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Islam I: Beliefs Introduction to World Religions Fall 2007 Dr. Hannah Schell Agenda for class session The religions of Abraham: shared tenets Basic terms; global overview Beginning with God (Allah) The life of the prophet Muhammad A Religion of the Book: The Koran

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islam i beliefs

Islam I: Beliefs

Introduction to World Religions Fall 2007 Dr. Hannah Schell

agenda for class session
Agenda for class session
  • The religions of Abraham: shared tenets
  • Basic terms; global overview
  • Beginning with God (Allah)
  • The life of the prophet Muhammad
  • A Religion of the Book: The Koran
  • Islam’s view of human life
  • The Day of Judgment
the religions of abraham
The religions of Abraham


Abraham and Isaac1634 (120 Kb); Oil on canvas, 158 x 117 cm (62 x 46 in); Hermitage, St. Petersburg

judaism christianity islam
Judaism - Christianity – Islam
  • Monotheistic: these traditions believe in a single divine Being who is personal, that is, possessing mind and will; eternal, that is, not subject to the limits of time or change, all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good.
  • Creation: God creates a world distinct from himself, a world which is real, not illusory, though totally dependent on God; a world which is good.
  • Revelation: In a unique historical event, God reveals his will, requiring obedience (disobedience being sin. The revelation in each case is given in writing).
  • Immortality and Judgment: There is a life after death; at death, God will judge each individual, for reward or punishment.

(Adopted from Patrick Burke’s “The Religions of Semitic Origin” introduction. The Major Religions, 191.)

judaism christianity islam5
Judaism - Christianity – Islam

These religions emphasize the importance of:

  • Persons as superior to nature
  • The individual human person, who must answer for his or her thoughts and deeds
  • The moral value of justice
  • Law
  • History, which moves not in an everlasting cycle, but in a straight line, from a beginning to an end.
  • Worship is communal, and takes place in a space designed for the gathering or an assembly (synagogue, church, mosque).

(Adopted from Patrick Burke’s “The Religions of Semitic Origin” introduction. The Major Religions, 192.)

  • Islam is considered the fastest growing religion in the world. There are approximately 1.3 million Muslims constituting a fifth of humanity. Most are under 25.
  • Total world population is 6.1 billion: Christianity 2 billion; Islam 1.3 billion, Hinduism 900 million, Buddhism 360 million
  • Around 85 per cent of Muslims belong to the majority Sunni sect. The minority Shi’ite Muslims are concentrated in Iran and Iraq.


basic terms orientation
Basic Terms & Orientation
  • Islam: the name of the monotheistic tradition that looks to Muhammad as the final prophet. (The term literally means “surrender” or “submission.”)
  • Muslim: term used for a person who professes the religion of Islam; those who adhere to the faith and traditions of Islam. (Literally means “one who submits.”)
  • Umma: refers to the community of believers made up of all the Muslims of the world. (Literally means “nation” or “community”).
  • Koran/Qur’an: sacred scripture for Muslims; believed to have been revealed by God to the Prophet Muhammad. (Literally means “recitation.”)
muslims around the world
Muslims around the World

NOTE: Less than 20 per cent of Muslims are Arabs. Almost half of the world's Muslims live in South and Southeast Asia.



muslims in indonesia
Muslims in Indonesia


muslims in north africa
Muslims in North Africa

Nigerian girl

South Africans

Mosque in Senegal

Mosque in Tunisia

Praying in Nairobi, Kenya

Source of photos:

muslims in the middle east
Muslims in “the Middle East”



Saudi Arabia




in the middle east
In the Middle East

Mosque in Pakistan

Source of pictures:

muslims in america
Muslims in America

The US has an estimated 5.7 million Muslims--roughly equal to its Jewish population


muslims in the united states
Muslims in the United States

In Dallas

In Seattle

In Harlem

At Harvard University in Boston, MA

the story of islam begins with god
The story of Islam begins with God
  • Radical monotheism: There is no god but God
  • Divine unity – oneness of God
  • Allah is ultimate; awesome; powerful; compassionate and merciful
divine unity
Divine unity

The Fatihah (Opening) of the Koran:

In the Name of God, the merciful Lord of mercy.

Praise be to God, the Lord of all being,

The merciful Lord of mercy,

Master of the Day of Judgment.

You alone we serve and to You alone we come for aid.

Guide us in the straight path,

from the 99 names of allah
From the 99 Names of Allah
  • The Exalter
  • The Patient
  • The pardoner
  • The Eternal
  • The Loving
  • The All-Forgiving
  • The Giver of Life
  • The Last
  • The Hidden
  • The Evolver
  • The Merciful
  • The Guide
  • The Avenger
  • The Creator of Death
  • The Responsive
  • The Trustee
  • The Protecting Friend
  • The First
  • The Manifest
  • The Creator
  • The Beneficent
the birth story
The birth story

“When God willed the appearance of His truth, the lore of Muhammad, and its manifestation in a body and in a soul, in a form and in a content, He transferred it to its fixed abode… And He… selected her to be the mother of the Purified One. And it was proclaimed in the Heavens and on Earth that she, Amina, had become pregnant of one of the Lights of the Essence. And every zephyr blew gently to make a soft breeze freshly fanning the earth which was dressed, after her long period of barrenness, with vegetation with green silken robes. The fruits began to ripen, and the trees approaches the picker that he might pick the ripe fruits. And every domestic animal of the Quraysh spoke of his being expected with eloquence in the Arabic tongue.

The thrones of royalty were overturned and the idols of heathendom fell on their faces. The wild animals of East and West prophesied the good tidings, as well as the creatures of the sea. The worlds drank joy from the cup of juvenile strength. The spirits received the glad tiding of the imminence of his time….”

(From: Mawlid Al-Barzanji; in Textual Sources for the Study of Islam, 66).

the life of the prophet muhammad23
The Life of the Prophet Muhammad
  • Muhammad (570 – 632 CE): “highly praised,” “laudable.”
  • Born in Mecca (Saudi Arabia); in the powerful tribe of the Qur’ash (Koreish).
  • A human prophet
  • Poet, soothsayer, judge; also political, military and religious leader.
the birth of the future prophet
The birth of the future prophet

One legend has it that the Prophet’s mother, Amina, heard a voice when she was pregnant..

“You are pregnant with the Lord of this people and when he is born say, ‘I put him in the care of the One from the evil of every envier; then call him Muhammad’ [meaning ‘laudable’.”

muhammad as a young man
Muhammad as a young man
  • Gained a reputation as being honest and reliable – nicknamed al- Amin, “the trustworthy.”
  • Worked as a shepherd, then as in trade
  • Began to work for the wealthy widow Khadija; they married (she was 40 and he was 25).
  • Began to contemplate the low level of moral and social life in Mecca; felt great sympathy for orphans, widows, outcasts and the poor; critical especially of the practice of burying infant daughters alive.
  • Became a highly disciplined spiritual seeker (Denny, 51).

Mt. Hira – north of Mecca

the calling of the prophet
The calling of the prophet
  • Commission occurred in 610 C.E.:The Night of Power
  • Angel Gabriel appeared and commanded Muhammad to “Recite!”
  • Khadija became his first convert.

“Proclaim in the name of your Lord who created!

Created man from a clot of blood.

Proclaim: Your Lord is the Most Generous

Who teaches by the pen;

Teaches man what he knew not.” Koran 96: 1-3 (quoted by Smith, 226).

the night journey ascent to heaven
The Night Journey & Ascent to Heaven
  • Angel appeared to the sleeping prophet, split open his chest and belly and drew out Muhammad’s heart and bowels; washed in a golden basin filled with faith and replaced.
  • Traveled through the sky to Jerusalem on Buraq, a small steed, and then to the seven heavens into the very presence of God
  • Spiritual, dreamlike experience or actual happening?
the migration from mecca to medina
The Migration from Mecca to Medina
  • First Muslims – Khadijah; Ali (Muhammad’s cousin and son-in-law - married to Fatima); other family members; members from humble classes.
  • Suffered persecution – ex. Bilal, a black slave – exposed to the hottest part of the day with a heavy rock on his chest (later became prominent as the one who calls the for prayer).
  • 622: migration of Muslims from Mecca to Medina (city of the prophet) – known as the Hijra.
  • Period of struggle between the Meccans and the Medinans; eventually Muhammad rededicated the temple (the Ka’ba) in Mecca; mass conversion of the city to Islam (Smith 230).
  • Muhammad died in 632, the head of an empire.
muhammad was the seal of the prophets
Muhammad was the “Seal of the Prophets”
  • Koran names 25 prophets, including Noah, Abraham, Moses Jesus and Muhammad.
  • Muhammad is the “seal” (khatam) of the prophets – the last, the one that validates previous prophecy.
  • Came to “transmit the old message anew and established through it a universal community […] the umma” (Denny, Intro to Islam, 69).
the sacred text of islam the koran
The sacred text of Islam: The Koran
  • Organized into 114 chapters, called suras.
  • Written in Arabic; recited in Arabic.
  • Meccan suras and Medinan suras
  • Text is understood as offering “guidance for the world” or “a clear sign for those who can understand.”
  • Recitation, or revelation, of what God plans to reveal to humanity

Source of image:




“The Qur’an [is]… simultaneously a source of prayer and a prayer in its own right, a guidebook for action as well as a ritual object” (Islam, 21).

god revealed through scripture
God revealed through scripture

“We have revealed the Torah, in which there is guidance and light. By it the prophets who surrendered themselves judged the Jews.. According to God’s Book which had been committed to their keeping and to which they themselves were witnesses.

… After them We sent forth Jesus, the son of Mary, confirming the Torah already revealed, and gave him the Gospel, in which there is guidance and light, corroborating what was revealed before it in the Torah, a guide and an admonition to the righteous…

… And to you [Muslims] We have revealed the Book with the truth. It confirms the Scriptures which came before it and stands as a guardian over them.”

- From the Koran, quoted in The World’s Wisdom, 291.

“The word qur’an means ‘recitation.’ It was not designed for private perusal, but like most scriptures, it was meant to be read aloud, and the sound was an essential part of the sense… The Qur’an was deliberatively repetitive; its ideas, images, and stories were bound together by these internal echoes [themes, words, phrases, and sound patterns], which reinforced its central teaching with instructive shifts of emphasis” (Armstrong, Muhammad, 58-59).
remembrance dhikr
Remembrance (dhikr)
  • Based on idea of remembering the beloved in classical Arabic odes
  • The Qur’an itself is a reminder to humankind
  • “According to the Qur’an the human being is not born sinful, but forgetful, caught up in cycles of acquisition and competition that obscure matters of ultimate concern, matters represented and condenses in an ultimate way in the day of reckoning or moment of truth” (Michael Sells, 40).
the call to prayer
The call to prayer
  • Begins with “Allahu Akbar” (God is most great)
  • Related to the shahadah (the testimony of faith)
  • Last line is drawn out – captures a sadness regarding the separation of humans from their source; “reminder of the separation is also a call to turn back to home” (151).
the call to prayer sunni version
The Call to Prayer (Sunni version)

Allahu akbar

God is most great [4 times]

Ashhadu an la ilaha illa llah

I testify that there is no god but God [2 times]

Ashhadu anna muhammadan rasulu llah

I testify that Muhammad is the messenger of God [2 times]

Hayy ala s-sala

Come (alive) to the prayer [2 times]

Hayy ala l-falah

Come (alive) to flourishing [2 times]

Allahu akbar

God is most great [2 times]

La ilaha illa llah

(there is) no god but God [once]

Mustafa Ozcan Gunesdogdu – represents the Turkish tradition of Qur’an recitation; has received international recognition and prizes. (Sunni Adhan)

view of human life38
View of human life
  • “We have created humanity of the best stature” (95:4).
  • Positive view of human nature
  • Islam lacks concept of human sin
  • Instead, focuses on the idea that humans forget (shirk) – “People… forget their divine origin” (Smith, 158).
view of human life39
View of human life

Two obligations

Gratitude – for life

Surrender – to Allah

Human self

  • individual & unique
  • free & responsible
surah 101 the calamity
Surah 101 The Calamity
  • Qari’a: the calamity, striking or smiting (the day of reckoning)
  • “Evokes the scales of justice in which human deeds are weighed” (113).
  • Includes the strange term of hawiya – can mean “abyss” or “woman bereft of her child”
  • Meaning, and sound, are mysterious, sad.
the calamity
The Calamity

In the Name of God the Compassionate the Caring

The qari’a

What is the qari’a

What can tell you of the qari’a

A day humankind are like moths scattered

And mountains are like fluffs of wool

Whoever’s scales weigh heavy

His is a life that is pleasing

Whoever’s scales weigh light

His mother is hawiya

What can tell you what she is

Raging fire

Muhammad Khalil al-Husari – master of murattal style of recitation.