T O P I C
THE INCREDIBLE STORY OF THE JEWISH PEOPLE
Jews, God and History, Chapter 15 pp190 on, Max I Dimont, 1994
Marxist and other materialist historians would be hard put to explain the phenomenon of the eruption of a Mohammedan empire in the Arabian desert in the seventh century CE The mode of production of the Bedouins in that century had not changed from that of previous centuries. The climate was the same then as it had been before. Unless we ascribe this phenomenon to God’s inscrutable will, we will have to turn to the theory of the 'hero in history' for an explanation, This is the idea of the individual who creates history by seizing the opportunity at the right moment and bending it to his will. Mohammedanism was the creation of such a man - Mohammed.
Mohammed’s messiahship was in the new tradition of 'humility' introduced by the Jews. Prior to the Jews, all religious leaders had been nobles or princes, as for exampie Buddha, Confucius, and Zoroaster. Abraham may have been a Babylonian merchant prince before he set out for his journey to Haran. but the Old Testament made him a sheep herder. Moses may have been brought up as a prince in the Egyptian court, but when he receives the divine call, he is a hired hand tending his father-in-law’s flocks. Jesus was a carpenter. And Mohammed was a camel driver.
Mohammed is one of history’s more improbable figures, an Arab imbued with the fervor of Judaism, proclaiming all Arabs descendants of Abraham, and calling for Jews and Christians alike to join him in a true brotherhood of man in the name of Allah. He was the succcessful Don Quixote. prophet armed, who. convinced of his delusion, made it a realm by defeating the narrow-minded, armed only with reason. The rise of this camel driver was breathtaking in swiftness. Within less than a hundred years his empire embraced half the then known world. Islam had succeeded where Christianity had failed. In one century this new faith swept the lands encircling the southern half of the Mediter- ean.
Arabia is the world’s largest peninsula, attached through Israel to Egypt, and through Syria to Turkey. The rest of her body floats in the Red Sea, Arabian Sea, and Persian Gulf. Like a cleric's tonsure, a fringe of green land, beaded by a few cities, surrounds the 500.000 square miles of desert surrounding her heartland. This country has been the homeland Bedouin and Quraish Arabs since unrecorded history. It had bred no civilization, but its fecund women for five thousand years bred an abundance of Semitic Arabs for export to Sumerian. Akkadian, and Babylonian city-states, infusing strength into these effete civilizations with their barbaric vigor.
The religion of the Arabs was a diffused nature worship, democratically including heaven, stars, trees, stones— anything capable of being elevated to divinity by man’s ingenuity. This diversification found unity in the centralized worship of a black meteorite, the Black Stone, enshrined in Kaaba (cube), in Mecca.
The Bedouin Arabs were the sand dwellers, living in the desert; the Quraish Arabs dwelt along the coastal areas, where they had established trading villages at the end points of caravan routes. Here the Bedouins came to exchange the luxuries, robbed from caravans, for the necessities of life. But it was not until the end of the first century CE, when the Jews began to arrive, that commerce and industry began to hum, cities to flourish, and art to proliferate. The trickle of Jews into Arabia beginning after 70CE reached the proportions of a flood in the fifth and sixth centuries, when a power struggle between the Sassanid and Byzantine empires squeezed Jews out of Syria and Palestine into Arabia.
Like the Ptolemies and Seleucids before them, the Sassanids and Byzantians constantly warred over Syria and Palestine. Fickle fate gave neither a decisive victory, and finally, out of sheer exhaustion, a treaty of mutual toleration was signed. Jews, Syrians, Lebanese, and others who had the misfortune to live in the disputed areas suffered the classic fate of all civilians caught in the path of clashing armies— glorious, impersonal deaths. Many Jews, once they were convinced it was going to be a protracted war, headed toward the western half of the Roman Empire, having been warned by fellow Jews that Byzantium was not a haven of liberty. Others, who had studied the situation (or long-term yields, decided to head eastward, into territory where warring armies seldom ventured. They chose Arabia.
Here in their new home in Arabia the Jews introduced handicrafts, the goldsmith’s art, and the date palm, which became to the Mohammedans what the potato became to the Irish. Here they founded Medina. Here they helped the Quraish convert their villages into cities. With their great numbers and twenty-five hundred years of experience, the Jews gave Mecca a cosmopolitan air.
In gratitude for the sanctuary given them, the Jews joined the Arabs in defeating invading Christian armies which came to proselytize and to plunder. Though Christianity was kept out, Judaism crept in, not by the sword, but by the exemplorary conduct of the Jews. As with the Greeks and Romans, many pagan Arabs liked the nonsexualized symbols of Judaism, its ascetic monotheism, and the devotion of the Jews to family life and education. The Arabs called the Jews 'the People of the Book' and Jew and Arab lived side by side in peace. .
In the same way as the Septuagint prepared the way for the teachings of Paul among the pagans in the Roman Empire, so a general knowledge of the Old Testament among the Arabs helped prepare the way for the coming of Mohammedanism. The stage was set for the hero in history to fuse the nature worship of the Arabs, the salvation doctrine of the Christians, and the monotheism of the Jews into a new God image. The hero was Mohammed; the creed was Islamism: the motivating ideology was Judaism.
Prophets should perhaps never be viewed with less than two millenniums of hindsight, to allow a lapse of time to blur human attributes into divine features. Mohammed is still young, as prophets go. and the impatient historian may be excused if he has not as yet fully perceived the divinity already discernible to the devout.
Mohammed (569-632CE) lost both parents before he was six. He was brought up first by his grandfather, and later by an uncle. Both forgot to have him tutored in reading and writing, an oversight quickly remedied in later life when Mohammed learned the art of instant reading by revelation. As with Abraham, Moses, and Jesus, we know nothing of his early youth except that at the age of twelve he was taken by caravan to Syria where he for the first time came imo contact with the Jewish and Christian religions. From this encounter he carried away a lifelong respect for 'the Book' of the Jews. The Jewish Patriachs became his heroes whom he later enshrined in the Koran, the Bible of the Mohammedans. At the age of twenty-five he married a wealthy, forty-year-old widow, with whom he lived in monogamy for a quarter of a century. After her death, in Mohammed s fifty-first year, his penchant for younger women between the ages of seven and twenty-one found its full expression. His later harem of ten wives and two concubines contained houris of various ages and stages of experience.
Mohammed was of medium height. His long black hair met his beard, and his beard fell down to his waist. Though he seldom laughed, he had a keen sense of humor, always, however, kept within the confines of dignity. Mohammed was proud of his Arab heritage, but deeply sensitive to the immature paganism of his brethren and their lack of a spirit of nationhood. Like Moses, he dreamed of uniting the dissident, warring tribes into one people, giving them a unifying religion, and raising them to an honored position in the world. The wish became father to the deed. The conviction that he was the prophet destined to bring this about for his people grew into revelation.
The 'I and Thou' encounter between Mohammed and God took place in a cave, where Mohammed, then forty, brooded on the problem of bringing salvation to his people. Here he had an experience which to the faithful was conclusive proof that Mohammed was the true successor to Moses and Jesus, but to the infidels merely confirmation that Mohammed was familiar with the Bible. As unto Abraham, Moses and Jesus, so God manifested Himself unto Mohammed, in the form of the angel Gabriel. The Koran, written by Mohammed. says that Gabriel showed Mohammed a tablet, which, though he was illiterate, he suddenly could read at Gabriel’s command. The message stated that Allah, the true God. had appointed Mohammed to be His messenger on earth.
Mohammed first sold his new religion to his wife, then to his relatives, and then to his more distant cousins, and finally to strangers. Here he met with the first sales resistance. Like the Christians before him, Mohammed made his first converts among the slaves. This earned him the suspicion of the Quraish, to whom Mohammed was a radical threatening the economy of the country. After ten years of effort, the bitterness was such that in 622 Mohammed had to flee from Mecca to Medina, where he hoped the large Jewish population would support him.
Mohammed was convinced that the Jews, upon whose religion so much of his own was based, would recognize his claim as successor to Moses and Jesus and would join him in battle against the pagans. But when the Jews firmly rejected his offer Mohammed turned against them. Though illiterate, he had native intelligence. Since the Jews would not help him, he decided to confiscate their wealth to serve his cause. He felt certain that a war against the Jews would not arouse the suspicions of the Quraish, who were envious of Jewish riches, even though tolerant of their religion. But instead of sharing the loot with the Quraish. Mohammed used his newfound wealth to equip an army of 10.000 men which he marched against Mecca. It was too late for the Quraish to regret their mistake in not aligning themselves with the Jews; seeing Mohammed's strength, they capitulated. Within two years all Arabia fell under Mohammed’s rule. Islam, the name of Mohammed’s new creed, was the religion of the land. In 632 Mohammed died.
“If we judge greatness by influence, he was one ot the giants of history,” said Will Durant of Mohammed. Just as Mohammed was the 'conquering word' of Allah, so Abu Bekr friend and successor to Mohammed, was the 'conquering sword' of Allah. It was Abu Bekr who carried the Koran to a world which was not waiting for it, but which heeded the swish of the scimitar that spread it.
In the sixth century the Arabs were desert nomads, in the seventh century they were conquerors on the march, in the eighth century they were masters of an empire that made the Mediterranean a Mohammedan lake, and in the ninth century they were the standard-bearers of a dazzling civilization. leaders in art. architecture, and science, while Western Europe was sinking deeper and deeper into a dark morass of its own making. One by one. countries in the path of the Arabs fell before their onslaughts—Damascus in 635. Palestine in 638, Syria in 640. Egypt in 641. The defeat of the Sassanid Empire in 636 deserves a sympathetic footnote. The day the numerically inferior Arabs attacked, a sandstorm blinded the superior Sassanid armies. The Sassanids too had a second chance, but it ended in disaster, when their army of 150.000 was annihilated by 30,000 Arabs. It was the end of the Sassanid Empire.
By 700CE the eastern half of the Byzantine Empire and all of North Afnca had fallen into the hands of the Mohammedans. In 711 a mixed force of Arabs and Berbers led by a freed slave named Tariq invaded Spain, and by 715 they had crossed the Pyrenees. There was nothing to stop them except bad luck. As in the case of the Huns, who were stopped by the French at the Battle of Chalons, so the French, under the leadership of Charles Martel, stopped the invading Mohammedans at Tours, in 732. This battle resulted in a power stalemate for both Mohammedans and Christians. Although the spread of Mohammedanism was checked in the East by the Byzantine Empire and in the West by France, the spread of Christianity into Africa and Asia was checked by the counterforce of Mohammedanism.
The Mohammedans intellectually divided the people in their empire into two groups, those interested and those not nterested in science. In the first they included Jews. Greeks, nd Persians; in the sccond they lumped Chinese. Turks, and Christians. They looked with respect upon the former and with contempt upon the latter. The Christians, though they far outnumbered the Jews, produced neither great men nor a distinct culture of their own in the Mohammedan Empire, the Jews, on the other hand, produced a Golden Age during this period, generating great names in philosophy, medicine, science. mathematics, linguistics—in every area of human ndeavor except art. which the Jews did not enter until the Modem Age.
Soon after the death of Mohammed, the hostility against the Jews, manufactured out of political expediency, vanished. Whatever legislation against non-Mohammedans existed was usually ignored in practice. The Mohammedans were even more tolerant of other people’s religions than the Romans.
Of interest in this connection is the Pact of Omar (637CE) enacted after the conquest of Christian Syria and Palestine, one of the few discriminatory pieces of Mohammedan legislation we know of (dhimmis). The remarkable thing about this pact is that it mentions Christians only, though it is presumed, but by no means certain, that it also applied to Jews. In accordance with this pact, Christians could not display crosses on churches or in the street, carry religious images in public, chant loudly at funeral processions, strike any Moslem, shave the front ot ther heads, wear distinctive dress, imitate the True Believers, prevent a Christian from converting to Mohammedanism, convert Mohammedans to Christianitv. harbor spies in their churches, or build houses taller than those of their Muslim neighbours. They were to rise up to any Moslem who entered their assemblies and so on.
Technically, all non-Mohammedans had to pay a head tax for protection, which exempted them from military service and denied them the right to hold public office. But as far a the Jews were concerned, these were neglected laws, for the Jews seldom had to pay such a head tax, often served with great distinction and high rank in Moslem armies, and to the highest posts in government service, including grand vizier and princely rank.
The span of the Jewish Golden Age in the Mohammedan civilization corresponded to the life span of the Islamic Empire itself. When the latter broke up. the Jewish Golden Age broke up. The empire of the Mohammedans took as long iin dying as did the empire of the Romans, beginning to break up about 1000C.E. and coming to an end by 1500. We only note its passing with a brevity that does great injustice to its quixotic complexity.
A curious schizophrenia ran through the ruling dynasties alternating between unbounded profligacy and extreme penury. One caliph would ruin the treasury by spending vast sums on luxuries, and his successor would swell the coffer by total miserliness. Because the spenders were able rulers and the misers bad administrators, the spenders enhanced the country’s culture while ruining its finances, and the misers ruined its prestige while leaving favorable balance sheets. As long as gold kept flowing in from an expanding an expanding empire' the country could afford its luxuries. Soon the Mohammedans had the worlds most beautiful cities, most sybaritic rulers, and most unstable governments. Governors of provinces stepped into this power vacuum, seized their respective provinces, and proclaimed themselves rulers of their own domains. By the year 1000, the solid Mohammedan Empire was no more. It consisted of a series of independent caliphates.
With the old unity gone, the Islamic Empire became prey to barbaric tribes. In the thirteenth century, the Mongols under Genghis Khan invaded the empire from the northeast. It was not a mystic destiny which led them west; they followed their cattle. Genghis Khan’s Mongols wore ox-hides, ate anything that lived—cats, dogs, rats, lice—and drank human blood for want of anything better. In their first encounter w,th the Mongols, an army of 400,000 Moslems was defeated. Genghis gutted the city of Bokhara, slew 30 000 and continued his march into the circle of civilization, burning libraries, sacking cities, and beheading people, stacking their heads into grizzly pyramids as neatly as the Nazis stacked concentration camp corpses. Barbarians, yes! But not untidy. When Baghdad capitulated, 800,000 civilians were put to death, the city laid waste, its wealth plundered, and its women violated and sold into slavery. Urged on by their victories, fate dealt the Mongols an unexpected blow from a most unexpected source. The Egyptians stopped them at the Battle of Damascus in 1303. But the Mongolian defeat jcame too late. The devastation they had wrought was so great that this part of the world has not fully recovered to this day.
What was left of the Mohammedan Empire became vulnerable to other forces. Timurids and Moguls seized the Arabian Peninsula; Ottoman Turks annexed Egypt, Palestine Syria, and Iraq; the Almohades became the rulers of North Africa;
(Note: from New World Encyclopedia The Almohad Dynasty (From Arabic الموحدون al-Muwahhidun, i.e. "the monotheists" or "the Unitarians"), was a Berber, Muslim dynasty that was founded in the twelfth century, and conquered all northern Africa as far as Libya, together with Al-Andalus (Moorish Iberia). The Almohad's were Islamic revivalists who set themselves the task of eradicating laxness and enforcing a strict and pious observance of Islam's rituals and laws. They chose an interpretation of the Qur'an that frowned upon the type of religious tolerance and inter-religious exchange for which al-Andalus had become renowned, and reversed the policy of previous rulers who had enabled this, resulting in Christians and Jews emigrating elsewhere (the end of the Jewish Goldern Era)......The Almohad's interpretation of the need for total dissimilitude between Muslims and non-Muslims was even stricter, similar to the teachings of Ibn Taymiyyah.)
A MOSQUE DOME
Mosques: Some hold Sharia courts
Lord Phillips, the most senior judge in England and Wales, has said that principles of sharia law could play a role in some parts of the legal system. But how does the sharia system work and fit into society?
WHAT IS SHARIA?
Sharia law is Islam's legal system. It is derived from both the Koran, as the word of God, the example of the life of the prophet Muhammad, and fatwas - the rulings of Islamic scholars.
But Sharia differs in one very important and significant way to the legal traditions of the Western world: it governs, or at least informs, every aspect of the life of a Muslim.
WHAT DOES IT COVER?
Western law confines itself largely to matters relating to crime, contract, civil relationships and individual rights.
Sharia is however concerned with more. Sharia rulings have been developed to help Muslims understand how they should lead every aspect of their lives according to God's wishes.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN IN PRACTICE?
All sorts of things in daily life. For example, many young Muslims ask themselves what they should do if colleagues invite them to the pub after work or college.
Many people would of course make up their own mind about the appropriate course of action. But others may turn to a Sharia scholar for advice.
So Sharia covers a lot of very mundane and banal daily issues where observant Muslims want to ensure they act within the legal framework of their faith.
SO HOW ARE RULINGS MADE?
Like any legal system, Sharia is complex and its practice is entirely reliant on the quality and training of experts.
There are different schools of thought, which consequently lead to different rulings.
Scholars spend decades studying the law and, as with Western law, an expert on one aspect of Sharia is by no means the authority on another.
Islamic jurists issue guidance and rulings. Guidance that is considered a formal legal ruling is called a Fatwa.
DO PEOPLE GO TO COURT?
Sharia courts exist in both the Muslim world and in the Western world.
In parts of the Muslim world the criminal courts and their punishments are of course drawn from the rules of Sharia.
In the West, Muslim communities have established Sharia courts to largely deal with family or business disputes.
The internet has become a popular way of seeking a ruling with scholars. Some of the guidance to Muslims in the west which has been considered most outlandish has come from these sources, particularly where the scholar has no knowledge of the realities of western life.
WHY IS SHARIA MENTIONED IN THE SAME BREATH AS PUBLIC EXECUTIONS?
Of all the issues around Islamic law, this remains the most controversial in Western eyes - and its presentation the most infuriating for Muslims.
Muslims say the Western world misrepresents Sharia by focusing on beheadings in Saudi Arabia and other gruesome punishments. The equivalent, they say, would be a debate about the history of Western law focused on America's electric chair.
Some modern Muslim scholars say that while Sharia includes provisions for capital and corporal punishment, getting to that stage is in fact quite difficult.
The most famous Muslim thinker in Europe, Tariq Ramadan, has called for a moratorium on these penalties in the Muslim world.
He argues that the conditions under which such penalties would be legal are almost impossible to re-establish in today's world.
BUT MUSLIMS CAN BE EXECUTED FOR CONVERTING?
Apostasy, or leaving the faith, is a very controversial issue in the Muslim world and the majority of scholars believe it is punishable by death.
But a minority of Muslim thinkers, particularly those engaged with Western societies, argue that the reality of the modern world means the "punishment" should be left to God - and that Islam itself is not threatened by apostasy.
THE KORAN ITSELF DECLARES THERE IS "NO COMPULSION" IN RELIGION.
Egypt's most senior cleric has faced a storm in the Middle East after floating some of these ideas but the debate may well continue for many generations to come.
SO WHAT KIND OF SHARIA ARE WE TALKING ABOUT IN THE UK?
The key issues are family law, finance and business. In practice many Muslims do turn to Sharia guidance for many of these day-to-day matters, particularly family disputes.
AND HOW DOES THIS WORK IN PRACTICE?
Muslims are increasingly looking to the example of Jewish communities which have long-established religious community courts.
These "courts" are legally recognised in English law as a means for warring parties to agree to arbitration. The law sees this as a practical way of helping people to resolve their differences in their own way, without clogging up the local courts.
BUT WHAT ABOUT INCORPORATING SHARIA INTO BRITISH LAW?
In two important areas British law has incorporated religious legal considerations. British food regulations allow meat to be slaughtered according to Jewish and Islamic practices - a touchstone issue for both communities.
Secondly, the Treasury has approved Sharia-compliant financial products such as mortgages and investments. Islam forbids interest on the basis that it is money unjustly earned. These products are said by supporters to meet the needs of modern life in a way that fits the faith.
HAS ANY WESTERN NATION ALLOWED SHARIA TO BE USED IN FULL?
Not at all. Canada is widely reported to have come close - leading to protests in 2005.
But in reality the proposals were little different from the existing religious arbitration rules here in the UK.
Experts considered establishing Sharia-related family courts to ease the burden on civil courts - but said these would have to observe the basic human rights guarantees of Canadian law.
WHAT ABOUT SHARIA AND WOMEN?
Some Muslim women in Britain are concerned about how their rights are protected. Take marriage for example.
Muslims only consider themselves truly married once they have conducted the Islamic ceremony, known as the nikah. In some cases, this means that there is a cultural view that the British civil ceremony, which enforces legal rights under the law, is not important.
Some mosques are aware of this issue and now demand to see a marriage certificate as a condition of the nikah. Others do not. Many women want Muslim leaders to do more to ensure their rights are protected under British law.
DOES SHARIA ALLOW MEN TO INSTANTLY DIVORCE WIVES?
There is an idea that men merely have to say the Arabic for divorce three times (known as the triple talaq) and that is sufficient - and there are some men who think they have this right.
In practice, not only do texts show Muhammad disagreed but today, where Sharia courts are properly run, the words are merely a symbolic part of a rigorous process.
Marriage is a contract in Islam. Scholars expect three-month cooling-off periods, dialogue, arbitration and counselling. However, Talaq is a very complicated area of Sharia law with conflicting views - see internet links for one example.
SO WOMEN HAVE RESERVATIONS ABOUT SHARIA?
Some Muslim women in the West would be worried about protection of their rights in Sharia courts where there is discrimination against them because of patriarchal and cultural control in their communities.
This does not mean that they are necessarily opposed to Sharia - only there are concerns about the fairness of its application.
It's fair to say that many leading Muslim women are more concerned about how existing British equality measures and human rights laws can be used to improve their position and voice in society.
As we have noted, the Koran cannot strictly speaking be translated. It stands to Islam like Christ to Christianity, for it is the concrete manifestation of God's word. This doctrine of the untranslatability of the Koran has had a pervasive affect upon Islamic art. Since the Prophet forbade the use of images, particularly of the one true God, and even of men (though not all Islamic art follows this latter rule), the visual genius of Islam has predominantly been channelled into architecture and the arabesque. The latter is the decorative art of the Arabic script, drawing above all on verses from the sacred Koran. The holy book's impact is reinforced by the poetry of the eye. Throughout the Islamic world the delights of the curving and dotted convolutions of the script have been used to decorate mosque and painting. And so even if the Koran contains much law and much doctrine, it does so in a sense of total integration with the delights of language, both spoken and written. God's word must be seen and heard to be beautiful as well as commanding. Those who listen only to the commands of Islam may forget its delights.
Being faithful to God's law brings the Muslim to Paradise, while faithlessness leads to hell. The Koran paints Paradise in vivid colours. Its language is frank and luscious, and its meaning can easily be mistaken. It is to be taken literally, and yet not so. For there are ways in which the Paradise is an allegory, but there are other ways in which the Muslim must take it as totally real. Some of the flavour of heaven reaches upwards from the Arabian milieu:
The pious will be in a safe place
Amid gardens and fountains.
Clothed in silk and rich robes ...
On inlaid couches.
Reclining on them face to face.
Ever-blooming youths go in among them
Bearing goblets and bowls and cups of flowing wine
From which they get no headaches or loss of sense.
And bearing such fruits as they find most delicious
And the flesh of such birds as they long for.
They shall have the houris, with large dark eyes like pearls enclosed in their shells.
In recompense for past labours,
It is notable that though the Koran bans alcohol on earth, on the ground that its disadvantages outweigh its advantages, in heaven its use is a delight, and from it flows no hangover. The frankness of this Paradise is attractive; and so our dreams after a life of toil will be fulfilled by the kindly will of Allah. Muslims were indeed inspired by the picture of heaven to create its mirror image upon earth. The formal gardens of Islamic Spain, the fountains tinkling amid sun-bathed courtyards, the intricacies of Arab gastronomy, the sherbet and the rich fruits, the concubines, the rich couches and cool flowing robes - many an Islamic potentate has striven to create such a scene. Some thus hope to have their rewards in advance of heaven. The dream, though sensuous, is also beautiful, and has its own nobility. Do we take it literally? Indeed, what is strange and moving about the Koran is that it shatters us with the words of an anthropomorphic God, yet tells us he is unknowable in himself: the Koran has a surface grammar and a depth of meaning. So we can take Paradise as we think; but surely it is beautiful and fulfilling.
Islam is practical and the believer need not be in doubt as to what is needed of him. Of course, external observances are not enough: each duty must be pursued with right intention. Still, the duties are plain. They are the so-called five pillars of Islam - to confess the faith, to pray daily in the prescribed way, to give alms in accordance with a formula, to observe the annual fast and, circumstances permitting, to go on pilgrimage. Consider what the obligation to pray means, if faithfully observed. It involves praying five times daily, at dawn, at noon, in mid-afternoon, at sunset and at the fall of darkness. Thus is Allah kept in daily consciousness. Though men are proud and upright in the brotherhood of Islam, before God they must prostrate themselves. Moreover, they pray in the direction of Mecca, and thus constantly are reminded of the scenes of Muhammad's life and the place where God's action so dynamically entered into human history. The call to prayer in Muslim countries issues most dramatically from the tall minaret, from whose height the haunting call of the muezzin floats. The sound is a noble start to the day. even if now the human muezzin is often replaced by the tawdry electronics of a recorded message. Prayer also has not only its sound but its tapestry, in the weave of the prayer rug. which separates the pious person from the dusty earth or the grubby surrounding floor: it defines a sacred space in the midst of life, and in the divine moments of prayer th els in the windows of dealers in London or New York reflect that the crooked fingers of the Persian rug-makers worked originally for the certainties of the faith, not for the casual footprint of the well-heeled Westerner.
If prayer is a practical expression of certitude, the first pillar, the recitation of the brief creed, is a reminder of intellectual assent. In its simple resonant form the confession is summed up as La ilaha illah Allah; Muhammad rasul Allah. 'There is no god but God and Muhammad is his messenger.' It is almost hypnotic in its Arabic form, in the alliteration and interplay of syllables. The simplicity of the faith means that there is no need for an intervening priesthood between the believer and his God. Thus Islam has no body corresponding to the Christian church, beyond the body of those who believe and worship together. In so far as there is communal worship, as distinct from individual devotions, this most typically occurs on a Friday when the adult males gather in the mosque. After their ablutions, meant to purify the body in sacred preparation for prayer, they follow the leader or imam in communal devotions, again facing towards Mecca. The imam will also preach, expounding points of the faith. In the hinterland of his mind will stand the whole tradition of Islamic scholarship based on the Koran and on the ancillary writings through which doctrine and sacred law are interpreted.
But prescribed duties go beyond daily and weekly observances. The faithful Muslim will wish, as we have noted, to go on the hajj - the pilgrimage to the geographical centre of the Islamic world, to Mecca. A man who makes the journey gains pious reputation and earthly reputation. In the old days the expense could be great and the journey dangerous. Nowadays things are easier, for cheap charter jumbo jets fly the faithful in to Arabia from Nigeria and Indonesia and even from Chicago. But this very fact means a strengthening of the solidarity of Islam in a world where other forces may be acting against traditional religion. If the trip to Mecca is a sacred journey in space, there is also an annual journey in sacred time, during the lunar month of Ramadan, when the faithful are forbidden, unless sick or journeying, to eat or drink between dawn and dusk. Perhaps this scarcely counts as part of the delights of Islam? Well, fasting can in a perverse way be enjoyable, and once again the faith lays upon its devotees a strong bond of certainty in communal practice.
At any rate, in these various matters - the creed, daily prayer, fasting, giving alms - Islam is clear about duties. The delight is that you know what to do and how to please Allah. Do such things with sincere intention, and you are acceptable to God. Muslims rather dislike the too easy-going confusions of contemporary Christianity. But what arc we to say about the 'sixth' pillar of Islam, the duty to take part in holy war?
Islam has never been in two minds about the use of force (it was built in the first place upon conquest), and rightly so, for a political community is in part about power. The sword can be used in the service of Allah, and sometimes it has to be. It is rightly used when the jihad or holy war is proclaimed. This militancy gives a certain pride to the Muslim: he has not regarded his religion as a demand for humility before his fellow men, however deep his abasement before God may be. Indeed it follows from the nature of the faith that there should be no grovelling before anyone save Allah. Thus there is an enduring toughness about Islamic civilisation, and the picture of Muslim decadence often encountered in Western jokes and stereotypes is very wide of the mark. The martial spirit of Islam is summed up at its best, for the Westerner, in the nobility of Saladin. It has thus been a great source of sorrow for Arabs in modern times that frequently their arms have proved so ineffective against a waspish Israeli David. But if Islam, being theocratic and so political at heart, cannot neglect the use of force, very often the jihad has been seen, not as a literal call to war, but as an inner battle, an inner jihad - namely a struggle to make society more truly Muslim, and to cause men to conform more strictly to the social and religious ethos of Islam.
The outer observances, so clearly laid down, must be accompanied by the right inner intention. There is much in the religion which might at first seem ritualistic and legalistic, but the sacred law is but the outer skin of an inward fruit. The discipline of the Islamic life must be developed in an inward direction. One major way this happened was through the growth of Islamic mysticism - the so-called Sufi movement - through which men reached God in the depth of the soul. Shortly we shall trace the history of the Sufis. Thus, though the faith teaches that there should be a divine order upon earth, a new society under God, there is within each individual a possible depth of spiritual knowledge which complements the outer, communal life. It is a paradox of much religion that often the firmness of external rules is a condition for inner freedom.
Islam is nothing without Allah, and its glories mean nothing without him. No religion has so emphasised the majesty and otherness of God. The numinosity of Allah, the amplification of the worship of God as found in the Jewish heritage upon which Islam partly drew, the stunning sense of man's destiny under God - all this symbolises God's creative control over the world and over human history (though Iblis, the Devil, creeps into a few cracks and fissures in the fabric of life). Allah is frighteningly unique, but full of mercy and compassion. It should be a deed of love to follow his will.
The literal meaning of Jihad is struggle or effort, and it means much more than holy war.
Muslims use the word Jihad to describe three different kinds of struggle:
Many modern writers claim that the main meaning of Jihad is the internal spiritual struggle, and this is accepted by many Muslims.
However there are so many references to Jihad as a military struggle in Islamic writings that it is incorrect to claim that the interpretation of Jihad as holy war is wrong.
JIHAD AND THE PROPHET
The internal Jihad is the one that Prophet Muhammad is said to have called the greater Jihad.
But the quotation in which the Prophet says this is regarded as coming from an unreliable source by some scholars. They regard the use of Jihad to mean holy war as the more important.
THE INTERNAL JIHAD
An open Qur'an Learning the Qur'an by heart is considered engaging in Greater Jihad ©
The phrase internal Jihad or greater Jihad refers to the efforts of a believer to live their Muslim faith as well as possible.
All religious people want to live their lives in the way that will please their God.
So Muslims make a great effort to live as Allah has instructed them; following the rules of the faith, being devoted to Allah, doing everything they can to help other people.
For most people, living God's way is quite a struggle. God sets high standards, and believers have to fight with their own selfish desires to live up to them, no matter how much they love God.
THE FIVE PILLARS OF ISLAM AS JIHAD
The five Pillars of Islam form an exercise of Jihad in this sense, since a Muslim gets closer to Allah by performing them.
Other ways in which a Muslim engages in the 'greater Jihad' could include:
THE GREATER JIHAD CONTROVERSY
The Prophet is said to have called the internal Jihad the "greater Jihad".
On his return from a battle, the Prophet said: "We are finished with the lesser jihad; now we are starting the greater jihad." He explained to his followers that fighting against an outer enemy is the lesser jihad and fighting against one's self is the greater jihad (holy war).
This quotation is regarded as unreliable by some scholars. They regard the use of jihad as meaning 'holy war' as the more important.
However the quotation has been very influential among some Muslims, particularly Sufis.
When Muslims, or their faith or territory are under attack, Islam permits (some say directs) the believer to wage military war to protect them.
However Islamic (shariah) law sets very strict rules for the conduct of such a war.
In recent years the most common meaning of Jihad has been Holy War.
And there is a long tradition of Jihad being used to mean a military STRUGGLE to benefit Islam.
WHAT CAN JUSTIFY JIHAD?
There are a number of reasons, but the Qur'an is clear that self-defence is always the underlying cause.
Permissable reasons for military Jihad:
WHAT A JIHAD IS NOT
Although the Prophet engaged in military action on a number of occasions, these were battles to survive, rather than conquest, and took place at a time when fighting between tribes was common.
THE RULES OF JIHAD
THE RULES OF JIHAD
THE QUR'AN ON JIHAD
The Qur'an has many passages about fighting. Some of them advocate peace, while some are very warlike. The Bible, the Jewish and Christian scripture, shows a similar variety of attitudes to war.
Fight in the way of Allah against those who fight against you, but begin not hostilities. Lo! Allah loveth not aggressors. Qur'an 2:190
To those against whom war is made, permission is given (to fight), because they are wronged;- and verily, Allah is most powerful for their aid. Qur'an 22:39
Therefore if they withdraw from you but fight you not, and (instead) send you (Guarantees of) peace, then Allah Hath opened no way for you (to war against them). Qur'an 4:90
But if the enemy incline towards peace, do thou (also) incline towards peace, and trust in Allah: for He is One that heareth and knoweth (all things). Qur'an 8:61
From ‘Time’ January 2011
By 2030 the global population is set to reach over 8 billion and 26.4% of that population will be Muslim.
A report by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life titled “The Future of the Global Muslim Population” projects that the number of Muslims in the world is set to double from 1.1billion in 1990 to 2.2 billion in 2030.
While these are impressive numbers, it actually indicates that the worldwide growth of Islam is “growing but slowing” as it will drop from a growth rate of 1.7% between 2010 and 2020 to 1.4% between 2020 and 2030.
Pew project that Pakistan is set to overtake Indonesia as the country with the world’s largest number of Muslim’s as it’s Muslim majority population pushes to over 256 million. The number in the U.S. will double to over 6.2 million while Afghanistan’s Muslim population is set to rise by almost 74% as the number rises from 29 million to 50 million, making it the country with the ninth largest Muslim population in the world.
Better living conditions combined with increased life-expectancy in Muslim majority countries in the Middle East and Northern Africa, net migration and global population growth are given as the main factors driving the growth. Despite the projection, Muslims will remain a relatively small minority in the Americas and European countries and the Christian majority in these countries is expected to be just as impressive.
While Islam has experienced rapid growth in worshipers of all denominations, it is likely that it will not overtake Christianity as the most dominant world religion as the number of Christians is expected to also reach 2.2billion by 2030. Between them, these two major world religions will make up over half of the Global population at almost 33 per cent by 2030.
“There has been a lot of speculation about the growth of the Muslim population around the world, and many of those who speculate don’t have good data,” said Brian Grim, a senior researcher at the Pew Forum. “Instead of a runaway train, it’s trending with the general global population.”
“This will provide a garbage filter for hysterical claims people make about the size and growth of the Muslim population,” Philip Jenkins, a religious history scholar in Christianity and Islam told the Washington Post.
Certainly with the world population set to reach 8.3 billion by 2030 the explosive growth of world religions is just as impressive. (Via CNN.)
Some of the events pivotal in the Muslim world's relationship with the outside world in the post-Soviet era were: see Wiki
Islamic terrorism consists of terror attacks by Islamic fundamentalists to further a perceived Islamic religious or political cause. It has occurred globally, in practically every continent, including in Africa, Australia, the Middle East, Europe, South and South-east Asia, South America, The Caucasus, The Pacific and North America. Terrorist organizations have been known to engage in tactics including suicide attacks, bombings, spree killings, hijackings, kidnappings, and beheadings.
Click Wiki for a list of Islamic terrorist attacks since 1980
In one century Islam swept the lands encircling the southern half of the Mediterranean embracing almost half the then known world. It had succeeded where Christianity had failed.
They believe that the Koran is the concrete manifestation of God's word which it does in a sense of total integration with the delights of language, both spoken and written. Sharia law is Islam's legal system. It is derived from both the Koran, as the word of God, the example of the life of the prophet Muhammad, and fatwas - the rulings of Islamic scholars.
But Sharia differs in one very important and significant way to the legal traditions of the Western world: it governs, or at least informs, every aspect of the life of a Muslim. Within this we have basic feelings such as the delights of paradise, certitude, warfare and Allah.
The trickle of Jews into Arabia beginning after 70CE reached the proportions of a flood in the fifth and sixth centuries, when a power struggle between the Sassanid and Byzantine empires squeezed Jews out of Syria and Palestine into Arabia.
The empire of the Mohammedans began to break up about 1000CE (with the Almohads) until 1500 so it took as long iin dying as did the Roman empire. Major problems today are conflict between Sunni and Shia Muslims, for example the Iran-Iraq war and acts of terrorism. One effect of the latter is security leading to airport queues to guard against plane hijacking.
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Is Islam a Religion of Peace?
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Islam: Empire of Faith
Muslim Zeal (2.40.04)
The Islamic Empire in Decline
The Intellectual Collapse of Islam
ThePoliticalBrain's channel (10.18)
Pre-Islamic History of the Middle East
Caspian Report (11.58)
BBC Documentary -
Blaming The Jews
(Muslim Antisemitism) (2005) (37.43)
Facts about Islam: Muslim history, honor culture and global Islamic jihad
by radical Muslims
Dr Richard Landes, 2015 (1.20.15)