Islam by pengxuebo


  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.”
   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
   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.
   In pre-Islamic Arabia,
    the life of the
    Bedouins was
    romanticized by the
    urban Arabs as pure,
    chivalrous, and
   They were considered
    to embody all the
    noble characteristics
    of the Arab peoples.
   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.
   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.
   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
   Many Arabs increasingly identified Allah
    with Judaism’s Yahweh, and regarded
    themselves also as the “children of
   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.”
   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.
   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.
   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).
   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.
   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.’
   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
   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
   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.
   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.
   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).
   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.
   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
   These revelations would continue over the
    next 22 years.
      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
   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
   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
   Here, Muhammad leads Abraham, Moses, and
    Jesus in prayer (from a medieval Persian
   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.
   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.
   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
   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).
   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).
   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.
   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
   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
   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).
   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.
   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).
   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
   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.
   He was so successful that Muslims look
    back to this time as the creation of the
    standard or model for Muslim society to
   One of the key ideas was that of equality
    among Muslims (in the sight of Allah,
    there were no differences among
   That meant in theory, no racism. In
    reality though, this only applied to
    Muslims. Others were considered inferior.
   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.
   Muhammad was
    particularly successful in
    military affairs (followers
    believed he was led and
    protected by “the will of
   He planned and led
    many successful military
    campaigns, and in 630
    he led his followers to
    victory over Mecca.
   Muhammad was a compassionate
    conqueror, granting mercy to all who
    submitted to Islam.
   He became known as the Prophet of
   Muhammad provided such a powerful
    stimulus that Arab society was mobilized
    almost overnight.
   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.
   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.
   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
   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.
   Cathedral of Seville. It      The Alhambra Palace
    used to be a mosque.           in Grenada.
   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
   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
   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’ ).
           The
            faiths followed
            his son Isaac
            while Islam
            traced itself to
            Abraham’s first
            son Ishmael.
   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.
   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.
   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
   The second pillar is the daily prayer –five
    times a day facing Mecca –known as the
   Prayer times are dawn, just after noon,
    mid-afternoon, just after sunset, and after
   The third pillar is daytime fasting called
   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.
   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.
      The fourth pillar is
       the giving of alms
       (charity) to the
       poor—known as
      If you can afford it,
       you are to give
       2.5% of your
       savings to the poor
       every year.
   The final pillar is at least one pilgrimage in
    each Muslim’s lifetime to Mecca –known as
    the Hajj to see the Ka’abah.
   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
   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).
   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
   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.
   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.
 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).
   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.
   When performing the Salat (prayer 5 times
    a day), you are to face towards Mecca
    (because that’s where the Ka’abah is).
   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.
   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.”

   Like the
    heritage, Islam
    believes in angels
    (several are the
    same), the devil,
    and a Judgment
    Day for all
   Those who have been faithful and have
    done Allah’s will, they will be rewarded in
    Paradise (Heaven).
   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.
   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 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.
 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.
   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
   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.
   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
   A caliph is elected for life but can be
    removed for misconduct/corruption.

   His name was Abu
    Bakr. Abu Bakr
    became the first
    caliph (successor).
   Bakr died after
    serving only 27
    months as caliph.
   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.
   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
   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
 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.
 Ali’s caliphate ended in 661 with his
 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.
   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).
 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.
 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.
 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.
   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).
   Hussain’s death is
    memorialized with
    intense processions
    during which the
    marchers flagellate
    themselves bloody
    with chains, knives,
    and with sharp metal
   Hussain’s shrine in Karbala, is visited
    by over 2,000,000 people every year.
   The Sunni’s (Sunni means the “path
    shown by Muhammad” ) did not see a
    blood relationship as necessary for
   From the beginning of this disagreement,
    the vast majority of Muslims took the Sunni
   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
   Today, about 85-90% of Muslims are
   (Indonesia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Saudi
    Arabia, Jordan, Turkey, Egypt, etc…--Sunni)
   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.
   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 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
   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).
   Islamic tradition also believes that the Day
    of Judgment will follow a series of
    apocalypses (as in the Judeo/Christian
   These apocalypses include earthquakes
    and other natural disasters (including the
    sun rising in the West).
   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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