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ISLAM

HISTORY Muhammad (c. 570 June 8, 632) was a trader later becoming a religious, political, and military leader. However, Muslims do not view Muhammad as the creator of Islam, but instead regard him as the last messenger of God, through which the Qur'an was revealed. Muslims view Muhammad as the restorer of the original, uncorrupted monotheistic faith of Adam, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and other prophets. In Muslim tradition, Muhammad is viewed as the last in a series of prophets. For the last 22 years of his life, beginning at age 40 in 610 CE, Muhammad started receiving revelations that he believed to be from God. The content of these revelations, known as the Qur'an, was memorized and recorded by his companions. During this time, Muhammad preached to the people of Mecca, imploring them to abandon polytheism. Although some converted to Islam, Muhammad and his followers were persecuted by the leading Meccan authorities. After 12 years of preaching, Muhammad and the Muslims performed the Hijra ("emigration") to the city of Medina (formerly known as Yathrib) in 622. There, with the Medinan converts (Ansar) and the Meccan migrants (Muhajirun), Muhammad established his political and religious authority. Within years, two battles had been fought against Meccan forces: the Battle of Badr in 624, which was a Muslim victory, and the Battle of Uhud in 625, which ended inconclusively. Conflict with Medinan Jewish clans who opposed the Muslims led to their exile, enslavement, or death, and the Jewish enclave of Khaybar was subdued. At the same time, Meccan trade routes were cut off as Muhammad brought surrounding desert tribes under his control. By 629 Muhammad was victorious in the nearly bloodless Conquest of Mecca, and by the time of his death in 632 (at the age of 62) he united the tribes of Arabia into a single religious polity. BELIEF The single most important belief in Islam, and arguably the central theme of Islam, is that there is one God. The Muslim name for God is Allah, which is simply Arabic for "the (al) God (Ilah)." The term is related to Elohim, the Hebrew word for God. Muslims believe that God is the all-powerful Creator of a perfect, ordered universe. He is transcendent and not a part of his creation, and is most often referred to in terms and with names that emphasize his majesty and superiority. Among the 99 Beautiful Names of God (Asma alHusna) in the Qur'an are: the Creator, the Fashioner, the Life-Giver, the Provider, the Opener, the Bestower, the Prevailer, the Reckoner, the Recorder, the King of Kingship and the Lord of the Worlds.Although the God of Islam has revealed his will through the prophets, his actual nature remains ultimatelyunknowable. According to one Islamic scholar, God's will "is all we have, and we have it in perfection in the Qur'an. But Islam does not equate the Qur'an with the nature or essence of God. It is the Word of God, the Commandment of God, the Will of God. But God does not reveal Himself to anyone." In the words of another writer, "only adjectival descriptions are attributed to the divine being, and these merely as they bear on the revelation of God's will for man. The rest remains mysterious." Despite God's transcendence and ultimate unknowability, however, the Qur'an does not teach that God does not know us, nor that he remains aloof in some distant heaven. Quite the contrary: He is present everywhere and "as close to a man as the vein in his neck." The one thing that is made abundantly clear, however, is that Allah is One. He is unique and indivisible. The Qur'an repeatedly emphasizes strict monotheism, explicitly rejecting both polytheism and the Christian concept of the Trinity. Along with Judaism and Christianity, Islam belongs to the religious category of "ethical monotheism." Allah is a God of justice, who expects righteous behavior and submission to the divine will (the word Islam means "submission," and a Muslim is literally "one who submits") and punishes unrighteousness.

CASTE SYSTEM
HISTORY Aryans migrated from Central Europe and settled in the very fertile Indus Valley. Aryans were very clever. They implemented division of labor in their society. The most clever members of society were selected and given the task to teach others. The bravest people were selected and given the task to protect society. The dullest types of individuals who were able to tolerate a heavy workload were selected and given the task of supplying labor to others whenever needed. The rest of the people of the society were given the tasks to grow food, produce materials, trade, and supply the goods to others. As the Aryans were very clever, they found ways to keep the people doing what they had been doing. Thus, they bred four types of new generations. The ones considered most clever whose duty it was to teach were called "Brahmins". The protectors of society were called "Chetris". The group of producers and suppliers were called "Baishyas". And the group of laborers were called "Sudras". In Hindu philosophy, every creature in this world is created by the God, Brahma. Brahmins are thought to be created from the mouth of Brahma to symbolize teacher groups. Chetris are thought to be created from the arms of Brahma to symbolize warriors. Baishyas are thought to be created from the lap of Brahma to symbolize a mother feeding her baby. And Sudras are thought to be created from the feet of Brahma to symbolize a weight bearer. Therefore, the Brahmins are the uppermost caste of society, followed by Chetris, Baishyas, and Sudras. The source for proof for this setup is the "Bhaagabad Geeta", one of the holy books of Hindu religion. In Nepal however, there are truly only three categories of caste: Tagadhari (twice born), Matwali (liquor drinking) and Pani Nachalne. The Tagadharis include Nepals highest castes: Brahmins, Thakuris, and Chetris. The mid-ranking Matwalis include most of Nepal Tibeto-Burman and Indo-European tribal groups. The Pani Nachalne are untouchables associated with specific traditional occupations. These castes are ranked along an axiom of purity and pollution This caste system was codified in Nepal by the National Legal Code (Muluki Ain) of 1853 by Nepal Rana rulers. It lasted until 1951 when the Ranas were overthrown. It heavily favored the Brahmins and brought ruling against them when violating caste rules.

BUDDISM
HISTORY In the sixth century B.C., Buddhism was founded by Siddhartha Gautama. A biography of Siddhartha Gautama was not written during his lifetime and the earliest accounts of life were not recorded until some three hundred years after his death. Because there has been much debate by historians on where to draw the line between history and legend, the history probably contains much myth. However, this is the history is accepted by most Buddhists and forms a model for all Buddhists to live by. Born around 563 B.C., Siddhartha Gautama was son to King Suddhodana Gautama, a raja (or chieftain) of the Sakya clan and family of the Kshatriya caste of ancient Bharata. His father reigned over a small district in the Himalayas between India and Nepal. At birth he received the name Siddhartha, meaning "he who has accomplished his objectives", but was also called Sakyamuni ("the wise sage of the Sakya clan"), Ghagavat ("blessed with happiness"), Tathagata ("the one who has gone thus"), Jina ("the victorious"), and, probably most common, the Buddha or "the enlightened one". When Siddhartha was an infant, a sage visited the King's court and prophesied that Siddhartha would become either a great ruler like his father if he remained in the palace or, if he went out into the world, he would become a Buddha. The King believed that if Siddhartha was exposed to any human misery, he would leave his home to seek the truth. Therefore, he ordered his subjects to shield Siddhartha from any form of evil or suffering. At age sixteen, Siddhartha won the hand of his cousin by performing 12 feats in the art of archery. He may have taken more wives during his life, but his cousin Yashodara was his principle wife. Despite his fathers attempts to keep him confined to the palace, he ventured outside and observed a leper, a corpse, and an ascetic. From these observations he determined that happiness was an illusion. As soon as his first son was born, assuring him that the royal bloodline would be continued, Siddhartha left the kingdom on a pilgrimage of inquiry and asceticism as a poor beggar monk seeking truth. For six or seven years, he sought communion with the supreme cosmic spirit, first through the teachings of two Brahmin hermits and then in the company of five monks. However, despite his efforts, he didn't feel he had found truth. At this point he discovered the importance of what he called the Middle Way. Instead of denying himself food or sleep as the other monks did, he ate solid food and did not deny himself worldly things. This angered the monks he was with, so Siddhartha moved on. At Gaya in northeast India, he sat at the foot of a fig tree where Mara, the evil one, tried to thwart his becoming the Buddha. After withstanding the temptations from Mara, he

received a revelation. He now felt he knew the way to escape the cruel cycle of rebirth. He claimed to have discovered the four noble truths (Pativedhanana), and henceforth was the Buddha. The Buddha was then faced with a choice. He could retreat into solitude with his knowledge as the other monks did when they felt they had reached spiritual truth, or he could remain with the people and share his knowledge. It is because he chose to stay with the people that Buddhists feel Buddhism is based not only on truth, but on compassion as well. Two months later the Buddha gave his first sermon and began the "Wheel of the Law", a symbol of the Buddhist faith. For more than 40 years he dedicated himself to the spread of this new religion. At age 80 a blacksmith fed him a poisonous food and the Buddha became extremely ill. He died at Kusinara in the district of Gorakhpur. His last recorded words were "Decay is inherent in all component things! Work out your own salvation with diligence." BELIEF The basic practices and beliefs of Buddhism are credited to Siddhartha Guatama, born in Nepal in 563 B.C. Troubled by the suffering amongst the common people, Guatama departed from his Hindu studies and gods. He chose to live off of alms while devoting himself to extreme somberness. This brought him to a weakened state of mind and body and not to the peace he had hoped for. He began intense meditation, claiming it brought him into a god-like state of "Nirvana." Though difficult to reach, Nirvana is said to be achieved by totally denying self, entering a state of illumination, joy, and harmony. However, it is said that to do so brings release from desires for self that causes all bodily pain and sorrow. By claiming to have done so, Guatama proclaimed himself to be an "enlightened one" or a Buddha. A Buddha is someone regarded as embodying divine wisdom and virtue, but not a god. Buddhist beliefs and Christianity differ in many ways: Buddhists do not believe in a Divine being, therefore they have no concept of salvation and atonement for wrong doings. Compare those beliefs to Christianity, wherein God provided His Son Jesus as redemption for our sins. While Buddhism claims there is no beginning and end, we are shown through Christianity and Judaism the Creation and God's plan for our eternity. The philosophies of Buddha were written 400 years after his death. The Bible was written with numerous prophecies hundreds of years before Jesus was born. There are no directives or absolutes to the path of Nirvana. Yet Jesus taught that while our physical bodies will die, our soul will ascend to be with the Lord in Heaven. We must simply accept His gift of salvation to be redeemed for this assurance. Buddhists contend that people do not have individual souls and hold to the belief that achievements in life will continue on and on into your next bodily form, striving to get it right (reincarnation). In Buddhism, there is no forgiveness or mercy from a loving God.

Buddhist beliefs - Where is the hope? In Buddhism, there is no hope for eternal safety. In Christianity, however, Jesus gave us directives and absolutes. Eternal joy is achievable through accepting Him. He tells us in John 10:9a (KJV), "I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved. . ." and Romans 10:9-13, "That if you confess with your mouth,'Jesus is Lord' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that your believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, 'Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.' For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile -- the same Lord

is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for 'Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.'"