Jesus, for example, but they consider Muhammad to be the ﬁnal prophet of God. Although faith is very important to Muslims, expressing their faith through actions remains an essential part of Islam. The Five Pillars of Practice is a set of rituals central to the religion (Figure 5.4). Islam consists of two main branches, Sunnis and Shiites. The Sunni branch is the largest and most geographically widespread branch of Islam. About 80% of all Muslims are Sunnis. No more than 15% of Muslims are Shiites, although they make up a majority of the population in four countries: Iran, Iraq, Azerbaijan, and Bahrain. Other smaller branches account for the remainder of the Muslim population. The Sunni and Shia branches emerged following Muhammad’s death in 632 CE when disagreements arose about who should succeed him. Those Muslims who felt that Muhammad’s immediate successor should be someone from his family became known as the Shia, or Shiites, to distinguish themselves from the others, called the Sunnis, who accepted someone outside Muhammad’s family as the ﬁrst successor. Other differences separate Sunnis from Shias as well. For example, Sunnis use the term imam to refer to a religious leader, especially one who leads group prayer. Shia Muslims, however, consider imams to be divinely inspired.
Hinduism Sanatana dharma, meaning “eternal truth,” is the name some Hindus use for their religion. The terms Hindu and, later, Hinduism came to be used by outsiders to refer to the people and their religion in the region that would become India. Approximately 900 million people in the world identify Hinduism as their religion, making it the largest ethnic religion in the world. Most Hindus live in South Asia, speciﬁcally India. Hinduism includes a great diversity of religious beliefs and practices, but some common elements exist. Hindus view existence as cyclical such that souls are immortal and subject to reincarnation. The process of reincarnation brings spiritual suffering and is controlled by karma, the inﬂuence of past thoughts and actions. Hindus strive to attain moksha, or release from the cycle of death and rebirth. Moksha has been described as a state of freedom or bliss. In the Hindu cosmogony, Brahman is the supreme spiritual source and sustainer of the universe, variously understood as an absolute and eternal force as well as a supreme being. Hinduism includes a vast number of gods and goddesses, and Hindus believe these deities express different qualities of Brahman (Figure 5.5).
- Û>ÊÃÌ>ÌÕiÊ UÊ Ê }ÕÀiÊx°x One prominent Hindu deity is Shiva, the destroyer of evil. Located in Bengaluru, India, this statue depicts a meditating Shiva at Mount Kailash, his heavenly home. His four arms are symbolic of supreme power.
Religion in Global Context
Published on Sep 3, 2013