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McGill University
Religious Studies
EDER 521
Jerry M.Cain

The long period of pre Islamic Arab history is called jahiliyah in the Quran, meaning foolishness or ignorance. The Arabs in that society worshiped many Gods. Allah is Arabic means God. Among the Gods were Habul, Al-lat, al-Uzzah and Manat. The later three considered to be the daughters of Allah. Their statues along with many other idols were (a painting of Jesus and Virgin Mary included) were placed around the Kabah. They were all worshiped there. Before Islam, the Kabah was a place from pilgrimage. People from all over and around Arabia would come there. During pilgrimage season, there was also a trade fair, which gave the city of Mecca a special status. The people of Arabia did not believe in the afterlife and thus enjoyed life on earth to the fullest. The Quran describes this attitude as gloomy, “Wise men who drown their sorrows in wine, women and sentimental verses.” Jewish and Christian societies also existed in and around ancient Arabia. Islam is considered as the ‘revivifier” of the true religion of God. The Life of Mohammad Born in 570 in the tribe of Quraysh. His father died before birth and his mother soon after his birth. He was first raised by his Grandfather who also passed away soon after and then by his Uncle Abu Talib. He was known among everyone as honest and trustworthy. At the age of 25 he married a rich widow, her name was Khadijah. He did not like idol worshiping and considered it foolish. One day during the month of Ramadan he was sitting in a cave in Mount Hira and was approached by Angle Gabriel. He ordered him to read in the name of the Lord. Muhammad was illiterate. He was frightened and he ran home. He started getting more visions and was convinced he was possessed by a demon. His wife took him to a devout Christian and he convinced Mohammed that he was a Messenger of God. Angel Gabriel started teaching Mohammad Gods words and ways. After 12 years Mohammed started preaching. He met with little success as Makkans (Meccans) did not wish to abandon the ways of their forefathers. The first ones to accept the religion of Islam was Khadijah, the Prophet’s cousin Ali, his slave Zayd and his companion Abu Bakr. His teachings were not only religious but also moral and social. He soon had a small band of followers. Soon his life was under threat as the Makkans considered him a threat to society and their customs. Prophet Mohammad migrated to Madina for protection. This migration is known as the Hijrah. This is the beginning of the Islamic calendar. In Madina the Prophet created the first Islamic society as he found more followers. Laws there were based under the Quran known as Shriah law. He later changes the direction of prayer for all Muslims from Jerusalem to Mecca and drops the fast of Yom Kippur to the fast of Ramadan. He slowly gains more and more followers and he announces to everyone, “O, people, I am God’s Messenger to you all”. The religion of Islam is finally born. The Muslims formed an army and met with the Makkans at Badr, highly outnumbered they defeated their enemy. But the Muslims were soon defeated at Uhud. Later with a much stronger army the Muslims defeated the Makkans at the “Battle of the trench”. The Prophets mission of Islamizing all of Arabia was coming closer. He soon entered Makkah with his army and took over. He was known as a rasul ( the messenger of God) not as a ruler or military leader, although he was both. He died soon after in 632. Before his death he had firmly established Islam in Arabia and sent out expeditions to Syria, the Persian and Byzantine empire. Five prophets in the Quran are considered prophets of power (ulu al-azm). They are Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Mohammad. Prophet Mohammad being the seal of the seal of the Prophet. (the last one sent down by God) Prophet Mohammad’s words and deeds is called the Sunnah. It is a guide for all Muslims proper way of conduct. THE FIVE PILLARS OF ISLAM 1. Bearing Witness: Known as the Shahadah. “I bear witness that there is no god but God and Mohammad is the messenger of God.” It is meaningless unless it becomes a true expression. 2. Prayer: Obligatory prayers performed five times a day. Dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset and after dark. Has to be performed after ritual washing. (Wudu) A Ghusl (bath) is needed to remove major impurities such as sex, menstruation, contact with blood or dead body. A Mu’adhdhin chants the call to prayer (adhan). The prayers start of with proclamation of concentration (takbirat al-ihram). The prayers consist of cycles known as rakahs with bo
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