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Islam. Beliefs ‘ The mere holding of a belief is no virtue in itself’ , Ali Shari’ati. “Know, O beloved, that man was not created in jest or at random, but marvelously made and for some great end.” Al- Ghazali , The Alchemy of Happiness. The Human Problem. Forgetfulness of God

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‘The mere holding of a belief is no virtue in itself’, Ali Shari’ati

“Know, O beloved, that man was not created in jest or at random, but marvelously made and for some great end.” Al-Ghazali, The Alchemy of Happiness
the human problem
The Human Problem
  • Forgetfulness of God
    • Despite revelations and many signs
  • Two major sins:
    • shirk = associating anything else with divinity except the one God; idolatry
    • kufr = ungratefulness to God, unbelief, atheism

(as a side note, there is no conception of original sin in Islam)

  • Fallacy of believing in our self-sufficiency (contrast with meaning of ‘Islam’)
      • Linked to false belief in our self-sufficiency
      • Our proper posture to God should be a combination of love and fear
the solution
  • Seek God and acknowledge Him
  • Proper Response to God
    • Total surrender to God
      • (example of the Prophet and prophets)
  • Know laws (that are fixed and are part of God’s divine purposes) as revealed by prophets and live by them
key beliefs doctrines
Key beliefs/Doctrines
  • tawhid= belief that there is only one God
    • Expressed in the shahadah - ‘There is no God but God and Muhammad is his messenger’
    • Affirms oneness/unity of God
    • Shirk as the greatest sin
    • Radical distinction between Creator and creation
      • Thus Muslim aversion to pictorial images of God
    • Stress on God’s transcendence (though he is present in his creation)
    • Humans have direct relationship with God
    • God is in control of everything
      • Contrast with tribal religious belief in fate
key beliefs cont
Key beliefs (cont.)
  • Supernatural Beings
    • Reality extends beyond our five senses
    • Three types of sentient creatures: man (clay), angels (light) and jinn (fire)
  • Angels
    • NOT intermediaries; usually messengers and God’s helpers
    • Made of light (man is made from dust, jinnsfrom fire)
    • Angels have specific responsibilities
      • E.g. Archangel Gabriel who brings God’s revelations
  • Jinns
      • An immaterial being of fire
      • Lower than the angels; male or female; neutral, benevolent or malevolent
      • Associated with the uncanny (where we get our word “genie”)
      • Iblis (Satan)
        • Depending on Qur’anic source (e.g. Sura 7.11-12; Sura 18.50), Iblis (Satan) is an angel or a jinn
        • Non-submissive (contrast with angels)
          • Refused to bow before Adam, so is cursed to live by tempting Adam’s descendents to follow him instead of God
key beliefs eschatology
Key beliefs: eschatology
  • The Last Judgment
    • Judgment is the test of tawhid
    • Clearly defined
    • Bodily resurrection after time in grave
    • Final accounting of individual’s deeds; deeds are weighed based on intention
      • ‘The works of each person We have bound about his neck. On the Day of Resurrection, We shall confront him with a book spread wide open, saying, “Read your book.” Sura 17.13-14
      • The question of intercession ambiguous; not clear from Qur’an. If there is, no one can intercede unless God allows them. Some possibility for Muhammad’s intercession is some cases but found mostly in hadiths.
      • We all bear responsibility as God’s representatives on earth
    • Cataclysmic ending of the world (Sura 73.14)
    • Heaven and Hell are both physical and spiritual
“When the sun shall be darkened, when the stars shall be thrown down, when the mountains shall be set moving, when the pregnant camels shall be neglected, when the savage beasts shall be mustered, when the seas shall be set boiling, when the souls shall be coupled, when the buried infant shall be asked for what sin she was slain, when the scrolls shall be unrolled, when heaven shall be stripped off, when Hell shall be set blazing, when Paradise shall be brought nigh, then shall a soul know that it has produced”. Sura 81.1-14
judgment hell
Judgment: hell
  • Hell
    • Place of great torment (contrast with bliss of Paradise)
    • For sinners and non-believers
      • Punishment of hell can be temporary
      • Only non-believers stuck; after some time sinners go to paradise
  • Indeed, those who disbelieve in Our verses - We will drive them into a Fire. Every time their skins are roasted through We will replace them with other skins so they may taste the punishment. Indeed, Allah is ever Exalted in Might and Wise. Sura 4.56
  • Notice as you read the Qur’an ithe passages that deal with heaven and hell that the passages often alternate with corresponding punishments and pleasures. For example if one is scalded in hell (Sura 18.29), the righteous will walk where rivers flow (Sura 18.30-31). Similarly if there is fire in hell, this is often contrasted with shade in heaven.
judgment heaven
Judgment: heaven

Alhambra Palace, Grenada Spain

  • Garden of Bliss/paradise
    • Physical and spiritual delights (though spiritual is more significant) Cf. Garden of Eden
    • Some interpret the picture of paradise literally, some symbolically
      • Islamic Gardens
        • Model for gardens found in Qur'an – describes colors, smells, sounds, fauna, etc. of heaven
  • Desire purified souls will be close to God- at different levels of closeness

In gardens of bliss…a multitude will be seated on couches set close together…Immortal youths will serve them with goblets, pitchers and cups filled with water from a spring which will not upset them or dull their senses; and they may choose fruit of any kind and whatever fowl they desire and chaste companions with eyes of beauty like pearls hidden in shells….We formed them perfectly and made them spotless virgins, chastely amorous and of the same age (Sura 56. 12-17)

Indeed, Allah will admit those who believe and do righteous deeds to gardens beneath which rivers flow. They will be adorned therein with bracelets of gold and pearl, and their garments therein will be silk. (Sura 22.23)

  • Mystical, contemplative, ascetic, experience
    • Contrast with material excess of Umayyad and Abbasid dynasties
    • Emphasis on inner state in contrast with excessive focus on conformity to Islamic law
      • Inner (Tariqa) and outer (Shari’ah) path
        • Outer leads to inner w/goal of union with God
  • Every verse of Qur'an has an ‘outside’ and an ‘inside’ (cf. Shi’ite Imam)
    • Includes allegorical interpretation
    • Truth seekers - world is filled with divine symbols & signs
  • Al-Ghazali (1058-1111 A.D.)
    • Criticized excessive focus on reason (e.g. Mut’tazilites)
    • Helps to legitimize Sufism
  • NOT mainstream orthodoxy
  • Union with God
    • Become purified of the self
      • Removing the seventy thousand veils of self
        • Illusion, expectation, attachment, resentment, egocentrism, discontent, arrogance (cf. Buddhism)
    • Eliminate subject (me)- object (God) distinction
      • Cf. Buddhism and Hinduism
      • ‘I am the Truth’
      • NOTE: Mainstream orthodoxy wary of Sufism. Orthodoxy wants to hold to the radical distinction between God and human beings
  • Dhikr = remembrance
    • Central Sufi practice in which the consciousness becomes focused on God
sufism cont
Sufism (cont.)

Whirling Dervishs

Mevlevi Order

  • Dervish = poor, mendicant mystic
    • No possessions
    • Cf. Hindu sannyasin but not withdrawal from society as much as inner detachment from world
    • Dissolution of the self into the Beloved
    • Death to self so that all that remains is the One
    • Whirling dervishes
      • Meditative
folk i slam
Folk Islam
  • Sometimes a difference between more orthodox forms of practice/belief and the folk level
    • Belief in the ‘magical’ (e.g. use of amulets, warding off the ‘evil eye’)
    • E.g. use of amulets
    • Veneration of the saints and visiting the shrines of the saints
      • Who for some become intercessors
    • Veneration of Prophet Mohammad
      • Exalting Prophet to semi-divine status