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Islam: an Introduction Session Plan The Religion of Islam? Muhammad’s Life & Significance What is the Quran? Islamic Understanding of God The 5 Pillars, Briefly Function, Role and Layout of a Mosque The Muslim World A Religion Called Islam? A Religion Called Islam?

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session plan
Session Plan
  • The Religion of Islam?
  • Muhammad’s Life & Significance
  • What is the Quran?
  • Islamic Understanding of God
  • The 5 Pillars, Briefly
  • Function, Role and Layout of a Mosque
a religion called islam5
A Religion Called Islam?
  • ‘Religion’ as a descriptive term drawn from particular context
  • Doesn’t match Islamic context exactly
  • ‘Din’ is the Arabic term usually translated as ‘religion’
  • Range of meanings, including ‘religion’
  • Also, ‘way of life’, ‘transaction’ and ‘justice’
  • Referred to a number of times in the Quran:

‘This day have I perfected your religion for you, completed My favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion (din)’ (5:3)

‘The religion (din) before God is Islam…’ (3:19)

what is islam
What is Islam?
  • What, then, is ‘Islam’?
  • Comes from the root salaam, meaning ‘peace’ and ‘submission’
  • Linked to the Hebrew term shalom
  • In a religious sense, refers to submission to God’s will
  • A Muslim is thus someone who submits to and follows God’s will
  • In a sense, everyone is muslim in that they follow Divine order in their very existence
  • Thus, a famous prophetic tradition states that every child born a muslim
the shahadah
The Shahadah
  • A Muslim someone who accepts the shahadah, the declaration of faith (literally ‘witnessing’)
  • In Arabic:

La ilaha ill Allah, Muhammadur rasul Allah

  • Literal translation:

‘There is no god but God and Muhammad is the Messenger of God’. 

  • Fuller translation:

‘Nothing has the right to be worshipped but God and Muhammad is the Messenger of God’

the shahadah8
The Shahadah
  • Allah is the Arabic name for God
  • Literally, al-ilah or ‘The God’
  • Cognate with Hebrew Elohim and Aramaic Alaha
  • Arab Christian term for God
muhammad at mecca
Muhammad at Mecca
  • Born in Mecca, most probably in 570CE
  • Bani Hashim clan of the Quraish tribe
  • Orphan, looked after by grandfather, then uncle
  • Merchant, known as al-Amin (‘The Trustworthy’)
  • Marriage to Khadijah
  • Deeply perceptive and intuitive
  • Awareness of social issues
muhammad at mecca11
Muhammad at Mecca
  • Spiritual Retreats: the Cave of Hira
  • Ramadan 610CE…Meeting Gabriel

‘Read in the name of your Lord, Who created: He created man from a clot. Read, by your Most Generous Lord, Who taught by the Pen. He taught man what he did not know’ (96:1-5)

  • Waraqah ibn Nawfal
  • Early revelations: oneness of God, imminent Day of Judgement, moral and social reform
muhammad at mecca reactions
Muhammad at Mecca: Reactions
  • Hostility, Rejection & Opposition
  • Reactions to the Quran: poetry & magic
  • The ‘Night Journey’ (al-Isra’ wa’al-Mir’aj)
  • The birth of the Muslim community
  • The ‘Emigration’ or Hijra to Yathrib (Medina) a turning point
  • Year 1 of the Muslim calendar
  • Severing old allegiances
  • The Muslim community (ummah)
  • Revelations deal more with social organisation and legal matters
muhammad at medina later years
Muhammad at Medina: Later Years
  • Defensive Warfare
  • The ‘Opening’ of Mecca
  • Reconciliation: the words of Joseph

‘Let there be no reproach against you this day. God will forgive you and He is the most Merciful of those who show mercy’ (12:92)

  • Islam spreads throughout Arabia
muhammad in islamic thought
Muhammad in Islamic Thought
  • Why is Muhammad so significant?

Muhammad: the Final Prophet

‘Muhammad is not the father of any of your men, but is the Messenger of God and the seal of the Prophets (Khatam al-Nabiyyin)’ (33:40)

  • ‘Seal’ understood as ‘final’
  • Eschatological significance
  • First sign of ‘the Hour’ (al-Sa’a)
muhammad in islamic thought15
Muhammad in Islamic Thought

Bearer of the Quran

  • Muhammad the chief interpreter of Quran
  • ‘Authentic’ (Sahih) reports constitute final exegesis
  • Interpretation remains important
  • Based on Quranic statements, such as:

‘Your Companion [Muhammad] is neither astray nor being misled, Nor does he speak from (his own) desire. It is no less than Inspiration sent down to him’ (53:3)

  • Traditions:

‘Indeed, I have been given the Book and something similar to it…’

  • ‘Book’ refers to the Quran
  • ‘Something Similar’ refers to Sunnah
  • Logical Foundation of his place in Islamic Law (al-Shariah)
muhammad in islamic thought16
Muhammad in Islamic Thought

Muhammad the Lawgiver

  • Muhammad’s rulings held to be binding
  • Authority 2nd only to the Quran
  • Derives from exegetical role
  • Explain practical application of Quranic principles
  • Prayer a good example:

‘And establish prayer and give charity [literally zakat] and bow with those who bow’ (2:43)

  • Prayer very common theme
muhammad in islamic thought17
Muhammad in Islamic Thought

Muhammad the Lawgiver

  • Further clarification required
  • Prayer Times

‘…And exalt [Allah] with praise of your Lord before the rising of the sun and its setting; and during periods of the night [exalt Him] and at the ends of the day, that you may be satisfied’ (20:130)

  • Detailed exposition from Prophetic Traditions
  • Based on following command:

‘Pray as you have seen me praying’ (Related by Bukhari)

  • Quran lays down broad principles
  • Traditions give detailed practical application
muhammad in islamic thought18
Muhammad in Islamic Thought

The Best of God’s Creatures

  • Muhammad’s role broader than exegesis and law
  • Role Model
  • Contents pages from Hadith works illustrative
  • ‘Religious’ Themes: Revelation, Faith & Religious Knowledge
  • Less Obviously ‘Religious’: Cultivation & Agriculture, Loans, Bathroom Conduct
  • Muhammad’s conduct divinely inspired
  • Aisha: ‘His conduct was the Quran’
muhammad in islamic thought19
Muhammad in Islamic Thought

The Beloved of God

  • Muhammad the ‘Friend’
  • ‘A Mercy for all of the Worlds’ (Rahmatan lil `Alameen)
  • Deep, emotional connection
  • Imam al-Busiri & Qasida al-Burda
  • Central refrain:

‘O God! Bless and grant eternal peace without end to your Beloved and the Best of all Your creatures’

  • Muhammad Iqbal:

‘Love of the Prophet which runs like blood in the veins of this community’ (Rumuz: 190)

what is the quran21
What is the Quran?
  • Esposito’s Definition Useful…

‘For Muslims, the Quran is the Book of God. It is the eternal, uncreated, literal word of God sent down from heaven, revealed one final time to the Prophet Muhammad as a guide for humankind’ (Esposito, 1998, 17)

  • Divine Origin
  • Literal Word of God (Kalam Allah)
  • Importance of Arabic

‘Indeed, We have sent it down as an Arabic Quran that you might understand’ (12:1)

  • Untranslatable
meanings descriptions
Meanings & Descriptions
  • Quran literally means ‘Reading’, ‘Reciting’
  • Public proclamation
  • Iqra (‘Read!’) first word of revelation
  • 114 Surahs (Chapters)
  • Approximately 6,000 verses
  • Ayat (Ayah sing.), ‘sign’
  • Revealed piecemeal over 23 years
  • Not arranged chronologically
  • Longer passages toward beginning
  • Shorter passages toward end
the significance of the quran
The Significance of the Quran
  • Difficult to overestimate importance of the Quran
  • Infallible and miraculous in every word
  • Literary form believed miraculous
  • Basis for the entire system of Islam
  • Legal Verses
  • Unchallenged (and unchallengeable) legal authority
  • Attempts to understand Islamic religious concepts must be based on the Quran
the role of the quran
The Role of the Quran
  • What do Muslims do with the Quran?
  • A few examples…
  • The Ritual Prayer
  • Dhikr ‘Remembrance of God’
  • Recitation
  • Calligraphy
quranic style key features
Quranic Style: Key Features
  • The Quran uses a wide range of stylistic techniques
  • Impossible to cover all of them here
  • A representative sample…
  • Narrative in the Quran
  • Quranic Simile and Metaphor
  • Divine Instruction
  • The Use of Oaths in the Quran
narrative in the quran
Narrative in the Quran
  • Use of story common in the Quran
  • God as the Narrator

‘Has the story of Musa [Moses] reached you?’ (79:15)

'We do relate to you [O Muhammad] the most beautiful of stories, in that We reveal to you this [portion of the] Quran' (12:3)

  • Three Main Kinds…
  • Prophetic Stories
  • Past People & Events
  • Events in Muhammad’s Life
prophetic stories
Prophetic Stories
  • Many references to the stories of former prophets
  • Link to sacred history
  • Strengthen Muslim community during persecution
  • Examples…
  • Surah 26: Nuh/Noah
  • Surah 28: Musa/Moses
  • Surah 19: `Isa/Jesus
past people events
Past People & Events
  • Significant people and events
  • Surah 18…
  • ‘The Sleepers in the Cave’
  • Dhu al-Qarnain (‘the Two-Horned One’)
  • Widely believed to be Alexander the Great
divine instruction
Divine Instruction
  • More than 200 passages use ‘Say’
  • Answers to questions
  • Wide-ranging topics

‘Say, ‘He is Allah, [who is] One, Allah, the Eternal Refuge, He neither begets nor is born and nor is there to Him any equivalent’ (112:1-4).

‘They ask you [O Muhammad], about the Hour: when is its arrival? Say, ‘Its knowledge is only with my Lord. None will reveal its time except Him. It lays heavily upon the heavens and the earth. It will not come upon you except unexpectedly’. They ask you as if you are familiar with it. Say, ‘Its knowledge is only with Allah, but most of the people do not know’ (7:187).

  • See also 9:51

‘They ask you about wine and gambling. Say, ‘In them is great sin and [yet, some] benefit for people. But their sin is greater than their benefit’ (2:219).

  • Esposito’s definition of the Quran reveals a number of key ideas about God
  • Esposito’s definition:
    • ‘For Muslims, the Quran is the Book of God. It is the eternal, uncreated, literal word of God sent down from heaven, revealed one final time to the Prophet Muhammad as a guide for humankind’

(Esposito, 1998, p.17)

  • God in the singular
  • A personal and active God (cf. Dahr)
  • God speaks to humanity
  • God actively intervenes in human history
tawhid god in the singular
Tawhid: God in the singular
  • The central feature of the Islamic picture of God is that of God’s Oneness
  • In Arabic this is known as tawhid (literally ‘Oneness’)
  • Tawhid has come to be synonymous with Islam itself
  • Communicating and promulgating tawhid are thus the entire purpose of Islam:
    • ‘Allah witnesses that there is no Deity except Him, and [so do] the angels and those of knowledge – [that He is] maintaining [creation] in justice. There is no Deity except Him, the Exalted in Might, the Wise’ (3:18)
    • ‘Indeed I am Allah. There is no Deity except Me, so worship Me and establish prayer for My remembrance’ (20:14)
  • The entire purpose of life, according to Islam, is thus to recognise Allah and to worship Him:
    • ‘And I did not create the Jinn and Humankind except that they should worship/serve Me’ (51:56)
god in the quran
God in the Quran
  • The Opening of the Book (1:1-7)
  • The Chapter of Purity (112:1-4)
  • 42:11
    • ‘There is nothing like unto Him, and He is the Hearing, the Seeing’
  • The Verse of the Throne (2:255)
  • The Names Most Beautiful (59:22-24)
  • The Protecting Friend: 2:257
    • ‘God is the Protecting Friend of those who believe. He brings them out of the darknesses into the light…’
  • Quranic Theology?:4:171
    • ‘O People of the Scripture, do not commit excess in your religion or say about Allah anything but the truth. The Messiah, the son of Mary, was a Messenger of Allah and His word which He directed to Mary and a soul [created at a command] from Him. So believe in Allah and His Messengers. And do not say, “Three”; desist – it is better for you. Indeed, Allah is but One God. Exalted is He above having a son. To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth. And sufficient is Allah as Disposer of Affairs’ (4:171)
the deceiver the devil in islam
The Deceiver: the Devil in Islam
  • Traditional picture of a horned devil with cloven hooves and a pointed tail drawn from the Judaeo-Christian tradition
  • Islam acknowledges the existence of the ‘Devil’
  • Not an ‘anti-God’
  • One of God’s creatures
  • Iblis the Jinn (see 38:75); not an angel
  • Made from fire
  • Fell from grace through pride
  • Became the Shaitan (‘the Adversary’)
  • Seen as foul and accursed
  • ‘I seek refuge with God from the outcast Satan’
  • A trickster, tempter and deceiver (see 31:33; 35:5)
what s a prophet
What’s a Prophet?
  • What is a Prophet?
  • The Collins English Dictionary defines a Prophet as
    • ‘a person who speaks by divine inspiration, esp. one through whom a divinity expresses his will…a person who predicts the future…a seer in spiritual matters’
  • The Purpose of Prophets
  • To preach God’s Oneness: Tawhid
  • To convey God’s messages to humanity
  • To lead people to God (in both an outer and inner sense)
  • To warn against the Devil
  • Types of Prophet (see Lesson 3 Handout)
  • Prophet (nabi)…
  • Messenger (rasul)
  • A rasul communicates a new religious law (or Shariah)
the hour
The Hour
  • The end of the world is an ever-present theme in the Quran and it is described in many ways…
  • The Hour (al-Sa’a): 6:31
  • The Day of Judgement (Yaum al-Din): 1:4
  • The Day of Resurrection (Yaum al-Qiyamah): 2:113
  • The Day (al-Yaum): e.g.69:13-37, esp. 15
  • The Day of Decision (Yaum al-Fasl): 77:7-15, esp. 77:13
  • The Day of Distress (Yaum al-Asir): 74:9
  • The Overwhelming Event (al-Ghashiyah): 88:1
prophetic history
Prophetic History
  • Muhammad the Last Prophet
  • Muhammad’s appearance is thus held to be the first sign of the Hour
  • Major & Minor Signs
  • Many minor signs, though too detailed for our purposes here
  • Major Signs: considered those which will be clear to all
  • We will look briefly at a few of them now…
major signs
Major Signs
  • The Appearance of Muhammad
  • The ‘Rightly Guided One’: al-Mahdi
  • The Return of Jesus
  • Al-Masih al-Dajjal: the Anti-Christ
  • The Rising of the Sun in the West
  • The Removal of the Quran from the Earth
  • The destruction of the world
  • Judgement
islam is based on five principles
‘Islam is based on Five Principles’

A famous tradition of Muhammad says:

‘Islam is based on five pillars: To testify that none has the right to be worshipped except Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah (shahada); to pray (salat); to pay the alms-tax (zakat); to perform the Pilgrimage to Mecca (hajj); to fast during the month of Ramadan (sawm)’

islam is based on five principles42
‘Islam is based on Five Principles’

The Five Pillars are:

  • The Attestation of Faith (Shahadah)
  • The Ritual Prayer (Salat)
  • The Poor-due (Zakat)
  • The Fast of Ramadan (Saum)
  • The Pilgrimage to Mecca (Hajj)
the purpose of pillars
The Purpose of Pillars
  • In ritual terms, the 5 Pillars are thus seen as the means of actualising the principal of tawhid
  • In other words, the 5 Pillars are designed to support the superstructure of Islam
  • Therefore, any attempt to understand the diversity and richness of contemporary Muslim cultures needs to be based upon an understanding of the nature and impact of the 5 Pillars.
prayer in islam
Prayer in Islam
  • We looked at the declaration of faith (the Shahadah) at the beginning
  • Prayer in Islam consists of two distinct categories:

Supplication (Du’a)

  • This is a personal prayer, with no necessarily set formula (though many prophetic prayers exist) and can be said at any time

Ritual Prayer: al-Salat

  • Salat, by contrast, is a specific act of worship performed at specified times, usually (though not always) in congregation. Salat consists of a number of distinct acts.
  • It is this kind of prayer that we will explore here.
the ritual prayer
The Ritual Prayer
  • The Prophet (pbuh) is said to have described salat as the ‘centrepole’ of Islam, suggesting the image of the main pole of a tent.
  • The Quran commands the performance of the ritual prayer more than any other activity.
  • Such is its emphasis that images of the congregational prayer have come to represent Islam.
the ritual prayer46
The Ritual Prayer
  • Literally, the word salat means ‘to pray’ or ‘to bless’ and is used in a variety of ways in the Quran:
  • God and the Angels perform salat:
    • ‘It is He who performs the salat over you, and His angels, that He may bring you forth from the darknesses into the light’ (33:43)
  • All of creation performs salat, by virtue of their innate submission to the Divine Will:
    • ‘Have you not seen that everyone in the Heavens and the earth glorifies God and birds spreading their wings? Each one knows its salat and its glorification’ (24:41)
  • As we saw previously, Muhammad did not conceive of his faith as new but as a continuation of past revelations.
  • Thus, past prophets and communities are also believed to have been commanded to observe the ritual prayer by God:
    • ‘And We delivered [Abraham], and Lot … And We revealed to them the doing of good deeds and the performance of the salat’ (21:71-73)
the ritual prayer described
The Ritual PrayerDescribed
  • The ritual prayer is of central significance in Islam
  • Its structure attempts to remind Muslims of the Oneness and centrality of God.
  • A means of purification
  • The Prophet is reported to have said:
    • ‘If there was a river at the door of anyone of you and he took a bath in it five times a day would you notice any dirt on him? ... That is the example of the five prayers with which God annuls evil deeds’ (Bukhari 4:330)
  • Prayer is obligatory for all sane Muslims, male and female, from puberty onwards.
islam society the poor due
Islam & Society: the Poor-due
  • Zakat (the ‘poor-due’) is mentioned next to almost every reference to prayer, underlining its significance.
  • Part of Islam’s emphasis on social justice
  • Literally, ‘purification’
  • Purification of one’s wealth through the giving of charity
  • Zakat is a compulsory tax of 2.5% on surplus wealth
  • Payable on a wide range of property and wealth
  • Used to help the poor and needy, those in debt, to free captives and to help travellers, amongst other things (9:60).
the fast of ramadan
The Fast of Ramadan
  • The Quran declares:

‘O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous’ (2:183)

  • The purpose of fasting is thus to develop the quality of righteousness.
  • The Quran defines righteousness in the following manner:
    • ‘Righteousness is not that you turn your faces to the east or the west, but [true] righteousness is [in] one who believes in God, the Last Day, the Angels, the Book, and the prophets and gives wealth, in spite of the love for it, to relatives, orphans, the needy, the traveller, those who ask [for help], and for freeing slaves; [and who] establishes prayer and gives zakat; [those who] fulfil their promise when they make one; and [those who] are patient in poverty and hardship…’ (2:177)
  • To understand, in a direct physical sense, the hardship of hunger and thirst, for empathetic reasons
  • Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic calendar
  • Because the calendar is a lunar one, the timing of Ramadan shifts backwards by about 10 days each year.
  • Ramadan thus falls in different months in different years.
  • Although the fast itself is a trial, Muslims look forward to Ramadan, as it is a time for reflection, re-dedicating the self and for getting together with the family
pilgrimage to the house
Pilgrimage to the House
  • Hajj, or the pilgrimage to the Ka’aba in Mecca, is the fifth pillar
  • The Ka’aba is seen by Islam as the first temple established on earth for the worship of God.
  • According to the Quran, Abraham and Ishmael laid the foundations of the Ka’aba and initiated the hajj.
  • Muhammad is thus not seen as its originator, but rather as its reviver.
  • This is an important distinction, as the Hajj was also observed by the Meccan opponents of Muhammad
the hajj
The Hajj
  • The hajj itself takes place in the 12th month of the Islamic calendar (dhu’l hijjah, or the month of hajj)
  • As the fifth pillar, the hajj in a sense represents the final concrete expression of Islam.
  • That is, it has traditionally been seen as marking the end of one phase of life and the beginnings of another
  • This is perhaps easier to understand when we realise that it is only with the recent arrival of air travel that travelling vast distances has become a reality available to most people.
  • The hajj has therefore traditionally been seen as a preparation for death; before setting off, the pilgrim has to ensure their affairs are put in order, as they may not return.
  • This is also why someone returning from the pilgrimage is accorded a certain prestige, being honoured with the term hajji or hajjah
the roles of the mosque
The Roles of the Mosque
  • Key Roles of the Mosque…
  • A place of prostration (masjid in Arabic)
  • House of worship
  • Community centre: especially because of its role in the Friday prayer
  • Yaum al-jumu’ah and ahl al-sunna wa al-jama’a
  • School: earliest schools were organised as part of the mosque
  • Political centre: a centre of debate and discussion
  • Government centre: the first mosque in Medina was also the centre of government