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 Due Nov 19 at 11:59 PM.  Answer at least 3 prompts.

Based on the Sura of Sincerity and other things in the power points, which religion does Islam resemble more–Judaism or Christianity?

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What is the significance of the Night Journey and Ascent to Heaven?

What is the significance of Islam’s insistence that Mohammed is the Seal of prophecy?

What is the importance of the Hadj to Islam in general and individual Muslims in particular?


Teachings, Expansions, and Divisions of Islam

Part I- Expansions and Divisions


Shura Mohammed would often consult with members of the community for advice on governmental actions, alliances, etc, usually in the Mosque of Medina. He would allow free talk, and would often concur with the majority opinion. This process was called Shura, or the Tradition of Consultation. This formed the basis of the representative political structure in Islam.


The Caliphs

A Shura was held to select Mohammed’s successor. Mohammed had spoken in general terms as to the functions of a successor. He was to be elected, and the leader would remain as long as he abided by the tenets of Islam. An Islamic govt would consist of a caliph, and a representative council that could override or remove the caliph if he overstepped his bounds. This khalifa, or deputy (often translated as successor), it was soon decided, should be Mohammed’s old friend and close companion, Abu Bakr. He is said to have said in his acceptance speech:

O people, I have been chosen to be your leader, even though I’m no better than any of you. If I do right, help me. If I do wrong, correct me.   There was some dissent. Most importantly, Ali ibn Abi Talib, the Prophets cousin, who had been making funeral arrangements, thought he should have been at the meeting. Some of his supporters thought he had more right to rule as a close relative of the Prophet. This is the first sign of a dispute that would result in a 1400 year split in the Muslim umma. But for now, Abu Bakr was the Caliph. He was the first of the caliphs of the 30 year Khulafa ar Rashidah, The Period of the Rightly Guided Caliphs. 3

Umar and Uthman

• Umar was voted in after Abu Bakr died after two years. He fought many battles with Byzantium and Persia. He forbade forced conversions, and gained the title Commander of the Faithful (amir al-mu ‘minin).

• Killed after ten years by a Persian assassin. • Uthman continued the conquests, and collected the

Koran into an authorized edition, and built a navy. • Not the best administrator, there was much

corruption. • Assassinated in 656.


Ali (ruled 656-661) • After Uthman died, Ali finally became caliph. But there were many rebellious

governors in Iraq, Egypt, and Syria. Ali, being cautious, delayed investigating Uthman’s assassination—but this was misinterpreted as not wanting to bring the slayers to justice. He also revoked many of Uthman’s appointments. Partisans of Uthman, especially the Umayyads from Mecca, began to rally against him.

• Medina was far away from many of the new conquests, so Ali moved the capital to Kufa, a garrison city on the desert edges of Iraq.

• Aisha and several other Meccans raised a hue and cry against Ali, and went to Basrah to organize a revolt. At the Battle of the Camel, all of Aisha’s guards were killed, but she was allowed to return to Medina to live a long life.

• • These disputes were painful and familial. The Prophet’s family members—all of

them—are respected by Muslims as the People of the House. • But like Abraham’s family, they were human and imperfect.


Ali continued • Things got even worse for Ali than having to fight his family members. • The Governor of Syria refused to step down as requested. Mu’awiya was a nephew of

Uthman, and had policy disputes regarding Arab emigration to various parts of the Muslim Empire.

• The periods of civil wars is called the fitna, , Arabic for “controversy or turmoil.” • Mu’awiya signed an unfavorable peace treaty with the Byzantines to protect his rear, and

went to war with Ali. • Neither of the armies wanted to fight, and one battle was stopped by hanging pages of the

Koran on spear points. Negotiations to hold a new shura broke down, and war continued.

• Some of Ali’s followers got mad at him for even trying to negotiate, and formed a radical group called the Kharajites.

• • In 661, a Kharajite assassin stabbed Ali just after morning prayers, killing him. • • The political /religious system Mohammed had tried to set up was also dead.


The beginnings of the Shi’a-Sunni split

Ali’s partisans were called the Shi’a, and this was the beginning of Islam’s greatest split. All Muslims recognize Ali as a great Muslim and religious guide and adviser. Shi’ites consider him to be an infallible, divinely guided imam, or leader.


Muslim Expansion After the Wars of the Riddah, the Muslim Empire expanded rapidly, destroying Persia, and conquering much of the Byzantine

Empire, and conquering Spain. The expansion finally stopped in 732 at Tours in northern France.



Non-Muslims who were Christians or Jews were granted protected status as Peoples of the Books. In Iran, Zoroastrians were included. Those who held protected status were called dhimmis. Dhimmis could practice their religion, but could not proselytize or build new houses of worship—they could repair old ones. They had to wear distinctive clothing, treat Muslims with respect and deference, and since they did not have to pay the zakat Muslims paid, they were subject to a poll tax known as jizya, and a land tax for some. They could not bear arms, ride horses, or serve in the military. But, since the Arabs lacked much knowledge of bureaucracies in the early years, many served in high government positions in the early years. Later on, they became ethnic minorities.


India In some areas, polytheists were treated badly, and the Central Asian invaders of India tried to kill the polytheist Hindus until they realized there were just too many. It was eventually decided that since Hindus did have sacred books, they should also be treated as Peoples of the Book and made dhimmis. In the Mughal Empire, a Muslim empire which ruled India for several centuries, while many became Muslims, many did not. The Empire made so much money from the dhimmi tax that they discouraged conversion!


Umayyad Dynasty

As we have seen, caliphs were supposed to be selected via consultation, the formation of a committee or shura. But Mu’awiya, who ruled in Damascus, founder of the Umayyad Dynasty, decreed he would be followed by his son Yazid. Yazid was both a drinker of wine and lived a wastrel lifestyle—both of which were forbidden in Islam. Also, people were supposed to be chosen on merit, not birth. This, to many people, was NOT a caliph. Many Muslim historians have contemptuously called the Umayyad dynasty the Arab kingdom. A king, they believe, is only a human tyrant, but a caliph is one who rules as deputy of God’s apostle (Mohammed) and in a sense is a deputy of God himself.


The Tragedy at Karbala and the Shi’ite Movement

The Ummayad dynasty was criticized for ruthlessness and worldliness, and for being hereditary. In Iraq, relations with the Syrian-based dynasty worsened. Many wished to be governed by Husayn, the son of Ali and Fatima and the grandson of the Prophet. Husayn, seeking to become the rightful Muslim leader, headed toward Kufa, where the Partisans of Ali, the Shi’a, lived. Near Karbala, his entire party was ambushed and the men killed and the women and children put in bonds (680). The horrified reaction to the Tragedy at Karballa marks the true beginning of the Shi’ite movement. Husayn was hailed as a martyr, Imam, and prototype for God’s redemption at the end of history. A “passion play” each year among the Shi’a commemorates the Tragedy—the ta’ziya.


The Shia-Sunni Split • The Tragedy at Karbala actually brought new members into the Shia, who wished the

Prophet’s descendants would rule. Many non-Arabs joined the group. The Shia wanted the people to return to the egalitarian system of the early umma. The Shia stressed universalism and egalitarianism. The movement was both religious and idealistic.

• In time, the Shia began to argue that certain interpretations of the Qu’ran belonged only to the Prophet’s family. They exalted leaders as great Imams, who are in ways continuers of prophecy.

• • The split was originally mainly political and perhaps dynastic, but the Shia’s soon became

a major separate group, often persecuted, and with many commemorations of massacres and assassinations. The majority of Muslims are called the Sunni, or the Tradition.

• Persia was for a time ruled by a Shia dynasty and it contains the largest amount of today’s Shias. Sizable communities may be found in South Iraq, Lebanon, and other regions.


The Abbasids

The Shi’a were not the only opponents of the Umayyad. In the northeast of the Empire, in Khorasan a revolutionary movement called the Abbasids arose. They were named after an uncle of the prophet. They argued that only by means of a caliph from the Prophet’s house could the umma resume its godly course. The Shia joined with them. Then the Abbasids introduced Abu Muslim as the future leader of the Umma. He was a mawla—a non Arab convert, and he was said to be acting in the name of the Prophet’s house for someone whose name would be figured out later. At Merv he raised the Black Flag of Revolution, and by 750 the Umayyads were defeated (though one prince escaped to Spain and led an Umayyad dynasty there). The Abbasids now controlled the bulk of the Empire, and control was handed to members of the Prophets family. Al Mansur killed Abu Muslim to ensure total control. The Shi’ites were pushed aside, and the Abbasid Umma was mainly Sunni. Rather than restoring the equality and brotherhood the early umma was supposed to have, they came to resemble Persian shahs, not rightly guided caliphs.


The Golden Age of Islamic Civilization

If a disappointment from a political/religious point of view, in many ways, the Abbasid Dynasty was a time of cultural contributions. It has been called the Golden Age of Islamic Civilization. Among the contributions and institutions that were developed and perfected:

Jurisprudence and Law Systematic theology Philology, grammar and rhetoric Greek style philosophy Philology and grammar were important to the study of the Qur’an. Beautiful writing—belles letters or adab, was practiced, as well as poetry. Persian literature also flourished. Perhaps the most important work of this time was the Arabian Nights, translated for Western audiences in the nineteenth century. These were the tales of Aladdin and his lamp, of Sinbad the Sailor, and of genies.

To the right—Sheharazade , from Arabian Nights


Islamic Science

Great progress was made in science, mathematics, and medicine. Ibn Sina, known in the West as Avicenna, wrote a treatise on medicine that was used into the 18th century in Europe. Theologian and philosophers would influence medieval Christian scholastics. Averroes (Ibn Rushd) (to the right) was an Aristotlean logician who was particularly influential. The Abassids were at their height about 800, the same time as Charlemagne. Harun al Rashid exchanged envoys and gifts with Charlemagne. He is said in the Arabian Nights to have prowled the streets of Baghdad with some companions, dressed as a commoner to root out corruption.


Baghdad The Abbasid capital was at the newly built city of Baghdad, built near the site of ancient Babylon. It was a cosmopolitan world of many people. As the scene of much of the Arabian Nights, it lives in memory as a land of wonder, flying carpets, and genies.


Islamic Art The Prophet is said to have said: God is beautiful, and He loves beauty.

But, Islam prohibits idolatry, so therefore painting or drawing people or even animals that appear too lifelike is forbidden. Even drawings of the Prophet are forbidden, though many were made in Central Asia or Persia until a few centuries ago.

Artists have thus used abstract or geometric designs to avoid the prohibition.


Calligraphy Perhaps because of the prohibition on most drawing, calligraphy has become a major art form in much of the Muslim world

The Bismillah Shahada


Muslim Spain Spain was highly advanced, and ruled by the Umayyad prince. They had streets lit by oil lamps, hospitals, universities, and libraries. Jews prospered and Muslim rule there has been called the Golden Age of the Jews. Eventually however, the Dynasty’s rule was replaced by about 20 smaller states, and by 1492, the land was conquered, Jews and Muslims expelled or killed.The Inquisition sought out Muslims. Spanish culture, language, architecture were all influenced by the Muslims. Above—The Great Mosque at Cordoba


The Crusades The Crusades were discussed in an earlier class. They were a shattering experience for the Muslims, and they never forgot. The Crusaders slaughtered many Muslims and even Christians—they couldn’t tell the difference—in the Levant. Eventually, Saladin defeated the Franks, and by 1192—about a century after the First Crusade began —took back Jerusalem. To this day, the memory of the Crusades poisons relations between the faiths. ISIS and other jihadists, as well as non-violent radical Islamists, often call Westerners Crusaders in protests and writings.

It is not meant as a compliment.


  • Slide 1
  • Shura
  • The Caliphs
  • Umar and Uthman
  • Ali (ruled 656-661)
  • Ali continued
  • The beginnings of the Shi’a-Sunni split
  • Slide 8
  • Dhimmis
  • India
  • Umayyad Dynasty
  • The Tragedy at Karbala and the Shi’ite Movement
  • The Shia-Sunni Split
  • The Abbasids
  • The Golden Age of Islamic Civilization
  • Islamic Science
  • Baghdad
  • Slide 18
  • Slide 19
  • Muslim Spain
  • The Crusades


Mohammed, the Koran, and the Hegira



In the early days of the 7th century, a new religion arose on the Arabian Peninsula. The Prophet Mohammed, over a period of 22 years transmitted what Muslims believe to be the word of God, the Koran. This was said to be the final revelation of God, superseding and correcting all prior sacred books, such as the Bible. Most Arabs became Muslims, and the religion rapidly spread through both conquest and conversion. While the Koran is written in Arabic, and while Islam insists on pilgrimage to a site in Arabia, Islam—submission to the will of Allah —did not become just a folk religion of the Arabs, but a universal religion followed by billions with adherents from all peoples. Unlike the relationship of Jews and Judaism, while the Arabs are very important to the history of Islam, a history of the Arabs is not a history of Islam. Many non-Arab peoples such as the Turks adopted Islam. Today, the largest Muslim country in population is Indonesia—a non-Arab country in Southeast Asia.



“The Island of the Arabs” Much of Arabia is desert or marginally

inhabitable steppe


Afro-Asiatic language group

The Arabs are Semites, speaking a language that is part of a family that includes Hebrew, Aramaic, and Syriac. It is part of a language group, the Afro- Asiatic group, which includes Berber, Amharic, and ancient Egyptian. The term Semite comes from Shem, one of Noah’s sons. A few words and expressions will show you the close connection of the Arabic and Hebrew languages. Arabic is the first word, Hebrew the second.

(Salaam Aleikem=Shalom Aleichem, (peace be with you) zedat= tzedakah (righteousness, charity) Ibn = ben (son of)


Arabian Peninsula Traditionally, northern Arabs are descended from Adnan, a descendant of Ishmael. The Hejaz, in the west of the Peninsula, contains the sacred cities of Mecca and Medina, and is called “the Cradle of Islam”.


Pre-Islamic life

Arabs lived in independent, often nomadic tribes. Change came rarely in the Arab world. They raised camels, sheep, and on occasion might act as bodyguards to caravans. It was also a custom to raid both sedentary villages and other tribes camps as a way to gain goods. Raiding sedentary, settled peoples could sometimes produce great wealth. Raids were called ghazwa, and bloodshed was to be avoided if possible. It seems to have been ritualized, and also fun. There was much tribal and clan loyalty. Each clan had a shaykh, or chieftain. Vendettas would often occur between clans. Personal honor was an individuals greatest possession. Men had to show muruwa, or manliness— this included courage, loyalty, and generosity.


The Camel The camel was the measure of wealth and prosperity, and much poetry was written about them. The camel was the ship of the desert. Here’s an excerpt of some poetry, a rather typical one, about a camel—but a reader would be forgiven if he thinks at first it is a poem about a woman: Perfectly firm is the flesh of her two thighs— They are the gates of a lofty, smooth-walled castle— And tightly knit are her spine-bones, the ribs like bows, Her underneck stuck with the well-strung vertebrae… Her cheek is smooth as Syrian parchment… Her eyes are a pair of mirrors, sheltering In the caves of her brow-bones, the rock of a pool’s hollow… Such is the beast I ride. Seven Odes, Arberry



Arabic is a language that rhymes much and is well-suited to poetry. To this day, Arabs hold “poetry slams”. Poetry was the major form of artistic expression of the ancient Arabs. Its origins were in religion, and in the Kahin, or diviners, who in trances or ecstasy could divine the future, heal, and most importantly, find lost camels. A poet is a sha’ir, one who knows. Poets were believed to gain their knowledge and insights from a “shayan” (a satan) or from a jinn, a creature of fire who lived invisibly in the desert, usually in anthromorphic form, but invisible. Poets were thus in a relationship with a being who could only be called demonic, and you did not want one as an enemy. They could curse enemies and come up with damaging nicknames that would last your whole life.

To the right: Arab poetry contest


Pre-Islamic Religion

The Kaaba (the cube-shaped building to the right) just before the Islamic period began contained 360 idols, and some argue that it was dedicated to the god Hubal. Hubal’s idol was red, human-shaped, and had 7 arrows before it used for divination. Sacrifices of camels and others were made to the gods. Besides Hubal, whose name means “spirit”, there were 4 gods who were rather important— The High God, and his 3 daughters. The God, or Allah, was the High God of Mecca and the Quraysh tribe, who created the universe, but then left it to lesser gods to take care of rainfall, fertility, etc. This is seen in many religions among non-literate peoples. These High Gods do retain a function, and are powerful— but their power is often hidden.

This pagan version of Allah had three daughters, al’Uzza— that is, Venus, the morning star, al-Lat, and Manat, the goddess of faith and destiny. To al’Uzza would be given human sacrifices, and no hunting or killing could occur in al- Lat’s sacred precincts.

[While Muslims call the Deity by the same name as the pagan High God of Mecca, there the similarity ends. The Muslim Allah is the sole god, and has no children—he neither begets nor is begotten] 9

Kaaba and the Black Stone

Many Arabs would come to Mecca to see the shrines, and especially the wondrous black stone in the corner of the Kaaba. This stone fell from the sky—and it was believed to be a gift from the gods. Muslims believe an angel brought it to Abraham, who with Ishmael is said to have built the Kaaba. Some tales said the Kaaba was originally built by angels as a place of worship. Pagan Arabs would circle it several times as part of worship, and some believe this was an ancient fertility rite. The men were usually naked, and the women nearly so.



There were some Arabs who were not Jews or Christians, but believed in one God—they are called by the Qu’ran hanifs. Abraham is described as a hanif: [Abraham] in truth was not a Jew, neither a Christian; but he was a Muslim and one pure of faith [a hanif]. Certainly he was never of the idolaters. Koran, 3:67.



Mohammed ibn ‘Abdallah, better known as just Mohammed or the Prophet, was born about 569 or 570, maybe a little later but no later than 580, and was a member of the Quraysh tribe, one of the most powerful in Mecca. His clan, the Banu Hashim, was a lesser clan, but well thought of. His early life had much tragedy in it. His father died before he was born, and his mother died when he was only 6. As a boy, he was wet-nursed by a Bedouin in the desert, as was the custom, in order to strengthen him and expose him to the purest Arabic language. His grandfather ‘Abd al-Muttalib acted as his guardian, and took over his rearing when his mother died. But al-Muttalib died two years later, and Mohammed was then reared by his uncle, Abu Talib, who would protect Mohammed in later years.

To the right: Mecca, about 1885


Mount Hira

The next few slides are based on the Koran, the Life of Mohammed, and other sources: Mohammed began meditating in a cave outside Mecca at a mountain called Mount Hira. He was about 40 when the visions began, in 610 CE. A presence came to him in a dream and told Mohammed that he was the Messenger of God. Jonah and many other prophets would probably sympathize with his reaction—he was absolutely terrified, and woke up and asked his wife Khadija to wrap him up, and he remained covered until his terror passed. Again, the presence came to him while he was on a mountain, and he was so frightened he was about to throw himself off the cliff. The presence appeared again, announced that Mohammed was God’s apostle, and that the presence was the angel Gabriel. [he was] one terrible in power, very strong; he stood poised, being on the higher horizon, then drew near and suspended hung, two bow’s length away, or nearer, then revealed to his servant that he revealed. Qu’ran 53:5-10


The Qur’an revealed After appearing to Mohammed on the mountain, sometime later, in the month of Ramadan, Gabriel woke him up, and covered Mohammed with a coverlet with writing on it, and told him to Recite! Mohammed, being illiterate, could not comply, and said “I am unable to recite!

Gabriel pushed the coverlet down so hard Mohammed could barely breathe and thought that he was going to die. But he told Gabriel he could not recite what was written. Gabriel again commanded he recite, and Mohammed cried out

“What shall I recite!” Gabriel replied: Recite: In the Name of thy Lord who created,

Created Man of a blood-clot.   Recite: And thy Lord is the Most Generous, who taught by the Pen,Taught man that he knew not. (Qur’an 96:1- 5) These are the first verses of the Qur’an to be revealed. The word Koran means “recitation”.


The Koran

Most of Mohammed’s visions were not visual, but auditory, and revealed bit by bit over twenty two years. Muslims believe Mohammed was distinctly aware that he was not writing the Koran, but transmitting it— Allah was the one who was writing it. Muslims regard the Koran as the product of God and not of a human being—only its chapter arrangement, verse numbering, and surah (chapter) names are human.

Mohammed would clearly distinguish his own words from the Qu’ran’s. However, his words are recorded in many hadith and Muslims follow his sunnah, or example. Whether the Koran is the Word of God or not is a matter of faith. Parts of it are reminiscent of sources from other faiths that Mohammed may have been familiar with. Muslims argue that of course the revelations given by God to Mohammed and others are similar.

The vast majority of those who have studied Mohammed, including his critics, believe that he was sincere, not a deceiver, and truly believed he was receiving and delivering the word of God to his people.

Again, whether it was is a matter of faith, but Mohammed truly believed it was God’s word.


Koran, continued

Muhammad and many Muslims believed the Koran was a miracle in of itself.

Mohammed, who had never been considered a poet, had produced a beautiful work of poetry. That was a miracle and, it was argued, showed its divine inspiration.

It has been argued that while Mohammed was a man of fine character and morals, he could not have produced such a beautiful work—only the finest of poets could have attempted anything like it, and the Qur’an, it is argued, is superior to their work.

Some find the Koran’s beauty in the original Arabic almost hypnotic. Many believe it should not be translated, but one should learn Arabic in order to understand the Koran. Translations usually call themselves “interpretations”.

God’s word was heavy, and Mohammed would often feel them as a great weight.

Having begun to receive revelations, Mohammed told his wife Khadija, and she became the first to become a Muslim. She was a great support in the difficult times to follow. 16

The Koran, continued

The Koran is not a history, but a series of pronouncements, warnings, and the like, and was revealed slowly over many years. Many memorized it, and some are said to have written verses down on parchment or even camel shoulder blades during Mohammed’s life. Sometime after Mohammed’s death, it was finally fully written down, and placed into its present chapter set up. It consists of 114 surahs, or chapters. Except for the initial surah, it is arranged approximately from longest to shortest surah. The surahs are divided by both Islamic and Western scholars into Meccan and Medinite, though some surahs seem to contain both, and many have tried to figure out when what verse was produced. The Meccan ones are the earlier ones and deal with the Day of Judgment, the Oneness of God, and morals. They confront regressive Arab customs such as the aforementioned infanticides, superstitions and witchcraft, and the blind following of tradition. Medinite ones come later, from when Mohammed ruled the city of Medina, and deal with more down to earth matters such as inheritance, marriage, divorce, civil and criminal law, and statecraft.


The Eternal Koran

In a discussion that has echoes of the question of the Logos—the Word—in Christianity and of the Arian controversy, Muslims consider the Koran to be the earthly version of an eternal heavenly work. Many believe that it is uncreated and eternal—others have argued that God wrote it and must have created it. The eternal view is the prevailing one. The dispute became a significant point of contention in early Islam. The Islamic rationalist philosophical school known as the Mu’tazila held that if the Qur’an is God’s word, logically God “must have preceded his own speech”. Traditionalists, on the other hand, held the numerous hadith support the contention that Qur’an was co-eternal with God and hence, uncreated. In the Muslim world, the doctrine that the Qur’an is uncreated has been unchallenged among the Sunni for many centuries, while many Shi’a believe the Qur’an is created. Sufi philosophers view the question as artificial or wrongly framed.



The one unforgiveable sin is shirk, associating of anything with God (4:48) . To do this is to become a mushrik, or idolater.


People of the Book The Koran regards Jews and Christians as People of the Book (ahl al-kitab) who, though they possess authentic scriptures, have over the generations twisted and corrupted, garbled their messages and split up into sects. While it would be nice if the People of the Book converted to Islam, they will not be forced to and are to be treated justly. Most Muslim scholars believe that religious persecution and forced conversion are prohibited by the Koran (see for example Koran 2:256, 18:29, and 10:99-100), but there have been times when those injunctions have been ignored.


God’s Unity

God’s unity is emphasized throughout the Koran—compromising this is the greatest sin: The Sura of Sincerity:   In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate Say: “He is God, One, God, the Everlasting Refuge, who has not begotten, and has not been begotten, and equal to Him is not any one.” (112)

To the right: Sura 112 in calligraphy form  


Early Converts

• First Convert: Khadija, Mohammed’s wife • First Male Convert: Ali, Mohammed’s cousin

and son-in-law, married to Fatima • 2d Male Convert: Abu Bakr, Mohammed’s

future father-in-law and the first caliph • Sole Meccan oligarch: Uthman, the third



Persecution of Early Muslims

Mohammed began to greatly emphasize God’s unity, and Muslims began to be persecuted. Some have argued that the persecutors feared the loss of pilgrimage income to see the Black Rock and Kaaba if people became monotheists. Some may have been greatly insulted at the attacks on their gods. The Muslims were laughed at, insulted, bullied, made fun of as they prayed. Mohammad was followed by poets who told people he was a madman. Muslims were imprisoned, kept out in the heat, and tortured. His uncle had enough pull to keep Mohammed and his family from the worst of this, but others were not so fortunate.



One of the early Muslims was a black African slave named Bilal. He was forced in the heat of the day to lie on his back with a heavy rock on his chest. His master said he would stay there till he died or denounced Muhammed and worshipped Al-lat and al’ Uzza—two of the daughters. Bilal refused, and repeated over and over “One, One!” Abu Bakr saved him by rebuking his master and trading a non-Muslim slave for him. He eventually freed Bilal, who later became the chief mu’adhdhin, or muezzin, the one who calls Muslims to prayers.


The Night Journey and the Ascent to Heaven: Isra and


Muslims believe that while on a prayer vigil, Mohammed was sleeping near the Kaaba, when an angel split his body open, and washed his organs in the waters of faith—or the waters of the Zamzam spring beneath the Kaaba.

Once he was sewn up, he was given a steed, Buraq, often said to have the head of a woman, that could travel with incredible speed.

He was led to Jerusalem, to pray at” the furthest mosque” (by which is meant a place of prostration). Muslims believe that this was the place of the Jewish temple, and the Al Asqua Mosque is built there. From here, he ascended to Heaven. He reached the Seventh Heaven where he met God. The Sufi mystics placed great importance on the isra—the Night Journey—and the mi’raj— the Ascent.


The Seal • There are 25 prophets listed in the Koran, with the most notable being Noah, Abraham,

Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed.

According to Islam: • Mohammed is the Seal of the prophets, the final one, and like a seal on a document

validates prophecy. • All prior prophecy was complete and perfect, but the messages have been distorted

over the generations. The message sent over the generations is essentially united. • Mohammed and the Qu’ran restored the primordial monotheistic religion of Abraham,

which had degenerated. • Islam—Submission to the Will of Allah—is the original true religion of Abraham. All

true religion is surrender to God, or islam, without the capital, while following the Koran is Islam.

• The original pure message from God is restored. • Mohammed is the Seal . There will be no other prophets after him.


The Conversion of Umar

The Arabs were rather warlike. One of the Meccans was Umar ibn al-Khattab. He was strong and believed Mohammed was a pest. He had split his tribe, mocked the traditions, and preached the worthlessness of their gods. He needed to be taken care of—permanently. So Umar went to Mohammed’s house to kill him. Mohammed was in the middle of a meeting with Abu Bakr, Ali, and a recent convert, his uncle Hamza. But before Umar got there, he was intercepted by someone who told him he’d never succeed—but Umar’s sister seemed to be converting or on the verge. At that very moment, she and her husband and nephew were in another house listening to the Qu’ran being recited. Umar storms in, grabs the brother in law, and strikes his sister in the ear when she tries to defend her husband. He felt remorse, and demanded to read the sheet of the Qur’an. After washing himself because he was unclean as a polytheist, Umar reads the sheet—he was one of the few Meccans who could read. According to the Life of Muhammed, he said How fine and noble is this speech.

He was then led to Mohammed, and converted—after being berated by Mohammed for his persecutions. With this powerful warrior , and with Hamza who also was a good fighter on board, the Muslims could now worship at the Kaaba without being bothered by the Meccans.


The Hejira

Nearly 300 miles northwesterly of Mecca is a large oasis called Yathrib, usually called today Medina—short for “Madinat al-nabi”… the city of the prophet. The city had originally been settled by Jews, but they were now outnumbered by two Arab tribes, the Aws and Khazraj, who were constantly engaged in bloody fighting. Yathrib was urban and socially complex, and the old pattern of vendetta were disastrous. Some kind of government to run herd over Medina was needed. In 620, several men from Medina met Muhammed during a fair near Mecca during the pilgrimage time. They had heard about him, and wanted to meet this prophet. They were greatly impressed, and the next year they brought more people, representing most of the factions in Yathrib. They agreed to become Muslims and obey the prophet. In 622, Muhammed invited his Meccan followers to emigrate to Medina, and they left slowly. Muhammed and several leaders stayed in Mecca, but word came of a plot to kill him. Ali slept in his fathers bed, and the plotters did not kill him. In the meantime, Muhammed and Abu Bakr hid in a cave. Finally, on Sept 24, 622, Mohammed and Abu Bakr arrived in Medina, and Ali arrived safely. This became Year 1 of the Islamic calendar. The journey to Medina of the Muslims and Mohammed is called the Hejira, or “The emigration”). This used to be translated as the “Flight”, but that is incorrect. Mohammed let his camel loose, and when the camel rested, he bought the plot and built his house there, and his two wives set up tents in the yard.


The Umma In Medina, Mohammed was the arbitrator, and all were to obey Allah and his prophet. The Muslims were a religious community , an umma. The Arab tribes were bound together into a “supertribe” bound together not by kinship but by religion. This created the possibilities of large scale cooperation that the old system did not have.


Battle of Badr

Many of the Meccans, with little to do, were sent on caravan raids during a traditional truce month. The Qur’an (2:217) justified this by saying, while fighting in the holy month was heinous, the Meccans persecution of Islam was worse. More raids on Mecca were ordered. The oasis cities like Mecca were like islands in a sea of sand—cut off their trade, and they were greatly weakened. At the Battle of Badr, in March 624, a large caravan was assaulted by 300 Medinans. It was guarded by 900 Meccans, but the Muslims won. This remarkable victory gave the Muslims a sense of destiny as a people of God.

The Koran said a thousand angels stood behind the Muslims at Badr.


Battle of the Trench

The Meccans attacked Medina twice, and Mohammed launched raids. He concluded many treaties with the Bedouins, and some converted. In 627 CE, 10000 Meccans marched on Medina. Medina had only 3000 defenders, but they built a trench at the suggestion of a Persian convert, and that made their defense stronger. This is the Battle of The Trench. Not liking siege warfare, the Meccans left after two weeks. The Jews in Medina had long seemed less than happy with events. For a few months, the Muslims and Jews prayed together, facing Jerusalem to the North. Then, in February 624, Mohammed received an inspiration and faced Mecca, and since then Muslims have faced Mecca. Relations with the Medinan Jews worsened. At the Battle of the Trench, the Jewish clan of Qurayza plotted with the Meccans to attack the Muslims in the rear of their lines. This was discovered, and the Jews were attacked, their men killed and the women and children sold into slavery. While this was the destruction of a Jewish tribe, it does not seem to have been done because they were Jewish.

The clan was considered to have committed treason and were treated as traitors.


Din wa Dawla

After the Battle of the Trench, Islam was firmly established, and Muhammed was the greatest single power broker in Arabia. Mecca’s prestige visibly waned after the Battle of the Trench. In Medina, the details of religious life and community life became fixed, and the Qu’ran from this period deals more with practical, religious, legal and similar matters. Islam was a din wa dawla, a religion and political order, and thus all of these matters were religious.


Return to Mecca

In 628, Mohammed led some pilgrims to Mecca. They were prepared for battle, but hoped for peace. They signed a treaty with the Meccans, but did not complete the pilgrimage. In 629, he returned, and the pilgrimage was completed peacefully. Then there was a killing between the two parties, breaching the treaty. Mohammed established a force of 10000, an enormous force by the standards of the time, and marched on Mecca in 630. Abu Sufyan, who was Mohammed’s father –in-law, ventured from Mecca and surrendered the city. The Meccans were given an amnesty provided they became Muslims. A few dissidents were killed. Property remained in its proper hands, and the conquest was virtually bloodless. Mecca became a Muslim city—the Kaaba was purified by having the idols smashed and removed, and then rededicated to the original monotheism of Abraham. Mohammed and the Muslims were the masters of Arabia. 33

Sunnah and Hadiths • Mohammed is considered by Muslims to be the best model of a husband,

father, leader, friend, guide, and politician. The Sunnah, or Way of the Prophet, is contained in the books of hadiths—sayings of the Prophet.

• Muslims are urged to follow the example of Mohammed, his sunnah. These

are a guide to what to do , because Mohammed is a pretty good example. • For example, if Mohammed brushed his teeth, a Muslim will follow his

example and brush his teeth—not because Islam requires it—it doesn’t—but because you should follow the example of Mohammed.

• Of course, not all hadiths are given equal weight. Sometimes, the chain of transmission is suspect, so that hadith is considered by Muslims—and non- Muslim scholars of Islam—more suspect than ones with very good chains of transmission.


A Description of Mohammed • Ali said in one of the more authoritative hadiths: • [Mohammed was] neither very tall nor excessively short, but was a man of medium size, he had neither

very curly nor flowing hair but a mixture of two, he was not obese, he did not have a very round face, but it was so to some extent, he was reddish-white, he had black eyes and long eyelashes….

• He ate little and often went without food, because as a prophet he should not engage in trade and

begging, and the people neglected to provide for him. Aisha [a wife of Mohammed] is supposed to have said that Mohammed liked three things in the world, women , perfume, and food, but only managed to get women and perfume. Mohammed mended his own sandals, and did other similar chores.

• He tended to pardon and forgive. He could have crushed the Meccans, and the Arabs would have

accepted that as just. Instead, his conquest was mild and forgiving. One of the great virtues of the ancient Arabs was forbearance, and this is one of the names of God in the Koran—Forbearing.


The Death of Mohammed

Mohammed died in 632 CE. He seemed to know his death was coming, and gave a great Farewell Sermon on a hill overlooking the plain of Arafat near Mecca:  YOU ARE ALL EQUAL. NOBODY HAS SUPERIORITY OVER ANOTHER EXCEPT BY PIETY AND GOOD ACTION. …O People, NO PROPHET OR APOSTLE WILL COME AFTER ME AND NO NEW FAITH WILL BE BORN. Reason well, therefore, O People, and understand my words which I convey to you. I leave behind me two things, the QUR’AN and my example, the SUNNAH and if you follow these you will never go astray.

Parts of the Sermon are included in the Koran: Today I have perfected your religion for you, and I have completed My blessing upon you, and I have approved Islam for your religion. Koran 5:3. This was in March of 632. In June of that year he died in his wife Aisha’s arms and was buried beneath her house. All Arabia was united by the religion of Islam. When he died, the Arabs were organized into a coherent political-religious group, well-organized, well-armed, and inspired by a powerful new monotheistic religion—Islam, which means submission—submission to the will of God.


  • Slide 1
  • Introduction
  • Arabia
  • Afro-Asiatic language group
  • Arabian Peninsula
  • Pre-Islamic life
  • The Camel
  • Poetry
  • Pre-Islamic Religion
  • Kaaba and the Black Stone
  • Hanifs
  • Mohammed
  • Mount Hira
  • The Qur’an revealed
  • The Koran
  • Koran, continued
  • The Koran, continued
  • The Eternal Koran
  • Idolatry
  • People of the Book
  • God’s Unity
  • Early Converts
  • Persecution of Early Muslims
  • Bilal
  • The Night Journey and the Ascent to Heaven: Isra and Mi’raj
  • The Seal
  • The Conversion of Umar
  • The Hejira
  • The Umma
  • Battle of Badr
  • Battle of the Trench
  • Din wa Dawla
  • Return to Mecca
  • Sunnah and Hadiths
  • A Description of Mohammed
  • The Death of Mohammed

Teachings, Expansions, and Divisions of Islam

Part II: Teachings and Practices of



Al-Fathihah, The Opening • The Koran is the sacred text of Islam, and it is considered the

literal word of God. Its name means recitation. It is divided into 114 surahs, or chapters, arranged not in the order they were received, but by length, approximately longest to shortest. The longest is about 300 verses, the shortest has four. The first surah is an exception, and is called al- Fathihah, the Opening. It is part of the daily prayers, and is recited about 17 times during the day:

• • 1. In the name of Allah, the Gracious, the

Merciful. • 2. Praise be to Allah, Lord of the Worlds. • 3. The Most Gracious, the Most Merciful. • 4. Master of the Day of Judgment. • 5. It is You we worship, and upon You we call for

help. • 6. Guide us to the straight path. • 7. The path of those You have blessed, not of

those against whom there is anger, nor of those who are misguided.

• • This is the first surah that most Muslims learn, as children or





Shirk- Idolatry, or associating anything with


God in Islam is a unity—there are no aspects or divisions, no begetting or being begot. God is eternal, uncreated, all-knowing, all- powerful, and Allah alone created the universe and mankind. God is also merciful, just, and good— He is transcendent–above the creation, but also present, or immanent, in the lives of believers.

He is closer to humanity, according to the Koran, “than the jugular vein”. (50:16).

Since this tenet is so important, to deny or compromise it is the greatest sin—It is idolatry. To associate anything or anyone else with God is Shirk.

Nothing else should be worshipped.

The natural world with its wonders is evidence for the existence of God.

To the right—an ancient idol


Prophecy Muslims believe in prophecy, in people who have received messages sent by God. Many peoples have had prophets sent to them. Among the prophets mentioned in the Koran are Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, King David, Jesus, and of course the Seal, the final prophet, Mohammed. Jesus will herald the Day of Judgment and in the future even rule the Muslims for a while, but he is merely a man. He was born of the Virgin Mary, but this was a miracle, not the birth of a deity. God does not beget or begat. Jesus was not crucified, but saved. He will return to Earth at the end of days and live out his lifespan. He will defeat the evil Anti-Christ, killing him with a lance. It should be noted that some of the people called prophets in Islam, such as David, are not considered prophets by Jews and Christians. Some important Biblical prophets, such as Isaiah, are not mentioned in the Koran. By tradition, 124 thousand prophets were sent over the years. All prophets bring communication from God. Over the years, Muslims believe, many people garbled their prophecies. Mohammed restored, according to Muslim belief, the proper revelation. 5

Barzakh and the Day of Judgment

Many of the first revelations of the Koran speak of the Day of Judgment and the reality of the Afterlife. God’s Justice is emphasized, and greed and hypocrisy are criticized, while kindness and generosity is praised. All will stand alone in front of Allah and be judged by him. We hold a book of our deeds in our hands. It is said that it is too late to repent when you have your last breath—do it earlier. Some traditions say Mohammed may intervene for us. Human souls after they die are placed into “Soul Storage”, or Barzakh. There are no such things as ghosts—these are evil jinns [see below] playing tricks on the living.


Day of Judgment

At the Day of Judgment all stand behind their prophet—Moses, Jesus, Mohammed, etc. For 50,000 years every person who ever lived will be judged. Hell will be in the background as the people stand on a vast plain. Those who were repentant in life will earn God’s mercy. The verdict is given, and all cross a bridge called Sirat which crosses over Hell. Some are cut by it, but cross. Others fall into Hell. Some spend time in the Heights, seeing Hell but not allowed into Heaven , because their good deeds and bad deeds balanced. Eventually they get to Heaven. Some in Hell are eventually released, once properly punished, but not the absolute worst. Hell, for them is forever. In Paradise, there are many pleasures. Wine, prohibited on Earth, is permitted, and “pleasure mates”, or houris, cater to us. The blind can see, the lame walk, and all are about 30 years old in good shape. 7

Angels and Jinns Before creating humans from clay, Allah created creatures of light he called angels, and creatures of fire he called jinns. Angels act as messengers and assistants of God. In Islam, the most-well known angel is Gabriel, or Jibral, who brought the Koran to Mohammed. Jinn can be good or evil, Muslim—submitting to the will of God—or non- Muslim. Humans and jinn have free will but angels do not. Shaytan is a jinn, as is the genie in Aladdin’s lamp. Ghosts or poltergeists are actually jinn acting up.


Divine decree, predestination, and free will— Al-qadaqa l-qadar

• Both predestination and free will are embraced or implied in the Koran. 2:26 • Qada means to determine, and covers the span of life for the universe and its operation. • Qadr means to measure—God has measured our lives to give us different challenges and

tests—things and stumbling blocks we must react to. Life is a test, not a series of punishments.

• Can we change what will happen to us? Does prayer or actions change things? Islam says yes—Mohammed said fervent supplications to God will change the course of our future in response to prayers—God knows what will happen and will change it.

• God is good, but he does test you. Muslims trust in God: • Whatever good happens to you is from Allah, but whatever evil happens

to you is from your own self. 4:79 • While we often have no control over what happens to us, Islam teaches that we control

how we feel and respond. Do we suffer with patience, do we blame God, do we covet?


The Six Articles of Faith Summarized

• Faith in the absolute unity of God • Belief in Angels • Prophets • Revealed Scriptures • The Final Judgment/ Day of Judgment • Divine Decree and Predestination (Qada and

Qadr) 10

Tafsir—Koranic commentary or interpretation

There is much Koran commentary, called tafsir, or interpretation. The goal of much of this is to clarify the meaning of the words of the Qur’an. Some Muslims believe that verses of the Koran should only be explained by using other passages of the text. Others argue believers should use reason and rationality to interpret the meaning of the verses. This is called speculative tafsir. The Persian scholar Abu Hamid al-Ghazali believed that, as rational judgment is a gift from God, people should always use it when considering the meaning of the Qu’ran. Not all agreed—some thought that this was preferring human reason over the words of God.

Ibn Taymiyya (1263-1328) an Arab scholar, argued that using human reason was not necessary because the entire meaning of the Koran could be found within the text.

This approach would become influential to some Islamic reformist movements in the modern era.


The Sunnah (The Example of the Prophet) and the

Hadith The Sunnah is the tradition or way of life of the prophet Muhammad. Muslims try to follow his example—he is considered the ideal human. How he handled disputes, dealt with his wives, friends and children, the daily business of life, even brushing his teeth –all should be copied. He is the model to follow. To learn what Mohammed did, people study the Hadith. The Hadith are reports of the actions of Mohammed made by his friends and family, who are known as his companions. Realizing his importance as an example of righteous behavior, they strove to remember his actions and words, and then passed them on. There is no biography or hadith that may be considered scripture, and some are considered more reliable than others. There is no “Gospel of Mohammed”—but through these we can come to a pretty good biography. A hadith consists of two parts: the isnad, –the chain of transmission, and the matn, the report itself. The matn relates Muhammad’s words or deeds, and the isnad names those people who transmitted the hadith from the time of the prophet. The isnad originates with a close companion or family member. One of the most important of these companions was Aisha, who passed on many reports of this life. Not all hadith are equally valid. They are ranked from solid to weak based on the likelihood of authenticity, for which a complex science has developed.


Hadith qudsi

Sometimes, it is believed, Mohammed uttered words of God which were not intended to be part of the Koran. They are often succinct and beautiful, and called hadith qudsi. They focus on God’s love for humanity, God’s mercy, and the closeness of God to creation. Here are two hadith qudsi: When God decreed the Creation He pledged Himself by writing in His book which is laid down with Him: My mercy prevails over My wrath.   God says: “If my Servant intends a good deed and does not do it, I write it down for him as a good deed. Then if he does it, I write it down for him as ten good deeds, or up to seven hundred times that. And if my servant intends an evil deed and does not do it, I do not write it down against him. And if he does it, I write it down for him as [only one] evil deed.




Five Pillars of Islam, or Five Pillars of Practice

1. Confession of Faith (Shahada): “There is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is his Prophet”. Must be said with full understanding and acceptance 2. Prayer five times a day (Salat) 3. Generous giving of alms as an offering to Allah and an act of piety (Zakat) 4. Must fast from daybreak to sunset during the whole month of Ramadan (Sawm) 5. If at all possible, must make the pilgrimage, or Hadj, to Mecca



Muslims are required to pray 5 times a day. It must be at the proper time, the Muslim must wash hands, face and feet with water to be ritually pure, must be wearing clean clothes, in a clean place to pray, must be wearing clothes (and women must add a scarf or veil over their heads to remind them that God does not judge us by beauty but sincerity), must face in the direction of Mecca, and must have proper intention. Prayers are done at dawn every morning, noonish, late afternoon prayer, prayer at sunset, and the final prayer at night. Praying late is better than not praying, but it is said to be marked as tardy. Once all the preparations are done, the prayer only takes about 5 to 10 minutes to complete, for about 30 minutes a day.


The Call to Prayer

Muslims are called to prayer by a loud prayer call—the first prayer caller or muezzin was Bilal, the slave who had been under the rock crying out One, One rather than worship pagan Gods. He had a beautiful voice. Indeed the call to prayer can be hauntingly beautiful. While not a Muslim, President Obama spent many of his childhood years in Muslim Indonesia, and often heard the Call to Prayer. He called it in his autobiography “one of the sweetest sounds you will ever hear.” Here is an excerpt of the call to prayer:

Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar (2x) Ashadu an la ilaha ill Allah (2x) Ashahadu anna Muhammadar Rasulullah (2x)…. In English :

God is Greater, God is Greater (2x) I declare that there is no God but God (2x) I declare Muhammad is the Messenger of God…   “Allahu Akbar” is actually an incomplete sentence in Arabic—It means God is Greater—than what? The idea is that God is greater than any possible answer you could give—greater than mountains, ice cream, whirlwinds, God is greater than that. 17

Mihrabs, dua, and Congregational Prayer

In addition to the formalized salat prayer, there are also supplications, or dua, by which one asks for help or thanks Allah. Prayers need not be done in a mosque— they can be done anywhere. Mosques usually have a fountain for ablutions, a niche called a mihrab pointing to Mecca, there are often colorful rugs, and there are usually no seats or pews. Mosques often have minarets, from which the call to prayer is broadcast. Since one prays barefoot, a place for shoes also often exists. On Friday there is a day for congregational prayer, where there is usually a sermon. This is NOT a day of rest, though Friday is often a day off in Muslim countries. In the West Muslims get a 2 or 3 hour break (hopefully) and then return to work.


Dhikr Dhikr, or remembrance, is the chanting of certain phrases as a way to fill one’s mind with Allah and put oneself in the mind set of being Muslim. Muslims often wear rosary beads to help them count these phrases. Sufis are said to have perfected these.

Among the phrases used are “Alhumdulillah”—Praise be to God, Glory be to God and praise belongs to him. 19


Muslims are required to give up one- fortieth of their wealth each year to charity. This is religiously obligated— they can give more. The term Zakat mean purify—by giving up wealth, we let go of some of our greed. Very poor people need not pay, but if you have assets of about 1000 dollars, you will have to give 2.5 percent of your wealth—not income, wealth– to charity. You must be an adult and sane, and have paid your expenses and debt. Zakat is given to the poor, needy, to people drowning in debt, to free slaves, etc.



Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, and the month in which the Koran was first revealed to Mohammed. There are many restrictions—from dawn to sundown, all Muslims fast—no food, no drink, no sex. Exceptions are made for the sick, pregnant, travelers, children, insane etc. Muslims also try to avoid arguing and negative thoughts during the hours of the fast. Lost days for those who broke or missed a fast day are to be made up later. Many find this a period of joy and religious meaning. There is usually an evening meal when the fast ends, the Iftar, which is shared with family and friends. Mohammed would break the fast with dates, so that is the preferred method of breaking the fast. There are often special treats for Ramadan. Many try to recite the entire Quran during the month. Late in the month is the Night of Power, the anniversary of the original revelation. At the end is the Holiday of Eid Al-Fitr.


The Hajj

At least once in a lifetime, those who are physically and financially able to travel to Mecca go. It is described as an event of unparalleled spiritual significance, and those who have been on it experience intense feelings of connection to God and humanity during the Hajj. Muslims who have been on the journey use the title hajj or hajja (for women) before their names.

The hajj occurs during the second week of the month Dhu al-Hajj, the final month of the Islamic calendar. While you may accept money given as a gift to go on the Hajj, you may not borrow to go on the Hajj.

Millions go to Mecca for the Hajj, and in recent years there have been terrible tragedies caused by mistakes in crowd control.

At the Hadj, the pilgrims all are equal in dress, and no distinctions are made. All are equal in the context of submission to Allah.

All indications of social status are removed. The men dress in a simple two-piece white costume called ihram. Women dress in the costume of their country, but modestly, simply, without makeup or jewelry. All of this is ensure their minds are solely on God.

Only Muslims may go on Hajj, or enter the cities of Mecca and Medina.



The Hajj was performed by pagan Arabs, and many of the customs date back to the pre-Islamic past. Mohammed Islamicized many of these, and set the sequence of the hajj before his deaths. Many of the rituals recall events from his life, or that of Abraham and his family, thus connecting the worshipper to the earliest days of monotheism. The focus of the Hajj is the Kaaba. It is a cube 30 by 30 feet, covered by a black cloth. By tradition, it was built by Abraham and Ishmael, and dedicated to Allah’s worship, though over the centuries it became a sanctuary for pagan gods. In one corner is the Black Rock. On entering Mecca, and on two other occasions during the Hajj, pilgrims circumambulate the Kaaba, in imitation of the angels circling Allah’s throne. This is called the tawaf.


Stoning the Devil

After praying where Abraham stood while dedicating the Kaaba, pilgrims drink from the Well of Zam Zam. This commemorates the tale of Hagar and Ishmael. They were saved by a well that miraculously appeared. Muslims believe that it was the Well of Zam Zam.

Seven circuits on a long covered walkway are made to remember Hagar’s frantic search for aid. All of the above are also part of the smaller pilgrimage and may be performed many times. When these are completed, Abraham’s great act of piety and faith is recalled while standing in the sweltering Plain of Abraham from noon to Sundown.

The next day, the pilgrims throw stones at stone pillars, representing Shaytan. This is called “stoning the Devil”. Using Halal regulations animals are sacrificed. The meat feeds the pilgrims, and the rest is canned and used to feed the poor. 24

The End of the Hajj

The end of the Hajj is celebrated around the Islamic world as the Eid ul Adha. Many Muslims will sacrifice and distribute the meat to the poor and needy. The men at Mecca then shave their heads to signify their rebirth into true faith. After a few days of additional trips to the Ka’ba and other religious rituals, there is one final pass around the Ka’ba. Many then go to Medina, taking in the sites, and then go to Jerusalem to see the Masjid Al Asqa, which stands approximately on the site of the Temple. Many find this the greatest experience of their life—all are equal, and many feel wonderful spiritually.


Malcolm X Malcolm X was a member of an American religious movement called the Nation of Islam—often called the Black Muslims. Despite the name, they have many doctrines at odds with Islam and Muslims do not consider them true Muslims.

They are thus forbidden from going on the Hajj. Nonetheless, he received permission to go on the Hajj, and the ihram and its equality of all before Allah greatly impressed him.

Whites, blacks, browns, yellows—all were equal at the Hajj. He became a full Muslim.




Eid al-Adha • Because of the lunar nature of the Islamic

calendar, holidays tend to move around the year. • Thus, unlike Christmas, with its strong connection

to winter, or Passover and Easter which in addition to their religious significance are spring- time holidays,

• Islamic holidays have no relation to the seasons of the calendar. They tend to celebrate important events in Muslim practice.

• The most important holiday of the year is the Id al-Adha, the Feast of Sacrifice.

• It commemorates Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son at God’s command. It takes place at the end of the hajj season, and hajjis and non- hajjis alike slaughter an animal to mark the holiday and the substitution of the ram.

• Offices and shops in Islamic countries close for two days, and people spend time with families and friends.


Eid al-Fitr The Feast of Fast-Breaking occurs at the end of Ramadan, and there are often special foods depending on the region (and time of year). There are often congregational prayers, friend/family visits, public festivals and carnivals. Elegant clothing is worn, and children given gifts. Some have called it “Muslim Christmas”.


Mawlid al-Nabi In many parts of the world, the Prophets Birthday is celebrated with Qur’an recitation on Mawlid al-Nabi. In some areas, such as Saudi Arabia, these celebrations are discouraged—it is feared it raises Muhammad’s status too high.


Shi’a holidays The Shi’a have several additional holidays, such as commemorating during the month of Muharram the martyrdom of Husayn, often with a passion play called Taziya.

Eid ul Ghadir commemorates Muhammed’s announcement that Ali would be his immediate successor. Sunni believe that this event never happened.




Sharia-Islamic Law

God, Muslims believe, established a wide-ranging set of guidelines for human beings to follow. These guidelines, usually translated as “law”, are the sharia. This translates as road or way in English. The Sharia encompasses a much broader range of law and legal activity than what is normally associated with law in the Western world. The sharia regulates almost every aspect of daily life for believers. This includes religious practices, marriage and divorce, inheritance, commerce, and crime. God makes law. Humans can interpret but not make new laws. The primary source of sharia is , of course, the Koran. The Sunnah, the example of the prophet, is used to help interpret or fill in areas where the Koran is silent. His mediation is recorded in many hadith. Sunni argue that it is appropriate to use human reason for analogous system where there is no Qur’an or Sunnah—This is called the qiyas. The consensus of the Muslim community is also recognized by the Sunni— because Mohammed reportedly said, “my community will never agree upon an error.” Shi’a do not recognize consensus, but recognize imams as a very important source of law, as they are considered infallible. There are four major schools of interpretation. Ulama are Islamic scholars. Qadis are judges. Muftis are experts in Islamic law who are qualified to give nonbinding legal opinions, or fatwas. 33

Sharia punishments Some of the punishments in the Sharia are rather harsh by Western standards—such as cutting hands of repeat thieves off—and they are rarely used—but there are a few countries where they are.



Sharia is sometimes called the outer way to God, because it regulates a person’s outer existence. There is also an inner way to God, a mystical tradition , called Sufiism.

Like mystics in most religions, Sufis wish to draw close to and personally experience God. They base their quest on the Koran and the Sunnah. Sufism arose probably as a response to the materialism and excesses of the Umayyad. Many were ascetics. The name probably comes from the simple wool shirts many wore—suf is Arabic for wool, and is also close to the word for purity. An early Sufi was Rabi’a, a woman, who often seemed almost giddy with her love of God. In one tale, she walks through Basra with a pitcher of water and a flaming torch. When asked why, she explained she wished to set paradise ablaze and put out the fires of hell so people would love God solely for the sake of God. Sufis often wrote poems about the intense love of God. Sufis often search for the inner, or hidden meaning, of the Quran. They emphasize God’s love for creation and God’s closeness to humanity. They often emphasize the hadith qudsi.


The Whirling Dervishes

Sufi emphasize the Night Journey and the Miraj, the ascent to heaven. Because Muhammad met God during this trip, Sufi’s consider him the first Sufi, and the source of the special spiritual knowledge they seek. Because Mohammed ascended to heaven from Jerusalem, the city is important, and the Dome of the Rock was built in 691 over the spot he is believed to have ascended from. It is important to have guidance along the path to God. Hence, the master-disciple relationship is very important to Sufis. The Shaykh, or master, directs the training of the novices. Most trace a lineage back to Ali and Mohammed, who is supposed to have passed his religious knowledge to his companions. Each group emphasizes different meditation techniques and spiritual practices. The most well known in the West are the Mevlevi, or Whirling Dervishes as they are often called. They, like all Sufi groups, emphasize the dhikr as a means of meditation. Mevlevi dhikr involve controlled whirling, as a way of recollecting God and forgetting oneself. Many Muslims will venerate saint’s graves, and many shayks are considered saints. This veneration is discouraged in some parts of the Muslim world.


Halal Food

All actions are classified by their merit or sinfulness. According to Sharia, everything is allowed except what is expressly forbidden. If permitted, it is halal, if forbidden, it is haram. There are also things permissible, but not encouraged, and things disliked, but not sinful. Halal food rules: 1. Anything which is not forbidden is eatable. 2. Animals must be ritually slaughtered by the Muslim (zabihah) or Jewish kosher standard. 3. No pork, bacon, etc. 4. No animals with fangs 5. Seafood is generally allowed 6. Intoxicants are forbidden 7. Ingredients derived from animals must be zabiha or kosher. 8. Blood and carrion are forbidden.



Zabihah meats are slaughtered according to Islamic rites. The process is similar to kosher slaughtering. The bird or animal must be one which is Halal, such as a cow or goat. The throat of the animal should be slit by a very sharp knife. The slaughterer should be a Muslim, and as the animal is slaughtered, Allah or a prayer containing Allah should be said by the slaughterer. Zabihah is very similar to Kosher slaughtering, and the question arises as to whether Muslims can eat kosher meat. Many Muslims believe that kosher meat is halal, but not all agree. To the right: Several halal certification symbols.


More Haram Items

Intoxicants—No wine, whiskey, no alcohol. No mind altering drugs—buying or transporting them is also haram. Gambling is also prohibited as a trick from Shaytan. Games of skill are allowed. Music is partially allowed. Mohammad forbade public dancing, solo performances of women singers, flutes and stringed pieces, as they could make people forget God. Drums are halal, and group singing. Music should not be suggestive, immoral, or lewd (Thus, much Western rock, pop, and other genres are probably haram). Animals should be taken proper care of. Muslims are forbidden to engage in interest- based borrowing or lending. Interest brings hardship on a borrower and gives the lender easy gains that are not earned. Written contracts are the rule, as is honesty in all financial and business transactions. Stock trading is allowed if a company does not deal in forbidden substances. Muslims may partner with non-Muslims.




Aqiqah: Welcoming Baby!

This ceremony is held 7 days after birth. When the child is born, the call to prayer is read into its ear, then he is fed some mashed date, and a supplication for good fortune is made. A name is chosen—Muhammad is by far the most common name for men. Circumcision usually occurs within the first few days after birth—it is more a hygiene action or custom than religious obligation. Female circumcision is not required in Islam. However, it is a pre-Islamic tribal custom in much of North and East Africa, and many, including many Muslims, find it barbaric and are trying to abolish the practice. The Aqiqah ceremony occurs 7 days after birth. A sheep or goat is ritually sacrificed and the meat is cooked and served to guests, while some go to the poor. The baby’s hair is shaved off, and its weight in silver is given to charity. Then the baby gets gifts of money, toys, clothes, etc…



There is usually a celebration to mark a child’s completion of their first full reading of the Koranic text in Arabic. This is usually completed between the ages of four and 7. A dinner and presentation by the child who is honored is the method of celebrating this in much of the Muslim world. The name means “Sealing of the Koran”. In Southeast Asia—mainly Malaysia and Indonesia—the ceremony is called the Ameen Ceremony. Some Muslim cultures have some kind of ceremony commemorating the passage of a male into adolescence, but there is no official Muslim ceremony.


Marriage and Family

Marriage and family are cornerstones of Muslim life. Celibacy is not encouraged, and there are no monasteries or convents in Islam. It is a civil contract. There is no dating in the traditional sense—people are put together through relatives or matchmakers, or through contact at social functions or in school. However, two unmarried people are not to be alone together—they can only meet in chaperoned circumstances. Men seeking a wife have a wali, or advocate, usually a male relative. His job is to give the bad news that the woman is not interested in him. There is a contract, which among other things designates the gift the groom and his family will give the bride. This is called the mahr. Men may marry up to four wives, but only if he can support them and treat them equally. Some countries, such as Tunisia, have banned plural marriage entirely.


Divorce Unilateral divorce occurs by the man writing or saying, I…divorce….. But in most countries the process is much more complicated. There are several grounds, and the marriage contract may put in, for example, divorce is permitted if the husband marries another wife.


Funerals and Burial Death, according to Islam, is merely a doorway into the next stage of life, our time in the grave until Judgment Day. The traditional condolence is: To God we belong and to Him we return.

Sincere crying and sorrow are allowed for mourners, loud wailing and the tearing of clothes is forbidden. The body is usually brought to the mosque for the special funeral prayer, the Janazah. Unlike most prayers, there is no prayer call, no bowing or prostrating. The ritual is performed standing up. The words recited silently ask God to forgive the deceased and all who have died. The body is to be buried as soon as possible. The body is washed with water and wrapped in white sheets, and is carefully raised over the shoulders. At the grave, verses of the Qur‘an are read as the body is laid to rest. Steel coffins are forbidden, wooden coffins are allowed, but it is best that there be none so the earth can reclaim our physical bodies as quickly as possible. Gifts of food are brought to the mourners, and there are several days of visiting.


The Grave Tombstones that rise above the ground are forbidden, though many Muslims disregard this rule. Occasionally, a tree is planted over the grave.


  • Slide 1
  • Al-Fathihah, The Opening
  • The Six Articles of Islamic Faith
  • Shirk- Idolatry, or associating anything with God
  • Prophecy
  • Barzakh and the Day of Judgment
  • Day of Judgment
  • Angels and Jinns
  • Slide 9
  • The Six Articles of Faith Summarized
  • Tafsir—Koranic commentary or interpretation
  • The Sunnah (The Example of the Prophet) and the Hadith
  • Hadith qudsi
  • The Five Pillars of Islamic Practice
  • Five Pillars of Islam, or Five Pillars of Practice
  • Salat
  • The Call to Prayer
  • Mihrabs, dua, and Congregational Prayer
  • Dhikr
  • Zakat–Charity
  • Ramadan
  • The Hajj
  • Tawaf
  • Stoning the Devil
  • The End of the Hajj
  • Malcolm X
  • Muslim Holidays
  • Eid al-Adha
  • Eid al-Fitr
  • Mawlid al-Nabi
  • Shi’a holidays
  • Sharia, Halal, Sufi Mysticism
  • Sharia-Islamic Law
  • Sharia punishments
  • Sufiism
  • The Whirling Dervishes
  • Halal Food
  • Zabihah
  • More Haram Items
  • Life Cycle Events
  • Aqiqah: Welcoming Baby!
  • Khatmi-Quran
  • Marriage and Family
  • Divorce
  • Funerals and Burial
  • The Grave

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