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World's major religions

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    World's major religions

    The World's Major Religions and Belief Systems


    Unlike most belief systems that are less rigid in their external structures and may be transmitted orally from one generation to the next, whether by family members or by religious leaders within the community, religious beliefs are organized and codified, often based on the teachings and writings of one or more founders of virtually every society that has ever existed.

    While religious beliefs are of great importance to those who hold them, the less formalistic belief systems -- variously referred to as animist or tribal religions, and adhered to by peoples all over the world -- have proven somewhat enigmatic to Western minds. The scope of this listing, therefore, deals only with those religions that most Westerners have at least a peripheral acquaintance with, ones that employ certain readily identifiable tenets, beliefs, and doctrines.

    Baha'i has more than 5 million followers (as of 1996). It was founded by Mirza Husayn 'Ali Nuri, who took the name Baha'u'llah (Glory of God) while in exile in Baghdad. Baha'u'llah's coming had been foretold by Mirza Ali Mohammad, known as al-Bab, who founded Babism in 1844, from which the Baha'i faith grew. The central tenets of the Baha'i faith are the oneness of God, the oneness of humanity, and the common foundation of all religion. Baha'ists also believe in the equality of men and women, universal education, world peace, and the creation of a world federal system of government.

    Buddhism has 307 million followers. It was founded by Siddhartha Gautama, known as the Buddha (Enlightened One), in southern Nepal in the sixth and fifth centuries B.C. The Buddha achieved enlightenment through mediation and gathered a community of monks to carry on his teachings. Bddhism teaches that meditation and the practice of good religious and moral behavior can lead to Nirvana, the state of enlightenment, although before achieving Nirvana one is subject to repeated lifetimes that are good or bad depending on one's actions (karma)e doctrines of the Buddha describe temporal life as featuring "four noble truths": Existence is a realm of suffering; desire, along with the belief in the importance of one's self, causes suffering; achievement of Nirvana ends suffering; and Nirvana is attained only by meditation and by following the path of righteousness in action, thought, and attitude.

    A faith with 5.6 million followers (as of 1996), Confucianism was founded by Confucius, a Chinese philosopher, in the sixth and fifth centuries B.C. Confucius's sayings and dialogues, known collectively as the Analects, were written down by his followers. Confucianism, which grew out of a tumultuous time in Chinese history, stresses the relationship between individuals, their families, and society, based on li (proper behavior) and jen (sympathetic attitude). Its practical, socially oriented philosophy was challenged by the more mystical precepts of Taoism and Buddhism, which were partially incorporated to create neo-Confucianism during the Sung dynasty (A.D. 960-1279). The overthrow of the Chinese monarchy and the communist revolution during the twentieth century have severely lessened the influence of Confucianism on modern Chinese culture.

    Ethical Culture
    Ethical Culture, which has 7,000 followers, was founded as the Society for Ethical Culture in 1876 in New York City by Felix Adler. The International Union of Ethical Societies was formed in 1896. It joined other humanist organizations in 1952 to form the International Humanist and Ethical Union, based in Utrecht, The Netherlands. The Ethical Culture movement stresses the importance of ethics and morality in human interaction, although it offers no system of ethics or other religious beliefs of its own.

    A religion with 648 million followers (as of 1996), Hinduism developed from indigenous religions of India in combination with Aryan religions brought to India c. 1500 B.C. and codified in the Veda and the Upanishads, the sacred scriptures of Hinduism. Hinduism is a term used to broadly describe a vast array of sects to which most Indians belong. Although many Hindu reject the caste system -- in which people are born into a particular subgroup that determines their religious, social, and work-related duties -- it is widely accepted and classifies society at large into four groups: the Brahmins or priests, the rulers and warriors, the farmers and merchants, and the peasants and laborers. The goals of Hinduism are release from repeated reincarnation through the practice of yoga, adherence to Vedic scriptures, and devotion to a personal guru. Various deities are worshipped at shrines; the divine trinity, representing the cyclical nature of the universe, are Brahms the creator, Vishnu the preserver, and Shiva the destroyer.

    Islam has 840 million followers*. It was founded by the prophet Muhammad, who received the holy scriptures of Islam, the Koran, from Allah (God) C. A.D. 610. Islam (Arabic for "submission to God") maintains that Muhammad is the last in a long line of holy prophets, preceded by Adam, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. In addition to being devoted to the Koran, followers of Islam (Muslims) are devoted to the worship of Allah through the Five Pillars: the statement "There is no god but God, and Muhammad is his prophet"; prayer, conducted five times a day while facing Mecca; the giving of alms; the keeping of the fast of Ramadan during the ninth month of the Muslim year; and the making of a pilgrimage at least once to Mecca, if possible. The two main divisions of Islam are the Sunni and the Shiite; the Wahabis are the most important Sunni sect, while the Shiite sects include the Assassins, the Druses, and the Fatimids, among numerous others.

    Stemming from the descendants of Judea, Judaism was founded C. 2000 B.C. by Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and has 18 million followers. [b]Judaism espouses belief in a monotheistic God, who is creator of the universe and who leads His people, the Jews, by speaking through prophets.[b] His word is revealed in the Hebrew Bible (or Old Testament), especially in that part known as the Torah. The Torah also contains, according to rabbinic tradition, a total of 613 biblical commandments, including the Ten Commandments, which are explicated in the Talmud. Jews believe that the human condition can be improved, that the letter and the spirit of the Torah must be followed, and that a Messiah will eventually bring the world to a state of paradise. Judaism promotes community among all people of Jewish faith, dedication to a synagogue or temple (the basic social unit of a group of Jews, led by a rabbi), and the importance of family life. Religious observance takes place both at home and in temple. Judaism is divided into three main groups who vary in their interpretation of those parts of the Torah that deal with personal, communal, international, and religious activities; the Orthodox community, which views the Torah as derived from God, and therefore absolutely binding; the Reform movement, which follows primarily its ethical content; and the Conservative Jews, who follow most of the observances set out in the Torah but allow for change in the face of modern life. A fourth group, Reconstructionist Jews, rejects the concept of the Jews as God's chosen people, yet maintains rituals as part of the Judaic cultural heritage.

    Orthodox Eastern Church
    With 158 million* followers, the Orthodox Eastern Church is the second largest Christian community in the world. It began its split from the Roman Catholic Church in the fifth century; the break was finalized in 1054. The followers of the Orthodox Church are in fact members of many different denominations, including the Church of Greece, the Church of Cyprus, and the Russian Orthodox church. Orthodox religion holds biblical Scripture and tradition, guided by the Holy Spirit as expressed in the consciousness of the entire Orthodox community, to be the source of Christian truth. It rejects doctrine developed by the Western churches. Doctrine was established by seven ecumenical councils held between 325 and 787 and amended by other councils in the late Byzantine period. Relations between the Orthodox churches and Roman Catholicism have improved since Vatican Council II (1962-65).

    * Known number since 1993

    Roman Catholicism
    The Roman Catholic Church, with 900 million* followers, is the largest Christian church in the world. It claims direct historical descent from the church founded by the apostle Peter. The Pope in Rome is the spiritual leader of all Roman Catholics. He administers church affairs through bishops and priests. Members accept the gospel of Jesus Christ and the teachings of the Bible, as well as the church's interpretations of these. God's grace is conveyed through the seven sacraments, especially the Eucharist or communion that is celebrated at mass, the regular service or worship. The other six sacraments are baptism, confirmation, penance, holy orders, matrimony, and anointing of the sick. Redemption through Jesus Christ is professed as the sole method of obtaining salvation, which is necessary to ensure a place in heaven after life on earth.

    Rosicrucianism is a modern movement begun in 1868 by R.W. Little that claims ties to an older Society of the Rose and Cross that was founded in Germany in 1413 by Christian Rosencreuz. The number of its followers is uncertain. The Ancient Mystical Order Rosae Crusis (AMORC) was founded in San Jose, California, in 1915 by H. Spencer Lewis. The Rosicrucian Brotherhood was established in Quakertown, Pennsylvania, by Reuben Swinburne Clymer in 1902. Both sects could be classified as either fraternal or religious organizations, although they claim to empower members with cosmic forces by unveiling secret wisdom regarding the laws of nature.

    Shinto, with 3.5 million* followers, is the ancient native religion of Japan, established long before the introduction of writing to Japan in the fifth century A.D. The origins of its beliefs and rituals are unknown. Shinto stresses belief in a great many spiritual beings and gods, known as Kami, who are paid tribute at shrines and honored by festivals, and reverence for ancestors. While there is no overall dogma, adherents of Shinto are expected to remember and celebrate the kami, support the societies of which the kami are patrons, remain pure and sincere, and enjoy life.

    Both a philosophy and a religion, Taoism was founded in China by Lao-tzu, who is traditionally said to have been born in 604 B.C. Its number of followers is uncertain. It derives primarily from the Tao-te-ching, which claims that an ever-changing universe follows the Tao, or path. The Tao can be known only by emulating its quietude and effortless simplicity; Taoism prescribes that people live simply, spontaneously, and in close touch with nature and that they mediate to achieve contact with the Tao. Temples and monasteries, maintained by Taoist priests, are important in some Taoist sects. Since the Communist revolution, Taoism has been actively discouraged in the People's Republic of China, although it continues to flourish in Taiwan.

    Found this interesting article:

    Shia'a in the light of Quran

    Published on: Friday, 25 Muharam 1422 (20 April 2001)

    Shia'a in the light of Quran
    By Syed Hassan Bokhari

    The concept of Sharia was first propagated by Hadhrath Nuh (as). The followers of Hadhrath Nuh (as) path were referred to as Shi’a. This is clear from the fact that we read when referring to Hadhrath Ibrahim (as) Allah (swt) says that he was following the religion of Hadhrath Nuh (as).

    We read in Surah as Saffat verse 83:

    “Verily Ibrahim was a Shi’a of Nuh”.

    The Prophet (s) was likewise from the people of Ibrahim that is because Allah (swt) says in Surah al Baqarah verse 134:

    “They say: "Become Jews or Christians and you would be guided (To salvation)." Say No (I would rather) follow the Religion of Abraham”

    This therefore means that Hadhrath Muhammad (s) was a Shi’a of Hadhrath Ibrahim (as) - who was a Shi’a of Hadhrath Nuh (as). The term Shi’a, should therefore not be viewed with hostility rather previous Prophets and their adherents were Shi’a.

    “And he entered the City at a time when its people were not watching: and he found there two men fighting,- one of his Shi’a, and the other, of his enemies”. (Qur'an 28:15).

    In this verse, Hadhrath Musa (as)’s party are referred to as Shi’a because Hadhrath Musa (as) was Shi’a. His followers were Shi’a as declared by the Holy Qur’an. This fact is acknowledged by the scholars of Ahl’ul Sunnah.

    In Tafsir Bidhawi Volume 4 page 125 (Egypt edition)
    “One was his Shi’a in others one that followed his path”.

    Allamah Farah Baghawi in his “Mu’allim ul Tanzil” Volume 3 page 175 (India, Bombay edition) writes:

    “The fighter was a Shi’a - a momin, his enemy was a Kaffir”.

    Shi’a in light of hadith of the Prophet(s)
    Hadhrath Ali (as) and his Shi’a are the best of creations

    It is in praise of the Shi’a of Ali that Allah (swt) sent down the following revelation:

    “Those who believe and do righteous deeds are the best of the creatures. Their reward from their Lord shall be everlasting gardens, below which flow rivers, they will abide there forever. Well pleased is God with them and they are well pleased with Him” (Qur'an 98:7)”.

    Muhammad bin Ali narrates in Tafsir ibne Jarir, Volume 33 page 146 (Cairo edition) that the Prophet (s) said “The best of creations are you Ali and your Shi’as.

    Jalaladin Suyuti, (849 - 911 AH) is one of the highest ranked Sunni scholars of all time. In his commentary of this verse, he records through 3 asnad (chains) of narrators, that the Prophet (s) told his companions that the verse referred to Ali and his Shi’a:

    “I swear by the one who controls my life that this man (Ali) and his Shi’a shall secure deliverance on the day of ressurection”.
    TDM Volume 6 page 379 (Cairo edition)

    The 3 Sahaba who narrated this hadith are (1) Ali (as) himself (2) Jabir bin Abdullah Ansari (ra) (3) Abdullah ibne Abbas (ra). They are acknowledged by the majority school as truthful narrators of hadith. Had this been in a Shi’a book, our opponents would have deemed it a forgery, but it’s presence in their own books has perplexed the minds of many of their scholars.

    There are no hadith in which the Prophet (s) guaranteed paradise for a specific Sahaba and his followers, with the sole exception of Ali (as) and his Shi’a. Other Sunni scholars have also recorded this hadith from Jabir bin Abdullah Ansari in their commentaries of the above verse.
    Tafsir Fatha ul bayan Volume 10 page 333 (Egypt edition) &
    Tafsir Fatha ul Qadir, Volume 5 page 477

    Hadhrath Abdullah ibne Abbas narrates “that when this verse descended the Prophet (s) Ali you and your Shi’a will be joyful on the Day of Judgement” (ibid Suyuti).

    Ahmad ibn Hajr al Makki quotes from Imam Dar Qatany in his al Sawaiqh al Muhriqa page 159 (Cairo edition) “O Abul Hasan you and you Shi’a will attain paradise”.

    The Shi’a will enter Heaven with the Prophet (s), Hadhrath Ali (as) and the pure Imams
    Ibn Hajr records this tradition from Imam Tabarani:
    “O Ali four people will enter heaven first of all. You Hasan Hussain your descendents and me will follow us and our wives will follow our descendents and our Shi’a will be to the left and right of us”.

    The Prophet (s) promised to meet Ali (as) and his Shi’a at the fountain of Kawthur

    Hadhrath Ali narrates in Tafsir Durre Mansur, Volume 6 page 379 (Cairo edition)
    “Have you not heard this verse “Their reward from their Lord shall be everlasting gardens, below which flow rivers, they will abide there forever”? This verse refers to you and you Shi’a, I promise you that I will be meet you at the Fountain of Kawthur”.

    Seventy thousand Shi’as will enter Heaven without any questioning

    Whilst salvation will be for the Shi’a of course deeds will differ amongst the followers. It is indeed part of the articles of faith of the Ahl’ul Sunnah that:

    “Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) had once observed that as many as seventy thousand of his followers will be allowed entry in to paradise without any questioning”.
    Islam: The Basic Articles of Faith - According to the Beliefs of the Ahl al Sunna wa al Jama’a - a Modern English translation of Bahar-e-Shariat Part One (Unamed author) page 67 (First edition, Crescent Publishing, Rochdale 1998)

    The question that one should ask is ‘Did the Prophet (s) expand any further on who this blessed group would be?’ The answer is recorded by the Shafii scholar al Maghazli who records a tradition from Anas bin Malik, that he heard the Prophet (s) say:

    “Seventy thousand people will go to heaven without questions, the Prophet then turned to Ali and said ‘they will be from among your Shi’a and you will be their Imam”
    Manaqib Ali al Murtaza, page 184 by al Maghazli al Shafii

    What should also be noted is the fact that whilst some verses in the Qur’an are concerned with a specific episode / incident there are some that have a general applicability for all times. Clearly this verse, helps Man to identify the fact that that group “who believe and do righteous deeds are the best of the creatures”.

    The verse is a guarantee that at all times, in every era these type of individuals shall exist. If the Prophet (s)’s commentary of that verse is that it is Hadhrath Ali (as) and his Shi’a that are being referred here, then that means that the Shi’a compliment this verse.

    This means that that in the same way that this verse will exist until the end of the world, Ali (as)’s Shi’a will likewise exist to provide a practical commentary to it. The fact that the Prophet (s) had made reference to Ali and his Shi’a during his lifetime proves that the Shi’a existed then.

    Furthermore, the very fact that this verse has never been abrogated means that from then until the Day of Judgment, if one is seeking to identify the best of creations s/he will need to turn to Ali (as) and his Shi’a. There exist no traditions in which the Prophet (s) guaranteed paradise for a specific companion and his followers, with the sole exception of Ali (as) and his Shi’a.

    If Sunni Islam existed in a definitive form from the moment of the death of the Holy Prophet, undoubtedly some Hadith fabricators would have put the name Ahl' al Sunna wa'al Jamaah in and substituted it for the name Shi’a. But since this term did not exist till the reign of Al Mansur a whole century after the death of the Holy Prophet no such Hadith exists. So what was the title given to the early companions?….

    The companions, the Muhajireen and Ansar were Shi’a

    The highly respected Sunni scholar Al Muhaddith Shah Abdul Aziz Dehlavi in his discussion of hadith relating to Ali and his Shi’a writes:

    “The title Shi’a was first given to those Muhajireen and Ansar who gave Bayah to Ali (may Allah enlighten his face), they were his steadfast faithful followers during his (Ali’s) khilafat, they remained close to him, and they always fought his enemies, and kept on following Ali’s commands and prohibitions the true Shi’a are these who came in 37 Hijri”
    Taufa Ithna Ashari, (Gift to the Twelvers) (Farsi edition p 18, publishers Sohail Academy, Lahore, Pakistan).

    (NB: 37 Hijri -the year Hadhrath Ali (as) fought Mu’awiyah at Siffeen).



      Analyze this its me the other Salman(older one) remember me?

      How's it going?

      That was a very good posting which shows us that in essence all religions 'try' to guide mankind to the straigth path. Islam doen't try it is the TRUE religion.

      I do want to make a little correction

      you said:

      the Wahabis are the most important Sunni sect, while the Shiite sects include the Assassins, the Druses, and the Fatimids, among numerous others.

      Assasins (lol) never heard of that before. do they assinate everyone. Fatimids are non-existent now. As far druze are considered they form a infinitisimal % of the population. The shia ithna Asharia do not regard them as muslims because druze have aspects of hinduism and other beliefs .

      98% of shias are ithna-asheris (twelvers) and are the only ones regarded as muslims by sunnis.

      well thats about it

      take care



        I though the Assasins and Fatimids were the same.... aren't they now known as the Ismailis?

        Salman-, the Nizari Ismailis were known as the Assasins (from the arabic Al-Hashashiya, meaning those who use the drug hashish) during the 12th century, because from their mountain fortress in what is now Lebanon they used to use hashish to get visions of Paradise, before going out and killing the leaders of those who disagreed with their particular brand of Shia Islam. Theit victims included at least one Sunni Caliph, a number of Sunni and Christian leaders, as well as a number of Shia leaders and scholars who opposed them. The Caliph of Baghdad was unable to subdue them with his army; the Assasins were only defeated by the Mongols. Upon the Mongols' own defeat at the hands of the Mamluks of Egypt, the Mamluks forced the Assasins into exile. The Assasins abandoned their extreme violence, and I am pretty certain that the Shia sect known as the Ismailis are descendants of the Assasins.
        (I got all this stuff from the Encyclopedia Britannica)

        [This message has been edited by mAd_ScIeNtIsT (edited April 24, 2001).]
        Muslims are so good at dividing that they can divide the atom. If you see two Muslims, probably they belong to 3 parties.



          Hey thanks buddy for the info I didn't know that.

          What I do know about the fatimid caliphate in egypt is that originally they followed the original ithna asharee way but later on their caliph declared himself as God(Nuadubillah) and told all the wirters in his kingdomto start writing books to prove his god hood

          Anyway its a good thing that there gone now



            Salman-, I'm not sure if the fatimids ever followed the ithna asharee way at all. According to the Encyclopedia Brittanicca (which admittedly is not the best source on islamic history, as it tend to mix-and-match different versions) the Ismailis split of from the Ithna Asharees after the death of the seventh Shia Imam, as they did not support his successor's claim. Their power base was very weak at first, and they were based in Yemen. However, they succeeded in converting a large number of the Sunni rulers of North Africa, and their leader came out of hiding and declared himelsf to be the imam mahdi, establishing the Fatimid caliphate. A long confrontation with the Sunni Caliphate followed, with several wars being fough. However, the Fatimids failed to convert the vast majority of their citizens, who remained sunnis. Due to internal political problems, at some point (I'm not sure when, I can't remember the date) the religious leaders of the Fatimids left the state, went to Lebabanon and became the Assassins. Shortly thereafter, Saladin invaded Egpyt and annexed the Fatimid empire for thh Caliph of Baghdad.
            Muslims are so good at dividing that they can divide the atom. If you see two Muslims, probably they belong to 3 parties.