Beliefs in Brief- The word Islam means “to submit” (and a Muslim is one who submits). Islam is the belief that there is one god (Allah) who is perfect, unique and indivisible. Absolutely nothing should be worshipped other than Allah. Muslims believe that Allah sent revelations to several profits, including Jesus. The last prophet was Muhammad, who was born in Arabia in 570 AD. The teachings of Mohammad are compiled in the Koran. Like Jews and Christians, Muslims believe in judgment and an afterlife, in angels and Satan, and in an eventual end to this world.
The State of Islam- Islam grew rapidly in the late 20th century and first half of the 21st century. In around 2030, Islam surpassed Christianity as the world’s largest religion. Its growth was only halted by the massive population decline of the 40s and 50s. There are now 1.5 billion Muslims worldwide and 10 million in the US. About 5% of people in the city (10,500) consider themselves Muslim, although less than half that number attends group services or meetings. There are two major divisions in belief among Muslims: the Sunni, the majority, follow only the teachings of Mohammed. The Shia, a minority group (making up only 15% of Muslims) follow the teachings of Mohammed and also those of his son-in-law and successor, Ali. Sufism is a school of Islam with both Sunni and Shia adherents. Sufism stresses asceticism, selfless love, esoteric truths and development of a “mystical” relationship with Allah. Some Sufis strive to become so pure that they reflect the attributes of Allah (some non-Sufis see this concept as sinfully arrogant). Much of Sufi teaching is via paradoxical or humorous stories (much like the Koans of Zen Buddhism).
Reputation- Before the Freedom Wars, Islam had a reputation in the US as being intolerant and violent. People associated Islam with acts of terrorism and with suppression of women. In the decades since the Freedom Wars, Islam’s reputation has been turned around. They are thought of as tolerant, peaceful, humble and interested in protecting human rights. On the other hand, Islam is still a faith that is thought of as conservative, orthodox and fundamentalist. Islam is a religion which influences the day-to-day lifestyle of its followers to a greater degree than other popular American religions.
Muslim View of Non-Muslims- Non-Muslims are commonly called “Kafir.” Christians and Jews are given respect as “people of the book.” Muslims believe that Jews and Christians are heir to true prophets and earlier revelations of Allah. Non-monotheists are guilty of one of the two worst sins: worshipping anything other than Allah, or failing to worship at all. However, Muslims believe that everyone, no matter their religion, will be rewarded for good deeds and punished for bad. Muslims are very tolerant and very willing to let people believe and do whatever they want.
Global Politics- Before the Freedom Wars, there were a number of Muslim minorities in various countries throughout the world who were persecuted and suppressed and many fought back with terrorist tactics. After the Freedom Wars most of the globe was balkanized and most of these groups were given their own countries. Most have kept their independence, but a few are being preyed upon by neighboring nations that want that territory back. When Muslim nations are involved in warfare today, they are typically trying to defend themselves from an aggressive neighbor. They are typically thought of as underdogs by the global community, but are seldom given any help.
Middle East: The Middle East’s petroleum deposits have dried up and it is currently an economically depressed area with little global influence.
China: China is thought to have more than 100 million Muslims, but China has cut itself off from the rest of the world and there is some evidence that Muslims are being persecuted in China.
Southeast Asia: This region also has a lot of Muslims, mostly living in urban areas. Like the US, Southeast Asian Muslims are thoroughly interspersed with a members of other religions (mainly Hinduism, Buddhism and Christianity) and don’t have as much influence over politics as they do in other countries.
Changes to the Faith- Like other major religions, Islam has undergone a “liberalization” over the last century. This liberalization is more strongly felt in first-world countries which had access to a global media. The majority of Muslims in first-world countries believe that homosexuality is not a sin and that women and men should be treated by the same rules.
Practices and Prohibitions
Greetings: A Muslim greets another Muslim by saying “Assalaam `alaikum” and the Muslim being greeted should say, in return, “Wa `alaikum Assalaam”.
Fasting: During the month of Ramadan (which will begin in Early June in 2080), teen and adult Muslims must fast from sunrise to sunset. They usually prepare wonderful feasts to eat after sunset.
Prayer: A Muslim should pray five times a day. Prayer is typically conducted on a blanket, facing Mecca. Prayer is conducted at Dawn, Sunrise, Noon, Afternoon, Sunset and Evening. Cheap electronic devices are available ($10) which determines exactly when to pray and what direction to face.
Dress: Muslims should wear humble clothing which doesn’t show off the sexual attributes of the wearer. Clothes should not be tight fitting or revealing for either gender. Many (but not all) Muslims believe that a woman’s hair is a sexual characteristic that should be covered.
Diet: Muslims should not eat pork, should not eat any carnivorous animal, and should not eat any meat which has not been butchered according to the rules of the Koran (properly butchered food is known as Halal). Since no fast food restaraunts in the city are Hallal, Muslims are restricted to either vegetarian diet, food from Muslim owned restaraunts or food from specialtly food shops. Muslims should not drink alcohol or use mind-altering drugs.
Cleaning: Muslims must stay clean and well groomed, following guidelines given by the Koran.
Pilgrimage: If they can afford to, every Muslim should attempt to make a pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca.
Charity: Muslims must give charity. Many city Muslims donate time or money to homeless shelters and soup kitchens. Quite a few Volunteers (homeless outreach workers) are Muslim.
Sex: Premarital and extramarital sex is prohibited. Men are allowed to take on multiple wives if they can support them. Divorce is permitted. Many Muslims believe that Homosexual sex is a sin.
Euthanasia/Abortion: Muslims generally prohibit euthanasia, abortion, suicide and capital punishment, saying that these are decisions for Allah to make. To kill someone in war is not a sin, although a good Muslim will seek a peaceful solution and will not fight without a good reason.
Religious Freedom: The Koran states that religion can not be compulsory. People must have religious freedom and must come to Allah of their own free will.
Character: Muslims should always endeavor to be of good character. This means being honest, chaste, modest, well-read and hard working.
City Muslim Society
American vs. Foreign Born: The major division in city Muslim society is between American-Born Muslims, who grew up being a religious minority (or converted later in life) and Foreign-Born Muslims, who primarily grew up in counties where Muslims are in the majority. The natives tend to dress more like everyone else, to attend to their religious duties less strictly and to make Islam a smaller part of their lives. Foreign-Born Muslims tend to be immigrants. Like all immigrants in the city, they are likely in the country illegally and have come here from economically depressed countries seeking opportunities. They are thus more likely to be poor and have less formal education. Foreign-born Muslims tend to follow the prescriptions and prohibitions of Islam more strictly and wear clothing that is clearly Muslim. American-born Muslims stereotype Foreign-born Muslims as being somewhat backward, while Foreign-born Muslims sometimes have trouble believing that American-born Muslims are actually Muslim. Despite these differences, most Muslims treat other Muslims as brothers and sisters.
Mosques: Most mosques in the city were built in what were once black neighborhoods (before the city became overwhelmingly multiracial). Most Mosques are in the neighborhood of Harlem. The city’s largest mosque is at 96th street and 3rd avenue and is still in use by a small congregation. The mosque is in Bleeder territory, which has caused a few problems (see below). There are also a few Muslim run soup-kitchens and homeless shelters centered around the Bowery, where religious services are held. The majority of Muslims in the city practice in private homes or (among homeless Muslims) in vacant lots and abandoned buildings designated as meeting places. There is no ordained ministry in Islam. An “Imam” is anyone in a community with the knowledge to teach Islam and is often a community elder. There are no full-time professional Imams in the city.
Group Membership: All city groups have Muslims as members, including both gang and non-gang groups. Because of the proscription against alcohol and drugs, groups like the Needle Punks, Hummingbirds, Tea Drinkers and Goods have fewer Muslim members. The Purists, on the other hand, have several qualities that appeal to Muslims (they keep themselves clean, do not use drugs, are less likely to have premarital sex) and have attracted many Muslim members. The Koran has a proscription against drinking blood, which has caused many to believe that the Bleeders are sinners. Few Muslims join the Bleeders and those that attend the Islamic Center mosque (in Bleeder territory) are often vary wary of dealing with Bleeders.
[About this guide: This is a brief description of what it means to be Muslim in the city, in 2080, in the world of Fates Worse Than Death. I wrote it because Role Playing is about trying to imagine what it is like to be someone else, and a lot of people today are interested in the thoughts, beliefs and lives of Muslims. I do not mean to offend members of other religions that do not yet have guides and I do not mean to offend Muslims by giving a flawed or incomplete description of their faith.]