FOUNDED: 622 c.e.
RELIGION AS A PERCENTAGE OF WORLD POPULATION: 20 percent
The religion of Islam was revealed to Muhammad ibn Abdullah, who became known as the Prophet Muhammad, in central Arabia between 610 and 632 c.e. Muhammad did not think that he was founding a new religion with a new scripture but, rather, bringing belief in the one God, a belief already held by Christians and Jews, to the Arabs. The Koran's revelations were seen as a return in the midst of a polytheistic society to the forgotten past, to the faith of the first monotheist, Abraham. Muslims believe that God sent revelations first to Moses, as found in the Hebrew scriptures (the Torah), then to Jesus (the Gospels), and finally to Muhammad (the Koran).
The revelations Muhammad received led him to believe that, over time, Jews and Christians had distorted God's original messages to Moses and, later, to Jesus. Thus, Muslims see the Torah and the Gospels as a combination of the original revelations and later human additions, or interpolations. For example, Christian doctrines such as the Trinity and the divinity of Jesus (his elevation from prophet to Son of God) are seen as changes to the divine revelation from outside or foreign influences.
The Koran contains many references to stories and figures in the Old and New Testaments, including Adam and Eve, Abraham and Moses, David and Solomon, and Mary and Jesus. Indeed, Mary, the mother of Jesus, is mentioned more times in the Koran than in the Gospels. Muslims view Jews and Christians as People of the Book, who received revelations through prophets in the form of revealed books from God.
In addition to belief in a single, all-powerful God, Islam shares with Judaism and Christianity belief in the importance of community-building, social justice, and individual moral decision-making, as well as in revelation, angels, Satan, a final judgment, and eternal reward and punishment. Therefore, Islam was not a totally new monotheistic religion and community that sprang up in isolation. Muslims believe that Islam was, in fact, the original religion of Abraham. The revelations Muhammad received were calls to religious and social reform. They emphasized social justice (concern for the rights of women, widows, and orphans) and warned that many had strayed from the message of God and his prophets. They called upon all to return to what the Koran refers to as the straight path of Islam or the path of God, revealed one final time to Muhammad, the last, or "seal," of the prophets.
The diversity of Islam, the world's second largest religion, is reflected by the geographic expanse of the 56 countries that have Muslim majorities. The world's approximately 1.2 billion Muslims are found not only from Africa to Southeast Asia but also in Europe and North America. Only 20 percent of the world's Muslims are Arab, with the majority of Muslims living in Asian and African countries. The largest Muslim populations are found in Indonesia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, and Nigeria. Islam is also a significant presence in the West, as the second largest religion in Europe and projected to become the second largest in the United States. While Muslims share certain core beliefs, there are many interpretations and cultural practices of Islam. Beyond the two major branches of Islam—Sunni (approximately 85 percent of the Muslim community) and Shiite (15 percent)—there are many theological and legal schools, as well as the diversity of thought and practice illustrated by Sufism (Islamic mysticism).
Islam's many faces across the world are seen in diverse cultures. They are seen in Muslim women's dress and in their varied educational and professional opportunities, as well as in their participation in mosques and societies that differ widely from country to country. They are also seen in politics and society when Islamic activists peacefully press for the implementation of religion in the state, when members of Islamic organizations are elected to parliaments (as in Turkey, Algeria, Jordan, Egypt, Kuwait, Yemen, Pakistan, Thailand, and Malaysia), and when Islamic associations provide inexpensive and efficient educational, legal, and medical services in the slums and lower middle-class neighborhoods of Cairo and Algiers, Beirut and Mindanao, the West Bank and Gaza. At the same time, on 11 September 2001 violent extremists and terrorists headed by Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda, acting in the name of Islam, hijacked commercial airliners and flew them into the towers of the World Trade Center in New York City and into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., resulting in the loss of almost 3,000 lives. The hijackers who committed this act reflect a religious radicalism that, for several decades, has threatened governments and societies in the Muslim world and in the West. The challenge, however, is not only to be aware of the threat from Muslim extremist groups but also to know and understand the faith of the vast majority of mainstream Muslims across the globe.
Like Judaism and Christianity, Islam originated in the Middle East, in Mecca and Medina in Arabia. The origins of Islam, like those of Judaism and Christianity, would have seemed improbable as forecasters of a great world religion. Just as few would have anticipated the extent to which Moses and Jesus, a slave and a carpenter's son, would become major religious figures, so one would not have predicted that the followers of an orphaned, illiterate caravan manager, Muhammad ibn Abdullah, would become the world's second largest religion, a global religious, political, and cultural presence and power.
Muslims see themselves, as well as Jews and Christians, as children of Abraham, belonging to different branches of the same religious family. The Koran and the Old Testament, or Hebrew Bible, both tell the story of Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar, Sarah's Egyptian servant. While Jews and Christians are held to be descended from Abraham and his wife, Sarah, through their son, Isaac, Muslims trace their religious roots to Abraham through Ismail (Ishmael), his firstborn son by Hagar. This connection to Abraham, Hagar, and Ismail is commemorated each year in the rituals of the pilgrimage to Mecca.
CRESCENT MOON AND STAR.
The Crescent Moon and Star is a symbol frequently associated with the Islamic faith. The crescent moon in particular is of considerable significance. The sighting of the crescent moon, for example, signals the beginning and end of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting. The symbol is often found on the flag of Muslim nations.
According to both Hebrew and Muslim scripture, when, after many years, Sarah did not conceive a child, she urged Abraham to sleep with her maidservant Hagar so that he might have an heir. As a result of the union between Abraham and Hagar, a son, Ismail, was born. After Ismail's birth Sarah also became pregnant and gave birth to Isaac. Sarah then became jealous of Ismail, who as firstborn would be the prime inheritor and overshadow her own son, and she pressured Abraham to send Hagar and Ismail away. Abraham reluctantly let Hagar and his son go, because God promised that he would make Ismail the father of a great nation. Islamic sources say that Hagar and Ismail ended up in the vicinity of Mecca in Arabia, and both the Bible and the Koran say that they nearly died but were saved by a spring that miraculously gushed from the desert.
In seventh-century Arabia, where Muhammad ibn Abdullah was born, war was the natural state. Arabia was located in the broader Near East, which was divided between two warring superpowers, the Byzantine (Eastern Roman) and the Sasanian (Persian) empires, that were competing for world dominion. Located along the profitable trade routes of the Orient, Arabia was affected by the rivalry and interventions of its powerful imperial neighbors.
Pre-Islamic Arabia was tribal in its religious, social, and political ideas, practices, and institutions. Tribal and family honor were central virtues. Manliness (chivalry, upholding tribal and family honor, and courage in battle) was a major virtue celebrated by the poets of the time. There was no belief in an afterlife or a cosmic moral purpose or in individual or communal moral responsibility. Thus, justice was obtained and carried out through group vengeance or retaliation. Arabia and the city of Mecca, in which Muhammad was born and lived and received God's revelation, were beset by tribal raids and cycles of vendettas. Raiding was an integral part of tribal life and society and had established regulations and customs. Raids were undertaken to increase property and such goods as slaves, jewelry, camels, and live-stock. Bloodshed was avoided, if at all possible, because it could lead to retaliation.
Religion in Arabia at the time was predominantly polytheistic. Various gods and goddesses who were feared, not loved, served as protectors of the many tribes. These gods were the objects of cultic rituals and supplication at local shrines, reflecting the tribal nature and social structure of society. Mecca was a rising commercial and religious center that housed the Kaaba, a cube-shaped structure that contained representations of approximately 360 different tribal gods and goddesses. At the head of the shrine's pantheon was the supreme god, Allah, who was seen as the creator and sustainer of life and the universe but who was remote from everyday concerns. Mecca was also the site of a great annual fair and pilgrimage to the Kaaba, a highly profitable event. It brought worshipers of the different gods from far and wide, along with their money and their business interests. In addition to the prevailing tribal polytheism, Arabia was also home to a variety of monotheistic communities, in particular Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians, which Muhammad encountered in his travels as a businessman.
The traditional sources for information about Muhammad's life are the Koran, as well as biographies of the Prophet and hadith (tradition) literature. Muhammad ibn Abdullah (Muhammad, the son of Abdullah) was born in 570 c.e. in Mecca. Although born into the ruling tribe, the Quraysh, Muhammad was among the "poorer cousins." Orphaned at an early age (his father died before he was born, and his mother died when he was six years old), Muhammad was raised by his uncle, Abu Talib, a well-respected and powerful member of the Quraysh, who provided Muhammad and, later, his community with protection. As a young man Muhammad earned his living as a business manager for the caravans of a wealthy widow named Khadijah. At the age of 25, Muhammad married Khadijah, who was 15 years older. Tradition records that they were married for 24 years and had two sons who died in infancy and four surviving daughters, the most famous of whom was Fatimah, who married Ali, the fourth caliph. Khadijah was the first person to believe in the revelation Muhammad had received, making her the first Muslim convert. She was Muhammad's strongest supporter and adviser, particularly during the early, difficult years after his call as a prophet.
By the age of 30, Muhammad had become a respected member of Meccan society, known for his business skills and trustworthiness (he was nicknamed al-Amin, "the trustworthy"). Reflective by temperament, Muhammad often retreated to the quiet and solitude of Mount Hira to contemplate life and society. It was there, during the month of Ramadan in 610, on a night remembered in Muslim tradition as the Night of Power, that Muhammad, the Meccan businessman, was called to be a prophet of God. Muhammad heard a voice commanding him to "recite." He was frightened and replied that he had nothing to recite. After the angel, identified as Gabriel, repeated the command, the words finally came: "Recite in the name of your Lord who has created, created man out of a germ cell. Recite for your Lord is the Most Generous One, who has taught by the pen, Taught man what he did not know."
This was the first of what would be many revelations from Allah, "the God" in Arabic, communicated through the angel Gabriel. Muhammad continued to receive revelations over the next 22 years, until his death in 632. The revelations were preserved verbatim orally and written down by scribes, and they were later collected and compiled into the Koran, the Muslim scripture. The reformist message Muhammad received, like that of Amos and other prophets before him, represented a powerful but unwelcome challenge to religious and tribal leaders and to businessmen, who comprised the religious and political establishment. Muhammad denounced corrupt business practices and called for social justice for the poor and women, and for children and orphans, the most vulnerable in society. He emphasized the religious equality of men and women and expanded the marriage and inheritance rights of women. Muhammad's prophetic message summoned the people to strive and struggle (jihad) to live a good life based on religious belief rather than loyalty to their tribe and to reform their communities. Most importantly, Muhammad's revelation in the Koran rejected the common practice of worshiping many gods, insisting that there was only one true God. He therefore threatened the livelihood of those who profited enormously from the annual pilgrimage honoring many different gods, the equivalent of a giant tribal convention.
During the first 10 years of Muhammad's preaching, his community of believers remained small and under constant pressure and persecution. In an increasingly hostile environment they were compelled to struggle to stay alive. The life and livelihood of the community were eventually threatened by sanctions that prevented them from doing business and that were literally starving them out. This hardship may have contributed to the death of Khadijah, and after his fortunes were destroyed, Abu Talib, Muhammad's protector, also died. Muhammad was now a likely and proximate target for assassination.
It was at this low point in his life that Muhammad had a mystical experience: the Night Journey, or Ascension. One night, sleeping near the Kaaba, Muhammad was awakened by the angel Gabriel. Muhammad was mounted on a mystical steed called Buruq, who flew him from Mecca to Jerusalem, which is referred to in the Koran as al-masjid al-aqsa (Further Mosque) and which is the site of the Temple Mount, where the ancient Temple of Solomon once stood. There, according to tradition, Muhammad climbed a ladder leading to the throne of God. Along the way to the throne, Muhammad met Abraham, Moses, Joseph, John the Baptist, and Jesus, as well as other prophets. During his meeting with God, Muhammad received guidance for the final number of daily prayers that Muslims should perform, set at five. The Night Journey, which is understood by many Muslims as a mystical experience, made Jerusalem the third holiest city in Islam and affirmed the continuity of Islam with Judaism and Christianity.
Faced with increasing hardships, Muhammad was invited in 622 by a delegation from Yathrib, a city in the north that was caught in a bitter feud between its Arab tribes, to be their binding arbitrator. That his decisions were to be accepted by all the tribes was testimony to Muhammad's wide reputation as a trustworthy and just man. Muhammad began sending his followers to Yathrib, and he followed a short time afterward, thus escaping those plotting to kill him. Yathrib would later be renamed Medina, or Medinat al-Nabi (City of the Prophet). This migration (hijra, or hegira) of the Muslim community from the traditional safety of tribe and kinsmen in warring Arabia to form alliances with alien
- al-hajj / al-hajji
- pilgrim; prefix added to a name to indicate that the person has made the hajj
- successor; deputy to the Prophet Muhammad
- call to Islam; propagation of the faith
- protected person, specifically a Jew or Christian
- personal prayer
- fast of Ramadan
- fast during ninth month; fourth pillar
- legal opinion or judgment of a mufti, a specialist in Islamic law
- Five Pillars of Islam
- fundamental observances
- ritual cleansing before worship
- tradition; reports of Muhammad's sayings and deeds
- pilgrimage to Mecca; fifth pillar
- meat slaughtered in a religious manner
- Muslim dress for women, today often referring to a headscarf
- hijra (hegira)
- migration of early Muslims from Mecca to Medina
- Shiite prayer leader; also used as the title for Muhammad's successors as leader of the Muslim community, consisting of male descendants through his cousin and son-in-law Ali
- submission to the will of God; peace
- strive, struggle
- poll, or head, tax paid by Jews and Christians
- Friday congregational prayer
- sacred structure in Mecca; according to tradition, built by Abraham and Ismail
- Koran (Quran)
- revelation; Muslim scripture
- Islamic religious school
- place for ritual prostration; mosque
- niche in mosque indicating the direction of Mecca
- protected religious community
- raised platform in mosque; pulpit
- People of the Book
- Jews and Christians, who Muslims believe received divine revelations in the Torah and Gospels, respectively
- almsgiving for the poor, for thanksgiving, or to ward off danger
- prayer or worship; second pillar
- declaration of faith; first pillar
- Islamic law
- member of second largest Muslim sect, believing in the hereditary succession of Ali, the cousin and son-in-law of Muhammad, to lead the community
- example of Muhammad
- member of largest Muslim sect, holding that the successor (caliph) to Muhammad as leader of the community should be elected
- chapter of the Koran
- oneness, or unity, of God; monotheism
- religious leader or scholar
- the transnational community of followers of Islam
- friend of God; Sufi saint
- ablution before worship
- purification; tithe or almsgiving; third pillar
tribes based upon a broader Islamic ideal was a concept introduced by Muhammad, one that would have remarkable success.
The migration to Medina and the creation of the first Islamic community (ummah) underscores the primary importance of community in Islam. It is so significant that when Muslims devised their own calendar they dated it, not from the year in which Muhammad was born or from the first revelation of the Koran, but from the creation of the Islamic community at Medina. Thus, 622 c.e. became 1 a.h. (year [anno] of the hijra). This act reinforced the meaning of Islam as the realization of God's will on earth and the centrality of the Islamic community. It became the basis for Muslim belief in Islam as a world religion, a global community of believers with a universal message and mission.
The experience and example of Muhammad's new community would provide the model for later generations. In times of danger the twin ideals of hijra (to emigrate from a hostile anti-Islamic environment) and jihad (to resist and fight against oppression and injustice) were established. These concepts became guiding principles for responding to persecution and rejection, to threats to the faith, and to the security and survival of the community. Today both mainstream and extremist movements and self-proclaimed "holy warriors," such as Osama bin Laden, who emigrated from Saudi Arabia to establish his movement and training bases in Afghanistan, have selectively used the pattern of migration and struggle, armed resistance, and warfare for their own purposes.
In Medina the Muslim community thrived, resulting in the establishment of the first Islamic communitystate. Muhammad was not only a prophet but also a head of state, political ruler, military commander, chief judge, and lawgiver of a multireligious community consisting of Muslims, Arab polytheists, Jews, and Christians. The Constitution, or Charter, of Medina, as established by Muhammad, set out the rights and duties of the citizens and the relationship of the Muslim community to other communities, thus reflecting the diversity of this society. The charter recognized the People of the Book (Jews and Christians who had received God's revelation through the prophets Moses and Jesus) as an allied community. These People of the Book were entitled to live in coexistence with Muslims and to retain and practice their religion in return for loyalty and the payment of a poll tax, or jizya.
With establishment of the community at Medina, the bitter conflict between Mecca and Muhammad and his followers continued. Muhammad threatened the economic power and political authority of the Meccan leaders with a series of raids against their caravans. In addition, several key battles occurred that are remembered in Muslim tradition as sources of inspiration and guidance. In 624 Muslim forces, although greatly out-numbered, defeated the Meccan army in the Battle of Badr, in which they believed they were aided by divine guidance. The Koran (3:120) declares that thousands of angels assisted the Muslims in battle. This battle has special significance for Muslims because it represents the victory of monotheism over polytheism, of good over evil, of the army of God over the army of ignorance and unbelief. Badr remains an important sacred symbol for contemporary Muslims. For example, Egypt's President Anwar as-Sadat launched the 1973 Arab-Israeli war as a jihad with the code name Operation Badr.
The Battle of Uhud, in 625, represented a major setback for the Muslims when the Meccans bounced back and soundly defeated them, wounding Muhammad. The Battle of the Ditch, or Battle of the Trench, took place in 627, when the Meccans mounted a siege against the Muslims, seeking to crush them permanently. The Battle of the Ditch proved to be a major turning point, however. The Muslims dug a trench to protect themselves from the Meccan cavalry and doggedly resisted the Meccan siege. In the end the Meccans were forced to withdraw, and a truce was struck at Hudaybiyah, a pact of nonaggression that proved a face-saving device for both parties. The truce granted the Muslims the right to make the pilgrimage to Mecca the following year but required that Muhammad end his raids and the attempt at an economic blockade. At the same time, the truce signaled recognition of the political legitimacy of Muhammad.
In 629 Muhammad extended Muslim governance over the Hejaz, in central Arabia, and led the pilgrimage to Mecca. In 630 the feud between Mecca and Medina came to an end. After client tribes of Mecca and Medina clashed, Muhammad declared the truce broken and moved against Mecca with an army of 10,000, and the Quraysh surrendered without a fight. After 20 years Muhammad had successfully returned to Mecca and brought it within the Pax Islamica. In victory Muhammad proved magnanimous and strategic, preferring diplomacy to force. Rather than engaging in vengeance and plunder, he offered amnesty to his former enemies, rewarding a number of its leaders with prominent positions and gifts. Regarding the Kaaba shrine in Mecca as the original house of God built by Abraham and Ismail, Muhammad destroyed its pagan idols and rededicated it to the one true God. The majority of Meccans converted to Islam, accepted Muhammad's leadership, and became part of the Islamic community.
The conquest of Mecca established Muhammad's paramount political leadership. He continued to employ his religious message, diplomatic skills, and, when necessary, force to establish Muslim rule in Arabia. In 632 the 62-year-old Muhammad led a pilgrimage to Mecca and delivered his farewell sermon, a moment remembered and commemorated each year during the annual pilgrimage: "Know ye that every Muslim is a brother unto every other Muslim, and that ye are now one brotherhood. It is not legitimate for any one of you, therefore, to appropriate unto himself anything that belongs to his brother unless it is willingly given him by that brother." When Muhammad died in June 632, all of Arabia was united under the banner of Islam.
Few observers of seventh-century Arabia would have predicted that, within a hundred years of Muhammad's death, a religious community established by a local businessman, orphaned and illiterate, would unite Arabia's warring tribes, overwhelm the eastern Byzantine and Sasanid empires, and create its own vast empire stretching from North Africa to India. Within a brief period of time, Muhammad had initiated a major historical transformation that began in Arabia but that would become a global religious and political movement. In subsequent years Muslim armies, traders, and mystics spread the faith and power of Islam globally. The religion of Islam became intertwined with empires and sultanates from North Africa to Southeast Asia.
After the death of Muhammad, his four immediate successors, remembered in Sunni Islam as the Rightly Guided Caliphs (reigned 632–61), oversaw the consolidation of Muslim rule in Arabia and the broader Middle East (Egypt, Palestine, Iraq, and Syria), overrunning the Byzantine and Sasanid empires. A period of great central empires was followed with the establishment of the Umayyad (661–750) and then the Abbasid (750–1258) empires. Within a hundred years of the death of Muhammad, Muslim rule extended from North Africa to South Asia, an empire greater than Rome at its zenith.
Under the Abbasids trade and industry, a strong central bureaucracy, law, theology, literature, science, and culture developed. The Abbasid conquest of the central Umayyad empire did not affect the existence of the Spanish Umayyad empire in Andalusia (modern-day Spain and Portugal). There, where Muslims were called Moors, Muslim rule ushered in a period of coexistence and culture developed by Muslims, Christians, and Jews in major urban centers. The Spanish Umayyad empire was less a threat to the Abbasids than was the Fatimid (Shiite) empire in the tenth century, carved out in North Africa and with its capital in Cairo. From the tenth to the twelfth centuries, the Fatimids challenged a weakened and fragmented Abbasid empire, spreading their influence and rule across North Africa, Egypt, Syria, Persia, and Sicily. The Fatimids were not brought under Abbasid rule until 1171, when the great general Salah ad-Din (Saladin) conquered Cairo. Despite this success, however, by the thirteenth century the Abbasid empire had become a sprawling, fragmented group of semiautonomous states governed by military commanders. In 1258 the Mongols captured Baghdad, burned and pillaged the city, slaughtered its Muslim inhabitants, and executed the caliph and his family.
Although the fall of Baghdad seemed to be a fatal blow to Muslim power, by the fifteenth century Muslim fortunes had been reversed. The central caliphate was replaced by a chain of dynamic states, each ruled by a sultan, stretching from Africa to Southeast Asia, from Timbuktu to Mindanao. They included three imperial sultanates: the Turkish Ottoman Empire (1322–1924), which encompassed major portions of North Africa, the Arab world, and eastern Europe; the Persian Safavid Empire (1501–1722); and the Mughal Empire (1520–1857), which included much of the Indian subcontinent (modern-day Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh).
Like many parts of the world, Muslim societies fell victim to European imperialism. When Christian Europe overpowered North Africa, the Middle East, and South and Southeast Asia in the nineteenth century, reducing most Muslim societies to colonies, many Muslims experienced these defeats as a religious, as well as a political and cultural, crisis. It was a symbol not only of the decline of Muslim power but also of the apparent loss of divine favor and guidance. Colonialism brought European armies and Christian missionaries, who accompanied the bureaucrats, traders, and teachers, to spread the message of Western (Christian) religious and cultural superiority and dominance. Europe legitimated its colonization of large areas of the underdeveloped Muslim world in cultural terms. The French spoke of a "mission to civilize" and the British of "the white man's burden."
Muslim responses to Europe's political and religious penetration and dominance varied significantly, ranging from resistance or warfare (jihad) in "defense of Islam" to accommodation with, if not outright assimilation of, Western values. The result of Western imperialism for Muslims was a period of self-criticism and reflection on the causes of their decline. Responses spanned the spectrum from liberal secularism to Islamic modernism. Islamic modernists sought to respond to, rather than react against, the challenge of Western imperialism. They proclaimed the need for Islamic reform through a process of reinterpretation and selective adaptation (Islamization) of Western ideas and technology. Islamic modernism sought to reinterpret Islam to demonstrate its compatibility with Western science and thought and to resist European colonialism and meet the changing circumstances of Muslim life through religious, legal, political, educational, and social reforms.
Some Muslims, however, rejected both conservative and modernist positions in favor of religious activism. The Muslim Brotherhood (Ikhwan al-Muslimin) of Egypt and the Jamaat-i Islami (Islamic Society) of the Indian subcontinent are prominent examples of modern neorevivalist Islamic organizations that linked religion to activism. Their leaders, the Muslim Brotherhood's Hasan al-Banna and Jamaat's Mawlana Abul Ala Mawdudi, were pious Muslims whose upbringing and education exposed them to modernist Islamic thought and Western learning. In contrast to Islamic modernists, who justified adopting Western ideas and institutions because they were compatible with Islam, al-Banna and Mawdudi sought to produce a new interpretation, or synthesis. Rather than leaving their societies, they organized their followers into an Islamically oriented community with a dynamic nucleus of leaders capable of transforming society from within. Joining thought to action, these leaders provided Islamic responses, both ideological and organizational, and inspired political as well as social activism.
Though anti-Western, the Muslim Brotherhood and Jamaat were not against modernization. They engaged in building modern organizations and institutions, provided modern educational and social welfare services, and used modern technology and mass communications to spread their message and to mobilize popular support. They addressed the problems of modernity, analyzing the relationship of Islam to nationalism, democracy, capitalism, Marxism, work, modern banking, education, law, women, Zionism, and international relations. The organizations established by al-Banna and Mawdudi remain vibrant today and have served as an example to others throughout much of the Muslim world.
Like Jews and Christians, Muslims are monotheists. They believe in one God, Allah, who is the creator, sustainer, ruler, and judge of the universe. The word "Allah" appears in the Koran more than 2,500 times.
The word "Islam" means "submission" to the will of God and "peace," the interior peace that results from following God's will and creating a just society. Muslims must strive or struggle (jihad) in the path (Shariah) of God in order to implement his will on earth by working to establish a just society or to expand or defend the Muslim community.
Muslims believe that the Koran is the final, complete, literal, eternal, uncreated word of God, sent from heaven to the Prophet Muhammad as a guide for humankind (Koran 2:185). Thus, the Koran does not reveal God per se but, rather, God's will, or law, for all of creation. Although God is transcendent and thus unknowable, his nature is revealed in creation and his will in revelation, and his acts in history. God in the Koran is all-powerful and is the ultimate judge of humankind, but he is also merciful and compassionate.
The proclamation of God's mercy and compassion is made in the opening verse of the Koran, which begins, "In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate." In the Muslim world this phrase is used by pious believers at the beginning of letters, speeches, books, and articles. Many people recite the phrase as they begin to drive a car, eat a meal, or begin any task. God's mercy exists in dialectical tension with his role as the ultimate judge. Although it can be tempered by mercy for the repentant, justice requires punishment for those who disobey God's will. On Judgment Day all human beings are to be judged according to their deeds and either punished or rewarded on the basis of their obedience or disobedience.
Muslims believe that sacred scriptures exist because throughout history God has sent his guidance to prophets so that his will might be known and followed by humankind. Thus, Muslims believe not only in the Prophet Muhammad but also in the prophets of the Hebrew Bible, including Abraham and Moses, and of the New Testament, John the Baptist and Jesus. Those prophets who have also brought God's revelation in the form of a sacred scripture or book—for example, Moses and the Torah and Jesus and the Gospels—are also called "messengers" of God. Thus, not all prophets are messengers, but messengers are also prophets. Jews and Christians are regarded as the People of the Book, a community of believers who received revelations, through prophets, in the form of scriptures, or revealed books, from God.
The Koran confirms the Torah and the Gospels as revelations from God, but Muslims believe that, after the deaths of the prophets, extraneous, nonbiblical beliefs infiltrated the Torah and the Gospels, altering the original, pure revelation. For example, the Koran declares an absolute monotheism, which means that associating anyone or anything with God is the one unforgivable sin of idolatry, or associationism. Muslims therefore do not believe in the Christian doctrine of the Trinity (one God in three persons), and although Muslims recognize Jesus as a prophet, they do not recognize him as God's son. Thus, Muslims believe that the Koran was sent as a correction, not as a nullification, or abrogation, of the Torah and the Gospels, and they see Islam as the oldest of the monotheistic faiths, since it represents both the original and the final revelation of God.
The Koranic universe consists of three realms—heaven, earth, and hell—in which there are two types of beings: humans and spirits. All beings are called to obedience to God. Spirits include angels, jinn, and devils. Angels are created from light, are immortal and sexless, and serve as the link between God and human beings. They serve as guardians, recorders, and messengers from God who transmit his message to human beings by communicating with prophets. Thus, the angel Gabriel is believed to have communicated the revelation of the Koran to Muhammad. Jinn, beings created by fire, are between angels and humans and can be either good or bad. Although invisible by nature, jinn can assume visible form. Like human beings, they are to be rewarded or punished in the afterlife. Jinn are often portrayed as magical beings, such as genies, as in the story of Aladdin and his lamp. Devils are fallen angels or jinn that tempt human beings torn between the forces of good and evil. Satan (shaytan, or Iblis), leader of the devils, represents evil, which is defined as disobedience to God. Satan's fall was caused by his refusal to prostrate himself before Adam upon God's command.
Because God breathed his spirit into Adam, the first human being, humans enjoy a special status as God's representatives on earth. The Koran teaches that God gave the earth to human beings as a trust so that they can implement his will. Although Muslims believe in the Fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, in contrast to Christianity there is no doctrine of an inherited original sin and no belief in a vicarious suffering or atonement for humankind. The punishment of Adam and Eve is believed to result from their own personal act of disobedience to God. Each person is held responsible for his or her own actions. Human beings are mortal because of the human condition, not because of sin or the Fall of Adam and Eve. Sin is the result of an act of disobedience rather than a state of being. In Islam the Fall demonstrates human sin, God's mercy, and human repentance. Islam emphasizes the need to repent by returning to the straight path of God. The Koran does not emphasize shame, disgrace, or guilt but, rather, the ongoing human struggle—jihad—to do what is right and just.
A Muslim's obligation to be God's servant and to spread his message is both an individual and a community obligation. The community is bound not by family or tribal ties but by a common faith, which must be acted out and implemented. The primary emphasis is upon obeying God as prescribed by Islamic law, which contains guidelines for both the individual and the community. In contrast to Christianity, in which theology is the queen of the sciences, for Islam, as for Judaism, the primary religious science is law. Christianity there-fore emphasizes orthodoxy (correct doctrine or belief), while Islam, as witnessed by the Five Pillars (fundamental observances), emphasizes orthopraxy (correct action).
Many Muslims describe Islam as "a total way of life." They believe that religion cannot be separated from social and political life, since religion informs every action a person takes. The Koran provides many passages that emphasize the relationship of religion to the state and society. Muslims see themselves as God's representatives, with a divine mandate to establish his rule on earth in order to create a moral and just society. The Muslim community is thus seen as a political entity, as proclaimed in the Koran 49:13, which teaches that God "made you into nations and tribes." Like Jews and Christians before them, Muslims believe that they have been called into a covenant with God, making them a community of believers who must serve as an example to other nations (2:143): "You are the best community evolved for mankind, enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong" (3:110).
Social justice is a central teaching of the Koran, with all believers equal before God. The equality of believers forms the basis of a just society that is to counterbalance the oppression of the weak and economic exploitation. Muhammad, who was orphaned at an early age and who witnessed the exploitation of orphans, the poor, and women in Meccan society, was especially sensitive to their plight. Some of the strongest passages in the Koran condemn exploitation and champion social justice. Throughout history the mission to create a moral and just social order has provided a rationale for Islamic activist and revivalist movements, both mainstream and extremist.
In response to European colonialism and industrialization, issues of social justice came to the forefront of Muslim societies in the early twentieth century. The influx of large numbers of peasants from the countryside into urban areas in many developing countries created social and demographic tensions. In Egypt, for example, the Muslim Brotherhood, founded in 1928, emerged as a major social movement whose Islamic mission included a religious solution to poverty and assistance to the dispossessed and downtrodden. Its founder, Hasan al-Banna, taught a message of social and economic justice, preaching particularly to the poor and uneducated. In al-Banna's vision Islam was not just a philosophy, religion, or cultural trend but also a social movement seeking to improve all areas of life, not only those that were inherently religious. That is, rather than being simply a belief system, Islam was a call to social action.
Islamic law, which includes requirements for worship as well as for social transactions, has been seen as providing the ideal blueprint for the believer who asks, "What should I do?" The law covers regulations for religious rituals and for such social transactions as marriage, divorce, and inheritance and sets standards for penal and international law. Traditionally religious scholars (ulama) and judges, courts, or governments have been responsible for elaborating and applying the law.
Sunni Muslims recognize four official sources of law: (1) the Koran, which contains moral directives; (2) the sunnah (example) of Muhammad as recorded in stories or traditions describing his activities, illustrating Islamic faith in practice and explaining Koranic principles; (3) qiyas, reasoning by analogy, used by scholars facing a new situation or problem when no clear text can be found in the Koran or sunnah; and (4) consensus (ijma), which originated with a reported saying of Muhammad, "My community will never agree on an error," which came to mean that consensus among religious scholars could determine the permissibility of an action.
Concern for justice led to the development of subsidiary legal principles: equity (istihsan), which permits exceptions to strict, or literal, legal reasoning, and public interest (maslaha) or human welfare, which give judges flexibility in arriving at just and equitable decisions. Shiites also include collections of the traditions of Ali, who they believe was the first caliph to succeed Muhammad, and of other imams, the ruling descendants of Muhammad through Ali, whom they regard as supreme authorities and legal interpreters.
The diverse geographic, social, historical, and cultural contexts in which jurists have written also account for differences in Islamic law. Many ulama, representing conservative strains in Islam, continue to equate God's divinely revealed law (Shariah) with legal manuals developed by early law schools. Reformers, however, call for changes in laws that are the products of social custom and human reasoning, saying that duties and obligations to God (worship) are unchanging but that social obligations to one's fellow man reflect changing circumstances. They reclaim the right of ijtihad (independent reasoning) to reinterpret Islam to meet modern social needs.
In the contemporary era emphasis on Islam's message of social justice by Islamic movements, both moderate and militant, has been particularly powerful in gaining adherents from poorer and less advantaged groups in such countries as Algeria and Indonesia. In Israel and Palestine, and in Lebanon, groups like Hamas and Hezbollah devote substantial resources to social welfare activities and call for the empowerment of the poor and weak. They teach that social justice can be achieved only if the poor rise up against their oppressive conditions.
MORAL CODE OF CONDUCT
The Shariah (Islamic law) provides a blueprint of principles and values for an ideal society. At its core are the Five Pillars of Islam, which unite all Muslims in their common belief. Following the pillars involves a Muslim's mind, body, time, energy, and wealth. Meeting the obligations required by the pillars translates beliefs into actions, reinforces an everyday awareness of God's existence and presence, and reminds Muslims of their membership in a worldwide community of believers.
The first pillar is the declaration of faith. A Muslim is one who bears witness, who testifies that "There is no god but God [Allah] and Muhammad is the messenger of God." This statement, known as the shahadah, is pronounced and heard 14 times a day by those who meet the requirement of praying five times daily, and it is repeated at many other occasions in a Muslim's life. To become a Muslim, one must make only this brief and simple declaration, or profession, of faith.
The first part of the declaration reflects absolute monotheism, Islam's uncompromising belief in the oneness, or unity, of God (tawhid). Associating anything else with God is idolatry, considered the one unforgivable sin. To avoid any possible idolatry resulting from the depiction of figures, for example, Islamic religious art tends to use calligraphy, geometric forms, and arabesque designs and is thus abstract rather than representational.
The second part of the declaration emphasizes that Muhammad is not only a prophet but also a messenger of God, the one who received a book of revelation from him. For Muslims, Muhammad is the last and final prophet, who serves as a model for the community through his life. Unlike Jesus, however, Muhammad is held to have been only human, although he is believed to have been a perfect man, a follower of God. Muslim's efforts to follow Muhammad's example in their private and public conduct reflect the emphasis of Islam on religious observance, or practice, that is expressed in the remaining pillars.
The second pillar of Islam is prayer, or worship (salat). Throughout the world Muslims worship five times a day (daybreak, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset, and evening), sanctifying their entire day as they remember to find guidance in God. In many Muslim countries reminders to pray, or "calls to prayer," echo across the rooftops. Aided by a megaphone from high atop a mosque's minaret, a muezzin calls all Muslims to prayer. Modern technology has also provided novel audio and visual reminders to pray, including special wristwatches, mosque-shaped clocks, and a variety of computer programs.
Prayer is preceded by a series of ablutions, which symbolize the purity of mind and body required for worshiping God. Facing the holy city of Mecca, Islam's spiritual homeland where the Prophet was born and received God's revelation, Muslims recite passages from the Koran and glorify God as they stand, bow, kneel, touch the ground with their foreheads, and sit. Muslims can pray in any clean environment, in a mosque or at home or at work, alone or in a group, indoors or outside. Although not required, it is considered preferable and more meritorious to pray with others, thus demonstrating and reinforcing Muslim brotherhood, equality, and solidarity. Regardless of race or language, all Muslims pray in Arabic. After a formal ritual prayer, individuals may offer personal prayers (dua) of petition or thanksgiving. Each week on Friday, the Muslim Sabbath, the noon prayer is a congregational prayer (juma) at a mosque or Islamic center.
The third pillar of Islam is called the zakat, a tithe or almsgiving. Zakat, which means "purification," and salat, or worship, are often mentioned in the same Koranic verse, reinforcing their significance. As an early Muslim observed, "Prayer carries us half-way to God; fasting brings us to the door of His praises; almsgiving procures for us admission."
By caring for the poor, Muslims as individuals, and the Muslim community collectively, demonstrate their concern and care for their own. It is in this spirit that zakat can be viewed as a social responsibility, combating poverty and preventing the excessive accumulation of wealth. The redistribution of wealth also underscores the Muslim belief that everything ultimately belongs to God. Human beings are simply caretakers, or viceregents, for God's property, which must be fairly allocated within the broader community.
Thus, zakat is not viewed as voluntary giving, as charity, but, rather, as an act of individual self-purification and as a social obligation, reflecting Islam's emphasis upon social justice for the poor and vulnerable in society. Payment of the tithe purifies both the soul of the person and what is given. It reminds Muslims that their wealth is a trust from God. Zakat expresses worship of, and thanksgiving to, God by meeting the needs of the less fortunate members of the community. It functions as an informal type of social security in a Muslim society and resembles forms of tithing found in Judaism and Christianity.
Paid during Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar and the month of fasting, zakat requires an annual contribution of 2.5 percent of a person's total wealth and assets, not merely a percentage of annual income. Original Islamic law stipulated clearly and specifically those areas subject to zakat—silver and gold, animals, and agricultural products. Today modern forms of wealth, such as bank accounts, stocks, and bonds, are included.
There are other religious taxes in Islam. In Shiite Islam the khums, meaning "one-fifth," is an obligatory tax paid to religious leaders. Among the many forms of almsgiving common to all Muslims is the sadaqah, voluntary alms given to the poor, in thanksgiving to God, or to ward off danger. It is the zakat, however, that is the obligatory form of almsgiving for all Muslims.
The fourth pillar of Islam is the fast of Ramadan, which occurs during the month in which the first revelation of the Koran came to Muhammad. The primary emphasis of fasting is not simply on abstinence and self-mortification but, rather, on spiritual self-discipline, reflection on human frailty and dependence on God, and performance of good works in response to the less fortunate. During this month-long fast Muslims whose health permit abstain from dawn to sunset from food, drink, and sexual activity. Those who are sick, pregnant, or weakened by old age are exempted. Muslims on a journey may postpone fasting and make it up at another time. Ramadan is also a special time to recite or listen to the recitation of the Koran. This is popularly done by dividing the Koran into 30 portions to be recited throughout the days of the month. Near the end of Ramadan, on the 27th day, Muslims commemorate the Night of Power, on which Muhammad received the first of God's revelations.
The fifth pillar, and probably the best known among non-Muslims, is the pilgrimage, or hajj, to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, which occurs about 60 days after the end of Ramadan. Every adult Muslim who is physically and financially able is required to make the pilgrimage, becoming a person totally at God's service at least once in his or her lifetime. Many who are able to do so make the pilgrimage more often. Muslim tradition teaches that God forgives the sins of those who perform the hajj with devotion and sincerity. Thus, many elderly make the pilgrimage with the hope that they will die cleansed of their sins.
Every year more than 2 million believers, representing a tremendous diversity of cultures and languages, travel from all over the world to the Al-Haram Mosque in Mecca to form one community living their faith. Just as Muslims are united five times each day as they face Mecca in worship, so the pilgrimage to the spiritual center of Islam enables them to experience the unity, breadth, and diversity of the Islamic community. Muslims who have made the hajj are entitled to add the prefix "pilgrim," al-hajj or hajji, to their names, which many proudly do. Like salat, the pilgrimage requires ritual purification, symbolized by the wearing of white garments, which represent purity as well as the unity and equality of all believers, an equality that transcends class, wealth, privilege, power, nationality, race, or color.
Jihad is sometimes referred to as the sixth pillar of Islam, although it has no such official status. In its most general meaning jihad pertains to the difficulty and complexity of living a good life by struggling against the evil in oneself, by being virtuous and moral, by making a serious effort as individuals and as a community to do good works and help reform society, and by fulfilling the universal mission of Islam to spread its community through the preaching of Islam or the writing of religious tracts, these latter referred to as "jihad of the tongue" and "jihad of the pen." Today jihad may also be used to describe the personal struggle to keep the fast of Ramadan, to fulfill family responsibilities, or to clean up a neighborhood, fight drugs, or work for social justice. In addition, jihad includes the sacred struggle for, or the defense of, Islam or the Muslim community, popularly referred to as "holy war." The two broad meanings of jihad, nonviolent and violent, are contrasted in a well-known Prophetic tradition that reports Muhammad returning from battle to tell his followers, "We return from the lesser jihad [warfare] to the greater jihad." The greater jihad is the more difficult and more important struggle against ego, selfishness, greed, and evil.
Despite the fact that jihad is not supposed to include aggressive (offensive as opposed to defensive) warfare, this has occurred throughout history. Muslim rulers have used jihad to legitimate their wars of imperial expansion, often with the approval of religious leaders or scholars (ulama). Religious extremist groups assassinated Egypt's President Anwar as-Sadat in 1981, and they have slaughtered innocent civilians in suicide bombings in Israel and Palestine and murdered thousands in acts of global terrorism in the United States, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Indonesia, and other countries. At the same time, wars of resistance or liberation have been fought as jihads in Afghanistan against Soviet occupation, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, in Kosovo, and, in the eyes of many Muslims, in Palestine and Israel, Jammu and Kashmir, and Chechnya.
In addition to the Five Pillars of Islam, the Koran provides Muslims with other rules of conduct. Consuming pork and alcohol is forbidden, and there are strict prohibitions against gambling, prostitution, adultery, murder, and other criminal offenses. A host of regulations about the just treatment of debtors, widows, the poor, and orphans emphasizes the key importance of social justice. Those who practice usury are strongly rebuked. In addition, both men and women are required to dress and to act modestly, and they are encouraged to marry and procreate. Thus, Islam provides a set of common beliefs, values, and practices that are to guide Muslim life.
The Koran—"recitation" in Arabic—is the Muslim scripture. It contains the revelations received by the Prophet Muhammad from God through the angel Gabriel over a period of 23 years, beginning when Muhammad was 40 years old and continuing until his death in 632. For Muslims, Muhammad, who was illiterate, was neither the author nor the editor of the Koran. Rather, he functioned as God's intermediary, reciting the revelations he received. The Koran, therefore, is the eternal, literal word of God, preserved in the Arabic language and in the order in which it was revealed.
Muslims believe that the Koran's 114 chapters (surahs) were initially preserved in oral and written form during the lifetime of Muhammad. The entire text was collected in an official standardized version some 15 or 20 years after his death. The Koran is approximately four-fifths the size of the New Testament. Its chapters were assembled and ordered from the longest to the shortest, not thematically. This format proves frustrating to some non-Muslims, who find the text disjointed. The organization of the Koran, however, enables a believer simply to open the text at random and to start reciting at the beginning of any paragraph, since each represents a lesson to be learned and reflected upon.
The recitation of the Koran is central to a Muslim's life, and many Muslims memorize the Koran in its entirety. Recitation reinforces what Muslims see as the miracle of hearing the actual word of God expressed by the human voice. There are many examples throughout history of those who were drawn to, and converted to, Islam upon hearing the Koran recited.
Because of the sensitivity in Islam to representational sacred art, lest any human being or physical object become the subject of worship or idolatry, major symbols are more limited in scope than in many other religions, including Christianity and Hinduism. The Kaaba, Dome of the Rock, and calligraphy are among the more prominent religious symbols in Islam.
The Kaaba is considered the most sacred space in the Muslim world and the spiritual center of the earth, the point Muslims turn toward when they pray and the direction toward which their heads point in burial. It is thought to mark the location where the earth was created. The Kaaba symbolizes an earthly image of the divine throne in heaven, and it is therefore believed that actions that take place at the Kaaba, such as circumam-bulation, are duplicated in heaven at the throne of God.
Another major symbol is the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, popularly referred to as the Mosque of Umar. Jerusalem first came under Muslim rule in 638, during Umar's reign. The shrine itself, however, was built later, in around 692, by the caliph Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan. It was constructed over the rock on the Temple Mount, where Muslim tradition holds that the Prophet Muhammad departed on his Night Journey to heaven. (The Temple Mount itself is also the site of the Temple of Solomon and of the Christian Dome of the Holy Sepulcher, and is thus sacred to all three great monotheistic traditions.) The octagonal shaped shrine, with its golden dome, dominates the skyline. It is majestically decorated inside and out with some 240 yards of calligraphic designs consisting of Koranic inscriptions. Among Muslims today pictures and representations of the Dome of the Rock are probably second in popularity only to those of the Kaaba, both because it symbolizes the Prophet's Night Journey and is located in the third holiest city of Islam and because it has become a popular symbol for the liberation of Jerusalem and Palestine.
Arabic calligraphy originated from the desire for a script worthy of divine revelation in copying the Koran. Because of its association with the Koran, calligraphy assumed a sacred character and became the highest form of art. Since Islamic art does not represent human forms, calligraphy is used to capture and symbolize meaning and message. Thus, for example, Allah written in calligraphic form became a powerful symbol representing the divine. It is also common to see the names of Allah and Muhammad, or of Allah, Muhammad, and Ali, written in calligraphy as religious symbols, whether on paper, in plaster on walls, or on such ornamental objects as plates or medals. Other popular phrases, such as the shahadah (There is no god but God and Muhammad is the messenger of God), Allahu Akbar (God is great), or Ya Rabb (the Lord), are also depicted in calligraphic art that adorns walls and buildings throughout the Islamic world.
EARLY AND MODERN LEADERS
Throughout history Islam has been integral to politics and civilization. Intellectuals and writers, religious rulers and activists have often exercised leadership and had a significant impact on government and society. The relationships of faith to power, reason, science, and society have been enduring and interconnected concerns and issues.
The period of Muhammad and his first four successors, the Rightly Guided Caliphs (reigned 632–61), has remained an ideal to which most Muslims look for inspiration and renewal. During the reign of the Rightly Guided Caliphs, Arab Muslim rule over the heartlands of the Middle East was established. Each of these caliphs had been a close companion to Muhammad, and all belonged to the Quraysh tribe. The period of their rule is considered the golden age of Islam, when rulers were closely guided by Muhammad's practices. Abu Bakr, the first caliph (reigned 632–34), had been an early convert who was also Muhammad's close advisor and father-in-law. A man respected for his piety and sagacity, Abu Bakr had been the one appointed to lead the Friday communal prayer in Muhammad's absence. After Muhammad's death Abu Bakr was selected as Muhammad's successor by the majority of Muslims, called Sunnis, or followers of the sunnah (example) of the Prophet, based on their belief that leadership should pass to the most qualified person.
The second caliph, Umar (reigned 634–44), seen as the dominant personality among the four, was responsible for establishing many of the fundamental institutions of the classical Islamic state. During the reign of the personally pious third caliph, Uthman (reigned 644–56), the Koran was collected and put into its final form. Uthman's lack of strength in handling unscrupulous relatives, however, led to his murder by malcontents and to a period of disorder and civil war. The fourth caliph, Ali (reigned 656–61), was the cousin and son-in-law of Muhammad and the first male to convert to Islam. Ali, who was also a distinguished judge and brave warrior, was the first caliph recognized by Shiite Muslims, who believed that succession should be based on heredity and who thus considered the first three caliphs to be usurpers. Ali's political discourse, sermons, letters, and sayings have served as the Shiite framework for Islamic government. His rule was marked by political strife, however, and he was assassinated while praying in a mosque. Shiite Muslims recognize only Ali, as well as the brief reign of Ali's son Hussein (reigned 661). Following the Rightly Guided Caliphs, the dynasty of the Umayyads, who reigned from 661 to 750, was established to became a powerful Arab military aristocracy.
Throughout the following centuries, from the rise of Islam to the modern period, Islamic empires, sultanates, and movements flourished. They were led or influenced by rulers and military men like Saladin and Suleiman the Magnificent; theologians, historians, and legal scholars like Muhammad al-Ghazali and Ibn Taymiyya; and leaders of revivalist movements like Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab in the Arabian Peninsula, the Mahdi of the Sudan, and Uthman dan Fodio of Nigeria.
From the late nineteenth century Islamic movements, both mainstream and extremist, have sought to revitalize and reform Islam. They have been influenced by a core group of Islamic intellectual-activists. Two in particular, Islamic modernism and Islamic revivalism, or "fundamentalism," have been particularly influential. Both have sought a modern reformation but with some-what differing visions and styles.
Among the more important modern reformers were Muhammad Abduh (1849–1905) in the Middle East and Sayyid Ahmad Khan (1817–98) and Muhammad Iqbal (1876–1938) in South Asia. The Egyptian Abduh received a traditional religious education. He taught at Cairo's Al-Azhar University, renowned throughout the Islamic world as the principal center for Islamic education and orthodoxy. Abduh also taught at the newly created Dar al-Ulum College, which provided a modern education for Al-Azhar students who wanted to qualify for government positions. In the 1870s Abduh became an enthusiastic follower of Jamal al-Din al-Afghani (1838–97), born in Iran and educated in Iran and then India. Al-Afghani, an activist who is known as the father of Muslim nationalism, traveled from India to Egypt to promote Islamic intellectual reform as a prerequisite to overcoming European colonial influence and rule and achieving independence. In the 1880s Abduh and Al-Afghani were exiled to Paris for their participation in a nationalist uprising against British and French influence in Egypt. When he returned to Cairo in 1888, Abduh accepted the existing political situation and devoted his energies to religious, educational, and social reform.
A religious scholar, Abduh reinterpreted scripture and tradition to provide an Islamic rationale for modern reforms. When Abduh became mufti, head of Egypt's religious court system, in 1899, he introduced changes in the Shariah courts. As a judge, he interpreted and applied Islam to modern conditions, using a methodology that combined a return to the fundamental sources of Islam with an acceptance of modern rational thought. Critical of many religious leaders' inability to address modern problems, Abduh also modernized the curriculum at Al-Azhar University, whose graduates became religious leaders throughout the Muslim world, to change their training and intellectual outlook. Abduh called for educational and social reforms to improve and protect the status of women, supporting their access to education and arguing that the Koranic marriage ideal was monogamy, not polygamy.
On the Indian subcontinent, in what is today Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh, Sayyid Ahmad Khan and, later, Muhammad Iqbal were prominent voices for Islamic reform. Khan responded to the fall of the Mughal Empire. The Sepoy Mutiny against British colonial influence and de facto rule became the pretext for the British to officially take charge, and it left the Muslim community, largely blamed by the British, in disarray. Initially overwhelmed by the chaos and devastation, Khan had considered leaving India. Instead, he chose to stay and rebuild the Muslim community. In contrast to Al-Afghani and others, he argued that Indian Muslims should accept British rule as a political reality and reform their community within these limits. He wished to respond both to Muslim reform and to the criticisms and attacks leveled at Islam by Christian missionaries.
In the tradition of past Islamic revivalists, Khan claimed the right to reinterpret Islam. He rejected the classical formulations of Islam fashioned by the ulama and sought to return to the original Islam of the Koran and Muhammad. Arguing that Islam and science were compatible, he advocated a new theological formulation, or reformulation, of Islam. To implement his ideas and produce a new generation of Muslim leaders, he established the Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental College at Aligarh, India, in 1874. Renamed Aligarh University in 1920, it was modeled on Cambridge University, with a course of studies that combined the best of a European curriculum with a modernist interpretation of Islam. He and his disciples published journals that dealt with religious reform and women's rights in Islam.
In the 1930s three trailblazers—Hasan al-Banna (1906–49) and Sayyid Qutb (1906–66) of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Mawlana Abul Ala Mawdudi (1903–79) of the Jamaat-i-Islami (Islamic Society) in South Asia—had an incalculable impact on the development of Islamic movements throughout the Muslim world. Both organizations constructed a worldview based on an interpretation of Islam that informed social and political activism. These men were the architects of contemporary Islamic revivalism, their ideas and methods studied and emulated by scholars and activists from the Sudan to Indonesia. The two movements emerged at a time when the Muslim world remained weak and in decline, much of it occupied and ruled by foreign powers. Egypt was occupied by Britain from 1882 to 1952, and the Indian subcontinent was ruled by Britain from 1857 to 1947, when modern India and Pakistan achieved independence.
Although the Muslim Brotherhood and the Jamaat have been called fundamentalist, they were quite modern, though not necessarily Western, in their ideological agenda, organization, and activities. Rather than fleeing the modern world, they sought to engage and control it, but on their own terms.
Hasan al-Banna, a schoolteacher, was born in a small town outside Cairo. His early traditional religious education was supplemented by his father, who had studied at Al-Azhar University during the time of Muhammad Abduh. After studying at a local teachertraining college, al-Banna went to Cairo to study at Dar al-Ulum College, with its modern curriculum. There he came into contact with disciples of Abduh and with the reformist thought of Abduh and Al-Afghani. After completing his studies, al-Banna took a teaching position at a primary school in Ismailia. Convinced that only through a return to Islam could the Muslim community revitalize itself and its fortunes and throw off European colonial domination, he ran discussion groups and, in 1928, established the Muslim Brotherhood (Ikhwan al-Muslimin).
Mawlana Abul Ala Mawdudi was born in Aurangabad in central India. His father supervised his early education in religious disciplines. It was only later that Mawdudi learned English and studied modern subjects. He turned to a career in journalism and quickly became editor of the newspaper of India's Association of Ulama. Mawdudi also became active in the Khilafat movement, which called for a restoration of the caliphate, and the All-India National Congress. He soon became convinced, however, that the identity, unity, and future of Indian Muslims were threatened not only by European imperialism but also by Hindu and Muslim nationalism. Mawdudi believed that a gradual social, rather than a violent political, Islamization of society from below was needed to create an Islamic state and society. He became editor of the journal Exegesis of the Quran, in which he published articles on his Islamic alternative. In 1938 he moved to Lahore (today in Pakistan) at the invitation of Muhammad Iqbal and, in 1941, organized the Jamaat-i-Islami (Islamic Society).
Both al-Banna and Mawdudi believed that their societies were dominated by, and dependent on, the West, both politically and culturally. Both men advocated an "Islamic alternative" to conservative religious leaders and modern Western secular-oriented elites. The ulama were generally regarded as passé, a religious class whose fossilized Islam and co-option by governments were major causes for the backwardness of the Islamic community. Modernists were seen as having traded away the very soul of Muslim society out of their blind admiration for the West.
For decades the symbol of revolutionary Islam was Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (1902–89), leader of Iran's Islamic revolution of 1978–79. Born in the village of Khomein, he studied in Qum, a major center of Islamic learning, and then taught Islamic law and theology. In the mid-1960s Khomeini spoke out against the policies of the shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, delivering fiery sermons that denounced laws or imperial decrees that directly affected religious endowments, extended the vote to women, and granted diplomatic immunity to the American military. He condemned Iran's increasingly authoritarian and repressive government, the growing secularization and Westernization of Iranian society, and the country's relationship with the United States and Israel. He was forced to live in exile from 1964 to 1979, first in Turkey, then in Iraq, and finally in France. Increasingly during the 1970s, Khomeini moved from calling for reform to advocating the overthrow of the Pahlavi dynasty, which he denounced as un-Islamic and illegitimate, and its replacement with an Islamic republic. His calls from exile, distributed secretly through audiocassettes and pamphlets, might have remained marginal had it not been for the increasing broad-based opposition to the shah and his repressive response. Khomeini, who had early on been a voice of protest and opposition and was relatively free to speak out in exile, attracted a broad and diverse following: men and women, religious and secular intellectuals and students, journalists, politicians, liberal nationalists, socialists, and Marxists. However different, all were united in their opposition to the shah and by the desire for a new government.
After the revolution Khomeini surprised many when, in setting up an Islamic republic, he moved away from a constitutional government in which the clergy would advise on religious matters to advance the notion of clerical rule, a clergy-dominated government with himself at the apex as the supreme jurist. For a decade Khomeini, as supreme guardian of the republic, oversaw the implementation of his Islamically legitimated vision domestically and the export of Iran's revolution internationally.
MAJOR THEOLOGIANS AND AUTHORS
Islamic religion and civilization have produced many great intellectuals and writers, including philosophers, theologians, legal scholars, and scientists, who have sought to understand their faith and its relationship to the world. From earliest times a key issue has been the relationship of reason to revelation.
Yaqub ibn Ishaq as-Sabah al-Kindi (795–866), known in Europe as "the philosopher of the Arabs," was among the early great Islamic philosophers. A prolific, encyclopedic author, he made significant contributions to philosophy, medicine, astronomy, mathematics, chemistry, and the theory of music. Al-Kindi drew heavily on the Greek philosophers Plato and Aristotle and was especially influenced by Neoplatonism. He championed inquiry into the source of all being and unity, which, he believed, reinforced the Muslim belief in the existence of God, the world's creation, and the truth of prophetic revelation. In the more than 300 volumes attributed to him, al-Kindi addressed a wide range of classical learning that encompassed logic, metaphysics, ethics, and astronomy and developed a scientific and philosophical vocabulary that influenced his successors. Like many who followed him, he resolved apparent contradictions between reason and revelation by resorting to an allegorical, rather than a literal, interpretation of the Koran.
The Persian Abu Bakr ar-Razi (865–923) was also a great admirer of Greek philosophy but was diametrically opposed to al-Kindi on the relationship between philosophy and revelation. For ar-Razi revelation was superfluous, since only reason was needed to lead to truth and the development of morals. His concept of the five eternal principles (the creator, soul, matter, space, and time), some of which had a basis in Plato, led to his designation as Islam's greatest Platonist. ArRazi incorporated Plato's concepts of the soul, creation in time, and the transmigration of the soul into his own philosophical system.
Even more influential in shaping the direction of Islamic thought was Abu Nasr al-Farabi (878–950), from northern Persia, who was known as the founder of Islamic Neoplatonism and political philosophy. Drawing upon the Koran, al-Farabi also developed the terminology of Arab scholasticism, which was adapted into Latin and later used by the great Christian theologian Thomas Aquinas. Al-Farabi rejected the Sufi concept of a solitary life, believing, like Aristotle, that, because man was a political animal, happiness could be achieved only within society, within a "virtuous city" somewhat like Plato's ideal state. But as a Muslim, al-Farabi saw such a state as embodied in the ideal of Muhammad and the early Muslim community.
Al-Farabi's thought was further developed by the most famous Neoplatonist of Islam, Ibn Sina (Avicenna in Latin; 980–1037), the renowned physician and philosopher of the Middle Ages whose works became widely known in both the East and the West. Born in Bukhara, he worked as a physician, serving as court physician for a number of princes, and he traveled widely. Ibn Sina's Canon on Medicine was translated into Latin and remained a major text in Europe until the seventeenth century. His influence and reputation earned him the title "prince of the physicians." He wrote with authority on medicine, physics, logic, metaphysics, psychology, and astronomy.
Ibn Sina, who drew on the writings of both Plato and Aristotle, credited al-Farabi with giving him the first keys that led to his understanding Aristotle. He completed Aristotle's idea of the prime mover, developed the philosophy of monotheism, and taught that creation was a timeless process of divine emanation. His rationalist thought was condemned by the religious establishment.
Abu Hamid Muhammad al-Ghazali (1058–1111), a philosopher, theologian, jurist, and mystic, was an extraordinary figure, remembered as the "renewer of Islam," who deeply affected the religion's later development. Born and raised in Iran, al-Ghazali received a first-class Islamic education. In Baghdad he became a renowned lawyer and wrote a series of books. Among the most influential was The Incoherence of the Philosophers, in which he refuted Avicenna, maintaining that, while reason was effective in mathematics and logic, applying it to theological and metaphysical truths led to confusion and threatened the fabric of faith. Al-Ghazali's teachings brought him fame and fortune. After several years, how-ever, he experienced a crisis of faith and conscience, both spiritual and psychological, which rendered him unable to speak or function professionally. He withdrew from life and spent many years traveling, practicing Sufism, and reflecting. During this time he wrote what many consider his greatest work, The Revivication of the Religious Sciences, his great synthesis of law, theology, and mysticism.
Al-Ghazali lived in a turbulent time, when conflicting schools of thought emphasizing faith or reason or mysticism contended with one another, each claiming to be the only authentic view of Islam. "To refute," he said, "one must understand." His comprehensive knowledge of all of the schools and arguments, as well as of philosophy, theology, law, and mysticism, enabled him to establish a credible synthesis of the intellectual and spiritual currents of the time. He presented law and theology in terms that religious scholars could accept, while grounding the disciplines in direct religious experience and the interior devotion seen in Sufism, which he helped to place within the life of the Muslim community. He tempered rationalism by an emphasis on religious experience and love of God.
Because he criticized the blind acceptance of authority, and emphasized a thorough study of a discipline and objectivity of approach, al-Ghazali today receives considerable attention from both Muslim and Western scholars. His "modern" approach is seen in his focus on the essentials of religion, his willingness to entertain doubt and put it in perspective, and his concern for the ordinary believer.
Ibn Rushd (Averroës in Latin; 1126–98) was the greatest Aristotelian philosopher of the Muslim world. His prominence and commentaries, which provided many Europeans in the medieval world with their only source of knowledge about Aristotle, led to his title "the commentator." His writings and ideas influenced Jewish and Christian thinkers such as Maimonides, Albertus Magnus, and Thomas Aquinas.
Born in Córdoba, Spain, Ibn Rushd sought to harmonize the Koran and revelation with philosophy and logic. Like Ibn Sina, he believed that there was no contradiction between religion and philosophy, although, while religion was the way of the masses, philosophy was the province of an intellectual elite. Some have called this a "two-truths" theory and labeled Ibn Rushd a "freethinker." But when he spoke of religion, Ibn Rushd, who recognized that the higher truth resided in revelation, was referring more specifically to the formulations of theology, the product of fallible human beings and theologians and thus subject to the limitations of language, and not to divine revelation itself.
Ibn Rushd's contributions in philosophy, theology, medicine, and Islamic jurisprudence were voluminous, comparable in comprehensiveness to the works of al-Farabi and Ibn Sina. His extensive influence in the West led to his condemnation by Muslim religious scholars opposed to the view that religious law and philosophy have the same goal and that creation is an eternal process. His intellectual stature, influence, and significance are demonstrated by the fact that European philosophers and theologians during the thirteenth century participated in major pro- and anti-Averroist battles.
Ibn Taymiyya (1268–1328) lived during one of the most disruptive periods of Islamic history, which saw the fall of Baghdad and the conquest of the Abbasid empire in 1258 by the Mongols. He was forced to flee with his family to Damascus, an experience that affected his attitude toward the Mongols throughout his life and made an otherwise conservative religious scholar a militant political activist. As with many who followed him, his writing and preaching earned him persecution and imprisonment. He combined ideas and action to express belief in the interconnectedness of religion, state, and society, thus exerting an influence on modern revivalist movements.
A professor of Hanbali law (Hanbali is the most conservative of the four Sunni schools), Ibn Taymiyya relied on a rigorous, literal interpretation of the sacred sources (the Koran and the examples of the Prophet and of the early Muslim community) for Islamic renewal and the reform of society. Like many who came after him, he regarded the community at Medina as the model for an Islamic state. Ibn Taymiyya distinguished sharply between Islam and non-Islam (dar al-Islam and dar al-harb, respectively), the lands of belief and unbelief. In contrast to his vision of a close relationship between religion and the state, he made a sharp distinction between religion and culture. Although a pious Sufi, a practitioner of Islamic mysticism, he denounced as superstition such popular practices of his day as the worship of saints and the veneration of shrines and tombs.
Ibn Taymiyya's revolutionary ire was especially directed at the Mongols, who were locked in a jihad with the Muslim Mamluk rulers of Egypt. Despite their conversion to Islam, the Mongols continued to follow the code of laws of Genghis Khan instead of the Islamic law, the Shariah, and Ibn Taymiyya regarded them as no better than the polytheists of pre-Islamic Arabia. He issued a fatwa (legal opinion or judgment) that denounced them as unbelievers (kafirs) who were thus excommunicated (takfir). His fatwa established a precedent that has been used by contemporary religious extremists. Despite their claim to be Muslims, the Mongol's failure to implement Shariah rendered them, and by extension all Muslims who acted accordingly, apostates and hence the lawful object of jihad. Thus, "true" Muslims had the right, indeed duty, to revolt or wage jihad against such governments or individuals. Later generations—from the Wahhabi movement in Arabia to Sayyid Qutb in modern Egypt, from Islamic Jihad, the group that assassinated Egypt's President Anwar as-Sadat, to Osama bin Laden—would use the logic of Ibn Taymiyya's fatwa against the Mongols to call for a jihad against their "un-Islamic" Muslim rulers and elites and against the West.
The writings of Muhammad Iqbal (1873–1938) embodied the conflicting agendas of modernists. Educated at Government College in Lahore (now in Pakistan), he then studied in England and Germany, where he earned a law degree and a doctorate in philosophy. Iqbal's modern synthesis and reinterpretation of Islam combined the best of his Islamic heritage with the Western philosophy of Fichte, Hegel, Nietzsche, and Bergson. He was both an admirer and a critic of the West. Acknowledgment of the West's dynamic spirit, intellectual tradition, and technology was balanced by his sharp critique of European colonialism, the materialism and exploitation of capitalism, the atheism of Marxism, and the moral bankruptcy of secularism. Iqbal's reformist impulse and vision, embodied in his extensive writings and poetry, were succinctly summarized in The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam.
Like other Islamic modernists, Iqbal rejected much of medieval Islam as static and stagnant, part of the problem and not the solution for a debilitated community. He saw Islam as emerging from 500 years of "dogmatic slumber" and compared the need for Islamic reform to the Reformation. Iqbal emphasized the need to reclaim the vitality and dynamism of early Islamic thought and practice, calling for a bold reinterpretation of Islam. Drawing on tradition, he sought to "rediscover" principles and values that would provide the basis for Islamic versions of such Western concepts and institutions as democracy and parliamentary government. He looked to the past to rediscover principles and values that could be reinterpreted to reconstruct an alternative Islamic model for modern Muslim society. Because of the centrality of such beliefs as the equality and brotherhood of believers, Iqbal concluded, democracy was the most important political ideal in Islam. He maintained that, although the seizure of power from Ali by Muawiyah, the founder of the Umayyad dynasty, had ended the period of the Rightly Guided Caliphs, led to the creation of dynastic governments, and prevented the realization of an Islamic democratic ideal, it remained the duty of the Muslim community to realize this goal.
It would be difficult to overestimate the role played by Sayyid Qutb (1906–66) on both mainstream and militant Islam. His journey from educated intellectual, government official, and admirer of the West to militant activist who condemned both the Egyptian and the U.S. governments and who defended the legitimacy of militant jihad has influenced and inspired many militants, from the assassins of Anwar as-Sadat to the followers of Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda.
Qutb's interpretation of Islam grew out of the militant confrontation in the late 1950s and the 1960s between the repressive Egyptian state and the Muslim Brotherhood. Like Hasan al-Banna, Qutb had a modern education at Dar al-Ulum College. After graduation he became an official in the Ministry of Public Instruction as well as a poet and literary critic. A devout Muslim who had memorized the Koran as a child, he began to write on Islam and the Egyptian state. In 1948 he published Islam and Social Justice, in which he argued that Islam possessed its own social teachings and that Islamic socialism avoided both the pitfalls of Christianity's separation of religion and society and those of communism's atheism.
An admirer of Western literature, Qutb visited the United States in the late 1940s. It proved to be a turning point in his life, transforming an admirer into a severe critic of the West. His experiences in the United States produced a culture shock that convinced him of the moral decadence of the West and made him more religious. He was appalled by U.S. materialism, sexual permissiveness and promiscuity, the free use and abuse of alcohol, and racism, which he experienced personally because of his dark skin. Qutb felt betrayed when he saw what he considered to be anti-Arab and pro-Jewish coverage in U.S. newspapers and movies that fostered contempt for Muslims. Shortly after his return to Egypt, Qutb joined the Muslim Brotherhood. He quickly emerged as a major voice in the organization and, amid a growing confrontation with Gamal Abdel Nasser's repressive regime, its most influential ideologue. Imprisoned and tortured for alleged involvement in a failed attempt to assassinate Nasser, he became increasingly militant and radicalized, convinced that the Egyptian government was un-Islamic and must be overthrown.
A prolific author, Qutb published more than 40 books, many translated into Persian and English and still widely distributed. During 10 years of imprisonment, Qutb developed a revolutionary vision captured in his most influential tract, Milestones, which was used as evidence against him and led to his being sentenced to death. His ideas would reverberate loudly in the radical rhetoric of revolutionaries.
Like Ibn Taymiyya before him, Qutb sharply divided Muslim societies into two diametrically opposed camps: the forces of good and the forces of evil, those committed to the rule of God and those opposed, the party of God and the party of Satan. His teachings recast the world in black and white; there were no shades of gray. Since the creation of an Islamic government was a divine commandment, he argued, it was not simply an alternative but, rather, an imperative that Muslims must strive to implement or impose immediately. Qutb used the classical designation for pre-Islamic Arabian society, jahiliyyah (a period of ignorance), to paint and condemn all modern societies as un-Islamic and anti-Islamic. Given the authoritarian and repressive nature of the Egyptian government and many other governments in the Muslim world, Qutb concluded that change from within the system was futile and that Islam was on the brink of disaster. Jihad was the only way to implement the new Islamic order.
For Qutb jihad, as armed struggle in the defense of Islam against the injustice and oppression of anti-Islamic governments and the neocolonialism of the West and the East (Soviet Union), was incumbent upon all Muslims. There could be no middle ground. Qutb denounced Muslim governments and their Western, secular-oriented elites as atheists, against whom all true believers must wage holy war.
In general, Islam does not have an official organizational structure or hierarchy. It technically lacks an ordained clergy, and major religious rituals, such as prayers or marriage ceremonies, do not require a religious official. Over time, however, the early scholars of Islam, the ulama (the learned), became a clerical class, asserting their prerogative as the guardians and official interpreters of Islam and adopting a clerical form of dress. They became the primary scholars of law and theology, teachers in schools and universities or seminaries (madrasahs), judges, muftis, and lawyers, as well as the guardians and distributors of funds from religious endowments that provided support for such institutions as schools, hospitals, and hostels and for the poor. In time, in some Muslim countries, senior religious officials were appointed by governments with titles such as grand mufti. Some forms of Shiism, in particular the Twelvers (Ithna Ashari) of Iran and Iraq, developed a hierarchical system of religious officials and titles. Their senior leaders are called ayatollahs, and at the apex of the system are grand ayatollahs.
The Sufi orders, or brotherhoods of Islamic mystics, also developed an institutional structure and organization of disciples, followers, and helpers led by the master (pir or shaykh), who functions as the spiritual leader and head of the community. Some of the more prominent brotherhoods developed international networks. At times the heads of Sufi brotherhoods also became military leaders. When these religious and social organizations turned militant, as with such eighteenth- and nineteenth-century jihad movements as the Mahdi in the Sudan, the Fulani in Nigeria, and the Sanusi in Libya, they fought colonial powers and created Islamic states.
HOUSES OF WORSHIP AND HOLY PLACES
The word "mosque" comes from the Arabic masjid (place for ritual prostration). For many Muslims, Friday at a mosque is a day of congregational prayer, religious education ("Sunday school"), and socializing. The atmosphere is one of tranquility and reflection and also of relaxation. A visitor to a mosque may see people chatting quietly or napping on the carpets, as well as praying and reading the Koran.
The mosque's main prayer area is a large open space adorned with Oriental carpets. When they pray, Muslims face the mihrab, an ornamental arched niche set into the wall, which indicates the direction of Mecca. Near the mihrab is the minbar, a raised wooden platform, like a pulpit, that is similar to the one the Prophet Muhammad used when giving sermons. Prayer leaders deliver sermons from the steps of the minbar. Most mosques also have a spot set aside, away from the main area, where Muslims can cleanse themselves before they pray.
Throughout history, wherever Muslims have settled in sufficient numbers, they have made erecting a mosque an important priority. In the United States, for example, the construction of mosques, which serve as community centers as well as places of worship, has increased greatly. More than 2,100 mosques and Islamic centers serve a diverse Muslim community in the United States, whose membership is often drawn along such ethnic or racial identities as Arab, South Asian, Turkish, and African-American. Mosques of various sizes are located in small towns and villages as well as major American cities.
In addition to individual worship and the Friday congregational prayer, mosques are often the sites for Koranic recitations and retreats, especially during the fast of Ramadan, and as centers for the collection and distribution of charitable contributions (zakat). Muslim pilgrims visit their mosques before they leave for, and when they return from, a pilgrimage to Mecca (hajj), and the bodies of those who have died are placed before the mihrab for funerary prayers. Mosques are also sites where marriages and business agreements are contracted and where educational classes are often held. In contemporary times mosques have become centers for political mobilization in those countries that control or ban public meetings or opposition politics. Preachers deliver sermons that incorporate political messages, criticizing government leaders, corruption, and injustice.
In Shiism the family of Ali and the imams became objects of imitation and veneration. Sites associated with their lives or deaths became mosques and shrines, the objects of veneration and pilgrimage. Shrines and holy cities such as Najaf (the burial place of Ali) and Karbala (the site of the martyrdom of Hussein), both in Iraq, or Mashhad and Qum, in Iran, became centers for learning and pilgrimage where rituals of commemoration, prayer, and celebration were performed. In Sunni Islam places associated with the Prophet Muhammad, his family, and companions, as well as with later martyrs and Sufi saints, became shrines and centers of pilgrimage and places for prayer, petitions, blessings, and miracles.
WHAT IS SACRED?
Islam emphasizes the oneness, or unity, of God and rejects the substitution of anything for God that could be considered idolatrous. Thus, while animals and plants are regarded as part of creation, they are not sacred, a category reserved only for God.
Historically, however, in popular practice, especially in Sufism, some masters came to be viewed as walis (friends of God, or saints), and their tombs became the focus of pilgrimages, where they were appealed to for blessings and assistance. The master's spiritual power and intercession before God might be invoked to request a safe pregnancy, overcoming sickness, a prosperous business, or success in taking exams. Special rituals and celebrations were held to commemorate the dates of the master's birth and death.
For many Muslims, though certainly not all, objects reportedly associated with the Prophet Muhammad—a tooth or strand of hair, for example—have come to be regarded as relics. Similarly, a mosque in Cairo to which Hussein's head was transferred in the twelfth century has been a popular shrine for Sunni and Shiite alike.
HOLIDAYS AND FESTIVALS
Muslims celebrate two great holidays. One is Id al-Fitr, the feast celebrating the breaking of the Ramadan fast. The second, which occurs two and a half months later, is Id al-Adha, or the Feast of Sacrifice. This latter holiday, the greater of the two, marks the end of the pilgrimage to Mecca and commemorates God's testing of Abraham by commanding him to sacrifice his son Ismail (Isaac in Jewish and Christian traditions). The feast is a worldwide celebration that lasts for three days.
The two holidays, which are a time for rejoicing, prayer, and social visits, represent a religious obligation as well as a social celebration. Both are occasions for visiting relatives and friends, for giving gifts, and for enjoying special desserts and foods that are served only at these times of the year. Many Muslim children stay home from school to celebrate the festivals, and in some areas school authorities recognize them as holidays for Muslim youngsters.
Muslims also celebrate other religious holidays, including the Prophet Muhammad's birthday. In Shiism the birthdays of Ali and the imams are also celebrated. Shiites annually commemorate the "passion" of Hussein during a 10-day period (ashura) of remembering, during which they ritually reenact and mourn the last stand of Imam Hussein and his followers against the army of the caliph.
MODE OF DRESS
Islamic dress for men and women reflects a focus on modesty in public and private spaces as defined in the hadith (the reports of Muhammad's sayings and deeds) and in popular tradition. Historically dress in the Muslim world was also strongly influenced by hot and arid climates with wind- and sandstorms, where long and flowing garments ensured comfort and head coverings served as protection. In the Muslim world today dress varies greatly, depending on geographic location, diverse customs and Koranic interpretations, marital status, and differing ages, tastes, identities, occupations, or political orientations.
Nonetheless, there is a particular style of Islamic dress for men and women that was adopted in the twentieth century by Muslim communities throughout the world. Female dress consists of an ankle-length skirt and long-sleeved top or a long robe, unfitted at the waist, along with a head covering, low on the forehead and draped over the neck and sometimes the shoulders. Austere colors (black, white, dark blue, beige, or gray) and opaque materials are the most common. This outfit, called the hijab and voluntarily chosen by many Muslim women, is distinctly modern, bought ready-made in shops or sewn by hand.
Male dress, less popular than the female version, includes a traditional long-sleeved tunic and baggy pants or a robe, along with a prayer cap or other traditional head wrap. A beard, either untrimmed or trimmed but covering areas of the cheek, is also sometimes worn. Islamic dress is less popular among men because it often leads officials to identify them as activists subject to identification and arrest.
This Islamic dress represents a new public morality. It strengthens Islamic identity and is a sign of protest and liberation that distances the believer from Western values and its emphasis on materialism and commercialism. Some women believe that Islamic dress makes them better able to function as active, self-directed subjects, commanding respect and valued for who they are rather than what they look like. This dress code has also developed political overtones, becoming a source of national pride, desire for participatory politics, and resistance to authoritarianism and Western cultural and political dominance.
Special dress is worn on a pilgrimage. For women this includes an outer covering and a headscarf. Men on pilgrimage wear two seamless pieces of white cloth and a waistband, an outfit that symbolizes the equality of all believers.
Muslims are required to eat meat that has been slaughtered in a religiously appropriate way (halal). A dietary prohibition against pork comes from the Koran (5:3). The widespread use of pork products and by-products by U.S. food manufacturers creates difficulties for American Muslims. Lard, commonly used in the United States as shortening, is sometimes an ingredient in cookies, for example, and potato chips may be fried in it.
The sale, purchase, and consumption of alcohol by Muslims is strictly prohibited by Islamic law, although in rare cases it is permitted for medicinal purposes. This prohibition is based upon the Koran (5:90–91), which specifically forbids the consumption of date wine. Most jurists, however, apply the injunction to all substances that produce an altered state of mind, including alcohol and narcotics.
Some mosques and Islamic centers circulate lists of specific products known to contain either pork or alcohol, so that they can be avoided. This includes mustard, some of which is made with white wine.
In a well-known hadith Muhammad is reported to have said, "Purity is half of faith." This saying dramatically emphasizes the importance of purity and purification in the Islamic tradition, especially as a preparation for worship and an encounter with God. Thus, physical purification culminates in a spiritual purity that results from worship. The two major purification rituals are the bath (ghusl) and the ablution (wudu), the latter consisting of washing the face, both arms up to the elbows, the head, and the feet. A bath is a precondition for all forms of worship in Islam, but to over-come any impurities encountered during the day, an ablution should also be performed before praying (salat) and circumambulating the Kaaba.
The salat is a ritual performed five times daily. Individually or in groups, Muslims face the holy city of Mecca to pray in Arabic. Believers stand, bow, kneel, and touch the ground with their foreheads—an expression of ultimate submission to God—as they recite verses from the Koran, glorify God, declare their faith, and then privately and informally offer personal prayers of request or thanksgiving.
The most intricate of Islamic rituals is the pilgrimage (hajj) to Mecca, which every Muslim who is financially and physically able must make once in his or her lifetime. During the pilgrimage Muslims perform a series of symbolic and emotional rituals—reenactments of faith-testing events in the lives of Abraham, Hagar, and Ismail—as determined by Muhammad shortly before his death. Muslims pray at the spot where Abraham, the patriarch and father of monotheism, stood. But the focus of the pilgrimage is the Kaaba, the cube-shaped structure that Muslim tradition teaches was originally built by Abraham and his son Ismail to honor God. The black stone the Kaaba contains is believed to have been given to Abraham by the angel Gabriel. Thus, it is a symbol of God's covenant with Ismail and, by extension, with the Muslim community. Pilgrims circumambulate the Kaaba seven times, symbolizing the believer's entry into the divine presence. They try to touch or kiss the black stone as they pass by in their procession around the Kaaba.
Pilgrims also walk or run between the nearby hills of Safa and Marwa to commemorate Hagar's frantic search in the desert for water for her son Ismail. In the midst of her running back and forth, water sprang from the earth, from the well of Zamzam. According to Islamic tradition, both Hagar and Ismail are buried in an enclosed area next to the Kaaba. Pilgrims cast small pebbles, a symbolic stoning, toward the three pillars where Abraham was tempted by the devil to disobey God and refuse to sacrifice his son. Finally, they visit the Plain of Arafat, near the Mount of Mercy, the site where Muhammad delivered his last sermon, to seek God's for-giveness for themselves and for all Muslims throughout the world. At the culmination of the hajj, the important ritual of Id al-Adha (Feast of Sacrifice) celebrates the ram substituted by God when Abraham, in a test of his faith, offered to sacrifice his son Ismail.
Collectively the hajj celebrates renewal and reunion across cultures and the continuity over time of the worldwide Islamic community (ummah). Individually it often coincides with major events in the believer's life cycle—adulthood, marriage, retirement, illness, a personal crisis or loss—and thus is also viewed as a key rite of passage. The simple garments pilgrims wear, which symbolize the equality and humility of all Muslims regardless of their class, gender, nationality, or race, is often used years later as their burial shroud.
RITES OF PASSAGE
Life cycle rituals in Islam serve to provide meaning and reinforce an individual and communal worldview. In addition to the Five Pillars of Islam, rites of passage for birth, puberty, marriage, and death symbolize the theme that a Muslim's purpose is to serve God by submission and thanksgiving.
At birth the call of prayer is recited in the infant's right ear. Names for babies are often derived from those of the prophets or their wives or companions, or a name is formed from the prefix abd (servant) and an attribute of God, such as "servant of the Almighty" (Abd al-Aziz). In addition, a goat or sheep is sacrificed to express gratitude to God and joy at the birth, as well as to form an association with Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son for God. Although circumcision of males is sometimes practiced, it has no doctrinal basis in Islam and is viewed as an act of hygiene. Puberty, the entrance into adulthood, represents the beginning of religious and social responsibility, the obligation to perform purification rituals to ensure physical cleanliness and daily prayers, and participation in the fast during Ramadan.
In Islam marriage (nikah) is encouraged as an integral part of humanity, and celibacy is discouraged. Marriage is considered a contract, however, not a sacrament. As with other rites of passage, marriage customs in the Muslim world reflect local customs. Because Islam views sexuality as a part of life requiring rules that preserve social morality, the Koran and sunnah (example of the Prophet) provide guidelines for prayer before, as well as a ritual bath (ghusl) after, conjugal relations.
Death in Islam is seen as the transition from life in this world to life in the next. Burial normally occurs on the day of death, after funerary rituals, based on practices of Muhammad, that include bathing and wrapping the body. The salat al-janazah, a funeral prayer led by a relative or an imam, is said in the mosque after any of the daily prayers, and the shahadah (declaration of faith) is recited by the family and friends at the burial. The deceased is placed in the grave with his or her face turned toward Mecca. To reinforce humility and the mindfulness of death, each funeral participant contributes three handfuls of earth toward filling the grave.
Islam is a world religion in geographic scope and mission. All followers have an obligation to be an example to others and to invite them to Islam. Muslims believe that Islam is the religion of God, possessing his final and complete word, the Koran, and his final prophet, Muhammad. Thus, while God's revelation had been revealed previously and covenants had been made with other communities, such as Jews and Christians, Muslims believe that Islam possesses the fullness of truth and that they have a divine mandate to be an example to others and to preach and spread their faith.
The "call" (dawa) to Islam, or propagation of the faith, has been central from the origins of the Muslim community. It has a twofold meaning: the call to non-Muslims to become Muslim, and the call to Muslims to return to Islam or to be more religiously observant. From earliest times commercial and military ventures were accompanied by the spread of Islam, with traders, merchants, and soldiers its missionaries. Caliphs also used the spread of Islam as a means to legitimate their authority over Muslims and to justify imperial expansion and conquest.
Modern interpretations of dawa have taken many forms—political, socioeconomic, and cultural—as governments, organizations, and individuals have sought to promote Islam's message and impact. Governments and modern Islamic movements and organizations have supported diverse activities, including the distribution of the Koran; the building of mosques, libraries, hospitals, and Islamic schools in poor Muslim countries; and greater Islamization of law and society in Muslim countries. As part of their foreign policies, some governments, including Saudi Arabia, Libya, and Iran, have created Dawa, or Call, organizations to promote Islam and their influence in the Muslim world and in the West. At the same time, nongovernmental Islamic organizations throughout the world have created strong networks of educational institutions and medical and social services. While the majority of these activities have been supported by mainstream groups, extremist organizations have also used social services to enhance their credibility, recruit supporters, and provide aid for the widows and families of their fighters.
The Koran stresses religious tolerance, teaching that God deliberately created a world of diversity: "O humankind, We have created you male and female and made you nations and tribes, so that you might come to know one another" (49:13). In addition, the Koran stresses that "there is to be no compulsion in religion" (2:256).
Islam regards Jews and Christians as People of the Book, as people who have also received revelations and scriptures from God. It is recognized that followers of the three great Abrahamic religions, the children of Abraham, share a common belief in the one God, in such biblical prophets as Moses and Jesus, in human accountability, and in a final judgment followed by eternal reward or punishment. In later centuries Islam extended recognition to other faiths.
Historically, while the early expansion and conquests spread Islamic rule, Muslims in general did not try to impose their religion on others or force them to convert. As People of the Book, Jews and Christians were regarded as protected people (dhimmi), permitted to retain and practice their religions, be headed by their own religious leaders, and be guided by their own religious laws and customs. For this protection they paid a poll, or head, tax (jizya). While by modern standards this treatment amounted to second-class citizenship, in premodern times, compared with the practices of Christianity, for example, it was highly advanced.
The most frequently cited example of religious tolerance is that of Muslim rule in Spain (Andalusia, or Al-Andalus) from 756 to about 1000, which is usually idealized as a period of interfaith harmony, or convivencia (living together). Muslim rule offered the Christian and Jewish populations seeking refuge from the class system elsewhere in Europe the opportunity to become prosperous small landholders. Christians and Jews occupied prominent positions in the court of the caliph in the tenth century, serving as translators, engineers, physicians, and architects. The archbishop of Seville commissioned an annotated translation of the Bible for the Arabic-speaking Christian community.
In the contemporary era religious and political pluralism has been an issue in the Muslim world, threatened by political and socioeconomic tensions and conflicts. Discrimination and conflict between Muslims and Christians, for example, have occurred from Egypt, the Sudan, and Nigeria to Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Indonesia. The situation has been exacerbated in many of those countries, such as the Sudan, Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, that have attempted to implement self-described Islamic states or Islamic law. A major factor has been extremist religious groups that have targeted non-Muslims. Religious conflict and violence have also occurred within Islam, between Sunnis and Shiites in countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan under the Taliban.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a major example of religion and politics intimately intertwined. Both Jewish and Islamic activist organizations have brought a religious dimension to the conflict between Israeli and Palestinian nationalism. The use of suicide bombings, with their connection to martyrdom, by such Palestinian organizations as Hamas and Islamic Jihad has added a further religious element to the conflict. The struggle over the future of Jerusalem has come to symbolize the religious dimension of the conflict.
A key Islamic issue today regarding tolerance and pluralism is the relationship of past doctrine to current realities. Mainstream conservative Muslims call for a reinstatement of the gradations of citizenship that accompanied the dhimmi status, which, however progressive in the past, would deny equal rights to non-Muslims today. Others recognize that this approach is not compatible with the pluralistic realities of the contemporary world or with international standards of human rights. Muslim reformers, who do not approve of the application of the classical tradition in modern times, insist that non-Muslims be afforded full citizenship rights. Advocates of reform maintain that pluralism, rather than being a purely Western invention or ideology, is the essence of Islam as revealed in the Koran and practiced by Muhammad and the early caliphs. Thus, while militants and traditionalists advocate classical Islam's dhimmi or millet (protected religious community) system, reformers call for a reinterpretation of pluralism.
Muslims, like Christians and Jews before them, believe that they have been called to a special covenant with God, as stated in the Koran, constituting a community of believers intended to serve as an example to other nations (2:143) in establishing a just social order (3:110). The Koran envisions a society based upon the unity and equality of all believers, in which morality and social justice counterbalance economic exploitation and the oppression of the weak. The new moral and social order called for by the Koran reflects the fact that the purpose of all actions is obedience to God's law and fulfillment of his will, not individual, tribal, ethnic, or national self-interest. Men and women are equally responsible for promoting a moral order and adhering to the Five Pillars of Islam.
Sunnis and Shiites
Sunnis (approximately 85 percent) and Shiites (15 percent), the two largest groups within the Muslim community, formed as the result of disagreements about who should succeed Muhammad, whose death in 632 meant the end of direct, personal guidance from the Prophet and thus direct revelation from God. The majority, the Sunnis, or followers of the sunnah (example of the Prophet), believed that Muhammad had not established a system for selecting a successor, and they selected Abu Bakr, his close friend and trusted adviser, to be the caliph (successor, or deputy). An early convert who had also become Muhammad's father-in-law, Abu Bakr was respected for his sagacity and piety. Thus, Sunni Muslims adopted the belief that leadership should pass to the most qualified person through a process of selection or election.
A minority of the Muslim community, the Shiites, or party of Ali, believed that succession should be hereditary and that Ali, Muhammad's first cousin and closest living male relative as well as the husband of his daughter Fatimah, should be the leader, or imam, of the Islamic community. Despite their views Ali was passed over three times, not gaining his place as caliph for 35 years, only to be assassinated a few years later. To make matters worse, Ali's charismatic son Hussein, who led a rebellion against the Sunni caliph Yazid, was overwhelmed and massacred along with his followers.
Thus, the differences between Sunnis and Shiites are based on leadership, on who is qualified to be the Muslim community's leader. Although they share many fundamental beliefs and practices, their diverse experiences also have resulted in differences in belief and ritual, as well as different views about the meaning of history.
Historically Sunnis have almost always ruled Shiites, who have existed as an oppressed and disinherited minority. (Today Shiites are a majority only in Iran, Iraq, Bahrain, and Lebanon.) Thus, Shiites have come to understand history as a test of the righteous community's perseverance in the struggle to restore God's rule on earth. While Sunnis can claim a golden age in which they were a great world power and civilization, which they see as God's favor upon them and a historic validation of Muslim beliefs, Shiites see in this same history the Sunni ruler's illegitimate takeover at the expense of a just society. Shiites view history more as a paradigm of the suffering and oppression of their righteous minority community and of their need to struggle constantly to restore God's rule on earth under his divinely appointed imam.
In the twentieth century Shiite history was reinterpreted in a way that provided inspiration and mobilization to fight actively against injustice rather than passively accept it. This reinterpretation has had the most significant impact among Shiites in Lebanon, who struggled to achieve greater social, educational, and economic opportunities during the 1970s and 1980s, and in Iran, where, during the Islamic revolution of 1978–79, the shah was equated with Yazid and Ayatollah Khomeini and his followers with Hussein. Thus, the victory of the Islamic revolution was declared to be the victory of the righteous over illegitimate usurpers of power.
The socioeconomic reforms of the Koran are among its most striking features. Muslims are held responsible for the care and protection of members of the community, in particular the poor, the weak, women, widows, orphans, and slaves (4:2, 4:12, 90:13–16, 24:33). Bribery, false contracts, the hoarding of wealth, the abuse of women, and usury are condemned. The practice of zakat, giving 2.5 percent of one's total wealth annually to support the less fortunate, is a required social responsibility intended to break the cycle of poverty and to prevent the rich from holding on to their wealth while the poor remain poor: "The alms [zakat] are for the poor and needy, those who work to collect them, those whose hearts are to be reconciled, the ransoming of slaves and debtors, and for the causes of God, and for travelers" (9:60). The redistribution of wealth underscores the Muslim belief that human beings are care-takers, or vice-regents, for God's property, that everything ultimately belongs to God.
Opposition to interest, seen as exploitation of the poor, originates in Koranic verses that prohibit usury, or riba, an ancient Arabian practice that doubled the debt of borrowers who defaulted on their loans and doubled it again if they defaulted a second time. Today opposition to interest comes from the Koranic prohibition against riba and the belief that interest gives an unfair gain to the lender, who receives money without working for it, and imposes an unfair burden on the borrower, who must repay the loan and a finance charge regardless of whether his money grows or he suffers a loss. Opponents also believe that interest transfers wealth from the poor to the rich, promotes selfishness, and weakens community bonds. Reformers argue that the condemnation of riba does not refer to the practices of modern banking but to usury, for, as the Koran warns, usurers face "war from God and His Prophet" (2:279).
Koranic reforms in marriage, divorce, and inheritance sought to protect and enhance the status and rights of women. While the Koran and Islam did not do away with slavery, which was common in pre-Islamic Arabia and thus presumed to be part of society, Islamic law set out guidelines to limit its negative impact and assure the just treatment of slaves. It forbade the enslavement of free members of Islamic society and, in particular, orphans and foundlings. Slaves could not be abused, mutilated, or killed. The freeing of slaves was regarded as an especially meritorious action. Similarly, in war clear regulations were given to protect the rights of noncombatants and the clergy.
The Koran and sunnah teach that Muslims should make every effort, or struggle (jihad), to promote justice. This includes the right, if necessary, to engage in armed defense (jihad) of the rights of the downtrodden, in particular women and children (4:74–76) and victims of oppression and injustice, such as those Muslims who were driven out of their homes unjustly by the Meccans (22:39–40).
Marriage and family life are the norm in Islam. In contrast to Christianity, marriage in Islam is not a sacrament but, rather, a contract between a man and a woman, or perhaps more accurately between their families. In the traditional practice of arranged marriages, the families or guardians, not the bride and groom, are the two primary actors. The preferred marriage, because of concerns regarding the faith of the children, is between two Muslims and within the extended family. In Islam, as in Judaism, marriage between first cousins has been quite common.
As in most societies, the early form of the family in Islam was patriarchal and patrilineal. (The term "patriarch," referring to Jewish and Christian prophets, exemplifies this tendency.) Islam, however, brought significant changes to the seventh-century Arabian family, significantly enhancing the status of women and children. The Koran raised the status of women by prohibiting female infanticide, abolishing women's status as property, establishing their legal capacity, granting women the right to receive their own dowry, changing marriage from a proprietary to a contractual relationship, and allowing women to retain control over their property and use their maiden name after marriage. In addition, the Koran granted women financial maintenance from their husbands and controlled the husband's free ability to divorce. The hadith (Prophetic tradition) saying that "The best of you is he who is best to his wife" also reflects Muhammad's respect for, and protection of, women.
Islamic law views the relationship of husband and wife as complementary, reflecting their differing capacities, characteristics, and dispositions, as well as the different traditional roles of men and women in the patriarchal family. In the public sphere, the primary arena for the man, the husband is responsible for the support and protection of the family. The woman's primary role of wife and mother requires that she manage the household and supervise the upbringing and religious training of their children. Both men and women are seen as equal before God, having the same religious responsibilities and equally required to lead virtuous lives, but women are viewed as subordinate in family matters and society because of their more sheltered and protected lives and because of a man's greater economic responsibilities in the extended family.
In Muslim countries, to a greater extent than in the West, the extended family, which includes grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins, has traditionally provided its members with counseling, child care, financial assistance, insurance, and social security. Women in the family have always been seen as the bearers of culture, the center of the family unit that provides a force for moral and social order and the means of stability for the next generation. In the nineteenth century the family provided religious, cultural, and social protection from colonial and Western domination, as well as a site for political resistance. In a rapidly changing, unpredictable, and sometimes hostile twentieth century, the family in many Muslim countries came to face economic and political and personal pressures brought about by unemployment and economic need and by disruption from war and forced migration. Debates throughout the Muslim world center on better family support from the state, as well as the changing roles and rights of men, women, and children.
Islam has always recognized the right to divorce under certain circumstances. Both the Koran and Prophetic traditions, however, underscore its seriousness. Muhammad is reported to have said, "Of all the permitted things, divorce is the most abominable with God," and an authoritative legal manual describes divorce as "a dangerous and disapproved procedure as it dissolves marriage … [It is] admitted, but on the ground of urgency of relief from an unsuitable relationship."
In Islam procreation is considered an important result of marriage, and for this reason many Muslims oppose abortion. According to Muslim religious scholars, abortion after the fetus obtains a soul (views differ on whether this occurs at fertilization or after 120 days) is considered homicide. The Koran emphasizes the preservation of life (17:31), with neither poverty nor hunger justifying the killing of offspring, and stresses that punishment for unlawfully killing a human being is to be imposed both in this life and in the afterlife (4:93). Therapeutic abortions, performed as a result of severe medical problems, are justified by a general principle of Islamic law that chooses the lesser of two evils. Instead of losing two lives, the life of the mother, who has important duties and responsibilities, is given preference.
Muslim voices differ regarding birth control. Islam has traditionally emphasized the importance of large families that will ensure a strong Muslim community. Although family planning is not mentioned in the Koran, some traditions of the Prophet mention coitus interruptus. Some conservative ulama (religious scholars) object to the use of birth control because they believe it opposes God's supreme will, can weaken the Muslim community by limiting its size, and contributes to premarital sex or adultery. Today, however, the majority of ulama permit contraception that is agreed to by both the husband and the wife, since this guarantees the rights of both parties. On the other hand, sterilization is opposed by most ulama on the grounds that it permanently alters what God has created.
The Koran declares men and women to be equal in God's eyes, to be equal parts of a pair (51:49) or like each other's garment (2:187). Their relationship should be of "love and mercy" (30:21). The Koran states, "The Believers, men and women, are protectors of one another; they enjoin what is just, and forbid what is evil; they observe regular prayers, pay zakat and obey God and His Messenger. On them will God pour His mercy: for God is exalted in Power, Wise. God has promised to Believers, men and women, gardens under which rivers flow, to dwell therein" (9:71–72). This verse was the last to be revealed, and as a result some scholars believe that it defines the ideal, a relationship of equality and complementarity.
Nonetheless, one of the most controversial issues in Islam today is the status of women and their lack of legal rights in family law. Many of the problems, however, can be traced not to Islam but, rather, to the customs of the patriarchal societies in which Islamic laws were originally interpreted. Until the twentieth century women were not actively engaged in interpreting the Koran, hadith, or Islamic law. For example, in order to control a husband's unbridled right to divorce, the Koran requires the man to pronounce his intention three times over a period of three months before the divorce becomes irrevocable (65:1). The delay allows time for a possible reconciliation and time to determine if the wife is pregnant and in need of child support. Despite these guidelines an abbreviated form of divorce, allowing the man to say "I divorce you" three times in succession, became a common phenomena. Although considered a sinful abuse, this kind of divorce was nevertheless declared to be legal, and it affected women's rights in many Muslim countries.
Using the Koran and the courts, many Muslim countries have instituted reforms to control divorce and to improve women's rights. In many countries today, Muslim women can obtain a divorce in court on a variety of grounds, although there are other patriarchal Muslim societies in which custom continues to allow extensive rights of divorce for men but only restricted rights for women. There also have been significant reforms in women's rights in other spheres. In the overwhelming majority of Muslim countries, women have the right to a public education, including education at the college level. In many countries they also have the right to work outside the home, to vote, and to hold public office. Among the most important reforms have been the abolition of polygamy in some countries and its severe limitation in others; expanded rights for women to participate in contracting marriage, including the stipulation of conditions favorable to them in the marriage contract; expanded rights for financial compensation for a woman seeking a divorce; and the requirement that a husband provide housing for his divorced wife and children as long as she holds custody over the children. There also have been reforms prohibiting child marriages and expanding the rights of women to have custody over their older children.
Muslim views of music have been influenced by hadith (Prophetic traditions) that caution against music and musical instruments. Nothing in the Koran bans music, however, and historically music has been a popular and significant art form throughout the Muslim world. It has played an important role in religious festivals and in life cycle rituals, including those for birth, circumcision, and marriage. In addition, throughout Muslim cities the daily calls to prayer are traditionally sung or chanted by a muezzin and projected from on high from loudspeakers on minarets. The most important musical form in Islam, however, is recitation of the Koran, done as a chant, in which annual competitions are held throughout the Muslim world. Recordings of Koran recitation are widely sold, and some of Islam's best-known singers have been reciters of the Koran. The Egyptian singer Umm Kulthum and others have imitated Koran recitation in their music.
As part of their devotions, the Sufi orders typically use music, both vocal, through repetition of words or phrases and in chanting, and instrumental. For Sufis music is a vehicle for spiritual transcendence and a means of attaining the experience of divine ecstasy. Folk music has also been an important expression of culture throughout the Muslim world, used to express moral and devotional themes as well as heroism and love. The music produced by the Muslims of Andalusia, like their poetry, had an enormous impact on the development of classical music in Europe.
In Islamic visual art concerns about idolatry have led historically to bans on the representation of human beings. Thus, the Islamic art that is most cherished is based upon the use of Arabic script in calligraphy (the art of beautiful writing) or of arabesque (geometric and floral) designs. A hadith attributed to the Prophet Muhammad says that one who beautifully writes the phrase "In the name of God the Merciful, the Compassionate," the first words in the opening chapter of the Koran, will enter paradise. The belief that God's direct words in the Koran should be written in a manner worthy of divine revelation has led to the development of calligraphy in many styles and forms. Calligraphy sometimes uses the stylized lettering of Koranic quotations or religious formulas to reflect animal, flower, or even mosque figures. Today interest in calligraphy remains high, as is evidenced in its varied use as decorations for holiday cards, announcements of important events, and book covers. Computer programs have been developed that can create decorations from Arabic script.
Because figures are not used in Islamic art, a form of decoration that came to be known in the West as arabesque—the use of natural forms such as stems, leaves, vines, flowers, or fruits to create designs of infinite geometric patterns—developed as a major artistic technique. Arabesque designs are used to decorate such objects as interior and exterior walls, mosque furniture like the minbar (pulpit), and fine Koran manuscripts. Some designs combine calligraphy with colorful geometric and floral or vegetal ornamentation.
Designs in Islamic art are often enhanced by exuberant colors, for example, in the glittering golden or azure domes and multicolored tiles of buildings or in the colors of pottery, textiles, and manuscripts. Colors are used symbolically in Islamic literature, although their meanings and associations are determined by context. For example, black can be associated with the black stone in the Kaaba in Mecca or with vengeance, violence, or hell. White is less ambiguous, usually representing faithfulness (as in the cloths worn by pilgrims on hajj), lightness, royalty, or death (as in its use as a burial shroud). Blue is the color of magical qualities, which can be used to protect a person from evil spirits or, in contrast, to dispense evil. Green was the color of the Prophet and of turbans worn by descendants of the Prophet, and it was also the color of the cloak of Ali, for Shiites the first imam. As the color of living plants, green is also symbolic of youth and fertility.
The ambiguities of color in Islamic art are matched by the Arabic language itself, which facilitates plays on words and the varied interpretations that result. These multiple meanings contribute to the enjoyment of both unchanging and variable insights and thus represent part of the appeal of Islamic literature. As the direct word of God, the Koran is viewed as religious literature as well as a perfect literary document.
Although in pre-Islamic Bedouin society poetry was the dominant literary form, the first centuries of Islam were dominated by a fear that poetry might conflict with the Koran's divinely inspired words. In the emotionally charged atmosphere generated by mysticism in the tenth and eleventh centuries, however, Sufi poems of longing for the divine beloved proliferated. By the twelfth century poetry emphasizing praise of the Prophet had developed in a number of forms, from short devotional verses to long, elaborate descriptions of Muhammad's greatness to pious songs. These forms are found in almost all literatures of the Muslim world today. The development of such modern technology as audio- and videotapes has fostered the growth of Islamic religious poetry in regional languages and in remote areas of the world.
Islamic prose forms include Koranic verses, the hadith, and biographies and autobiographies. Along with poetry and plays, novels, short stories, and autobiographies are used to advocate a religious way of life. Modern autobiographies place emphasis on the individual, in contrast to classical texts, which focused primarily on collective Islamic norms.
John L. Esposito
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The religion that God set forth for Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and muḤammad proclaimed by the latter in Arabia in the 7th century, which enjoys the allegiance of approximately 1.2 billion persons, about one-sixth of the total estimated population of Earth. The name Islam, invariably preferred by its adherents to Muhammadanism (one of the archaic Western designations for the religion), is an Arabic word signifying "surrender," and its believers call themselves Muslims, "those who have surrendered to God." The world's Muslims are centered chiefly in the northern and eastern parts of Africa and the western and southern parts of Asia. The largest national representations are those of Pakistan and Indonesia, but Islam's traditional cultural centers have been the Arab world and Iran. Considered the fastest-growing religion in the world, Islam is expanding southward in both East and West Africa, as well as in the West, notably in the United States, where, ever since the conversion of the son of the founder of the Black Muslims to Sunnite Islam in the 1970s, the majority of African American Muslims have been "orthodox" Muslims. The subject will be treated in five parts: the origins of Islam; the Islamic creed; "The Five Pillars" and Islamic religious practice; Islamic law, theology, and mysticism; and modern trends in Islam.
Origins of Islam. Islam can never be disengaged from the life of the man Muḥammad. Born at mecca in Arabia about a.d. 570, he belonged to a cadet branch of the Quraysh tribe, then prominent in Mecca, and in young manhood married the widow of a wealthy merchant. When he was about 40, he began to make a series of remarkable claims. He maintained that he was the bearer of a "recitation" (Arabic qur’Ān) transmitted to him by the Angel Gabriel and "the Spirit." This Qur’ān, he claimed, was the final redaction of what Allāh, "the God of Abraham, Ismael, Isaac, and Jacob, and the Tribes [of Israel] … and Jesus" (Qur’ān 2.136) wished to communicate to the human race. It carried in itself, as he was ultimately compelled to insist, the power of invalidating the former Scriptures whenever they disagreed with it, although he readily allowed that those Scriptures (presumably including the whole of the Bible) represented divine revelation "in its original form" no less than the Qur’ān. He further regarded himself as a prophet, indeed as the last of the series of prophets or "messengers" whom God had sent to restore the purity of His religion; for not only had it been deformed by Jews and Christians, in his view, but it had also remained unknown to others, notably the Arabs. These claims enjoyed no striking success at Mecca, though Muḥammad steadily enlisted small numbers. In 622 he and his followers fled to medina, a city some distance north of Mecca, an "emigration" (Arabic hijra), from which Muslims date their era. At Medina, Muḥammad added to the number of his followers and welded them together into a vital community and a military power, which was nearly ready, at the time of his death in 632, to extend itself by rapid conquests to mastery over much of Asia and Africa.
Various questions concerning Islam's origins and, more particularly, concerning the sources of the material contained in the Qur’ān, arise naturally. The orthodox Muslim position is a flat denial that such sources could possibly exist. The Muslims do not deny that Muḥammad knew Jews and Christians; what they deny is that Muḥammad was, in any sense, the author of the Qur’ān. Although God's revelations through Muḥammad are considered the ultimate authority in Islam, Muḥammad's deeds and sayings (collected in the bulky Islamic traditions or Ḥadīth literature) are considered to exemplify the ideal way of life for the Muslim. There are variations in orthodox Muslim thought as to how the balance should be drawn between patterning one's life after Muḥammad and following one's own interpretation of Qur’ānic injunctions. Many Muslims do not deny that there were slight variants in the earliest versions of the Qur’ān or that the arrangement of the chapters according to length is an arbitrary one, but they hold that the present form, which was soon established, corresponds to a heavenly archetype of "the Book." The Islamic concept of revelation is thus considerably more rigid than is the Catholic, the Protestant Christian, or even the orthodox Jewish; for it excludes the notion of human, though divinely inspired, authorship of Scripture.
Jewish and Christian Influence. Non-Muslim scholarship has taken a different view of the matter. It has nearly always held that the major influences on Muḥammad must have been principally, but not exclusively, Jewish and Christian, and that those influences were colored by Muḥammad's own character and made over to conform to aspects and needs of the pre-Islamic Arabian mind. Within this broad framework, however, opinions have clashed. The prize dissertations of Abraham Geiger, the Jewish reformist, stimulated much of the modern scholarly discussion; in it he argued for a dominant Jewish influence on the Qur’ān. An opposing view, holding that influence to have been chiefly Gnostic, won the powerful support of Julius Wellhausen. The latter view was followed by many scholars until more recent studies, for example those by Charles Torrey and Abraham Katsh, persuasively argued again for a greater Jewish influence. It must also be noted that at the beginning of the 21st century, greater attention was paid to Muḥammad's reactions to the traditional religions of South Arabia.
Although pre-Islamic Arabia was still distinctly pagan and, by comparison to Mediterranean lands, relatively uncivilized, it harbored numerous Jews and Christians. There is no difficulty in accounting for the presence of Christians there (see arabia, 5) or in explaining why those Christians tended to be Nestorians. The foremost Christian community was Najrān, under the Nestorian influence of the king of Hira. There were Jewish trading settlements at Teima, Khaybar, Medina, and cities farther south. They are occasionally mentioned in rabbinical literature and may have dated back to the 7th century b.c. There is evidence, too, of considerable numbers of Jewish proselytes among the Arabs. They do not appear to have possessed any higher learning, however, and it has been suggested that they had been affected by forms of heterodox thought in which both Christian and pagan notions had been incorporated.
Development of Muḥammad's Ideas. For those coming from a scholarly tradition that puts a heavy emphasis upon the written word, it is difficult to sift the Qur’ān and the tradition literature for historical information. It is certain that as a boy and young man Muḥammad knew, and was on friendly terms with, both Jews and Christians. He is reported to have heard the bishop of Najrān preach and to have met on a caravan a monk "well versed in the knowledge of the Christians" (Ibn-Ishāq, Sīrat Rasūl Allāh [The Life of Mohammad ], tr. A. Guillaume [London 1955] 79–81). (see bahira legend.) The first encouragement he received after his prophetic call, if one excepts that of his wife, came from her cousin Waraqah, "who had become a Christian and read the scriptures and learned from those that followed the Torah and the Gospel" (ibid. 107). At the same time he was familiar with various classes of Jewish scholars, whom he could name accurately, and there is reason to believe that many Jews, expecting the imminent advent of a messiah in Arabia, showed special interest in him. Finally, he was associated with a mysterious group that called itself the Hanifs (Arabic ḥunafā', "the pure ones"), whose members, disgusted with idol worship, favored a monotheism incorporating elements from both Judaism and Christianity.
After Muḥammad began his preaching, he had constant and close contacts with Jews and Christians, but it is hard to say whether or in what manner he profited by them. His adversaries, among whom were many Jews and Christians, watched eagerly for indications of fraud; and Muḥammad was able successfully to assume a remarkably self-assured attitude toward any accusations of that sort. In the early Meccan period, to be sure, he was given to appealing, though somewhat vaguely, to Jewish and Christian authority for his teachings on the unity of God and on divine judgment: "All this is written in earlier scriptures, the scriptures of Abraham and Moses" (Qur’ān 87.18). The only respect in which he then admitted differing from those Scriptures was that his own revelation was in the Arabic language: "Before [the Qur’ān] the Book of Moses was revealed, a guide and a blessing to all men. This book confirms it. It is revealed in the Arabic tongue" (Qur’ān 46.12). The late Meccan and early Medinese periods saw the greatest readiness on Muḥammad's part to absorb Jewish elements into Islam, for at that time his special aim was to win Jewish converts, especially among the Jews of Medina.
Changed Attitude toward Jews and Christians. For a time Muḥammad went out of his way to model Islam on the Bible, but later he assumed a sharply different attitude. That attitude stemmed, one suspects, from the unwillingness of Jews and Christians to accept his teaching. The Qur’ānic chapters of that later period clearly demonstrate Muhammad's wish to disassociate Islam from Jewish and Christian "orthodoxy" and to establish the supremacy of his own religion by vigorous disputation and the use of force. Unsuccessful in his attempt to convince the Jews and Christians, he began to attack them intellectually and physically. Only the Jews offered organized opposition. In the beginning they seem to have provided Islam with a number of false disciples. Nevertheless, they were incapable of prolonged or effective resistance to the growing Islamic power, and within a few years Khaybar and the other Jewish colonies in North Arabia had been vanquished.
Very probably Muḥammad had heard improvised translations of the Jewish and Christian Scriptures. It is quite possible, too, that information concerning one group may have come from the other and that wherever Scripture is misrepresented or distorted, Muḥammad followed homiletical embellishments. Julian Obermann summed up the problem of Islamic origins very well:
What with the vast overlapping of Jewish and Christian lore, especially in the period and area involved [the general impression of greater Jewish influence on Islam], may be illusory or at least inexact, unless it be borne out by detailed evidence for each element under discussion. Obviously, Old Testament and even rabbinical materials might have been transmitted to Arabia by Christian channels; while seemingly New Testament matter might easily have been derived from rabbinical homilies. Indeed, the situation is of a kind that in a considerable number of instances we can go only as far as to demonstrate a given element in Islam as of Judaeo-Christian origin, but no further. (The Arab Heritage, ed. N. A. Faris [New York 1963] 59–60)
Islamic Creed. Islam has carefully maintained its distinction between faith (imān ) and practice (’ibādāt or iḥsān ). Faith, usually defined as "assent to that which comes from God, and confession to it," has been formulated in a creed considerably more complicated than the shahādah, the simple profession of faith: "There is no god but God [Allāh ], and Muḥammad is His messenger." There are six classic articles in the otherwise varying Muslim creeds: concerning God, angels, the Holy Scriptures, prophets and "messengers," resurrection and judgment, and predestination. Muḥammad's monotheism began, no doubt, as a rejection of paganism; yet it was highly positive. It was, as he never ceased repeating, the monotheism of Israel. The God of Islam was Yahweh, without those truths about Him revealed by Christ. It is fairly certain that there were various interpretations of the Trinity in various Christian circles during Muḥammad's lifetime, some of which may have included the Virgin Mary. The Qur’ān denies the Incarnation: "God is one, eternal. He did not beget and was not begotten" (Qur’ān112.3). For Muḥammad there was no redeemer, no need for redemption, no original sin. Otherwise Allah is invested with nearly the same general attributes of Yahweh. The angels and archangels, even to their names, are those of the Bible. Satan also figures, as do the "genies" (Arabic jinn ) and other spirits similar to but not precisely identical with lesser devils.
The references to earlier Scriptures in the Qur’ān are sufficiently vague to render their exact identification difficult. Only a few OT books are mentioned by name, and the Gospel (in the singular) is treated as though it were a book revealed to Christ. At first Muḥammad appealed to the authority of these books to uphold his own prophet-hood and religion, but later seemed to suggest that they had been hopelessly corrupted and falsified. Muslims have never felt obliged, therefore, to justify the inconsistencies and discrepancies (which exist in considerable numbers) between the Qur’ān and the earlier Scriptures in the forms in which they have come down to us. There is only one indisputable quotation from the Bible in the Qur’ān (that of Ps 36 .29 in 21.105), but scores of OT stories are repeated, in the main accurately, with many reminiscences of their Hebrew wording. There are also Talmudic stories, such as the lowing of Aaron's calf (7.146) and Abraham's trial by fire, a rabbinic play on Ur and the Hebrew 'ûr, "fire" (21.68–70).
Muslims also distinguish prophets from "messengers"; the latter are believed to be holy men sent by God to teach specific peoples. Muḥammad is thus regarded both as the "seal" of the prophets and as the messenger to the Arabs. The Qur’ān mentions 8 messengers and 24 prophets, 4 of them Arabs and the rest Hebrews. The prophets include most of the major figures in the early history of the Hebrews, but exclude Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and all of the minor prophets but Jonah. Despite the honor in which Abraham is held, the predominant figure in the Qur’ān is Moses. If one follows Theodor Nöldeke's chronology of the chapters, Moses is mentioned more than 100 times in the chapters from the Meccan period alone. The angels refer to the Qur’ān in one passage as "a Scripture revealed since the time of Moses, confirming previous Scriptures" (46.30).
Christ, by contrast, is mentioned in only two chapters of the Meccan period, and references to Him throughout the Qur’ān are sparse. Many of Christ's utterances as found in the canonical Gospels and elsewhere in the New Testament are not mentioned in the Qur’ān, and those that are mentioned frequently deviate from the text of the NT. Christ appears as a messenger born (by Virgin Birth) of the Virgin Mary. Indeed, he is often referred to as the "Son of Mary." Some of the stories of His infancy, such as His speaking in the cradle (19.30–34; 5.109) and fashioning a live bird out of clay (3.43; 5.110), echo apocryphal writings known to have existed in Coptic, Syriac, and even Arabic versions. Muḥammad granted that Christ worked miracles, but denied that He was crucified. That position, commonly taken by some Gnostics and Docetists, was expressed in the Qur’ān: "They [the Jews] declared: 'We have put to death the Messiah Jesus, the son of Mary, the apostle of Allāh.' They did not kill him, nor did they crucify him, but they thought they did"(4.156). It has been argued from what is missing in the Qur’ānic narratives that much of Muḥammad's information about Christ must have come from Jewish informants. It is a widespread later Islamic belief, still current and not without Qur’ānic support, that Christ will return at the end of the world to slay the Antichrist. He is often called the "Word" of God and His "Spirit" in the Qur’ān, and "Messiah" is usually added to His name.
The Qur’ān bears strong witness to the resurrection of the flesh and the Last Judgment. Only heaven and hell are everlasting, although it appears that hell serves as a kind of purgatory for some Muslims and that Muḥammad (and, according to some theologians, other prophets as well) has intercessory powers with God for them. The Islamic belief in predestination is not as rigid as some commentators have made it to be. It has always been a live issue in Islamic theology, and the matter of working out an acceptable formulation has been left to the devices of the exegete and the ordinary believer. The Qur’ān says, for example, "God causes whom He wills to err, and whom He wills He guides; and you shall assuredly be called to account for your doings" (16.93).
The "Five Pillars" and Islamic Religious Practice. By the time of its conquests outside Arabia, Islam regarded itself as a universal religion for all mankind; so there has never been any perfect ethnic or linguistic tie among Muslims, though Arabic (in a special way, over a wider area and for a longer time), Persian, Turkish, and Urdu have come to be the principal languages of its expression. Islamic practice is a complex realm, ranging from the obligatory Five Pillars through the "necessary but not obligatory" on to the "voluntary" acts of the Muslim. The Five Pillars are as follows: the profession of faith in Islam, prayer, fasting, almsgiving, and pilgrimage.
Orthodoxy. The profession of faith consists of the simple statement: "There is no god but God, and Muḥammad is His messenger." The believing recitation of this formula, preferably before witnesses, is sufficient in itself to make one a Muslim. Islam has no church, no priesthood, no sacramental system, and almost no liturgy. The pattern of belief and practice of the sunnites enjoys the adherence of all but a small percentage of Muslims. The shĪ’ites comprise the second-largest grouping of Muslims. Deriving from the political "partisans" of ‘alĪ and his heirs, they have developed distinct doctrinal, legal and ritualistic features. Sectarianism in Islam has never had quite the same connotations as heresy in the Christian church, allowing for the acceptance of numerous religio-legal entities within the community of Islam.
Prayer. One of the most attractive aspects of Islam for the Christian is its steadfast devotion to prayer. There is a set form of ritual prayer, prefaced by ablutions and accompanied by "bowings" (Arabic rak‘ah ), for the five daily prayers prescribed by Islamic tradition and law. Muslims are called to public prayer by the muezzin (Arabic mu‘adhdhin ) from the minaret of a mosque. Many Muslims pray in the mosque only at noon on Fridays, when there is a sermon (Arabic khuṭba ), although more devout believers may perform all of the prescribed prayers there. Formal prayer must be performed facing toward Mecca. There is a tradition also of private and contemplative prayer, largely associated with sufism.
Fasting. Muslims are obliged to fast during the entire month of ramadan, which, because of the lunar reckoning from the Hijra, may fall at any time of the year. It is a total fast, but only from daybreak to sunset. It is a community exercise. Those who are ill or on a journey during that time are exempted from it, but must fast an equal number of days later on. Muslim spiritual writers such as al-Ghazzālī emphasize that Ramadan implies more than mere fasting and is a time for repentance and drawing the heart nearer to God. Voluntary fasting during other times of the year, especially in expiation for sins, is recommended and practiced.
Almsgiving. Muslims are enjoined also to give alms (Arabic zakāt ). In the early days of Islam free-will offerings were regarded as satisfying this obligation. Later, however, a formal tax of one-tenth or one-fifth of the income (according to circumstances) was imposed upon Muslims. A contribution of one-fortieth of the income was considered adequate by many later legists. In modern times almsgiving has generally reverted to a matter of free-will offerings. The Qur’ān distinguished the worthy objects of free-will offerings (relatives, orphans, travelers, and the poor; 2.211) from those upon whom the revenue of zakāt was to be expended (slaves and prisoners, debtors, tax collectors, those to be conciliated by the Islamic community, and those fighting in a holy war; 9.60).
Pilgrimage to Mecca. The fifth of the Five Pillars is the pilgrimage to Mecca (Arabic Ḥajj). Every Muslim is expected to journey there once in his lifetime if he possesses the means. There are two types of pilgrimage: the lesser pilgrimage, which can be performed at any time of the year with an abbreviated ritual, and the greater pilgrimage, which must be performed on specific days during the month of Dhū al-Ḥijjah. When the pilgrim dons his simple white robes and enters into the state of iḥrām, he must abstain from all violence, sensual pleasures, and adornment for the duration of the pilgrimage. When he reaches Mecca, he goes immediately to the Ka'bah, the black-draped cuboidal "holy house" in the central square. This is the shrine, important in pre-Islamic religion, that Muslims believe was built in its original form by Abraham. It was only fairly late in his career that Muḥammad unequivocally incorporated the shrine and pilgrimage into Islam. The first Muslims had prayed facing Jerusalem. After kissing the Black Stone, the Muslim circumambulates the Ka'bah, marches seven times between the hills of al-Safā and al-Marwah, and then journeys the 14 miles to Mount ‘Arafāt for the ceremony of wuqūf, "standing before God," for which lengthy prayers are prescribed. On the return to Mecca he prays at Muzdalifah, casts stones at certain pillars believed to represent the sites of temptations of Ismael, and offers a blood sacrifice commemorating Abraham's sacrifice in Gn 22.13. After ceremonial tonsure and a second circumambulation of the Ka'bah, the pilgrimage proper is ended, although most pilgrims go on to Medina to visit Muḥammad's grave and other sites associated with his life.
Other Religious Customs. According to some Muslim opinion, the jihād, or holy war, is to be considered a sixth "pillar" of Islam. This obligation was formulated in quite general terms in the Qur’ān 2.190, 193: "Fight in the way of God against those who fight against you, but do not commit aggression…. Fight against themuntil sedition is no more and allegiance is rendered to God alone; but if they make an end, then no aggression save against the evildoers." Although holy war has lost much of its persuasive force after the period of Islamic expansion (the consensus amongst orthodox Muslims has been that holy war should not be waged when it appeared as though the Muslims might lose), there have been modern attempts to revive it, especially amongst "radical" groups as a means of protesting Western, particularly American, global hegemony.
Besides these major matters of practice, the Qur’ān and Islamic tradition have supplied many others. Circumcision, for instance, is universally practiced among Muslims as a matter of religious observance, although the Qur’ān does not mention it. Wine, pork, gambling, and usury are forbidden. So, too, strictly speaking, are the making of images, the veneration of saints, and the use of devotional objects. Since the Qur’ān envisioned a close-knit community of true believers, it also contained many regulations concerning guardianship, dowries, divorce, and inheritance, as well as a complete punitive system against theft, fraud, perjury, and murder.
Festivals. Muslims celebrate many festivals. The most popular of them are the greater and lesser festivals that mark the end of Ramadan, the month of fasting. The greater festival, begun while fellow Muslims are sacrificing animals on the way back to Mecca, is celebrated with somewhat less enthusiasm than the lesser festival, which begins as soon as the new moon is visible after Ramadan. On that occasion there is great feasting and cheer, with exchanging of gifts. Paradoxically, it is also a favorite occasion for visiting the graves of one's departed relatives and friends. The birthday of Muḥammad (Arabic mawlid al-nabī ) is marked with some solemnity, though rather less than one might have expected. Among the Shī’ites, the largest minority sect, the 10th day of the month of Muḥarram is the principal festival of the year. Shī’ism added two significant items to the Sunnite creed: first, a belief in a continuing divine "manifestation," particularly valuable with respect to Qur’ānic interpretation, in the descendants of 'Ali; second, a veneration for "the passion," for voluntary and innocent self-sacrifice to the point of martyrdom by the merits of which believers attain salvation and eternal life. These items, whose Christian parallels are obvious, are united in the liturgy of the 10th of Muḥarram, when Shī’ites commemorate the death of ‘Alī's son Ḥusayn on Oct. 10, 680. Ḥusayn was killed in a skirmish between government troops and a small body of sympathetic supporters who were accompanying him to al-Kūfah in Iraq, where he intended to organize a revolt against the umayyad caliphs of Damascus. The fate of Ḥusayn became a prototype and pattern for Shī’ite martyrdom and a symbol of the Shī’ite cause. In areas where Shī’ites are in a majority or at least represented in considerable numbers, this anniversary is preceded by nine days of rigorous religious discipline and culminates in a wild procession through the streets in which a catafalque for Ḥusayn is accompanied by horses, blood-smeared attendants, and numbers of naked young men flagellating themselves with chains and swords. The veneration of ‘Alī and his sons has extended, it is interesting to note, to many of the Sunnite Muslims.
Islamic Law, Theology, and Mysticism. Islam is nothing if not the religion of the Qur’ān. The Qur’ān is believed by Muslims to constitute God's final and consequently singular revelation to mankind. There has never been any universally or even widely accepted ultimate authority in Islam except the Qur’ān. Questions of its interpretation have always been, therefore, of fundamental and crucial importance. Necessarily the Qur’ān had to be supplemented in several ways. It was supplemented first of all by the custom (Arabic sunnah, hence the name Sunnite) of Muḥammad himself, established principally by means of the tradition literature concerning him and his companions, based in turn upon chains of more or less authentic transmitting authorities (Arabic isnād ), subsequently evaluated by an intricately developed science. It was obvious that traditions often conflicted; a man named Ibn-abī-al-‘Awja was executed in al-Kūfah in 772 after confessing that he had forged several thousand traditions complete with chains of authority that would be regarded as genuine.
Law. The weakness of this supplement soon became obvious and a more efficacious supplement, designed to counteract that weakness and to serve the needs of a rapidly expanding state, was provided by the employment of certain principles, such as consensus of opinion (ijma' ), analogical deduction (qiyās ), independent reasoning (ijtihād ), and private opinion (ra‘y ) in the creation of an Islamic law (see islamic law). Four recognized schools of legal interpretation (Arabic sharī‘ah ), namely the Ḥanafite, Malikite, Shafi‘ite, and Ḥanbalite schools, all eponymous, were inaugurated during the 8th and 9th centuries and have remained in force until modern times. Today, while the impact of the sharī‘ah has been abridged by the encroachment of modern civil law in certain areas of jurisprudence, there is at the same time a revival of the strict interpretation of the sharī‘ah in many parts of the Islamic world. Throughout the medieval and early modern periods, however, owing to the virtually unique identification of the religion of Islam with the government of any Islamic state, the sharī‘ah totally regulated the lives of Muslims. It extended to almost every detail of private life, comprehending all its religious, social, political, and domestic behavior. The offices of qāḍi (judge), mufti (legal expert), and 'ālim (lawyer, though very often used simply for "learned man") rose to and maintained for many centuries positions that were of capital importance in Islamic life. In those places of the world where extensive Islamification of society is being attempted (such as the Sudan and Indonesia), as well as in those countries where the ruling factions have appropriated Islamic terminology to shore up their regimes (such as Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan), the sharī‘ah and the concomitant penal code (e.g., the amputation of the hand of the thief) is the law of the land.
Systematic Theology. Distinct from the sciences of the traditions and of legal interpretation, systematic theology (see kalĀm) began later in the 9th century, partially in response to quarrels between the traditionalists and the incipient legists and to the influx of late Hellenistic philosophical notions, but most evidently in opposition to a group of rationalistic Muslims in Basra and Baghdad called the mu‘tazilites. This group asserted a series of unpopular positions on current issues such as the "creation" of the Qur’ān, the unity and justice of God, the nature of salvation, and free will. Although their aim seems to have been to protect Islamic dogma from what they regarded as corruptions to which it was open, they made use of a naive and rudimentary philosophical procedure that associated them with the target of their own attacks. When they converted the caliph al-Ma’mūn to their viewpoints and instituted an inquisition (Arabic miḥnah ), they generated a serious ideological crisis within the Islamic community and a powerful reaction that began with the apostasy of Abū al-Ḥasan ‘Alī al-ash’arĪ (873?–935). Al-Ash‘arī, concerned mainly with the preservation of the pure transcendence of God, disenchanted with his Mu’tazilite masters, and influenced by the thinking of Ibn-Hanbal, the founder of the legal school already mentioned, set about systematically to refute the Mu’tazilite propositions. Few of his works have survived; but from those that have, it is clear that he himself so far advanced the methodology of treatment of these questions that his enduring reputation as the founder of Islamic theology and symbol of its orthodoxy appears justified. He was responsible for the disengagement of philosophy from this realm, enabling Islamic philosophers to go their independent ways, and for the close connection that developed between theology and the legal schools of the sharī‘ah.
Al-Ash‘arī was the founder of the most influential school of Islamic theology; yet Ash’arism differs considerably from the teaching of al-Ash‘arī himself. In the immediately succeeding centuries the work of al-Baqillani, al-Juwayni, and others continued and advanced the science. Later al-Ghazzālī, al-Rāzi, al-Ījī, and al-Jurjāni let their thought be formed by it. Eventually, however, it came to an intellectual standstill in stereotyped manuals for students. Its commanding position was not, of course, achieved at once. Its choice as an official system of the Seljuk sultanate and, later, of the Ottoman sultanate was doubtless instrumental toward that end. Still, it must be recognized that in the earlier period Ash’arism had a powerful rival in the school of al-Maturidi of Samarqand. The basic impulses of the two schools seem to have been very similar and the differences between them relatively slight. Maturidism died out for reasons principally political. At any rate, by the 12th century the most potent challenges to Islamic theology were those emanating from outside the discipline, from the philosophers, notably Ibn Sīnā (avicenna), and from the Sufis.
Mysticism. Sufism (Arabic ṣūf, "wool") is the name ascribed in general to the entire ascetical and mystical movement within Islam, as well as to its manifestations in the eremetical and regular religious life from the 8th century to the present. Questions concerning the origins of Sufism remain extremely difficult to solve, and there are still some matters on which scholarly opinion has differed with unusual sharpness. Louis Massignon sought to prove that the origins of Sufism lie wholly within the Islamic tradition of the Qur’ān and the sunnah, despite the surface facts that the Qur’ān says little that could be interpreted as a justification for the ascetic life as lived and loved by the Sufis and that the ḥadīth literature contains a number of explicit injunctions against it, for example: "There is to be no monasticism in Islam." Other scholars have adduced origins in the remnants of Christian asceticism within Islam after its conquests, in Zoroastrianism (see zoroaster [zarathushtra]), and even in direct and indirect Hindu and Buddhist influences, although these scholars have fallen to quarreling among themselves. In any case, it cannot be denied that from the 8th century onward there was an increasingly influential movement, to be classified in the realm of popular religion, which produced more and more individuals willing to retire from the world in order to pursue an ascetic and contemplative life. That they may have done so partly in response to social and political instabilities and current theological controversies pales before the simple fact that they did so and, in doing so, greatly affected the course of Islamic intellectual history. The convention of periodizing the history of Sufism is largely the result of Sufi hagiography itself. Certainly there were early Muslim ascetics, many of them with Shī’ite leanings, who eventually grouped themselves together, were nourished by an esoteric reading of the Qur’ān and later by the writings of such mystics as al-Rabā’ah and al-Ḥallāj, and who, increasingly as the decades wore on, sought a communal life based on common conviction and intention.
Influence of Ghazzālī. From the ranks of the early Sufis came popular preachers and original thinkers who firmly founded Sufism and so disturbed the orthodox legal-theological institution of Islam that they were regarded not only as disruptive, but as bad Muslims. Into this situation was born, in the 11th century, Abū-Ḥāmid al-Ghazzālī (see algazel [ghazzĀlĪ, al-]). Influenced by Sufism in his youth, he nevertheless turned to the traditional sciences and to philosophy in his education and brilliant academic career. This prize student of al-Juwayni soon became a leading professor in Baghdad. As suddenly as he turned against philosophy because of the works of Avicenna, which he refuted in a book entitled The Incoherence of Philosophy, he turned against the whole orthodox system and toward Sufism. He resigned his professorship at Baghdad and began a radical reconsideration of Islam that resulted in the nearest thing to a reformation that Islam has ever experienced. By combining and indeed harmonizing the Islam of the Qur’ān, the theologians, the legists, and the Sufis against the philosophers, he created, in his greatest work, The Revivification of Religious Sciences, a sensitive, well-structured, and comprehensive summa of Islamic religious thought. His achievements, like al-Ash‘arī's, became an integral part of Islamic orthodoxy and transformed it by opening an entire new universe of thought. Through al-Ghazzālī's reforming efforts kalām gained a new vision and Sufism a new respectability. For many centuries philosophical, theological, and mystical writings in Islam bore the stamp of al-Ghazzālī's thought.
The directions and extent of the development of that thought cannot be said to have fulfilled the plan or spirit of al-Ghazzālī himself. The marriage of Sufism with kalām was intellectual rather than practical. In practice the two went their separate ways. Philosophy, as has been noted above, had always gone its separate way. As a result, there was never again to be such a unified system of Islam as al-Ghazzālī's, though each of the areas of thought mentioned deepened as a consequence of his system. Sufism, in particular, enjoyed an immense popularity during the succeeding centuries. As its theory continued to develop, however, a multiplicity of religious folk practices and heterodox notions were kneaded into it. The speculative aspects of later Sufism were combined in a new eclectic system by ibn ‘arabĪ of Murcia (d. Damascus, 1240), who turned the movement in a more pantheistic direction and toward closer circles of initiates. The loose mosque communities of early Sufism gave way to larger confraternities and finally to religious orders (see islamic confraternities), Elements of the monastic, the eremetical, and the mendicant states were combined in various proportions in these orders. Normally, however, a postulant came to a monastery, became a novice, led a communal life under the direction of a shaykh or pīr, whose position was either elective or hereditary. Later he might go out preaching or on to another community, but the characteristic ritual of dhikr and his manner of life readily identified him as a Sufi (Arabic faqīr, Persian darvīsh ).
One of the greatest of the Sufi summarizers was Jalāl al-Dīn al-Rūmī, whose monumental Masnavi did more than other such compilations to inspire later Sufism and arrest its decline. Decline it did, however. The number of orders multiplied; observance was lax; and finally there was little left in the numerous popular lodges and clubs to suggest the grand origins of Sufism. Although Sufism still exists and is very influential on the modern frontiers of Islam, it enjoys nothing like its former glory.
Philosophy, too, responded to al-Ghazzālī's challenge. Al-Rāzī (rhazes) speaking for himself, set the field on a more clearly rationalistic basis in vindication of Ibn Sīnā. It was in Muslim Spain, however, shrinking in the face of the Christian Reconquista, which had begun in the 11th century, that the last truly great philosophical work was done in Islam. There, in the Almohad court of Abū-Ya’qūb Yūsūf, Abū Bakr ibn Ṭufail wrote his Ḥayy ibn-Yaqẓān, a philosophical romance owing a great deal both to Neoplatonic compendia and to Sufism. There, too, one of the greatest Islamic philosophers, Ibn Rushd (averroËs), received his training. Rising quite literally to al-Ghazzālī's challenge in his work The Incoherence of the Incoherence [of Philosophy ], he rose to it even more profoundly and immortally in his series of commentaries upon the works of Aristotle, works that were very soon, in translation, to find a more appreciative audience in the new universities of Christian Europe and to influence very substantially the development of scho lasticism.
Islamic theology, on the other hand, grew more and more implacably hostile to what it regarded as the continuing innovations of Sufism and philosophy. As it did so, it strengthened its ties to the sharī‘ah. In the work of Ibn-Taymīyah (1263–1328) the orthodox reaction was confidently and powerfully asserted in a return to fundamentalism. Thereafter, until modern times, the traditional disciplines and fundamental doctrines and principles of Islam engaged the energies of the orthodox thinkers completely. Though recent scholarship has discovered enough independent thought on the part of some Muslims to force a revision of the notion that the whole of the Ottoman period was one of intellectual sterility, it remains true that a basic unquestioning orthodoxy held the Islamic community fast together in a rigid system for centuries.
Modern Trends in Islam. The modern Muslim is true to these beliefs and practices and to this intellectual tradition, in his fashion. However thick may be the gloss of elements of "folk" Islam, the basic items in the creed and the Five Pillars are common, with only the slightest modifications, to all Muslims. In recent times there have been such stirrings within Islam, in response to various challenges from within and without, that the modern Muslim is by no means as fully complacent about the omniresponsive nature of his religion as his ancestors were. Few modern Muslims remain unaffected, in fact, by one or another of the more recent trends in Islam.
It is significant that the first impulse toward radical change in modern times came from Arabia. The low ebb to which Islam had sunk in the Arabian Peninsula by the 17th century, which apparently was virtually a return to primitive religion, gave rise to the movement called Wahhābism, founded by Muḥammad ‘Abd-al-Wahhāb (1703–92), calling for a return to Islam's first principles and attacking laxity of morals and those innovations attributable, over the centuries, to Sufism and philosophy. It championed the severe Hanbalite legal code and the uncompromising interpretations of Ibn-Taymīyah. Having enjoyed the patronage of the Saudi tribal chieftains, whose descendants came to power over the entire peninsula after World War I, Wahhābism is now general within the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It was followed by a daring vindication of al-Ghazzālī by a Yemenite scholar, Muḥammad al-Murtaḍā (d. 1790). The introduction of Arabic printing into Egypt in 1828 led to the wide dissemination of standard theological works and evoked new controversy and thought. In northwest Africa Ahmad al-Tijāni founded in 1781 a new Sufi order. Later a new type of reforming congregation was organized along Sufi lines by Aḥmad ibn-Idrīs (d. 1837), whose disciples went on to establish other congregations in Libya and East Africa. A more revolutionary group was that of the al-mahdĪ (Muḥammad Aḥmad; 1844–85) in the Sudan.
All of these movements, true to the inherent identification of the two within Islam, had political as well as religious aspects and goals. After Napoleon's invasion of Egypt and the subjection of various portions of the Islamic world to non-Muslim colonial powers, the issues were sharpened. The differences separating Muslims were stressed, in an attempt to unite them under a caliphate in defense of Islam. Such a pan-Islamism was advocated by Jamāl-al-Dīn al-Afghāni (1839–97), who traveled widely throughout the eastern Islamic countries propagating his theories and influencing other movements. He inspired revolutions in Egypt and Iran and laid the basis for more recent popular movements combining Islamic fundamentalism with a political program. The uncompromising attitude of the Muslim Brotherhood, for example, retained many of al-Afghāni's ideas. A different movement, a syncretism not unlike or unrelated to Unitarianism and the Ramakrishna mission in Hinduism, led the Bābis and Bahais out of Islam completely (see babism; baha’ism). An apostolic group of a related tenor, called the ah : madiyyah, is viewed with considerable suspicion by both Sunnite and Shī’ite Muslims.
One of al-Afghāni's disciples, the Egyptian shaykh Muhammad ‘Abduh (1849–1905), instituted a more interesting though ultimately less influential line of thought by separating the political from the religious side of the question. ‘Abduh was the first great Islamic modernist, a man of enormous ability who attempted to reformulate Islamic doctrine in the light of advances, especially in the sciences, achieved in the West, confident that his efforts would only confirm the truth of Islam. The scene of his work was al-Azhar in Cairo, and it was published in the traditional form of a commentary on the Qur’ān. As carried on by his pupil Rashīd Ridā (1865–1935), however, the attempt came some way back toward Ibn-Taymīyah and a new doctrinal rigidity. More successful, perhaps, was the effort of the Indian Muslim Muḥammad Iqbāl (1876–1938), whose attempts at harmonizing Islam with the thought of Western writers on philosophy and mysticism, in his poetry and a prose work entitled The Reconstruction struction of Religious Thought in Islam, closely resemble that of al-Ghazzālī.
The role of Islam in recent history has been such as to mingle and cloud such elements. Modernization, in particular industrialization, has started in the Muslim world with such force and momentum that nothing could possibly remove its effects or call a halt to it. Basic religious and social institutions are changing. Increased mobility, opportunities for livelihood, education, and political responsibility have accelerated the process. What further forms Islam's response to them might take is unclear. Certainly the secularism of Turkey and some of the Arab countries has not met with wide acceptance, but there is still little clarification of issues among modern Muslims. Israel's expansion beyond its 1948 borders resulted in an Islamic "revival," with many Muslim Palestinians returning to traditional religious practices. Various "radical" groups in the Middle East and elsewhere that have advocated violence as a legitimate means of overthrowing illegitimate political leaders, or subverting an undesirable social order, have a strong religious rhetoric. Especially since the fall of the Berlin Wall, certain elements in the Islamic world have increasingly seen the West, especially the United States, as a threat to Islamic society and traditional values. It remains to be seen how the relationship between Islam and the West, and Islam and Christianity will be negotiated in the 21st century.
Bibliography: d. b. macdonald, The Development of Muslim Theology, Jurisprudence and Constitutional Theory (New York 1903). t. w. arnold and a. guillaume, eds., The Legacy of Islam (Oxford 1931). a. guillaume, Islam (Baltimore 1954). a. j. wensinck, The Muslim Creed (New York 1932). j. w. sweetman, Islam and Christian Theology (London 1945). h. a. r. gibb, Modern Trends in Islam (Chicago 1947). h. a. r. gibb and j. h. kramers, eds., The Shorter Encyclopedia of Islam (Leiden 1953). w. c. smith, Islam in Modern History (Princeton 1957). j. kritzeck and r. b. winder, eds., The World of Islam (New York 1960). j. a. williams, Islam (New York 1961). j. burton, The Collection of the Quran (Cambridge 1977). j. van ess, Theologie und Gesellschaft im 2. und 3. Jahrhundert Hidschra. Eine Geschichte des religiosen Denkens imfruhen Islam, 6 v. (Berlin, New York 1991–97). w. a. graham, Beyond the Written Word: Oral Aspects of Scripture in the History of Religion (New York 1989). g. r. hawting, The Idea of Idolatry and the Emergence of Islam: From Polemic to History (Cambridge 1999). j. horovitz, Koranische Untersuchungen (Berlin, Leipzig 1926). t. noldeke, Geschichte des Qorans, new ed. by f. schwally, g. bergstrasser, and o. pretzl, 3 v. (Leipzig 1909–38). r. paret, Der Koran. Ubersetzung (Stuttgart 1962). a. rippin, ed., Approaches to the History of the Interpretation of the Quran (Oxford 1988).
The word conveys the sense of total and exclusive submission to Allah and is the name of the religion enunciated by the Prophet *Muhammad in the city of Mecca at the beginning of the seventh century c.e. An adherent of it is called a Muslim, a person who submits to Allah totally and exclusively. While the word is normally used in this sense, in traditional Muslim usage the word also denotes the ancient monotheistic faith associated with *Abraham. It is in this sense that Abraham is explicitly designated as Muslim in *Koran 3:67; the same designation is implicit for the Old Testament prophets and for Jesus as well. Liberal-minded modern Muslims tend to interpret this as a reflection of Muslim tolerance and recognition of the prophets of Judaism and Christianity; viewed from a different perspective, the idea may also be construed as an appropriation of Jewish and Christian religious history by Muslims.
In contradistinction to other religions whose names were frequently given to them by outsiders (cf. W.C. Smith, The Meaning and End of Religion, (1963), 80–82), the name Islam is indigenous and appears in the Koran eight times; moreover, the Koran maintains that Allah himself approved of Islam (Koran 5:5) and it is " the religion in the eyes of Allah" (Koran 3:19). Conversely, "whoever desires a religion other than Islam, it will not be accepted from him, and he will be in the hereafter one of the losers" (Koran 3:85). Muslims use Islam as the only name for their religion; other names by which Islam has been known until recently in European languages – such as "Mohammedanism" or "Mahométanisme" – are totally unacceptable to them. Nevertheless, in medieval Muslim texts one occasionally encounters expressions such as "Muhammadan way" (ṭarīqa muḥammadiyya) in a sense identical with Islam. In the literature of tradition, the terms Islam and Muslim are sometimes also given a more sublime significance; playing on the various meanings of the Arabic root s-l-m, a tradition says that "a Muslim is someone by whose hands and tongue the Muslims are not harmed" (al-Bukhārī, Ṣaḥīḥ, Kitāb alīmān, 4; ed. Krehl, vol. 1, 11). Recent interpretations according to which Islam is related to salām ("peace") seem to have no basis in traditional literature, though the linguistic root of the two words is identical.
In the pre-Islamic period (called the era of barbarism and ignorance, al-Jāhiliyya), Arab inhabitants of the Peninsula believed in a multiplicity of gods but were not unaware of Allah whom they believed to be the strongest among these. In the Muslim tradition, this is called "associationism" (shirk), the belief that Allah has associates (shurakāʾ) in His divinity. These associates were believed to have an essential mediatory role between human beings and Allah. Muslim tradition maintains, nevertheless, that pre-Islamic Arabs understood that Allah was more powerful than all other gods and in times of extreme danger they placed their trust in Him alone, becoming, in a manner of speaking, "temporary monotheists" (cf. Koran 29:65–66, 31:22; Izutsu, God and Man, 102–103). In the Peninsula there were also Jewish and Christian communities. The Jews lived in the northern city of *Khaybar and in *Medina where the Prophet Muhammad was active from 622 c.e. until his death ten years later. The Christians inhabited the town of Najrān and also lived elsewhere: the Christian tribe of Taghlib lived first in the Najd region of the Peninsula and later on the lower Euphrates (M. Lecker, "Taghlib" eis2, s.v.). Small Zoroastrian communities probably existed in the eastern part of the Peninsula. Islam developed out of polemics with these religious communities and a substantial part of Muslim belief and ritual can only be understood against this background.
"The Pillars of Islam" (arkān al-islām)
In contradistinction to Judaism which speaks of 613 (taryag) commandments, the Muslim tradition does not keep count of the commandments incumbent on a Muslim. However, five of these have acquired a special standing in Islamic tradition. One of them is related to the manner in which an unbeliever embraces Islam, while the other four belong to the ritual aspect of the religion. Each of these commandments is mentioned several times in the Koran, but there they do not appear as a separate group. However, in the literature of prophetic tradition (*ḥadīth), the five commandments are grouped and designed as the pillars on which Islam stands. In the collection compiled by al-Bukhārī (d. 870 c.e.), we read: "Islam is built on five (pillars): Witnessing that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah, and the performance of prayer, and giving of alms, and pilgrimage, and the fast of Ramaḍān" (al-Bukhārī, Ṣaḥīḥ, Kitāb al-īmān, 2; ed. Krehl, 1, 10).
1. The double formula saying that "there is no god but Allah and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah" (called in Arabic shahāda ("witnessing"), kalima ("word"), or kalimat alikhlāṣ ("the word of exclusive devotion") does not appear in the Koran as one unit. Its first part appears with slight modifications several times. Koran 3:18 reads: "Allah witnessed that there is no god except Him." (Cf. Koran 2:255, 37:35 and elsewhere.) The second part appears only once, in Koran 48:29: "Muhammad is the messenger of Allah. And those who are with him are hard against the unbelievers, merciful one to another…" This formula is the most distinctive expression of Muslim monotheism and of the central position accorded in Islam to the Prophet Muhammad. It is an important part of worship, appearing in the call to prayer and in the prayer itself. It is also the formal requirement for joining the Muslim community. Like other Muslim rituals, this formula seems also to have undergone certain developments before reaching its final form. The tradition maintains that the first part of the shahāda, affirming the oneness of Allah, was sufficient to indicate the conversion of Arab polytheists to Islam because it is unambiguous in the rejection of their former belief in multiple gods. When the call to Islam was directed at Christians and Jews, this part of the shahāda was no longer sufficient: an affirmation of Allah's oneness by monotheist Jews or Christians does not indicate their conversion to Islam because Christians and Jews may identify with the first part of the shahāda without changing their religious affiliation. For a Jew or a Christian, therefore, the acknowledgment of Muhammad's prophethood was considered essential. And since some Jewish groups were willing to acknowledge Muhammad's prophethood but restricted its validity to Arabs alone (see Y. Erder, "The Doctrine of Abū Īsā al-Isfahānī and Its Sources," in: Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam, 20 (1996), 162–99), Jews and Christians were obliged – according to some traditions – not only to pronounce the double shahāda, but also unequivocally to renounce their former faiths.
2. Prayer (ṣalāt): Pre-Islamic Arabs did not observe an obligatory daily routine which could be seen as an inspiration for the Islamic prayer. It is therefore significant to observe that ṣalāt ("prayer") is an Aramaic loan word which means bowing or prostration. Nevertheless, prayer is mentioned as an obligation of the believer already in the Meccan period of the Koran (Koran 108:1–2; 107:4–5). It seems that in the first stage of the development, the Prophet spoke of two daily prayers: in the evening and at dawn. Koran 17:80 enjoins the Muslims to "perform the prayer at the sinking of the sun to the darkening of the night and the recital of dawn (Koran alfajr)…." Later developments in this field are not very clear, but it appears that after the hijra to *Medina an additional prayer, called the "middle" one, was added when the Koran says: "Be watchful over the prayers and the middle prayer…" (Koran 2:239). The "middle prayer" is variously explained as the noon or the afternoon prayer.
If we assume that the prayers mentioned in the first part of the verse are the two prayers which had been referred to in the Meccan period, we reach the conclusion that after the hijra the number of prayers reached three. Though there is no hard evidence to substantiate this notion, some scholars tend to speculate that this happened under the influence of the Jews with whom the Prophet came into contact in Medina. The number of the Muslim prayers eventually reached five, but we do not know exactly when this development took place. There is some evidence to suggest that during the *Umayyad period in *Syria the number of the obligatory prayers was not generally known, and at the time of the Umayyad caliph ʿOmar b. ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz (r. 717–720 c.e.) the proper time for prayer was not known either (Goldziher, Muslim Studies, 2, 39–40). As for the reasons why the Muslims eventually decided on the number of five daily prayers, these are not clear. Goldziher maintains that the number was influenced by the Zoroastrian tradition which had five daily prayers. Islamic tradition connects the establishment of the five prayers with Muhammad's miraculous nocturnal journey to heaven (isrāʾ, miʿrāj). According to this tradition, Allah intended to impose on the Muslim community 50 daily prayers, but after some negotiations (which Muhammad conducted with Allah in compliance with the advice of Moses), the number was reduced to five. The tradition maintains, however, that these five prayers have the value of fifty.
In any case, post-Koranic Muslim tradition established five daily prayers: morning (fajr), noon (ẓuhr), afternoon (ʿaṣr), evening (maghrib), and night (isha). Before each prayer it is necessary to perform an ablution (wuḍu), which involves washing the hands up to the elbows, rinsing the mouth and nose, and washing the feet including the ankles. If water is not available, sand may be used; in this case the procedure is called tayammum (Koran 5:8–9). In preparation for the Friday prayer washing the entire body (ghusl) is required. The prayer itself consists of a prescribed sequence of bodily movements (rakʿa), including bending, standing, prostration, and half-kneeling, half sitting. The only texts which are essential for the prayer being valid are the formula Allāhu Akbar and the Fātiḥa, the opening chapter of the Koran.
Three elements associated with Muslim prayer will serve as an illustration of the idea that Islam developed out of polemics with, and attempts to differentiate itself from, Judaism and Christianity. As is well known, Muslims now pray barefoot. However, there is evidence to suggest that in the early days of Islam, Muslims prayed with their shoes on. This was recommended, even enjoined, in order to distinguish between Muslims and Jews who are said to have prayed barefoot. The second element is the adhān, the call preceding each prayer. The tradition maintains that in the beginning the Prophet used a horn "like the horn of the Jews" for this purpose. Later he disliked this and ordered the clapper (nāqūs) to be used to summon the believers, in emulation of Eastern Christians. Eventually, ʿOmar b. al-Khaţţāb, the second caliph, had a vision in which he was told: "Do not use the clapper, rather call to prayer (with human voice)." In this way the characteristic Muslim call to prayer is said to have emerged. This call now consists of pronouncing the formula "Allahu Akbar" four times, the shahāda twice, the formula "come to prayer, come to success" twice, "Allahu Akbar" twice again, and, finally, the shahāda.
The development of the Muslim direction of prayer (qibla) is the most famous reflection of the progressive dissociation of Islam from Judaism. The Muslim direction of prayer underwent several changes. The relevant traditions are reasonably clear, but there is no way to verify their historicity. Koran 2:216, considered by some commentators to be abrogated, seems to belittle the importance of the direction of prayer, saying that "To God belong the East and the West; wherever you turn, there is the face of God." On the other hand, we have three traditions concerning the direction of prayer in Mecca before Muhammad's migration to Medina in 622. According to one of them, in Mecca the Prophet faced the Kaʿba while praying; according to another, he faced Jerusalem; according to a third, which constitutes an attempt to harmonize between the first two ones, he faced Jerusalem, but took care to have the Kaʿba on the straight line between himself and Jerusalem. In this way, the tradition maintains, he faced both sanctuaries.
Regarding the period of the Prophet's sojourn in Medina (622–632 c.e.), the tradition is unanimous and maintains that for the first 16 or 18 months of his stay in Medina, the Prophet and the Muslims with him prayed toward Jerusalem; this is why Jerusalem came to be known in Islam as "the first qibla and the third sanctuary" (after Mecca and Medina) (ūlā al-qiblatayn wa thālith al-ḥaramayn). There is no record of a divine command to do this; nevertheless, some commentators think that such a command was issued, while others maintain that praying in the direction of Jerusalem was the Prophet's own decision. Some suggest that the Prophet was commanded to pray toward Jerusalem "in order to conciliate the Jews." Frequently we read that at some point in time the Prophet became averse to this direction of prayer, and Koran 2:150, which commands the Muslims to pray in the direction of Mecca, was revealed in response to the Prophet's desire. The change of the qibla to Mecca introduced a crucial Arabian element into Islam and was a major step in its disengagement from Judaism.
The five daily prayers may be performed in public or in private, though according to the tradition public prayer is always preferable. The only prayer which must always be performed in public is the noon prayer on Friday (jumʿa).
Naturally, no congregational prayer was held before the hijra in Mecca because of the precarious position of the few Meccan Muslims in that period. Though there are some references to the jumʿa prayer in Medina before the hijra, it is clear that the jumʿa prayer acquired its central standing in Muslim ritual in the Medinan period of the Prophet's career. The choice of Friday as the Muslim day of congregational prayer was explained in various ways. Some thought that it was just to differentiate Islam from Judaism and Christianity; but this argument is good for any day except Saturday and Sunday. A classical tradition observes that although the Jews and the Christians were given their holy books before the Muslims, the Muslims precede them in their day of prayer, in order to do them justice. The most widely accepted scholarly explanation was given by S.D. Goitein ("The Origin and Nature of the Muslim Friday Worship," Studies in Islamic history and institutions (1968), 111–25). Goitein suggests that Friday was chosen because on that day the Jews of Medina used to prepare provisions for the Sabbath; because of this Friday became a market day on which not only the inhabitants of Medina, but also the inhabitants of the adjacent areas assembled in the city and engaged in commerce. Since Koran 62:9–11 clearly says that commercial activity must cease when the call to prayer is sounded, this explanation sounds convincing.
The Friday prayer is the only prayer during which a sermon (khuṭba) is delivered. The sermon normally includes praise of Allah, a prayer for the Prophet, exhortation to good deeds, and a chapter from the Koran. It is also customary to mention the ruler. This custom has great political importance: it is a symbol of the worshipers' allegiance to the government in power. Mentioning the ruler's name in the sermon is considered indicative of the preacher's (and the congregation's) political loyalty, while its omission is considered a symbol of rebellion. Mutatis mutandis, sermons are at times used for political statements in the modern period as well. Religiously speaking, Friday is not a day of rest like the Jewish Sabbath. As is clear from Koran 62:9–11, work is prohibited only during the prayer itself; after the prayer is concluded, all activities may be resumed. Nevertheless, Friday has acquired in Islam the characteristics of a holiday and is the official day of rest in many Muslim states.
3. Pilgrimage (ḥajj): In contradistinction to prayer, the Muslim pilgrimage has clear antecedents in the pre-Islamic period. Muslim tradition maintains that pre-Islamic Arabs performed pilgrimage to the Kaʿba in Mecca, which was then a pagan place of worship, with images of idols. The transformation of the Kaʿba into a Muslim sanctuary and of the pilgrimage into a Muslim ritual necessitated an infusion of monotheistic elements into the history of both. This was achieved by describing the pilgrimage as a ritual which had begun long before Arabian idolatry came into being and was a part of the ancient monotheistic religion associated with Abraham "who was neither a Jew nor a Christian but a ḥanīf Muslim and was not of the idolaters" (Koran 3:67). According to the Koranic account, Abraham was the man who built the Kaʿba together with his son Ishmael and made it into a pure place of worship (Koran 2:125, 3:95–97).
Hence the Kaʿba, an idolatrous sanctuary in the pre-Islamic period, became the holiest place in Islam. The way was now open for the next step, transformimg the pilgrimage to Mecca into an Islamic commandment: "It is the duty of all people to come to the House as pilgrim, if he is able to make his way there" (Koran 3:97). Thus the pilgrimage is a case in which Islam did not abolish a pre-Islamic ritual, but rather filled it with new content and significance. The identity of the Muslim rituals with the pre-Islamic ones caused misgivings among some early believers and at least in one case a special revelation was needed to give legitimacy to such a ritual.
The pilgrimage is held annually in the month of Dhū al-Ḥijja, the last month of the Islamic year. It is obligatory for every Muslim once in a lifetime, if he has the means to perform it. At the outskirts of Mecca, the pilgrims enter into the state of sacredness (iḥrām), symbolized by the white, seamless garment worn during the pilgrimage. The uniform clothing is understood as symbolizing the equality of all believers. When the pilgrim reaches Mecca, he starts the ritual by circumambulating the Kaʿba seven times (ṭawāf). Then he covers seven times the distance between the hills of al-Safā and al-Marwa (saʿy). This is understood as commemorating Hagar's search of water for her son Ishmael. The collective rituals, so characteristic of the annual Muslim pilgrimage, begin on the 8th of Dhū al-Ḥijja, when the pilgrims set out for the plain of ʿArafāt, east of Mecca. On the 9th of the month the pilgrims stand there and listen to a sermon at the time of the noon-prayer. This is the central ritual of the pilgrimage (wuqūf). On the way back to Mecca, the pilgrims throw stones at Minā; this is meant to symbolize the stoning of the devil. On the 10th, 11th, and 12th of the month the Feast of Sacrifice (ʿīd al-aḍḥā) is celebrated. The sacrifice of an animal is obligatory on every free Muslim who can afford it. After this, the pilgrims return to Mecca and can come out of their state of sacredness.
The pilgrimage has acquired tremendous importance in Islam. It allows millions of Muslims from all parts of the world to meet, exchange ideas, and get acquainted with each other. The pilgrimage is therefore an extraordinary event: in recent years, about two million Muslims participate in it. It gives the Muslims a sense of belonging to a large, universal community and strengthens the feeling of unity in the Muslim world.
4. Fasting (ṣawm): The development of the Muslim commandment of fasting began with the migration of the Prophet to Medina in 622, when the Prophet instructed the Muslims to fast the ʿāshūrāʾ (cf. ʿasor, Lev. 16:29) on the 10th of Muḥarram, the first month in the Muslim calendar. One version of this tradition maintains that this was in emulation of, or in competition with, the Day of Atonement. Other traditions deny any Jewish connection and hold that the ʿāshūrāʾ commemorates the saving of Noah during the flood, or a fast observed by the tribe of Quraysh in the pre-Islamic period. In 2 a.h./624 c.e., Koran 2:185 was revealed, instituting the month of Ramaḍān as the month of fasting, from sunrise to sunset. This is another example of the progressive dissociation of Islam from the Jewish tradition. Henceforth, ʿāshūrāʾ was downgraded to a voluntary fast, but there are indications for its persistence into the Muslim period. Later the fast of ʿāshūrāʾ merged with the Shīʿī commemoration of the death of al-Hūsayn, the Prophet's grandson, in Karbalāʾ in 680 c.e.
Throughout Ramaḍān, the believer must refrain from food, drink, and sexual relations during the daytime. Imsāk is the beginning of the fast at dawn, while ifţār signifies the breaking of the fast after sunset. Unrelated to Ramaḍān is fasting of various durations as expiation for failing to fulfill an oath (Koran 5:92), for repudiating a wife in a forbidden way (ẓihār, Koran 58:4), for failing to perform the pilgrimage rituals properly (Koran 2:196), or for an accidental killing of a believer (Koran 4:91).
5. Alms-giving (zakā). The pre-Islamic secular value of generosity was transformed into mandatory almsgiving in Islam. In the early Sūras of the Koran, the commandment is phrased in very general terms (Koran 13:24–26). In the late Medinan period, the tone is much more specific and the purposes for which the collected money may be used are specified: "The alms are for the poor and the needy, and those who collect them, and those whose hearts are to be reconciled, and to free the captives, and the debtors, and for the sake of Allah and for the wayfarers; a duty imposed by Allah" (Koran 9:60). Those "whose hearts are to be reconciled" are understood to be people who needed economic incentive to join Islam, while "for the sake of Allah" is interpreted as the jihād (q.v.). This suggests that the Prophet used the alms money not only as help for the needy, but also for political purposes. According to some prophetic traditions, the payment of the alms "purifies" the property retained by the payer. The Qur'an does not specify the amount to be paid as alms. Koran 2:219 seems to indicate that one should give as alms whatever is his surplus (for details on this in Islamic law, see A. Zysow, "Zakāt," eis2, 11, 406–22).
The Expansion of Islam
The first wave of conquests by Muslim Arabs, completed at the beginning of the eighth century c.e., included the Fertile Crescent, *Iran, *Egypt, North Africa, *Spain, the western fringes of *India, and some parts of Central Asia. From the 10th century Turkish people originating on the steppes between the Caspian Sea and the Altai mountains became increasingly important as political and military champions of Islam. The conquest of South Asia (comprising today India, *Pakistan, and Bangladesh) began with the Indian campaigns of Maḥmūd Ghaznawī in the early 11th century, and was almost completed by the Delhi Sultanate in the 13th. The conversion of the *Mongols to Islam which began in the 13th century significantly extended the boundaries of Islam. The manner in which Islam came to South East Asia has not been satisfactorily described so far, but it is clear that it was not by way of conquest. The presence of Muslims in the Indonesian archipelago has been attested since the late 13th century. Muslim merchants and mystics are normally credited with bringing Islam to these areas. It is clear that Muslim conquests and the establishment of Muslim dynasties are not coterminous with the spread of Islam among the population and that the former aspects of Muslim history are known much better than the processes by which Islam became the religion of a substantial part of Asian and African populations.
The number of Muslims was estimated in 2000 at 1,262 million, 77% of these living in countries where the majority of the population is Muslim. The largest concentration of Muslim population is found in the three countries of South Asia (India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh) which are home to 384.3 million Muslims. Indonesia is the largest single Muslim political unit, with 212.1 million Muslims. The Arabic-speaking countries of North Africa (including the Sudan) and the Middle East comprise 257 million Muslims. Turkey follows with 66.5 million, Iran with 62.2 million, the five Muslim states of Central Asia (Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Kirgyzstan, and Kazakhstan) with 41.5 million, and Afghanistan with 22.5 million. In Africa 58.9 million Muslims live in West Africa (south of the Sahara) and 47.1 in East Africa. The Muslim minority of China is estimated at 19.2 million, of Russia at 14.7 million, and of Europe (including the Balkans, France, and the U.K.) at 8.1 million. The number of Muslims in the U.S. and Canada is put at 2 million, although some Muslim organizations in the U.S. speak of 6 million Muslims in the U.S. alone. Reference to religion in demographic statistics is not universal, and these figures must therefore be viewed with caution. It is estimated that the number of Muslims will reach 1.8 billion by 2025; the Muslims are then expected to form almost a quarter of the global population.
The general character of Islam is determined by two main factors: its foundational literature and its global expansion. The foundational literature – including the Koran, the prophetic tradition (ḥadīth), the jurisprudence (*fiqh) and mysticism (taṣawwuf) – should be seen as unifying factors. The global expansion of Islam, the diverse conditions in the various areas, the different degrees to which the classical sources of Islam were internalized, the different degrees of modernization – all these explain the distinct characteristics of Islam in various areas of the world.
In addition to its fierce monotheism, the universal, global appeal of Islam seems to be its most conspicuous general feature. It is based on the firm belief that in contradistinction to all other prophets who had been sent to specific communities, Muhammad was sent to all humanity. Furthermore, Muhammad is considered the last prophet to be sent to earth. Consequently, Islam and the Koran – the consummate embodiment of the divine will – will remain valid until the end of days: no prophet will ever be sent in order to bring another revelation or another sacred law. Therefore, Islam does not countenance the establishment of any new religion after the coming of Muhammad. Also, the Koran is considered to be the only scripture which was transmitted reliably and suffered no interpolation, while the Torah and the New Testament had allegedly been tampered willfully by the Jews and the Christians (taḥrīf). As a result of these and similar considerations, Muslims are "the best community ever brought forth to mankind" (Koran 3:110), and "Islam is exalted and nothing is exalted above it" (al-Islām yaʿlū wa lā yuʿlā (al-Bukhārī, Ṣaḥīḥ, Kitāb al-janāʾiz 80; ed. Krehl, 1, 337–38). The idea of Islamic exaltedness has numerous ramifications for the relationship between Islam and other faiths (Friedmann, Tolerance and Coercion, 34–39).
The Muslim ideas relevant to this relationship have been subject to significant changes since the earliest period of Islam. Even the Koran includes divergent ideas about the relationship between Islam and other religions. On the one hand, it includes verses which seem to promise divine reward for the Jews and the Christians without mentioning their conversion to Islam as a precondition (Koran 2:62; cf. 5:69). On the other hand, it speaks about the humiliation inflicted upon them (Koran 2:61, 3:112), instructs the Muslims not to forge alliances with them (Koran 5:51), and calls upon the Muslims to fight them "until they pay the poll-tax (*jizya) out of hand while being humiliated (Koran 9:29). These and verses of similar import have been extensively commented upon in Muslim tradition and jurisprudence. The Muslim attitude to the Jews and Christians gradually moved from an initial conciliatory approach in the direction of increased rigor. (See Friedmann, Tolerance and Coercion, 194–99.)
The Koran and the prophetic tradition (ḥadīth) (q.v.) constitute the major unifying factors in Islam. The Koran is considered to be the literal word of Allah. Muslim theologians debated whether it has existed since all eternity and is uncreated (ghayr makhlūq), or was created (makhlūq) at a certain point in time. Perceived as divine in origin, its style is considered inimitable (muʿjiz) in the sense that no human being is capable of producing a book of so sublime a stylistic standard. This is the dogma known as iʿjāz al-Koran, the idea that the Koran renders human beings unable to imitate it. The distinctive character of Koranic style is unmistakable; from the secular vantage point it may derive from the fact that the Koran is the only extant literary work from seventh-century Arabia. In any case, the Koran has always been the subject of boundless veneration by Muslims. Although the Koran considers itself as "a book in which there is no doubt" (Koran 2:2) and as a revelation in "clear Arabic language" (Koran 26:195), many verses are difficult to understand and the book has inspired a vast literary corpus of exegesis (tafsīr). Once the meaning of a verse was agreed upon by mainstream exegetes, the accepted meaning acquired an uncontested normative value in Muslim law and piety.
The prophetic tradition (hadīth) has developed out of the conviction that a pious Muslim should emulate the Prophet in whatever he did, recall whatever he said, and even keep a record of things which gained his tacit approval. This attitude is based on the firm conviction that Muhammad possessed a perfect personality and should be treated with utmost respect. Any action which is judged incompatible with this basic idea is rejected with great severity. Therefore, one of the most meritorious actions which a Muslim can do is to revive a custom of the Prophet (sunna) which for some reason fell into disuse. The customs of the Prophet were recorded in the ḥadīth which has become a major part of Muslim religious literature, a major source of Muslim law and an important vehicle through which later generations could influence the development of Islam. The desire to emulate the Prophet brought about a tremendous proliferation of the ḥadīth, which soon became an extensive branch of Muslim religious literature.
According to the traditional Muslim view, a considerable part of the hadīth, which has a reliable chain of transmitters and thus can pass the traditional test of authenticity, was actually pronounced by the Prophet and has therefore a normative value second only to the Koran itself. Modern scholarship, on the other hand, maintains that the authenticity of this material is unverifiable: since we have no extant books of hadīth from the lifetime of the Prophet, there is no reliable method which can establish whether a certain saying was pronounced by the Prophet, or originated in a later period and was attributed to the Prophet in order to prove a point of law or an idea in the religious thought of a Muslim group. In some cases it is possible to discern the religious tendency or political interest embedded in a tradition; but in the countless traditions of general ethical content lacking a point of historical reference this is frequently impossible. In the brilliant formulation of *Goldziher, whose study of the hadīth, written in the late 19th century, is still an indispensable masterpiece, "the hadīth will not serve as a document for the history of the infancy of Islam, but rather as a reflection of the tendencies which appeared in the community during the maturer stages of its development. It contains invaluable evidence for the evolution of Islam during the years when it was forming itself into an organized whole from powerful mutually opposed forces. This makes the proper appreciation and study of the hadīth so important for the understanding of Islam in the evolution of which the most notable phases are accompanied by successive stages in the creation of the hadīth " (Goldziher, Muslim Studies, vol. 2, 19).
The third unifying factor is Islamic jurisprudence (*sharīʿa, *fiqh). From the very beginning, Islam strove to control the life of the community in all fields. Like Judaism, Islam is not satisfied with regulating man's obligation toward God, but also aspires to regulate his daily behavior and legislates in matters which in other cultures belong to the field of civil or secular law. Legal matters do not constitute a major part of the Koran, though topics such as the law of marriage, divorce, inheritance, and penalties for a restricted number of transgressions (theft, highway robbery, wine drinking, unlawful sexual intercourse and false accusation thereof) are discussed in some detail. Beginning in the last decades of the 8th century c.e., major compendia of Muslim jurisprudence began to emerge. Numerous schools of legal thinking (madhhab, pl. madhāhib) came into being in the formative period of Islam. Four of them (Ḥanafis, Ḥanbalīs, Mālikīs, and Shāfiʿīs) survived and are regarded as valid versions of the religious law of Islam. The Ḥanafī school, which originated in the Iraqi city of Kūfa, is the most widespread. It was the dominant school in the *Abbāsid empire, in the *Ottoman empire, in the *Moghul empire in India and in Central Asia. The Mālikīs school was predominant in Muslim Spain, and still is in North Africa. The Shāfiʿīs school is deeply rooted in Egypt and has many adherents in the Fertile Crescent. The Ḥanbalīs have official status in *Saudi Arabia and numerous adherents elsewhere.
While the division into schools of law may indicate some measure of diversity, the common denominator between the schools is more than sufficient to consider the law as a unifying factor in Islam. The law is administered by a judge (qāḍī), sometimes assisted by a legal specialist authorized to issue legal opinions (fatwā pl. fatāwā).
The formative period of Islam was characterized by immense worldly success. The great conquests of the first century of Muslim history, in which Muslims took control of vast areas in the Middle East, in the western fringes of India, in Central Asia, in North Africa and in the Iberian peninsula, transformed the history of these regions and brought them under the aegis of Islam. Later expansion and conquests did the same for other areas of the world. The chronicles of the early conquests abound in descriptions of the wealth accumulated in the course of these events, and the conquerors do not seem to have had any qualms about the riches which they amassed. Mainstream Islam legitimized this and regulated the ways in which booty may be taken and used. This reflects a positive approach of Islam to worldly success (cf. Smith, Islam in Modern History, 22–23). Yet at the same time, one can discern in early Islam a completely different trend of thought: a trend which is contemplative, stresses the uselessness of this world and sees it only as a corridor through which one must pass, but which has no real value when compared with the everlasting bliss promised to the believers in the hereafter. This was the attitude of early Muslim ascetics (zuhhād, sg. zāhid) who spared no effort to revile this world, to describe it as "a corpse pursued by dogs," as a place of unbearable stench, a place which is a prison for the believer and Paradise for the infidel. These were the precursors of the Ṣūfī movement (see *Sufism) which developed into a major trend in Muslim religiosity. Since the 10th century c.e., Ṣūfi thinkers produced numerous manuals in which they described the path (ţarīqa) to God and which served as guides on the seeker's (murīd) way to spiritual perfection. These manuals, of which "The book of (mystical) flashes in Ṣūfism" (Kitāb allumaʿ fī al-taṣawwuf) by Abū Naṣr al-Sarrāj (d. 988 c.e.) is a prime example, surveys the practices and modes of thinking of the Ṣūfīs. The book speaks about the standing of the Ṣūfīs among the believers and reaches the conclusion that they are more assiduous than others in observance and do not try to avoid the inconvenient commandments by seeking allegorical explanations and legal evasions. Thus, they not only obey the letter of the law, but go beyond it and reach degrees of religiosity which can not be attained by jurists and others. They leave aside all irrelevant matters and cut every connection which may interfere with attaining their objective, which is God alone. The book also describes in great detail the spiritual stages on the Ṣūfīʾs way to God.
In a later stage, from the 12th century onward, the Ṣūfīs were not only individuals exploring divine mysteries, but also organized themselves into Ṣūfī orders (ţuruq, sg. ţarīqa) which spread all over the Muslim world from the Maghrib in the West to Indonesia in the East. These orders developed around Ṣūfī masters (shuyūkh, sg. shaykh, or pīr in the eastern part of the Muslim world). These orders were of considerable importance in the life of the Muslim communities everywhere. It stands to reason that participation in the Ṣūfī ritual, such as the communal dhikr (the constant repetition of God's name), gave the common man a spiritual satisfaction unachievable by other means. Trimmingham (The Ṣūfī Orders, 229) sees a similarity between the spiritual role of a Ṣūfī order and that of a local church in Europe; another possible comparison is with the Ḥasidic movement in Judaism.
While the orders developed numerous disparate characteristics in the various parts of the Muslim world, the similarities between them are sufficient to include Ṣūfīsm among the unifying factors of Islam. The more unified picture of Islam can be found in Islamic literature, while its diversity can be most profitably studied in anthropological research. Anthropological fieldwork in various areas of the Muslim world has revealed numerous characteristics which show the extent to which Islam was influenced by local cultures, especially in rural areas. In almost every Muslim house in the Indian district of Purnea a little shrine existed in which prayers were offered both to Allah and to the Indian goddess Kālī. In the same place, a part of the Muslim marriage ceremony was conducted in a shrine of the goddess Bhagvatī (Mujeeb, The Indian Muslims, 13–14). There is substantial literature about the existence of caste system among Indian Muslims, despite the classical Islamic principle of equality of all believers (Ahmad, Caste and Social Stratification…). Geertz (Islam observed, 66) maintains that in Indonesia, "the mass of the peasantry remained devoted to local spirits, domestic rituals and familiar charms. … Christians and pagans apart, all these people, gentry and peasantry alike, conceived themselves to be Muslims." Muslims for whom the classical literature of Islam is the only guide as to what constitutes Islam will probably consider such phenomena as cases of incomplete Islamization; but, of course, there is no guarantee that the Muslims in question will ever be transformed into believers conforming to the ideal of Islam as embodied in the classical tradition.
Barring a few exceptions, classical and medieval Muslim thought developed against the background of a dominant Muslim civilization. Both in the formative period of Islam and in the later pre-modern centuries, Muslim thinkers were active in areas which were part of secure and relatively stable political systems, headed by Muslim rulers. This situation began to change with the first Western incursions into the Muslim world and with the gradually developing sense that Islam had lost its erstwhile primacy in its relationship with other civilizations. The reaction of Muslim thinkers to this evolving situation was manifold. During the second half of the 19th century, the Muslim modernist movement came into being. In Egypt, the prominent intellectual figure was that of Muhammad ʿAbduh (1849–1905). At various times, he was teacher, journalist, and judge; his career culminated between 1899 and 1905, when he served as the muftī of Egypt. His leading ideas included the insistence on the compatibility of Islam with reason and modern science, since the Koran encouraged the study of the physical universe; the preference of reason when it conflicts with traditional knowledge; rejection of the blind following of the tradition (taqlīd); and the revitalization of independent reasoning (ijtihād). He also maintained that the restrictions placed in Islam on polygamy (the obligation to treat the wives with equality and justice; cf. Koran 4:3) are such that they amount to prohibition, and advocated the education of girls. Among his numerous followers, mention should be made of Qāsim Amīn (1865–1908), who became famous because of his advocacy of women's rights, and ʿAlīʿAbd al-Rāziq (1888–1966), who maintained that Islam "is a religion, not a state" (dīn lā dawla). In other words, and in contradistinction to the prevalent view, he advocated the separation of religion and state in Islam. This idea aroused serious opposition and caused him to be expelled from the ranks of the ʿulamāʾ and from his position as a religious judge.
In the Indian subcontinent, the modernist movement was launched by Sir Sayyid Aḥmad Khān (1817–1898). Having been knighted for his loyal behavior during the Indian uprising of 1857, he devoted his life to the improvement of the Indian Muslims' relationship with the British rulers and to the advancement of modern education among Indian Muslims. In 1875 he established (with British support) the Anglo-Muhammadan Oriental College, which came to be known since 1920 as Aligarh Muslim University, and served as an important Muslim institution of higher learning in which modern science was taught alongside the humanities. He promoted the idea that there can be no contradiction between the word of God and laws of nature which are God's doing. Therefore, there can be no contradiction between the Koran, Islam, and the laws of nature, and there can be no objection in Islam to the study of modern Western sciences. Aḥmad Khān also devoted considerable effort to the demythologizing of Islam and interpreting its leading ideas as conforming to human intellect. In his attempt to improve the relationship between Islam and Christianity, he disagreed with the classical Muslim accusation that Christians and Jews had falsified the Scriptures, maintained that the books of the Bible are to be considered genuine and denounced the Indian Muslim custom of refusal to dine with Christians. Like Muhammad ʿAbduh, he maintained that Islam actually prohibited polygamy by insisting on the equal treatment of all wives, an attitude of which men are emotionally incapable.
Sayyid Aḥmad Khān's views found support among numerous Indian Muslim thinkers. Chirāgh ʿAlī (1844–1895) devoted much attention to the interpretation of jihād and argued that "all wars of Mohammad were defensive." He argued that "there are certain points in which the Mohammadan Common Law is irreconcilable with the modern needs of Islam, whether in India or Turkey, and requires modification. The several chapters of the Common Law, as those on political institutes, slavery, concubinage, marriage, divorce, and disabilities of non-Moslem fellow-subjects are to be remodeled and rewritten in accordance with the strict interpretations of the Koran…." He also opposed the blind following (taqlīd) of the Islamic schools of jurisprudence which were "never intended to be either divine or finite." It may be said that Chirāgh ʿAlī was one of the most radical reformers in Indian Islam. His definition of the sharīʿa as "common law" which may be changed by human intervention is a major departure from traditional norms.
The most famous among Indian Muslim modernists was Muhammad Iqbal (1875–1938). A poet, a philosopher and a political thinker – he is a towering figure among the Indian Muslims in the 20th century. He enjoyed immense popularity among the Indian Muslims, mainly because of his powerful and compelling poetry in Urdu and Persian, although his philosophical and political ideas also played a role in the development of his popularity. His Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, which reflects his Islamic upbringing as well as his knowledge of European philosophy, is the most systematic formulation of his thought, though some of the arguments proffered in it are not clear. A substantial part of this work is dedicated to the description of Islam as a dynamic force in human history and to the analysis of the reasons which caused its stagnation in modern times. In Iqbal's view, the stagnation of Islam was caused by several reasons. One is the failure of the Muʿtazila which he considers a rationalist school of thought. Like other modernists, Iqbal is severely critical of Ṣūfism which preferred other-worldliness and caused the Muslims to neglect the concrete world which had been, in his view, at the center of the Koran's attention. He maintains, however, that Islam is capable of renewal and maintains that the belief in the finality of Muhammad's prophethood is a powerful intellectual tool that can be used for this purpose. In contradistinction to the classical interpretation, which used this belief as a proof of the eternal validity of the Koran and of Islamic law, Iqbal maintains that "in Islam prophecy reached its perfection in discovering the need for its own abolition." Finality of prophethood means that after the completion of Muhammad's mission nobody can ever claim personal authority of supernatural origin. Man has reached a stage in which he can open new horizons without being hampered by any constraints. The ideal believer is, therefore characterized by creativity, vitality, abhorrence of stagnation, and love of perpetual movement. Together with the use of the reinterpretation of Islamic law (ijtihād), these are the qualities which can revitalize Islam and restore its original dynamic character.
The modernist movement, which aimed at bringing Islam into conformity with the modern world and was characteristic of Islamic thought in the second half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th, gradually lost its primacy and was replaced by radical trends of thought. Driven by the acute sense that modernity failed to deliver on its promise and stands in sharp contrast with the traditional Islamic ideal, radical Muslim thinkers, such as Abū al-Aʿlā Mawdūdī (1903–1979) in India and Sayyid Quţb (1906–1966) in Egypt, initiated scathing attacks on the modernist approach. A central component of these attacks has been a categorical rejection of modern Western civilization which is seen as corrupt, licentious, irreligious and dangerous for Islam. The leitmotif of Mawdūdī's thought is that all sovereignty in the world belongs to God alone; no other source of authority, such as the will of the people, or laws promulgated by elected legislative assemblies is legitimate. In 1941, Mawdūdī juxtaposed obedience to divine law – which is Islam – with obedience to man-made laws and customs; the latter he called Jāhiliyya, a term traditionally used for the pre-Islamic, pagan period in Arab history. When Pakistan was established in 1947, Mawdūdī (and the "Islamic Group," Jamāt-i Islāmī organization which he founded) immersed himself in a struggle to enhance as much as possible the Islamic characteristics of the newly established state. While he saw himself as the vanguard of opposition to things modern and desirous of implementing the classical ideal of Islam, in many details modern ideas and modern conditions influenced his understanding of the ideal. Sayyid Quţb, the leader of the Muslim Brethren in Egypt (executed in 1966), gave much currency to the dichotomy between Islam and the Jāhiliyya which is, in his as well as in Mawdūdī's view, not only a specific historical period but also a state of affairs and a mentality which allows people to choose a way of life different from the one prescribed by God and by the Prophet Muhammad. Jāhilī society is not only that which denies the existence of God, but also that which does not deny it, but relegates God to the kingdom of heaven and does not apply His law on earth. Such societies, including those which are nominally Muslim, have to be replaced by societies living under the divine Muslim law. The radical Muslim trends which we exemplified by reference to Abū al-Aʿlā Mawdūdī and Sayyid Quţb have gained much currency since the middle of the 20th century.
As a religion and a civilization, Islam has been in existence since the seventh century. At the beginning of the 21st century, Muslims live in dozens of countries in most areas of the world. These plain facts go a long way to explain the diversity of the Islamic experience. Islam has always been many things. Muslims have been warriors, rulers, mystics, writers, poets, artisans, and scholars in various fields; they have been, and still are, engaged in the whole range of human activity in widely differing circumstances. Within one century of Muslim history, they conquered a substantial part of the then known world. During the first three centuries of that history, Muslim writers produced a rich historiography, extensive literature in linguistics and lexicography, literary criticism, poetry, and jurisprudence. They stood for a long period at the cutting edge of scientific development. In its formative period, Muslim religious thought was characterized by a wide variety of views on numerous subjects. The variety of views and the nature of the arguments marshaled by their protagonists testify to the vibrant intellectual life of Islam in the early period of its history. Muslims have differed on questions such as determinism versus free will; the existence of the Koran since all eternity versus its being created at a certain point in time, with the rest of creation; the equality of all prophets versus the unquestioned superiority of Muhammad; the validity of personal reasoning versus the irrefutable authority of the prophetic tradition in jurisprudential matters; the identity of unbelievers who may be offered the status of protected communities (*dhimmīs) rather than being forced to embrace Islam; the extent of tolerance to non-Muslims living under Muslim rule and the measure of humiliation to be imposed on them. The list of these much debated issues could easily be augmented. This diversity of Muslim thought and experience has crucial significance. It means that all Muslims, in any place and historical period, must choose the type of Islamic thought and belief most appropriate to the circumstances of their lives and to their world view. It also means that the Muslim tradition includes material capable of substantiating almost any interpretation of Islam which a Muslim may want to develop. He may choose to be a fundamentalist or a modernist. He may choose to view Judaism and Christianity as basically illegitimate and corrupt versions of the divine will, or adopt a more pluralistic view of religious diversity. Professional men of religion tend to promote the view that their interpretation is the only legitimate one, and they are frequently supported by the autocratic regimes in many Muslim states. Such attitudes are belied by the long history of intellectual controversy in Islam and by the various forms which Islam took on in various times and places. Since the middle of the 20th century, radical interpretations of Islam have held sway in some of the most important areas of the Muslim world, but there is no doubt that the building bricks for a different version of Islam are readily available in the Muslim tradition.
[Yohanan Friedmann (2nd ed.)]
Polemics against Judaism
Islamic polemics directed against Judaism and Jews are substantial neither in quantity nor in quality. The great masses of Christian subjects within the Islamic domain and the Christian powers outside caused Islamic polemics to focus on Christianity. On the whole, Arabic lore and literature reflect a negative attitude toward the Jews, one of distrust and suspicion, contempt and animosity. It is argued that from the days of the Prophet the Jews were enemies of Islam, either in direct military confrontation with the Prophet, or in plots to undermine Islam through heresy, subversion, and cunning ill will. An 11th-century admirer of *Samuel b. Joseph ha-Nagid or the 14th-century mystic al-Jīlī (I. Goldziher in jzwl, 11 (1875), 68ff.) are exceptions in their positive attitude toward the Jews. The prevailing attitude may have come from Christian polemics which in turn were rooted to some extent in classical anti-Jewish lore. This holds true even concerning the Koran (T. Andrae, Ursprung des Islams … (1923–25), 198f.; cf. Waardenburg in Liber Amicorum, Studies… C.J. Bleeker, 1969). It is not surprising that the ever-growing mass of Christian converts to Islam should have contributed to the anti-Jewish mood. As early as the ninth century, al-Jāḥiz stated that although Judaism may seem closer to Islam than Christianity, Muslims are more negative in their attitude toward Jews than toward Christians (ed. and tr. by J. Finkel, in jaos, 47 (1927), 311–34).
Polemic remarks appear in the Koran and the Ḥadith (G. Vajda in ja, 229 (1937), 57–127) and in numerous theological works. Systematic treatment appears in courses and manuals on theology, heresies, and comparative religion. Muslim scholars displayed a very limited knowledge of Judaism and were not acquainted with original Jewish sources, and only rarely with translations. For example, the historian Ibn Khaldūn (14th century) even quoted the Bible from the 10th century historian al-Masʿūdī. The judgments and references of the polemists were usually based on sets of passages, presumably supplied by Jews converted to Islam, and, in the critique of post-biblical Judaism, possibly going back to some *Karaite material. Sometimes polemics may have been geared to social-political public agitation and mob riots. For example, the enemies of the family of Samuel ha-Nagid accused Jewish dignitaries and officials of selling terefah meat to the believers. The Moroccan al-Maghribī (G. Vajda in Étude à la mémoire de Lévi-Provençal, 2 (1962), 805–13) voiced a similar argument.
The subject matter of polemics can be reduced to a few points. Islam claims to be the final dispensation, following the abrogation (Ar. naskh) of Judaism and Christianity, and regards the development of Judaism, after its abrogation, as abnormal and as a human invention (bidʿa) contrary to divine dispensation (sharʿ). This is demonstrated by a critique of the Bible. Jews are charged with tampering (tabdīl) and distorting (taḥrīf) the texts, either in reading or in interpretation. Indeed, the Scriptures contain accounts unworthy of and senseless in a divine book (e.g., the stories of Lot, Judah and Tamar, kings of Edom, stations in the wilderness). Many of the numerical computations seem faulty; contradictions and anthropomorphisms (tajsīm) abound. Conversely, the Scriptures fail to elaborate on reward and punishment in the hereafter. Disrupted by the Babylonian captivity, the transmission of events (tawātur) is defective. Finally, if the Scriptures are authentic, they must contain annunciations (aʿlām) of the advent of Muhammad. The latter are gleaned from *gematria, the interpretation of the numerical value of significant words (Muhammad = 92 = bi-me'od me'od in Gen. 17:2; Paran wilderness = Mecca) etc. (cf. Strauss-Ashtor, in Sefer ha-Zikkaron le-Veit ha-Midrash le-Rabbanim be-Vinah (1946), 182–97).
A tenth-century compendium by the theologian Bāqillānī presents a discussion of Judaism (Brunschvig, in Homenaje a Millás Vallicrosa). Partly provoked by the high position attained by Samuel ha-Nagid, the philosopher and historian Ibn Ḥazm (11th century) composed a substantial attack on Judaism in vitriolic language (M. Perlmann, in paajr, 18 (1948/49), 269–90). In the 12th century, a Jewish convert to Islam, *Samuel ibn Abbas al-Maghribī produced the most important polemic work (idem, in paajr, 32, 1964), which was often used and plagiarized by later polemists such as Qarāfī (13th century) and Ibn Qayyim ibn al-Jawziya (14th century). The Egyptian Jew Saʿīd b. Hasan of Alexandria who converted to Islam in 1298 (I. Goldziher, in rej, 30 (1895), 1–23; S.A. Weston, in jaos, 24 (1903), 312–83) and the Moroccan convert ʿAbd al-Ḥaqq al Islāmī (14th century) wrote popular tracts. In about 1360, Abu Zakariyyā Yaḥyā al-Rāqilī, a Morisco in Christian Spain, wrote a manual of disputation against the Jews who "loosen their tongues… against our prophet" (as in Palacios, in Mélanges Hartwig Derenbourg (1909), 343–66). As late as the 19th century, the account of Tabātabaʾī's disputation and the pamphlet Risāla Sabʿiyya appeared in Egyptian editions of Samuel's aforesaid tract (1939, 19622).
Jewish replies to the Islamic contentions began to appear in the tenth century and their authors include the philosophers *Saadiah Gaon, *Judah Halevi, Abraham ibn Daud, and *Maimonides. The former three were also outstanding polemists against the Karaites. Separate tracts against Islam were rare. Ma'amar ʿal Yishma'el (13th century), ascribed to Solomon b. Abraham Adret (J. Perles, 1863; M. Zikier, in Festschrift A. Kaminka, 1937), and Keshet u-Magen (M. Steinschneider, in mwj, 7 (1880), 1–48) of R. Simeon b. Ẓemaḥ Duran (d. 1444) came from the Jewish milieu peculiar to Christian Spain. While Jewish polemists were bitter about oppression and humiliation under Islam, they were aware that Islam showed greater affinity to Judaism than did Christianity, despite the biblical background shared with the latter.
Judaism and Islam
Centuries before the rise of Islam many Jewish communities were scattered over *Arabia, so that Judaism, in its normative and also sectarian versions, was known to the sedentary population and even to the Bedouin tribes. It was especially widespread in South Arabia, where Judaized groups and proselytes were very common. The deciphering of the South Arabian inscriptions, some of which were discovered only in the 1950s, confirm the many accounts and reports of early, pre-Islamic Christian writers about Jewish missionary activities and the persecutions of the Christians, especially in *Najrān by *Yūsuf Dhū Nuwās, the Jewish (proselyte) king of *Himyar. Raḥmān, the Merciful, as a name of God, without any other attribute, has been found many times in those inscriptions and indicates their Jewish origin. Arab historians and biographers of Muhammad's life describe the Jewish communities and tribes living in Hejaz generations before his rise. The years spent by Muhammad the Prophet and Messenger of God in the Jewish Yathrib-Medina gave him many opportunities (positive and negative) to come into close contact with the Jewish tribes living in that group of oases. This historical background explains the fact of the strict uncompromising monotheism preached by Muhammad (who objected to the Christian belief that Jesus was the son of God). Most of the *Bible tales to be found in the Koran and the normative form of Islam based on precepts are to be traced to the Bible and to the Oral Law. At the same time, some descriptions of the Last Judgment and of eschatological events which preoccupied Muhammad in his early period in Mecca, and also some historical tales, stem from Christian sources and inspirations. But the main eschatological beliefs belong to the common Jewish-Christian heritage, even though they were transmitted by Christian monks. In a Ḥadith ʿAisha, Muhammad's wife, is said to have heard the tradition about the punishment in the grave (ḥibbuṭ ha-kever) from two old Jewish women in Medina. More Jewish elements can be found in those beliefs after Jerusalem was accepted as the location of the Last Judgment.
Nonetheless, the Arabian character of the Koran must always be stressed as it was Muhammad's genius which founded and established Islam. The fact that some of his contemporaries, prophets, and ḥanifs tried unsuccessfully to spread monotheism in Arabia cannot lower Muhammad's stature. A large number of Jewish teachings, sayings, and normative and ethical precepts have been included in the *Ḥadith literature, sometimes in the name of Jews or Jewish converts to Islam although most were inserted anonymously. Much of the narrative material gathered in the Qiṣaṣ al-Anbiyāʾ ("Legends of the Prophets") goes back to *Kaʿb al-Aḥbār, the Jewish convert to Islam who accompanied the caliph *Omar during his visit to Jerusalem, or to *Wahb b. Munabbih, also a convert or son of a Jewish convert. All of this Ḥadith literature (and the legends are also systematically arranged like the oral tradition) shows an astonishing knowledge of the *halakhah and *aggadah as laid down in talmudic and midrashic literature. As in Judaism, at first there was opposition in Islam to writing down the sayings and teachings which were transmitted, by isnād (lit., leaning, ascription of an oral religious tradition), a chain of traditioners (see below). The caliph Omar disapproved of the literary fixing of the sunna (the sayings and exemplary actions of Muhammad): "Would you like to have a [written] mathnat like the mathnat [Aramaic: mathnitha – Heb. Mishnah] of the Jews?" (Ibn Saʿd v, p. 140).
It is not always possible to postulate a clear-cut dependence of Islamic teachings and methods on Judaism. The fundamental similarity of Judaism and Islam, both based on religious laws in principles, methods, and legislation, caused parallel developments in later centuries. It is a well-known fact that the *geonim, the heads of the two famous talmudic academies in *Sura and in *Pumbedita, received questions concerning legal and social matters; there are many tens of thousands of their responsa extant. This was also the practice of the Muslim muftis, a category of jurists from whom every Muslim could ask a fatwā, a legal opinion based on the religious law. The fatwā and the responsum both possessed legal power. It is difficult to decide if the development of this branch of literature in both religions was independent or whether this was an example of mutual influence. For example, at the end of the typical question one finds in the fatwā and in the responsum the formula: "May our rabbi (or mufti) give his instruction [= decision] and his reward will be doubled by Heaven [= God]." Goldziher (zdmg 52, p. 645) sees an Islamic influence in this formula of the responsum.
In the first centuries of Islam the jurists were allowed to use their independent judgment (ijtihād) in their decisions, but had to base it on primary sources. Later they were restricted in their freedom of independent decision and were obliged to follow the taqlīd (precedent) and to rely on former judgments. One finds a parallel development in rabbinic Judaism, in which even the geonim were obliged to follow the authority of their predecessors. Nonetheless, social and economic transformations sometimes demanded departure from accepted laws and rules. Thus the geonim and the later generations of rabbis were obliged to establish ordinances adjusted to the new situation. A similar principle was current in the madhhab (legal school) of Mālik b. Anas, i.e., the istiṣlāḥ, the adaptation (or correction) of laws, for the benefit of the community.
The influence of *fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) is clear in the systematic dealings of the geonim with halakhic materials according to their contents, e.g., the laws of inheritance, gifts, deposits, oaths, usury, witness and writs, loans, and obligations, as they were arranged by Saadiah, Hai, Samuel b. Hophni, who wrote their works in Arabic. This is especially clear in Maimonides' code, Mishneh Torah, written in Hebrew and preceded by Sefer ha-Miẓvot (Book of Precepts), the first exposition of the 613 precepts. Maimonides' arrangement of these works indicates knowledge of the methods and principles of the fiqh literature and of the Ḥadith collections of al-Bukhārī, Muslims, and others. Maimonides applied the ijmāʿ (consensus), one of the four uṣūl al-fiqh (roots of fiqh), in his code. In his introduction to this code he gives the chain of the teachers and rabbis who during 40 generations transmitted the Oral Law from Moses to R. Ashi. This is a classic illustration of how the isnād – the method of verification of the sayings of Muhammad and his companions – was taken over by early Islam from Judaism, which traced the chain of tradition from Moses to the Men of the Great Synagogue (Avot 1); and in turn was used by Maimonides as a principle to verify the halakhah.
But Islamic influence was not restricted to methodology. Some Muslim customs concerning ablutions, prostrations, and general behavior during prayer were accepted by Maimonides and his son Abraham, and aroused disagreement among the majority of the Jewish society. Jewish apocalypses ascribed to R. Simeon b. *Yoḥai, and pseudepigraphic works such as Pirkei de Rabbi Eliezer and Targum Jonathan show traces of Islamic influence. Note should be made of the book of R. Nissim b. Jacob (Kairouan, first half of the 11th century) called Ḥibbur Yafe me-ha-Yeshuʿah ("A Fine Treatise on Salvation"), which in its Hebrew translation was known for centuries and was often reprinted because of its popular religious contents. Its Arabic original (the exact title of which is unknown) was found in the last decade of the 19th century (ed. by J. Obermann, 1933). In Jewish literature it is the only representative of a type known in Islamic literature as Kutub al-Faraj baʿda al-Shidda ("Books of Comfort after Disaster"). A detailed comparison between the Ḥibbur and the Muslim books shows that Nissim, who was head of the talmudic academy in *Kairouan, knew the stories then current in his non-Jewish environment, whether in literary form or as folktales.
Islamic culture, which had absorbed the legacy of Greece and the Hellenistic world, made a tremendous impact on some aspects of Jewish thought and science. After centuries of complete disruption between that world and Judaism, the works of the Greek philosophers and scientists came back to the orbit of Jewish thinkers and scholars through Arabic translations (from earlier translations in the Syriac language). From the tenth century on, Aristotle, Plato, and Neoplatonism influenced Jewish philosophers of religion, theologians, poets, and scientists. The most famous include: Saadiah, Isaac Israeli (from Kairouan), *Ibn Gabirol, Baḥya ibn *Paquda, Judah *Halevi, *Abraham ibn Daud, Maimonides, and his younger contemporary Joseph ibn Aknin (not to be mistaken for Maimonides' pupil of the same name). As S.D. *Goitein has shown, early *Sufism was also supplemented by Jewish sources. In its higher and later states, Sufism was inspired by Greek philosophy. Sufi influence is to be found in the poems of Ibn Gabirol, but the classic work which wholeheartedly advocates asceticism is Baḥya ibn *Paquda's Ḥovot ha-Levavot, which was written in Arabic. Although there is a great deal of eclecticism in this work, it is modeled mainly on Muslim sources. The most prominent representative of Sufism in Judaism is Abraham b. Moses b. *Maimon. In his book Kifāyat al-ʿĀbidīn Sufi traces are discernible, even more than in the work of Baḥya. Abraham recommends study and contemplation in order to perfect the soul engaged in the service of God. He used the term "highways" as a means that lead to perfection. In its highest degree, perfection culminates in ecstasy through the praise of God in love. Pure, humble, and sincere souls have access to the esoteric, inner mystical sense of the Torah. Baḥya's Ḥovot ha-Levavot and Abraham's Kifāyat al-ʿĀbidīn especially influenced the Jewish communities in the East, and played an important role in some later mystic movements; sometimes these mystics found common ways with Muslim Sufis (cf. also *Isrāʾ īliyat, *Naḍīr, *Qurayẓa, *Qaynuqāʿa).
[Haïm Z'ew Hirschberg]
I. Goldziher, Muhammedanische Studien, 2 vols. (1889–90); N. Wieder, Islamic Influences on the Jewish Worship (1947); S.D. Goitein, Jews and Arabs (1955); E.I.J. Rosenthal, Judaism and Islam (1961). polemics: Baron, Social2, 3 (1957), 76–85, 87, 156f.; 5 (1957), 82–105, 117–21, 136, 326–37; M. Steinschneider, Polemische und apologetische Literatur …(1887); I. Goldziher, in: jzwl, 1–11 (1862–75); idem, in: rej, 30 (1895), 1–23; 43 (1901), 1–14; 60 (1910), 32–8; idem, in: M. Brann and F. Rosenthal (eds.), Gedenkbuch…David Kaufmann (1900), 86–102; M. Schreiner, Beitraege zur Geschichte der theologischen Bewegungen im Islam (1899, offprint from zdmg, vols. 52–53, 1898–99); I. Friedlaender, in: za, 26 (1912), 93–110; A.S. Tritton, in: Islamic Studies, 1, no. 2 (1962), 60–4. add. bibliography: polemics: I.Y. al-Shāhabī, Istrātījiyyat al-Qurʾān al-Karīm fī muwājahat al-Yahūdiyya al-ʿālamiyya (1997); M.I. Khalaf, Qiyam al-Yahūd fi alqiṣaṣ al-Qurʾāniyya …(2001). judaism and islam: M. Maas, Bibel und Koran (1893); A.I. Katsh, Judaism in Islam (1954); Abraham Geiger, Judaism and Islam (1969); R. Roberts, The Social Laws of the Qoran (1925, 19712); H. Schwarzbaum, Mi-Mekor Israel we Ishmaʿel: Yahadūt we-Islām be-aspaklariyyat ha-folklor (1975).
Islam (“the act of submitting [to God]”) is the proper and most widely used term for the religion of those who believe that the Qur’ān (Koran) is the true word of God transmitted to mankind as an ultimate revelation through the medium of his Prophet and messenger, Muhammad. Although the term was used in early periods in the more limited sense of “submission” and seems to have been generally equated with “belief” (imān), the meaning today to Muslims and non-Muslims alike is that of the definitive name of a specific religion. The practitioner of the faith is a Muslim, a term that also serves as an adjective, but the attributive adjective Islamic is preferable in social or cultural contexts, e.g., Muslim theology, but Islamic law and Islamic architecture. The terms Mohammedan and Mohammedanism are disliked by Muslims because they carry the implication of the worship of Muhammad as a more than human figure and thus contain the germs of polytheism.
The most recent of the three great monotheisms to have arisen in the Middle East and the last major universal religion to have appeared in history, Islam came into being in the early seventh century in west-central Arabia. Although a good part of the Quran records the preaching of Muhammad in Mecca in the first two decades of that century, the definitive outlines of Islam as a system of beliefs and as a political organization took shape in Medina after the emigration (hijrah) to that city of Muhammad and a band of his followers in 622. In recognition of the importance of this event, the Muslim calendar reckons events from the first lunar month of that year—July 16, 622, becoming the first day of Muharram, A.H. 1. Between that date and the death of Muhammad in 632, two years after a triumphal return to his newly converted birthplace of Mecca, the new religion established itself throughout most of the Arabian Peninsula, not only as a corpus of religious belief but equally as a political community (ummah) provided with its own laws and embryonic govern-mental and social institutions. The significance and uniqueness of this twin foundation structure is recognized in the well-known dictum, “Islam is a religion and a state,” which is interpreted, however, by Muslims in a unitary meaning rather than implying any dualism.
The century following Muhammad’s death saw a far-reaching series of conquests by the new Muslim armies. Their spectacular successes and the way in which ancient communities and seemingly powerful states succumbed with little resistance testify to underlying weaknesses in the existing order but also say something of the fresh appeal Islam had for peoples in the Middle East at a time when they were exhausted by internecine struggles and doctrinal quarrels. However, the large number of conversions to Islam at this period may be said to have stemmed more from socioeconomic causes than from religious motivation, although these in the end had repercussions on both the faith itself and the subsequent nature of the Islamic state. In the Fertile Crescent area and in Egypt the numerous Christian and Jewish communities were legally allowed to continue practicing their religion, but inequalities in taxation which favored Muslims, and the natural social desire to become full members of the body politic with all its advantages, furthered Islamization. In Iran multiple causes conditioned conversion: the desire of the bureaucracy to preserve its privileges, the reluctance of the landed nobility to pay the poll tax, and the wish on the part of the merchant class to have a full share in the material culture of the Islamic empire. In north Africa pagan or semi-Christianized Berbers were more often either genuinely influenced by the tenets of Islam or spontaneously gave their allegiance to the new religion rather than suffer the alternative, loss of life, reserved for those other than “people of the book,” i.e., monotheists who possessed scriptures.
In the centuries following its birth Islam was spread by conquest and occupation, organized and at times militant religious activism, and peaceful missionary work. The first wave of expansion was the work of Arabs, largely armies buttressed by new converts in the Middle East and north Africa. By the end of the Umayyad reign (A.D. 750), the frontiers of Islam extended to the Pyrenees in the west and the Indus River in the east. Included in Muslim domains were most of Spain, north Africa, Egypt, the Levant to the frontiers of Anatolia, the Arabian Peninsula, Iran, and part of Turkestan. Once this force had been spent there was relatively little fluctuation in the extent of the House of Islam (Dār ul-Isldm) until a second wave of military conquest was set under way in the fourteenth century by Turkic peoples who had migrated from central Asia to Iran and Asia Minor and been progressively Islamized over a period of several centuries. One of these groups, the Osmanli, destroyed the remnants of the Byzantine state, took Constantinople in 1453, and established Muslim rule in large areas of southeastern Europe, maintaining it until well into the nineteenth century. These two waves directed at Europe left important cultural legacies in Spain and Sicily and vestigial groups of Muslims in Yugoslavia, Albania, and Bulgaria.
The historical advance of Islam into south and southeast Asia, and later into tropical Africa, has been of another kind. The faith came to these areas at a comparatively late date and was spread more gradually, sometimes by force, but more often through the voluntary conversion of nonmonotheists. Muslim power gained sway in northwest India only after A.D. 1000, and converts in Bengal were not numerous until the sixteenth century. The force of Islam in south Asia in modern times is shown by the success of Muslim demands for the partition of British India and the establishment of Pakistan as a separate state for Muslims. In addition to some ninety million Muslims in that country, a large minority of over forty million is found in India. In south Asia as a whole, Muslims have increased their numbers at the expense of non-Muslims, not only because of the one-way nature of conversion but because of socioeconomic factors, including a greater life expectancy resulting from a higher protein diet, the urban nature of the Muslim population, which somewhat spares it from rural famines, and the fact that widows are permitted to remarry. Proselytization in southeast Asia was mainly the work of Muslim traders who established themselves in Malaya, Sumatra, and elsewhere in the fourteenth century. Gradually Islam spread inland in Sumatra and Malaya and penetrated the farther islands of Indonesia as far as the southern Philippines. Today the Malays of Malaya are overwhelmingly Muslim and the Indonesians are very heavily Muslim, while important minorities exist in Thailand, Burma, and the Philippines. The stronghold that Islam had early obtained in central Asia was the source for the considerable Islamization of Sinkiang and parts of northwestern China in later times. At present it is estimated that as much as one-tenth of the total Chinese population may be considered Muslim.
In Africa, Islam spread unevenly at different periods, but it has continued to make impressive advances in modern times. Although peoples living along the Mediterranean shores of northern Africa were converted in the first wave of Arab conquest, Islam spread more gradually up the Nile and across the trade routes of the Sahara to reach the Chad area and, eventually, in the fifteenth century, northern Nigeria. By sea it moved down around the horn of east Africa to the Somali coast and Zanzibar. An island of resistance exists in the Abyssinian highlands, but Islam is heavily predominant today in Somalia, Zanzibar, and the Sudan, while important minorities exist in coastal Kenya, Tanganyika, and Mozambique. Islamization in west Africa was furthered by brotherhood activity in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Islam has a majority today in Mauritania, Senegal, Mali, Niger, Chad, and probably Nigeria, large minorities in Guinea, Gambia, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Cameroon, and the Central African Republic, and numerous adherents in the other states of west and central Africa as far south as Zambia and Rhodesia.
In all, more than 500 million persons today, one-sixth of humanity, profess themselves to be Muslims, however nominal in practice. Of this number about 125 million are in Africa and almost 400 million in Asia, with scattered communities in Europe and the Americas. Of perhaps greater significance than its present numbers is the fact that Islam, of all the major religions, continues to show the most steady growth. Particularly noteworthy is its progress in regions previously dominated by pagan tribal cultures. Its strong appeal to under-privileged or minority groups everywhere, as has historically been evident in south Asia, is a further factor of political and social importance in this century.
The basis of Islam, and the heart of Muslim belief and thought, lie in its holy scripture, the Qur’ān, considered by Muslims to be the direct and true word of God, transmitted by the angel Gabriel to Muhammad (in Arabic) while the latter was in a state of divine inspiration akin to trance. In this state Muhammad was ordered to recite (iqrā) the word of God, whence qur’ān, a “recitation.” A supplementary source of faith began to emerge after the death of the Prophet as it became clear that the Qur’ān did not provide specific guidance for many of the questions faced by the growing community. In their search for additional guidance, Muslims turned to the life, the habits, and the dicta of Muhammad in given situations. There thus arose the practice of compiling, recording, and classifying the “tradition” (hadīth) of or relating to the Prophet. Out of this material, expressed in the form of short narratives relating specific acts and sayings of Muhammad through a chain of hearsay, grew the completed product: the customary way of doing (sunnah), which expresses the ideal of behavior for pious, orthodox Muslims, who style themselves “followers of the custom” (ahl al-sunnah)—whence the term Sunnites.
The central importance of Muhammad in Islam is thus evident. His position as the sole communicant of God’s word to man is attested in the basic Muslim profession of faith: “There is no God but God and Muhammad is His Prophet.” This credo, although it does not occur in a single phrase in the Qur’ān itself, has become the foundation of Muslim self-identification. It differentiates the believer from the nonbeliever and Islam from other religions by emphasizing that Muhammad is not one prophet among many but the seal of the prophets and that the revelation given to him was the ultimate and unchangeable exposition of divine will. The function of the hadīth reinforced this position, as may well have been one of its main purposes, by preserving for later generations a portrait of the personality of Muhammad in warm and simple details which link the believer to him in an atmosphere of pious affection that has grown through the centuries. Through the device of the hadīth, which contrasts strongly with the formalism and transcendentalism of the Qur’ān, Muhammad is kept from becoming a dim historical figure; he emerges as a venerable, just, but understandable human leader of his flock. In this way Islam maintains the principle of the strictest monotheism, while tempering it with a human touch which, to judge by the historical experience, has fulfilled the needs of ordinary Muslims in all ages. It is true that this devotion has sometimes seemed to approach adulation or even outright worship, particularly in the past century, when a new consciousness of Christianity led some Muslim biographers of Muhammad to present his life in ways that clearly reveal the influence of the story of Jesus. However, both orthodox Muslim thought and the practice of the masses have kept the fine distinction between ceremonial veneration and anthropolatry.
The Qur’ān is divided into 114 chapters, arranged in decreasing order of length. The generally earlier Meccan chapters are distinguishable by their apocalyptic style, their use of a strongly fashioned rhymed prose, their relatively simple subject matter, and their poetic expression of religious symbolism. In their imaginative grasp and their masterly use of Arabic they reveal a genuine prophetic genius. In comparison, the later Medinan chapters, which include moral maxims, legal proscriptions, and historical narratives that are sometimes taken from Christian and Jewish sources, suffer from a dilution of this vigorous style.
The essential dogma of the Qur’ān is that of the unity of God: “Say God is one, God the eternal. He hath not begotten nor was he begotten, and there is none equal to him.” The believer is enjoined to accept the envoys of God and the scriptures they have revealed, beginning with Adam and continuing with Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus, to the final revelation of Muhammad. Running through the entire work are two motifs: one envisions an impersonal, remote, and majestic deity, who evokes in the believer a sense of awe and humility; the other conceptualizes the Divine Spirit in terms of hope and mercy. Among the most numerous epithets for God in the Qur’ān are those describing him as compassionate and merciful, and while a theme of fiery destruction for the sinful is preached in some Meccan verses, others rank among the purest expressions of trust in divine love.
It has long been clear to non-Muslim scholars that to some degree Christian beliefs, Judaism, and the pre-Islamic tradition in Arabia all had a part in shaping Qur’ānic dogma. Contacts with Christian communities in western Asia and Abyssinia were numerous, and Jewish colonies were found throughout the peninsula; in the Yemen, Judaistic movements had held power shortly before Muhammad’s lifetime. Textual criticism of the Qur’ān reveals such borrowings in, for example, the doctrine of the Last Judgment, where not only the concept but the technical terminology is taken from Syriac Christian writings, and in Muhammad’s gradual incorporation into his revelation of Old Testament stories that would validate his teaching. In Medina, Muhammad found a large Jewish community, with which a dispute ultimately arose, the source of much of the anti-Judaist polemic in the Qur’ān. Early in the Medina period, however, Muhammad had incorporated several Jewish practices into Islam, notably ‘Āshūrā’, the holy day that corresponds to the Day of Atonement, and the direction of prayer toward Jerusalem. The Qur’ān stresses the alleged falsification of the Scriptures by both Jews and Christians but in a way that usually indicates a derivative or insufficient understanding of the original ideas or facts. Among these are the Incarnation, which is categorically rejected, and the Crucifixion, said to be a Jewish distortion of the true event. According to Islamic dogma, an-other figure was crucified in the place of Jesus, who was himself taken to heaven.
Of prime importance in the formation of Muhammad’s doctrines, however, was the existence of two intertwined strands of tradition in pre-Islamic Arab life. One was the animistic beliefs of tribal society, which ascribed powers to inanimate objects, stones, trees, etc., as well as to certain human categories (soothsayers, sorcerers) and to nonhuman elements (jinn). Entangled with this Arab paganism, however, there was an ill-defined monotheism, which may have owed something to Jewish and Christian influences. This was exemplified by prophets (singular, hanīf) who opposed a nativistic monotheism to the pagan polydemonism, which no longer satisfied the Arabs’ desire for a broader religious experience. The hanīf’s, despite their monotheism, were unwilling to accept Judaism or Christianity as such. The Qur’ān describes Abraham as a hanīf, and thus asserts itself as a restoration of the true, indigenous Abrahamic monotheism, which had been corrupted by Jewish and Christian beliefs.
The supreme accomplishment of Muhammad in the Qur’ān was to make use of these two elements but to disentangle them at the same time, thus opening the religious imagination of the Arabs to new horizons without too abruptly cutting away their old cultural and emotional roots. This delicate operation involved simultaneously banning most animistic associations but amalgamating others with the new religion by reinterpreting them in a monotheistic way. This restructuring of pagan practice and terminology can be seen most successfully in the incorporation of the earlier religious pilgrimage to the sacred region of Mecca and the circumambulation of the Black Stone, in the adoption of the ritual sacrifice of sheep, and in the new application of terms that formerly referred to pagan customs but that are clothed in richer and broader monotheistic meaning in the Qur’ān. In this reconstruction, by lifting Arab spiritual values out of the incoherence in which they were enmeshed and by focusing them on the concept of a supreme God who encompassed and stood above all previous formulations, Muhammad created a distinctive religious edifice. Although it contains elements of earlier faiths, it can be understood only as a unique, new entity possessing its own structure and dynamics.
The practice of Islam consists essentially of a small number of ritual obligations called the “pillars of the faith.” These include giving witness, ritual prayer, legal almsgiving, fasting, and the pilgrimage. To profess faith with intention is to become a Muslim and be admitted to all the duties and privileges of the community. While good works are considered to be as commendable as faith itself, orthodox opinion has generally held that testimony alone without any other deed during the lifetime of a believer is sufficient for ultimate salvation. Ritual prayer is formal worship, whose ceremony, postures, gestures, and verbal formulas are strictly laid down by law; it is designed to express adoration of God rather than personal communion with him or petition. It may be noted, however, that the period of meditation following upon the prostrations allows the worshiper an opportunity to enter into a relationship of communion with a spirit of humility. Ritual cleanliness is mandatory and is minutely regulated according to the circumstances. Although the Qur’ān is silent on the subject, five daily prayers have been standard since the earliest period of Islam. Their times vary somewhat but usually come before dawn, just after midday, in midafternoon, after sunset, and at night, usually in the first minutes of darkness—hours seemingly calculated to avoid any hint of sun worship. There is no requirement that ordinary prayer be carried out in the mosque, although it is recommended because ritual purity is better guaranteed within its precincts. The Friday midday prayer, however, should be kept in the mosque; it usually contains several sections and a sermon. Legal almsgiving is today in most Muslim countries an institution of only historical interest, having been superseded almost everywhere by modern legislation. Originally it was a religious tax levied on property according to a detailed formula and payable in kind. These three pillars of the faith (giving witness, ritual prayer, and almsgiving) have somewhat less influence on Muslim life than might be supposed. Witness is automatic and often unspoken throughout the lifetime of those who are born to the faith and can conceive of no other. Almsgiving is obsolete, and ritual prayer is to a growing degree slighted or ignored by many modern Muslims, especially in urban areas. This is not true, however, of the remaining two pillars: the fast and the pilgrimage.
Early in the Medinan period Muhammad instituted a fast on ’Āshūrā’, but later he abrogated this and instead ordained abstinence during the entire ninth month of the lunar calendar, Ramadan. During this month, from sunrise to sunset, the faithful must completely abstain from food, drink, tobacco, and sexual intercourse. The fast is compulsory only for adults in good health; pregnant women, children of prepuberty age, the aged and the sick, and bona fide travelers are specifically exempt, although the last must make up the broken fast days. Today the Ramadan fast is without doubt the one ceremony most strictly held to by believers, and it is a basic component of the social cement that holds the community together. While violations are found both among bedouin and rural elements, on the one hand, and in secret in a few modernist and intellectual circles, on the other, townsmen in most Muslim countries tend to keep the fast unanimously. Public opinion strongly reproves individuals who try to avoid the obligation in private and has, even recently, reacted violently to public disregard of it. There appears also to be a discernible connection between rigorous observance and modern nationalism in some countries where Islam was used as a rallying point in the struggle against foreign colonialism, and some states (e.g., Morocco) have inserted penalties for transgressing it in their modern penal codes. In a few Muslim states, however (e.g., Turkey and Tunisia), where the holy law (sharī’ah) has been abolished, the secularist orientation of their nationalism has led the governments to encourage fastbreaking in the interest of national economic imperatives or to consider it a matter of personal conscience.
The pilgrimage to Mecca incorporates in Muslim practice two pagan rites celebrated by the Arabs, one connected with the circumambulation of the Black Stone of the Ka’bah in Mecca, and the other the pilgrimage to the hill of ‘Arafāt outside the town. The rites are performed in the twelfth lunar month and now usually include a visit to nearby Medina. The pilgrimage may be described as a conditional obligation; it is incumbent only on Muslims with the necessary means and the physical ability to reach Mecca. Nevertheless, it has remained a vital element in Muslim life throughout the centuries and, even in the most difficult periods of history, attracted numerous pilgrims. Today, with improved communications, increased travel within the Muslim world, and security in the pilgrimage area, it has taken on new dimensions of cultural and even political significance. Mecca has become a meeting place for Muslims from the entire world, and a deep impression is made on many pilgrims by the reaffirmation of their faith in company with cobelievers of every color and nationality. The annual re-enactment of the ceremonies, with the pilgrims as active participants and not simple onlookers, gives them an especially moving character. The returning pilgrim, who is entitled to add the title hājj to his name, is the object of admiration and congratulations, but more important perhaps is the feeling on the part of those who have remained at home that he brings with him an atmosphere of holiness which is shared by all. At all times the social function of the pilgrimage to the sacred sites has been to serve as a journey to a common hearth fire from which the pilgrims could carry back the renewed and restored flame of faith to their own communities. In this sense, the pilgrimage may be looked on as the counterpart of the fast, for while the fast solidifies the bonds that hold together each community by a common sacrifice, the pilgrimage allows the members of the elites of widely different regions and groups to engage in a spiritual intercourse which strengthens the ties between the various communities of Islam.
It is not certain whether the Qur’ān was written down during the lifetime of the Prophet. The tradition indicates that scraps of it were preserved, and an authoritative text was prepared by a com-mission appointed by the third caliph, ’Uthmān, and copies of this circulated throughout the empire. However, difficulties in reading the imperfectly developed Arabic script and hesitancies in interpretation caused a reform in writing and the adjustment to a standard pronunciation, as well as the recognition of a certain number of reciters whose readings were by compromise accepted as orthodox. Toward the end of the first century A.H. the text as now used was standardized in most details.
During this formative period the administration of justice was carried out somewhat haphazardly by Qur’ānic precepts as they were customarily interpreted by the Arabs, and with the incorporation of some elements of Roman and pre-Islamic law, administrative procedures were modified and more fully incorporated in the embryonic body of legal practice. Toward the end of the Umayyad period, between about A.D. 725 and 750, the Qur’ān and the sunnah had become established as the principal sources of Muslim jurisprudence, but there had also grown up a body of jurists and men interested in legal problems who in their experience were finding it necessary to go beyond these sources to devise laws for the community.
Up to this time law and religion were inextricably interconnected and rested upon the infallible revelation of the Qur’ān and its presumably infallible verification in detail by the tradition. The infallibility of these two sources, however, was not of the same order; in fact, the proliferation of narratives in the tradition was such that scholars were aware that many of them were spurious. In order to establish the veracity of the tradition beyond any doubt and reinforce its position as an anchor of the legal system, a science of hadīth criticism was introduced in the second and third centuries A.H. This placed stress on the reliability of each member of the chain of authorities cited. Biographies of transmitters were compiled and their subjects carefully investigated, after which each narrative (hadīth) was classified for legal purposes as sound, good, or weak. Many traditions that modern Western scholarship considers highly dubious were classified as sound in this process, for many theologians were at bottom less interested in the historical objectivities of a given tradition than in the practical consequences of its acceptance and application to community life. Later, in the ninth century A.D., hadīth study developed into a full-fledged scholastic enterprise; the great compilations of al-Bukhāri (d. 870) and Muslim (d. 875) have enjoyed almost universal authority in Islam.
The Qur’ān and the expurgated tradition, however, for all their infallibility, did not supply a definitive body of legal precepts for general use. The jurists of the so-called ancient schools in Iraq, Syria, and Medina devoted themselves to finding a way to generalize the specificity of the original sources, and in so doing they established the foundations of the four great legal schools of orthodox Islam and, more importantly, laid down the framework of Islamic law for all time. The concept of opinion, or common sense, had been applied for some time but was thought to contain the dangers of human irresponsibility. It was favored by the school of Iraq, however, while Medinan jurists, among them Malik Ibn Anas (d. 795), developed the doctrine of the “suitability” of one decision to a fixed point of reference and that of the “association” of one with an anterior case. The problem was resolved by al-Shafī‘i (d. 820), who completed the system by extending the use of the Prophetic tradition, as opposed to the narrower Medinan tradition, and introduced the more precise concept of analogical reasoning (qiyās), by which the principles that had governed decisions in previous cases could be applied to new situations. The actual difference between the schools was not overly great, but the reasoning of al-Shafī‘i established his work as the third source of Muslim holy law.
The construction of the Muslim legal edifice was completed by the introduction of the principle of consensus (ijmdā‘) as the guarantor of legal theory and beyond that of the integrity of the entire frame-work of Muslim religious thought. The doctrine of ijmā‘ has been subsumed in a tradition that relates the saying of Muhammad, “My community will not agree in error.” During the second century A.H. it had been established that the consensus of the community, which meant that of the jurists and scholars dealing with religious and legal matters, was binding. The extension of this concept by these very jurists, to stamp with approval the legal systems they had elaborated, removed the possibility of a revision of their work by later generations and gave final validity to the entire structure. Ijmā‘ verifies the authenticity and the proper interpretation of the Qur’ān; it guarantees the correct transmission of the sunnah tradition and the proper use of qiyās. It covers all aspects of the holy law and admits the validity of distinctions between the orthodox legal schools. Of the highest importance, however, is the fact that consensus itself becomes, as Gibb has noted, “a third channel of revelation” (1949) and is elevated to infallibility itself alongside the Qur’ān and the sunnah, which it sanctions. While it is often suggested that the principle of consensus was adopted as a device of convenience by the legal scholars, a broader view leads to the conclusion that the Muslim community’s sense of its own divinely instituted and rightly guided nature has always been so highly developed that it produced an unwavering belief in its own charisma and infallibility. The ideal of Islamic law taken as a whole is absolutist and charismatic at its roots and may be considered a reflection of the Islam which Muslims have brought into being, either, as they would believe, through their unerring understanding of God’s word or, as Western scholars believe, through their own will and actions.
Islam prides itself on the absence of clergy who might interpose themselves between God and man. While this is true in a formal sense, nonetheless from the earliest periods there have been, as seen, a large body of men dealing with religious problems and their interpretation. In time this turned into an identifiable body of theologians (’ulamā’) and jurists. The growth of this group is intimately connected with the development of the holy law and the appearance of the orthodox legal schools in the eighth and ninth centuries. At first they were individual members of the still informal religious institution of Islam, but as this solidified they tended to come together as the formal representatives of the community in questions of faith and, in so doing, often found themselves in positions of opposition to the state. From Abbasid times on, however (after A.D. 750), the political authorities attached theologians to themselves and gave many of them official positions, so that overt opposition by members of the religious establishment tended to be muted. With the establishment of religious colleges (singular, madrasah) in the eleventh century A.D., in which courses were given and degrees granted, there was a further formalization of the structure, which reached its height in the complex government-supported theological institutions of the Ottoman Empire. Such developments tended inevitably to limit the independence of the religious establishment with respect to the authorities, and there are manifold examples of subservience and abasement. Nevertheless, throughout Islamic history there runs the principle, however often violated, that the religious institution exists apart from and as a check on the ruling institution. The theologian and the jurist were in the end the guardians of the law for the state, although they were independent of it and at times in opposition to it. The most notable limitation on the power of the state at all times has been the theoretical inviolability of official members of the religious institution and of their property. A large quantity of mortmain property lay, and still lies, in their hands, and by these means mosques, schools, hospitals, and the like were supported, and to a certain extent the independence of the judge protected.
Almost from its inception Islam encountered difficulties in adapting the message of Muhammad to the changed historical circumstances in which the Muslim empire was developing and in formulating a theological statement that would satisfy the diverse elements that were becoming part of the community. The relationship between religion and politics has always been unusually intimate in the Middle East, and this was particularly true in the case of Islam. It is therefore often difficult to separate political from theological questions, and important to understand that the Muslims of the early periods did not consciously do so themselves. Nevertheless, it is fair to say that with rare exceptions conflicts in the formative first decades primarily reflected political and social considerations and the influence of the differing local environments in western Asia to which the faith had spread, rather than theological considerations. It was only later, toward the beginning of the Umayyad period, that religious factors first intervened significantly, and the practice of transferring sociopolitical grievances to the level of theological disputes and challenging the powers that be on those grounds—a practice which was to become a central theme of Islamic history—was initiated.
The first major example of this was the separation of the Kharijites, whose activities were closely linked with what later turned into the principal schismatic movement in Islam, the Shi’ite deviation from orthodoxy. Both groups were found as extremist elements among the fractious nomadic tribesmen who had been settled in garrison towns in Iraq and who made up the troops of ‘Ali, the son-in-law of Muhammad, during his campaign to claim supreme authority after the murder of the third caliph, ’Uthmān, in 656. The Kharijites represented discontented tribesmen whose anarchic spirit resisted being forced into an urban mold and to whom the end of the conquests in their immediate area meant a diminution of booty and of the satis-faction of raiding. The Shi‘ah, or “partisans” of ‘Ali, on the other hand, were composed of men from Kufa in Iraq who felt alienated from the caliphal establishment, which was the center of power in the Hejaz, and its emanations in Syria.
The quarrel of the Kharijites with the rest of the community lay in the domain of religious practice. They insisted that evildoers within Islam must be rigorously punished and that those Muslims who temporized on the extirpation of evil were themselves guilty of apostasy. This radical point of view led them to withdraw from the armies of ‘Ali and eventually, after a series of unsuccessful minor uprisings, to divorce themselves from the community, in which they had no further direct influence. Today they survive in isolated communities in Algeria, Oman, and Zanzibar, without political influence.
The Shi‘ite movement was more complex and permanent. Its psychological foundations seem to have been laid first in the personal devotion ac-corded to ‘Ali by his followers and, second, in the sense of rejection and bitterness which accompanied his defeat and death in 661 and the martyrdom of his son Husain in 680. At the same time, the political bases of the movement were strengthened by the opposition of the Arabs of Iraq to rule from Syria. The movement attracted many recent non-Arab converts, or clients, to Islam, who were seeking equality and fuller integration within the community and who came principally from among Persian and Aramaean elements in Iraq and Iran. From this period begins a cross-linkage of the political and social grievances of non-Arab Muslims with Shi‘ism, which culminates in the sixteenth century in the Shi‘ite nationalism of the Safavid state in Iran.
The earliest Shi‘ism had no distinctive doctrine, and in questions of theology and law individual Shi‘ites were indistinguishable from others in the community, with whom they lived, on the whole, harmoniously. However, the political insistence on the legitimacy of ‘Ali called into being a doctrine that refused recognition to the first three caliphs who followed Muhammad and thus challenged orthodox belief. Moreover, the elevation of ‘Ali to the position of an infallible and charismatic leader (imām) brought Shi‘ism, in later centuries, into sharper conflict with the Sunnite concept of consensus of the community. Gradually a polarization occurred in which Hellenistic remnants in formerly Byzantine areas attached themselves to and influenced the development of orthodox theology, while a variety of sects and ideas from the pre-Islamic Oriental substrata in Iraq, Iran, and later India were grafted onto Shi‘ism. Moreover, Shi‘ism served as a banner to cover social revolt against the orthodox establishment on more than one occasion.
The further development of Shi‘ism may be traced from its character as a volatile opposition movement dependent on strong personal leadership, which contained within itself the seeds of further splitting. Secrecy, concealment of one’s true beliefs, the possession of esoteric knowledge by the infallible imām, and a doctrine of messianic return and salvation became the hallmarks of the various Shi‘ite subsects. Of these there are three principal groups, each of which has erected the concept of divinely inspired leadership, or “imamism,” into basic doctrine, although with differences of interpretation. The Zaidi branch, which is prominent in the Yemen, attributes no superhuman qualities to its imām’s and is closest to Sunnite Islam. The majority Imami branch is the state religion of Iran and has many adherents in Iraq and India among other countries. The extreme Isma‘ili branch has contributed some of the most extraordinary episodes to Islamic history, among them the odyssey of the Fatimid caliphate in north Africa and Egypt, the activities of the sect of the Assassins (hashshashiri),and several revolutionary uprisings in the Middle Ages. The distinctive features of Isma‘ilism, which today has a following primarily in India and east Africa, consist of graded instruction in religious mysteries, a distinction between external and internal meaning in all their aspects, and the practice of dissimulation. Several offshoots of Isma‘ilism, such as the Druze, the Nusairi, and the Yazidi sects in the Levant, display such extreme syncretism that it is doubtful whether they should be considered fully Muslim.
Counterbalancing the tendencies toward sectarianism in Islam at all times, however, has been a broad current of tolerance which has permitted the main orthodox corpus of the faith to entertain, modify, and assimilate a variety of ideas and, having done so, to allow a wide latitude of diversity to flourish among the individuals and bodies that constitute the community. Historically it has been only those sects which have voluntarily excluded themselves from the orthodox community, like the Kharijites, that are considered heretical. Today, the position of the Shi‘ites, the only important heterodox body in Islam, is in general viewed with less rigor than previously. Conversely, Islamic history demonstrates the absorptive and integrationist character of the religion in many instances, the most outstanding of which is the Mu‘tazilite movement of the eighth and ninth centuries.
The Mu‘tazilah came to prominence about a century after Muhammad’s death in reaction against both the extremism of the Kharijites and the corresponding indifference to religious questions on the part of their opposites, the Murjri‘ites. Mu‘tazilism was an intellectual movement whose activity was stimulated by the translations of Greek thought then appearing and by the generally felt need to express and defend Muslim belief in rational terms, especially vis-à-vis recently converted scholars familiar with the canons of Greek logic and philosophy. The Mu’tazilah were the first to try to provide a sound philosophical basis for Islam through forthright discussions of the nature of God, of the Qur’ān, and of man’s relationship to God. While maintaining the purest monotheism and chastising any semblance of anthropomorphism, they held two tenets that ran directly counter to orthodox dogma. One was that the Qur’ān was created in time rather than being the uncreated word of God which had been in existence forever. The other, of more general philosophical importance, was a doctrine of free will, which held that it was inconceivable that God should decree the actions of man, induce him into error, and then punish him for it, as the orthodox doctrine of predestination and the unqualified omnipotence of God asserted. The dispute came to a head in the ninth century, when Mu‘tazilite influence held sway briefly. In the end the movement came to grief because of its own rigidity in the face of counterargument and its persistent attempt to force Muslim thought into Greek forms, an effort that was not only opposed by the orthodox theologians but that met with no response from the mass of believers.
The reaction to Mu‘tazilism led by al-Ashe‘ri (d. 935) consolidated the orthodox position and produced a new orthodox scholasticism, which has remained definitive until today. While setting a lasting dogmatic stamp on Islam, the reaction reconciled some Mu‘tazilite concepts with orthodox belief and thus strengthened and enlarged the area of consensus. Predestination was maintained, but a doctrine of “acquisition,” under which man has contingent responsibility for his deeds, was introduced. The dogma of the absolute omnipotence of God and the orthodox position that right is what God decrees it to be in the Qur’ān—rather than something independently ascertainable by man—were affirmed, but their rigor softened by stressing the intercession of Muhammad in favor of man, something which the Mu‘tazilah had rejected. Finally, the relationship of cause and effect propounded by the Mu’tazilah, which in orthodox eyes limited the power of God, was disavowed by means of an atomistic theory according to which all events and substances exist transitorily in time and space only through the inscrutable will of God and not through any inherent connection among themselves.
The intellectual consequences to Islam of the orthodox reformulation begun by al-Ash‘ari and completed two centuries later (by al-Ghazāli) were of the greatest importance. Ash‘arism marks a rejection of Hellenism and the victory of intuitive faith over rationalism in the struggle to shape Islam. The contribution of the Mu‘tazilah in raising the level of intellectual activity in Islam was important, however, as was the work of al-Ash‘ari, in finding a way to incorporate many of the basic elements of Greek thought introduced by the Mu‘tazilah without undermining the basic dogmas of orthodox Islam.
The will to catholicity in Islam was shown two centuries later in the synthesis achieved by alGhazāli (d. 1111) between philosophy and orthodox theology. In the intervening period, largely as another by-product of the importation of Greek thought, Islamic philosophy had come into flower and made a remarkable contribution to the growth of medieval sciences in Europe as well as in the Middle East. Beginning with al-Kindi (d. 873) and continuing through Avicenna (d. 1037) in the east and Averroës (d. 1198) in the west, Muslim philosophers evolved a philosophical interpretation of Islam within a Neoplatonic framework, which they seem to have felt existed outside the sphere of Islamic doctrine rather than in contradiction with it. There is no hint of a conflict in Avicenna, and one of Averroës’ most important works is the Faşl al-Maqāl (“Decisive Treatise [on the Harmony Between Religion and Philosophy]”), in which he states that philosophy is the companion and foster sister of the sharī‘ah. His answer to al-Ghazāli, Tahāfut al-Tahāfut (“Inconsistency of the Inconsistency”), reveals his conviction that although reason cannot attain a complete understanding of eternal truths, man has a duty to seek a rational explanation by demonstrative argument. Similarly, the work of Averroës’ contemporary Ibn Tufail (d. 1185), Hayy Ibn Yaqzān (“The Living Son of the Vigilant”), demonstrates that reason and revelation independently lead to the same belief.
Views of this kind were considered dangerously close to heresy by many, and by the eleventh century there was strong hostility on the part of theologians toward such philosophical constructions. The accomplishment of al-Ghazāli was essentially to dam this second tide of Hellenism by reconciling the positions of philosophy and theology, much as al-Ash‘ari had stemmed the first by synthesizing orthodox and Mu‘tazilite ideas. Moreover, just as al-Ash‘ari had defended Sunnite dogma by the use of intellectually superior Mu‘tazilite methods of logic, al-Ghazāli upheld it in his major argument against philosophy, Tahāfut al Falāsifa (“The Inconsistency of the Philosophers”), with Neoplatonic ideas taken from Avicenna and other followers of Greek thought.
Al-Ghazāli was important also as a living example of synthesis between theology and the mystic (sūfi) movement in Islam. Sufism had been, more than any of the other movements of diversity, an intuitive way of practicing Islam through the cultivation of personal religious experience, and Sufi mystics and ascetics are found from very early times. Some of them were considered orthodox, but others, like al-Hallāj (d. 922), were persecuted or even executed. For many, however, the personal communion which lay at the heart of the Sufi movement was felt as complementary to normal orthodox devotion and not contrary to it. Al-Ghazāli turned to Sufism in his later years and in some of his works illuminated the inner meaning of the obligation of Muslim faith. On the basis of personal experience he propounded the necessity of founding belief on the strict observance of these obligations before turning to seek the inner awakening for which Sufism characteristically strove.
The growth of Sufism had been accentuated in the period after al-Ash‘ari, in good part as a reaction to the austereness of orthodox Sunnism. Al-Ghazāli’s efforts were temporarily successful, but in the long run they had effects that were unexpected and unwelcome to the orthodox establishment. While orthodoxy was at first given fresh vigor by the new infusion, the acceptance of Sufism within its realm eventually produced a lowering of intellectual standards dealing with the purity of the doctrine. This led in time to a capitulation before the power of popular religion, on the part of both the ‘ulamā’ and many temporal rulers, unwilling to offend popular religious susceptibilities. The result was a final de facto separation of the two briefly joined streams of Muslim faith. The theologians retreated to the sanctuary of the mosque and the madrasah, where they perfected a pedantic system of rote education and intellectual sterility, divorced from the living forces of religion; in con-sequence, the energies that had been unleashed were left without the guidance provided by rigorous intellectual discipline and soon gave themselves over to excesses of mysticism, saint worship tantamount to pantheism, and cultism often having more to do with pre-Islamic animism than with Islam. In particular, the social evolution of Sufism was marked by the appearance of brotherhoods, associations of mendicants, dervish orders, and mystic fraternities, which since the thirteenth century have significantly changed the nature of Islam as popularly practiced. The subsequent development of Sufism influenced the Islamic world in other ways also. As a result of the devastation accompanying the Mongol conquest and occupation of most of western Asia in the fourteenth century, the orthodox establishment was disrupted and discredited. In these circumstances, in countries as different and distant as Persia and Morocco, it was the popular Sufi movement that upheld the unity of the community and resisted the invader. In so doing, the movement utilized efficiently the personal links cultivated by early Sufi circles, but at the same time it began to take on a more formal organization. Colleges were founded by Sufi sheikhs, and these in turn gave rise to a regular network of affiliated institutions, each called a tarīqah, or “path.” Many of these were regional in their influence, but others spread throughout the Muslim states and were a principal means of cultural interchange in the succeeding centuries. Finally, Sufism took root in the sociopolitical debris left in areas such as Asia Minor and Persia as Mongol rule waned. In the two great empires which from that period until the twentieth century dominated the heartland of the Muslim world Sufism played a significant role. In Anatolia Sufi sheikhs were politically active in the ghāzi states, which were organized in corporations often affiliated with a tarīqah, and it was out of one such ghāzi state that the Ottoman Empire grew. In Iran, Sufism along with Shi‘ism contributed to the Iranian national revival from the fourteenth century on, and the Safavid state was founded by Sufi sheikhs attached to the Suhrawardi tarīqah.
The character of the political institutions of Islam was essentially determined during the lifetime of Muhammad by the simultaneous emergence of Islam as a faith and as an autonomous political community. In classical Islamic thought, government exists for no other purpose than that of up-holding the faith and guaranteeing service to God on earth, and political institutions are designed to safeguard the community in the widest sense from all the perils, spiritual and material, of this existence.
The principal institution by which this design has been carried out is the caliphate, which was instituted when the followers of Muhammad upon his death selected one of his companions as the rightful successor to the mantle of the Prophet. Since the divine will had been made clear to men in the Qur’ān and expatiated on in the sunnah and inasmuch as the correct path for the community is subsumed in the sharā’ah, the caliphate has ideally been an executive stewardship bereft of legislative prerogatives. In practice, however, especially in later times, both the use of administrative decrees and the doctrine of consensus became loop-holes permitting considerable legislative initiative.
In the first Islamic decades under the leadership of the “rightly guided” caliphs Muslims did not distinguish between the moral authority of the caliphate and the actual power it wielded in its own right. Beginning with the successional quarrel after the death of ‘Uthmān in 656, however, a train of events was let loose that greatly influenced Muslim political theory as well as practice. The disaffection of the Kharijites and the Shi‘ites called into question the legitimacy of the occupant of the office, and Shi‘ite insistence that only a descendant of the Prophet could be caliph was instrumental in forcing Sunnite theologians to work out theories of the caliphate that would withstand such attacks. By the early ninth century, moreover, the increasing fragmentation of the Muslim empire and the seizure of power by regional commanders and adventurers, first in distant provinces and finally in the capital itself, underlined the split between a limited caliphal authority and the new self-assertive power, which continued in varied forms and disguises from then until modern times. In succeeding centuries some of the greatest legal minds of Islam attempted to explain this divergence in terms consonant with the theological bases of Islam, and their reasoning had crucial consequences for Islamic political history.
The classical exposition of the Sunnite position was made by al-Māwardi (d. 1031), who formalized the legal fictions (hiyāl) of the Ash‘arites by admitting in cases of necessity the principle that the caliph, whose authority was of divine origin, might delegate this to temporary power holders. By so doing, al-Māwardi took the first step along a dangerous path which led to the collapse of the entire system. Later, al-Ghazāli moved further along it by legitimizing power holders who paid symbolic allegiance to the caliph in ritual prayer, coinage, etc. He tried to forge a synthesis between power and authority by making obedience to any but a manifestly anti-Islamic ruler a virtue because proper leadership was essential to the functioning of the community. The final step was taken after the destruction of the ‘Abbasid caliphate in 1258 with the legitimation of power in itself, on the grounds that all power comes ultimately from God and derives authority from that fact. In this way the difference between good and bad government was reduced through expediency to religious criteria alone; if the ruler protected the faith and carried out his executive responsibilities with respect to the holy law, he should then be obeyed. Such a justification of force offered great incentives to schemers, freebooters, and disgruntled military leaders, for the only criterion of a rightful revolution became its success. But for the mass of the community it eliminated, by its limited definition of injustice, the right to revolt and even the ability to protest effectively against harsh rule.
Having thus completely divorced the power of the emirate from the caliphate, Sunnite jurists were forced into further legal fictions, the most important of which was the doctrine, previously repudiated by the Ash‘arites, that the true caliphate had only lasted thirty years, after which there had existed a self-constituted imamate to which caliphal titles were given as pure form. The caliphate came to be viewed, then, like the sharī‘ah, as an ideal formulation to be constantly aspired to but seldom attained. Sunnite juristic theory was encapsuled by Ibn Khaldūn in the late fourteenth century and a century later by Jalāl ud-Din Dawwāni. They distinguished between secular kingship and the caliphate and insisted that only the righteous ruler who governs according to the sharāah is entitled to style himself caliph.
The caliphate instituted by the Ottoman Empire is thus in strict terms the equivalent of an imamate only, and its resuscitation in the late eighteenth century, after more than two centuries of Ottoman indifference to the title, occurred at a time of declining Ottoman power when the Porte was concerned with reinforcing its symbols of authority. With European encroachments on Muslim lands and the rise of Pan-Islamist sentiment in the nineteenth century, the position of the Ottoman sultan-caliph at the head of the only Muslim state possessing a semblance of power in world politics was reinforced, but its nature was changed. Islamic solidarity grew temporarily on political grounds rather than as the expression of any true revival of the community, and as a political force it had to contend, in the end unsuccessfully, with local or more secular nationalisms among the Turks, the Arabs, the Persians, and other Muslim peoples. Ottoman efforts to rally Islamic solidarity behind the nominal caliph during World War I were fruitless, and the formal abolition of the caliphate by the Turkish Republic in 1924 came during an era of nascent nationalism in many parts of the Muslim world and created little stir except among PanIslamists or politicians trying to capitalize on religious issues. A congress of unofficial delegations from many Muslim countries met in Cairo in 1926 but could not agree on the qualifications of a new caliph or the bases for the restoration of the institution.
The divine commands laid down in the Qur’ān and the sunnah not only concern God and man but also order the social relationships among men and are especially explicit about matters pertaining to the family, marriage, divorce, and inheritance. The Muslim family is the re-creation of the Arab family within the ethical confines of Islam. Thus it is authoritarian, patriarchal, polygamous, patrilineal, and largely patrilocal, with vestigial survivals of what appears to be an earlier matrilineal kinship system reflected in the prominent position of the maternal uncle. The role of women has on the whole, despite Muslim apologetics, been subordinate to that of men; this is attested by the Qur’ān, which ranks men above women and allows only half value to the testimony of the latter. The inheritance shares of female heirs are half those allotted to males. However, the counsel of moderation in the treatment of spouses which runs through the Qur’ān gives some weight to those who claim that Muhammad did in effect lighten the burden women bore in pre-Islamic times. In practice today many elder women exercise great authority over members of their household, and particularly in urban areas, working women of the lower and lower-middle classes have a considerable degree of autonomy. Nevertheless, in almost every Muslim country, the legal position of the wife is inferior to that of the husband and in many cases is precarious.
Traditional marriage is a contract arranged between heads of households. The consent of the groom is necessary if he is of age (formerly puberty, but now fixed almost everywhere by statute), but not that of the bride, except through her tutor for marriage. The right of compulsory marriage of a daughter by a male parent, formerly common, has been sharply restricted in most countries. Although Muslim law specifies degrees of kinship forbidden for marriage, the union of first cousins is sanctioned and often favored. Muslim males may marry non-Muslim women, but except in those countries where the holy law no longer exists (Turkey and Tunisia) Muslim women may not marry outside their faith.
Polygamy is expressly sanctioned by the Qur’ān, which allows the Muslim to take four wives, and has been widely practiced throughout Islam at all times, but with regional variations and under some social and ethical restrictions. Economic factors alone have always limited the number of polygamous families, most of which are found among the urban well-to-do. Peasants tend, through economic necessity, to be monogamous or to limit themselves to the taking of a second wife, often later in life. Under the influence of Western mores in this century plural marriages have come to be regarded by many Muslims as a sign of backwardness. Many Muslim reformers now claim that the Qur’ānic purpose was to limit the uncontrolled polygamy of pre-Islamic Arabia by imposing a limitation reasonable to the age. Today codes of personal status in countries like Syria and Egypt, which combine features of the holy law with European legislation, have made plural marriage increasingly difficult, although they have hesitated to outlaw it completely, as in Turkey and Tunisia.
Probably a greater impediment to family stability than polygamy has been the classical mode of divorce through repudiation. Traditionally, the husband may repudiate his wife in unilateral fashion by simple pronouncement and repayment of the balance of the dowry. The sharā’ah mitigates this somewhat by applying numerous conditions, but, in effect, the wife is subject to being divorced, with all the consequent stigma, without any effective legal recourse except under extraordinary circumstances. Successive repudiations are often equivalent to serial polygamy, and they have been and still are widespread in parts of Muslim society, particularly among the poor, where the dowry is inconsequential or nonexistent. In this domain, too, the law is gradually changing; in recent years Egypt, Morocco, and several other countries have made repudiation more difficult, while the more secularly oriented states have outlawed the practice.
Marriage is encouraged in the Qur’ān, and the Christian concept of celibate purity has always been combated; to Muhammad is attributed the phrase, “No monkery in Islam.” Procreation is held up as desirable, and children, especially boys, are welcomed. The male child is closely dependent on his mother and the women of the household. They take care of him until about the age of seven, when he begins his life as a young man, a step traditionally signaled either by his taking up work with his father or an uncle or by his starting religious instruction at school. Circumcision is normally carried out at this time, although in some areas it is practiced shortly after birth. It is not mentioned in the Qur’ān but has become a strictly observed rite throughout Islam, and the festivities surrounding circumcision make it a rite of passage equivalent only to marriage in popular Muslim custom. The traditional religious instruction of the mosque-school, usually limited to rote Qur’ānic studies and the rudiments of mathematics and civics, has been supplemented or replaced now almost everywhere by modern educational facilities, which attract a majority of the children of school age in many Muslim countries. These uniformly supply religious instruction, however, and thus young men even today, in contrast with modern Westerners, possess a detailed knowledge of their scripture, which serves as a further channel for maintaining Islamic solidarity. The education of girls, previously much neglected, has made great strides in recent decades. Nevertheless, many fewer girls than boys attend school, and even fewer go on to higher education. In some countries women are entering the professions in small numbers and working in salaried positions for the first time, but marriage and housekeeping are still considered their proper occupations.
The social ethic of Islam is founded upon a real sense of solidarity and brotherhood. The teachings of the Qur’ān have shaped an ideal Muslim civism rooted in humility before God, piety, frugality, charity toward the less fortunate, and an equality of believers in the face of the majesty of an all-powerful Deity. The transformation from the pre-Islamic Arab character, which laid emphasis on the blood tie, vengeance, and manliness, is complete, although much of the bedouin background persists under the Islamic mantle. A summary list of grave sins reveals the influence of both strains. Ancient tribal feelings about ritual cleanliness, the eating of carrion and forbidden food, sorcery and usury, unlawful sexual relations, and the blood price coexist with unbelief, refusal to pay legal alms, apostasy, telling falsehoods about the Prophet and his companions, striking a fellow Muslim without cause, not fasting during Ramadan, and the like. Throughout Muslim teaching and writing runs the thread of moderation in all things. The sharā’ah is, literally, the “straight path” not only in the sense of righteousness opposed to deviation but also as a golden mean. Moderation and abstinence are often recommended in the Qur’ān, even for acts that are permissible, and the balance they create is disturbed by the sins of greed and pride. Prodigality and lavishness of hospitality are tenacious pre-Islamic survivals in much of the Muslim East today, but they are not encouraged by the tradition. Finally, the doctrine of equality of all believers and frequent intermarriage with slaves and concubines have led to the relative absence of a color bar in Islam, a fact which today has great sociopolitical significance as well as ethical meaning.
Islam has in certain respects stamped its own image on economic institutions or at least emphasized certain characteristics of economic life to the extent that a distinctive coloration was given to them in the classical period within the limits of the Middle East and the Mediterranean.
Classical Islamic society is one of merchants and trade. The socioeconomic causes lying behind the origins of Islam itself concern the conflict of economic interests in Mecca and the question of the trade routes in western Arabia. The social background of Muhammad and the predominance of the Quraish clan in early Islam insured a continuing emphasis on mercantilism which has never been lost. The sūq, properly an assemblage of shops and ateliers and workshops in which the commercial life of the town is grouped, has Greco–Roman antecedents but has evolved in special ways. The economic geography of the city is arranged from the center out in a descending order of virtue: the cathedral mosque surrounded by those trades catering to it, such as candlestick makers, incense shops, booksellers, etc.; followed by the sūq, of luxury goods, imported wares, and silks; and ending at the gates of the city with the tanneries, slaughterhouses, etc. Extreme specialization and geographical grouping by occupation and organization into guilds or corporations are constants of a pattern that still exists in many areas. The guilds often have ties with Sufi religious orders, and it is common for each to have a patron saint for whom an appropriate annual festival is held. The social function of the guilds counterbalances and complements for the individual that of the extended family and, sometimes but not always, that of the brotherhood or religious order to which he may belong.
As might be expected, Muslim law regulates commercial transactions in detail. It puts its greatest emphasis on the immediacy of transaction, the lawfulness of the thing exchanged, and the good faith of the parties involved. It thus forbids lending for interest and in theory permits only the exchange of quantities and articles of equal value. In due course of economic life, as in other areas, Islam has had recourse to legal fictions in order to avoid the paralyzing effect of the more rigorous Qur’ānic prohibitions. As international trade became important from the ninth century on, double sales, deposit contracts, promissory notes, temporary transfer of property to avoid taxes, and other devices formerly condemned by the tradition were and are widely practiced. Many such commercial customs and banking procedures in fact became models for European financial practices in the Middle Ages.
Since the late eighteenth century Islamic society, in common with other non-Western societies, has been undergoing an onslaught from Western civilization which is reflected in every aspect of its social, economic, political, and religious life. At the time the Western assault began in earnest, this society in its core area of western Asia and the Mediterranean was showing every sign of material and spiritual enervation. The internal and external tribulations of the Ottoman state were symptoms of a deeper illness reflected in the divorce between the medieval tradition and the most rampant elements of Sufism, the intellectual stagnation of the more rational forces within Islam, and an extreme subjectivism of the intuitive elements that had temporarily triumphed and threatened at times to lead Islam into a totally mystic pantheism.
In reaction both to these inner dangers and to the Western menace, Islam appears to have embarked upon a path of revival and restoration. This revival has developed over the past two centuries, hesitantly at first but with a growing sense of concern and self-awareness, accompanied by a still unformed and unformulated effort to search for solutions that will enable Islam to meet the challenges of the present age. The first such manifestation came in the fundamentalist Neo-Hanbalite Wahhabi movement of central Arabia, which arose in protest against the laxness and heresies of Sufi versions of the faith in the mid-eighteenth century and which flourished until it was defeated by Ottoman arms in the early nineteenth century. Its influence survived, however, and not only became the basis of the Sa‘ūdi state but has had profound repercussions among revivalist, purifying movements in India and Africa. Although Sufi orders continued to expand in some areas, such as India, Africa, and fringe Muslim territory, in the nineteenth century, the puritan streak embodied in Wahhābism has in the twentieth century taken strong hold in the more purely Arab countries, where in almost all instances the orthodox version of the faith has been reinforced with the encouragement of and sometimes pressure from the authorities.
The confusion of religious and political factors in the Islamic crisis of the nineteenth century gave birth to a revived form of Pan-Islamism, which reflected in part the influence of similar political movements in Europe among the Slavs and Germans. Its message was preached by Jamāl al-Din al-Afghāni (d. 1897) from Egypt but eventually had little impact. One of his pupils, Muhammad ‘Abduh (d. 1905), took that part of it which emphasized the need for a thoroughgoing reform of Islamic thought and intellectual standards and attempted a reformulation of basic orthodox beliefs in order to show that they were compatible with modern life. Although it is too early to assess the ultimate importance of ‘Abduh, he remains at this juncture the outstanding reformist theologian of modern times within Islam. One of his disciples, Muhammad Rashīd Ridā (d. 1935), continued his work but moved from rationalism to a more conservative literalism, while calling for a revived caliphate under Arab, and more specifically, Quraish, guidance. Within the past generation the reaction against Westernization has, if anything, grown stronger, and there has been a proliferation of apologetics among Muslim intellectuals and writers. Much of this has been directed at Christianity, which is seen in a dual light: as a rival faith and as the indirect promoter of Western socio-political infiltration into the Muslim world. A conscious sense of competition, as opposed to the medieval Muslim assumption that Islam was infallible and had no rivals, can be discerned today for the first time in Islamic history. Among its manifestations are defenses against alleged attacks on Islam, an extreme defensiveness with respect to social issues on which Islam takes stands different from Western norms—or about which it is felt, however unconsciously, to be backward—and attempts at emulation and justification, represented notably by the biographical literature centering on Muhammad and the historical literature emphasizing the past glories of Islam and the superiority of medieval Islamic civilization to that of Europe in the Middle Ages. Such attitudes, however, permitted the Indian Muslim reformer Muhammad Iqbal (d. 1938) to expound the idea that Muslims were entitled to take the fruits of Western civilization because they originally grew out of Islamic soil. His writings and activities were instrumental in helping to create the state of Pakistan in 1947.
Although it is manifestly impossible to summarize the various trends in modern Islam in well over a score of countries, it might be said that the overriding problem is that of the confrontation of the faith with a secular nationalism which demands that the highest loyalties be given to the state. In its concept and function as a supranational solidarity ethos and as the bearer of an ultimate message to mankind, Islam has so far found it impossible to come to terms with secularist nationalism as it is found in many Muslim countries, just as it has with scientific materialism, whose tenets have made inroads throughout the Muslim world. Several solutions have been tried. The idea of an Islamic state was promulgated in Pakistan but subsequently abandoned. The creation of a secular state in Turkey after World War I was followed a generation later by concessions to religious sentiment of a kind that makes it impossible to consider Turkey fully secular today. And in modern Egypt there is a complex relationship between the religious institution and the state in which traditional religious education has been modernized and laicized while the orthodox institution has been incorporated into the state and made subservient to it for manifestly political ends. In all these endeavors Muslims are being forced to think in terms of an uncompromising dualism for which their previous theological constructions provide no adequate model. Inherent also in these efforts is the clear desire of modern Muslims, at almost any cost, to put a greater social content into their religious formulations. The outstanding examples of this trend may be the efforts being made in Egypt, Indonesia, Syria, Algeria, and other countries to reconcile various forms of socialism with Islam.
Charles F. Gallagher
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Islam is the dominant religion of the Middle East, North Africa, and much of Southeast Asia. Its reach extends worldwide, and its followers are called Muslims. The term "Muslim" comes from the Arabic phrase bianna musliman, meaning roughly "submitted ourselves to God." Islam was founded in the early seventh century in Mecca, a city in the Arabian peninsula in modern-day Saudi Arabia. According to Islamic belief, in 610 Islam's prophet, Muhammad (c. 570–632), began receiving revelations and prophecies from the archangel Jabraʾil (Gabriel). These revelations, which continued until his death, were recorded by Muhammad's followers and preserved to become Islam's sacred scripture, the Qurʾan. In older texts Islam is sometimes called "Muhammadanism," but Muslims find this term offensive because if suggests that Muhammad was divine rather than simply God's messenger or prophet.
Islam is a monotheistic religion, meaning that its followers believe in one supreme God. The God of Islam is called Allah, a name that comes from the Arabic phrase al-ilah, meaning "the One True God." Core beliefs of the religion include belief in one God, Allah, and in Allah's messengers, the angels. Muslims believe in Allah's many prophets, which include Muhammad, Moses (c. 1392–c. 1272 bce), Abraham (c. 2050–c. 1950 bce), Jesus Christ (c. 6 bce–c. 30 ce), and others. Islam also contains as its core beliefs a last day, when the world will end; Allah's judgment of human affairs; and life after death.
It is the world's second largest religion, with approximately one to 1.3 billion members. While Islam is thought of as a predominantly Middle Eastern religion, the country with the largest number of Muslims is Indonesia, with 130 million, representing 90 percent of the nation's population. Other countries with large Muslim populations include India, with 80 million (13 percent of the population); Pakistan, 73 million (97 percent); Bangladesh, 72 million (85 percent); Turkey, 56 million (98 percent); and Iran, 35 million (98 percent). Muslims also make up 95 percent or more of the populations of Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Jordan, Yemen, and Oman. In all, approximately 760 million Muslims live in Asia and the Middle East.
In addition, there are some 301 million African Muslims, with the largest numbers in Egypt (38 million), Morocco (21 million), and Algeria (20 million). About 32 million Muslims live in Europe, with the largest number in Russia, where Muslims comprise 19 percent of the population. It is unknown how many Muslims live in the United States. Islamic organizations put the number at a minimum of six million, while independent polling organizations put the number variously at one to three million. Canada's roughly 580,000 Muslims represent about 2 percent of that nation's population.
Becoming a Muslim requires no formal rituals or ceremonies, such as baptism in Christianity. To become a Muslim, a person has to recite the Shahadah, or Declaration of Faith, in front of two witnesses. This declaration consists of the words "Ashahadu an la ilaha ill Allah wa ashahadu ann Muhammadar Rasulullah," or "I declare there is no god except God, and I declare that Muhammad is the Messenger of God."
History and development
In the late sixth century ce the religion of Mecca was based on idolatry, or the worship of physical objects, such as statues, as if they were gods. These idols were kept in special houses or temples called shrines. The most famous of the shrines of Mecca was the Kaʾaba, which at that time housed idols dedicated to the gods of the city. Mecca was an important stop in the east-west caravan trade route in the seventh century. Meccans had a financial interest in maintaining this idolatry because it was a way of getting money from wealthy merchants and traders who traveled through the city. Muhammad, however, did not accept idol worship. As a member of one of the most prominent families of the city, and as a widely traveled merchant, he had an interest in maintaining the tourist trade in Mecca. Instead, he launched a movement that became one of the world's most significant monotheistic religions.
Receives revelations from Allah
In 610, when he was about forty years old, Muhammad had his first visitation from the archangel Jabraʾil. According to Islamic tradition, he was meditating in a cave on Mount Hira, outside Mecca, when a voice spoke to him. His wife's cousin, a Christian monk, told him that the voice was that of a holy messenger and that Muhammad had been selected as a prophet of God. Soon Muhammad began to preach his new religion in Mecca. He attracted a number of followers, but Meccan leaders saw Islam as a threat. They persecuted (mistreated) Muhammad and his followers, often beating them or hurling garbage at them. A key event took place eleven years later, when
WORDS TO KNOW
- The name of God in Islam, derived from the Arabic word al-ilah, meaning "the One True God."
- One of Muhammad's successors as leader of the faith.
- An inborn tendency to seek the creator.
- Five Pillars:
- The core of Islamic belief referring to declaring faith, daily prayer, charitable giving, fasting, and pilgrimage.
- The sayings of the prophet Muhammad recorded by his followers.
- Pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca.
- Permissible activities for Muslims.
- Prohibited activities for Muslims.
- Evil spirits that tempt a person away from dedication to Allah.
- The shrine built by the prophet Abraham in the holy city of Mecca and the focal point of pilgrimages to the city.
- A city in present-day Saudi Arabia, the holiest site of Islam, where the religion was founded.
- The person who issues the call to prayer.
- A follower of Islam, from the Arabic phrase bianna musliman, meaning "submitted ourselves to God."
- The sacred scriptures of Islam; contain the revelations given to the prophet Muhammad revealed to him beginning in 610.
- A unit of prayer.
- Daily prayer.
- The Islamic declaration of faith. It consists of the words "Ashahadu an la ilaha ill Allah wa ashahadu ann Muhammadar Rasulullah," or "I declare there is no god except God, and I declare that Muhammad is the Messenger of God."
- Islamic law.
- One of the main sects of Islam; from the phrase Shiʾat Ali, or the party of Ali.
- A trend in or way of practicing Islam; characterized by an ecstatic, trancelike mysticism.
- The example of the prophet Muhammad, containing the hadiths, or sayings; provides guidance to everyday questions of faith and morality.
- One of the main sects of Islam.
- Any chapter in the Qurʾan.
- Annual charitable giving.
Muhammad made a startling announcement to his followers. He told them that the archangel Jabraʾil had transported him to the city of Jerusalem. From there, he had been miraculously taken to heaven, where he was given a tour of paradise. The Dome of the Rock marks the spot in Jerusalem from which Muslims believe that Muhammad made his ascent to heaven. It still exists and is regarded as a holy site for Muslims.
After thirteen years of hostility from Meccans, Muhammad discovered a plot to assassinate him. He and his followers left Mecca for the city of Yathrib to the north. The residents of Yathrib gave Muhammad a warm welcome. Soon they changed the city's name to Medina, from the Arabic phrase Madinat al-Nadi, or "city of the Prophet." As Muhammad oversaw the construction of the first Muslim mosque (place of worship) and created an Islamic state, the Muslims in Medina successfully repelled at least three invasions by Meccan armies. In time they conquered Mecca, destroyed idols, and converted Mecca into a Muslim community. Mecca today is the world's holiest site to Muslims, who are expected to make a pilgrimage there at least once during their lives.
In the seventh century the lands of Arabia were peopled by competing nomadic (wandering) clans and tribes. These clans had until this time remained largely within their own boundaries. After Muhammad spread the message of Islam, however, the people were inspired with a sense of unity and purpose that lasted long past the Prophet's death in 632. They gathered under the banner of Islam, seeing themselves as God's chosen people.
Spreading the faith: The Muslim empire
By 634 Islam had spread throughout Arabia. Muslim armies confronted the Byzantine Empire (named for the empire's capital city, Byzantium, also named Constantinople; it is now Istanbul, Turkey) and seized the province of Palestine, where Jerusalem was located. They also seized Syria, Persia (roughly modern-day Iran), and much of Egypt. In 638 the second caliph, or successor to Muhammad, Umar, accepted the surrender of the city of Jerusalem from the Byzantines.
By the beginning of the eighth century Muslims ruled a vast empire that stretched from North Africa through the Middle East and into central India. In the early 700s Muslims invaded the southern part of the Iberian Peninsula (containing the countries of Spain and Portugal). From there they crossed the Pyrenees Mountains into France. In 732, however, they were driven back by a French army led by Charles Martel (c. 688–741) at the Battle of Tours. In the 800s Muslims captured the Mediterranean islands of Sardinia and Corsica. In 902 the island of Sicily was added to the empire. In the 800s Muslims attacked cities in southern Italy and even advanced on Rome, though they were driven back in the 900s and 1000s by armies led by the popes (religious leaders) of the Roman Catholic Church.
- Belief. The core belief of Muslims is total allegiance to the one God, Allah, who controls every aspect of people's lives and to whom people owe total submission.
- Followers. Islam is the second largest religion in the world, with about one to 1.3 billion followers. Most Muslims live in the Middle East and in such Asian countries as India and Indonesia.
- Name of God. The God of Islam is Allah, from the Arabic term al-ilah, meaning "the One True God."
- Symbols. Because it forbids any kind of worship of physical representations, Islam has no real physical symbols. Acts of prayer or devotion can be considered symbolic.
- Worship. The core of Islamic worship is daily prayer (salat), conducted either individually, in the family, or at a mosque with other Muslims. Muslim men are also required to attend a Friday sermon at a mosque.
- Dress. Muslim men are required to avoid tight clothing, cover the area between the knees and the navel, and grow a beard, if possible. Many wear a loose gown and/or a turban. Women are required to wear loose-fitting clothes and to cover themselves to the ankles and wrists. A veil is worn to cover the hair, and excessive makeup and perfume are discouraged.
- Texts. The major Qurʾan, the word of God revealed to the prophet Muhammad. Many Muslims also rely on the Sunnah, or the life example of the Prophet that includes the hadiths, or sayings, for guidance in matters of faith and morality.
- Sites. The holiest site for all Muslims in Mecca, a city in present-day Saudi Arabia, where Islam was founded. Also considered holy is Medina, Saudi Arabia, to which Muhammad and his followers fled to escape persecution in Mecca.
- Observances. The primary observance of all Muslims worldwide is Ramadan, a month of fasting.
- Phrases. The most commonly used phrase by Muslims is Allahu Akbar, meaning "God is greater." The sentence is left incomplete because Allah is infinite and unknowable, and therefore greater than anything that could be named.
The Iberian peninsula was one of the first regions where Muslims and western Christians came into contact. By the end of the eighth century Muslims occupied most of the southern regions of Iberia, limiting Christians to the northern regions. On the peninsula they established the Umayyad caliphate in the city of Córdoba, Spain. A caliphate is a region or domain ruled by a caliph; "Umayyad" is the name of a family dynasty. Spanish Christians were determined to reclaim their country. They defeated the Muslims at the battle of Las Navas de Tolosa in 1212, and by 1225 the Muslim empire held only the area around the city of Granada, in the far south. They were driven out of Granada in 1492, completing what the Spanish called the Reconquista, or "Reconquest." However, the influence of Muslims, or the Moors as they were called, remains evident in southern Spanish architecture and within the Spanish language itself.
The Popularity of Islam
Within fifty years of Muhammad's death Islam had spread across Africa and Asia from the Mediterranean to the borders of China. Historians have identified three reasons that they believe were important in the wide and rapid advancement of Islam in the seventh century.
- Trade. Historians note that Islam spreads by following established trade routes around the world, from Africa to southeast Asia. They believe that Islam made trade easier by creating trust relationships based on a common set of religious beliefs. Traders outside the community of Islam had to create ties between people of different faiths and different backgrounds, which was much more difficult. Because Islam requires knowledge of Arabic, Muslim traders also shared a common language. Islam, this theory states, made trading much easier and gave Muslim traders an advantage over their non-Muslim counterparts.
- Alienation from other religions. People in general were unhappy with other religions, including Christianity and Judaism, the two other major monotheistic religions. Judaism at the time was an ethnic religion, and membership was open only to people who were born Jews. Christianity promised peace and love, but the equality promised by the early Church was hard to come by. In many cases Church leaders (priests and bishops) used their religion to maintain their own social positions. In contrast, Islam had no priesthood, and membership was open to anyone who would recite the Shahadah in front of witnesses.
- Taxes and tolerance. Although Muslim rulers imposed additional taxes on their non-Muslim subjects, in many cases those taxes were lighter than those gathered by local rulers. In addition, the Qurʾan calls on all Muslims to respect Christians and Jews (whom the Prophet called "the people of the Book"). Sometimes the relationship between members of different religions was so close that they shared places of worship. In Syria, for instance, Christians and Muslims shared the Church of St. John the Baptist (an old Christian church). Muslims used the church as a mosque on Saturdays, while Christians used it on Sundays.
The rapid and widespread growth of Islam as both a community of faith and a social community created a world-state that stretched from China to Europe. It brought people from different cultures together and gave them a common set of values. In that sense, Islam has been a major force for global understanding.
Internal arguments and divisions
Despite its early successes Islam was weakened by political and religious factions, or subgroups. The chief division, between Sunni and Shiite Muslims, rose over the question of who would succeed Muhammad. When he died in 632, Muhammad left no instructions about who would follow him. Shiite Muslims believed that Muhammad's successor needed to be a direct descendant of the Prophet. Sunni Muslims did not share that belief. This central difference led to the split. The majority of Muslims are Sunni.
What followed the election of Abu Bakr, Muhammad's father-in-law, was a long period of conflict in Islam. When the second caliph, Umar, was murdered in 644, a power struggle developed among several possible successors. Out of this struggle Uthman (d. 656), another early convert to Islam, became the third caliph. Uthman, though, came from a powerful, aristocratic Meccan clan called the Umayyads and was resented by the Shiites. Their resentment grew when he moved the capital of the Islamic empire from Mecca to Damascus, Syria. When Uthman was assassinated by Shiites in 656, ʾAli finally became the fourth caliph.
The disputes between Sunnis and Shiites, however, were not put to rest. After a civil war between the two parties, ʾAli was assassinated in 661. This allowed the Umayyads, whom the Shiites believed were corrupt and unfaithful to the teachings of Muhammad, to regain control of the empire. Civil war broke out again in 680, when ʾAli's son, Hussain ibn Ali, led the Shiites against the Umayyads. The war ended when he and his family were killed in a historic battle at Karbala, south of Baghdad (in present-day Iraq).
ʾAli's death still did not end the civil wars. As conversions (changes of religious belief) spread throughout the Islamic world, many new Muslims began to resent the Umayyad control on power and their unfair taxes. To oppose the Umayyads, yet another rebel group formed: the Abbasids, named after Muhammad's uncle, Abbas. In 750 the Abbasids launched a civil war, capturing the Muslim capital of Damascus and massacring the Umayyad caliph and most of his family. One Umayyad, abd-er-Rahman, escaped his family's destruction and fled to Spain, where he established a rival caliphate at Córdoba. The Abbasids moved the capital to Baghdad, where they ruled until 1258.
Even in the twenty-first century tensions continue to divide Sunni and Shiite Muslims. In the Middle East nation of Iraq, the early 2000s saw increasing violence between Sunni and Shiite Muslims as the people attempted to form a new government after a U.S.-led invasion ousted leader Saddam Hussein (1937–). Many factors contributed to this violence, with long-held differences between the two groups being one of them.
Muslims and the Crusades
A major series of events affecting Islam began to unfold when Europe, which largely followed Christianity, launched the Crusades in the 1090s. The Crusades were a series of military campaigns by the Europeans against the Muslims of the Middle East. The stated purpose of the Crusades was to reclaim the Holy Land, the country then called Palestine and particularly the city of Jerusalem, from the Muslims. From the perspective of Europe, the First Crusade was successful. The Crusaders captured Jerusalem in 1099, beginning a two-century-long period of occasional warfare between Muslims and the "Franks" (so-called because many, though not all, of the Crusaders were Franks, or French). The major Crusades ended in 1291, when Muslim forces drove the Crusaders out of their last stronghold at Acre in Palestine. During the Crusades, one of the great heroes of Islam emerged. This was Saladin (1137–1193), the name commonly used to refer to Salah al-Din, a general who was able to unite Muslim forces and oppose the Franks during the Third Crusade (1189–92).
Throughout this period, the Muslim response to the Crusaders was weakened by internal fighting and rivalry. The Egyptian Muslims, a Shiite dynasty called the Fatimids (who believed that they were the descendants of Muhammad's daughter Fatima), hated Turkish Sunni Muslims. The Turkish Muslims themselves were divided into two factions or clans, the Seljuks and the Danishmends. Many Muslim leaders in Palestine and throughout Arabia were more interested in maintaining control over their small domains than they were in loyalty to the caliphate in Baghdad, so at various times they cooperated with the Crusaders.
In 1090 a rebel group called the Ismailis formed to oppose the Abbasid Baghdad regime. This group, which came to be called the Assassins (a Western term possibly from the word hashish, the drug that members used before carrying out their missions), vigorously opposed Sunni Islam. They were also enemies of the Shiites in Egypt, who had expelled them and driven them underground. To undermine (weaken or ruin) Sunni Islam, the Assassins frequently cooperated with the Crusaders and assassinated Muslim leaders.
From the 1600s to the 2000s
From the mid-seventeenth century to about 1950, many Muslim countries were colonies of European nations, including Britain, France, Portugal, the Netherlands, Russia, and Belgium. This colonization was responsible in part for much of the spread of Islam. For example, in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries Great Britain transported many thousands of Muslims from India to work on plantations in South America. These Muslims carried their faith with them, and their descendants continue to practice it. Thirty percent of the population of Suriname, a country just north of Brazil, is Muslim, descendants of these plantation workers. In the United States, African slaves carried Islam with them, and many of their descendants continue to practice the religion. In the mid-twentieth century Islam experienced a revival in the African American community. Many prominent African American leaders, such as Malcolm X (1925–1965), as well as such sports legends as boxer Muhammad Ali (1942–) and basketball player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1947–), converted to Islam and made it more visible in the United States.
In the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries Islam and the countries of the Middle East have dominated newspaper headlines. The Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979 replaced the regime of the shah (ruler) of Iran with an Islamic government run under the shariʾah, or Islamic law. Many of the countries of the West (the countries of Europe and the Americas) rely on resources from Islamic countries, particularly oil and natural gas. As a result, developments in these nations are followed closely by Western leaders.
By the time of the Third Crusade, Saladin (1137–1193) was the sultan, or ruler, of Syria and Egypt. He was the most widely known Muslim warrior in Europe, and his very name struck fear in the hearts of Europeans. His victory at the Battle of Hattin on the night of July 3-4, 1187, was a turning point in the history of the Crusades. His army wiped out the entire Crusader force that stood between him and Jerusalem to the southwest. Jerusalem eventually fell to Saladin's forces without a fight on October 2, 1187.
A number of legends grew up around Saladin. During the Battle of Hattin a captured Crusader leader was brought to his tent. By the rules of Arabic hospitality Saladin was obliged to offer his personal protection to the prisoner if he ate or drank with him. Saladin had little interest in doing so, however, because the prisoner had kidnapped and ransomed his sister in the past. Instead, Saladin knocked a bowl of water from the Crusader's grasp, led him from the tent, drew his sword, and promptly cut off his head.
Another story concerns his relationship with Richard the Lionheart (1157–1199), the English king who led the Third Crusade in response to the defeat at the Battle of Hattin and the fall of Jerusalem. In one battle, Richard's horse was killed. Saladin believed that no king should have to suffer the indignity of fighting on foot, so he called a truce and had two horses delivered to the English king. On another occasion, when he learned that Richard was sick, he sent his own personal physician to Richard, as well as gifts of fruit and even snow from the top of Mount Ascalon to cool him. Richard recovered and returned to the field of battle.
Muslims in all nations face a new challenge to their faith in the early twenty-first century. Some groups of Islamic religious extremists have used terrorist tactics against civilian populations, most notably the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, which resulted in the deaths of nearly 3,000 people. Religious extremists are people who take a strict view of their religion and are willing to act violently to create the changes around them that will bring out their religious ideal. Because Muslim extremists were responsible for these and later attacks, many in the Muslim community have experienced mistreatment or persecution by others who have connected Islam with terrorism. Extremists from all religions, however, can and are willing to carry out violence to achieve their vision. Islam is a peaceful religion, and many Muslim groups have organized to combat the image of fear and misunderstanding that has resulted from these violent attacks.
Sects and schisms
Throughout the history of Islam, about two dozen sects, or subgroups, have emerged. Some have disappeared over time, while others remain part of Islam. The first sect to emerge was the Kharajites, a small political faction that was part of the army of ʾAli, the fourth caliph. This group withdrew loyalty from ʾAli because they thought that his efforts to negotiate peace with his enemies were a sign of weakness. The sect never gathered a large following, though a small number of Kharajites live in the country of Oman, where their version of Islam is called "Ibadiism."
Sunni and Shiite Islam
The major sects of Islam in the twenty-first century, the Sunnis and the Shiites, have their roots in disagreements that date back nearly to the founding of the religion. The division arose over the question of who would succeed Muhammad after his death. Sunni Islam is the major sect and accounts for perhaps 85 percent of Muslims worldwide. Sunni means "orthodox." The name comes from the word Sunnah, or "traditions," referring to writings that contain Muhammad's teachings. Sunnis accepted the appointment of Abu Bakr (c. 573–634), Muhammad's close associate and the father of his second wife, as first caliph to succeed Muhammad.
Immediately after Abu Bakr's appointment, however, a party formed in opposition. This group believed that Muhammad's successor had to be a blood descendant of the Prophet. They favored ʾAli ibn Abī Tālīb, or simply Ali (c. 600–661), who was Muhammad's cousin and the husband of his daughter Fatima (c. 616–633). This group became known as the Shiʾat ʾAli, or "party of ʾAli," from which the name Shiite (often written as Shiʾite) comes. Shiites comprise about 10 percent of Muslims in the twenty-first century.
The differences between Sunni and Shiite Islam grew over time. Over the centuries the Shiites developed slightly different interpretations of the Qurʾan and the hadiths. Moreover, differences emerged in rituals and prayers. For example, Shiites are called to prayer only three times each day rather than five. Shiites also celebrate certain holidays that Sunnis do not, particularly those remembering and honoring the life of ʾAli.
The major source of division, however, concerns the leadership of Islam. While Sunnis believe that any qualified adult male can serve as a successor to Muhammad, Shiites believe that only a blood descendant of Muhammad can do so. Shiites believe that ʾAli and his descendants were and are blessed with secret wisdom by virtue of their descent from Muhammad. Shiites use the term imam as a title to refer to these people, who are believed to have a special relationship with God. In contrast, Sunni Muslims use the title imam as one of respect, with no religious significance.
Throughout Islam's history the Sunnis and the Shiites have struggled for power and leadership. In Islam's early history, only Egypt established a Shiite dynasty, the Fatimids, named after Muhammad's daughter. In the twenty-first century only Iran is dominated by Shiites, although significant Shiite minorities live in India, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, and Iraq. These minorities are often persecuted (mistreated) by Sunnis and tend to be poorer than the majority Sunnis.
Another important sect of Islam is that of the Sufis. Sufism is less a sect than a movement, or a way of approaching Islam. Sunnis or Shiites, for example, can also be Sufis. Sufism is an mysterious branch of Islam that relies on mystical knowledge held by a small, initiated circle of people. Sufis can often be recognized by their long robes and the turbans they wear around their heads. They emerged during Islam's early years, when Islam was expanding and wealth was flowing into the empire. They believed that Islam placed too much emphasis on worldly concerns, rituals, and legalities. They wanted a form of religion that led to inner ecstasy.
The primary beliefs of Sufis are:
A devoted Muslim can experience God only through consistent chanting, meditation, love for other people, self-discipline, and self-denial.
The way to achieve spiritual wealth is through frugality (not spending too much money). Excessive worldly possessions can corrupt the soul. Sufis are well known for their charitable work.
Sufi Muslims follow the dictates not only of the Qurʾan and the hadiths but also those of Sufi masters, often contained in stories and songs. In fact, some of the world's best-selling poets and novelists have been Sufis. The poetry of Jalāl ad-Dīn ar-Rūmī (1207–1273) continues to be read by Muslims and non-Muslims alike for its ecstatic, or blissful, vision of a loving God.
Some Sufis, known as Whirling Dervishes, follow the teachings of Jalāl by spinning rhythmically and chanting the ninety-nine names of God.
Sufis practice patience, a total reliance on God's knowledge of the future, and thankfulness to God.
There are seven core beliefs in Islam: belief in God, the angels, the revealed books of God, God's many prophets, the last day, divine judgment, and life after death. Muslims believe that God, or Allah, is the same God that revealed himself to Jews and Christians. (Arab Christians even use the name Allah when referring to God.) This belief in the same God is expressed in the Qurʾan, where Muslims are told to tell Christians and Jews, "We believe in the Revelation which has come down to us and in that which came down to you; Our God and your God is one; and it's to Him we surrender."
One of the most memorized passages of the Qurʾan, called the Ayatul Kursi, or Verse of the Throne, expresses the Islamic concept of God:
Allah! There is not god but He, the Living, Who needs no other but Whom all others need. He is never drowsy [sleepy] nor does He rest. Space and the Earth belong to Him; who can intercede [intervene] without His consent? He knows everything people have done and will do, and no one can grasp the least of His knowledge, without His review. His throne extends over the heavens and the Earth and He doesn't tire in their safekeeping. He alone is the Most High, the Lord Sovereign Supreme.
Another frequently memorized passage in the Qurʾan is a chapter called "Sincerity" that states: "Tell people that He is One God; Allah, the Eternal Absolute. He neither gives birth nor was He ever begotten, and there is nothing equal to Him."
Allah, in other words, is the only true reality. He is eternal and uncreated, and everything that exists does so because of Allah's will. Muslims even regard the physical universe as "Muslim," for in following natural law as created by Allah, everything in the universe submits to Allah's will. Allah has no form or substance and can be known only by his characteristics, expressed by the "Ninety-nine Names of God," such as the Strong, the Loving, the Everlasting, the Caring, the Merciful, and so on. Allah is an abstract concept rather than a "person."
The word "he" is used to refer to Allah because Arabic does not have a word for "it." Like many European languages, nouns in Arabic have grammatical gender, so that, for example, the word for fork might be masculine, referred to as a "he," while the word for spoon might be feminine, referred to as a "she." In Arabic, the -ah ending in Allah is a feminine form. But when "Allah" is paired with the word hoowa, meaning "he is," the masculine "he" and the feminine ending "-ah" cancel one another out, suggesting to the Arabic ear that Allah has no gender.
Submission to Allah
According to Muslim belief, each individual is given free will, including the opportunity to submit to Allah's will. The process of submitting is not easy because of the efforts of evil spirits that lead people to forget their creator and give in to evil temptations. Among these spirits, called jinn, a word that means "hidden" (and that is the source of the stereotypical "genie" in a bottle), is one in particular called Shaytan. This name is remarkably close to the Western word Satan, or the devil.
Shaytan and other evil jinn corrupt people by playing on their desires, emotions, and fears. In doing so, they persuade people to forget their fitrah, an inborn tendency to seek their creator. A person who sins is required to go through a process of repentance (atonement or shame) called tawba, which consists of feeling remorse or guilt, repenting by saying, "My Lord forgive me," making restitution (that is, compensating or paying back an injured party); and promising Allah never to sin again.
The Pillars of Islam
Central to Islamic religious practice is a system called the Arkan al Islami, meaning "Pillars of Islam." The purpose of the Five Pillars to is remind Muslims of their duty to God and to help them avoid complacency (being unconcerned or self-satisfied) and temptation. The Five Pillars are:
- The shahadah, declaration of allegiance to God;
- salat, daily prayer;
- zakat, annual charitable giving;
- saum, fasting; and
- Haj, pilgrimage.
Islam and Christianity
Islam and Christianity are the two largest religions in the world. Both trace their roots back to the Jewish patriarch, Abraham. Both recognize one God. They each identify sites in the city of Jerusalem as holy. For Muslims, Jerusalem is the site of the Haram al-Sharif, or the Dome of the Rock, the location from which the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven and toured paradise. Christians believe that the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem is the site where its founder, Jesus Christ, died on the cross. Both religions teach messages of love, compassion, and charity.
Islam recognizes Christianity's founder as a messenger of Allah. Some scholars believe that the Christian holy book, the Bible, references Muhammad. In one instance, from the book of Isaiah, chapter 29, verse 12, the Bible states: "And the book is delivered to him that is not learned, saying read this, I pray thee, and he saith I am not learned." "I am not learned" means that one cannot read or write. These are the words that Muhammad spoke to the angel Jabraʾil when he was commanded to read the words of Allah. This accounting is relayed in the Muslim holy book, the Qurʾan.
In turn, the Qurʾan mentions Jesus Christ as it acknowledges the validity of the messengers and faiths that came before it and notes their unity. This passage is from the Creed of Islam, chapter 2, verse 136.
We believe in Allah, and the revelation given to us and to Abraham, Ismaʾil, Isaac, Jacob and the tribes, and that given to Moses and Jesus, and that given to (all) prophets from their Lord. We make no difference between one and another of them, and we bow to Allah (in Islam).
The Shahadah is the Declaration of Faith that a person recites before witnesses to become a Muslim. In addition, however, each Muslim is expected to recite the Shahadah at least seventeen times each day. It serves as a daily reminder to Muslims that there is only one God and that Muhammad is God's messenger.
Daily prayer, or salat, is crucial in the life of Muslims. Daily prayer follows a number of rituals and traditions. Depending on what subgroup of Islam a Muslim belongs to, he or she may pray three or five times a day. The prayer requirements are designed to remind one of Allah's presence throughout the day. Prayer can be done in a mosque (the Islamic house of worship), at home, or anywhere.
The third Pillar of Islam, zakat, refers to charity, but the word actually means "to purify." Islam requires each Muslim to give up a portion of his or her wealth each year for the benefit of the poor. Islamic governments have the power to tax their citizens for this purpose. Zakat is a form of purification, for it forces Muslims to "purify" themselves by giving up part of their greed.
The fourth Pillar of Islam, saum, refers to fasting, or not eating. The purpose of fasting is to discipline the mind and body. The primary fasting period for Muslims is Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar, when Muslims are expected to observe a strict fast from dawn to dusk for the duration of the month.
The fifth Pillar of Islam is the Haj, or the annual weeklong pilgrimage to Mecca. The Haj takes place during the twelfth month of the Islamic lunar calendar (a calendar set according to the phases of the moon). Each Muslim is expected to make the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once during his or her life. To remind Muslims that they are in Mecca to renew their commitment to God, strict rules of behavior, dress, and ritual are enforced. Non-Muslims are not allowed to enter Mecca, the holiest place in the world for Muslims, at any time.
Islam relies on two sacred texts. The first is the Qurʾan, which contains the revelations from Allah given to the Prophet Muhammad by the archangel Jabraʾil. The second is the Sunnah, or life example of the Prophet, which contains Muhammad's sayings, called hadiths, recorded throughout his life.
The holy book of Islam is the Qurʾan. Muslims believe that the Qurʾan, from an Arabic word that means "the recitation," is the literal word of Allah. It was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad by the archangel Jabraʾil (Gabriel) over a period of twenty-three years, beginning in 610 and lasting until his death in 632. The Qurʾan (often written as Koran in English) consists of 114 suras, or chapters, and totals just over 6,200 ayat, or verses. While Western translations of the Qurʾan number the suras, Muslims refer to them by name, such as "The Adoration."
The suras (often written as surrah) are arranged roughly according to size rather than chronological order (the time order in which they were written). The longest ones tend to appear early in the Qurʾan, while the shortest ones, some consisting of just a handful of lines, appear at the end. Muslims also distinguish between two groups of suras. One group is called the Meccan suras because they were written in the city of Mecca. These "Meccan revelations" were the earliest ones. Their main theme was Muhammad's opposition to idolatry and superstition (a belief or fear based on the unknown), as well as the suffering and hardships endured by past prophets. These suras were recorded in the earliest years of Islam, before Muhammad and his followers fled Mecca for Medina. Later suras, called the "Medinan revelations," focus on how to build an Islamic society. These contain laws pertaining not only to religious doctrine (set of beliefs), philosophy (thought), and morality (good behavior) but also to inheritance, marriage and divorce, criminal punishments, statecraft, and numerous other topics.
The Qurʾan is written in a combination of different literary styles, including prose and rhymed poetry. The language, classical Arabic, continues to be used as a literary language, a standard of poetic expression for writers in Arabic. All Muslims memorize at least a portion of the Qurʾan and are familiar enough with the language to understand the meaning and to be able to participate in daily prayers. A Muslim who memorizes the entire Qurʾan is known as a Hafiz, or "Guardian."
Muslims consider translations of the Qurʾan as not being the true or actual Qurʾan. Allah's word was revealed in Arabic, so Muslims believe that translations are more in the nature of commentaries or interpretations. For this reason most translations are given a title such as The Holy Qurʾan or some other variant to distinguish them from the true Qurʾan.
The Qurʾan that is read and recited in the early twenty-first century differs little from the Qurʾan as it existed in the seventh century and the years after Muhammad's death. Muhammad himself could neither read nor write, so his followers, who acted as secretaries, recorded his revelations as the Prophet recited them. At that time, however, little importance was attached to writing down the Qurʾan and compiling it in book form, for the goal of all Muslims was to memorize it.
This changed during the rule of Abu Bakr, the first Muslim caliph, when numerous Muslims who had memorized the Qurʾan were killed in a rebellion. Concerned that the Qurʾan could be lost, Abu Bakr had it recorded on paper, an innovation newly introduced from China. Later, the third caliph, Uthman ibn Affan, learned that many non-Arabs were recording their own versions of the Qurʾan, with variations in pronunciation and spelling. Uthman, concerned that among all these competing versions the true Qurʾan would be lost, ordered production of an official version, with one copy sent to every major Muslim city. Scribes in those cities produced additional copies for use in that city, and faulty copies were ordered burned. Two of these official copies, called the Usmani Qurʾans, are preserved in museums in Turkey and in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. They are the source of the text used in the twenty-first century.
The Qurʾan contains the core beliefs of Islam. The most prominent is belief in a single supreme God, Allah, who created the heaven and the earth in six periods: "The Adoration" (sura 32) states in part: "Allah is He Who created the heavens and the earth and what is between them in six periods, and He mounted the throne (of authority)." The Qurʾan is the basis of the Islamic belief in angels, including Jabraʾil (Gabriel), who revealed the Qurʾan to Muhammad; Mika'il, the angel who controls the weather at Allah's command; Israfil, the angel who will blow the horn to signal the end of the universe; and Azrail, the Angel of Death. Further, the Qurʾan requires Muslims to believe in the revealed books of Allah; in Allah's many prophets, including Abraham, Moses, and Jesus Christ; acceptance that the world will end and that Allah will measure and judge human affairs; and in a belief in life after death.
The Sunnah and the hadiths
While the Qurʾan is the central scripture, or holy text, of Islam, Muslims also turn to the hadiths, or collections of Muhammad's sayings, for guidance in matters ranging from law to personal behavior. The hadiths were recorded to show how to practice Islam in daily life. While the Qurʾan is written in a poetic, literary style, with emphasis on repeated sounds and other poetic devices both to inspire the reader and to make memorization easier, the hadiths are written in a simpler, more everyday style. One example is "Learning is a duty on every Muslim, male and female."
Muslim Women in the Seventh Century
Women played a prominent role in the rise of Islam during Muhammad's life and after his death. One was Umm Salamah, who escaped from Mecca to Medina, even giving up custody of her children to her family, to become one of Muhammad's staunchest supporters. Umm Ammarah, wielding a sword and spear, protected the wounded Muhammad when he and a group of his followers were being attacked by the Meccans. Aʾishah, the daughter of Abu Bakr, the first caliph, was Muhammad's wife. She was a leader and teacher of both women and men. Barakah, an African woman, was Muhammad's caretaker when he was a child. She faced great danger carrying messages between secret Muslim meeting places in Mecca.
The hadiths were written down by Muhammad's followers. Early on, Muhammad forbade his followers to write down his sayings because he was afraid that they might get confused with the true Qurʾan. He later allowed them to be recorded after it became clear that a large number of people had memorized the Qurʾan. The most famous compiler of hadiths was Muhammad ibn Ismaʾil Bukhari (810–870), who gathered some 600,000 sayings of the Prophet but was able to confirm the authenticity of only about 2,600. The hadiths form the basis of another text that is important to Islam, the Sunnah, or "the Way of the Prophet," used to refer to Muhammad's life example.
Muslim doctrine is interpreted by Islamic scholars called ʾulema. Their function is to interpret and organize Islamic teachings. In doing so, they rely on four sources, in descending order of importance: the Qurʾan; the Sunnah; the sahaba, or the earliest followers of Muhammad; and independent reasoning. The ulema do not formulate new doctrines. They apply existing Islamic thought to new situations in modern life, such as organ donations, the buying and selling of investments, and whether loudspeakers can be used for the call to prayer.
Islam has little in the way of symbolic objects, icons, and the like, primarily because the religion was founded as a reaction against idol worship. Islamic law forbids the depiction of living things, so there are no statues. This is also why traditional Islam does not depict the Prophet Muhammad in any media, although artists from other faiths and cultures have made likenesses of him. Islamic art, to the extent that it includes living things, tends to be highly abstract rather than realistic. Some people believe that the star and crescent flag is an Islamic symbol, but it has no connection with Islam. Rather, its roots lie with the Ottoman Empire, which used the star and crescent on its flag.
The primary symbols in Islam are behaviors rather than objects. For example, when Muslims pray, they turn in the direction of Mecca and the Kaʾaba, a cube-shaped shrine in the city that the prophet Abraham is believed to have built. This act of turning toward Mecca symbolizes the unity of Muslims throughout the world. Before prayers, or before handling a copy of the Qurʾan, Muslims engage in a ritual cleansing to symbolize purity of heart in praying to Allah. Making a pilgrimage is also thought of as symbolic of efforts to renew one's commitment to Allah.
Central to the life of Muslims worldwide is daily prayer, called salat, the second of the Five Pillars of Islam. Prayer can be conducted in a mosque. More frequently it is conducted anywhere as Muslims go about their daily lives. Muslims make a sharp distinction between supplication and prayer. Supplication involves asking Allah for something, such as guidance, forgiveness, or relief from illness. In contrast, true prayer, or salat, is a reminder to Muslims that they are the servants of Allah.
The Qurʾan is specific about the times of day when people are to pray. The five prayer times, all based on the position of the sun, are:
- fajr, before sunrise.
- zuhr, shortly after noon.
- ʾAsr, late afternoon.
- maghrib, after sunset.
- ʾisha, at night.
These times are flexible depending on the season of the year. For example, during the summer, when the sun rises early, fajr may take place as early as 4:00 am, but in the winter it might take place as late as 6:30 am. Pregnant women, travelers, and women who are nursing children are allowed to combine the two afternoon and the two evening prayers.
Salat requires seven preconditions:
It must be time for prayer. Prayer is not to begin early, and late prayers are recorded by the angels in the person's book of deeds.
The hands, face, and feet must be washed to achieve ritual purity. The process is called wudu, and it can be done in a fountain in a mosque or in a sink, wherever there is clean water. A cleansing lasts until the worshiper must use the toilet, after which wudu must be conducted again; otherwise, a wudu can potentially last for several prayer times.
Clean clothing must be worn. However, no shoes are worn in the prayer area of a mosque.
Prayer must be conducted in a clean place. To ensure cleanliness, Muslims typically use prayer rugs.
The body must be covered. For men, this includes pants, a shirt, and/or a robe. Women cover their bodies with appropriate clothing and their heads with a veil or scarf.
Those who pray must turn in the direction of Mecca, an act that symbolizes the unity of Islam worldwide. Mosques all have a feature that helps orient worshipers to Mecca.
The mind must be in a proper condition for prayer, meaning that the worshiper must approach daily prayer with humility, or modesty.
The Islamic "call to prayer" (azan) takes place five times each day. The practice originated at a time when there were no clocks or watches to inform the people that it was time for them to come together in prayer. The call to prayer is issued by a muezzin, usually a man with a loud but pleasant voice. In the modern world, calling through loudspeakers is not uncommon. The call to prayer is similar to the Shahadah, with repeated calling of Allahu Akbar ("God is great"), "I declare there is no god but God," and "I declare Muhammad is the Messenger of God."
Prayer itself follows a set ritual, accompanied by specified postures or positions. When Muslims pray with other Muslims, one member of the group usually leads the prayers. All prayer begins with the phrase "Allahu Akbar," with the hands placed over the ears. This is followed by recitation (saying) of the first chapter of the Qurʾan with the hands folded over the chest. Each person then recites a second passage from the Qurʾan of his or her own choosing, followed again by "God is great," then "Glory to my great Lord," then "God hears those who praise Him," all while bowing forward at the waist. The worshiper then stands upright, says "God is great," then, on hands and knees with the forehead to the ground, says "Glory to My Lord, Most High" three times. Again, the worshiper says "God is great," before rising to a sitting position. After saying "God is great" again, the worshiper bows forward with the forehead touching the ground. This ritual is a "unit" of prayer, or a raʾkah. A second unit would follow the same pattern, except that a different, second passage from the Qurʾan would be recited. Early morning prayer consists of two units. The two afternoon prayers and the night prayer consist of four units. The prayer at sunset consists of three units.
The focus of Islamic community life is the mosque, where people congregate, or gather, for reflection and prayer. All Muslim men over the age of puberty are required to attend a Friday sermon called the Salat ul-Jumuʾah, or "prayer of gathering." Women are encouraged to attend, but those with domestic responsibilities are allowed to pray at home during this time. There are approximately two thousand mosques on the North American continent. Many of these mosques also function as Islamic centers, where meetings are held, homeless people are given shelter, and children attend weekend schools in Islam.
Observances and pilgrimages
Islamic observations and pilgrimages are so important that they constitute two of the Five Pillars of Islam. The fourth Pillar, saum, refers to fasting. The fifth Pillar, Haj, refers to making a pilgrimage.
Fasting, the fourth Pillar of Islam, takes place primarily during the month of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar. Ramadan begins with the new moon. Each day throughout the month, Muslims take a small early-morning breakfast, called a sahoor, before the sun rises. During the day Muslims are expected to refrain from all foods, including liquids, as well as from nutritional supplements, nonessential oral medicines, and the like. Because the lunar calendar is used, Ramadan takes place about a week earlier each year, so this daytime fast becomes more difficult during the longer days of summer, less so during the shorter days of winter. After the sun sets the day's fast is broken with another small meal, called an iftar. At the end of the month, Muslims gather to celebrate the Eid ul Fitr, or Festival of Fast Breaking, a two-day celebration with parties, dinners, carnivals, fairs, and family excursions.
The fifth Pillar of Islam, Haj, refers to making a pilgrimage, specifically a pilgrimage to Islam's holiest site, the city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia. The Haj takes place during one week in the twelfth month of the lunar calendar. During this week, more than two million people gather in Mecca, making it among the largest gatherings of people in the world. Each Muslim is expected to make the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once during his or her lifetime.
The most important site in Mecca is the Kaʾaba, or Cube, the focal point of the week's activities, which include prayer and other events that teach lessons or commemorate (remember) the life of the Old Testament prophet Abraham. The history of this site reaches back to Abraham, along with his wife, Hagar, and their son, Ishmael, who traveled to the site from Palestine. There, Abraham and his son built a shrine dedicated to God. In later centuries, when Mecca was an important stop on the international caravan route from the East to Europe, the Kaʾaba became a place where many idols and statues were worshiped. It was this idol worship in Mecca that led Muhammad, a descendant of the prophet Abraham, to found Islam.
The Haj to Mecca imposes a number of requirements on pilgrims. No sexual relations are allowed. Neither are shaving, fingernail cutting, or the use of perfumes, colognes, or scented soaps. No living thing can be killed, and such behaviors as fighting or arguing are strictly forbidden. One ritual is for men to cut their hair off, signifying a rebirth into the true faith. Women symbolically cut off just a lock of their hair.
Daily activities in Islam are classified according to whether they are sinful or not. The term halal is used to refer to activities that are allowed, while haram is used to refer to activities that are not allowed. All actions are evaluated according the Islamic halal and haram.
Muslims follow strict dietary practices. Animals to be eaten have to be ritually slaughtered, or killed by a certain method with required actions, either by a Muslim or according to Jewish kosher standards. Pork is forbidden, as is meat from any animal with fangs. All intoxicants, including all forms of alcohol and mind-altering drugs, are strictly haram.
Islam forbids gambling and games of chance. They are regarded as temptations from Shaytan that distract people from their religious faith. Any winnings are regarded as unfairly received. Games of skill that offer prizes, however, are allowed. Certain forms of music, too, are regarded as causing temptation. Women are not allowed to sing alone, but group singing is allowed. The rule in Islam is that any music or singing that is sexually suggestive is haram.
Muslims adhere to a number of restrictions in monetary practices. Any kind of interest-based lending or borrowing is forbidden. People can buy or sell stocks in companies that do not produce forbidden items. However, futures contracts (that is, purchasing the right to own a quantity of a commodity, such as wheat or oil, in the hope that the price will rise and the ownership right can be sold at a profit) are forbidden, for only Allah can know the future. Muslims are expected to conduct business through written contracts, and they are expected to be honest in their business dealings.
Muslims generally follow a number of rituals in connection with important life events. For example, when a baby is born, the father whispers the Muslim call to prayer into the baby's right ear. Usually within seven days, babies are given a name, and male babies are circumcised. Muslim wedding rituals vary widely by culture, but marriages tend to be regarded less as "love matches" and more as contracts that spell out the legal rights and responsibilities of the bride and groom, who in many cases have been brought together by parents and family. Divorce is allowed. The Muslim wedding ceremony, called a nikah, is generally a simple affair, and Islamic law does not even require the presence of a cleric. One major requirement, however, is that the marriage be declared publicly; secret marriages are forbidden. One way to make the marriage public is through a wedding feast called a walimah, where the couple declare their marriage.
Dress codes among Muslims also vary widely by culture and nationality. The Qurʾan dictates that the body be covered adequately. For men, this means covering from the navel to the knees. It also means wearing a head covering as a sign of submission to Allah during prayer, but since prayer is conducted so frequently in daily life, head coverings are worn most of the time. For women it technically means covering the entire body, including the face and hands. In some countries women will wear a burqa, which may cover the entire head and face or may leave the eyes uncovered. In other countries, however, this custom is not fully followed. Rather, Muslim women in those places will wear a head covering called a hijab, which covers the head but leaves the face exposed. Clothing is meant to identify the wearer as a Muslim, and all showiness is to be avoided.
Death is regarded as the will of Allah, and so it is something to be met with dignity and courage. After a person dies, mourners recite passages of the Qurʾan, and the body is washed and wrapped. It is generally taken to a mosque, where prayers are recited. The mourners then form a procession, and the body is carried to a cemetery as the mourners recite prayers. The bodies of Muslims are buried on their right sides, with the deceased facing Mecca.
Islam's influence on the world has been enormous. In historical terms, from about the year 500 to 1000, Islamic scholars were responsible for keeping alive much of the knowledge of ancient Greece and Rome. This period in European history is sometimes known as the Dark Ages because of the lack of cultural and scientific advances during the period. Muslims preserved much of the knowledge of the ancient Greeks in libraries (Damascus alone had seventy libraries) and passed that knowledge on to the Europeans. The Europeans themselves, in the centuries after the Crusades, often traveled throughout the Islamic empire, gathering knowledge about science, medicine, and more.
Contributions to science
Muslim scientists laid the foundations for the scientific method (the systematic investigation of a problem, including formulating the problem, gathering data and evidence, and testing theories through experimentation) and systematized the study of chemistry (the science of the composition of substances). They also invented algebra, which is from the Arabic word al-jabr, meaning "the reduction." Muslim scientists made great strides in astronomy (the study of the stars and planets) and gave the world such tools as the astrolabe, a device used for navigation and time-keeping at sea by plotting the position of the sun and stars. Without such tools, the European explorer Christopher Columbus (1451–1506) would not have been able to make his voyage to the New World in 1492.
Islamic countries were also the source of many words and concepts in English. Alchemy, alcohol, alcove, algebra, algorithm, alkali, amalgam, and arsenal are just some of the a words that came from the Middle East. Other borrowings, both of concepts and words, include bazaar, benzene, borax, camphor, candy, chemistry, cotton, cipher, elixir, guitar, lemon, lilac, magazine, mascara, retina, sequin, soda, sugar, talisman, tariff, zenith, zero, and many more occur from the work of Arab scientists, geographers, poets, and astronomers. Islamic scholars established the science of optics (the branch of physics dealing with the behavior of light), measured the circumference of Earth, and compiled books on medical practice.
Terms in the News: Fatwa and Jihad
Two Islamic terms appear frequently in the news. The first of these is fatwa, which refers to a legal pronouncement by an Islamic law specialist, called a mufti. Some fatwas have gained much media attention, such as the one against author Salman Rushdie for his 1989 book, The Satanic Verses, which was said to have blasphemed, or showed contempt for, Allah. The ruling called for Rushdie's death, but has not been carried out. Most fatwas, however, are rulings over minor legal matters or deal with more day-to-day concerns.
Another term seen frequently in the news is jihad, which means something like "to strive" or "to struggle." Muslims most often use the term to refer to an internal or spiritual struggle. Striving to memorize the Qurʾan, for example, or to overcome temptation or to discipline the self can be thought of as forms of jihad. Often, especially in the West, the word is translated as "holy war" and is used to refer to the motive behind acts of terrorism.
Art and architecture
Islam forbids the depiction of living things. As a result, the art that grew out of this religion is more abstract, meaning that it attempts to depict the meaning or spirit of things rather than their physical forms. It appeals to people beyond those who follow the faith. Geometric patterns, crafts, and calligraphy are among the forms of popular Islamic art. Calligraphy is a stylized form of writing, often done with a brush and ink.
The circular patterns in Islamic geometric art, such as those that may appear in vibrantly colored mosaics, are a reminder to Muslims that Allah is endless. The circle is without beginning or end and continues on forever, as does Allah. The repetition of a design also is a reminder of the infinite, or never-ending. Plant motifs or decorations, called arabesques, are also commonly used. Mosques are often decorated with displays of geometric art, and the art form may also appear in paintings, books (such as the Qurʾan), pottery, jewelry, and textiles. Crafts were designed and decorated in daily life to help make the everyday beautiful. Calligraphy often repeats passages from the Qurʾan in a stylized script that may employ arabesques or geometric patterns as borders or other embellishments to the artwork.
Islamic artists also consider their physical surroundings when they seek to create art that makes daily life more beautiful, and this includes the architecture, or physical structure, of the buildings in which they live. Traditional Islamic homes are constructed around a courtyard, with only a wall showing to the outside street. This style of architecture was meant to protect the family inside from those outside, including from what could often be a harsh climate. The more artistic design is reserved for the interior of the home.
One prominent symbol of Islamic architecture is the dome, a semicircle that sits atop the mosque as part of the roof, and the minaret, a tall, thin column that extends up from the dome. The dome symbolizes the land of heaven and the dominance of the divine, Allah, over the faithful. Domes can be large or small and are a component of many mosques, particularly in the Middle East. The minaret is the location from which the call to prayer would be announced by the muezzin. It symbolizes the Shahadah, or declaration of faith, that Allah is the greatest.
In the field of literature, Islam has produced a number of world-famous poets, and their work has grown in popularity in modern times. Perhaps the most famous is Jalāl ad-Dīn ar-Rūmī, often referred to as simply Rumi (1207–1273). Rumi, who wrote in Persian, is best known for his mystical poems. His major work is the Masnavi, a title that means "Spiritual Couplets" (a couplet is a two-line poetic verse). Written in three volumes, the book contains more than 25,000 lines of poetry. It includes folktales, fables, parables, philosophy, and lyrical poetry. His subjects include the saints of Islam, commentaries on the Qurʾan, and mystical interpretations of a wide range of subjects, both religious and nonreligious. The Masnavi is the most widely read poem among Muslims. In fact, among Muslim texts, it is regarded by some as second in importance only to the Qurʾan. It is sometimes even called the Qurʾan-e Farsi, meaning "The Qurʾan in Persian."
Another poet who gained some fame in the Western world is Omar Khayyam (1048–1131), a Persian astronomer and mathematician who also wrote a long series of four-line poems called robaiyat, usually written as "rubaiyat" in English. These poems covered a range of topics, including history, law, medicine, astronomy, and mathematics. They are best known in the West from their translation and adaptation by the English poet Edward FitzGerald (1809–1883), who in 1859 published them under the title The Rubaiyat of Omar Kayyam.
Likely the most famous work of Islamic literature in the West is The Book of One Thousand and One Nights, often popularly referred to as A Thousand and One Nights or sometimes just Arabian Nights. The stories contained in this long poem were first composed in Persian by various unknown authors in the eighth century, then compiled and translated into Arabic in the ninth century. Together, the stories are framed by the story of Queen Scheherazade, who puts off her execution by telling them to her evil husband, the king. Each ends with the "cliff-hanger," so the king preserves her life for one more night (over a thousand and one nights) because he wants to hear the outcome of the story. Some of the famous stories contained in the work include "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves" and the "Seven Voyages of Sinbad the Sailor."
As the world's second-largest religion, Islam continues to exert an important influence on international affairs. In 1988 the Muslim nation of Pakistan was one of the first modern countries in the world to elect a woman prime minister, Benazir Bhutto (1953–). Indonesia, another predominantly Muslim nation, elected its first female president, Megawati Sukarnoputri (1947–), in 2001. Muslim nations in the Middle East, including Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt, play an important role in the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, who have been engaged in violent conflict since the mid-twentieth century.
The country of Turkey sits at a geographical crossroads between Europe and the Middle East. Since the end of the twentieth century Turkey has been preparing for membership in the European Union (E.U.), an organization that unifies economic markets and other policies across Europe for ease in trade, travel, and employment. When Turkey did not make the E.U. membership list for 2004, some in the country speculated that the divide between the European continent and Turkey was too great, in terms of both geography and culture, for the relationship to work. Some Turks worry that joining the European Union would lead to greater Westernization in the country, meaning the replacement or devaluing of Islamic historical, cultural, and social values with Western ones, which can be quite different. Islamic culture, for instance, emphasizes modest dress for both men and women, while Western culture allows for a wide variety of acceptable dress that many may not consider to be very modest.
Perhaps the greatest challenge to Islam in the early twenty-first century is to combat the negative image of Muslims that many non-Muslim people developed after a series of terrorist attacks beginning in 2001. Terrorism is violence carried out by an individual or group to instill fear and insecurity in a populace. It is often done to force change or to achieve a certain effect from a government, although the targets of terrorist actions are usually civilians not connected to the government. In September 2001 terrorists attacked the United States and killed nearly 3,000 people. The U.S. government traced responsibility for the attacks to an Islamic extremist group called al-Qaeda. Extremists are people who are so dedicated to their beliefs that they are willing to carry out violence to achieve their goals. Among the goals of al-Qaeda is to remove Western influences from Islamic countries, which the group perceives as responsible for many of the problems in these nations. Other attacks linked to the same group or supporters of the group followed, including bombings in Indonesia, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Spain, and England.
For people who are not very familiar with Islam, these violent attacks became their reference for Islam and Muslims. They developed negative opinions about the religion and those who follow it. In their fear and insecurity, some people acted poorly towards Muslims, even behaving violently against them. These attacks, by the terrorists and by those who fear them, have strained relations between Muslims and non-Muslims. The Muslim community struggles to improve the education and understanding of non-Muslims about Islam. At the same time, many Muslims search for a way to respond to the attacks of these Islamic extremists, who do not represent the outlook or wishes of the majority of Muslims.
For More Information
Armstrong, Karen. Islam: A Short History, rev. ed. New York: Modern Library, 2002.
Esposito, John L. What Everyone Needs to Know About Islam. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.
"A Brief Illustrated Guide to Understanding Islam." http://www.islam-guide.com (accessed on June 5, 2006).
"Islam." Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance. http://www.religioustolerance.org/islam.htm (accessed on June 5, 2006).
"Religion and Ethics: Islam." British Broadcasting Corporation. http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/islam (accessed on June 5, 2006).
Current address not obtained for this edition.
Al Qaeda (literally, "The Base," variously spelled Al Qa'ida, or Al-Qa'idah), was founded by a wealthy Arabian, Osama bin Laden (b. 1957). While enjoying some support in the United States in the 1990s, its status was called into question when it was implicated by U.S. government officials in a series of terrorist actions culminating in the attacks on American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania (1998). Then on September 11, 2001, agents connected to Al Qaeda carried out the bombings of the Pentagon in suburban Washington D.C., and the World Trade Center in New York City. In response the American president, George W. Bush, moved to activate the coalition similar to the one that supported the Gulf War a decade earlier. In October 2001, the United States and its allies opened military operations against Al Qaeda, then based in Afghanistan, and its allies, the Taliban, who then ruled Afghanistan. This operation has brought down the Taliban government and disrupted the Al Qaeda network, though the current status of the organization remains a matter of some speculation. (There is no evidence that Al Qaeda has existed in the United States as more than small cells of operatives sent into the country for temporary missions. Given the impact of the events of September 11, 2001, on both the secular and religious community, it has been deemed important to summarize information concerning Al Qaeda.)
The development of Al Qaeda has depended in a large part on the career of Osama bin Laden. He was born the son of a wealthy Saudi businessman and his Syrian wife. While attending King Abdu Aziz University, he met Abdullah Azzam (1941-1989), a Jordanian who had joined the university faculty and Muhammad Qutb, the brother of Sayyid Qutb (1906-1966). Both were leading figures in the Islamist movement, a reactionary Muslim movement that had developed in Egypt following the final collapse of the Islamic Empire in the years after World War II and the division of its territories into various independent countries. They looked toward the reestablishment of the Empire and place the blame for its fall on the West. Islamists also staunchly opposed the rise of the state of Israel and the occupation of Afghanistan by Soviet forces. Azzam and Qutb introduced Islamist thought to bin Laden.
In 1980, bin Laden relocated to Afghanistan where he raised money for the forces resisting the Soviets. In 1984, he established the House of the Faithful (Beit-al-Ansar) in Peshawar, Pakistan, that served as a base of operation for the anti-Soviet forces. He traveled widely and created a large internatioanl network of support. In 1989, the same year the Soviets pulled out of Afghanistan, he founded Al Qaeda.
In 1991, bin Laden made common cause with Hassan al-Turabi, the leader of the National Islamic Front (NIF), an Islamist political party that had assisted the military takover of Sudan. Bin Laden move to Sudan, and while there expanded Al Qaeda as an organization dedicated to bring th fruition the Islamist ideal. He created a number of businesses to support his program that gradually expanded to include centers for the training of people in Guerilla warfare and terrorism. In 1996, bin Laden returned to Afghanistan where he would enjoy the approbation of the new ruling force, the Taliban. He supplied the Taliban with funds for a spectrum of actitities from the arming of its forces to the building of new mosques.
In 1996, bin Laden also issued the first of his legal rulings (called a fatwa) highlighting aggressive actions directed against the Muslim world. He was particularly concerned with the United States and directed particular animus at his home country and America for their mutual role in the Gulf War and, the subsequent stationing of American troops in Saudi Arabia in the years after the war. He stated, "The latest and the greatest of these aggressions incurred by the Muslims since the death of the Prophet (Allah's blessings and salutations be upon Him) is the occupation of the land of the two Holy Places, the foundation of the house of Islam, the place of revelation, the source of the message and the place of the noble Ka'ba, the Qiblah of all Muslims, by the armies of the American Crusaders and their allies."
Two years later, bin Laden, speaking for Al Qaeda and the World Islamic Front, a network of groups aligned with it, activated the core of its network for the issuing of the now famous manifesto, the "Ruling (fatwa) against the Jews and Crusaders (Americans)." He charged the United States with various sins related to its support for Israel and otherwise meddling in Middle East affairs beginning with the continuing affront, that "for over seven years the United States has been occupying the lands of Islam in the holiest of places, the Arabian Peninsula, plundering its riches, dictating to its rulers, humiliating its people, terrorizing its neighbors, and turning its which to fight the neighboring Muslim peoples."
The World Islamic Front includes the Jihad Movement in Eqypt, the Egyptian Islamic Group the Jamiat-ul-Ulema-e-Pakistan, and the Jihad Movement in Bangladesh. There cause is what had variously been termed Islamism, or popularly in the West, Islamic fundamentalism. Islamists have as their goal the removal of Western influence (both politically and culturally) in the Muslim world and restoring the rule of Islamic Law in Muslim countries. The group of the World Islamic Front has been distinguished from other Islamist groups in the Indo-Pakistani region by its adoption of a platform that includes a justification for undertaking violence (including terrorism) in the pursuit of their cause.
Bin Laden and the World Islamic Front has called upon Muslims everywhere to join their fight against the Americans (and their allies), "The ruling to kill the Americans and their allies—-civilians and military—-is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it, in order to liberate the al-Aqsa Mosque (in Jerusalem) and the holy mosque (in Mecca) from their grip, and in order for their armies to move out of all the lands of Islam, defeated and unable to threaten any Muslim."
Al Qaeda is headed by bin Laden, its Amir. Following a common Muslim organizational pattern, the Amir is assisted by a consultative council called the Majlis-e Shura. Among the members of this council is Ayman al-Zawahiri, a former leaer of the Egyptian Jihad, the group linked to the assassination of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat in 1981.
The activity of Al Qaeda, its Amir, and its council was disrupted late in 2001 following the operation begun by the United States and its allies in response to the events of September 11. The Taliban leadership in Afghanistan came to an abrupt end and its leadership along with that of Al Qaeda went into hiding. The present status of the leaders of both organizations and their level of activity remains questionable. Bin Laden and the Al Qaeda are international fugitives sought by a number of governments.
Membership: Not reported.
Bergen, Peter L. Holy War, Inc.: Inside the Secret World of Osama bin Laden. New York: The Free Press, 2001. 281 pp.
bin Laden, Osama. "Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders." http://www.fas.org/irp/world/para/docs/980223-fatwa.htm. 1 November 2001.
——. "Ladenese Epistle: Declaration of War." http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A4342-2001Sep21.html. 1 November 2001.
Gwynne, Rosalind. "Al-Qa'ida and Al-Qur'an: The ′Tafsir' of Usamah bin Ladin." http://webutk.edu/~warda/binladinandquran.htm. 1. November 2001.
Jansen, Johannes J. The Neglected Duty: The Creed of Sadat's Assassins and Islamic Resurgence in the Middle East. New York: Macmillan Co.,1986. 246 pp.
The Jihad Fixation: Agenda, Strategy, Portents. Delhi, India: Wordsmiths, 2001. 424 pp.
Juergenmeyer, Mark. Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Violence. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001.
Kramer, Martin. "Fundamentalist Islam at Large: The Drive for Power." Middle East Quarterly (June 1996) http://meforum.org/meq/june96/kramer.shtml. 1 November 2001. Rashid, Ahmed. Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2001. 279 pp.
c/o Altanta Community Mosque
547 W. End Pl.
Atlanta, GA 30310
Al-Ummah is the official name of the association of mosques that have gathered around the person of Imam Jamil al-Amin (b.1943), better known to the general public as civil rights activist H. Rap Brown. Imam Jamil was born Hubert Gerold Brown in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. In 1966 he became a field organizer for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in Greene County, Alabama, and the following year was became SNCC's new chairman following the ouster of Stokely Carmichael. In 1968, he became the minister of justice for the Black Panther Party.
In jail in 1971, Brown converted to Islam. Upon his release in 1976, he went on pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, and then settled in the West End section of Atlanta, Georgia, and opened the Atlanta Community Mosque. Meanwhile, another movement in the African American community, Dar al-Islam had been founded in 1963, and in 1980 had split into various factions. In 1983, some 30 of the Dar al-Islam mosques united with the Atlanta Community Mosque to form a coalition around Brown, now known as Imam Jamil al Amin. He is credited with moving the group into the Islamic mainstream. He reached out to those mosques that followed the ministry of Imam W. Deen Mohammed following the demise of the old Nation of Islam.
Though out of the American public's spotlight, Imam Jamil al Amin rose to a position of prominence in the Islamic world. In 1990 he became the vice-president of the American Muslim Council In 1993, his group became a charter member of the Islamic Shura Council of North America (along with the Islamic Society of North America, the Islamic Circle of North America, and The Ministry of Imam W. Deen Mohammed). He would alter become the chairman of the Shura Council.
In 2001, Iman Jamil once again became the center of public attention when he was arrested in Atlanta for the murder of a police officer near the grocery store he has opened. Tried the following year, he was convicted, in spite of The confession of another man to the crime and the protest of the proceedings and support for him by the larger Muslim community.
Membership: Not reported. In 2002, there were some 35 mosques affiliated with al-Ummah.
Amin, Imam Jamil al. Revolution by the Book: The Rap is Live. Beltsville, MD: Writers Inc., International, 1993.
Brown, H. Rap. Die Nigger, Die!. New York: Dial Press, 1969.
Iman Jamil (unofficial). http://www.imamjamil.com/. 23 April 2002.
Visseer, Steve, and Lateef Mungin. "Al-Amin's life now on the line: Jury must decide his sentence for murder." Atlanta-Journal Constitution. 3March 2001.
Federation of Islamic Associations in the United States and Canada
25231 5 Mile Rd.
Redford Township, MI 48239
Federation of Islamic Associations in the United States and Canada was established in 1952 at Cedar Rapids, Iowa, as a fellowship of mosques and Muslim communities, the oldest such association in North America. The immediate goals were to promote of the spirit, ethics, and philosophy of Islam, to engage in cooperative activities, and to maintain contact with the rest of the Muslim world. The have subsequently enlarged their concerns to include the publication of Islamic materials and develop media for the needs of local Muslim centers.
The federation has worked to enlighten non-Muslims about Islamic belief and practice and encourage cordial relations between Muslims and their neighbors of other faiths.
The federation holds an annual convention. It periodically tries to speak on issues of public interest for its constituency.
Membership: Not reported.
Federation of Islamic Associations in the United States and Canada. http://www.islamerica.com/. 23 April 2002.
His Highness Prince Aga Khan Shia Imani Ismaili Council for the United States of America
PO Box 77
Rego Park, NY 11374
The Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims, generally known as the Ismailis, belong to the Shia branch of Islam, one of the two major branches of Islam, the Sunni being the other. The Ismailis live in more than 25 different countries, mainly in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, as well as in the West.
As Muslims, the Ismailis affirm the fundamental Islamic Testimony of Truth, the Shahada, that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is His Messenger. They believe that Muhammad was the last and final prophet of Allah, and that the Holy Quran, Allah's final message to mankind, was revealed through him.
In common with other Shia Muslims, the Ismailis affirm that after the Prophet's death, Hazrat Ali, the Prophet's cousin and sonin-law, became the first Imam—the spiritual leader—of the Muslim community and that this spiritual leadership (known as Imamat) continues thereafter by heredity through Ali and his wife Fatima, the Prophet's daughter. Sucession to Imamat, according to Shia doctrine and tradition, is by way of Nass (designation), it being the absolute prerogative of the Imam of the time to appoint his successor from amongst any of his male descendants whether they be sons or remoter issue.
His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan is the 49th hereditary Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims. He was born on December 13, 1936, in Geneva, son of Prince Aly Khan and Princess Tajuddawlah Aly Khan and spent his early childhood in Nairobi, Kenya. He attended Le Rosey School in Switzerland for nine years and graduated from Harvard in 1959 with a B.A. in Islamic History. He succeeded his grandfather Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah Aga Khan on July 11, 1957, at the age of 20.
Among the major contributions to the growth of Islamic civilization made by the Ismailis are the University of al-Azhar and the Academy of Science, Dar al-Ilm, in Egypt. Indeed the city of Cairo itself is a testimony to their contribution. Among the renowned philosophers, jurists, physicians, mathematicians, astronomers, and scientists of the past who flourished under the patronage of Ismaili Imams are Qadi al-Numan, al-Kirmani, Ibn al Haytham (al-Hazen), Nasir-e-Khusraw, and Nasir al-Din Tusi. In more recent times, the 48th Imam, Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah Aga Khan, has been recognized for his contribution to the Muslim world and his efforts to promote international understanding, especially as the President of the League of Nations (1937-1938), the forerunner of the United Nations.
Spiritual allegiance to the Imam and adherence to the Shia Imami Ismaili tariqa (persuasion) of Islam according to the guidance of the Imam of the time, have engendered in the Ismaili community an ethos of self-reliance, unity, and a common identity. In a number of countries of their residence, the Ismailis have evolved a well-defined institutional framework through which they have, under the leadership and guidance of the Imam, made notable progress in the educational, health, housing and economic spheres, establishing schools, hospitals, health centers, housing societies, and a variety of social and economic development institutions for the common good of all citizens regardless of their race or religion. Programs and institutions established or expanded in recent years by the present Aga Khan, as Imam of the Ismailis, include the Aga Khan Foundation, the Aga Khan University, the Aga Khan Education Services, the Aga Khan Health Services, the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development, and the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, all of which seek to contribute to the progress and development of the many nations where the Ismailis live, as well as the third world generally.
The Aga Khan Foundation is a noncommunal development agency committed to promoting sustainable and equitable social development. The foundation provides grants and technical assistance to people and institutions that are evolving innovative approaches to pressing social and environmental problems. Its particular emphasis is on health, education, and rural development in the low-income countries of Asia and Africa. The foundation, which has affiliates in Canada and the United States, collaborates with more than 30 other national and international organizations in financing development programs, including the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), the Commission for European Communities, the Overseas Development Administration in the United Kingdom, UNICEF, the U.S. Agency for International Development (AID), and the World Health Organization (WHO).
The Aga Khan University, chartered in 1983 as the first private university in Pakistan, dedicates itself to the establishment and maintenance of internationally accepted standards of education while addressing itself to problems of particular relevance to developing countries. The Aga Khan Unviersity's Faculty of Health Sciences, which includes a Medical College and a School of Nursing located in Karachi, seeks through strong academic, clinical, and community health training to graduate doctors and nurses who are better equipped to respond to the primary health care needs of the third world. Clinical training facilities for the Medical College and the School of Nursing are located at the 650-bed Aga Khan University teaching hospital in Karachi which opened in November 1985. Formal agreements for collaboration by the Medical College have been concluded with three major universities— Harvard, McGill, and McMaster—underlining the commitment of the University towards a high standard of endeaver. The Aga Khan University will establish additional faculties in other countries and is currently exploring alternatives for developing the University's international dimensions.
The Again Khan Education Services operates more than 300 institutions and programs from day care centers to unversity-level education, catering to some 50,000 students, the majority of whom are non-Ismaili. More than 5,000 students benefit from various Aga Khan scholarship programs.
The Aga Khan Health Services consists of more than 200 health care units and programs in the developing world, including maternity homes, primary care centers, diagnostic clinics, dispensaries, and five general hospitals. More than two million outpatients a year, the majority of whom are non-Ismaili, receive services through these institutions.
The Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development is committed to the support of economic development activities in the third world through the promotion of projects in the private sector, primarily through equity participation in third world enterprises, to increase productivitiy and raise standards of living. The fund also collaborates with national and international agencies in the promotion of development institutions. Since 1963, more than 100 new enterprises, ranging from building materials and textiles to mining and tourism which today employ some 10,000 people, have been established in East, West, and Central Africa, as well as in Asia.
The Aga Khan Trust for Culture focuses attention on contemporary expressions of the Islamic humanistic tradition, concentrating largely on the built environment. The triennial Aga Khan Award for Architecture and its associated program of seminars encourages architectural excellence in an effort to enrich the physical environment of the Islamic world, while the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology provide graduate education to a new generation of architects, planners, and researchers.
The Ismailis first arrived in the United States in the early 1960s. The majority were students from the developing world who in the post-independence years came to study at institutions of higher learning. In the 1970s, largely as a result of political instability in parts of Africa and Asia, the community's numbers in the United States increased significantly. Their education, linguistic, and professional skills have helped Ismailis to assimilate easily into the American social fabric. Today, Ismailis are settled throughout the country, and the community is administered by the Ismaili Council for the United States of America, based in New York. There are also local councils which operate under the direction of the national council in different regions of the country. Each council has portfolio members for community programs in such fields as education, health, youth and sports activities, economic development, and social welfare, who endeavor to secure continuing improvements in the quality of life of the community and assist it to make an effective contribution to the societies it lives amongst.
Membership: Not reported.
Periodicals: The American Ismaili. Send orders to 3021 Margaret Mitchell Dr., No. 8, NW, Atlanta, GA 30327.
Daftary, Farhad. A Short History of the Ismailis. Princeton, NJ: Marcus Wiener Publishers, 1998.
Howell, Georgina. "The Story of K." Vanity Fair 51, no. 6 (June 1988): 100-108, 173-179.
Nanji, Azim. "The Nizari Ismaili Muslim Community in North America; Background and Development." In The Muslim Community in North America, Edited by Earle H. Waugh, Baha Abu-Laban, and Regula B. Qureshi. Edmonton, AB: University of Alberta Press, 1883.
Williams, Raymond Brady. Religions of Immigrants from India and Pakistan: New Threads of the American Tapestry. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1988.
Islamic Assembly of North America (IANA)
3588 Plymouth Rd., No. 270
Ann Arbor, MI 48105
The Islamic Assembly of North America (IANA) was founded in 1993 by a group of American Muslims from various Muslim centers concerned with the propagation of Islam (dawah) in the United States. They shared a view that a combined effort was needed and that cooperative activity produced far greater results that of individuals.
At the time of its founding, a set of goals were adopted that included work to unify and coordinate the efforts of the different dawah-oriented organizations in North America; to observe the current events in the Muslim world and analyze them in relation to the situation of American Muslims; to assist scholars, Islamic workers and Muslim masses in any locality who are facing discrimination or persecution; to develop an effective media institute to serve North American Muslims; to direct dawah to youth; and create programs and institutions for English-speaking Muslims.
Important to IANA is the application of what is considered the correct Islamic methodology as derived from the Book of Allah (Qur'an) and the sunnah (life and work) of the Messenger of Allah, according to the understanding and application of the early pious forefathers.
As part of its effort, IANA opened an office in Austin, Texas, from which to begin radio broadcasts. In 1999 they it began live broadcasting through the Internet. The al-Hamdulillah program donated Islamic books to prison libraries. The assembly distributes a copy of the Qur'an especially to non-Muslims and, among other titles, has published a book on Jesus from a Muslim standpoint.
Membership: Not reported.
Periodicals: Almanar Magazine.
Abdullah, Misha'aliban ibn. What did Jesus Really Say? Plymouth, MI: IANA, 1996.
Islamic Assembly of North America. http://www.iananet.org/. 23 April 2002.
Islamic Circle of North America
166-26 89th Ave.
Jamaica, NY 11432
Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), founded in the mid-1970s, includes a number of mosques across the United States who have as their goal the establishment of the Iqamat-ud-Deen (the Islamic system of life) as defined in the Qur'an and the Sunnah (life and works) of the Prophet Muhammad. ICNA has its base in the American Pakistani community and draws its inspiration from the Islamic revivalist movement in Pakistan, especially the Jamaate-Islami and the Tablighi Jama'at. The circle has developed an outward-looking program for the propagation of Islam in North America that includes activities aimed at the increase of Islamic knowledge and the enhancement of the character and the skills of those associated with ICNA. To that end, ICNA supports efforts for civil liberties and socio-economic justice in the society and encourages programs that serve the needy both in North America and around the world.
To embody it concern for spreading Islam, ICNA has developed what is termed the "Why Islam?" project, developed by circle members in New Jersey, and produced a set of pamphlets that deal with the Islamic option over against the many other competing philosophies, religions, and "isms." The project operates through a toll free number, the Islamic Circle's website, an outreach to prison inmates, and the distribution of the pamphlets by various avenues.
Those associated with the circle are expected to study the Qur'an, the Hadith and other Islamic literature regularly, spend a minimum of four hours each month on dawah (propagation) work; to invite at least two persons to become ICNA members every year; contribute in support of the group; and weekly invite at least one Muslim to come to the weekly prayer service at the ICNA center.
The circle is headed by its Ameer, Dr. Zulfiqar Ali Shah, the Secretary General, Naeem Baig and the Central Shura (Council). The sisters' Wing (women's organization) of ICNA has founded the Institute of Islamic Learning in which women may be trained in Islam. The circle was one of the founding member of the Islamic Shura Council of North America, a cooperative organization that includes the Ministry of Imam W. Deen Mohammed, al-Ummah (the community of Imam Jamil al-Amin), and the Islamic Society of North America.
Membership: Not reported.
Periodicals: The Message.
Islamic Circle of North America. http://www.icna.com/. 23 April 2002.
Islamic Society of North America
PO Box 38
Plainfield, IN 46168
Islamic Society of North America, one of the largest Muslim bodies in the United States and Canada, is an outgrowth of the Indian/Pakistani phase of the twentieth century Islamist revival that sought to call secularized Muslims back to a vision of Islam as a total way of life. The major organization of the movement, the Jamaat-e-Islami was founded by Sayyid Abul A'la Mawdudi (1903-1979), who lived and work amid the Indian independence movement and the resultant separation of Pakistan as an Islamic state. Mawdudi emerged as a major commentator on the problems presented to Islam by Western culture Indian nationalism (which he saw as destructive of Muslim identity) and competing political ideologies. Based on his assessment of the situation, he began to reconstruct Islamic thought. He founded Jamaat-e-Islami in 1941, and subsequently moved to Pakistan to work for the formation of an Islamic state.
The spirit of Mawdudi's movement came to North America in the 1950s with the arrival of the Indian and Pakistani Muslims for college study. These student took the lead in founding the Muslim Student Association of U.S. and Canada in 1963. MSA spawned a host of organizations to serve various segments of the American and Canadian Muslim community such as the North America Islamic Trust (NAIT), the Islamic Medical Association, and the Muslim Arab Youth Association (MAYA). In the 1980, the maturing of the early leaders of MSA, the steady migration of Muslims to North America, and the many mosques which had appeared across the continent led to the organizing of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA).
ISNA serves as a point of unity for many American Muslims and mosques, and sees as its primary task the nurturing of the American Muslim community. As an association of Muslim organizations and individuals has established a unified platform of expression for Islam, encourages the development of educational, outreach and social services, and is constructing an enhanced image of Islam in North American Society.
ISNA program in concentrated on the establishment of high-quality full-time Islamic schools; the publication of outreach materials (especially for prisons and the military); the nurture of strong and stable Muslim families; involvement in the social issues confronting North Americans; training Islamic workers, teachers, and imams; assist in the integration of Muslims into American political life.
ISNA has formed the Fiqh (law) Council that brings together a body of Islamic scholars who reside in the United States and Canada. The Council receives and responds to inquiries from Muslims and makes itself available to resolve disputes between Muslim individuals and organizations following Muslim legal opinion. The council originated in the Religious Affairs Committee of the Muslim Students Association in the early 1960s. The committee evolved into the Fiqh Committee of the ISNA in 1980 and was transformed into the council in 1986. The Fiqh Council, as an affiliate of ISNA, advises it on matters relative to the application of Islamic lawn (shari'ah) in the individual and collective life of its membership. The council's membership includes a number of scholars who have earned the respect of the larger Muslim community.
ISNA is led by its Majlis Ash-Shura (council). ISNA was founding member of the Islamic Shura Council of North America, a cooperative organization that includes the Islamic Circle of North America (with whom ISNA shares its heritage), the Ministry of Imam W. Deen Mohammed, and al-Ummah (the community led by Imam Jamil al-Amin). It facilitated the founding of a variety of Islamic organizations that have since matured into autonomous groups in their own right, such as the Association of Muslim Social Scientists, the Association of Muslim Scientists and Engineers, and the Islamic Medical Association of North America.
Membership: Not reported.
Periodicals: Islamic Horizons.
Islamic Society of North America. http://www.isna.net/. 23 April 2002.
Islamic Supreme Council of America (ISCA)
1400 16th St. NW, B-112
Washington, DC 20036
Alternate Address: 17195 Silver Pkwy., No. 201, Fenton, MI48430.
Islamic Supreme Council of America (ISCA), an organization that seeks the cooperation of varied segments of the Muslim community, has its base of support in the Naqshbandi-Haqqani Sufi Order and its charismatic leader, Mawlana Shaykh Nazim Adil al-Haqqani, the council's founder. The goal of ISCA is to provide solutions the problems faced by American Muslims based on the traditional Islamic legal rulings as provided by an international advisory board. The board is drawn from a group of high ranking Islamic scholars. The council has pioneered an effort to integrate traditional scholarship to the challenges of maintaining Islamic belief in a modern, secular society.
The council attempts to facilitate individuals and organizations receiving legal advice from scholars and religious institutions around the world. At the same time, it tries to work proactively to present Islam as a religion of moderation, tolerance, peace and justice. ISCA stresses the common heritage of Islam, Christianity and Judaism in an effort to foster mutual respect and reshape the image of Islam in the West. To that end it supports peace efforts worldwide, condemns violations of human rights, denounces all types of terrorism (including intellectual, cultural, and ideological), favors the non-proliferation of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons, and is committed to the values of charity, family love, education and public responsibility in American life.
The ISCA program centers on a set of publications, meetings, seminars, and conferences whose purpose is the education of U.S. officials on Islamic culture and history. ISCA also works with the representatives of Muslim nations as a reliable source for traditional Islamic literature on a spectrum of topics.
The council is headed by it chairman, currently Shaykh Muhammad Hisham Kabbani and a large advisory committee that includes a number of Muslim scholars and government officials. Kamilat, the affiliated women's organization, has built a cooperative network with various Muslim groups to assist Muslim widows, divorcees and working mothers.
Membership: Not reported.
Periodicals: The Muslim Magazine.
Islamic Supreme Council of America. http://www.islamicsupremecouncil.org/. 23 April 2002.
Muslim American Society (MAS)
PO Box 1896
Falls Church, VA 22041
Muslim American Society (MAS) is one of several Muslim associations that has its roots in the Indo-Pakistani Islamist revival, the Muslim Student Association, and the Islamic Society of North America. Many of the people who founded MAS had previous been associated with the Islamic Society of North America. They saw themselves as particularly concerned with the changing dynamics of Islamic society if North America and a desire to construct a new foundation for the Islamic work perceived to be needed in the twenty-first century.
To that end, MSA has projected a six-point program for the mosques and individuals associated with it: to present the message of Islam to the public; to encourage Muslims in building a virtuous and moral society; to offer the Islamic alternative to society's major problems; to promote family values; to advocate for the human values of brotherhood, equality, justice, mercy, compassion, and peace; and to foster unity among Muslims and Muslim organizations.
Among MAS' major programs is the Muslim American Society Council of Islamic Schools which as its educational branch offers several technical and support services and professional training programs for teachers and administrators of Islamic schools.
Membership: Not reported.
Educational Facilities: Islamic American University, 17300 W. 10 Mile Rd., Ste. 2, Southfield, MI 48075.
Periodicals: The American Muslim.
Muslim American Society. http://www.masnet.org/. 23 April 2002.
℅ Islamic Center of America
15571 Joy Rd.
Detroit, MI 48228
Alternate Address: Jaffari Islamic Centre, 7340 Bayview Ave., Thornhill, ON L3T 2R7.
Of the two orthodox branches of the Muslim Community the Shi'a is by far the smaller. It includes some Iranian-Americans though Shi'as of other nationalities (Lebanese, Pakistani, Yemeni) are also present in significant numbers. The oldest and among the most prominent Shi'a centers is the Islamic Center of America, a Lebanese center which emerged as the Detroit Islamic community split into the traditional Sunni and Shi'a factions early in the twentieth century. Growth in the Shi'as was marked by its 1949 invitation to Imam Mohamad Jawad Chirri to become the community's spiritual leader and the establishment of the center in the 1960s under his guidance.
More typical of the Shi'a centers established since 1965 is the Islamic Society of Georgia, a Pakistani-American center in Atlanta founded in 1970. It is a major distributor of Shi'a publications from around the world and publishes Islamic Affairs. It has made a major priority of its program the circulation of Shi'a literature to "willing readers" at little or no cost. The Midwest Association of Shi'a Organized Muslims is a similar center in Chicago.
A step forward in the organization of the Shi'a community was the 1970 formation of the Shi'a Association of North America by families in New York and New Jersey. Through its newsletter, Islamic Review, and other publications, it has led in the establishment of traditional standards of belief and practice in the Shi'a community nationally. The Iranian Revolution under the Ayatollah Khomeini has had a marked effect of uniting the American Shi'a community, which has responded with strong support. In like measure, the American-Lebanese Shi'as have identified with the Shi'as of Lebanon, though they are somewhat divided in their support of the various factions that emerged in the 1970s.
While the majority of English-language Shi'a literature still originates from foreign presses, several publishing ventures have emerged in the United States. The Detroit center has published a number of works by Imam Chirri, an eminent Islamic scholar. It is joined by Free Islamic Literature, Inc. of Houston, Texas and Mehfile Shahe Khorasan Charitable Trust of Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey.
Membership: Not reported. There are several dozen Shi'a centers scattered across the United States.
Educational Facilities: The Islamic Seminary, New York, New York.
Periodicals: Islamic Affairs. Available from the Islamic Society of Georgia, 172 Vine St., SW, Atlanta, GA 30314. • The Islamic Review. Available from the Shia Association of North America, 108 5363 62nd Dr., Forest Hills, New York, NY 11375. • Husaini News. Available from the Husaini Association of Greater Chicago, PO Box 6810, Chicago, IL 60645.
Chirri, Mohammad Jawad. The Brother of the Prophet Mohammad. 2 vols. Detroit: Islamic Center of Detroit, 1979-82.
Chirri, Mohammad Jawad. Inquiries About Islam. Detroit: Islamic Center of Detroit, 1965.
Iman Khomeini, Pope and Christianity. Tehran, Iran: Islamic Propaganda Organization, 1983.
The Life of Iman Husain. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Mehfile Shahe Khorasan Charitable Trust, n.d. Tract.
Shariati, Ali. Islamic View of Man. Houston, TX: Free Islamic Literature, 1979.
Shiah Fatimi Ismaili Tayyibi Dawoodi Bohra (Daudi Bohras)
℅ Anjuman-e-Ezzi, Washington, DC
18720 New Hampshire Ave.
Ashton, MD 20806
Alternate Address: International Headquarters: Dawat-e-Hadiyah, Administration of the 52nd al-Dai al-Mutlaq, His Holiness Dr. Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin, c/o Saifee Masjid, Burhani Park, Lagos Road, City Centre, Nairobi, Kenya. Canadian Headquarters: c/o Anjuman-e-Najmi, Toronto, 61 Queensmill Ct., Richmond Hill, ON L4B 1N2.
The Daudi Bohras constitute a worldwide religious group officially known as the Shiah Fatimi Ismaili Tayyibi Dawoodi Bohra, a community with in the larger world of Orthodox Islam. This group follows a specific code of beliefs, doctrines, and tenets founded on the Qur'an and the Shariah, as taught and interpreted by their leader, the Dai al-Mutlaq. The Daudi Bohras traces its ancestry to the early conversions of Hindus in India in the eleventh century to the Ismaili branch of Shi'a Islam. These converts in turn gave their allegiance to the dai mutlaq in Yemen. They are named after their 27th dai, Daud ibn Qutubshah (d. 1612).
The Daudi Bohra community has largely been molded into its present form by the two dais who have led the community in the twentieth century. The 51st dai, Dr. Sayyidna Tahir Saifuddin (1915–1965), was an accomplished scholar and capable organizer who revitalized the community during his half century of leadership and guided it through the tumultuous period of world wars and independence of nations. The present dai, H. H. Dr. Sayyidna Mohammed Burhanuddin, has continued his predecessor's endeavors with particular emphasis on strengthening the community's Islamic practices.
The religious hierarchy of the Daudi Bohras is headed by the dai mutlaq who is appointed by his predecessor in office. The dai appoints two others to the subsidiary ranks of madhun (licentiate) and mukasir (executor). These positions are followed by the rank of shaykh and mullah, both of which are held by hundreds of Bohras. An Aamil (usually a graduate of the order's institution of higher learning, al-Jamiah al-Sayfiyah) leads the local congregation. The local organizations administer the activities of the local Bohras and report directly to the central administration of the dai, called al-Dawah al-Hadiyah.
At the age of puberty every Bohra believer takes the traditional oath of allegiance which requires the initiate to adhere to the shariah and accept the leadership of the imam and the dai. This oath is renewed annually. The Bohras follow the Fatimid school of jurisprudence that recognizes seven pillars of Islam, the first of which is walayah (love and devotion) for Allah, the Prophets, the imam, and the dai. The other six are tahrah (purity & cleanliness), salah (prayers), zakah (purifying religious dues), sawm (fasting), hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca) and jihad (holy war). Pilgrimages to the shrines of the saints are also an important part of the devotional life of Bohras.
Within their community, Daudi Bohras speak an arabicized form of Gujrati, called lisan al-dawah, which is permeated with Arabic words and written in Arabic script. They also follow a Fatimid lunar calendar which fixes the number of days in each month.
Dawat-e-Hadiyah, Allah's sovereignty over Heavens and Earth, is entrusted to the Imam (who in the Ismaili tradition is known as the Hidden or Secluded Imam). In his absence, the Dawat-e-Hadiyah is headed by the Dai al-Mutlaq, the Imam's representative and vicegerent, the supreme head of the Dawoodi Bohra Community. Today, al-Dai al-Fatimi, His Holiness Dr. Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin (TUS), is the 52nd Dai al-Mutlaq, the latest in a chain of succession that commenced in 1138 C.E. He succeeded to the throne of Dawat in 1965 as the successor to his father, H. H. Dr. Syedna Taher Saifuddin, the 51st Dai al-Mutlaq.
In the United States of America, the affairs of Dawat-e-Hadiyah are carried out in accordance with the wishes and direction of the Dai al-Mutlaq through the Dawat-e-Hadiyah (America). Members of the Daudi Bohra community migrated to the United States in the 1950s with the encouragement, permission, and blessings of the Dai al-Mutlaq. There are now a number of communities across the United States and Canada.
Membership: Not reported. Daudi Bohras number about a million and reside in India, Pakistan, the Middle East, East Africa (since the eighteenth century), and the West (since the 1950s).
Daftary, Farhad. A Short History of the Ismailis. Princeton, NJ: Marcus Wiener Pubishers, 1998.
℅ Islamic Center
2551 Massachusetts Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20008
Alternate Address: The Council of Muslim Communities of Canada, Box 771, Station B, Willowdale, ON, Canada M2K 2R1.
The Islamic world, though concentrated in the Arab nations of the Middle East, stretches from Yugoslavia to Indonesia and includes not only a large part of the U.S.S.R. but a growing community in Africa south of the Sahara. Since 1965, the Islamic community which had been concentrated in the Midwest and a few Eastern urban centers, has blossomed into a significant religious element of American life in every part of the United States. Literally millions of immigrants from Islamic Asia, Africa and Europe have settled in North America and begun the generation-long process of building ethnic community centers and facilities for worship (often the same building).
Unlike much of Christendom, Islam is organized into a number of autonomous centers. Each center (which may be called a community center, a mosque, a musjid) will tend to be dominated by one ethnic community, though outside the largest urban centers where a variety of mosques can be found, centers will have welcomed people of various nationalities into affiliation. Many of the major centers will have a periodical, which has both a primary local audience and a national circulation. The mosque, headed by the imam (minister-teacher) is the basic center of Islam.
Above the level of the local centers, a variety of national and continental organizations have been formed to mobilize the various local Islamic communities, provide the public (largely ignorant of Islam) with information, and coordinate the activities (particlarly the propagation of the faith) of the community at large. These organizations, whose membership will come from a variety of ethnic backgrounds, tend to be divided politically. Each of the different organization will be ideologically aligned to, for example, different factions in the Middle East, and/or atuned to a moreor-less activist role in support of various concerns of the land from which they immigrated. Political activism is particularly noticeable in those groups which serve the large Muslim community on the nation's campuses. Local centers will often affiliate with several of the competing national associations.
Symbolic of Sunni Muslim presence in America is the Islamic Center in Washington, D.C. Begun in 1949, it took seven years to complete. It was officially opened in 1957. While begun as a center for diplomatic personnel, with financial support from seventeen countries, with the growth of Islam in North America it has become a place to which all American Sunnis look as a visible point of unity in the otherwise decentralized Islamic community. The importance of the Center was dramatically underscored in the early 1980s when it was taken over by a group who supported the Iranian Revolution under the Ayatollah Khomeini and opposed the influence of the ambassadors from Saudi Arabia and other Islamic countries. The takeover disrupted the center for several years and led to the with drawal of its prominent iman, Dr. Muhammad Abdul Rauf, a leading Islamic apologist in North America.
Among the oldest of the Canadian-United States organizations is the Federation of Islamic Organizations in the United States and Canada. It was founded in 1952, largely as a result of the efforts of Abdullah Ingram of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He called a meeting attended primarily by Lebanese Muslims, representative of the older American Muslim centers, and formed the International Muslim Society, which two years later became the Federation. The Federation has as its goals the perpetuation of Islam and of Muslim culture and the dissemination of correct information about Muslim society worldwide. It publishes a periodical, The Muslim Star, and holds annual conventions, usually in the Midwest. The Federation accomplishments have been related to the fellowship of various Muslim centers across national and ethnic boundaries, and more activist groups, while acknowledging the contribution of the Federation, saw the need for further organizations.
The Islamic Society of North America emerged in the early 1980s out of the Muslim Students Association originally founded in 1952. It represents a broadening focus of concern by former students who moved into roles of leadership in the Muslim, academic and professional communities in America. The Society is headquartered at the Islamic Teaching Center, a large complex in sub-urban Indianapolis, from which it oversees the network of subsidiary organizations it has fostered and nurtured.
From its original goals, developed to assist graduate students temporarily in the United States for study to survive in a non-Muslim environment, the Society has since 1975 refocused its attention on building Islamic structures among a permanent and growing North American Islamic population and actively propagating the faith among the non-Muslim public. To these ends, the society has established the Islamic Medical Association, the Association of Muslim Social Scientists and the Association of Muslim Scientists and Engineers. It has published numerous books (including the proceedings of the many conferences its sponsors) and pamphlets (especially a set designed to introduce Islam to non-Muslims) and several periodicals, most prominently Al-Ittihad and Islamic Horizons. The Muslim Student Association continues as one department of the Society. The Islamic Teaching Center is the main structure engaged in dawah, the propagation of the faith.
Possibly the most inclusive Islamic organization for Sunni Muslims is the Council of Islamic Organizations of America (both the Federation of Islamic Associations and the Islamic Society of North America are affiliates). The idea of the Council emerged in 1973 at a meeting in Saudi Arabia. Then the Muslim World League, an international Muslim organization with offices in New York City, organized the first Islamic Conference of North America which met April 22-24, 1977 at Newark, New Jersey. The Council was organized at that gathering to meet primary needs for unity and co-ordination of the many Islamic centers in North America. In its lengthy list of goals, it set itself the task of fostering unity, establishing and propagating the faith in its fullness, the perpetuation of modest dress codes, assistance in building mosques and other facilities for Muslims, and the funding of various designated projects of broad Muslim interest.
Also formed in the 1970s, the Council of Imams in North America formed as a continent-wide professional organization for the leaders of the various mosques and Islamic centers.
The several organizations mentioned above are but a few of the many new structures being established in the Muslim Community. All of the organizations have been assisted by the development of Muslim publishing concerns, such as American Trust Publications, affiliated with the Islamic Society of North America; Kazi Publications in Chicago; and The Crescent Publications, Tacoma Park, Maryland. As of the mid-1980s, however, the majority of English-language literature produced for the American Muslim community is still published overseas.
Membership: Estimates vary on the size of the Sunni Muslim community. As many as 400 mosques and centers have been counted. Approximately 3,000,000 immigrants from predominantly Muslim countries have come to the United States. Together with converts, including large followings in American black communities, the total number of Muslims approaches the size of the Jewish community.
Educational Facilities: American Islamic College, Chicago, Illinois.
Periodicals: Muslim Star. Available from Federation of Islamic Associations in the U.S.A. and Canada, 25351 Five Mile Rd., Redford Twp., MI 48239. • Islamic Horizons. Send orders to Box 38, Plainfield, IN 46168. • al-Ittihad, Box 38, Plainfield, IN 46168. • The Minaret. Both available from Islamic Center of Southern California, 434 S. Vermont Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90020. • Path of Righteousness. Available from Council of Imans in North America, 1214 Cambridge Crescent, Sarnia, ON, Canada N7S 3W4. • Al'Nourl. Send orders to 2551 Massachusettes Ave., Washington, D.C. 20008. • Islam Canada. Available from Council of Muslim Communities of Canada, Box 771, Station B, Willowdale, ON, Canada M2K 2R1.
Abdalati, Hammudah. Islam in Focus. Indianapolis, IN: American Trust Publications, 1975.
Avdich, Kamal. Outline of Islam. Northbrook, IL: The Islamic Cultural Center, n.d.
Haneef, Suzanne. What Everyone Should Know About Islam and Muslims. Chicago: Kazi Publications, 1979.
Soddiqui, Moulana Mohammad Abdul-Aleem. Elementary Teachings of Islam. Tacoma Park, MD: Crescent Publications, n.d.
Rauf, Muhammad Abdul. Islam, Creed and Worship. Washington, DC: Islamic Center, 1974.
Hussain, S. Mazhar, ed. Proceedings of the First Islamic Conference of North America. New York: Muslim World League, 1977.
Current address not obtained for this edition.
The Taliban, the "Students of Islamic Knowledge Movement," was in control of the largest part of Afghanistan as the twenty-first century began. The movement originate among youth who attended religious school (madrasas) established in the 1980s by refugees from the Afghan War who moved to neighboring Pakistan during the 1980s. Most of the refugees were ethnic Pashtuns. Pashtuns traditionally followed the Hanafite school of Sunni Islam. The new Taliban movement, however, assumed an extreme and conservative interpretation in their tradition, making them natural allies of the equally conservative Wahhabi movement based in Saudi Arabia.
The Taliban quickly evolved into a more formal organization and as is common in Islam created a leadership council (called a ulema, literally, a community of learned men) and selected a leader, Mullah Muhamad Omar. The movement found support throughout the Pushtun region of Afghanistan. Joining in the struggle to throw off the ruling forces Kabul (the capital) in 1996 it replaced the former ruling elite, many of whom were drawn from the ethnically Uzbek and Tajik minorities and represented either Shi'a Islam or secular Marxism. The defeated leadership reorganized and formed an alliance against the Taliban regime and were able to retain control of a small territory in the northern part of the country. During this period, neither the United States and United Nations recognized the Taliban government; Afghanistan was considered to be a land devoid of a government. They recognize the leadership of Burhanuddin Rabbani and the Northern Alliance as the rightful rulers of Afghanistan, while also aware of their inability to exercise government powers. Only Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates recognized the Taliban.
In Kabul, Taliban leaders instituted a strict interpretation of the shariah, the unique Islamic law. They demanded traditional dress for women, restricted on female education and movement, and prevent their receiving medical treatment by male physicians. It reintroduced various forms of punishment for crimes that had largely been abandoned elsewhere (including flogging, amputation of limbs, and executions by stoning). They found support especially those areas of the country plagues by chaos and lawlessness during the previous decade.
Internationally, the Taliban were unpopular but tolerated. However, following their destruction of some large Buddhist statutes in March 2001 brought widespread denouncement from around the world, both from interfaith religious community and artistic world.
In 1996, the leaders of the Taliban had invited Osama bin Laden (b. 1957) to moved the headquarters of his organization, Al Qaeda, to Afghanistan. Through the 1990s, Al Qaeda was charged with a series of attacks upon United States citizens and property culminated in the bombing of the Pentagon and the World Trade Center in the United States on September 11, 2001. The United States held the Taliban responsible for harboring Al Qaeda and bin Laden in Afghanistan.
In October 2001, the United States began military action in Afghanistan aimed at capturing bin Laden and his associates, and destroying Al Qaeda. As a secondary consequence of that action, the Taliban was brought down and its leader disappeared into the countryside. Both Omar and bin Laden remain fugitives.
During the 1990s, the Taliban found support internationally, and a community that identified themselves with it developed in the United States. The American Taliban operated quite openly with in the larger Islamic community, and developed a presence on the Internet. All of that ended in September 2001. Shortly after the bombings, the Internet site restricted access to the general public and then in 2002 disappeared altogether. While it is likely that remnants of the groups continue in the United States, no outward manifestation has been sighted since the Internet site was taken down.
Membership: Not reported.
The Jihad Fixation: Agenda, Strategy, Portents. Delhi, India: Wordsmiths, 2001. 424 pp.
Maley, William, ed. Fundamentalism Reborn? Afghanistan and the Taliban. New York: New York University Press, 1998. 253 pp.
Matinuddin, Kamal. The Taliban Phenomenon: Afghanistan, 1994-1997. Karachi: Oxford University Press, 1999.
Parfrey, Adanm, ed. Extreme Islam: Anti-American Propaganda of Muslim Fundamentalism. Los Angeles: Feral House, 2001. 317 pp.
c/o T.I.N.A. Center
250 W. Saint Charles Rd.
Villa Park, IL 62181-2430
Alternate Address: Tanzeem-e-Islami Pakistan, 67-A, Allama Iqbal Rd., Garhee Shahoo, Lahore.
Tanzeem-e-Islami grew out of the Indo-Pakistani branch of the Islamist revival of the twentieth century which had as its keynote the that the teachings of the Qur'an and those of the Sunnah (life and work) of the Prophet Muhammad must be implemented in their totality, especially in the public (social, cultural, juristic, political, economic) spheres of life. In India, the revival is traced to the work of Allama Muhammad Iqbal, and by Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, and most prominently Sayyid Abul A'la Mawdudi (1903-1979) and the Jamaat-e-Islami which he founded in 1941. Following the creation of Pakistan (1947), Maududi and the Jamaat decided to take part in the country's secular electoral process, a change from its earlier revolutionary methodology. Many perceived the result of this change was the degeneration of the Jamaat from a revolutionary force into a mere political party. In 1975, Tanzeem-e-Islami was founded by Dr. Israr Ahmad (b.1932) to continue the original thrust of the Jamaat-e-Islami.
Ahmad, the son of a government employee, received his degree in Islamic Studies from the University of Karachi (1965). As a student he was influenced by Iqbal and Mawdudi, and later worked with the Jamaat-e-Islami. He resigned from the Jamaat in 1957, continued to teach the Qur'an throughout Pakistan. A physician, Ahmad gave up his practice in 1971 in order to launch Tanzeem-e-Islami. He has authored more than 60 books, nine of which have been translated into English. In 1967, he wrote a tract, "Islamic Renaissance: The Real Task Ahead," to explain his basic ideas that the Islamic Renaissance necessarily implies the revitalizing of the Imam (true faith and certitude) among the Muslims, particularly their intelligentsia, and the revitalization of Imam is based on the propagation of the Qur'anic teachings in contemporary idiom, at the highest level of scholarship.
According to the Tanzeem-e-Islami perspective, the individual Muslim is obligated to develop real faith and conviction in his/her heart; to live a life of total obedience to the injunctions of the Islamic law (shari'ah); to propagate and disseminate the message of Islam; and to try his utmost in establishing the ascendancy of Islam over all man-made systems of life. Tanzeem-e-Islami seeks to assist Muslims in carrying our these obligations.
In regard to propagating the faith, Tanzeem-e-Islami operates out of the spirit of Al-Deen Al-Naseeha (loyalty and sincerity toward each other) and organizes activity suggested by Al-Aqrabo Fal-Aqrab (i.e., one who is nearer should be given priority). Propagation extends from an individual to his family, his kith and kin, and then gradually to his surroundings. Tanzeem-e-Islami seeks to supply the necessary religious teaching and training to this new generation. A most important task at the present moement is counteracting false beliefs and customs refuting the unlslamic thoughts and philosophy of the modern age.
Tanzeem-e-Islam seeks the support of and Sunni Muslim. Membership begins with the Baiy'ah or pledge of obedience (under the shari'ah) to the Ameer of Tanzeem-e-Islami, Dr. Israr Ahmad. At that time, the new member must promise to give up that which is considered disliked by Allah and will try to fulfill the obligations owed as a Muslim.
Tanzeem-e-Islami believes that the Western constitutional and democratic model is not suitable for the duty of struggling for the establishment of the Deen. In the baiyah system, one person gives a call that he is going to initiate the struggle for the Deen of Allah and invites people to join him. In this system, the leader (Ameer) is required to consult with his rufaqa (those who join him) but is not bound by any majority decisions. However, the Ameer is to be obeyed, though only with in the bounds of the law.
Through the 1980s and 1990s, members of Tanzeem-e-Islami have migrated to the United States and Canada. Offices are maintained in the Chicago and New York City metropolitan areas and in Montreal and Toronto Canada. European centers are located in London and Paris. The organization has developed a radio and video broadcast through the Internet.
Membership: Not reported.
Educational Facilities: Quran College Lahore of Arts and Science, Lahore, Pakistan.
Periodicals: The Qur'anic Horizons, c/o Tanzeem-e-Islami Pakisan, 67-A, Allama Iqbal Rd., Garhee Shahoo, Lahore.
Ahmad, Shagufta. Dr. Israr Ahmad's Political Thought and Activities. Montreal, Canada: McGill University, M.A. thesis, 1993. Rpt.: Lahore, Pakistan, Markazi Anjuman Khuddam-ul-Quran Lahore, 1996.
Tanzeem-e-Islami. http://www.tanzeem.org/. 23 April 2002.
United American Muslim Association
59-11 8th Ave.
Brooklyn, NY 11220
Alternate Address: United Canadian Muslim Association. 182 Rhodes Ave., Toronto ON, Canada M4L 3A1.
United American Muslim Association was founded in 1980 by a group of predominantly Turkish American residents of Brooklyn, New York. The association was formed concurrently with the purchase of the building that has become Fatih Mosque, the parent mosque of the organization. Several other mosques were subsequently formed, including one in Canada that now serves as the headquarters of the Canadian affiliate, the United Canadian Muslims.
The association provides Islamic education for students (including study of Turkish history and geography), and since 1995 has organized a summer camp for its youth. It supports two foundations-the Turkish American Educational and Cultural Foundation and the American Turkish Islamic Cultural Foundation. Female members have organized the Fatih Turkish American Woman Assembly.
Membership: Not reported. UAMA has two branches on Long Island and one each in Boston, Rochester, New York, New Jersey, Chicago, and Toronto.
United American Muslim Association. http://www.fatihcami.org/. 23 April 2002.
United Submitters International
Tucson, AZ 85719
United Submitters International was founded by Rashad Khalifa (1935-1990), the imam (supreme leader) of a Muslim center in Tucson, Arizona. Born in Egypt, Khalifa was the son of a Sufi master in the Shadhili Order. He was trained in the natural sciences and moved to the United States in 1959 to study at the University of California at Riverside. He received a Ph.D. in biochemistry in the early 1960s. He married an American in 1963 and later became a citizen. While pursuing his career as an agricultural biochemist, he also conducted private research on the Qur'an, the Muslim bible. The results were first published in 1973 as Miracle of the Quran: Significance of the Mysterious Alphabets.
Khalifa was convinced of the miraculous nature of the Qur'an and his writing was a defense of this belief. His early writing was given broad coverage in the Islamic press because of his claims of scientific proof of the Qur'an's miraculousness. Using a computer, he discovered what he believed was a complex mathematical coding with in the book. He concluded that it was organized around the number 19, that the organization was so complex that no human being could have worked it out (the keystone for his argument of its divine element), and that only with the arrival of the computer could we now see the mathematical sophistication of it. He expanded upon this basic notion in a second and more popular book in 1981, The Computer Speaks: God's Message to the World.
While defending the Qur'an, Khalifa also began to attack some basic Islamic affirmations. He suggested that two verses of the Qur'an were Satanic insertions in the text. He attacked Muslims for their following the Hadith and the Sunna, both of which he saw as human inventions working against the Qur'an. He said it was idolatrous to venerate Muhammad and his writings. He also suggested that he was a messenger just as was Abraham or Muhammad. He claimed that on December 21, 1971, his soul was taken somewhere and introduced to all the prophets and they in turn designated him the "Apostle of the Covenant." His opinions concerning the Hadith and Sunna correlated with his notions of assimilation into Western society as he opposed the dress codes, the segregation of men and women, and other prohibitions they articulated. While many appreciated his work on the Qur'an, others denounced his ideas, questioning his authority and the unworthiness of the Hadith and Sunna. He was labeled a heretic and charlatan.
In the midst of the controversy, Khalifa found many supporters. Around 1979 he became the imam of a masjid (mosque) in Tucson, Arizona, and began a magazine, Submitters Perspective. He used his position to argue against the slavish adherence to what he saw as outdated Islamic practice. He was attacked by leading Muslim thinkers such as Ahmed Deedat of South Africa, Abu Ameenah Bilal Phillips, and Muzammil Saddiqi.
On January 31, 1990, Khalifa was murdered. James Williams, a member of an ultra-conservative muslim group, Al-Fuqra, was later arrested and convicted of Khalifa's murder. The center in Tucson has continued with a collective leadership and followers of its martyred imam can be found in Phoenix, Arizona, Southern California, and British Columbia.
Membership: Not reported.
Periodicals: Submitters Perspective.
Haddad, Yvonne Yazbeck, and Jane Idleman Smith. Mission to America: Five Islamic Sectarian Communities in North America. Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida, 1993. 226 pp.
Hosenball, Mark. "Another Holy War: Waged on American Soil." Newsweek 123, 9 (February 28, 1994): 30-31.
Khalifa, Rashid. The Computer Speaks: God's Message to the World. Tucson, AZ: Renaissance Productions International, 1981. 263 pp.
——. Miracle of the Quran: Significance of the Mysterious Alphabets. St. Louis, MO: Islamic Productions International, 1973.
Quran: The Final Scripture. Trans. by Rashid Khalifa. Tucson, AZ: Islamic Productions, 1981. 525 pp.
——. Quran: The Final Testament. Tucson, AZ: Islamic Productions International, 1989.
——. Quran, Hadith, and Islam. Tucson, AZ: Islamic Productions International, 1982.
c/o Atlanta Community Mosque, 547 W End Pl., Atlanta, GA 30310
Al-Ummah is the official name of the association of mosques that have gathered around the person of Imam Jamil al-Amin (b. 1943), better known to the general public as civil rights activist H. Rap Brown. Imam Jamil was born Hubert Gerold Brown in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. In 1966 he became a field organizer for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in Greene County, Alabama, and in the following year he was named SNCC’s new chairman following the ouster of Stokely Carmichael. In 1968, he became the minister of justice for the Black Panther Party.
In jail in 1971, Brown converted to Islam. Following his release in 1976, he went on pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, and then settled in the West End section of Atlanta, Georgia, and opened the Atlanta Community Mosque. Meanwhile, another Islamic movement in the African-American community, Dar al-Islam, had been founded in 1963, and in 1980 had split into various factions. In 1983 some 30 of the Dar al-Islam mosques united with the Atlanta Community Mosque to form a coalition around Brown, now known as Imam Jamil al Amin. Imam Jamil is credited with moving the group into the Islamic mainstream. He reached out to those mosques that followed the ministry of Imam W. Deen Mohammed following the demise of the old Nation of Islam.
Though little known to the broader American public, Imam Jamil rose to a position of prominence in the Islamic world. In 1990 he became the vice president of the American Muslim Council. In 1993, his group became a charter member of the Islamic Shura Council of North America (along with the Islamic Society of North America, the Islamic Circle of North America, and the Ministry of Imam W. Deen Mohammed). He would later become the chairman of the Shura Council.
In 2001 Imam Jamil once again became the center of public attention when he was arrested in Atlanta for the murder of a police officer near the grocery store he had opened. Tried the following year, he was convicted, in spite of the confession of another man and support for him from the larger Muslim community. As of 2008 he remains in prison serving a life sentence, and members of al-Ummah continue to publicize what they believe is his unjust situation through fundraisers, rallies, and networking.
Not reported. In 2002 there were some 35 mosques affiliated with al-Ummah.
Imam Jamil (unofficial). www.imamjamil.com/.
Amin, Imam Jamil al. Revolution by the Book: The Rap Is Live. Beltsville, MD: Writers Inc., International, 1993.
Brown, H. Rap. Die Nigger, Die! New York: Dial Press, 1969.
Visseer, Steve, and Lateef Mungin. “Al-Amin’s Life Now on the Line: Jury Must Decide His Sentence for Murder.” Atlanta-Journal Constitution, March 3, 2001.
25231 5 Mile Rd., Redford Township, MI 48239
Federation of Islamic Associations in the United States and Canada was established in 1952 at Cedar Rapids, Iowa, as a fellowship of mosques and Muslim communities, the oldest such association in North America. The immediate goals were to promote the spirit, ethics, and philosophy of Islam, to engage in cooperative activities, and to maintain contact with the rest of the Muslim world. They have subsequently enlarged their concerns to include the publication of Islamic materials and the development of media for the needs of local Muslim centers.
The federation has worked to enlighten non-Muslims about Islamic belief and practice and encourage cordial relations between Muslims and their neighbors of other faiths.
The federation holds an annual convention. It periodically tries to speak on issues of public interest for its constituency.
Federation of Islamic Associations in the United States and Canada. www.islamerica.com.
His Highness Prince Aga Khan Shia Imani Ismaili Council for the United States of America
PO Box 77, Rego Park, NY 11374
The Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims, generally known as the Ismailis, belong to the Shia branch of Islam, one of the two major branches of Islam, the Sunni being the other. The Ismailis live in more than 25 different countries, mainly in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, as well as in the West.
As Muslims, the Ismailis affirm the fundamental Islamic Testimony of Truth, the Shahada, that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is His Messenger. They believe that Muhammad was the last and final prophet of Allah, and that the Holy Qur’an, Allah’s final message to mankind, was revealed through him.
In common with other Shia Muslims, the Ismailis affirm that after the Prophet’s death, Hazrat Ali, the Prophet’s cousin and son-in-law, became the first imam—the spiritual leader—of the Muslim community and that this spiritual leadership (known as Imamat) continues thereafter by heredity through Ali and his wife Fatima, the Prophet’s daughter. Succession to Imamat, according to Shia doctrine and tradition, is by way of Nass (designation), it being the absolute prerogative of the imam of the time to appoint his successor from among any of his male descendants whether they be sons or remoter issue.
His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan is the 49th hereditary imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims. He was born on December 13, 1936, in Geneva, son of Prince Aly Khan and Princess Tajuddawlah Aly Khan, and spent his early childhood in Nairobi, Kenya. He attended Le Rosey School in Switzerland for nine years and graduated from Harvard in 1959 with a B.A. in Islamic history. He succeeded his grandfather Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah Aga Khan on July 11, 1957, at the age of 20.
Among the major contributions to the growth of Islamic civilization made by the Ismailis are the University of al-Azhar and the Academy of Science, Dar al-Ilm, in Egypt. Indeed the city of Cairo itself is a testimony to their contribution. Among the renowned philosophers, jurists, physicians, mathematicians, astronomers, and scientists of the past who flourished under the patronage of Ismaili imams are Qadi al-Numan, al-Kirmani, Ibn al Haytham (al-Hazen), Nasir-e-Khusraw, and Nasir al-Din Tusi. In more recent times, the 48th imam, Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah Aga Khan, has been recognized for his contribution to the Muslim world and his efforts to promote international understanding, especially as the president of the League of Nations (1937–1938), the forerunner of the United Nations.
Spiritual allegiance to the imam and adherence to the Shia Imami Ismaili tariqa (persuasion) of Islam, according to the guidance of the imam of the time, have engendered in the Ismaili community an ethos of self-reliance, unity, and a common identity. In a number of countries of their residence, the Ismailis have evolved a well-defined institutional framework through which they have, under the leadership and guidance of the imam, made notable progress in the educational, health, housing, and economic spheres, establishing schools, hospitals, health centers, housing societies, and a variety of social and economic development institutions for the common good of all citizens regardless of their race or religion. Programs and institutions established or expanded in recent years by the present Aga Khan, as imam of the Ismailis, include the Aga Khan Foundation, the Aga Khan University, the Aga Khan Education Services, the Aga Khan Health Services, the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development, and the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, all of which seek to contribute to the progress and development of the many nations where the Ismailis live, as well as the third world generally.
The Aga Khan Foundation is a noncommunal development agency committed to promoting sustainable and equitable social development. The foundation provides grants and technical assistance to people and institutions that are evolving innovative approaches to pressing social and environmental problems. Its particular emphasis is on health, education, and rural development in the low-income countries of Asia and Africa. The foundation, which has affiliates in Canada and the United States, collaborates with more than 30 other national and international organizations in financing development programs, including the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), the Commission for European Communities, the Overseas Development Administration in the United Kingdom, UNICEF, the U.S. Agency for International Development (AID), and the World Health Organization (WHO).
The Aga Khan University, chartered in 1983 as the first private university in Pakistan, dedicates itself to the establishment and maintenance of internationally accepted standards of education while addressing itself to problems of particular relevance to developing countries. The Aga Khan University’s Faculty of Health Sciences, which includes a Medical College and a School of Nursing located in Karachi, seeks through strong academic, clinical, and community health training to graduate doctors and nurses who are better equipped to respond to the primary health care needs of the third world. Clinical training facilities for the Medical College and the School of Nursing are located at the 650-bed Aga Khan University teaching hospital in Karachi which opened in November 1985. Formal agreements for collaboration by the Medical College have been concluded with three major universities—Harvard, McGill, and McMaster—underlining the commitment of the university toward a high standard of endeavor. The Aga Khan University will establish additional faculties in other countries and is currently exploring alternatives for developing the university’s international dimensions.
The Aga Khan Education Services operates more than 300 institutions and programs from day care centers to university-level education, catering to some 50,000 students, the majority of whom are non-Ismaili. More than 5,000 students benefit from various Aga Khan scholarship programs.
The Aga Khan Health Services consists of more than 200 health care units and programs in the developing world, including maternity homes, primary care centers, diagnostic clinics, dispensaries, and five general hospitals. More than two million outpatients a year, the majority of whom are non-Ismaili, receive services through these institutions.
The Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development is committed to the support of economic development activities in the third world through the promotion of projects in the private sector, primarily through equity participation in third world enterprises, to increase productivity and raise standards of living. The fund also collaborates with national and international agencies in the promotion of development institutions. Since 1963, more than 100 new enterprises, ranging from building materials and textiles to mining and tourism which today employ some 10,000 people, have been established in East, West, and Central Africa, as well as in Asia.
The Aga Khan Trust for Culture focuses attention on contemporary expressions of the Islamic humanistic tradition, concentrating largely on the built environment. The triennial Aga Khan Award for Architecture and its associated program of seminars encourage architectural excellence in an effort to enrich the physical environment of the Islamic world, while the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology provide graduate education to a new generation of architects, planners, and researchers.
The Ismailis first arrived in the United States in the early 1960s. The majority were students from the developing world who in the post-independence years came to study at institutions of higher learning. In the 1970s, largely as a result of political instability in parts of Africa and Asia, the community’s numbers in the United States increased significantly. Their education, linguistic, and professional skills have helped Ismailis to assimilate easily into the American social fabric. Today, Ismailis are settled throughout the country, and the community is administered by the Ismaili Council for the United States of America, based in New York. There are also local councils which operate under the direction of the national council in different regions of the country. Each council has portfolio members for community programs in such fields as education, health, youth and sports activities, economic development, and social welfare, who endeavor to secure continuing improvements in the quality of life of the community and assist it to make an effective contribution to the societies it lives among.
The American Ismaili.
Daftary, Farhad. A Short History of the Ismailis. Princeton, NJ: Marcus Wiener Publishers, 1998.
Howell, Georgina. “The Story of K.” Vanity Fair 51, no. 6 (June 1988): 100–108, 173–179.
Nanji, Azim. “The Nizari Ismaili Muslim Community in North America; Background and Development.” In The Muslim Community in North America, Earle H. Waugh, Baha Abu-Laban, and Regula B. Qureshi, eds. Edmonton, AB: University of Alberta Press, 1883.
Williams, Raymond Brady. Religions of Immigrants from India and Pakistan: New Threads of the American Tapestry. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1988.
3588 Plymouth Rd., No. 270, Ann Arbor, MI 48105
The Islamic Assembly of North America (IANA) was founded in 1993 by a group of American Muslims from various Muslim centers concerned with the propagation of Islam (dawah) in the United States. They shared a view that a combined effort was needed and that cooperative activity produced far greater results than did individual activity.
At the time of its founding, a set of goals were adopted that included work to unify and coordinate the efforts of the different dawah-oriented organizations in North America; to observe the current events in the Muslim world and analyze them in relation to the situation of American Muslims; to assist scholars, Islamic workers, and Muslim masses in any locality who were facing discrimination or persecution; to develop an effective media institute to serve North American Muslims; to direct dawah to youth; and to create programs and institutions for English-speaking Muslims.
Important to IANA is the application of what is considered the correct Islamic methodology as derived from the Book of Allah (Qur’an) and the sunnah (life and work) of the Messenger of Allah, according to the understanding and application of the early pious forefathers.
As part of its effort, IANA opened an office in Austin, Texas, from which to begin radio broadcasts. In 1999 it began live broadcasting through the Internet. The alHamdulillah program donated Islamic books to prison libraries. The assembly distributes a copy of the Qur’an especially to non-Muslims and, among other titles, has published a book on Jesus from a Muslim standpoint.
Islamic Assembly of North America (IANA). www.iananet.org.
Abdullah, Misha’aliban ibn. What Did Jesus Really Say? Plymouth, MI: IANA, 1996.
Ibrahim, I.A. A Brief Guide to Understanding Islam. Houston, TX: Darussalem, 1997.
166-26 89th Ave., Jamaica, NY 11432
Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), founded in the mid-1970s, includes a number of mosques across the United States that have as their goal the establishment of the Iqamat-ud-Deen (the Islamic system of life) as defined in the Qur’an and the Sunnah (life and works) of the Prophet Muhammad. ICNA has its base in the American Pakistani community and draws its inspiration from the Islamic revivalist movement in Pakistan, especially the Jamaate-Islami and the Tablighi Jama’at. The circle has developed an outward-looking program for the propagation of Islam in North America that includes activities aimed at the increase of Islamic knowledge and the enhancement of the character and the skills of those associated with ICNA. To that end, ICNA supports efforts for civil liberties and socio-economic justice in the society and encourages programs that serve the needy both in North America and around the world.
To embody its concern for spreading Islam, ICNA has developed what is termed the “Why Islam?” project, developed by circle members in New Jersey, and produced a set of pamphlets that deal with the Islamic option over the many other competing philosophies, religions, and “isms.” The project operates through a toll-free number, the Islamic Circle’s website, an outreach to prison inmates, and the distribution of the pamphlets by various avenues.
Those associated with the circle are expected to study the Qur’an, the Hadith, and other Islamic literature regularly; to spend a minimum of four hours each month on dawah (propagation) work; to invite at least two persons to become ICNA members every year; to contribute in support of the group; and weekly to invite at least one Muslim to come to the weekly prayer service at the ICNA center.
The circle is headed by its ameer, Dr. Zulfiqar Ali Shah, the secretary general, Naeem Baig, and the entral shura (council). The sisters’ wing (women’s organization) of ICNA has founded the Institute of Islamic Learning in which women may be trained in Islam. The circle was one of the founding members of the Islamic Shura Council of North America, a cooperative organization that includes the ministry of Imam W. Deen Mohammed, al-Ummah (the community of Imam Jamil al-Amin), and the Islamic Society of North America.
The Message; Noor.
Islamic Circle of North America. www.icna.org/icna/index.php.
PO Box 38, Plainfield, IN 46168
Islamic Society of North America, one of the largest Muslim bodies in the United States and Canada, is an outgrowth of the Indian/Pakistani phase of the twentieth-century Islamist revival that sought to call secularized Muslims back to a vision of Islam as a total way of life. The major organization of the movement, the Jamaate-Islami, was founded by Sayyid Abul A’la Mawdudi (1903–1979), who lived and work amid the Indian independence movement and the resultant separation of Pakistan as an Islamic state. Mawdudi emerged as a major commentator on the problems presented to Islam by Western culture Indian nationalism (which he saw as destructive of Muslim identity) and competing political ideologies. Based on his assessment of the situation, he began to reconstruct Islamic thought. He founded Jamaat-e-Islami in 1941, and subsequently moved to Pakistan to work for the formation of an Islamic state.
The spirit of Mawdudi’s movement came to North America in the 1950s with the arrival of the Indian and Pakistani Muslims for college study. These students took the lead in founding the Muslim Student Association of the United States and Canada in 1963. MSA spawned a host of organizations to serve various segments of the American and Canadian Muslim community such as the North America Islamic Trust (NAIT), the Islamic Medical Association, and the Muslim Arab Youth Association (MAYA). In the 1980s, the maturing of the early leaders of MSA, the steady migration of Muslims to North America, and the many mosques that had appeared across the continent led to the organizing of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA).
ISNA serves as a point of unity for many American Muslims and mosques, and sees as its primary task the nurturing of the American Muslim community. As an association of Muslim organizations and individuals it has established a unified platform of expression for Islam, encourages the development of educational, out-reach, and social services, and is constructing an enhanced image of Islam in North American society.
ISNA’s program is concentrated on the establishment of high-quality, full-time Islamic schools; the publication of outreach materials (especially for prisons and the military); the nurturing of strong and stable Muslim families; involvement in the social issues confronting North Americans; training Islamic workers, teachers, and imams; and assisting in the integration of Muslims into American political life.
ISNA has formed the Fiqh (law) Council that brings together a body of Islamic scholars who reside in the United States and Canada. The council receives and responds to inquiries from Muslims and makes itself available to resolve disputes between Muslim individuals and organizations following Muslim legal opinion. The council originated in the Religious Affairs Committee of the Muslim Students Association in the early 1960s. The committee evolved into the Fiqh Committee of the ISNA in 1980 and was transformed into the council in 1986. The Fiqh Council, as an affiliate of ISNA, advises it on matters relative to the application of Islamic lawn (shari’ah) in the individual and collective life of its membership. The council’s membership includes a number of scholars who have earned the respect of the larger Muslim community.
ISNA is led by its Majlis Ash-Shura (council). ISNA was a founding member of the Islamic Shura Council of North America, a cooperative organization that includes the Islamic Circle of North America (with whom ISNA shares its heritage), the ministry of Imam W. Deen Mohammed, and al-Ummah (the community led by Imam Jamil al-Amin). It facilitated the founding of a variety of Islamic organizations that have since matured into autonomous groups in their own right, such as the Association of Muslim Social Scientists, the Association of Muslim Scientists and Engineers, and the Islamic Medical Association of North America.
Islamic Society of North America. www.isna.net/.
1400 16th St. NW, B-112, Washington, DC 20036
17195 Silver Pkwy., No. 201, Fenton, MI 48430.
Islamic Supreme Council of America (ISCA), an organization that seeks the cooperation of varied segments of the Muslim community, has its base of support in the Naqshbandi-Haqqani Sufi Order and its charismatic leader, Mawlana Shaykh Nazim Adil al-Haqqani, the council’s founder. The goal of ISCA is to provide solutions to the problems faced by American Muslims based on the traditional Islamic legal rulings as provided by an international advisory board. The board is drawn from a group of high-ranking Islamic scholars. The council has pioneered an effort to integrate traditional scholarship to the challenges of maintaining Islamic belief in a modern, secular society.
The council attempts to facilitate individuals and organizations receiving legal advice from scholars and religious institutions around the world. At the same time, it tries to work proactively to present Islam as a religion of moderation, tolerance, peace, and justice. ISCA stresses the common heritage of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism in an effort to foster mutual respect and reshape the image of Islam in the West. To that end it supports peace efforts worldwide, condemns violations of human rights, denounces all types of terrorism (including intellectual, cultural, and ideological), favors the nonproliferation of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons, and is committed to the values of charity, family love, education, and public responsibility in American life.
The ISCA program centers on a set of publications, meetings, seminars, and conferences whose purpose is the education of U.S. officials on Islamic culture and history. ISCA also works with the representatives of Muslim nations as a reliable source for traditional Islamic literature on a spectrum of topics.
The council is headed by its chairman, currently Shaykh Muhammad Hisham Kabbani, and a large advisory committee that includes a number of Muslim scholars and government officials. Kamilat, the affiliated women’s organization, has built a cooperative network with various Muslim groups to assist Muslim widows, divorcees, and working mothers.
The Muslim Magazine.
Islamic Supreme Council of America. www.islamicsupremecouncil.org.
Kabbani, Muhammad Hisham. The Approach of Armageddon?: An Islamic Perspective. Washington, DC: Isca Publications, 2003.
———. Classical Islam and the Naqshbandi Sufi Tradition. Washington, DC: Isca Publications, 2003.
———. Naqshbandi Sufi Tradition Guidebook of Daily Practices and Devotions. Washington, DC: Isca Publications, 2004.
PO Box 1896, Falls Church, VA 22041
Muslim American Society (MAS) is one of several Muslim associations that has its roots in the Indo-Pakistani Islamist revival, the Muslim Student Association, and the Islamic Society of North America. Many of the people who founded MAS had previously been associated with the Islamic Society of North America. They saw themselves as particularly concerned with the changing dynamics of Islamic society in North America and a desire to construct a new foundation for the Islamic work perceived to be needed in the twenty-first century.
To that end, MSA has projected a six-point program for the mosques and individuals associated with it: to present the message of Islam to the public; to encourage Muslims in building a virtuous and moral society; to offer the Islamic alternative to society’s major problems; to promote family values; to advocate for the human values of brotherhood, equality, justice, mercy, compassion, and peace; and to foster unity among Muslims and Muslim organizations.
Among MAS’major programs is the Muslim American Society Council of Islamic Schools, which as its educational branch offers several technical and support services and professional training programs for teachers and administrators of Islamic schools.
Islamic American University, 17300 W. 10 Mile Rd., Ste. 2, Southfield, MI 48075.
The American Muslim.
Muslim American Society. www.masnet.org.
c/o Islamic Center of America, 19500 Ford Rd., Dearborn, MI 48128
Jaffari Islamic Centre, 7340 Bayview Ave., Thornhill, ON L3T 2R7
Of the two orthodox branches of the Muslim Community the Shi’a is by far the smaller. It includes some Iranian-Americans though Shi’as of other nationalities (Lebanese, Pakistani, Yemeni) are also present in significant numbers. The oldest and among the most prominent Shi’a centers is the Islamic Center of America, a Lebanese center that emerged as the Detroit Islamic community split into the traditional Sunni and Shi’a factions early in the twentieth century. Growth in the Shi’as was marked by its 1949 invitation to Imam Mohamad Jawad Chirri to become the community’s spiritual leader and the establishment of the center in the 1960s under his guidance.
More typical of the Shi’a centers established since 1965 is the Islamic Society of Georgia, a Pakistani-American center in Atlanta founded in 1970. It is a major distributor of Shi’a publications from around the world and publishes Islamic Affairs. It has made a major priority of its program the circulation of Shi’a literature to “willing readers” at little or no cost. The Midwest Association of Shi’a Organized Muslims is a similar center in Chicago.
A step forward in the organization of the Shi’a community was the 1970 formation of the Shi’a Association of North America by families in New York and New Jersey. Through its newsletter, Islamic Review, and other publications, it has led in the establishment of traditional standards of belief and practice in the Shi’a community nationally. The Iranian Revolution under the Ayatollah Khomeini has had a marked effect of uniting the American Shi’a community, which has responded with strong support. In like measure, the American-Lebanese Shi’as have identified with the Shi’as of Lebanon, though they are somewhat divided in their support of the various factions that emerged in the 1970s.
While the majority of English-language Shi’a literature still originates from foreign presses, several publishing ventures have emerged in the United States. The Detroit center has published a number of works by Imam Chirri, an eminent Islamic scholar. It is joined by Free Islamic Literature, Inc. of Houston, Texas, and Mehfile Shahe Khorasan Charitable Trust of Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey.
Not reported. There are several dozen Shi’a centers scattered across the United States.
The Islamic Seminary, New York, New York.
Islamic Affairs • The Islamic Review • Husaini News
Islamic Center of America. www.icofa.com.
Chirri, Mohammad Jawad. The Brother of the Prophet Mohammad. 2 vols. Detroit: Islamic Center of Detroit, 1979–1982.
———. Inquiries about Islam. Detroit: Islamic Center of Detroit, 1965.
Iman Khomeini, Pope and Christianity. Tehran, Iran: Islamic Propaganda Organization, 1983.
The Life of Iman Husain. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Mehfile Shahe Khorasan Charitable Trust, n.d. Tract.
Qazwini, Imam Hassan. American Crescent: A Muslim Cleric on the Power of His Faith, the Struggle against Prejudice, and the Future of Islam in America. New York: Random House, 2007. 282 pp.
Shariati, Ali. Islamic View of Man. Houston, TX: Free Islamic Literature, 1979.
c/oAnjuman-e-Ezzi, Washington, DC, 18728 New Hampshire Ave., Ashton, MD 20861
International headquarters: Dawat-e-Hadiyah, Administration of the 52nd al-Dai al-Mutlaq, His Holiness Dr. Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin, c/o Saifee Masjid, Burhani Park, Lagos Road, City Centre, Nairobi, Kenya. Canadian headquarters: c/o Anjuman-e-Najmi, Toronto, 61 Queensmill Ct., Richmond Hill, ON L4B 1N2.
The Daudi Bohras constitute a worldwide religious group officially known as the Shiah Fatimi Ismaili Tayyibi Dawoodi Bohra, a community within the larger world of Orthodox Islam. This group follows a specific code of beliefs, doctrines, and tenets founded on the Qur’an and the Shariah, as taught and interpreted by their leader, the Dai al-Mutlaq. The Daudi Bohras traces its ancestry to the early conversions of Hindus in India in the eleventh century to the Ismaili branch of Shi’a Islam. These converts in turn gave their allegiance to the dai mutlaq in Yemen. They are named after their 27th dai, Daud ibn Qutubshah (d. 1612).
The Daudi Bohra community has largely been molded into its present form by the two dais who led the community in the twentieth century. The 51st dai, Dr. Sayyidna Tahir Saifuddin (1915–1965), was an accomplished scholar and capable organizer who revitalized the community during his half century of leadership and guided it through the tumultuous period of world wars and independence of nations. The present dai, H. H. Dr. Sayyidna Mohammed Burhanuddin, has continued his predecessor’s endeavors with particular emphasis on strengthening the community’s Islamic practices.
The religious hierarchy of the Daudi Bohras is headed by the dai mutlaq who is appointed by his predecessor in office. The dai appoints two others to the subsidiary ranks of madhun (licentiate) and mukasir (executor). These positions are followed by the rank of shaykh and mullah, both of which are held by hundreds of Bohras. An aamil (usually a graduate of the order’s institution of higher learning, al-Jamiah al-Sayfiyah) leads the local congregation. The local organizations administer the activities of the local Bohras and report directly to the central administration of the dai, called al-Dawah al-Hadiyah.
At the age of puberty every Bohra believer takes the traditional oath of allegiance, which requires the initiate to adhere to the shariah and accept the leadership of the imam and the dai. This oath is renewed annually. The Bohras follow the Fatimid school of jurisprudence that recognizes seven pillars of Islam, the first of which is walayah (love and devotion) for Allah, the Prophets, the imam, and the dai. The other six are tahrah (purity & cleanliness), salah (prayers), zakah (purifying religious dues), sawm (fasting), hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca), and jihad (holy war). Pilgrimages to the shrines of the saints are also an important part of the devotional life of Bohras.
Within their community, Daudi Bohras speak an arabicized form of Gujrati, called lisan al-dawah, which is permeated with Arabic words and written in Arabic script. They also follow a Fatimid lunar calendar, which fixes the number of days in each month.
Dawat-e-Hadiyah, Allah’s sovereignty over Heavens and Earth, is entrusted to the imam (who in the Ismaili tradition is known as the Hidden or Secluded Imam). In his absence, the Dawat-e-Hadiyah is headed by the Dai al-Mutlaq, the imam’s representative and vicegerent, the supreme head of the Dawoodi Bohra community. Today, al-Dai al-Fatimi, His Holiness Dr. Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin (TUS), is the 52nd Dai al-Mutlaq, the latest in a chain of succession that commenced in 1138 c.e. He succeeded to the throne of Dawat in 1965 as the successor to his father, H. H. Dr. Syedna Taher Saifuddin, the 51st Dai al-Mutlaq.
In the United States, the affairs of Dawat-e-Hadiyah are carried out in accordance with the wishes and direction of the Dai al-Mutlaq through the Dawat-eHadiyah (America). Members of the Daudi Bohra community migrated to the United States in the 1950s with the encouragement, permission, and blessings of the Dai al-Mutlaq. There are now a number of communities across the United States and Canada.
Not reported. Daudi Bohras number about a million and reside in India, Pakistan, the Middle East, East Africa (since the eighteenth century), and the West (since the 1950s).
Shiah Fatimi Ismaili Tayyibi Dawoodi Bohra (Daudi Bohras). www.washingtondcjamaat.org.
Daftary, Farhad. A Short History of the Ismailis. Princeton, NJ: Marcus Wiener Publishers, 1998.
c/o Islamic Center, 2551 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20008
The Council of Muslim Communities of Canada, PO Box 771, Station B, Willowdale, ON, Canada M2K 2R1.
The Islamic world, though concentrated in the Arab nations of the Middle East, stretches from Yugoslavia to Indonesia and includes not only a large part of the former U.S.S.R. but a growing community in Africa south of the Sahara. Since 1965, the Islamic community, which had been concentrated in the Midwest and a few eastern urban centers, has blossomed into a significant religious element of American life in every part of the United States. Literally millions of immigrants from Islamic Asia, Africa, and Europe have settled in North America and begun the generation-long process of building ethnic community centers and facilities for worship (often the same building).
Unlike much of Christendom, Islam is organized into a number of autonomous centers. Each center (which may be called a community center, a mosque, a musjid) tends to be dominated by one ethnic community, though outside the largest urban centers, where a variety of mosques can be found, centers have welcomed people of various nationalities into affiliation. Many of the major centers have periodicals, which have both a primary local audience and a national circulation. The mosque, headed by the imam (minister-teacher), is the basic center of Islam.
Above the level of the local centers, a variety of national and continental organizations have been formed to mobilize the various local Islamic communities, provide the public (largely ignorant of Islam) with information, and coordinate the activities (particularly the propagation of the faith) of the community at large. These organizations, whose membership will come from a variety of ethnic backgrounds, tend to be divided politically. Each organization will be ideologically aligned to, for example, different factions in the Middle East, and/or attuned to a more-or-less activist role in support of various concerns of the land from which they emigrated. Political activism is particularly noticeable in those groups that serve the large Muslim community on the nation’s campuses. Local centers often affiliate with several of the competing national associations.
Symbolic of Sunni Muslim presence in America is the Islamic Center in Washington, D.C. Begun in 1949, it took seven years to complete. It was officially opened in 1957. While begun as a center for diplomatic personnel, with financial support from seventeen countries, with the growth of Islam in North America it has become a place to which all American Sunnis look as a visible point of unity in the otherwise decentralized Islamic community. The importance of the center was dramatically underscored in the early 1980s when it was taken over by a group who supported the Iranian Revolution under the Ayatollah Khomeini and opposed the influence of the ambassadors from Saudi Arabia and other Islamic countries. The takeover disrupted the center for several years and led to the withdrawal of its prominent iman, Dr. Muhammad Abdul Rauf, a leading Islamic apologist in North America.
Among the oldest of the Canadian-United States organizations is the Federation of Islamic Organizations in the United States and Canada. It was founded in 1952, largely as a result of the efforts of Abdullah Ingram of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He called a meeting attended primarily by Lebanese Muslims, representative of the older American Muslim centers, and formed the International Muslim Society, which two years later became the federation. The federation has as its goals the perpetuation of Islam and Muslim culture and the dissemination of correct information about Muslim society worldwide. It publishes a periodical, The Muslim Star, and holds annual conventions, usually in the Midwest. Federation accomplishments have been related to the fellowship of various Muslim centers across national and ethnic boundaries, and more activist groups, while acknowledging the contribution of the federation, saw the need for further organizations.
The Islamic Society of North America emerged in the early 1980s out of the Muslim Students Association originally founded in 1952. It represents a broadening focus of concern by former students who moved into roles of leadership in the Muslim, academic and professional communities in America. The society is headquartered at the Islamic Teaching Center, a large complex in suburban Indianapolis, from which it oversees the network of subsidiary organizations it has fostered and nurtured.
From its original goals, developed to assist graduate students temporarily in the United States for study to survive in a non-Muslim environment, the society has since 1975 refocused its attention on building Islamic structures among a permanent and growing North American Islamic population and actively propagating the faith among the non-Muslim public. To these ends, the society has established the Islamic Medical Association, the Association of Muslim Social Scientists, and the Association of Muslim Scientists and Engineers. It has published numerous books (including the proceedings of the many conferences it sponsors) and pamphlets (especially a set designed to introduce Islam to non-Muslims) and several periodicals, most prominently Al-Ittihad and Islamic Horizons. The Muslim Student Association continues as one department of the society. The Islamic Teaching Center is the main structure engaged in dawah, the propagation of the faith.
Possibly the most inclusive Islamic organization for Sunni Muslims is the Council of Islamic Organizations of America (both the Federation of Islamic Associations and the Islamic Society of North America are affiliates). The idea of the council emerged in 1973 at a meeting in Saudi Arabia. Then the Muslim World League, an international Muslim organization with offices in New York City, organized the first Islamic Conference of North America, which met April 22–24, 1977, in Newark, New Jersey. The council was organized at that gathering to meet primary needs for unity and coordination of the many Islamic centers in North America. In its lengthy list of goals, it set itself the task of fostering unity, establishing and propagating the faith in its fullness, perpetuating modest dress codes, assisting in building mosques and other facilities for Muslims, and funding various designated projects of broad Muslim interest.
Also in the 1970s, the Council of Imams in North America formed as a continentwide professional organization for the leaders of the various mosques and Islamic centers.
The several organizations mentioned above are but a few of the many new structures being established in the Muslim community. All of the organizations have been assisted by the development of Muslim publishing concerns, such as American Trust Publications, affiliated with the Islamic Society of North America; Kazi Publications in Chicago; and Crescent Publications, Tacoma Park, Maryland. As of the mid-1980s, however, the majority of English-language literature produced for the American Muslim community is still published overseas.
Estimates vary on the size of the Sunni Muslim community. As many as 400 mosques and centers have been counted. Approximately 3,000,000 immigrants from predominantly Muslim countries have come to the United States. Together with converts, including large followings in American black communities, the total number of Muslims approaches the size of the Jewish community.
American Islamic College, Chicago, Illinois.
Muslim Star • Islamic Horizons • al-Ittihad • The Minaret • Path of Righteousness • Al’Nourl • Islam Canada
Islamic Center. www.islamiccenterdc.com.
Abdalati, Hammudah. Islam in Focus. Indianapolis, IN: American Trust Publications, 1975.
Avdich, Kamal. Outline of Islam. Northbrook, IL: The Islamic Cultural Center, n.d.
Haneef, Suzanne. What Everyone Should Know about Islam and Muslims. Chicago: Kazi Publications, 1979.
Hussain, S. Mazhar, ed. Proceedings of the First Islamic Conference of North America. New York: Muslim World League, 1977.
Rauf, Muhammad Abdul. Islam, Creed and Worship. Washington, DC: Islamic Center, 1974.
Soddiqui, Moulana Mohammad Abdul-Aleem. Elementary Teachings of Islam. Tacoma Park, MD: Crescent Publications, n.d.
c/o T.I.N.A. Center, 250 W. Saint Charles Rd., Villa Park, IL 62181-2430
Tanzeem-e-Islami Pakistan, 67-A, Allama Iqbal Rd., Garhee Shahoo, Lahore.
Tanzeem-e-Islami grew out of the Indo-Pakistani branch of the Islamist revival of the twentieth century, which had as its keynote that the teachings of the Qur’an and those of the Sunnah (life and work) of the Prophet Muhammad must be implemented in their totality, especially in the public (social, cultural, juristic, political, economic) spheres of life. In India, the revival is traced to the works of Allama Muhammad Iqbal, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, and most prominently Sayyid Abul A’la Mawdudi (1903–1979) and the Jamaat-e-Islami, which he founded in 1941. Following the creation of Pakistan (1947), Maududi and the Jamaat decided to take part in the country’s secular electoral process, a change from its earlier revolutionary methodology. Many perceived that the result of this change was the degeneration of the Jamaat from a revolutionary force into a mere political party. In 1975, Tanzeem-e-Islami was founded by Dr. Israr Ahmad (b.1932) to continue the original thrust of the Jamaat-e-Islami.
Ahmad, the son of a government employee, received his degree in Islamic Studies from the University of Karachi (1965). As a student he was influenced by Iqbal and Mawdudi, and later worked with the Jamaat-e-Islami. He resigned from the Jamaat in 1957 and continued to teach the Qur’an throughout Pakistan. A physician, Ahmad gave up his practice in 1971 in order to launch Tanzeem-eIslami. He has authored more than 60 books, nine of which have been translated into English. In 1967, he wrote a tract, “Islamic Renaissance: The Real Task Ahead,” to explain his basic ideas that the Islamic Renaissance necessarily implies the revitalizing of the imam (true faith and certitude) among the Muslims, particularly their intelligentsia, and the revitalization of imam is based on the propagation of the Qur’anic teachings in contemporary idiom, at the highest level of scholarship.
According to the Tanzeem-e-Islami perspective, the individual Muslim is obligated to develop real faith and conviction in his heart; to live a life of total obedience to the injunctions of the Islamic law (shari’ah); to propagate and disseminate the message of Islam; and to try his utmost to establish the ascendancy of Islam over all manmade systems of life. Tanzeem-e-Islami seeks to assist Muslims in carrying out these obligations.
In regard to propagating the faith, Tanzeem-e-Islami operates out of the spirit of Al-Deen Al-Naseeha (loyalty and sincerity toward each other) and organizes activity suggested by Al-Aqrabo Fal-Aqrab (i.e., one who is nearer should be given priority). Propagation extends from an individual to his family, his kith and kin, and then gradually his surroundings. Tanzeem-e-Islami seeks to supply the necessary religious teaching and training to this new generation. A most important task at the present moment is counteracting false beliefs and customs refuting the un-Islamic thoughts and philosophy of the modern age.
Tanzeem-e-Islam seeks the support of Sunni Muslims. Membership begins with the Baiy’ah or pledge of obedience (under the shari’ah) to the Ameer of Tanzeem-e-Islami, Dr. Israr Ahmad. At that time, the new member must promise to give up that which is considered disliked by Allah and will try to fulfill the obligations owed as a Muslim.
Tanzeem-e-Islami believes that the Western constitutional and democratic model is not suitable for the duty of struggling for the establishment of the Deen. In the baiyah system, one person gives a call that he is going to initiate the struggle for the Deen of Allah and invites people to join him. In this system, the leader (Ameer) is required to consult with his rufaqa (those who join him) but is not bound by any majority decisions. However, the Ameer is to be obeyed, though only within the bounds of the law.
Through the 1980s and 1990s, members of Tanzeem-e-Islami migrated to the United States and Canada. Offices are maintained in the Chicago and New York City metropolitan areas and in Montreal and Toronto, Canada. European centers are located in London and Paris. The organization has developed a radio and video broadcast through the Internet.
Quran College Lahore of Arts and Science, Lahore, Pakistan.
The Qur’anic Horizons.
Ahmad, Shagufta. Dr. Israr Ahmad’s Political Thought and Activities. Montreal, Canada: McGill University, M.A. thesis, 1993. Rpt.: Lahore, Pakistan, Markazi Anjuman Khuddam-ul-Quran Lahore, 1996.
5911 8th Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11220
United Canadian Muslim Association. 182 Rhodes Ave., Toronto ON, Canada M4L 3A1; Islamic Culture Center of Rochester. 853 Culver Rd., Rochester, NY 14609
United American Muslim Association was founded in 1980 by a group of predominantly Turkish-American residents of Brooklyn, New York. The association was formed concurrently with the purchase of the building that has become Fatih Mosque, the parent mosque of the organization. Several other mosques were subsequently formed, including one in Canada that now serves as the headquarters of the Canadian affiliate, the United Canadian Muslim Association.
The association provides Islamic education for students (including study of Turkish history and geography), and since 1995 has organized a summer camp for its youth. It supports two foundations: the Turkish American Educational and Cultural Foundation and the American Turkish Islamic Cultural Foundation. Female members have organized the Fatih Turkish American Woman Assembly.
Not reported. UAMA has two branches on Long Island and one each in Boston; Rochester, New York; New Jersey; Chicago; Pennsylvania; Delaware; and Connecticut; and its Canadian affiliate has two in Toronto and one each in Montreal and Vancouver.
United American Muslim Association. www.fatihcami.org.
Box 43476, Tucson, AZ 85719
United Submitters International was founded by Rashad Khalifa (1935–1990), the imam (supreme leader) of a Muslim center in Tucson, Arizona. Born in Egypt, Khalifa was the son of a Sufi master in the Shadhili Order. He was trained in the natural sciences and moved to the United States in 1959 to study at the University of California at Riverside. He received a Ph.D. in biochemistry in the early 1960s. He married an American in 1963 and later became a citizen. While pursuing his career as an agricultural biochemist, he also conducted private research on the Qur’an, the Muslim bible. The results were first published in 1973 as Miracle of the Quran: Significance of the Mysterious Alphabets.
Khalifa was convinced of the miraculous nature of the Qur’an and his writing was a defense of this belief. His early writing was given broad coverage in the Islamic press because of his claims of scientific proof of the Qur’an’s miraculousness. Using a computer, he discovered what he believed was a complex mathematical coding within the book. He concluded that it was organized around the number 19, that the organization was so complex that no human being could have worked it out (the keystone for his argument of its divine element), and that only with the arrival of the computer could we now see the mathematical sophistication of it. He expanded upon this basic notion in a second and more popular book in 1981, The Computer Speaks: God’s Message to the World.
While defending the Qur’an, Khalifa also began to attack some basic Islamic affirmations. He suggested that two verses of the Qur’an were satanic insertions in the text. He attacked Muslims for their following the Hadith and the Sunna, both of which he saw as human inventions working against the Qur’an. He said it was idolatrous to venerate Muhammad and his writings. He also suggested that he was a messenger just as were Abraham and Muhammad. He claimed that on December 21, 1971, his soul was taken somewhere and introduced to all the prophets and they in turn designated him the “Apostle of the Covenant.” His opinions concerning the Hadith and Sunna correlated with his notions of assimilation into Western society as he opposed the dress codes, the segregation of men and women, and other prohibitions they articulated. While many appreciated his work on the Qur’an, others denounced his ideas, questioning his authority and the unworthiness of the Hadith and Sunna. He was labeled a heretic and charlatan.
In the midst of the controversy, Khalifa found many supporters. Around 1979 he became the imam of a masjid (mosque) in Tucson, Arizona, and began a magazine, Submitters Perspective. He used his position to argue against the slavish adherence to what he saw as outdated Islamic practice. He was attacked by leading Muslim thinkers such as Ahmed Deedat of South Africa, Abu Ameenah Bilal Phillips, and Muzammil Saddiqi.
On January 31, 1990, Khalifa was murdered. James Williams, a member of an ultraconservative Muslim group, Al-Fuqra, was later arrested and convicted of Khalifa’s murder. The center in Tucson has continued with a collective leadership and followers of its martyred imam can be found in Phoenix, Arizona, Southern California, and British Columbia.
United Submitters International. www.masjidtucson.org.
Haddad, Yvonne Yazbeck, and Jane Idleman Smith. Mission to America: Five Islamic Sectarian Communities in North America. Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida, 1993. 226 pp.
Hosenball, Mark. “Another Holy War: Waged on American Soil.” Newsweek 123, 9 (February 28, 1994): 30–31.
Khalifa, Rashad. The Computer Speaks: God’s Message to the World. Tucson, AZ: Renaissance Productions International, 1981. 263 pp.
———. Miracle of the Quran: Significance of the Mysterious Alphabets. St. Louis, MO: Islamic Productions International, 1973.
———. Quran: The Final Testament. Tucson, AZ: Islamic Productions International, 1989.
———. Quran, Hadith, and Islam. Tucson, AZ: Islamic Productions International, 1982.
Quran: The Final Scripture. Trans. by Rashad Khalifa. Tucson, AZ: Islamic Productions, 1981. 525 pp.
A strictly monotheistic faith, Islam is the religion of more than 1.2 billion people, or a fifth of the world population. Muslims can be found mostly in Western and Central Asia, Southeast Asia, and Africa. Only about 350 million live in the Arab world.
Pre-Islamic Arabia and the Rise of Islam
Islam appeared in the seventh century at a time of social and religious decay in the Arabian Peninsula. Arabian society was essentially tribal and the supremacy of tribal law encouraged warfare, raiding, and vendettas. Usurious economic practices led to the impoverishment and enslavement of a number of weaker tribes, and social ills such as alcoholism and prostitution were rampant. Associationism (or shirk, as the pre-Islamic religious tradition was referred to at the time) was the main faith, and it acknowledged a number of intercessory gods associated with the Creator, Allah. The representations of these gods were housed in an important shrine (the Kaʿba) in Mecca and attracted most Arabian tribes at the time of the annual pilgrimage (hajj). But Associationism was losing its appeal, as can be seen from the spread of Judaism, Christianity, and especially Hanifism, a local monotheism that took Abraham as its central figure and maintained a simple ethical doctrine and the inevitability of a Day of Judgment.
Islam arose claiming to be the embodiment of Hanifism and the continuation of earlier monotheistic traditions. Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam, started preaching in Mecca in 611 c.e. and quickly gained a strong following. Worried that it might lose its profitable control over the pilgrimage, the leadership of Mecca launched a merciless war on the new faith, forcing the Prophet to seek refuge in 622 c.e. in a neighboring town, Medina, in an event known as hijra (migration) that marks the beginning of the lunar calendar of Islam. Having prohibited alcohol, gambling, prostitution, raiding, and usury, and prescribed zakah (alms-tax) to restore economic equality, replaced the tribal bond with the bond of faith, and instituted Islamic law as the sole reference in settling disputes, Islam spread rapidly throughout Arabia, despite the continuing hostility of Mecca. But since half of Mecca's population had already converted to the new faith, the surrender of the city was only a matter of time, and when the Prophet died in 632 c.e., most of Arabia was Muslim.
Under the first four rashidun (rightly guided) caliphs, the Islamic state spread quickly in the Near East, where it was welcomed by a local Semitic and Arab population that was only too pleased to be rid of the ethnically foreign and abusive rule of the Byzantines, as well as in Persia, where the Sassanid Empire had already started to crumble. Later, the Umayyad dynasty (661–750), which followed the rashidun caliphs, spread the frontiers of the new empire from Spain to India.
Theology and Beliefs
Tawhid, the concept of the absolute unity and transcendence of God, forms the cornerstone of Islamic theology as expressed in the Qurʾan, the holy book of Islam, which the Muslims believe to be the verbatim word of God, revealed to the Prophet in successive revelations over the span of his prophetic career. Tawhid forms the content of the shahada (literally, "witnessing," the profession of faith that states that there is no god but God and that Muhammad is His messenger) which therefore constitutes the only requirement for conversion to Islam. The shahada and the four main rituals compulsory on the faithful (worshipping salah five times a day, fasting from dawn to sunset through the month of Ramadan, performing the pilgrimage to Mecca once in a lifetime, and paying the zakah, or alms-tax, annually) eventually became known as the five pillars of Islam.
The Qurʾan represents God as an omnipotent, all-powerful Creator, Master of the Day of Judgment. All of creation is created to worship God; humanity, which received lordship over creation when it accepted God's vice-regency (khilafa) on earth, is to account on the Day of Judgment for "what [they] did with the boon of life" (Qurʾan 102:8). All human beings are under the same obligation to obey the divine law ("Noblest among you is the most righteous" Qurʾan 49:13), and this equality is further expressed in the universality of the messages that God sends to His creatures throughout time and place, starting with Adam and concluding with Muhammad ("There is not one community wherein a warner has not been sent" Qurʾan 35:24). Other religions are therefore considered to be based on divine revelations that had been somewhat altered by oral transmission over time, but their followers (the People of the Book) can be ensured reward in paradise given belief in God and good deeds: "The Muslims, the Sabeans, the Christians, the Jews, anyone who believes in God . . . and does good deeds shall find their reward with God and will not come to fear or grief" (Qurʾan 2:62). Although the Qurʾan only mentions Semitic prophets (including Jesus, whom it celebrates as a human messenger of God, and local Arabian prophets), the designation of "the People of the Book" was later extended by the Muslims to all other main religious traditions they encountered, on the basis of the Qurʾanic affirmation
of the universality of prophecy. Muslims and followers of other traditions are exhorted to cooperate in establishing a moral society and prohibiting evil and mischief.
The Qurʾan exhibits a firmly actionalist system of ethics based on individual responsibility in the realization of the optimal social, economic, and political structure of the umma, the universal community of believers. Mutual consultation (shura) for the ideal political system, just and fair business practices in the economic system, and financial and moral responsibility to one's extended family members in the social system are to be supplemented by various safety nets for the more vulnerable segments of society, such as zakah (poor-tax) and mahr (the inalienable
dowry due the bride). Though no self-denial is advocated, the individual is urged to exercise restraint over his and her natural appetites and to show rahma (compassion, forgiveness) in all dealings with one's fellow human beings. Pride and greed are especially condemned, as they lead to injustice to others and hence to oneself (zulm al-nafs), ultimately leading to the path of self-destruction. There is no concept of sinful nature, but recurrent sin leads to the hardening of the soul and the eventual silencing of one's conscience. The partial rewards and opportunities provided in this life are considered to be just as much a test to the individual as the difficulties and hardships, and one is exhorted to exercise sabr (steadfastness) in the face of life's challenges.
The difficulty of the task is acknowledged by the Qurʾan, which expresses faith in humanity's ultimate success in carrying out God's trusteeship. The individual is urged to remain focused on his or her relationship with God and to never fail to seek Him, for He "hears the prayers of everyone who calls on Him" (Qurʾan 2:186). This intensely personal and spiritual relationship, which the Qurʾan tries to integrate in the individual's life through the five daily prayers, also expresses the human need for the presence and support of one's Creator and Sustainer, for only "with the remembrance of God do human hearts find peace and come to rest" (Qurʾan 13:30). Thus the Qurʾan postulates a direct and intimate relationship between the individual and God (hence the absence of clergy in Islam) and God is said to be closer to His creatures than their jugular vein.
Paradise and Hell are in the Qurʾanic view the consummation of the individual's life on earth. What is to come is therefore not "another world," but the response to what one has done in this life. This world is to be recreated in a different form at
the end of its time span, ushering in the Day of Judgment that will inaugurate punishment and reward; these are set along an absolute scale of justice tempered only by God's infinite mercy, which is assured to all those who genuinely seek it.
Political and Cultural Developments
Islam as a faith spread first in the Near East and Egypt, where in the first few centuries Arab Islamic civilization flourished. The caliphate split after the Abbassid takeover of the Near East and Egypt, while Spain remained under Umayyad rule until 1492. The Abbassid dynasty ruled until 1258, though in the latter part of their rule only nominal allegiance was given to the caliphs in Baghdad by the amirs and sultans who, in effect, governed the various provinces of the empire and fought each other over territory. The internecine war, partly caused by Sunni-Shiʿite conflict, allowed the invading Crusaders (eleventh through thirteenth centuries) to establish a state in Palestine. It was not until Salah al-Din (Saladin, d. 1193) that Egypt and the Near East were united under Sunni rule, which in turn helped to defeat the Crusaders and later to repulse the Mongols who had sacked Baghdad in 1258. But as the Arab world fell into decline, the Sunni Ottoman Turks swept through Byzantium and extended their rule over the Near East and most of North Africa, ushering in Ottoman Islamic civilization. In the East, the Shiʿite Safavid dynasty took over Iran at the end of the sixteenth century, helping to spread a highly sophisticated Persian culture throughout Central Asia and into Northern India, where a brilliant Indian Islamic civilization climaxed under the Great Moghuls between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries.
During this period Islamic arts, science, and technology flourished throughout the Muslim world, with contributions in astronomy (al-Biruni, d. 1048; Ibn al-Shatir, d. 1375), algebra and trigonometry (al-Khawarizmi, d. 850; Umar al-Khayyam, d. 1131; Sharaf al-Din al-Tusi, d. 1213), physics and chemistry (Ibn Hayyan, d. 815; Ibn al-Haytham, d. 1250), and biology and medicine (Abu Bakr al-Razi, d. 925; Ibn Sina, d. 1037, also known as Avicenna, whose Canon of Medicine remained the definitive reference book in the field until the seventeenth century in both East and West.)
The emphasis on submitting to the divine will (the literal meaning of Islam ) and fulfilling the main Qurʾanic injunction, "to enjoin the good and prohibit evil" led to the rapid development of Islamic law (fiqh). In terms of legal sources, the Qurʾan was the first and absolute reference; and since it had mandated obedience to the Prophet, his sunna (ex-ample), which was provided in the reports of his sayings and deeds, naturally came second. Much of the law, however, had to be inferred, and the jurists turned to their own intellectual effort (ijtihad) expressed in the methodology of qiyas ("analogical reasoning," that is, finding a ratio legis parallel to one already identified in the Qurʾan or sunna ). Such individual opinions, however, did not become binding until they submitted to ijma, or consensus of the schools of law, though all parties acknowledged to the others the right to dissent (ikhtilaf). Eventually, the schools of law coalesced into four main schools. The processes by which laws may be derived became the subject of an extensive and separate discipline, usul al-fiqh (literally, the principles of fiqh ). Islamic law developed rapidly into an extensive field in the first few centuries of Muslim history, but innovation subsided considerably as a result of the reliance on precedents and past consensus.
The most important schism in the Muslim community occurred over a political split in the early community. After the Prophet's death, most Muslims supported the election of Abu Bakr and later of Umar ibn al-Khattab, the Prophet's closest companions. However, a small number known as the Shiʿat Ali (the party of Ali), insisted on keeping the caliphate within the Prophet's family and championed his cousin Ali. Eventually, the Shiʿa became a religious movement, basing their position on the claim that God would not leave His community without guidance, and justifying it through prophetic sayings and esoteric interpretation of the Qurʾan. The belief in the authority of the imams (the leaders who were entitled to rule) was made part of the Islamic creed and gave rise to a clerical structure in Shiʿite Islam. In all other matters of fiqh and dogma, the Shiʿa are similar to the Sunnis, though this applies only to the Ithnaʿashariyya ("Twelvers," who believe in a line of twelve imams), and the Zaydis (who recognize only five imams) and not to the other groups (the Ismaʿilis, the Alawis, the Druze, etc.) that split from them and whose beliefs ran contrary to the doctrines of tawhid and the finality of Muhammad's prophecy. Thus the main difference between the Sunnis and the Shiʿa lies more in the political issue of the community leadership (with the beliefs and practices that the latter entails) than in doctrinal difference of dogma.
The philosophical developments in the Muslim world expressed the tension between the Islamic (Semitic) worldview and the Hellenistic heritage, which to some extent had become part of the Near East's cultural makeup. At one end stood the heirs of Hellenistic thought (called falasifa ) such as al-Kindi (d. 870), al-Farabi (d. 950), and Ibn Rushd (d. 1198, also known as Averroes) who used Greek logic and incorporated into their works Greek notions such as the eternity of the world, the distinction between essence and existence, and Hellenistic angelology.
At the other end stood the traditionists, staunch defenders of Islamic dogma and method, generally represented by the Hanbalis. Their greatest proponent was Ibn Taymiyya (d. 1328), who delivered devastating blows to the Greek logic used by the falasifa in his al-Radd ala al-Mantiqiyyin. In between the two groups were two theological Kalam schools; the earlier one, known as the Muʿtazila, was closer to the philosophers and upheld the independence of reason from revelation, the necessity for God to abide by justice, and the creation of the Qurʾan; such views prompted the rise of the later school, the Ashʿariyya, which restored the pre-eminence of revelation, the absolute omnipotence of God, and the uncreated nature of the word of God (making use of a somewhat revised Greek logic). Their greatest representative was Abu Hamid al-Ghazzali (d. 1111), who used his incisive analysis of causality to undermine the philosophers.
Mystical thought, which had a basis in the spiritual worldview of the Qurʾan and the simple and intense piety of early Muslims, became more formalized through the gradual absorption of Hellenistic, Persian, and Indian thought, and became known as Sufism. The main architect of the Sufi theosophy was Ibn Arabi (d. 1240). Sufi poetical expression of the divine love, articulated by Rabiʿa al-Adawiyya (d. 801) and Jalal al-Din al-Rumi (d. 1273), became very popular throughout the Muslim world. But its foreign elements led to opposition by the orthodox jurists and theologians, especially those whose strictly legalistic and ritualistic interpretation of the faith found no place for spiritual expression. Ironically, their opposition encouraged the spread of Sufism as a reaction to their impoverished representation of the personal relationship to God—as did the increase in worldliness and materialism spreading in the Muslim world as the empire expanded. However, most great theologians and jurists (e.g., alGhazzali, who silenced the critics of Sufism; Ibn Taymiyya; Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab) defended and indeed practiced the Sufi way, though all of them condemned in strong terms the philosophical expression of Sufism, which advocated a form of pantheism (wahdat al-wujud, the unity of being) and extreme asceticism. But Sufism spread widely, and the tariqas (Sufi orders, such as the Qadiriyya in the Near East, the Mawlawiyya (Mev levis and the Naqshbandiyya in Central Asia and Turkey, and the Shadhiliyya in North Africa) were the main impetus behind the spread of Islam in Africa and East Asia.
The insistence on the importance of spiritualism over and above the law led on one hand to asceticism and withdrawal but also, on the other, to libertarianism, a trend that was accentuated in popular religion by the belief in miracles, superstition, and cultic practices into which the veneration of Sufi saints had slowly degenerated. In North Africa and India, the Sufi movements had also absorbed the cultural and religious heritage of their new converts, a syncretism that included at times non-Islamic beliefs and practices. Meanwhile, the law had become more and more reified as the need for innovation subsided and taqlid (imitation or reliance on past tradition) became the norm. The jurists' inability to respond to new needs became a problem as new challenges arose with the industrialization of Europe, which forced the Ottomans to adopt Western laws and institutions. All these problems set the stage for the reform movements of the eighteenth century.
The reform movements rejected consensus as a source of law as it had become a hindrance to change, and they advocated ijtihad instead. At the same time, they emphasized a strict interpretation of tawhid and repudiated the syncretic beliefs adopted by the Sufi movements as well as the morally lax social practices and the popular beliefs in magic, superstition, and saints' intercession. Building on the philosophical and political thought of Ibn Taymiyya, Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab (d. 1792) started in Arabia the reform movement of Wahhabism, which then spread in the Near East as the Salafiyya movement. At same time, separate but similar movements spread in Africa under the leadership of Ibn Idris (d.1837) and al-Sanusi order (d. 1859), and in India under Sirhindi (d. 1624). These were Sufi masters who criticized the former excesses of the Sufi movements and used the tariqas to restore orthodoxy of belief and practice and to purge the movements of syncretic accretions.
However, the colonial ambitions of the European powers quickly changed the Muslim scene from one of reform to one of confrontation with a greater power that soon overcame most of the Muslim world and won from the ailing Ottoman Empire significant concessions. Instead of internal social change, the reform movements turned to armed resistance, and instead of focusing on doctrinal purity and legal tools, the new discourse centered on the necessity of resisting the West and on apologetics for Islam, for the defeat of the Muslims was contemptuously blamed by Western Orientalists on the backwardness and inferiority of Islam.
Islamic Modernist Movements
Islamic modern thought is considered to start with Jamal al-Din al-Afghani (d. 1897), a man with encyclopedic knowledge of both Western and Eastern disciplines who traveled throughout the Muslim world in hope of uniting it in the fight against Western colonization. He advocated reform of education and law and was followed in Egypt by one of his most famous students, Muhammad Abduh (d.1905), a jurist who became the head of the famed al-Azhar fiqh university. But few practical solutions were offered, and the problem was compounded by the call by some of his students like Rashid Rida (d. 1935) for compromise with Western institutions, such as interest and the creation of national entities separate from the Islamic Ottoman rule. In India, Muhammad Iqbal (d. 1938) called for a return to the original ethos of Islam and the establishment of the independent state of Pakistan, while Sayyid Ahmad Khan (d. 1898) called for more drastic changes in Islamic thought and cooperation with the British colonial power. The compromises advocated by some led then to an attitude of general rejection of change on the part of most jurists and theologians, and although all had agreed on the necessity of reforming law and education and of adopting Western advances in science and technology, the discourse remained general and did not offer specific and coherent suggestions. In effect, the colonial powers, which by now had also taken over the Near East after the defeat of the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I, had imposed their legal, political, and educational systems on their colonies. After independence, the local governments maintained the Western institutions they had inherited, leading to the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979 and giving rise, throughout the Muslim world, to opposition movements (such as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Jordan, the Jamiʿat-e Islami in Pakistan, the Front Islamique du Salut in Algeria and the Rafah Party in Turkey) that called for the restoration of Islamic law and fought the adoption by Muslim elites of the Western ideologies of secularism, socialism, and nationalism. These ideological conflicts, which have led to tensions or all-out civil war in many countries, are exacerbated by the policies of autocratic regimes that do not tolerate opposition or democratic rule and by Western intervention (directly or in support of such regimes) to preserve Western interests in oil and to protect Israel. These interventions have become the focus of Muslim resentment and radicalism throughout the Muslim world.
see also abduh, muhammad; afghani, jamal al-din al-; alawi; allah; azhar, al-; druze; front islamique du salut (fis); hadith; iqbal, muhammad; iranian revolution (1979); ismaʿili shiʿism; jamiʿat-e islami; kaʿba; mecca; medina; muhammad; muslim brotherhood; naqshbandi; qadiriyya order; qurʾan; rida, rashid; salafiyya movement; shiʿism; sufism and the sufi orders; sunni islam; zaydism.
Arnold, Thomas W. The Preaching of Islam: A History of the Propagation of the Muslim Faith, 2d edition. Lahore, Pakistan: Sh. Muhammad Ashraf, 1961.
Al Faruqi, Lois. Islam and Art. Islamabad: National Hijra Council, 1985.
Gardet, Louis. L'Islam. Paris: Desclée de Brouwer, 1967.
Kamali, Mohammad Hashim. Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence. Cambridge, U.K.: Islamic Texts Society, 1991.
Nasr, Seyyed Hossein. Three Muslim Sages. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1964.
Rahman, Fazlur. Islam, 2d edition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979.
Rahman, Fazlur. Major Themes of the Qurʾan. Chicago: Bibliotheca Islamic, 1980.
Saliba, George, and King, David A. From Deferent to Equant: A Volume of Studies in the History of Science in the Ancient and Medieval Near East in Honor of E. S. Kennedy. New York: New York Academy of Sciences, 1987.
Smith, Wilfred Cantwell. Islam in Modern History. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1957.
updated by maysam j. al faruqi
From the beginning, Rus and its successors have interacted with Muslims as neighbors, rulers, and subjects. Long-distance trade in silver from Muslim lands provided the impetus for the establishment of the first Rus principalities, and Islam arrived in the lands of Rus before Christianity. The rulers of the Volga Bulghar state converted to Islam at the turn of the tenth century, several decades before Vladimir's conversion to Christianity in 988 c.e. The Bulghar state was destroyed between 1236 and 1237 by the Mongols, who then went on to subjugate the principalities of Rus. The conversion to Islam in 1327 of Özbek Khan, the ruler of the Golden Horde, meant that political overlordship of the lands of Rus was in the hands of Muslims for over a century. As the power relationship between Muscovy and the Golden Horde began to shift, Muscovite princes found themselves actively involved in its succession struggles. In 1552 Ivan IV conquered Kazan, the most prominent of the successor states of the Golden Horde, and began a long process of territorial expansion, which brought a diverse group of Muslims under Russian rule by the end of the nineteenth century.
the tsarist state and its muslim population
Muscovy acquired its first Muslim subjects as early as 1392, when the so-called Mishar Tatars, who inhabited what is now Nizhny Novgorod province, entered the service of Muscovite princes. The khans of Kasymov, a dynasty that lost out in the succession struggles of the Golden Horde, came under Muscovite protection in the mid-fifteenth century and became a privileged service elite. Nevertheless, the conquest of Kazan was a turning point, for it opened up the steppe to gradual Muscovite expansion. Over the next two centuries Muscovy acquired numerous Muslim subjects as it asserted suzerainty over the Bashkir and Kazakh steppes. In 1783 Catherine II annexed Crimea, the last of the successors of the Golden Horde, and late-eighteenth-century expansion brought Russia to the Caucasus. While the annexation of the Transcaucasian principalities (including present-day Azerbaijan) was accomplished with relative ease, the conquest of the Caucasus consumed Russian energies for the first half of the nineteenth century. The final subjugation of Caucasian tribes was complete only with the capture of their military and spiritual leader, Shamil, in 1859. Finally, in the last major territorial expansion of its history, Russia subjugated the Central Asian khanates of Khiva, Bukhara, and Kokand in a series of military campaigns between 1864 and 1876. Kokand was abolished entirely, and large parts of the territory of Khiva and Bukhara were also annexed to form the province of Turkestan. The remaining territories of Khiva and Bukhara were turned into Russian protectorates
in which traditional rulers enjoyed wide-ranging autonomy in internal affairs, but where external economic and political relations were under the control of Russia. The conquest of Central Asia dramatically increased the size of the empire's Muslim population, which stood at more than fourteen million at the time of the census of 1897.
The Russian state's interaction with Islam and Muslims varied greatly over time and place, and it is fair to say that no single policy toward Islam may be discerned. In the immediate aftermath of the conquest of Kazan, the state followed a policy of harsh repression. Repression was renewed in the early eighteenth century, when Peter and his successors began to see religious uniformity as a desirable goal. In 1730 the Church opened its Office of New Converts and initiated a campaign of conversion in the Volga region. While its primary target were the animists inhabiting the region, the Office also destroyed many mosques. As many as 7,000 Tatars may have converted to Orthodoxy, thus laying the foundation of the Kräshen community of Christian Tatars. For much of the rest of the imperial period, however, the state's attitude is best characterized as one of "pragmatic flexibility" (Kappeler). Service to the state was the ultimate measure of loyalty and the source of privilege. Those Tatar landlords who survived the dispossession of the sixteenth century were allowed to keep their land and were even able to own Orthodox serfs.
The reign of Catherine II (1762–1796) marks a turning point in the state's relationship with its Muslim subjects. She made religious tolerance an official policy and set about creating a basis for loyalty to the Russian state in the Tatar lands. She affirmed the rights of Muslim nobles and even sought to induct the Muslim clerisy in this endeavor. In 1788, she established a "spiritual assembly" at Orenburg. The Orenburg Muslim Spiritual Assembly was an attempt, unique in the Muslim world, by the state to impose an organizational structure on Islam. Islam was for Catherine a higher form of religion than shamanism, and she hoped that the Kazakhs would gradually be brought into the fold of Islam through the efforts of the Tatars. This was of course intertwined with the goal of bringing the Kazakh steppe under closer Russian control and outflanking Ottoman diplomacy there. Headed by a mufti appointed by the state, the assembly was responsible for appointing and licensing imams as teachers throughout the territory under its purview, and overseeing the operation of mosques.
While the policies enacted by Catherine survived until 1917 in their broad outline, her enthusiasm for Islam did not. The Enlightenment had also brought to Russia the concept of fanaticism, and it tended to dominate Russian thinking about Islam in the nineteenth century. Islam was now deemed to be inherently fanatical, and the question now became one of curbing or containing this fanaticism. If Catherine had hoped for the Islamization of the Kazakhs as a mode of progress, nineteenth century administrators sought to protect the "natural" religion of the Kazakhs from the "fanatical" Islam of the Tatars or the Central Asians.
Conquered in the second half of the nineteenth century and having a relatively dense population, Central Asia came closer than any other part of the Russian empire to being a colony. The Russian presence was thinner, and the local population not incorporated into empire-wide social classifications. Not only was there was no Central Asian nobility, but the vast majority (99.8%) of the local population were defined solely as inorodtsy (alien, i.e., non-Russian, peoples). The region was ruled by a governor-general possessing wide-ranging powers and answerable directly to the tsar. The first governor-general, Konstantin Kaufman (in office 1867–1881), laid the foundations of Russian policies in the region. For Kaufman, Islam was irredeemably connected with fanaticism, which could be provoked by thoughtless policies. Such fanaticism could be lessened by ignoring Islam and depriving it of all state support, while the long-term goal of assimilating the region into the Russian empire was to be achieved through a policy of encouraging trade and enlightenment. Kaufman therefore did not allow the Orenburg Muslim Assembly to extend its jurisdiction into Turkestan. The policy of ignoring Islam completely was modified after Kaufman's death, but the Russian presence was much more lightly felt in Central Asia than in other Muslim areas of the empire.
islam under russian rule
Islam is an internally diverse religious system in which many traditions and ways of belonging to the community of Muslims coexist. As Devin DeWeese has shown, Islam became a central aspect of the communal identities of Muslims in the Golden Horde. Conversion was remembered in sacralized narratives that defined conversion as the moment that the community was constituted. Shrines of saints served to Islamize the very territory on which Muslims lived. Until the articulation in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries of modern national identities among the various Muslim communities of the Russian empire, communal identities were a composite of ethnic, genealogical, and religious identities, inextricably intertwined.
The practice of Islam, its reproduction, and its transmission to future generations took place in largely autonomous local communities. Each community was centered around a mosque and (especially in Central Asia) a shrine. The servants of the mosques were selected by the community, and the funding provided by local notables or through endowed property (waqf ). Each community also maintained a maktab, an elementary school in which children acquired basic knowledge of Islamic ritual and belief. Higher religious education took place in madrasas, both locally and in neighboring Muslim countries. Unlike the Christian clergy, Muslim scholars, the ulama, were a self-regulating group. Entry into the ranks of the ulama was contingent upon education and insertion into chains of discipleship. Islamic religious practice required neither the institutional framework nor the property of a church. This loose structure meant that the fortunes of Islam and its carriers were not directly tied to the vicissitudes of Muslim states.
The process of Islamization continued after the Russian conquest of the steppe and was at times even supported by the Russian state. The state settled Muslim peasants in the trans-Volga region in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, but the main agent of the Islamization of the steppe was the Tatar mercantile diaspora. As communities of Tatar merchants appeared throughout the steppe beginning in the late eighteenth century, Tobolsk, Orenburg, and Troitsk became major centers of Islamic learning. Tatar merchants began sending their sons to study in Central Asia, and Sufi linkages with Central Asia and the lands beyond were strengthened.
varieties of reform
In the early nineteenth century, reform began to emerge as a major issue among Tatar ulama. The initial issues, as articulated by figures such as Abdunnasir al-Qursavi (1776–1812) and Qayyum Nasiri (1825–1902), related to the value of the tradition of interpretation of texts as it had been practiced in Central Asia and in the Tatar lands since Mongol times. Qursavi, Nasiri, and their followers questioned the authority of traditional Islamic theology and argued for creative reinterpretation through recourse to the original scriptural sources of Islam. This religious conception of reform was connected to developments in the wider Muslim world through networks of education and travel. By the turn of the twentieth century, Tatar scholars such as Musa Jarullah Bigi, Alimjan Barudi, and Rizaetdin Fakhretdin were prominent well beyond the boundaries of the Russian empire.
A different form of reform arose around the reform of Muslim education. Its initial constituency was the urban mercantile population of the Volga region and the Crimea, and its origins are connected with the tireless efforts of the Crimean Tatar noble Ismail Bey Gaspirali (1851–1914). Gaspirali had been educated at a military academy but became involved in education early on in his career. Muslims, he felt, lacked many skills important to full participation in the mainstream of imperial life. The fault lay with the maktab, which not only did not inculcate useful knowledge, such as arithmetic, geography, or Russian, but failed, moreover, in the task of equipping students with basic literacy or even a proper understanding of Islam itself. Gaspirali articulated a modernist critique of the maktab, emanating from a new understanding of the purposes of elementary education. The solution was a new method (usul-i jadid ) of education, in which children were taught the Arabic alphabet using the phonetic method of instruction and the elementary school was to have a standardized curriculum encompassing composition, arithmetic, history, hygiene, and Russian. Gaspirali's method found acceptance among the Muslim communities of the Crimea, the Volga, and Siberia, and eventually appeared in all parts of the Russian empire inhabited by Muslims. New-method schools quickly became the flagship of a multifaceted movement of cultural reform, which came to be called "Jadidism" after them.
Jadidism was an unabashedly modernist discourse of cultural reform directed at Muslim society itself. Its basic themes were enlightenment,
progress, and the awakening of the nation, so that the latter could take its own place in the modern, civilized world. Given the lack of political sovereignty, however, it was up to society to lift itself up by its bootstraps through education and disciplined effort. Jadid rhetoric was usually sharply critical of the present state of Muslim society, which the Jadids contrasted unfavorably to a glorious past of their own society and the present of the civilized countries of Europe. The single most important term in the Jadid lexicon was taraqqi, progress. Progress and civilization were universal phenomena for the Jadids, accessible to all societies on the sole condition of disciplined effort and enlightenment. There was nothing in Islam that prevented Muslims from joining the modern world; indeed, the Jadids argued that only a modern person equipped with knowledge "according to the needs of the age" could be a good Muslim. In this, Jadidism differed sharply from other currents of reform among the ulama. The debate between the Jadids and their traditionalist opponents was the defining feature of the last decades of the Tsarist period.
In Central Asia, the distinct social and political context imparted Jadidism a distinct flavor. The ulama retained much greater influence in Central Asia, while the new mercantile class was weaker. Central Asian Jadids, therefore, tended to be more strongly rooted in Islamic education than their counterparts elsewhere. Nevertheless, they faced resolute opposition from within their own society, as well as from a Russian state always suspicious of unofficial initiatives.
the "muslim question" in late imperial politics
For the Jadids, the nation was an integral part of modernity, and they set out to define the parameters of their nation. The new identity was not foreordained, however, for the nation could be defined along any of several different axes of solidarity. For some, all Muslims of the Russian empire constituted a single national community. Gaspirali argued that the Muslims needed "unity in language, thought, and deeds," and his newspaper sought to show this through example. In 1905 a number of Tatar and Azerbaijani activists organized an All-Russian conference for Muslim representatives to work out a common plan of action. The conference established the Ittifaq-i Müslimin (Union of Muslims) as a quasi-political organization. Delegates resolved to work for greater political, religious, and cultural rights for their constituency. During the elections to the Duma, the Ittifaq aligned itself with the Kadets. Two further conferences were held in 1905 and 1906, but Muslim political activity was curbed after the Stolypin coup of 1907, which reduced the representation of Muslims and denied the Ittifaq permission to register a political party.
Muslim unity was threatened by regional and ethnic solidarities. The discovery of romantic notions of identity by the Jadids led them to articulate the identity of their community along ethnonational lines. Here too, visions of a broad Turkic unity coexisted with narrower forms of identity, such as Tatar or Kazakh. The appeal of local ethnic identities proved too strong for broader Islamic or Turkic identities to surmount. This was the case in 1917, when the All-Russian Muslim movement was briefly resurrected and Tatar leaders organized a conference in Moscow to discuss a common political strategy for Muslims. Divisions between representatives from different regions quickly appeared, and the various groups of Muslims went their separate ways.
Although Muslim activists continually professed their loyalty to the state, their activity aroused suspicion both in the state and among the Russian public, which construed it as pan-Islamism and connected it with alleged Ottoman intrigues to destabilize the Russian state. The rise of ethnic self-awareness was likewise seen as pan-Turkism and also connected to outside influences. Russian administrators had hoped that enlightenment would be the antidote to fanaticism. Now the fear of pan-Islamism and pan-Turkism, both articulated by modern-educated Muslims, led to a reappraisal. The fanaticism of modernist Islam was deemed much more dangerous than that of the traditional Islam, since it led to political demands. This perception led the state to intensify its support for traditional Islam.
the soviet period
The Russian revolution utterly transformed the political and social landscape in which Islam existed in the Russian empire. The new regime was radically different from its predecessor in that it actively sought to intervene in society and to reshape not just the economy, but also the cultures of its citizens. It was hostile to religion, perceiving it as both an alternate source of loyalty and a form of cultural backwardness. As policies regarding Soviet nationalities emerged in the 1920s, the struggle for progress acquired a prominent role, especially among nationalities deemed backward (and all Muslim groups were so classified). Campaigns for cultural revolution began with the reform of education, language, and the position of women, but quickly extended to religion. The antireligious campaign eventually led to the closure of large numbers of mosques (many were destroyed, others given over to "more socially productive" uses, such as youth clubs, museums of atheism, or warehouses). Waqf properties were confiscated, madrasas closed, and large numbers of ulama arrested and deported to labor camps or executed. The only Muslim institution to survive was the spiritual assembly, now stationed in Ufa.
The campaign was effective in its destructiveness. Islam did not disappear, but the infrastructure which reproduced Islamic religious and cultural knowledge was badly damaged and links with the outside Muslim world cut off. Islam was forced into isolation. The most important consequence of this isolation was that "Islam" was rendered synonymous with "tradition". Official channels of socialization, such as the school system and the army, which reached very deep into society, were not just secular, but atheistic. With maktabs and madrasas abolished, the ranks of the carriers of Islamic knowledge denuded, and continuity with the past made difficult by changes in script, religious knowledge was vastly circumscribed and the site of its reproduction pushed into private or covert realms. The public sphere were stripped of all references to Islam.
During World War II, as the state's hostility to religion abated briefly, it sought to permit limited practice of religion under close supervision. To this end, it created three new Muslim spiritual administrations in addition to the one at Ufa to oversee the practice of Islam. Of the four, the one based in Tashkent and responsible for Central Asia soon emerged as the most significant. The spiritual assemblies had to tread a thin line between satisfying the requirements of the state and ensuring a space in which Islamic institutions could exist officially. A great deal of religious activity existed beyond the control of the assemblies, but it was at home in a specifically Soviet context. Islam in the postwar decades was subordinated to powerful national identities formed for the most part in the Soviet period. Islam and its rituals were celebrated as part of one's national heritage even as Islamic knowledge shrunk greatly.
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Islam has become more prominent in public life as Muslims have engaged in a recovery of their national and cultural heritage. Mosques have been reopened or rebuilt and contacts with Muslims abroad established, and a there has been a general increase in personal piety. Nevertheless, the Soviet-era connections between Islam and national heritage remain intact, and as post-Soviet regimes undertake nation-building, Islam retains its strong cultural definitions.
See also: central asia; gaspirali, ismail bey; golden horde; nationalities policies, soviet; nationalities policies, tsarist; religion
Carrère d'Encausse, Hélène. (1988). Islam and the Russian Empire: Reform and Revolution in Central Asia, tr. Quintin Hoare. Berkeley: University of California Press.
DeWeese, Devin. (1995). Islamization and Native Religion in the Golden Horde: Baba Tükles and Conversion to Islam in Historical and Epic Tradition. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press.
Frank, Alan J. (1998). Islamic Historiography and "Bulghar" Identity among the Tatars and Bashkirs of Russia. Leiden, Netherlands: Brill.
Frank, Alan J. (2001). Muslim Institutions in Imperial Russia: The Islamic World of Novouznesensk District and the Kazakh Inner Horde, 1780–1920. Leiden, Netherlands: Brill.
Gammer, Moshe. (1994). Muslim Resistance to the Tsar: Shamil and the Conquest of Chechnia and Daghestan. London: Frank Cass.
Geraci, Robert. (2001). Window on the East: National and Imperial Identities in Late Imperial Russia. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
Kamp, Marianne R. (1998). "Unveiling Uzbek Women: Liberation, Representation, and Discourse, 1906–1929." Ph.D. diss., University of Chicago.
Kappeler, Andreas. (1992). "Czarist Policy Toward the Muslims of the Russian Empire." In Muslim Communities Reemerge: Historical Perspectives on Nationality, Politics, and Opposition in the Former Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, ed. Andreas Kappeler et al. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
Keller, Shoshana. (2000). To Moscow, not Mecca: Soviet Campaigns against Islam in Central Asia, 1917–1941. Westport, CT: Praeger.
Khalid, Adeeb. (1998). The Politics of Muslim Cultural Reform: Jadidism in Central Asia. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Khalid, Adeeb. (2000). "Society and Politics in Bukhara, 1868–1920." Central Asian Survey 19: 367–396.
Swietochowski, Tadeusz. (1995). Russia and Azerbaijan: A Borderland in Transition. New York: Columbia University Press.
ISLAM.A LOVE AFFAIR WITH EUROPE
THE DEFEAT OF THE OTTOMAN EMPIRE AND ITS AFTERMATH
JIHAD TURNED INWARD
WESTOXICATION AND ITS CURE
ISLAM IN EUROPE
In 1913 the spiritual leader of Reformist Islam, Sheikh Muhammad Rashid Rida (1865–1935), a Syrian living in Egypt, wrote a rave review of an Arabic translation of a book by a French pamphleteer entitled The Roots of Anglo-Saxon Superiority. One should learn from the pace-setting civilization of our era, he wrote, and borrow as many of its ideas as possible, to the extent that they are compatible with Muslim identity. The fight against the British occupation of Egypt, to which he was committed, should by no means extend to its culture. Egyptians, said Rida, had a great deal to learn from the British, even though they had to flatly reject British political rule and claims about the "white man's burden."
This review nicely captures the mood on the eve of World War I, the high point of Islamic modernism's love affair with Europe. In a way, it marked the culmination of a process begun in the 1820s, when Muslim thinkers and decision makers in the Middle East drew the lessons of Napoleon's invasion, which had laid bare how far Muslims lagged behind Europeans. Travelers and students who flocked to Paris and London (some students were sent by modernizing rulers) confirmed the finding. Europe had developed a civilization that was not only dominant militarily but was also superior in science, organization, social etiquette, and government. A vast translation effort was undertaken, both by rulers, who issued fiats to that effect and by curious intellectuals eager to quench the thirst to discover and unlock the secrets of European superiority and to get to know its major exponents.
The impact on mainstream Islamists, not to speak of secularized intellectuals (many of them Christian) was enormous, despite the efforts of religious, dyed-in-the-wool conservatives to block any borrowing from the so-called Crusader West. The major outcome was the birth of the Salafi movement. It was headed by Sheikh al-Azhar, Muhammad Abduh of Egypt (1849–1905). In its glorious early age, Islam was able to progress and develop by rationally adapting to circumstances while preserving its essence. It had lost this ability, wrote Abduh, somewhere late in the third century of its existence. The aim of the Salafis was to regain this capacity.
Because Islam is an orthopraxis (a system in which behavior has precedence over belief) rather than an orthodoxy, the way to regain Islam's original flexibility, according to the Salafis, was to revitalize law and education rather than theology. The major tool was to be the ijtihad, the authority jurists possessed to amend, even change, the sharia (law) by applying personal legal reasoning in evaluating the urgent needs of the Muslim community. Innovation in such matters should not be considered evil, as most traditionalists held, but helpful. The innovative ideas to be absorbed could be indigenous or European. Had not Islam taken on the great ideas of Greek philosophy in the Middle Ages? As far as possible, said Abduh and Rida, such borrowing ought to be done under the norms of al-Salaf al-Salih, as expressed in the rich and pluralistic hadith (oral tradition) and legal literature.
The Salafi movement had a deep influence on the young high school-educated generation, especially in Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, and Tunisia. It had its Shiite analogues in Iran and Iraq.
World War I and its immediate aftermath abruptly changed all that. Rida and many of his disciples felt duty-bound to revise their ideas. The Ottoman Empire, a bulwark of Muslim identity, suffered a crushing defeat, lost most of its territory, and was soon abrogated by the secularist modernizer Kemal Ataturk. Large chunks of the Abode of Islam, including the Fertile Crescent (Rida's native region) fell under European domination. Egypt was no more the exception in the Middle East but the rule. Europe showed what Rida and his young, radical followers came to see as its real face—arrogant, domineering, and expansionist. For the radical wing of the Salafi movement, known as Al-Manar, which had grown apart from the older and more liberal wing, it was no longer possible to preserve the distinction between Europe's cultural and political facets, especially since the world war seemed to unveil underlying irrational and destructive strains in European culture. Could it be that Europe itself was in decline and did not have much to offer anymore? This doubt was sustained by the translated writings of Oswald Spengler and the Nobel Prize–winning scientist Alexis Carrel. These prophets of doom, along with their British counterpart, Arnold Toynbee, headed the nonfiction best-seller list in Arab countries in the interwar years.
Yet the major preoccupation of the Al-Manar trend, named after the weekly newspaper edited by Rida, was not Europe but internal reexamination. The question the radicals asked was: Are we still Muslims? Could it be that, enfeebled by centuries of decline, Muslims had already surrendered to the temptations of European civilization? Unlike the liberal Salafis, who preserved the hope that Islam and modernity were reconcilable, Rida answered this last question in the affirmative. Most Muslims, especially those who were modernized, were no more than geographical, or nominal, Muslims, observing only the external rules of behavior, lacking belief and any understanding of the significance of those rules. They cut corners in ritual and, above all, did not apply the sharia either under foreign rule or even in regions that remained independent or autonomous. In such a state of affairs, ijtihad was still needed, but it should be more uniform, more controlled throughout the Muslim world. Because Islam's identity was weak during that period, it was incapable of assimilating a large number of innovations or any pluralistic practices. The radicals thus tried to build mental and behavioral walls to defend against the siege on a beleaguered faith.
The upshot was a split in the Salafi movement, which was completed by the 1930s. While the radicals grew in strength, thanks to the Muslim Brotherhood (founded in 1928), the liberals, who claimed loyalty to Abduh's legacy, moved to the left. They embraced world culture and progress. Some of them, like the Egyptian thinker Taha Hussein, put early Islam under scrutiny, following research methods learned from Western Orientalists. Rida as well as Hasan al-Banna, founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, saw such Westerners as enemies of the faith who were burrowing into and sabotaging Islam from within. But there was no doubt about who was winning this debate—the radicals with their broadening social base attracted great numbers of the young, the urban disenfranchised, and even the peasants, well beyond Egypt's borders.
If Islam in the first half of the twentieth century transformed ijtihad, in the second half it transformed jihad, or holy war. This was a much more politicized phase than the first. As Muslim countries achieved their independence, the attitudes that had given precedence to external enemies—the colonial powers—began to fade away, as did the tendency to externalize guilt, to blame others for all the problems of indigenous societies, to view them as the result of imperialist dominance. In other words, the jihad turned inward.
At that moment, the historical force that came to the fore was the populist state, which was able to mobilize the masses and was often controlled by military elites drawn from the lower middle class. This state, whether embodied in Gamal Abdel Nasser's Egypt (1952–1970), in Baath-led Syria (1970 on) or Iraq (1968–2003), or in Algeria under the Front de Libération Nationale, or FLN (1962–1988), was characterized by a sincere and combative anti-imperialism. The Muslim Brotherhood and its ilk could therefore not impugn the state as collaborationist or as besotted with the West, as they had the old upper-class rulers and their liberal Salafi allies. Besides, the elites in the new states were commoners and proponents of a new and galvanizing nativist ideology, namely, Pan-Arabism. These elites could thus reasonably aspire to gain cultural dominance and develop a modernizing civil religion with its own symbols and rituals, often using Islamic themes. And because the new elites were soldiers by profession, they possessed the advantages of the military: relative efficiency, order, ruthlessness, and disrespect for the legal process. They had at their service techniques to control the populace that they had learned from like-minded European regimes on both the Right and the Left, as their use of secret police, detention camps, and listening devices demonstrate.
Finally, the technological revolution in audiovisual communications (notably the transistor radio and television), which coincided with the advent of the nationalist state, favored the interventionist ambitions of the new masters. Initially these rulers exercised a virtual monopoly on the press and on book publishing. They saw the potential of the new audiovisual media, when buttressed by an ever-vigilant censorship. These media penetrated every corner of people's lives and reached the largely illiterate population of women, small children, and rural men. Social groups that had been beyond the reach of modernity, Europe's crowning achievement, were now drawn into the fold.
The social sphere was rapidly shrinking as the state's role increased. The fares the new media were selling were attractive in their substance and in their packaging: the nationalist gospel was a kind of ersatz religion. It focused on solidarity, deftly couched in Muslim terms, on the one hand, and on the promise of economic modernization as the avenue for the good life on the other. In this brand-new situation, the radical Salafis (notably the Muslim Brotherhood, first the allies of the military in power, then their victims) had to reassess their worldview.
A number of thinkers in the late 1950s and throughout the 1960s (Sayyid Qutb in Egypt, Said Hawwa in Syria, Muhammad Baqr al-Sadr in Iraq, and, in a different setting, Ala Al Ahmad and Ruhollah Khomeini in Iran) pioneered the new thinking. This fell under three headings.
- The diagnosis: Twentieth-century Islam faced a mortal danger, worse than anything it had ever known. The danger came this time from within, from leaders and movements that were technically Muslim, that were responsible both for enforcing the law and for persuading. In their manner, these rulers were sincerely devoted to the welfare of their people. And yet they were inadvertently bringing a calamity of spiritual extinction down upon these very masses. Indeed, the new masters, much more than the liberal Salafis, were deeply committed to "westoxication," a term coined both in Persian and in Arabic. They were intoxicated by Western, European ideas totally alien to Islam, such as nationalism, economic growth as an overriding goal, socialism, and the primacy of human-made over God-made laws. By manipulating the media and using the enticements and punishments at their disposal, they inculcated these ideas into the subconscious of the masses. They thus fostered an addiction to modernity and to the "good life" it promised, here on earth and not in the hereafter. As a result, the Abode of Islam was in a state of virtual apostasy. It had abandoned its faith for faithlessness. This state of affairs was all the more deleterious for being subconscious. In Muslim terms, Islam was in a state of jahiliyya—a barbarity worse than that existing in Arabia before the appearance of the Prophet Muhammad.
- The cure: True believers had to come back to the political arena, from which they had been absent for too long. For the archenemy was now the state, which was the agent of European thought, beliefs, and behavior. It behooved Believers to subject modernity to a rigorous and systematic critique in accordance with the norms of Islamic authenticity. Through such a critique they had to enhance religious awareness, especially among the brainwashed, westoxicated youth. High school- and university-educated youngsters were indeed the major target group and had to be immediately reclaimed and detoxified, liberated from their infatuation with pleasure-seeking, pseudoscientific modernity. It is likely that such a critique did not stand a real chance of bringing about a change from within, given the state monopoly on the means of compulsion and on education and the media. The Muslim radicals could not dodge the inescapable conclusion: the regimes in power had to be delegitimated.
- Administering the cure: Delegitimation would inevitably lead to jihad, "by word [propaganda] or by sword [violence]," as the hadith had it, in a jihad against internal, not external enemies. Through the reeducation of society or through armed revolt, believers could eventually set up a state where religious law was applied. These ideas were developed in the heyday of the nationalist state but were given the chance to spread throughout society as a result of a series of defeats the nation-state had experienced from the late 1960s and to the 1990s. These included the 1967 defeat in the Arab-Israeli War, the failure of the Soviet-inspired command economy to truly take off, oil price slumps in 1979 and in 1985, and the decline of Pan-Arabism between Nasser's death in 1970 and the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990. The new Islamic radicals succeeded in taking power only in Iran, and for a short time in Sudan and Afghanistan, but they became the major opposition force everywhere else. Their nongovernment organizations (NGOs) were active in civil society, which they managed to revive, and—despite harassment and persecution by the powers that be—they wielded enormous influence on mores, particularly among urbanized youth. It was indeed among such youth that suspicion of everything that Europe is supposed to stand for—enlightenment, progress, tolerance, and universal values—was evident.
Another twist in this complex history came toward the end of the century. This was the fate of Islam in Europe. By the 1980s Europe had many more Muslims than ever before: 4.5 million in France, 3 million in Germany, 2 million in the U.K., 1 million in the Netherlands, and 1.5 million in the other countries of Europe, not including illegal aliens, who continued to arrive in waves. The most vulnerable group among them consisted of young males aged fifteen to twenty-four. They could be found at the bottom of the socio-occupational ladder, with an unemployment rate triple that of the same age group in the general population. They lived in overcrowded ghettos on the outskirts of large towns and were overrepresented among drug addicts, school dropouts, and prison inmates. This was the result in part of an inadequate investment by the states in housing, infrastructure, and medical services in these ghettos, either because of racial prejudice or because of the recent shrinking of the welfare state, which hit hardest the social strata lacking political clout. And the uneducated Muslims voted in lower proportions than the rest of the electorate. It was thus a vicious circle: lack of education brought about political underrepresentation and that in turn created further cuts in educational and other services.
Young Muslim men (women invested more in education to guarantee their freedom from dependence on the family) were victims of globalization. In the 1960s and 1970s the European economy needed the muscle power of the immigrants of their parents' generation, largely illiterate, to rebuild from the ruins of World War II and expand industry. By the 1980s it had started to transfer labor-intensive activities (cars, metalwork, mining, textile, footwear) to central and eastern Europe and to Southeast Asia. Even the construction industry, which had employed so many of the parents, became mechanized. Young men with few technical skills and little education now had difficulty finding work in the new services and information economy. They were hence driven to the gray area of petty crime, drug peddling, and protection services. No wonder so many had brushes with the law, whose agencies were often permeated with racism. Alienation from mainstream society was growing. Besides, young Muslims rebelled against the compliant attitude of their fathers. Born in Europe, they sensed they had rights and insisted on respect.
That is why Muslim youth, restless and hopeless, were attracted by a new radical message coming from the fringe of the Islamic world—the message of Dr. Abdallah Azzam, leader of the jihad in Afghanistan against the Soviets (he was assassinated in 1988) and of his successor, Osama bin Laden. According to Azzam and bin Laden, the source of all Muslim miseries was the United States and its lackey, Europe. These new crusaders, they argued, should become the target of a holy war directed at their economies. Collateral damage would also be inflicted upon apostate regimes in Islamic countries, which relied on the United States and Europe to ensure their survival. They would eventually totter as well. The new theory insisted on the essential hypocrisy of Christian civilization. In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, what was supposedly a religion of peace produced the Crusades to subdue the Abode of Islam. Now its modern counterpart sought to maintain control of that Abode in order to ensure itself of oil supplies. These were vital to Western plenty, and without them the pleasure-seeking civilization could not survive. The West also found it vital to this end to exploit immigrants. Yet to cover up its immorality, it spoke of universal human rights, which gave it a justification for intervening everywhere in the Muslim world. And were these rights respected in the West itself ? Ask unemployed Muslims harassed by racist police, said bin Laden, urging the young to stand up and fight.
Such a message provided young Muslim men with an outlet for frustration, a glimmer of hope, avenues for action and adventure. And as the differences between countries of origin blurred in the European diaspora, the emergent identity of the members of the second and third generations of Muslim immigrants was "Muslim"—in their own eyes and in the eyes of mainstream society. The stigma became a badge of honor and helped them accept an ideal and a form of organization (inspired by Al Qaeda but not necessarily beholden to it) predicated on the notion of an Islamic community, or umma. The clandestine or semiclandestine groups (jamaat) that the young joined provided them with a sense of belonging, of solidarity, and of empowerment, a warm home in a cold, individualistic, and often hostile European society. The young could make sense of their personal failures in finding employment, getting promotions, passing exams, and steering clear of the police. All these were the fault of an evil, immoral outside force, namely, Western civilization, as inimical to Islam in the twenty-first century as it had been in the Middle Ages.
If the youth were the victims of globalization, as new militants they also benefited from it. The message arrived in their ears though audiocassettes produced by preachers in Pakistan, Turkey, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Algeria, and Morocco. These cassettes were easy to smuggle and copy and also served as entertainment. Fledgling activists could get instructions from far away via cell phones, could get funds through telephonic bank transfers, and could receive instructions and educational material by means of the Internet. A new jihad was on.
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