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3 Apr 2012
Lecture Review notes: ISLAM
Faith in Islam is considered to be the natural way of human beings, and every child is understood
to be born into this natural state of faith with an natural inclination towards faith and the inner
capacity to know God. According to Islam mankind is born into an original state of purity and
So for Muslims the whole universe affirms Islam naturally or instinctively and humans also are
born as instinctive witnesses to God but humans have choice and so are required to consciously
choose to bear witness or not, to follow God’s Laws or not, and in the Islamic belief system, there
will come a time when all people will be required to face the consequences of their choice - the
Day of Judgement at which time God will reward those that have chosen to affirm their submission
and punish those that have rejected faith in God.
There are three main areas crucial to Islamic thought: the unity of God, prophecy, and eschatology.
3. Eschatology – the knowledge or study of the endtimes.
2. Prophecy – Islam believes that throughout time God has sent prophets with one message – there
is no God but the God. Adam was the first (- as long as there are human beings, there must be a
prophet - created in God’s image, God’s representative on earth – higher than the angels) and
Muhammad the last.
1. The unity of God is the subject of the profession of faith in Islam called the Shahadah
There is no God but The God
Muhammad is the prophet of God.
The first bears witness to the oneness of God, the second is the acceptance of the prophethood of
Muhammad and therefore the truth of his message.
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As a way of life Islam is not just belief or philosophy. Islam includes both worship and human
transaction or relations of every kind -- all family, social, legal, international relations all are to be
legislated and carried out in the framework of faith –
Historically, in the triad of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, Islam is the latest of the three.
The prophet Muhammad (570 CE- 632 CE) was born in Mecca, a town in a dry, sandy, desert
valley surrounded by a double range of desolate treeless hills. Mecca was an oasis in the desert. It
was a natural stopping place for the camel caravans that made their way from south Arabia to the
great cities in Syria and Babylonia to the north and east. It was a hub of trading activity.
In the centre of town was a sacred well and close to it a simple square shrine called the Kabah
which held images of the local gods and goddesses. But the real focus of the shrine was a
mysterious black stone – which some identify as a meteorite that fell in that area in some long
forgotten past – the people of Mecca called it “the black stone that fell from heaven in the days of
In Islamic tradition, the ancestral patriarch of both the Arab tribes and the Hebrew tribes was
Abraham. According to the biblical story, his wife Sarah was barren and finally he took for a
second wife Hagar and she bore him Ishmael, but soon after that Sarah bore Isaac and Abraham
took Hagar and Ishmael away to the valley of Mecca.
In the story, Hagar runs out of water and is frantic with worry but where the baby Ishmael kicked
his heel in the sand a spring of water bubbled up under his foot – this became the sacred well of
Zamzam. Abraham eventually returns to visit and builds the shrine called the Kabah.
Long before the time of Muhammad, this shrine had come to be chief among the most sacred
places of Arabia - so besides being a trading centre, Mecca was also a religious centre and hosted
an annual religious festival that attracted thousands of desert tribes people.
The Mecca into which the prophet was born was rich both culturally and monetarily - it was one of
the leading cities of Arabia .
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Among the various kinds of people in Meccan society were a group of people know as hanifs
‘pious ones
- attracted to the monotheism of Judaism and Christianity but not belonging to either
- They were impressed with the desert hermits who secluded themselves in caves and other
lonely places to prey, contemplate and come to know God.
- Scholars think that Muhammad may have been among this group
At age forty he is without an heir, his two young sons have died in infancy. He has a reputation for
fairness, justice, honesty, compassion, but the values that he treasures are not apparent in a society
built on the greed and cheating that characterizes a marketplace -- ancient tribal virtues of honour
and generosity are eroding, the wealth in Mecca is creating big divisions between rich and poor.
And the Kabah – the shrine that should honour the one God holds hundreds of images surrounded
by peddlers selling charms and trinkets – Muhammad considered it a travesty of true spirituality or
Every year during the month of Ramadan he would spend days in seclusion in a cave in the
mountains close to Mecca. And it is during one of these retreats (610) in his fortieth year that he
experiences the first of the overwhelming visitations that are reported as visitations by the angel
Gabriel and which eventually form the sacred scripture of Islam, the Qur’an (“recite”?).
The visitation of the angel is described in the language of mystics the world over –describes the
feeling of being gripped and then released by great unseen hands, the sound of bells in his ears, a
trancelike state, and then the words - breaking over him it is described “like the breaking of the
dawn” leaving him trembling and shaken. The prophet is reported to have said “never once did I
receive a revelation without thinking that my soul had been torn away from me”
Led him to think that he was crazy but Christian cousin of his wife assured him that he wasn’t mad
but that God had spoken to him. He was the prophet they had been waiting for.
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