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Conversion

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The Oxford Dictionary of Islam What is This? Covers the religious, political, and social spheres of global Islam in the modern world

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    Conversion

    Conversion to Islam entails declaring in the presence of at least one witness that “there is no god but God and Muhammad is the messenger of God.” Performance of other required duties—paying zakah, five daily prayers, pilgrimage to Mecca, and fasting during Ramadan—is expected to follow. Male converts are expected to be circumcised. Female converts are expected to adopt modest dress. Both sexes often adopt Muslim names and no longer eat pork or drink alcohol. Because the Quran states, “There is no compulsion in religion” ( 2:256 ), many twentieth-century scholars and activists argue against forced conversions, emphasizing instead Muhammad's practice of inviting people to Islam through preaching, teaching, and warning. Historically, some forced conversions under threat of exile or death did occur, but these are considered deviations from the rule. Nevertheless, pressure for conversion existed because conversion to Islam meant the right to own land and slaves, lower taxes, and privileges in certain types of trade, as well as polygyny and the attainment of higher social positions. Since the mid-sixteenth century conversions have been achieved largely though traveling merchants, Sufis, and popular preachers. In the twentieth century, emigration has played an important role in spreading Islam. Contemporary conversion approaches emphasize Islam as the fulfillment of Judaic and Christian teachings, Muhammad as last in the line of prophets including Abraham , Moses , and Jesus , and the divinity of Muhammad's message.

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