The history of Islam begins with the story of Muhammad ibn Abdullah, believed to be the last and most recent prophet chosen to receive God’s message to humanity.
According to Muslim tradition, Muhammad often prayed alone in the hills near the city of Mecca. One day, the angel Gabriel appeared to him and recited the first of many revelations about the one true God, Allah. Muhammad talked with others about how they should stop worshiping the idols of their separate religions and pray only to Allah while striving to live in peace with one another. He eventually wrote down the revelations as the 114 chapters of the Quran.
May 27 is the start of Ramadan, celebrated in remembrance of Muhammad’s prophecies and the beginning of the religion of Islam.
The Growing Religion of Islam
Islam is said to be the fastest growing world religion. An overview of the religion of Islam and information about how to become a Muslim can be found at www.islamreligion.com.
The concept of “Dharma” is a theme within many Southeast Asian religions. To a Buddhist, Dharma means practicing the teachings of Buddha to understand reality and to live peacefully in the world.
After years of focused meditation, 35-year-old Siddhartha Gautama had become “enlightened” and was from then on known as the Buddha. Dharma Day is celebrated in remembrance of the first of Buddha’s sermons when he taught his followers about the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path.
This year, Dharma Day is on July 9. Buddhists light candles and spend the day quietly meditating on ancient writings.
The Middle Path
Buddha believed that by living in moderation and focusing on a “middle path” a person could avoid the painful extremes of both indulgence and deprivation. He explained that the unhappiness that arises from within the self can be conquered with non-violent, uplifting thoughts and actions.
Hindus believe that an ultimate power, Brahman, exists in the universe. This energy is divine in nature, eternal and unchanging, and is embodied by three separate gods or deities; Brahma the creator, Vishnu the protector, and Shiva the destroyer.
As these three gods interact, the universe is continually being renewed; Brahma creates life, Vishnu protects and preserves what is good while Shiva destroys harmful qualities that result in negative karma. This process of birth, death, and rebirth continues in a cycle that represents the Hindu concept of reincarnation
At Peace With Nature
Hindus have a strong belief in non-violence. As a result, India is the most vegetarian country in the world. Rice, beans, and vegetables are combined into savory stews or else roasted and served with unleavened bread
Rosh Hashanah is a celebration of the Jewish New Year. It’s a day of remembrance and prayer, of leaving the sins of the past year behind and hoping for happiness and prosperity in the year to come. The tradition originates in Leviticus 23:23-25 when God commanded a day of rest on the first day of the seventh month of the Jewish year. This year, Rosh Hashanah is on September 20.
The day is spent at Temple, praying and studying the Torah. According to Jewish tradition, a person’s good deeds and bad deeds are placed in the balance as the Days of Repentance continue.
Yom Kippur is on September 30. This Day of Atonement is also from Leviticus 23, as Moses and the Hebrew people gathered together to pray that they had successfully repented of the sins from the previous year. Traditionally it’s a day of solemn prayer and fasting, and it’s the most important day of the year for a person of the Jewish faith to attend synagogue.
Writings of the Jewish Faith
The source of the laws and traditions of Judaism is the Torah, which is also the Old Testament Bible of Christianity. Moses is believed to have written these works during his lifetime, from 1525-1645 BCE.
Christians around the world celebrate the birth of Jesus at Christmas time. December 3 is the start of Advent this year. Candles of the Advent wreath are lit each Sunday in anticipation of the birth of Jesus on the night of Christmas Eve. On Christmas Day, families usually attend church together and share meals of traditional foods while exchanging gifts.
The story of Jesus’ birth is one of the most familiar in the world; When Mary and Joseph arrived in Bethlehem, they sought shelter at the inn but they were turned away and Jesus was born in a nearby manger. Three wise men arrived to honor the newborn because they’d received a premonition that the child was conceived by the Holy Spirit and would one day be king.
According to some Christian traditions, the Christmas season then continues for twelve days, starting with St. Stephen’s Day on December 26th and concluding with the Epiphany, or “Three Kings Day” on January 7.
Christianity’s Dangerous Past
Saint Stephen is believed to be the first of the Christian martyrs, killed for preaching about the life and death of Jesus.
When Stephen was stoned to death in the streets of Jerusalem in 34 AD, a man named Saul was in a nearby crowd. Saul was a wealthy, upper-class Jewish man known for his severe treatment of Christians.
After witnessing Stephen’s death, Saul was walking on the road to Damascus where he claims Jesus appeared to him and told him to stop persecuting Christians. Soon after, Saul converted to Christianity. He took the name Paul and became one of the most important first-century missionaries.
As Paul and the Twelve Apostles traveled through present-day regions of Europe, Greece, and Rome, each of them were said to have died violent deaths similar to St. Stephen’s. Only the Apostle John survived into old age, contributing a gospel and three epistles to the New Testament.
Within 350 years, Christianity was declared the official religion of the Roman Empire.
The philosophies of Buddhism differ from those of theistic religions such as Christianity and Judaism. Buddhists explain that Buddhism isn’t considered a religion at all, that the Buddha was an ordinary man trying to determine if humans could transcend the “suffering” in their worldly lives and cultivate happiness. After trying to calm his earthly temptations with both indulgence and then deprivation, he began to teach the “middle way,” a philosophy that encouraged a person to find health and happiness despite the pain that is inevitable in our human lives.
Buddhists believe that meditation helps a person elevate their thoughts and develop self-awareness, resulting in a feeling of peace and unity with the natural world. Though one of the goals of meditation is a feeling of tranquility, some Buddhist traditions use meditation to strengthen the mind in times of conflict, focusing on conquering fear while learning the postures and techniques of a warrior.
Philosophy of Buddhism
A central theme of Buddhism is that humans have the power to create happiness and diminish pain by focusing the mind with prayer and meditation.
Easter is a time of solemn observances and triumphant celebrations for the 2.5 billion Christians around the world.
- Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent, is on February 14th in 2018. The 40 days of Lent concludes on the Sunday before Easter
- Holy Week begins on March 25 with Palm Sunday, the day the cheering crowds welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem by laying palm branches at his feet
- When those same crowds began to turn against him, Jesus gathered with his Apostles for the Last Supper on Holy Thursday, explaining that one of them was about to betray him. Judas then identified Jesus to the Roman authorities and he was arrested and condemned to die
- Good Friday was the day Jesus was crucified
- April 1 is Easter Sunday. Christians believe that Jesus’ soul was resurrected from death and ascended to heaven
Pay It Forward
Christians believe that Jesus died on the cross and that his soul was resurrected, symbolizing God’s forgiving nature. According to writings in the New Testament, Christians should forgive others as they are forgiven.