AN03a_ An Age of Exchange and Encounter- The Muslim World (Ch.10)
Timeline: 6th – 13th C.
FQ: How do the foundational beliefs of Islam compare with Judaeo-Christian antecedents?
Islam shares a great deal with the Judaeo-Christian tradition. Unlike Judaism, however, Islam shares with Christianity (and Buddhism) a ‘global’ quality. Generally speaking, these faiths have transcended the borders and culture of the originating society. There is a global following since birth ‘into the faith’ is not a requirement. Many cultures have adopted and adapted the faith as a consequence. It is with these and other qualities that Islam becomes a major unifying tool, politically and culturally, for Muhammad and the peoples of the Arabian peninsula.
A. Islam: Arabic word meaning “To surrender your will to God”.
B. Allah: Arabic word meaning “God”.
C. Muslim*: Arabic word meaning “One who surrenders his will to God”. [Therefore, according to Islamic tradition, Abraham, Jesus, Moses, etc. were Muslim.]
D. Jihad: Arabic word meaning “ Struggle” or “Striving”. (1)
E. Qur-an: Arabic for “Recite”. A book containing the words of Allah as conveyed to Muhammad via angels including the archangel Gabriel. Revealed over a period of 22 years (610 – 632). Given as a ‘grace’ to humanity. Offers guidance on living in accordance with the will of Allah. It was orally transmitted and written in Arabic and thus cannot be ‘translated’ into other languages, but it could be interpreted/transliterated into other languages.(2) The Qur-an is ‘word for word’ the commands & teachings of Allah. Therefore, there is no higher authoritative source on Earth that can be ‘appealed’ to by humanity.
F. Hadith: The Hadith is a compilation of the words of The Prophet. It aids Muslims in their Jihad to live in accordance with Allah’s will.
G.Sunna(h): Is an account of Muhammad’s conduct during his life as The Prophet. The Prophet is ‘the ideal’ and by studying and emulating his behavior Muslims hope to get closer to Allah’s will.
A. 570 – 632 (3)
B. Bedouins dominate the Arabian Peninsula with the presence of prosperous commercial cities along the coast. Two of these cities are Mecca and Yachrib (now known as ‘Madinah’ which means ‘The City’).
C. Mecca: The holiest city in Islam. Holds the Ka’aba (Arabic Language => ‘Cube’), which was a pagan shrine at the time of the Prophet. Abraham and Ishmael built the structure as the first shrine dedicated to Allah. Like many urban centers, many faiths were represented within Mecca. in addition to paganism, there existed in this city the followers of Christianity, Judaism, Zoroastrianism and tribal faiths of the Bedouins
D. Byzantine Empire: A powerful, Christian, empire lies just North of Mecca. Contact between these two entities existed in the areas of trade, political/ military, scholarship, and cultural.
III. The Prophet: Muhammad
A. Born and lived as a merchant in the city of Mecca.
B. Muhammad was orphaned at a young age and placed in the care of his uncle.(4) He married an older widow (Hadisha) and fathered four daughters. She became a partner for Muhammad in all aspects of his life. The qualities of The Prophet included being: Good-natured, an honest merchant, and dedicated to family.(5)
C. 610: The Prophet began receiving the words (revelation) of Allah from angels including the archangel Jibril (Gabriel).
D. 622: Established authorities and residents of Mecca did not accept the verses. Resistance against The Prophet and his early followers grew and lead to active persecution. Possible reasons for the conflict could include the dominance among Meccans of polytheistic faiths and idol worship. Another reason could be that many Meccans were profiting from pagan and non-pagan pilgrimages to the Ka’aba. The Prophet decides to move the fledgling Muslim community (6) when he was invited to Yachrib to help settle disputes among the city’s feuding factions.
E. 622 – 630: Muhammad gains respect, becomes a leader, and leads an army to conquer the Meccans.
F. The last and greatest prophet of Allah (Abraham being the Patriarch). There will be no new messengers after The Prophet Muhammad.
G. Did not write any text (illiterate). All texts were compiled by ‘companions’ or later students of The Prophet.
H. Sources on life of The Prophet include biographies written during the 7th – 9th C.
IV. Spread of Islam
Islam spread throughout the Middle East and North Africa from 632 – 750. This is why the faith is prominent in the region today. Other regions the faith reached still have a strong Muslim presence today, e.g. Central Asia, South Asia, South-East Asia, Africa, and the islands of the East Asian Pacific.
V. The Islamic World View
A. Unified Diversity: All Muslim are unified within one belief centered around Allah. How each of approximately one billion Muslim achieve this ideal is diverse. An example would be the requirement to dress modestly => Veiling of women is not an interpretation of ‘Modesty’ shared by all Muslim societies.
B. Scholarship: A waste of time to study the nature of Allah or to determine exactly His will. To attempt to explain why certain events occurred (Ex: issuance of the Qur-an to the Prophet Muhammad) by focusing on earthly matters (Ex: political persecution) is inappropriate since the presence of revelation is at Allah’s discretion only. If He thought it necessary, it would be done. All other areas of learning are open for study, and encouraged.
C. Judgment: The Qur-an is for all people. Judgment on you will be dependent on how well you adhered to Allah’s will as expressed in the Qur-an (there is no appeal). You will be held accountable for your actions since the Qur-an was given to all people for guidance.
D. People of The Book (The ‘Book’ is the “Kitab”): Includes, among others, Jews and Christians. Guaranteed a special place in Islamic society due to their relationship with Allah.
E. Revelation: Prior revelation as interpreted and practiced by the followers of Judaism and Christianity was ‘corrupted’. Muhammad’s revelation was a correction and not a newly introduced faith.
VI. Challenges to the Faith