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RLG204Y1 Study Guide - Midterm Guide: Nicene Creed, Anachronism, Monolatrism

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Laury Silvers
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RLG204: Test 1 Study Guide October, 2015
Lectures Covered with Key Concepts, People, Events, Context, and Themes
*everything covered in these notes are just KEY points. I recommend reading again!
Lecture 1: The Early Community and Regional Context
-sources of information for this time: 1. Qur’an (best historical evidence) and it’s directly
responsive to Muhammad and his community; tells us about their attitudes
-tells us how the community saw itself in comparison to other communities
- 2. Hadith: but many are problematic and are not easy to date
-pre-Islamic Arabia was based on Bedouin clans and tribes, and relied on nomadic
lifestyle. As a result, they needed to raid and captives, and there were several wars.
-Stories titled “Days of the Arabs” described tribal conflicts, generosity, etc.
-Mecca as a trade hub because North and Central Arabia had little agriculture
-Mecca as religious center: no municipal authority but was pagan sanctuary
-outside political context: stratified societies of Byzantine + Persian empires
-Arab cultural context: poetry as weapons, polytheism, soothsayers,
-it’s also very likely that people were monolatrous
à Qur’an changes meaning of words- ex// dahr, kareem
-Arab social context: tribal society was systematically hierarchal- different statuses
amongst and within tribes, and definite gender differences (least status: women +slaves)
-androcentrism in Qur’an and scholarly studies: put men at centre of everything
Topics of Discussion
Quran in Conversation: document that argues a specific position, and in conversation
with all peoples in times. For example: one verse directly addresses Christians and the
Nicene creed, or right at Jewish literature.
Narratives of Prophet(s), and of Hajar: What does this story tell us? This story
reminds people of the Arab lineage, monotheistic line that existed starting from Abraham,
ownership of Kaba, rejection of other Abraham, but most importantly: ownership of
Abraham and ownership of God. 1
Miracle Stories and Character Stories: Why are these important? Miracle stories show
that there is truth and authority, and provide outside religious groups granting approval of
Mohammed’s prophethood (like the Christian monk). Character stories, again, remind
(c.f. J.Z Smith) how people understand who they are in comparison to other groups and
people, such as the incident of placing the stone on the Ka’ba, and Mohammed is unifier,
or like the garbage-throwing story. Is the story true and authentic? Not really, but then,
why is it kept around?
1 She ALWAYS brings this story up. 99.99% sure this is on the test J
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Lecture 2: The Early {Muslim} Community
-Transformation of society through language transformation- how ideas changed in the
region based on semantic shifts in the language; new meanings to words
-Qur’an took terms and shifted the meanings; i.e. kareem used to mean generous noble
free man, but later meant generosity that only God could provide. How does this change
the soecietal understandings of human beings?
-Semantic shifts in communities: Abraham as Muslim- not as follower of Muhammad but
as submitter to God
-Qur’an looks at past narratives of monotheism and pulls Jews and Christians into picture
-Qur’an consoles Muhammad: imagine his position as a new “preacher”
-Qur’an shift of social values: wealth + materialism less important, and there is instead a
greater focus on understanding the less fortunate
-The Miraj: what does this tell us about trust and forming new communities?
-Hijra: costs? Risks? What it meant to be ally of Muhammad? His expectations?
-Mohammed ensured peace treaties in Medina between Ansar and Muhajirun
-Shift of Quran’s message is shift of community: Baqara sets stage for community
-Anachronism: projecting our understanding of present on to the past
àin study of religion, we study how people construct narrative that provide order (maps)
to their world (territory) around them: such thing as ethical anachronism?
-historian perspective: important to see people as they saw themselves
-Shifting power relations: Muhammad and followers raided caravans, kept women as
booty, championing the marginalized, women’s social roles in Qur’an?
Miraj Story: Muhammad ascends to heaven and meets the prophets before him. They
confirm his messengerhood? Muhammad stands on rock- what does this symbolize?
What does the miraj story tell us? How did it contribute to the story of the Qur’an? How
has the story changed over time, and what does this do? How was this story perceived by
the Muslim community?
What were the tensions in Mecca like?
What were the costs of people who decided to leave?
Power and Dominations
How do people create identities of power through certain verses and narratives?
How do Muslims interpret different sources?
Which sources and stories do they elevate?
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