125).


421 - 005

Rites Of Passage

Rituals conducted at different stages of life, from conception until death and after, are means through which human beings live and act religiously.  The terms “life-cycle rituals” or “rites de passage,” as described by Arnold van Gennep, embrace ritualistic ceremonies associated with conception, birth, puberty, marriage, death, and other significant events.


421 - 006

From Shari’a To Taqwa:

Islam And Ethics

The Islamic notion of human responsibility is epitomized in the Qur’an by a covenant struck between God and humanity before their placement on earth.  In this Qur’anic covenant the archetypal (or “Adamic”) human being — prideful of human superiority over all other creatures but unmindful of human limitations as a created being — assumes the responsibility of the heavens and the earth and all that they contain:

We offered the trust of the heavens, the earth, and the mountains [to the jinn and angels], but they refused to undertake it, being afraid [of the responsibility thereof];
but the human being 
undertook it; however, he
was unjust and foolish”  
(Qur’an 33:72


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Religious Beliefs

The carefully cultivated image of a Muslim community united around a simple set of basic beliefs masks a history of vigorous debate about Allah, creation, humanity, prophethood, ethics, salvation, and the Muslim community itself.  In order to understand the religious discourse of Muslims, it is helpful to imagine Islam not as a static and monolithic core of essential beliefs but as a continuing story of inquiry and argument around these seven topics.  The terms in which they are discussed have changed over time, but the fundamental questions over which Muslims grapple remain the same.


421 - 008

How Do Muslims Pray?

Prayer, one of the Five Pillars of Islam, is central in the life of a Muslim.  Here are some highlights: 


Five times each day, hundreds of millions of Muslims face Mecca (holiest city of Islam, birthplace of Muhammad, and site of the Kaaba, or House of Allah) to pray — at daybreak, noontime, mid-afternoon, sunset, and evening.  These five obligatory prayers have to be performed in Arabic, regardless of the native tongue of the worshipper.  Each part of the prayer has its function within this daily ritual and is designed to combine meditation, devotion, moral elevation, and physical exercise.  Prayers can be performed individually or in congregation.


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Muslims And

United States Law

United States law, at both the federal and state levels, generally provides robust protection of religious freedom and civil rights for Muslims living in the United States.  However, as has been the case for other religious and ethnic minorities, Muslims have at times been deprived of certain rights and have a long history of engaging with the U.S. legal system in order to defend and expand their rights to live, work, and worship according to their beliefs.