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Alireza Haghighi

Review for Islam: Week #1—The Arabia before Islam 1. Pre-Islamic Arabia – The Era of Jahiliyya The pre-Islamic Arabia was a society in which: -cities like Mecca and Median were prospering and attracting many from a nomadic to a more sedentary life; -the emergence of Mecca as a major mercantile centre gave rise to the beginnings of a new political, social and economic order; -The new wealth, the rise of a new commercial oligarchy from within the Quraysh tribe created a greater division between social classes. -There was a growing disparity between rich and poor -This economic and social division strained the traditional system of Arab tribal values and social security and its way of life -This was the time and social milieu into which Mohammad, the man, was born. -It is in this context that many Islamic scholars argue that the spirit of Islam is about social justice. 2. Why pre-Islamic Arabia is called Jahiliyya A  Lack of Tawhid (believe in one god) -Monotheism, belief in one god, did exist prior to Islam –evidence: both Jewish and Christian Arab communities had been present in Arabia before Mohammad -the main characteristic of Jahiliyya period is polytheism –Evidence: the Arabian God was associated with three goddesses who were daughters of Allah: al-Lat, Manat and al-Uzza B  Characterized by fatalism -no resurrection of the body -no divine punishment -justice was guaranteed and administered not by God, but by threat of group vengeance -little sense of cosmic moral purpose nor individual or communal moral responsibility C  Extreme inequality among men and women -the prevalence of femicide among Arabs 3. Geographical context  the Arabian Peninsula: -mainly of rock and desert - approx. 700 miles wide and 1000 miles long -on its coast, there is numerous ports ….they were part of trade network which linked India to Mesopotamia to East Africa, Egypt and the Mediterranean -important town and cities: Mecca (the center for trade and commerce); Yathrib (Medina) which was an important agricultural settlement  Important event that changed the demographic structure of the peninsula -bursting and collapse of the great dam of Ma’rib in the Yemen -the inhabitants were forced to migrate northwards -this was the Arabia of Mohammad’s day 4. Social Organization and Identity th  in 7 century AD -only a few lived in urban cities -majority of people lived in tribes -principal sources of livelihood: herding, agriculture, trade and raiding from inter-tribal wars  Intertribal warfare: -long established activity -effect on social, cultural and moral structure of Arabs -example: it’s effect on gender relation and women’s role in society –women were deemed a liability rather than an asset –the prevalent act of femicide among Arabs which Mohammad banned when he became the prophet -these wars had clear economic motivation -clans were created -family lineage important concern of the Arabs -Mohammad the man, belonged to the Banu Hashim, a lesser clan of the powerful Quraysh tribe which dominated Meccan society 5. Religion of Arabia -reflected its tribal nature and social structure -worshipped many gods and goddesses and the spirits of these gods were associated with sacred objects such as trees, stone, springs and wells -Mecca possessed a central shrine of the gods 6. Value system and ethical code -“tribal humanism” -way of life whose origins were not ascribed to God -key virtues: (1): manliness—emphasized bravery in battles, (2) loyalty to family and protection of its members; (3) hospitality, patience and persistence; (4) the preservation of tribal and family honor Week #2 1. Three stages of the Prophet’s life A Muhammad before prophecy—Muhammad the man -he was an orphan, an honest man, lived humbly, sensitive soul, spiritual man, his marriage to Khadija, Khadija’s role in Muhammad’s life (first Muslim, financial support, moral support, political support), and his critical support to his society… -he was against Meccan’s hypocrisy and Arab’s philosophy of life (against fatalism of Arabs and against Bedouin’s crude materialism) B  Muhammad after he became a prophet: before Hijra C Muhammad after he became a prophet: after Hijra 2. How did the Revelation happen -around 610 AD Angel Gabriel appeared to Muhammad while he had retired into mount Hira during one of his meditative nights -Muhammad later narrated the event to his wife Khadija as follows: “He came to me while I was sleep and said, “Read!” I said “What shall I read?” He pressed me with it again so that I thought it was death; then he let me go and said “Read!” I said, “What shall I read?” He pressed me with it the third time so that I thought it was death and said “Read!” I said, “What then shall I read?” – and this I said only to deliver myself from him, lest he should do the same to me again.” -Gabriel then gave Muhammad the first verses of Sura 96 of the Holy Quran 3. Muhammad the Prophet – Before Hijra (flight to Medina) -three important aspects of Muhammad’s prophecy while he was in Mecca (1) Muhammad’s method of spreading the message of Islam (2)  Muhammad’s opponents and their styles of confrontation (3)  Muhammad’s search for a brighter future for his religion—Hijra 4. A) The Prophet’s method of spreading the message of Islam  Quiet persuasion: -focused on close families and relatives -the first Muslims: Khadija; Ali Ibn Abi-Talib (the prophet’s cousin)’ Abu-Bakr; Zayd Ibn Haritha -focused on simple rituals like praying and on principles of Tawhid; prophecy and Day of Judgment -after 3 years, he started to invite people to Islam -the Arabs, both elites and slaves started to join Muhammad -gave rise to fear among elites B) The Prophet’s opponents and their styles of confrontation  Muhammad’s staunch opponents: -Muhammad’s first enemy: his own uncle Abu Lahab and his wife -Kabbaa’s trustees -Tribal leaders  Styles of confrontation: -bribery, persecution, boycott his tribe, assassination plan  conclusion: Muhammad realized that in order to survive, he must expand and/or go beyond Mecca 5. The Prophet’s search for a brighter future for his religion – Hijra A) Negotiating with Medina delegate B) Sending a convoy to Negus, the monarch of Abyssinia C) Finally escaping to Medina 6. The Prophet after Hijra (in Medina) -Hijra: 622 AD -Hijra: Muslim community (Umma) came into being -Umma: defining point of the Islamic sense of identity based on common faith (instead of pre- Islamic tribal sense of identity) Week #3 1) the meaning of the Quran and Its Role in a Muslim’s life -is a book of God (Kital al-allah) -is the eternal, uncreated, literal word of God -sent down from Heaven -revealed to Prophet Muhammad as guide for humankind –this belief is the focal point of Islamic faith -for Muslims, there is no doubt about the status of our scripture 2) The Quran As a Book -each sura is divided into verses called ayas -the total number of ayas are around 6236 -the Quran was revealed to Muhammad over a period of 22 years -it is around 4/5 of the size of the New Testament -the language of the Quran appears archaic and rooted in Arab environment -tone of the Quran is aphoristic; collection of condensed statements expressing the wisdom and will of Allah 3) The History of the Quran -it was initially preserved in oral and written form during the lifetime of the prophet -the prophet himself is excluded from any role in collection of the text -there is a saying that the prophet went over the whole Quran with his cousin Ali (who was his cousin, son-in-law and fourth caliph and first Imam of Shi’i) -first period who is credited with early collection of Quran is Zayd Ibn Thabit -it is important to remember that the Quran was collected, not edited or organized thematically 4) Orientalist View of the Quran orientalists usually criticize the Quran claiming that: -it has an arbitrary structure and organization -there is no chronological order of material -there is no explicit thematic order to the material -there is frequent repetition of themes throughout the book  the format of the Quran seems frustrating to many non-Muslims 5) The Major Teachings of the Quran -reading the Quran shows that it is preoccupied with following topics: A) Allah and his laws -Allah rules over the Quran -Allah’s name appears in the Quran more than 2500 times -He is all mighty, all powerful, all merciful -Allah has given his creatures a law by which they should live -Allah will bring about the end of the world at a time only known by Him B) The Quranic Universe -consists of three realms: heaven, earth, hell -Somewhere between angels and humans are the invisible, intelligent spirits called jinn -First, it is Adam, not Eve, who is tempted by the devil - The woman is not portrayed as the cause of the Fall, as in the Judeo-Christian traditions - Moreover, the sin of Adam and Eve is just that –their own personal sin. - The essence of human uniqueness lies in one’s vocation as God’s representative (khalifa, deputy) on earth. - God has given people the earth as a divine trust (33:72) to whom God has made all creation subservient (16:12-14). - It is here that we see the roots of Islamic ethics: God ordains; humankind is to implement his will. C) The Muslim Community –The Umma -Muslim mission is to be a servant of God and to spread God’s rule is both an individual and a community obligation -the Quran emphasizes the social dimension of service to God -While recognizing differences in status, wealth and tribal origin, the Quran teaches the ultimate supratribal (transnational) unity and equality of all believers before God. 26 -The socioeconomic reforms of the Quran are among its most striking features. Exploitation of the poor, weak, widows, women, orphans (4:2; 4:12) and slaves is vividly condemned. -False contracts, bribery, abuse of women, hoarding of wealth to the exclusion of its subordination to higher ends, and usury are denounced. - The Quran demands that Muslims pursue a path of social justice rooted in the recognition that the earth belongs ultimately to God and that human beings are its caretakers. -Social justice was institutionalized by Quranic decrees that requires the payment of an alms tax (zakat) and voluntary charity (sadaqa) for the poor D) The final Judgment E) the Path to Paradise F) The previous prophets Week #4 1. The Three principles of Islamic faith (originally there are 6) -Allah -the angels -the scriptures -the prophets -the Last Day -the measuring out  three broad categories are: Tawhid, Prophecy and eschatology/return a) Tawhid -no god but God -explains the nature of Allah and the ways various creatures are connection to Him -Allah is one b) Prophecy -explains who the prophets are -explains the function of their scriptures c) The Return -explains the Last day -what happens after death -eschatology: the knowledge of the last things 2. Two principles added by Shi’i theologians -Justice (adl): as specifying the nature of Tawhid -Imamate (imama): certain aspects of prophecy extended through the imams (12 imams) 3. Five Pillars of Islam & their significance a) The Shahadah -literally means to testify or to bear witness -acknowledging the reality of Allah, the prophecy of Muhammad and the truth of the Quran b) Salat -a ritual prayer -it has several meanings, like the Quran -The prophet: salat is the center pole of Islam c) Zakat -alms tax -A certain percentage of one’s acquired property or profit for the year that is paid to the needy - Eight categories of people to whom Zakat should be given: the needy, the poor, those who collect the zakat, those whose hearts are to be reconciled to Islam, captives, those in debt, those who are fighting in Allah’s path, and travelers. - Zakat actualizes the care for the needy, the principle of distributive justice, and the Allah’s call for social justice d) Fasting -fast during the month of Ramadan -9 month of Islamic calendar -to refrain from eating, drinking, smoking, and sexual activity -fasting has a strong social component e) Hajj -the pilgrimage to the house of Allah, if you’re able to -begins on the eight and depending on the 13 day of the last lunar month -history of Mecca -The purpose of hajj: to renew one’s vow with Allah and to answer Allah’s call to come and visit him Week #5 1. What is Sunnah -sunnah = the prophet’s custom (his words, deeds and habitual practices) –well known in pre- Islamic Arabia -it’s an ideal as well as a memory -ideal = it is the archetype for Muslim life -memory = it is remembered and transmitted by means of literary form called Hadith
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