Islam is today the religion of more than 350 million Muslims (or Moslems or Mohammedans), occupying a wide belt stretching from the Atlantic to the Pacific, across Africa, parts of Europe, and Asia.
Partly because of the importance of the Muslim habitat (or dar el-Islam) in world affairs, the West has begun to take special interest in studying Islam and is trying to understand its relation to the life of the Muslim. And it is no exaggeration to say that the Muslims themselves are showing a similar interest in studying the reality of Islam, in order to know to what extent they may be able to adopt modern ways without losing their religion. In recent times there have been two parties amongst the Muslims: one maintaining that religion should be sacrificed for the sake of modernization, and the other that modernization should be sacrificed for the sake of religion. Between these two groups there is now a third, whose number is increasing, which sees a possibility for reconciliation between modern life and the old religion. The modern Muslim thinkers find in the principles of Islam a flexibility which allows them to explain and interpret with the greatest freedom while still keeping the faith intact. For example, one modern writer has said, "Obedience to the commands of nature is obedience to God. The natural laws are a part of what is called angels. They are the executive principles for this world and the executive authorities through which the will of causation is realized."
But before we analyze these attempts to reconcile traditional religion with the needs of life in the modern world, let us examine the nature of Islam. I, as a Muslim, will try to sketch in as briefly and impartially as I can what all the schools of thinkers in Islam accept as its basic tenets.
If it were not for the outward manifestations of unity in any religion such as churches, mosques, religious books, ceremonials, and the like, it would be permissible to say that each individual of any faith understands his religion in his own special way. Therefore, there can be many definitions for religion; yet the definition nearest to truth is almost always to be found in the inspired books of the religion. The Koran is the Book of Islam. Revealed to Mohammed between 610 and 632 A.D., it contains 114 suras, including six thousand verses.