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Middle East

             When we think about Islam--or any religion that has lasted for a long time--we should remember that it has evolved through history and will continue to do so. It has varied from time to time, from place to place, and maybe even from one person to another. As personal belief systems, religions are hard to describe: How do you speak or write about someone else's deepest thoughts? Let me try to answer the question anyway. .
             Basic Beliefs .
             Islam is the act of submission to the will of God (Allah in Arabic). In the broadest sense, every object in the universe has its own "islam." It must conform to God's rules, or to what atheists might call nature's laws. Rocks and trees, birds and beasts all submit to God's will because they were created to do so. Human beings, creatures capable of reason, have been made free to choose whether and how to submit to Cod's will. Many refuse out of ignorance or because they have forgotten the divine commandments they once knew. Some Christians and Jews may have been misled by their scriptures or, rather, by the way they have interpreted them. But anyone who submits to God's will, worships him, and expects his reward or punishment in the world to come is, broadly speaking, a "muslim." .
             God .
             In common usage, though, a Muslim is anyone who believes that God's will for all humanity was last revealed through the Quran to Muhammad. What is God? It is hard to describe the Infinite. To Muslims, God is all-powerful and all-knowing, the creator of all that was and is and will be, the righteous judge of good and evil, and the generous guide to men and women through inspired messengers and divine scriptures. God has no peer, no partner, no off-spring, no human attributes, no beginning, and no end. .
             La ilaha ill Allah, Muhammad rasul Allah--"There is no god whatever but the one God, and Muhammad is the messenger of God." This is the first of the famous five pillars of Islam; it can be found in the muezzin's call to wor- .

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