WATCHMAN ON THE WALL: Just the basics


On September 11, 2001 the United States was attacked by Muslim extremists. Immediately after the attack began months of hate crimes against Hindus, Sikhs, and law-abiding Muslim-American citizens. Fear had gripped the nation, and it was easy to lash out at our neighbors and business owners because they looked different. It was also a wakeup call to the dangers of radical Islam. At the same time, political correctness began to envelop the country because people were afraid of offending Muslims. 

We often do things out of ignorance, so here are a few basics. Just as Christianity has many different branches, sects, and cults, so does Islam. Islam is the name of the religion based on the teachings, practices, and writings by and about their Prophet Muhammad. The Muslim holy book is the Qur’an (Koran). The people are called Muslims, and their place of worship is the Mosque. 

The Qur’an was received by Muhammad in revelations that he recited to his followers. It is the primary and final authority in all law and life. It must be accepted and obeyed without question. Since it was written originally in Arabic, any other translation is not considered authentic. It must be read and recited only in Arabic. Therefore whether you are a Muslim in France, Somalia, Mexico, Saudi Arabia or Iceland, you read and pray in Arabic. 

The Hadiths are the “Traditions of Muhammad,” believed to be the revelation of Allah given by the angel Gabriel. Not considered a holy book, they are a collection of stories about what Muhammad did and are considered the second source of Islamic Law for personal and social behavior. Ten percent of a Muslim’s life is governed by the Qur’an, and 80 to 90 percent is governed by Muhammad’s example.

About 30 years after Muhammad’s death, there arose a dispute as to who may govern. This resulted in two main branches in Islam, the Sunni and the Shi’ite. The life of Muhammad is written in the Sunnah. For example, the Call to Prayer five times a day is not found in the Qur’an but was the example they learned from Muhammad. Whatever Muhammad said became law. Whatever Muhammad did became law for others. For example, one day Muhammad forgot his Prayer Sandals, so now Muslims go barefoot when they pray. 

About 80 to 90 percent of Muslims are orthodox traditionalist who follow the Sunnah, the examples of Muhammad. They acknowledge Abu Bakr, the father-in-law and friend of Muhammad as the first Caliph. The largest Sunni populations are in Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia. Al Queda and the Muslim Brotherhood are Sunni. 

Shi’ite is a different branch of Islam representing 10 percent of the Muslim population. They are followers of Muhammad’s cousin, Ali, believing that only a direct descendant of Muhammad should rule. In Iran, 95 percent is Shi’ite, and it is the State Religion. Iraq and Yemen also have large Shi’ite populations. Hezbollah is Shi’ite. 

Rather than living in ignorance and fear, we can learn to understand others by learning the basics. ■

— Loraine Joy is a small business owner and Arbuckle resident. Contact Loraine at