Islam history till date

Islam (Is’lum, Iz’-, Islam’) [ Arabic,=submission to, or having peace with, Allah], the religion of which MOHAMMAD was the prophet. An adherent of Islam is called a Moslem or Muslim [Arabic, one who submits]. It was the latest to appear of the three great monotheistic religions (the others being Judaism and Christianity). Islam is the principal religion of much of Asia (including part of thePhilippines): Kansuand Shensi provs. ofChina,Pakistan,Afghanistan,Iran,Iraq,Syria,Jordanand the Arabian states, andTurkey, as well as much of theUSSRinAsia. InAfrica, Islam has been the only highly successful missionary faith. It is the religion prevailing inEgyptand the rest of the northern part exceptEthiopia; it is also well established in centralAfricaand along the east coast. In Europe, outside ofRussia, where Islam was the religion of the Crimea and of much of the lower Volga, the Moslems managed to establish themselves as a majority inTurkeyandAlbania(15th cent.) and in the old state ofBosnia(15th cent.). TheAmericasare the only continents in which Islam has practically no adherents. [This Encyclopedia was published in 1959 and the numbers have changed considerably. Muslims have been brought to theUSandEuropeby the millions]

Islams most serious loss was suffered in Spain. The salient feature of Islam is its devotion to a book, the Quran, believed to be the revelation of Allah to Mohammed; this has made Arabic the language of Islam all over the world; hence the common custom of referring to Allah in Islam as Allah, his name in Arabic. According to Moslem teaching, Allah has given men successive revelation through his prophets. Man constantly falls away from these prophets and the merciful Allah sends new ones; Mohammed is the last, and when the world falls away from Islam the end of the world will come. The two principal early prophets are Abraham and Jesus. According Moslem teaching, Abraham was the Father of the Faithful, the first Moslem; Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary, did great miracles, and was not crucified, but was instead taken away by Allah, who left a shadow in his place (a common view among Gnostics and others), and Jesus will return at the end of the world to fight Antichrist as the Mahdi.

Wherever the Quran differs from the Old and New Testament, it is explained that the Jews and the Christians have corrupted or perverted the biblical test. The close relationship acknowledged between Judaism, Christianity, and Islam has had for its chief effect that Jews and Christians have been treated with special toleration in principle in Moslem countries. It is commonly thought that Mohammed’s ideas about Judaism and Christianity were derived not from reading but from converse with contemporary Arabian Jews and Christians, who held their religions in a considerably corrupted form.

The Mohammedan eschatology has affected Moslems much more than the orthodox account of history. In the course of time a rather elaborate account has grown up of what will happen at the last things; but the final rewards have remained constant – there will be a judgment, and heaven awaits the faithful and hell the infidels. The ethos of Islam is its attitude toward Allah; to his will Moslems submit; him they constantly praise and glorify; and in him alone they hope. He is awful, transcendent, almighty, just, loving, merciful, and good. No creature may be compared to him, and to him alone do Moslems pray. Moslems ask intercession of the prophets and the saints, but they (the Shiites perhaps excepted) preserve jealously the distinction between Creator and creature. They seldom ask Allah for favors, limiting their prayer to thanksgiving and adoration. The pious Moslem does not distinguish faith from works: both are indispensable and mutually supplementary. There are five duties in Islam, the marks and the sine qua non of devotion.

1) Once in his life the believer must say with full understanding and absolute acceptance, “There is no Allah but Allah and Mohammed is his prophet.”

2) Five times daily he must pray – at dawn, at noon, in mid afternoon, at dusk and after it has become dark; the prayers are set and are accompanied by traditional postures and preceded by ablutions; when he prays the Moslem covers his head, removes his shoes, and places a carpet under him; he prostrates himself continually. On Fridays the noonday prayer takes place in the MOSQUE, which exists for the meeting; set prayers are said, the Quran is read, and there is a sermon. The constantly recited prayer of Islam, used on all occasions, is Sura 1 of the Quran; it is singularly typical of the spirit of Islam. “In the name of Allah, the merciful, the compassionate. Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the worlds, the merciful, the compassionate, the ruler of the judgment day! Thee we serve and Thee we ask for aid. Guide us in the right path of those to whom Thou art gracious; not of those with whom Thou art wroth; nor of those who err.” When the Moslem prays, he facesMecca, the direction of which is calculated in every Moslem settlement with the greatest exactness possible.

3) The Moslem must give alms generously; these are prescribed alms (e.g., so much of cattle, and so much of grain). He is also obliged to give some alms beyond the minimum. In places where Islam is the state religion the prescribed alms are often collected by the state.

4) The Moslem must keep the fast of Ramadan; the physically weak, the sick, soldiers, and some others are exempted.

5) Once in his life the Moslem, if he can, must make the pilgrimage (Hajj) toMecca. This, probably the greatest pilgrimage in the world, is made a certain time of year, in the month (see calendar) set apart for it. The importance of the pilgrimage can hardly be overestimated; it unites Islam as nothing else has ever done; atMeccathe Javanese meets the Negro fromSenegaland the mountaineer ofAlbania, all brought together by the same holy purpose. There is a remarkable community of feeling in Islam, even today, when Moslems are divided politically into many groups. This unity is a result of the Moslem apologetic system.

Islam is, of course, founded in the Quran, the divine word, but so little of this is dogmatic or legalistic that early in the history of Islam Moslems found the Quran inadequate as an authority for the good life. This was especially true when Islam was making the first rapid spread and as new people submitted to it. Hence arose the Sunna, fundamental in Islam. The Sunna is the way or example of the Prophet, which supplements the Quran. The Sunna is made up of collections of Traditions (moral sayings and anecdotes) of Mohammed, sifted and collected with unflagging effort by men from the earliest times of Islam. These collections are by Bukhari (d. 870), Muslim (d. 875).

Abn Dawud (d. 888), An-Nasai (d. 915). At-Tirmidi (d. 892), and Ibn Maja (d. 886). The first two of these collections are undoubtedly more reliable than the others if the truth is desired about Mohammed. The last four admittedly made use of a pious fraud based on the theory that all religious truth was implicit in Mohammed’s sayings, so that a salutary maxim might be regarded as having been said by the Prophet.

The Sunna is almost as important to Islam as the Quran, for in it lie all the elaborations of Quranic teaching essential to the firm establishment of a world religion There are serious disagreements in the Traditions, and interpretations of the Quran and the Sunna have varied as much as to be contradictions. This situation is resolved by reference to what has become perhaps the most important of all the sayings attributed to Mohammed, “My community will never agree in an error.” The principle this expresses is called Ijma, the agreement of Islam, and according to it every Moslem knows that a belief entertained by the greater part of Moslems in history is infallibly true, and a practice (e.g., the cult of saints) allowed by most Moslems over a long period must be legitimate and good.

The Quran, the Sunna, and the Ijma are thus the three foundations of Islam. It is Ijma which has given Islam its catholicity of view, its constant unity with its past, and its continuous flexibility. But while Ijma has given Moslems a voice of authority, they have been saved from internal intolerance and the evils extreme sectarianism by constantly bearing in mind the Tradition. “The difference of opinion in my community is a divine mercy.” Moslem sectarianism in general may be said to be virtually negligible, except for a fundamental division of Islam into Sunnites and Shiites. The division arose over the caliphate in the first centuries. It is a convention to treat Sunite Islam as the norm, because of the vast superiority of numbers of the Sunnites and the fast recognized by all non-Shiites (whether Moslem or no) that the Shiites have departed to an amazing degree from anything that can be considered the original Islam.

All Moslems except Shiites regard as monstrous and blasphemous the fundamental Shiite principles that Ali was a vicegerent of Allah and that his successors are infallible and sinless. The Ijma and the toleration of Sunnite Islam have preserved the Sunnites from serious defections and variations; the Wahabis are the only important modern separatist Sunnite sect. The Shiites have fathered countless sects, some of which are partially responsible for the bad name Islam has had in Europe; such are the Assassins, the Druses, he Fatimites, the Ismailites, and the Karmathians. Shiism has always lent itself in an extraordinary degree to bigotry and persecution of non-Shiites. That the Moslem world should have divided irreparably over the political question of the caliphate illustrates a characteristic of Islam, the every Moslem thinks of himself as living in a theocracy. Just as the Prophet ruledMedina, the true ruler of the Moslem state is the caliph, and in theory, at least, all Islam should be united under one political and religious ruler, the caliph.

Moslem princes have usually ruled their states according to the theocratic ideal; a corresponding phenomenon in Europeis a close incorporation of Church and state. In the Moslem state only Moslems are really citizens; they alone are allowed and obliged to serve in the army; their taxes go to the support of the religious officers, the Imam and muezzin (announcer of prayer), as well as of the state, and their courts have religious as well as civil jurisdiction. Non-Moslems are in theory aliens who live under sufferance in Moslem states; they have their own organization and often their own courts; they are not allowed to serve in the army; and they must pay a special tax, besides the taxes to support the bureau of their community.

In many Moslem countries this system has been broken down completely. This is notably true ofTurkey, where Ataturk made a clean sweep of most of Moslem culture, going even so far as to order the use of Turkish instead of Arabic in the mosque. Among his changes was the adoption of revised foreign codes of law (the Swiss civil code and the Italian criminal code) to replace Moslem law. Although most Moslem countries have been long since forced to separate in practice the religious law from the civil law is strongly Moslem in flavor, and Moslem jurists all follow the same general method. The religious law of Islam in theory governs the whole life of any individual, but in reality his relations with his neighbor are a matter of state regulation. Any demarcation between civil and religious law is, however, very difficult to make. The law plays a great part in Moslem life, and in this respect Islam has developed more similarities to Judaism than to Christianity.

The minutiae of legal prescriptions in the Quran and the Sunna, extending not only to ceremonial and things forbidden, but also to such matters as divorce, have often needed interpretation when they were to be applied to cases. There are in Sunnite Islam four different systems of interpretations of the law which may be called the Four Rites of Moslem Law; each of them is equally orthodox and is so regarded by all Moslems. They all agree entirely on the bases of Islam. They disagree on interpretation, e.g., as to whether the prohibition of wine extends to hard drinks, or as to whether horseflesh is as unclean as pork, or as to what postures should be used at prayer, or as to whether a man may take four wives only. The teaching of any rite is, of course, considered to be in accord with Ijma. The nearest analogy to the rites is probably the liturgical rites of Christianity.

The Fiyr Rites of Moslem Law are the Hanafite founded by Abu Hanifa, the most speculative and individual of the rites, held in most of Moslem Asia; the Malikite, founded by Malik ibn Aras (d. 795), followed in the western and northern parts of Africa; the Shafiite of Ash-Shafii (d. 820), the rite of much of Egypt, of East Africa, of S Arabia, and of the East Idies; and the Hanbalite, founded by Ahmed ibn Hambal (d. 855), the most literalistic and narrowest of all, now not held in any great area. In Moslem view the study of the law is all important, but with it are grouped dogmatic theology and mysticism as sacred studies. Philosophy in Islam as distinct from theology knows no place. In fact, Moslem though is a distinct unity which shows historically three major tendencies – toward dry legalism, toward rationalism, and toward mysticism. These have been tempered by one another and held in check by three great faits accomplis of Islam, Quran, Sunna, and Ijma. Typcial of the disputes of Moslem theology are those over freedom of the will and over the creation of the Quran.

The most famous schools of religious thought were the Muazilites, who flourished in the 10th and 11th centuries under the Abbasid caliphate; they have the distinction of beginning the first oppression on theological grounds in Islam, under Caliph Mamun. The Mutazilites were in general rationalistic, and they took the stand that predestination was dangerous to religion; from this their interests spread all though dogma, and they became famous as believers in the “created Quran.” This dispute over the creation of the Quran has much in common with Neoplatonic disputes over the Logos and with Christian disputes over Arianism. By far the most important figure in Moslem thought is Al-Ghazali (Al-Gazel), who has been called Thomas Aquinas of Islam. He owed his fame to his acceptance of mysticism as the key to religion after he had so long held rationalistic principles that his rationalistic method checked any extreme tendencies of mysticism, while his mysticism prevented any resort to legalism.

His great Restoration of the Sciences of Religion is a compendium of Moslem thought, the authoritative guide to what are Ijma, and the theological work par excellence of Islam. The Moslem philosophers, Al-Farai, Al-Kindi, Avemperroes, and Avicenna, have had less influence on Islam than on the philosophy ofEurope. (For the great period of Moslem thought and culture was the 9th to the 11th cent.; typical of the enlightenment and culture were the great universities – Damascus, Bagdad, Bukhara, Seville, Cordoba, and later Cairo (now the intellectual capital of Islam). The spread of Islam within the first century after the Hijra (622), the official beginning of Islam, was absolutely amazing. It is not fair to assign as the greatest cause for this the idea that he who died fighting for the faith went to paradise, since it is a principle of Islam that conversion by the sword is no conversion. The simple appeal of Islam, a universal religion, seems to have been tremendous; its definite promises and its comparatively easy rules undoubtedly aided. The modern spread of Islam, notably in the East Indies andAfrica, has not been aided by political advantage at all. Since late in the 19th century a movement of Pan-Islamism has arisen to unite the now politically disunited Islam into a spiritual unity. This has had little political success but is potent as an ideal.

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