The Islamic Tradition

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12 Dec 2010
The Islamic Tradition
Arabia Before Islam
When Muhammad was born (570) Arabias most glorious times were over.
Central Arabia, primitive religion still maintained- many tribal sanctuaries.
Many polytheistic religions existed.
Many characterize this time as a state of jahiliyya.
Caves and stones regarded as sacred and filled with Baraka (blessing and power). Center of the stone cult was
Mecca. (Black stone in southeastern corner of the Kaba- goal of annual pilgrimages.)
Arabic language highly developed at this early time.
In ancient Arabic poetry, Christian motifs appear.
Many contacts with Christians and Jews- some speculate this are would have become a Christian country, had
Muhammad not come along.
Has been described as cornerstone on which Qutbs (Islamic Philosopher of 20th century) most radical thinking rests.
Defined as Age of Ignorance”. Taken to refer to the Arabian society of the century prior to Muhammads mission.
Form Jahiliyya appears 4 times in Quran, never in the sense of ignorance however.
Also: Every such conduct which goes against Islamic culture, morality, and the Islamic way of thinking and
Many believe we are still currently in a state of Jahiliyya. They believe a society is either Jahiliyya or Islamic- cannot
be both.
The Life of Muhammad (570-632 CE)
Muhammad born ~570 in Mecca as member of the Hashim clan of the Quraish.
Muhammad devoted himself to Trade. Muhammad married Khadija, and did not marry any other women as long as
Khadija lived. (she died when Muhammad was ~50)
After Khadijas death, he had several wives.
Muhammad liked to meditate in a cave in Mt.Hira.
Around the age of 40, Muhammad was overcome by visions and voices.
1st proclamations preached by Muhammad were regarding the nearing day of Judgment
Meccan merchants did not take Muhammad’s message seriously.
God’s unity was to remain the heart of Islam..
Muhammad saw himself as a messenger to the Arabs: sent to warn them, as no prophet had been sent to them since
Hostility of Meccans increased. Therefore, a group of the new Muslims immigrated to Abyssinia, a Christian country.
Muhammad convinced he was preaching the same truth that Jews and Christians had been teaching and practicing.
His faith in Abraham who, through Ishmael, is the ancestor of the Arabs and is believed to have founded the central
sanctuary in Mecca, the Kaba.
Ka’ba: Cube-shaped monument in Mecca containing a sacred black stone. All Muslim prayer faces the direction of
the Kaba.
Muhammad stayed in Medina until his death in 632.
The revelations that came upon Muhammad during the last decade of his life are stylistically quite different from the
earlier ones.
The First Muslim Community (Umma)
Muhammad’s migration (Hijra) to Medina in 622 CE marked the beginning of community life under Islam.
This date (622) also marked the beginning of the dating system used throughout the Muslim world
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In Medina, Muhammad established the first Islamic commonwealth: a truly theocratic state, headed by a prophet
believed to be of divine inheritance.
While in Medina, Muhammad successfully united 2 rival tribes (Aws + Khazraj).
While in Medina, he also created the Medina Constitution.
oThis regulated relations with Jews and Christians
oInvented Shura: Islamic participatory decision making.
oClarified what it means to be a Muslim and what a Muslim community is.
In the Quran the people of Medina are called Ansar (‘helpers’) because they were the 1st supporters and protectors
of Islam and the Prophet.
The Conversion of Mecca
Battle of Badr.
Muhammad’s Strategy:
oQuiet persuasion.
oBattles and warfare.
o2 Goals: (1) To create, establish and protect the Muslim Umma; (2) To return to Mecca.
The Caliphate had a worldly as well as a religious dimension from the beginning. As a successor of the Prophet, the
caliph was a religious leader. At the same time, he was also the chief or administrative head of the community, as
well as the amir or commander of the Muslims in times of war and peace.
Prophets and Messengers
According to the Quran and Islamic tradition, God operates through prophets and messengers who convey God’s will
in revealed scriptures and through prophets and messengers.
The Quran
Quran = Recitation”. Believed to be the unadulterated word of God. (not words of a prophet)
The primordial Koran, which exists in heaven on a well-preserved tablet, manifested itself in this book which only
the purified are permitted to touch and to recite.
Text in Quran contains solutions for all problems of the world but there are unknown divine mysteries hidden in
the sequence of its verses and in the arrangements of its letters.
One difficulty for non-Muslim reader: order of the text is not chronological. Sacred texts were put together in the days
of the caliph- the chapters (suras) were arranged in the descending length.
114 suras in total- they have brief titles which are not originally part of the original sura.
Each single verse of the Quran is called ayat sign” or miracle”.
Teaches that man is superior to all spirits and angels, for God breathed into Adam from His breath”
Man’s first sin, induced by eating a certain grain, was not contagious contrary to Christian doctrine of original sin.
Teaches that human beings are good by nature and change due to the influence of their environment.
Muslims desire was to recite the Quran as beautifully as possible, and the art of tilawat, the proper musical
recitation, developed into a high art.
Quran is primarily a book of religious and moral principles and exhortations, and it not a legal document.
Most important legal enactment and general reforms of the Quran have been about women and slavery
Quran improved the status of the woman in several directions by the most basic is the fact that the woman was given
a full-fledged personality.
The woman has been granted the same rights over man as man has over his wife, except that man, bring the earning
partner, is a degree higher.
Unlimited polygamy was strictly regulated and the number of wives was limited to 4.
The Quran accepts the institution of slavery on the legal plane- but at same time every legal and moral effort was
made to free the slaves and to create a milieu where slavery ought to disappear.
Quran also tells the Muslim that if a slave wants to purchase their freedom, they must allow him to do so
During lifetime of Mohammad the Quran had been committed to memory by many people and recited in prayers.
Some evidence in earliest generation of Islam that people were opposed to any interpretations of the Quran.
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Knowledge of Arabic language and Arabic idiom of the times of Muhammad were prerequisite for a proper
understanding of the Quran.
Backgrounds of the Quranic revelations called the occasions of revelation’ were recorded as a necessary aid for
fixing the correct meaning of the word of God.
Thirdly, historical tradition containing reports about how those among who the Quran 1st appeared understood its
injunctions and statements was given great weight.
The Status of the Quran
Muslims understand the Quran to have been revealed specifically in the Arabic language.
Muslims consider it inconceivable to translate” the Quran into any language.
Muslims believe Quran is an immutable heavenly book that is the literal words of God.
Muslims desire was to recite the Quran as beautifully as possible, and the art of tilawat, the proper musical
recitation, developed into a high art.
Compiling the Quran
When Prophet died in 623, there were many people who had committed the Quran to memory.
The process of producing an official text of the Quran was completed under the 3rd Caliph, Uthman b. Affan’, within
20 years of the Prophets death.
Muslims believe that the ordering of the Chapters and verses were divinely inspired.
Due to this format, it enables the believer to start at any point in the text.
Of the 114 surahs, 113 are preceded by the invocation in the name of God, the All-merciful, the Compassionate’).
Quranic Commentary ( Tafsir)
Tafsir: The term for commentary on the Quran; means unveiling or elucidating the meaning of a text.
Any such interpretation is based on 1 of 3 authoritative sources: (1)The Quran itself; (2) Hadith; (3) the opinions of
the Prophets companions and their successors.
The Qurans Concept of God
The Quran presents its view of the divinity in direct and unambiguous declarations of faith in the One and only God,
creator, sustainer, judge and sovereign Lord over all creation.
For Muslims, it is a sin to associate any other being with God or to ascribe divinity to any but God alone/
Islamic theology holds that God’s essence is unknowable, inconceivable, and above all categories of time, space, form
and number.
Faith and Action
Righteousness, as it is expressed in the Quran has several components.(1)Faith in God, God’s angels, books, and
prophets, and the Day of Judgment.
3 Principles of Islam: Tawhid (belief in God); Prophecy; Day of Judgment.
Iman: Faith, trust and a personal sense of safety and well-bring in God’s providential care, mercy and justice.
Opposite of Iman is Kufr which is ‘rejection of faith’.
Quran makes clear distinction between Islam and Faith. Outwardly, Islam is a religious, social and legal institution,
whose members are part of the Umma. Faith (iman) is an inner conviction whose sincerity God alone can judge.
Above Islam and Iman, stands ihsan (‘doing good or creating beauty’). Ihsan is a concrete manifestation of both Islam
and Iman. Ihsan constitutes the highest form of worship.
Religious Sciences
Actions are classified into 5 categories: Halal (Obligatory); Mustahabb (recommended); mubah (neutral); makruh
(Disliked); haram (forbidden).
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