In our previous post on the basics of Islam, we noted that Islam is defined by:
The Quran is believed by Muslims to be the word of God dictated by the angel Gabriel to Muhammad. The Hadith are the recorded sayings and actions of Muhammad. There are thousands of them, and many have questionable authenticity, so there is a grading system. The biographies of Muhammad, or sīra, are considered by some to be part of the Hadith. Muslims believe that Muhammad is the exemplar of their faith and they aspire to imitate him. The sīra provide information that helps in their practice.
All Muslims accept the authority of the Quran. As you get more into the Hadith, the faith divides into sects with differing interpretations and beliefs (not unlike Christian denominationalism). The authority framework is all important, and shapes the derivative interpretations of Islam.
If you’re going to understand the basics of Islam, you must know something about Muhammad, the early history of Islam, how the Hadith came into being and how they are used today, and how Sharia law forms the framework for Islamic jurisprudence.
If you want to get an overview in less than an hour, here is a very informed presentation by Nabeel Qureshi that can help. I appreciate Dr. Qureshi’s empathy for Muslims—too many Christians take the terrorism we see reported in the news and never get beyond those horrifying impressions to develop even a modest understanding of Islam. I’m not in any way suggesting that the world should empathize with the violence that is carried out in the name of Islam, but we cannot address what we refuse to understand. After all, if you want to share the Christian faith with Muslims, wouldn’t it help to know something about their faith?