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SRS2112 Study Guide - Final Guide: Sufi Philosophy, Sadaqah, Religious Text

Religious Studies
Course Code
Shelley Rabinovitch
Study Guide

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SRS2112 Final Exam Review Islam
What are the differences between Sunnis and Shia?
Muslims are split into two main branches, the Sunnis and Shia. The split originates in a dispute soon
after the death of the Prophet Muhammad over who should lead the Muslim community.
The great majority of Muslims are Sunnis - estimates suggest the figure is somewhere between 85%
and 90%.Members of the two sects have co-existed for centuries and share many fundamental
beliefs and practices.Though they may not interact much outside the public sphere, there are always
exceptions. In urban Iraq, for instance, intermarriage between Sunnis and Shia was, until recently,
quite common. The differences lie in the fields of doctrine, ritual, law, theology and religious
organisation. Their leaders also often seem to be in competition.From Lebanon and Syria to Iraq
and Pakistan, many recent conflicts have emphasised the sectarian divide, tearing communities
Who are the Sunnis?
Sunni Muslims regard themselves as the orthodox and traditionalist branch of Islam.
The word Sunni comes from "Ahl al-Sunna", the people of the tradition. The tradition in this case
refers to practices based on precedent or reports of the actions of the Prophet Muhammad and
those close to him.
Sunnis venerate all the prophets mentioned in the Koran, but particularly Muhammad as the final
prophet. All subsequent Muslim leaders are seen as temporal figures.
In contrast to Shia, Sunni religious teachers and leaders have historically come under state control.
The Sunni tradition also emphasises a codified system of Islamic law and adherence to four schools
of law.
Who are the Shia?
In early Islamic history the Shia were a political faction - literally "Shiat Ali" or the party of Ali.
The Shia claimed the right of Ali, the son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad, and his descendants to
lead the Islamic community. Ali was killed as a result of intrigues, violence and civil wars which
marred his caliphate. His sons, Hassan and Hussein, were denied what they thought was their
legitimate right of accession to caliphate. Hassan is believed to have been poisoned by Muawiyah,
the first caliph (leader of Muslims) of the Umayyad dynasty.
His brother, Hussein, was killed on the battlefield along with members of his family, after being
invited by supporters to Kufa (the seat of caliphate of Ali) where they promised to
These events gave rise to the Shia concept of martyrdom and the rituals of grieving.
There is a distinctive messianic element to the faith and Shia have a hierarchy of clerics who
practise independent and ongoing interpretation of Islamic texts.
Estimates of the number of Shia range from 120 to 170 million, roughly one-tenth of all Muslims.
Shia Muslims are in the majority in Iran, Iraq, Bahrain, Azerbaijan and, according to some estimates,
Yemen. There are large Shia communities in Afghanistan, India, Kuwait, Lebanon, Pakistan, Qatar,
Syria, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
What role has sectarianism played in recent crises?
In countries that have been governed by Sunnis, Shia tend to make up the poorest sections of
society. They often see themselves as victims of discrimination and oppression. Some extremist
Sunni doctrines have preached hatred of Shia.
The Iranian revolution of 1979 launched a radical Shia Islamist agenda that was perceived as a
challenge to conservative Sunni regimes, particularly in the Gulf.
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Tehran's policy of supporting Shia militias and parties beyond its borders was matched by the Gulf
states, which strengthened their links to Sunni governments and movements abroad.
During the civil war in Lebanon, Shia gained a strong political voice because of the military activities
of Hezbollah.
In Pakistan and Afghanistan, hardline Sunni militant groups - such as the Taliban - have often
attacked Shia places of worship.The current conflicts in Iraq and Syria have also acquired strong
sectarian overtones. Young Sunni men in both countries have joined rebel groups, many of which
echo the hardline ideology of al-Qaeda. Meanwhile, many of their counterparts from the Shia
community have been fighting for - or alongside - government forces.
- Islam is the last of three historic monotheistic faiths that rose in the Middle East, coming after Judaism and
- the name means “submission” to God
- a person who professes Islam is called a Muslim, meaning “one who submits to God”
- the Qur’an is the Islamic scripture, it presents Islam as the universal and primordial faith of all prophets from
Adam to Muhammad and all those who have faith in God, the one sovereign Lord, creator, and sustainer of all
- Islam is God’s eternal way for the universe
- inanimate things, plants, animals, even the angels are all Muslims to God by nature or instinct
- human beings are the only ones that can reject God, but on the day of judgment they will face the
consequences of their choice
- they can expect to be rewarded for their faith or punished for their rejection of it
- most Muslims are born into Muslim families, but one can also become a Muslim by repeating two Muslim
witness: the shahadah or profession of faith, anyone who says it is legally a Muslim with all the rights and
responsibilities that this new identity entails
Pre-Islamic Arabia
- long period of pre-Islamic Arab history is called the age of Jahiliyah (foolishness), lack of morals
- before Islam, the Arabs did not believe in an afterlife
> the only form of life after death was the ghost of a slain man which would linger in this world until revenge
was taken, whether from the killer himself or from any man of similar status in his tribe, as a consequence long
and deadly feuds decimated tribes
- believed that humans ought to make the most of this life
- focused on early accomplishments and pleasures, values prowess and tribal solidarity
- Allah (God)
- before Islam the Arabs recognized Allah as the supreme creator god, but he was not the only recipient of
- god named Hubal (rain God) worshiped by Arabs
- three goddesses (said to be the daughters of Allah) named Al-Lat, al-‘Uzzah, and Manat worshiped by Arabs
but in Qur’an they are not
- Arabs believed in a scared place where no living thing (plant, animal, or human) can be harmed
- Mecca (city in Saudi Arabia) where deities were worshipped
- for Mecca and the rest of Arabia the chief haram was the shrine called the Ka’ba (ancient square building that
contained many idols or images of Gods) and still contains an unusual black stone that most think to be a
- radical class distinctions and social inequality and slavery was a tribal society
> believed to have been built by Abraham and his son Ishmael
> before Islam the Ka’ba was already widely used pilgrimage site, where people came to trade
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- Islam emerges in 7th century CE
> at this time Mecca was dominated by Quraysh tribe, and was influenced by both Judaism and Christianity
> also desert hermits that practices healing
> group of Meccan Arabs that shared the ethical monotheism of Judaism and Christianity
> BUT majority was polytheistic
Life of Muhammad (570-632CE)
- was born into the Quraysh tribe around 570
- father died before his birth and mother a few years later
- Muhammad was taken in and cared for by his grandfather and uncle
- little known of his youth
- joined his uncles family business in the caravan trade
- 20s, he was working as a merchant for a widow named Khadijah and she later proposed to him and he
- he was trustworthy and honest
- once a year during Ramadan Muhammad spent days in a cave on Mount Hira, they say on one of his retreats
is when he was called to prophet-hood and the first revelation of the Qur’an
- Mohammad was sitting one night in the solitude of his retreat an angel (Gabriel) appeared taking hold of him
and telling him to read but Muhammad could not
- he told his wife and his brother about what happened
- the angel returned to him and said that he was the messenger of God
- his wifes sister confirmed that he was the Prophet for the Arabs and chosen by God to deliver a sacred law to
his people just as Moses had to Jesus
- preached for 12 years with little success, Meccans did not want to abandon their polytheistic ways and they
feared the new faith
- Muhammad’s message was not only religious but also moral and social
> told Meccans to care for the orphaned, to feed the hungry, assist the oppressed
> also warned of impending doom on the day of the last judgment
> first to accept new faith were his wife, cousin, slave, and companion
- his followers were persecuted much like Jesus because of the polytheistic society, Muhammad advised them
to migrate across the Red Sea to the Christian country of Abysinia (Ethiopia) where they were well received
- Prophet was left without support or protection when both his wife and uncle died
- later entered into sister-wives type marriages
- night journey: he travels to Jerusalem
- in the mi’raj (miravulous ascent to heaven) he met some of the prophets who had died before him
- would be another 3 years before he was able to find a place for the Muslims to establish their own community
free from persecution
The 1st Muslim Community
- 622 an invitation was offered by the city of Yathrib near Mecca later called Medina
> came to be known as the city of the Prophet
> marked the beginning of community life under Islam
> established the first Islamic commonwealth (theocratic state headed by a prophet whose rule was
believed to follow the dictates of a divine scripture)
- Medina was agricultural society, included a Jewish community and tribes that kept the state in a continuous
state of civil strife
- Muhammad was good at making them all work together
- covenant of Medina: said that all the people of the city should form a single Muslim commonwealth
> granted the Jews full religious freedom and equality with the Muslims on condition that they support the
state and refrain from entering into any alliance against it
- Qur’rans narratives are linked to the prophetic view of history laid out in the Hebrew Bible
- Prophet expected the Jews of Medina recognized this kinship to be natural allies and he adopted a number of
Jewish practices including the fast of the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur)
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