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Lecture 8

Religion – Lecture 8

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David Perley

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Religion – Lecture 8  The pre-Islamic Context  Muhammad  The Five Pillars of Islam  The Qu‟ran  Think of today‟s class in terms of two analogies 1. The tradition of Islam is like walking around in a giant rubric‟s cube: Muslims are religious beliefs and practices 2. Mystery  In the Islamic tradition if you‟re able bodied and are able to afford it, what‟s part of what it means to be a Muslim at least once in your life you‟re going to go on Haj a pilgrimage to Mecca  Once you get to Mecca there‟s a series of activities that you participate in and one of the things you‟ll do is circumambulate the Kaaba (giant cube stone)  Rubics cube o Each perspective is going to be different from another perspective  Shi‟a and Sunni  The Jewish and Christian traditions within the Western world have been subject to extreme historical scrutiny o Respect other traditions  especially pertaining to post 9/11 o Treat all traditions the same  Use “according to the tradition…” or “In Islamic tradition it is believed that…”  important in demonstrating knowledge on the final exam  We can lock in the birthday of Muhammad to about 570 circa  As a historian the stories about Muhammad are in these stories, we cant say the 100% certainty that these are accurate historical stories but we can say you know what these stories and when they‟re collected and the interest in the sayings and doings of the prophet, these things tell us things about the earliest communities  Most historians will say its about the 9th or 10 century when Islam locks itself in a whole bunch of diff ways o Role of the prophet o Qu‟ran in the Haddith literature – the sophisticated literature that chronicles the sayings and doings of the prophet o Only by the 9/10 thcentury we have explicit reference to the party of Ali – this group that will eventually break off and form their own tradition o Start to see explicit reference to Sufis the mystical tradition within Islam o For the historian these are the pivotal centuries, this is when everything, when we start to get historical material that locks in this stuff o But the tradition believes that was happening earlier so the ideas we see in the 9th and 10 , the tradition reads back into the past  back reading o The division between the Sunni and Shi‟a, today we‟re talking about a history that predates those divisions, a history that is connected, united but again lets imagine our rubics cube isn‟t just Islam but is early history of Islam the Shi‟a tradition looks at events in that history differently than the Sunni tradition does  Imagine we‟re going to a presplit, this ideal early history that really all muslim group participate in  Now again as a historian, history can take eternal timeless things and make them into a process  So a lot of time historical examples of religion tends to conflict with the traditions own perspective  Islam doesn‟t just sprout out of nowhere, there‟s a context that sets the scene. But if I‟m coming at it from a very develop based perspective this tradition begins in mind when Muhammad starts receiving messages is when this tradition begins  We don‟t want to just see the story of Islam taking place in the Arabian Peninsula alone, like an isolated geographical region, we want to think of the broader complex  Muhammad proclaims this monotheistic tradition he‟ll actually say he‟s reviving something from the past but he‟s very aware of monotheistic traditions scholars are convinced that not only was he familiar with the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament but there‟s evidence that he was familiar with the Rubbinic works, commentaries in the Christian tradition this would suggest as a historian again that he connected to other people, he‟s familiar with this stuff  If we look at the Peninsula in focus, the people living there were primarily nomadic, not a really solidated group of people  There are two giants (analogy) observing the Arabian Peninsula at the time (6th century) o Besintine Empire = Eastern Christian empire o Persian Empire = Zoroastrianism (immense role historically)  When we talk about the Eastern tradition that emerges (eastern orthodox) remember that its in the East for a while and gets started there by Constantine  Religion then is - Zoroastrianism, Christianity, Judaism but also polytheistic cultures – within the Arabian peninsula depending on the context provide offerings to a god of health, tribal god, god of wealth, family clan god, so depending on the context in a polytheistic culture one might provide offerings to different gods depending on needs  Islam‟s own story really emphasizes this polytheistic company – once Muhammad starts receiving messages from god his first task is to combat what he sees as this polytheistic culture that is already at play  The Islamic tradition will emphasize the statues the idols the different gods, scholars don‟t want to forget when they‟re talking about polytheists they also mean these traditions (Judaism, Christianity)  Judaism and Christianity at times in the Qur‟an and referenced as valid traditions because those people are people of the book  So in some parts of the Qur‟an the idea that god is sending down messages is validated  But this is a new tradition that is kind of dipping its feet to this past but also has to justify that it‟s something new  The tradition as it emerges also had to distance itself from Judaism and Christianity and does that through the polytheistic argument  When the Qur‟an is talking about polytheism, its not only the issue of the idols and statues in the shrine of the Kaaba but its also Judaism and Christianity  In Christianity the trinity is one divine being that is manifested in different ways, but in the Islam tradition the idea that Jesus is divine sets up this two divinity thing, so it would claim the son of God is evidence that Christianity is a polytheistic tradition  There is a reference to the Qur‟an to Jews worshipping Ezra as the son of God, that‟s one example there where Judaism is participating in polytheism, what‟s fascinating as a historian is that we can‟t actually locate this reference in Jewish material  So again as a historian we think early Islam they‟re developing their arguments why this is a new legitimate tradition and why its different than Christianity and Judaism  It explains polytheism as the reason why Islam moves away the other two traditions  Pre-islamic period helps with the context and what was going on at the time of Muhammad and of the earliest muslims  The pre-Islamic tradition also serves as a function for the Islamic tradition itself, this is where we have to be very cautious  When the Islamic tradition itself talks about pre-islamic, pre-muhammad Arabian peninsula its being used as a counterpoint to legitimize the tradition  Early muslims talk about the pre-islamic period as the age of ignorance, ignorance of monotheism  The pre-islamic period serve to explain: here we‟ve got non-monotheists and now we have monotheism  Another way of thinking of this is as the early community develops they‟re deciding what their rules for eating, engagement in war  Some of these ideas they are going to inherit from the past  Some they do that are not from the past, for example: consumption of alcohol  What if they continue to do something from the past, how do we explain it, a way to continue something from the age of ignorance? The tradition say, that there may be one time in the past we had it right here, we lost it  Another way of thinking of Muhammad is someone who brings something back  The tradition also believes that monotheism did exist in the Arabian peninsula prior to that  Historians are trying to figure out why does the Muslim tradition get Abraham and Ishmael to the Arabian Peninsula?  The tradition believes that there is a preexisting monotheism in the ancient times, it gets water-down corrupted by human beings and Muhammad comes back to revivify that through this tradition  In actuality there is no evidence of prior monotheistic practice in the Arabian peninsula like the way the tradition explains THE PRE-ISLAMIC CONTEXT  Broad context: Arabian peninsula; Judaism; Christianity; Zoroastrianism  Pre-Islamic period = “counterpoint”  Jahiliyya; Abrahamic Myth  “revivifier”  Kaaba - The stone that is used today in muslim rituals is believed that Abraham and Ishmael travelled to the Arabian Peninsula and participated in ritualistic worship on this site - So this original site where the Kaaba is now is inscribed with sacred importance for the tradition even though prior to Muhammad this was part of this polytheistic culture - So again this is part of the idea of back-reading, if you‟re really pushing on historians it‟s not that they‟re saying that these people in this early path were making things up but they weren‟t recording things like they‟re filming, people within these traditions are remembering things to help secure the legitimacy of the tradition - The tradition sees this original site as the site that goes all the way back to the beginning (Adam‟s original site of worship) - Then it believes that this is where Abraham and those ancient times practiced monotheism properly, then we move forward in time the age of ignorance then Muhammad arrives to revivify the faith = breathe new life into the faith - How do we know whether we are continuing things from the past or not? o If we continue dietary practices, ritualistic practices then we‟re going to say we justify continuing them because they were part of this early Abrahamic tradition o But the stuff that we‟re not doing anymore like burying infants in the desert, that‟s part of this age of ignorance, its part of some other past way of being  Muhammad - C. 570-632 CE o Born around 570 in Mecca o He‟s part of the key tribe that is in charge of this city o It‟s a big tribe with subgroups, his subgroup is not an especially important group but he‟s part of this bigger clan which is in charge of the shrine in Mecca which organize the city o So if you‟re coming into the city to participate in the trade or peace talk or something like that, the city guarantees your safety, you can come in and can provide offerings to your god within the shrine and give them a bit of commission  that‟s the context of the Kaaba of the shrine and of Mecca at the time - Sacred biography (ex. Compiled 767 CE) o 611 CE: begins receiving revelations from Gabriel  this biography is according to the tradition, it‟s according to a particular tradition which began in the 8 th century = biographical tradition sometimes called the Sira literature  timeline: Qur‟an  biographical material (8 thcentury)  Hadith (9 and 10 th century) by the 9 /10 thcentury the tradition has a meticulous way of trying to figure out stories of the sayings and doings of the prophet, not only do we have an enormous collection of what he said and did, the tradition actually systematized how to know which ones were legitimate th  by the 9 that has been systematized  the Hadith literature is the sayings and doings of the prophet, it relied on the earlier biographical material but it kind of used it with a grain of salt because the earlier biographical material wasn‟t writing his stories as a prophet as though it was a video camera trying to capture things, he‟s celebrating the prophet  these biographies got exaggerated but the point of the biographies was to celebrate him so why are we talking about it at all? o Because historians want to get as close as we can, because the biogr
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