Whose Islam?

I remember when I first talked to a former professor of mine about discussing Islam as a whole. One of his questions to me was, "Whose Islam?"

Islam, as a faith tradition, is not monolithic. What I mean is, not all Muslims are exactly the same, nor do they all believe exactly the same thing. Just as in Judaism or Christianity, the followers of those faith traditions do not all fit into the same box, the same is true for Islam. Muslims (the name commonly given to followers of Islam) come in many different varieties of faith. Some examples of main categories of Muslims are Sunni, Shia' and Sufi. Within each of these categories there are other subdivisions as well. Sufis, however, are usually a subcategory of Sunni Muslims. As you become familiar with different types of Muslims and the things which differentiate them, it will become much less confusing. But the point that I'm trying to make is that Muslims are not of just one category or type. There are many types of Muslims, and within these different categories you will find varying levels of faith or practice.

In the West, it can be hard to picture or understand, as for many people Islam is an unknown. The unknown can easily create fear, as it is difficult to be at peace with something that you do not know. For some, Islam is known mostly through the news, or internet sites that may not be very favourable towards Muslims. Many sources can be biased. And this can lead to unjustifiable fear. I hope that as you learn to understand Islam, through this blog, or through my courses offered here, your level of fear will decrease. Knowledge helps to reduce fear, and that's a main objective of this site--to reduce the fear of Islam through knowledge about it.

One interesting note about Islam, there is no recognized leader of the faith as a whole, such as a Pope, or Bishop or Patriarch. There are leaders of individual mosques, referred to as an Imam. However even this position is not necessarily a professionally appointed position. Oftentimes an Imam is a recognized leader within the community who leads the prayers of faithful Muslims within the mosque. Some Imams, though, have no other full-time job and dedicate all of their time to the activities of the people in their community.

Learning about Islam will increase your knowledge about other people with whom we live in this world--a worthy exploration. Welcome.