Islam Islam The word Islam comes from the Arabic words meaning “obedience and peace through submission to the one God.” Muslim means “one who submits to the will of Allah.” Islam Today there are over 1.3 billion Muslims throughout the world, concentrated in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. Islam is the world’s second largest religion after Christianity and it is the fastest growing. Islam Arabia before Islam: Before the advent of Islam, the Arab civilization had little impact on neighboring Roman, Persian, or Abyssinian empires. Traditionally, the Arabs were two distinct peoples: one, the nomadic Bedouins who roamed the desert plains and were loosely held together by tribal codes; and two, the urban dwellers, whose tribal divisions were mostly social, not geographic. Islam In pre-Islamic Arabia, the life of the Bedouins was romanticized by the urban Arabs as pure, chivalrous, and unrestricted. They were considered to embody all the noble characteristics of the Arab peoples. Islam Children of Arab towns were often temporarily sent to live with the nomads to learn traditional Arab culture, such as desert living, camel rearing, goat herding, and pure Arabic language. Antar, a 6th century Arabian poet and warrior. Islam Arabia was on the periphery of two established and rival civilizations of the time—the Byzantine Empire (heir to Rome) and the Sassanid Empire (heir to the imperial traditions of Persia). Because of its location and long-distance trade, Arabs were familiar with the larger world, including the monotheism of Judaism, Christianity, and Zoroastrianism. Islam By the time of Muhammad, most of the urban Arabs had acknowledged the preeminent position of Allah, the supreme god of the Arab pantheon (there were many gods, including Allah’s three daughters). Many Arabs increasingly identified Allah with Judaism’s Yahweh, and regarded themselves also as the “children of Abraham.” Islam By 600 CE, many Arabs were religiously moving towards Judaism or that of Christianity, the most rapidly growing religion in western Asia. As many Arabs were beginning to explore the possibility that Allah/Yahweh was the only God, the many others residing in the Ka’aba and in shrines across the peninsula were considered nothing more than “helpless and harmless idols.” Islam Even though Arab cities were widely scattered, the city of Makkah (Mecca) had long been established as a trading center between Arabia and Africa to the west, Yemen and India to the south, and Egypt and Syria to the north. Islam Mecca was also important because it was the site of the Ka’aba, the most important religious shrine in Arabia and a destination for thousands of pilgrims. Islam During this period, every pagan Arab tribe had its own idol placed inside the Ka’aba (when Muhammad conquered Mecca in 630 CE, the city had over 360 idols, statues, and other pieces of devotion to various gods). Islam The leading tribe of Mecca were the Quraysh, whose bloodline stretched back to the prophet Ibrahim (Abraham). However, the religion taught and practiced by Abraham had long since been replaced by polytheism. The Quraysh controlled access to the Ka’aba and were able to grow extremely wealthy taxing pilgrims wishing to see it. Islam Superstitions [omens, amulets, astrology, and divination (by the casting of arrows)] were important in deciding serious matters like when to travel, marry, or go to war. In Islam, this pre-Islamic polytheistic period is known as jahiliyyah, or ‘the days of ignorance.’ Islam Social and tribal hierarchies also meant the pre-Islamic period was marked by oppression, tyranny, and conflict. There was constant strife and hostility between various tribes. Slavery was a common practice (seen as a sign of wealth and power). Female infanticide was also common, as daughters were considered an expensive liability. Islam Women, whether married or not, like slaves, were often considered personal property that could be sold or exchanged. Polygamy was a common practice. Changes were coming, as a result of Muhammad. Islam The Arab Oral tradition: From as early as the 5th century BCE, the Arabs, originally a largely illiterate people who were proud of their tribal genealogies and histories, developed an incredibly descriptive and rhythmic language. This was achieved mostly through the custom of memorizing oral narratives and poetry from generation to generation. Islam Here is the tradition of the birth of Islam: In the year 570 CE, Muhammad Ibn Abdullah (which means “Praiseworthy”) was born in the city of Mecca. Islam Muhammad was born into a family of noble lineage that belonged to the Quraysh. Orphaned at a young age (6), he would be raised mostly by his uncle (his father’s younger brother). As a young man, he became a merchant. Being a merchant enabled him to travel throughout the Arabian Peninsula, where he would come into contact with several cultures and religions (including Judaism and Christianity). Islam He married Khadijah, an older woman (15 years older), and had six children (2 boys/4 girls). Both sons died in infancy. He lived the life of a wealthy merchant. But he was a highly reflective man who was constantly troubled with religious and moral issues, as he disapproved of the lawlessness of his countrymen and was troubled because many were polytheistic and superstitious. Islam Muhammad would retreat into the mountains outside Mecca to pray and contemplate the meaning and purpose of existence (like Buddha and Jesus). Then in the year 610 CE (around his 40th birthday), while praying in a cave on Mount Hira, Muhammad believed that he began to receive revelations from the archangel Jibril (Gabriel). These revelations would continue over the next 22 years. Islam Convinced after some initial self doubt that he was chosen to be a prophet, he committed his life to fulfilling the divine commands he thought he received. Islam Muhammad was told by Jibril (Gabriel) he was to be the Rasulillah (the Messenger of God), a prophet charged with delivering a message that would set straight misinterpretations of earlier revelations given through the Jewish or Christian prophets. Islam Note how most depictions of Muhammad have his face veiled…(Even though there is no direct prohibition in the Qur’an, Sunni tradition is that images could lead to idolatry). Islam Islam Here, Muhammad leads Abraham, Moses, and Jesus in prayer (from a medieval Persian text). Islam Muhammad was a hanif (one who followed the monotheistic teachings of Ibrahim). As a hanif, he would spend weeks at a time in the cave in the mountains outside Mecca, fasting, praying, deep in contemplation, grieving over what he saw as social injustices; infant daughters buried alive; women traded and bartered like chattel; and slaves were treated no better than livestock. Islam Muhammad began preaching to his fellow Meccans that there was no god but Allah, that they must submit to God’s will, and he pointed out their unjust and evil ways. Islam He warned them of the impending judgment of Allah (God). His early preaching called for social justice and equality and condemned the oppression of the poor by the wealthy and powerful (ideals also common in Judaism and Christianity). Islam At first, some of the people of Mecca were amused by Muhammad while others scorned him. Eventually many became interested in his words. As his popularity and power grew, the political leaders of Mecca began a hostile campaign against him (because his popularity threatened their power). Islam Muhammad’s message of absolute monotheism and social equality was against the Meccan establishment (of his own Quraysh clansmen). Fearing that their pagan beliefs and tribal social hierarchies were threatened by Islam, tribal elders began to persecute and torture Muslims and plotted Muhammad’s assassination (his arch enemy was one of his own uncles). Islam In 615, Muhammad sanctioned the migration of 80 Muslims to Abyssinia (Ethiopia) where they were welcomed and protected by the Christian king and his subjects. Islam The year 619 is known as the ‘Year of Grief’ for Muhammad. His uncle and protector, Abu Talib died, and a few months later, his beloved wife and spiritual companion, Khadijah, passed away. Adding to his pain, he visited a nearby village to invite its people to Islam and its people set their children upon him, chasing him from the city and pelting him with stones. Islam In 621, Muhammad came upon some pilgrims from the city of Medina. They had heard of Muhammad and were aware of the Judeo-Christian claims of a “promised prophet.” Muhammad explained Islam and the pilgrims converted. A year later, they invited Muhammad and his followers to settle in Medina (Al Madinah-which means “the city” in Arabic). Islam Still fearing for his life, in 622 he and several followers secretly fled from Mecca (he barely escaped assassination) to the safer haven of Medina about 200 miles north, where Muhammad established an Islamic community in the city. It is in Medina that Islam became the foundation for an entire way of life. Islam This moment, known as the Hijira (“migration”), was so important, it marks the starting date of the Muslim era, Year 1 on Islam’s calendar (meaning we’re now in the 1500th century of the Islamic calendar). Islam In the early seventh century Arab society was in social and cultural disarray, but Muhammad forcefully taught Allah’s lessons and began to transform his culture. He assumed full leadership of the city of Medina—reorganizing and reforming the city politically, religiously, and militarily. Muhammad became the Prophet-ruler of a virtual Islamic state within the heartlands of pagan Arabia. Islam He was so successful that Muslims look back to this time as the creation of the standard or model for Muslim society to follow. One of the key ideas was that of equality among Muslims (in the sight of Allah, there were no differences among believers). That meant in theory, no racism. In reality though, this only applied to Muslims. Others were considered inferior. Islam The ancient tradition of slavery continued, but one Muslim could not enslave another. In the Muslim world it was considered a good deed to free a slave, just not the slave (s) of a good friend or relative. Islam Muhammad was particularly successful in military affairs (followers believed he was led and protected by “the will of Allah”). He planned and led many successful military campaigns, and in 630 he led his followers to victory over Mecca. Islam Muhammad was a compassionate conqueror, granting mercy to all who submitted to Islam. He became known as the Prophet of God. Muhammad provided such a powerful stimulus that Arab society was mobilized almost overnight. Islam Even though he died in 632 CE, his faith and fame spread like wildfire. Arab armies carrying the banner of Islam invaded, conquered, and converted wherever they went. By 715 CE, Islam reached far into North Africa, into Spain, through the Transcaucasia, and into most of Southwest Asia. By 1000 CE, Islam had penetrated Southern and Eastern Europe, Central Asia (even reaching China), West Africa, East Africa, and Southeast Asia. Islam By 1000 CE, Islam had become the world’s first truly global religion, stretching half way across the world. Muslims hold that the only genuine explanation for the rapid Islamic conquest of the Middle East outward was Divine Providence, Allah’s help to those who fought for the faith. Islam While the spiritual capital remained in Mecca, as the Arab-Islamic Empire expanded, the political/administrative capital went from its original location in Medina to Damascus (Syria) and then to Baghdad (Iraq). While the empire expanded, it matured and prospered. Islam In architecture, mathematics, medicine, and science the Arabs far outpaced their European contemporaries. The Arabs established great universities and libraries in many cities, including Baghdad, Cairo, Timbuktu, and Toledo. Islam Cathedral of Seville. It The Alhambra Palace used to be a mosque. in Grenada. Islam How do Muslims regard Muhammad? Muslims believe Muhammad was singled out for his natural virtue and integrity to fulfill the role as the final intermediary of divine communication. As a human (he was never considered divine), Muhammad naturally had his faults, but Muslims regard him as the finest our species has produced, the ideal family man and leader of humanity. Islam So what is Islam? The precepts of Islam in many ways are a revision and embellishment of Judaic and Christian beliefs and traditions. All three faiths trace their origins to Abraham (in Hebrew Abraham means ‘Father of Nations’ ). Islam The Judaic/Christian faiths followed his son Isaac while Islam traced itself to Abraham’s first son Ishmael. Islam All three faiths believe in the same God, who occasionally communicates to humankind through prophets. Islam believes that God spoke to humankind beginning with Adam and continued through Moses and Jesus, but considered Muhammad as “the seal,” the final and greatest of the prophets. Islam What are some of the fundamental beliefs? Islam brought to the Arab world not only a unifying religious faith it had lacked but also a new set of values, a new way of life, a new individual and collective dignity. Islam dictated the observance of what became known as the Five Pillars…they are how the beliefs of Islam are to be put into action every day. Islam The first pillar is the confession of faith— the repeated expression of the basic creed (belief in one god and the prophet hood of Muhammad)—known as the Shahadah. Islam The second pillar is the daily prayer –five times a day facing Mecca –known as the Salat. Prayer times are dawn, just after noon, mid-afternoon, just after sunset, and after dark. Islam The third pillar is daytime fasting called Sawm. This occurs during the ninth month of the Muslim calendar (lunar not solar) which is called Ramadan. From sun-up to sun-down, Muslims are not supposed to eat or drink anything. Islam After sun-down Muslims usually eat a light meal filled with sweets. This daily sacrifice shows equality with the poor and it reminds Muslims that the good things in life are to be enjoyed but not to be overindulged in. Islam The fourth pillar is the giving of alms (charity) to the poor—known as Zahat. If you can afford it, you are to give 2.5% of your savings to the poor every year. Islam The final pillar is at least one pilgrimage in each Muslim’s lifetime to Mecca –known as the Hajj to see the Ka’abah. Islam According to tradition, Abraham and Ishmael built a simple cube-like structure in what came to be the center of the city of Mecca (a large mosque has been built around the Ka’abah). Islam In Muhammad’s time, the Ka’abah was about 15 feet tall with a black stone about the size of a bowling ball in one corner (believed to be a meteor of divine origin from the time of Adam and Eve). Islam This miniature (c. 1315) shows Muhammad rededicating the stone at the Ka’abah. The meteor is framed in silver, and pilgrims attempt to kiss it like Muhammad supposedly did. Islam Since this isn’t always possible because of the crowds, you are to point to the stone and bow every time you make a circuit around the Ka’abah. Islam Islamic tradition from the Qur’an asserts that the Ka’abah was the first place of worship dedicated to Allah (God). The Ka’abah was thought to be at the center of the world with the Gate of Heaven directly above it. Islam The Ka’abah marked the location where the divine world intersected with the mortal. The embedded Black Stone was a symbol of this intersection (as a meteorite that had fallen from the sky, it linked heaven and earth). Islam Today the Ka’abah is about 43 feet high and about 40 feet wide. Its holiness as a divine presence comes mainly from its association with the lives of Abraham and Muhammad. It is covered by a black silk curtain made in Egypt, decorated with gold-embroidered calligraphy. This cloth is known as the kiswah; and it is replaced yearly. Islam When performing the Salat (prayer 5 times a day), you are to face towards Mecca (because that’s where the Ka’abah is). Islam The Hajj occurs during the last month of the Islamic year (known as the Month of the Hajj). The pilgrimage rites occur during a 5-day period, between the 8th - 12th days of this lunar month. In 2011, the Hajj will occur between November 4-9th. Islam To the five pillars, many Muslims would add a sixth, jihad, which means a person’s inner struggle to live a good life. Militant Muslims take jihad to mean either “holy war” or “spiritual struggle against the adversaries of Islam.” Islam Like the Judeo/Christian heritage, Islam believes in angels (several are the same), the devil, and a Judgment Day for all humanity. Islam Those who have been faithful and have done Allah’s will, they will be rewarded in Paradise (Heaven). Islam For Muslims, death is not seen as the end but merely as a transition from one state of being into another as the soul journeys back to the creator (Allah). But those who have rejected faith and commit sins and grave injustices, they are condemned to the fires of Hell. Islam Islam Muslims, like many Christians and Jews, also believe in predestination…that your life is predetermined and that God controls everything that happens. Muslims, like Christians and Jews, also have a code of behavior that stresses correct social behavior like respecting your parents, your neighbors, and your community; and being honest, trustworthy, and patient. Islam Islam forbids alcohol, smoking, eating pork, and gambling. It tolerated polygamy (you could have up to 4 wives), although it spoke of the virtues of monogamy. Mosques (Muslim churches) were not only for prayer, but they became social gathering centers which knit the Arab community closer together. Islam Mecca became the spiritual center for a divided, widely dispersed people for whom a collective focus was something new. Yet for all its vigor and success, Islam still fragmented into sects. The earliest and most consequential division came about after the death of Muhammad in 632 CE. Islam Who should be his legitimate successor? A few believed that it should be a blood relative of the prophet who led Islam. Others felt that any truly devout follower of Muhammad was qualified to lead the faithful. No one could have predicted that this one event—the election of a successor to Muhammad—would lead to such a serious divide in the Islamic community. Islam After Muhammad’s death, the first four caliphs (Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman, and Ali) were elected by due process; therefore a democratic model is preferred). The first chosen successor (caliph) was Muhammad’s closest friend and the father of one of his wives (and thus not a blood relative). A caliph is elected for life but can be removed for misconduct/corruption. Islam His name was Abu Bakr. Abu Bakr became the first caliph (successor). Bakr died after serving only 27 months as caliph. Islam The next two caliphs, Umar, who ruled 10 years until 644 CE, and Uthman, who ruled 12 years until 656 CE, were close friends and associates of Muhammad, but not blood relatives. Islam Umar was assassinated coming home from a Hajj and the 84 year old Uthman was killed by rebels, run through with a sword while in prayer at home. These three caliphs didn’t satisfy a faction of Muslims who wanted to see Ali, Muhammad’s cousin and son-in-law (married to his daughter Fatima), named caliph. Islam Tradition states that Ali was the second person converted to Islam. When Ali’s turn came (and he became the fourth caliph 24 years after Muhammad’s death) his followers, known as the Shiat Ali (the followers of Ali) or the Shi’ites, proclaimed that Muhammad finally had a legitimate successor. Islam Shi’ites believed that Ali should have been the first caliph and that the caliphate should pass down only to direct descendants of Muhammed via Ali and Fatima. The fact that Ali wasn’t made the first caliph is considered a major tragedy and source of indignation by Shi’ites. Islam Ali’s caliphate ended in 661 with his assassination. His eldest son, Hassan, agreed not to become the caliph in return for the sparing of his life and a pension. He died less than a year later, allegedly poisoned. Islam In 680, Ali’s younger son and another grandson of Muhammad, Hussain, (known as the “Prince of Martyrs”) led a small army of followers and family against the man who proclaimed himself the caliph (Yazid I). Islam Hopelessly outnumbered, Hussain’s army was slaughtered at the Battle of Karbala (in today’s central Iraq). His head was severed and taken to Damascus, Syria (the seat of Umayyad power) and the women and children were taken there as captives. Islam Tradition says that at Hussain’s death a miracle happened…his severed head recited the Qur’an. This reflected his righteousness as opposed to the corruption and wrongdoing of Yazid. Islam Shi’ites consider the slaughter of Hussain to be the most heinous crime ever committed, because the blood of Muhammad’s family was spilled by other Muslims. The division between those who were Shi’ites and those who were Sunnis was set. Islam Shi’ites consider it the duty of believers to yearly commemorate the death of Hussain (and to curse Yazid), known as the Day of Ashura, (even though Muhammad himself prohibited ritual and passionate displays of bereavement). Islam Hussain’s death is memorialized with intense processions during which the marchers flagellate themselves bloody with chains, knives, and with sharp metal instruments. Islam Hussain’s shrine in Karbala, is visited by over 2,000,000 people every year. Islam The Sunni’s (Sunni means the “path shown by Muhammad” ) did not see a blood relationship as necessary for succession. From the beginning of this disagreement, the vast majority of Muslims took the Sunni position. Islam The great expansion of Islam was propelled by Sunnis; the Shi’ites survived as a small minority scattered throughout the empire (today mainly in Iran, Iraq, Lebanon and Bahrain). Today, about 85-90% of Muslims are Sunnis. (Indonesia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Turkey, Egypt, etc…--Sunni) Islam Since Ali’s last descendent died in the 9th century (and thus the blood line of Muhammad), Shi’ites created a council of 12 scholars called the ulema to elect a Supreme Imam. Shi’ites believe their Supreme Imam is a fully spiritual guide, and the sole source of true knowledge, inheriting some of Muhammad's inspiration. Islam The Shia Imam has come to be imbued with Pope-like infallibility and the Shia religious hierarchy is not dissimilar in structure and religious power to that of the Catholic Church. Sunnis and Shi’ites agree on the fundamentals of Islam, like the Five Pillars, and they recognize each other as Muslims, but they have some deep divisions (like in Christianity). Islam Islam is held together by very strict laws (called the sharia—which in Arabic means “the clear, straight path”). These laws took over 300 years to develop and are housed in the Muslim equivalent to the Judaic/Christian bible, a book known as the Qur’an (Koran). Islam In the Qur’an, everything in life is regulated, going from absolutely forbidden to what’s absolutely required to lead a good, moral life. Over centuries, the sharia became very rigid, and by 1200 C.E. it was thought to be perfect (which meant there was little room for interpretation). Islam Having sacred laws created a strong bond among Muslims (which was important since they lived in so many areas). From India to North Africa, people spoke a similar language and received a similar education (in Islam). Having sacred laws created a deep sense of being “better” (ethnocentrism) than others (even though Islam believes in the equality of all faiths). Islam Islamic tradition also believes that the Day of Judgment will follow a series of apocalypses (as in the Judeo/Christian heritage). These apocalypses include earthquakes and other natural disasters (including the sun rising in the West). Islam When oppression covers the Earth, it is believed that Jesus will reappear and search out and kill the anti-Christ. Jesus will defeat evil, and peace will reign. Jesus will marry, have children, die a natural death, and be buried in Medina next to Muhammad. After this “second coming,” life as we know it will end, and the final judgment will take place.
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