ORIGINS OF ISLAMIC CIVILIZATION

Naji Mujahid
Professor El-Khawas
World Civilizations 1
April 6, 2010

ORIGINS OF ISLAMIC CIVILIZATION

INTRODUCTION

In the name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful. All praise is for Allah, the ‘Lord’ of the Worlds. The Compassionate, the Merciful. Master of the Day of Judgment. O’Allah! You Alone we worship and You Alone we call on for help. O’Allah! Guide us to The Right Way. The Way of those whom You have favored; not of those who have earned Your wrath, or of those who have lost The Way. [Surah (1) Al-Fatihah][1]

Islam[2] literally means submission and the connotation of it is submission to the will of God, hereafter referred to as Allah[3], the Creator of all[4]. Therefore, to discuss the Islamic Civilization it is necessary to understand the depth of what this means to Muslims (which literally means those who submit). Belief in Islam as a way of life makes the civilization based on this precept unique in that without this core belief, the civilization does not exist because it is not based on the development of technology, art, literature, economics, or any other marker of human progress. However, Islam, as a way of life envelopes and influences the progression of humanity in these other respects. For Muslims, there is no civilization without Islam and anything before or after it is considered jahilliyah[5].

To say that all else is jahilliyah might seem pretentious, but Muslims do not consider that there was ever a time when Islam didn’t exist. As mentioned, Islam means submission to Allah’s will, to Allah’s divine order as the creator. Therefore, the submission of nature and all things to its natural order is Islam. This means that the orbits of the celestial bodies, the seasons, the reproductive processes of flora and fauna, and the laws of physics are all examples of Islam. In this context Islam exists even in the absence of human progress, or human beings for that matter.

For their part, human beings are forced by natural law to submit to Allah’s order in matters of anatomy and physics (e.g., humans cannot levitate, survive without water or oxygen, or maintain their physical bodies forever), but it is their disposition of free will[6] that ultimately determines their level of civilization. In other words, the Muslim barometer for civilization is their adherence to Islam as a way of life; anything other than this is uncivilized.

ISLAM

Today the unbelievers have given up all their hope of vanquishing your religion. Have no fear of them, fear Me. Today I have perfected your religion for you, completed my favor upon you and approved Al-Islam as a Deen (way of life for you). [Surah (5) Al-Ma’idah, v. 3]

Islam does not fit within the narrow English definition of the word religion and it is best described with the Arabic word deen, which I will use within this paper. Deen can be translated to mean a complete way of life. As such, Islam is not a dogmatic canon of beliefs, but it encompasses the spiritual, social, economic, and political spheres of human existence. “Islam cannot fulfill its role except by taking a concrete role in society, rather, in a nation; for man does not listen, especially in this age, to an abstract theory which is not seen materialized in a living society” (Qutb 1978, 11). Islam informs the proper mode of interaction that humans should have with Allah, each other, and the world around them. Knowledge of Islam is best derived from Allah in the form of the Holy Qur’an[7] and the Hadith[8]. Beyond that Muslims can be informed through the fatawa (plural for fatwa[9]) of learned scholars and through their personal processes of ijtihad[10].

Muslims believe that the Arabic Qur’an is the direct and infallible word of Allah dictated to His final Prophet, Muhammad ibn Abdullah beginning in the year 610 C.E. Before going further it should be clarified that Muslims do not consider Muhammad (PBUH)[11] to have been the first Prophet, only the last; the Seal. The first would have been Adam who is believed to have been the first man. This idea of Adam as the first Homo Sapien Sapiens is echoed in Judeo-Christian mythology. In fact, Muslims have a common belief with their Christian and Jewish counterparts in many of the same prophets and stories. Collectively, they have been referred to as the three Abrahamic faiths because of the common belief in Abraham[12] as a religious patriarch.

The core of Islam is Tawheed[13] (Allah’s unique one-ness) and this is the essence of the divine revelations and subsequent teachings of all of these divine Prophets and Messengers. Our focus in this work will be Islam as explained by, Muhammad (PBUH),because he laid the foundation for the emergence of the Islamic civilization. “There can be no doubt that the essence of Islamic Civilization is Islam; or that the essence of Islam is Tawheed, the act of affirming Allah to be the One Absolute, transcendent creator, Lord and Master of all that is.” (al-Faruqi 1986, 73)

MUHAMMAD OF ARABIA

These are the revelations of Allah; We recite them to you in truth. Surely you, O Muhammad, are one of Our Messengers. [Surah (2) Al-Baqarah, v. 252]

To fully appreciate and adequately assess progress you have to have a reference point. You must know where something came from to know how far it has come. Similarly, to understand Muhammad (PBUH) and the revolution that he led in Arabia towards an Islamic Civilization, we must know the environment that he came out of in Mecca. He was born into the tribe of Quraysh as part of the Banu Hashim clan and was orphaned in his infancy. The Quraysh tribe traces its lineage back to Ishmael[14] (Ismail) the first born son of Abraham and at the time of Muhammad’s birth in 570 CE they were the most powerful tribe. The clan of Banu Hashim (sometimes called Hashimites) was a prestigious one charged with the responsibility of caring for the pilgrims as they arrived to Mecca annually to visit the Ka’ba[15]. The Ka’ba was home to scores of idols that were visited by hundreds of pilgrims and this was a source of revenue and power for Mecca’s elite. Given the monotheistic teachings of Islam, this contradiction would become a major source of contention.

REVELATION and RESPONSE

Ha M’im. This Book is revealed from Allah, the All-Mighty, the All-Wise. Surely in the heavens and the earth there are signs for the true believers. and in your own creation and that of animals which are scattered through the earth, there are signs for those who are firm in faith, and in the alternation of night and day, in the sustenance that Allah sends down from heaven with which He revives the earth after its death and in the changing of the winds, there are signs for those who use their common sense. These are the revelations of Allah, which We are reciting to you in all truth. Then, in what report will they believe if not that of Allah and His revelations? [Surah (45) AL-Jathiya, v. 1-6]

Muhammad (PBUH) grew up, under very humble conditions, as an orphan under the care of his uncle and, despite being illiterate, he became a successful merchant with a reputation for his honesty and trustworthiness[16] (Khan 1996, 61-62). He was always a very spiritual person and would regularly retreat from the world and spend days and nights in a cave (Mount Hira) contemplating on the natural and supernatural. On one such night, it is said that he was visited by the angel Jibril[17] who revealed to him the first words[18] of the Qur’an, commanding this illiterate merchant to read and recite. Following this, he received further revelations, periodically at auspicious moments, over the course of 23 years[19], and together they were compiled as the Qur’an (Haykal 1995, 73).

After this initial contact, he was very disturbed, he thought that he was going crazy and likened himself to the local soothsayers that he didn’t care for. Seeking comfort from his wife, Khadijah, he went home. She affirmed the righteousness and sincerity of his character and assured him that he could not be going crazy. The next day, she went to speak with her cousin Waraqa, a Christian, and after hearing what happened he declared “Muhammad must be the Prophet of this nation. Tell him he must be firm.” (Haykal 1995, 77) Not too long after this, Waraqah and Muhammad (PBUH) happened upon one another at the Ka’ba and Waraqah questioned him about his experience.  After listening he then exclaimed that,

“By Him who dominates my soul I swear that you are the Prophet of this nation. The great spirit that has come to Moses has now come to you. You will be denied and you will be hurt. You will be abused and you will be pursued. If I should ever live to see that day, I will help the cause of God. God knows that I will.” (Haykal 1995, 78)

He could not have been more right. However, Muhammad (PBUH) was not alone. Along with his wife, his friend, Abu Bakr[20], and young cousin, Ali ibn Abu Talib[21], were the first to accept this new faith by testifying that there was no god except for Allah and that Muhammad (PBUH) is His Messenger[22]. (Khan 1996, 73-74)

At this point, it is imperative to view Muhammad (PBUH) not only as a preacher, but as an organizer and a revolutionary. His teachings of monotheism shook the foundations of the idolatry that pervaded Mecca and benefited the ruling class (and the populace in general) politically and economically. As Muhammad (PBUH) shouldered the responsibility of his Prophethood, he experienced the polarizing effect of any revolutionary at any time or place in history. Some people joined with him with sincerity and conviction and others joined against him with vehement hostility.

For 13 years this hostility took various forms. In the beginning, the Quraysh ignored him and when this didn’t work they tried to compromise and reason with him, but for Muhammad (PBUH), when truth is set against falsehood, there could be no compromise. They tried to bribe him with money, women, and power, but to no avail (Haykal 1995, 96-97). When diplomacy failed, they turned to slander, setting the equivalent of a propaganda machine against him. He was ridiculed, mocked, and in some instances assaulted (Haykal 1995, 116-118). His followers faced the same and some were tortured or killed. Muhammad (PBUH) could not easily be killed because he came from a prestigious and influential tribe and clan. Therefore, his assassination would invite retribution on the clan/tribe of the assassin; in the worst case scenario it could ignite a civil war of killings and responses in kind. With assassination off of the table for the moment, they resorted to a boycott that was designed to starve the Muslims into submission.

HIJRAH

Those who believed (embraced Islam), migrated and made Jihad (exerted their utmost struggle) with their wealth and their persons in the cause of Allah; as well as those who gave them asylum and help, are indeed the protecting friends of one another. [Surah (8) Al-Anfal, v. 72]

It was during this time that Muhammad (PBUH) sent a portion of his followers into exile in Abyssinia within the Christian kingdom of King Negus who was known to be a righteous king. When contacted by the Quraysh in regards to the fugitives, he refused to extradite them and told them that they could stay as long as they like (Haykal 1995, 97-101). Later still, as the oppression intensified, a decision to emigrate was made. Muhammad (PBUH) formed an alliance with some Muslim converts[23] from Medina, a city to the northwest, and they signed a treaty that stipulated their pledge to protect him, among other things (al-Mubarakpuri 1996, 154-158). Upon hearing of his imminent sojourn, the Quraysh decided that they had to stop him and conspired to kill him. They figured that if they formed a party than all would be equally responsible for his death and, thus, no one could be sought for retribution. The assassination failed as Ali risked his life to pose as a sleeping Muhammad (PBUH). Meanwhile, Abu-Bakr and Muhammad (PBUH) slipped out of Mecca and set out on the road less travelled to Medina (in fact, they took a detour south before heading north) (al-Mubarakpuri 1996, 168-170).

This mass emigration was known as the Hijrah and marks the beginning of the Islamic lunar calendar[24]. It is not the focus of this paper to explicate all of the formative years of Islam, but its humble beginnings should be understood. Once settled in Medina, the Muslims began to consolidate their power and influence and fought many battles against the Quraysh. Emissaries were sent throughout the Arabian Peninsula and beyond to the Byzantine[25] and Persian[26] empires inviting them to submit to Allah and accept Muhammad (PBUH) as His Prophet. Needless to say, they denied the invitation, Heraclius dismissed it and Khosrau called for Muhammad’s head. However, as will be discussed later, both empires were enveloped by Islam eventually (Haykal 1995, 374-376).

AFTER MUHAMMAD

And Muhammad is but a Messenger. Surely, all Messengers have passed away before him. Would you recant if he dies or be killed. And he who recants shall do no harm to Allah, and Allah will surely reward the grateful. [Surah (3) A’lay Imran, v. 144]

Ten years after the Hijrah, the Muslims returned to a subdued Mecca victorious. It would not be long before the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) passed on to the next stage of existence at the age of 63. This was a very ominous time for the Muslims and the most prominent issue was succession, who would lead? Notwithstanding the fact that Islam is not a monarchy, he had no living sons[27]. Some traditions state that Muhammad (PBUH) had made clear that his cousin, son-in-law, confidant, and first student, Ali, was to be his successor (Tabataba’i and Campbell 2000, 85)[28], but while Ali was planning the funeral and grieving with their family, a hasty conference and election was held that moved the leadership to Abu Bakr. Initially, Ali refused to pledge his allegiance to Abu Bakr, but after a civil war ensued between the Muslims and the apostates, Ali acquiesced for the sake of unity (Chirri 1996, 186-190). This set in motion successive leadership known in Islam to be the Khulafah Rashidoon (the four Rightly Guided Caliphs[29]), Abu Bakr, Umar ibn al-Khattab, Uthman, and Ali ibn Abu Talib respectively.

The reign of the Khulafah Rashidoon ended with the martyrdom of Ali in 661 CE/39 AH. This also ended what could be considered a golden age in Islam. Never again would there be a leader that was one of the Messenger’s companions. By this time, a mere 50 years since Muhammad’s Prophethood began, Islam had spread eastward to Afghanistan, Westward along the north coast of Africa to Tripoli, and northward to the Armenian region between the Black and Caspian Seas (al-Faruqi 1986, 212). Following the demise of Ali, his son (and Muhammad’s grandson), Hassan, assumed leadership with the support of his father’s followers.  However, his reign was brief before his power was usurped by Muawiyah (Tabataba’i and Campbell 2000, 128), the Muslim Governor of Egypt who established the Ummayad Dynasty (Jordan 2002, 67). It is ironic to note that concomitant to the unprecedented spread of Islam during this time, the descendents of Muhammad’s greatest enemy in Mecca, Abu Sufyan, had secured power and encouraged a visceral hatred against Muhammad’s direct descendents[30].

GOVERNANCE in ISLAM

O believers! Obey Allah, obey the Messenger and those charged with authority among you. Should you have a dispute in anything, refer it to Allah and His Messenger, if you truly believe in Allah and the Last Day. This course of action will be better and more suitable. [Surah (4) An-Nisa v.59]

This dynasty that was established and perpetrated by the Ummayads ran counter to the spirit of Islam. Islam does not condone monarchal governments, “The form of government of the Ummayads and the Abbasids, and the political and administrative policies they pursued, were anti-Islamic. The form of government was thoroughly perverted by being transformed into a monarchy…..For the most part, this non-Islamic form of government has persisted to the present day” (Khomeini 1981, 47-48). Government in Islam is predicated on the system of Khilafah in which case the Khalif is elected democratically, “Rule by inheritance is forbidden in Islam, for the heir of the ruler would be imposed on the people without their will” (Chirri 1996, 524).

As with anything relevant to Islam, the Prophet was a paragon of propriety. He was at once a father, a husband, a neighbor, an organizer, a general, a judge, a diplomat, a politician, and an executive (and even more). Therefore, to see how the Islamic State is to be governed, one must look at governmental organization under Muhammad (PBUH).

Acceptance of Islam is the basis of the Islamic society and this is one of the first lessons that can be gleaned from the precedence set in Medina, a city that was plagued by civil war until belief in Islam united the people. This revolution in behavior is all the more meaningful in consideration of the nature of the Arabs at this time; unity was drawn on tribal lines. However, with unity established on the lines of Islam, the responsibilities and rights of the people, of the Ummah[31], were then codified in a constitution (Siddiqui 1988, 4-10).  Islam then spread throughout the Arabian Peninsula as a religious and political ideology and within 10 years the majority of Arabia was ruled by a centralized government in Medina. “Never before had the whole Arabian Peninsula been ruled, controlled, and administered by a central authority” and in Muhammad’s hands were “concentrated all powers, legislative, executive, military, and judicial.” (Siddiqui 1988, 210)

Though Muhammad (PBUH) wielded great power, he was not a tyrant[32] and there were many positions within the government over which he presided. They are outlined in great detail within Dr. Muhammad Siddiqui’s work, Organization of Government Under the Holy Prophet.  One such position is that of Commander-in-Chief of the military apparatus; in this position he had the power to choose/dismiss his commanders. It was with great skill that Muhammad (PBUH) developed and led the army. Had it not been for a strong military force, the Muslims would not have survived themselves, let alone expand their influence. As for the civil administration, there are two kinds, the central administration and the provincial administration.

The central government was comprised of deputies, advisors, secretaries, envoys/ambassadors, commissioners, and miscellaneous petty officials.  Additionally, there were official poets/orators who functioned in a capacity somewhat akin to the media or propagandists. “Since the Arabs were a ‘people of the tongue’, who took extreme pride in their language, their poets and orators commanded great respect and prestige in their society.  They could create, mold, and shape opinions.” (Siddiqui 1988, 239). The provincial government on the other hand was comprised of governors, various administrators, representatives of the people (tribal chiefs), judges, and market administrators; “The Prophet paid personal attention to the reform the corrupt commercial and mercantile practices” (Siddiqui 1988, 275).

Towards that end, he instituted a financial system particular to the Islamic State. As Abul A’la Maududi explains, the financial system of Islam is founded on three basic principles. First, that it should be reflective of natural order of things and consistent with human nature. Second, in recognition that external regulation is insufficient, a strict morality should be encouraged as an internal regulation “so that evil in the mind of man can be suppressed at its root” (Maududi 1994, 29). The third point is that coercion by the government should only be done as a last resort.

The government depends on charitable contributions, zakat[33], jizyah[34], and other taxes; of course this required a government post of tax-collectors and bookkeepers. The government also maintains a system of land distribution that is too complex for elaboration, but the point of it is too benefit the needy and make efficient use of land-holding within the state for the good of all (Siddiqui 1988, 335-344). Another unique facet of the economic system is the strict outlawing of usury as an accursed financial practice, “Allah has laid His curse on usury and blessed charity to prosper” [Surah (3) A’lay Imran v. 276].

The economic system itself has elements of capitalism and socialism. In fact, it is somewhat of a merger of the two. There is free trade and during the time of the Prophet all tariffs on imports and exports were abolished. There is also private ownership and people are free to accumulate wealth provided that the wealth is earned by acceptable means and is spent in acceptable ways. Therefore, the temper that is put on these capitalistic elements, are restrictive moral codes, some of them encouraged and others enforced. This gives way to the socialist aspects, namely that the rights of the community outweigh those of the individual. Accumulated excess wealth is encouraged to be redistributed back to the central treasury to fund social welfare programs, etc. Needless to say, with the socio-economic system hinging on adherence to a moral code, religious instruction was a big deal and there were many posts to be filled as teachers, preachers, Imams[35], and muezzins[36]. There was also a specific post for the organizers of the annual Hajj.

SPREAD of ISLAM

When there comes the help of Allah and the victory, you see the people entering Allah’s religion (Islam) in multitudes. So glorify your Lord with His praises, and pray for His forgiveness: surely He is ever ready to accept repentance. [Surah (110) An-Nasr]

And so it was that Islam began in the Arabian Peninsula. It is a considerable miracle in and of itself that these mean and isolated people would bring light to the rest of the world.  Indeed, only 30 years after the Prophet’s death did Islam replace the Byzantine and Persian empires and spread all the way east to Afghanistan, west along the northern coast of Africa to Tunisia, and north to Armenia.  By 750 AD it had gone even further west to Morocco and the Iberian Peninsula (where Islam ruled from 711-1492) and eastward into India.  Over the next 500 years[37], Islam spread to China, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and all over the Sahel, Maghreb, and Horn of Africa (al-Faruqi 1986, 222-228). The spread of Islam is sometimes attributed to the sword, however, Tim Wallace-Murphy says,

“while these vast territorial gains were undoubtedly made by the sword, the spread of Islam as a religion was not. The newly subject peoples who became the followers of Islam in such vast numbers were attracted to that religion by its natural purity and the relevance of its mission to people’s daily lives. Forcible conversion was against all the fundamental principles of choice that Islam espoused.” (Wallace-Murphy 2006)

Furthermore, it is stated in the Qur’an that,

There is no compulsion in religion. True guidance has been made clearly distinct from error. Therefore, whoever renounces Taghut[38] and believes in Allah has grasped the firm hand-hold that will never break. Allah, Whose hand-hold you have grasped, hears all and knows all.  [The Holy Qur’an, Al-Baqarah (2), v. 256]

During this same time period there were many developments in various fields, science and art in particular. The Holy Qur’an itself, served as a catalyst for much of the intellectual and scientific developments. Within it, Muslims are exhorted towards learning as a form of devotion, partly because studying Allah’s creation increases one’s reverence for its creator. “Knowledge of nature and knowledge of religion were inseparable twins, complementing and supporting each other (al-Faruqi 1986, 325)”. This is in stark contrast to some western philosophies that prefer to contrast god and science. Another way the Qur’an spurred learning was simply because literacy was necessary to read it and, as a Muslim, reading the Qur’an is imperative. The spread of Islam and Arabic along with it drove Arabic to become the lingua franca of this vast region.

One of the great developments was scientific medicine. Though the Muslims didn’t invent it, they made great strides in further cultivating it. They began by learning from Christian physicians who had fled the Byzantines and translating their books. Soon they were building hospitals and medical schools. They developed the sciences of surgery, psychiatry, pharmacology, botany, and chemistry. Physics also became highly developed and the Muslims turned out several meaningful inventions such as the compass, astrolabe, clock pendulum and methods of distillation. They’re most influential contributions to the field of mathematics were the inventions of the decimal and the zero. Study of astronomy produced the theory that the heavenly bodies were moving orderly around the sun, that the earth was round, and a measuring of the Earth by creating demarcations of latitude and longitude. They also became excellent cartographers. (al-Faruqi 1986, 323-334) Beyond the hard sciences, there were very significant contributions made to world art. Most notable of these, is the art of calligraphy and beautiful architecture all over the world.

CULTURE IN ISLAM

Now, special mercy is assigned to those who follow the Messenger, the unlettered Prophet (Muhammad) – whom they shall find described in the Torah and the Gospel. Who enjoins them what is good and forbids what is evil; makes pure things Halal (lawful) for them and impure things Haram (unlawful); relieves them from their heavy burdens and from the yokes that were around their necks. Therefore, those who believe in him, honor him, help him, and follow the Light which is sent down with him, will be the ones who will be successful in this life and the hereafter.[Surah (7) Al-A’raf, v. 157]

Art and architecture usually reflect culture and this can be seen in Islam. No matter who wrote the calligraphy, what part of the world they are from, you know it when you see it; same with the mosques, unless its in a very non-descript building operating as a mosque. However, thought there are many common threads within Muslim communities, you will find that the culture is as much heterogeneous as it is homogeneous. For instance, though it is customary for women to dress modestly (and men for that matter) and cover their heads, you will notice that in Iran the customary dress for a woman is in all black. In contrast women in Senegal wear very colorful clothes. The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) once said that Islam did not come to change peoples’ culture, but to improve it. Therefore, in different parts of the world, people tend to develop an Islam that reflects the previous culture, adding the homogeneous aspects of Islam and ridding themselves of those practices that are unislamic.

Morality, as outlined in the Qur’an and Hadith, is a pervading aspect of the culture; “enjoining the right and forbidding the wrong” is a common phrase to be found within the text. “Islam establishes the values and morals which are ‘human’… it develops human characteristics progressively and guards against degeneration towards animalism” (Qutb 1978, 182). Modesty, honesty, forgiveness, selflessness (community needs factor first, rather than individual), helping the oppressed, fighting against oppression, and propagating the deen are all common themes. There are certain prohibitions that are one size fits all; no gambling, consumption of alcohol and pork, adultery/fornication, lewd behavior, slander/backbiting/gossip, lying, stealing, unjust killing, mistreatment of the orphan, and above all shirk[39]. These tenets are geared towards developing solid individuals which leads to strong families.

Family life is a critical component of the Ummah. As the individual goes, so goes the family, so goes the community, and so goes the Ummah. Everyone in the family has rights and responsibilities[40]; man, woman, and child. The family structure is patriarchal and polygamy (up to four wives) is permitted though rarely practiced. Polygamous marriage relationships are also predicated on the man’s ability to care for multiple wives and children equally as the man is expected to be the maintainer and provider for his family; a woman is expected to take the lead on child-rearing and managing the household[41].

This leads to the topic of gender relations. Islam was a revolution in many ways in Arabia (and later the world). It was a revolution of thought and practice; no less so was it a revolution for women’s rights. Women were raised from a position of sheer inferiority to one of equality. Islam declared that as human beings, all women and men are equal before Allah.  However, equality does not mean uniformity.

“No doubt, woman, as a human being, is born free like any other human being and in that capacity she has equal rights. But, woman is a human being with certain peculiarities, as man is a human being with certain other peculiarities. The traits of their characters are different and their mentality is distinct….Nature has purposely made them different and any action taken against the intention of nature would produce a disastrous result.” (Mutahhari unknown, 5)

This means that, though men and women are equal, they have been endowed with certain strengths and weaknesses that serve to complement each other so that the relationship between man and woman becomes one of interdependence. Niaz Shah argues that, “the intention of the Koran was to raise the status of women in society, not to relegate them to subordination.” (Shah 2006, 868)

ISLAM TODAY

O believers! Whoever among you renounce Islam, let them do so; soon Allah will replace them with others whom He will love and they will love Him, who will be humble towards the believers, mighty against the unbelievers, striving hard in the way of Allah, and will have no fear of reproach from any critic. Now this is the grace of Allah which He bestows on whom He pleases. Allah has boundless knowledge. Your real protecting friends are Allah, His Messenger, and the fellow believers – the ones who establish Salah, pay Zakah and bow down humbly before Allah. Whoever makes Allah, His Messenger and the fellow believers his protecting friends, must know that Allah’s party will surely be victorious. [Surah (5) Ma’idah, v. 54-56]

According to this doctrine, woman were given rights to inheritance, encouraged to become educated, treated equally before the law, and protected from transgression. However, as with many facets of the Islamic Civilization, idealist philosophy does not always translate into practice. This paper has been a study of the operation of Islam during the time of and directly following the life of the Prophet. In 2010, there are arguably no examples of this model. “The world of Islam has been parceled into small nation-states. These nation-states have been awarded a dubious ‘independence’ and a fraudulent ‘sovereignty’. In fact these nation-states are neither Muslim nor ‘Islamic’….. [they] are creations of imperialism and serve the purposes of imperialist powers.” (K. Siddiqui 1996, 141)

Many contemporary Muslim scholars consider the Islam to be in a state of global revival and that a clash of civilizations between the West and Islam is underway and will positively end with Islam asserting its dominance. A great scholar in Islam, Sayyid Qutb, who was executed by PM Gemal Abdel-Nasser in 1966 for his involvement in the Muslim Brotherhood wrote that because Islam “proclaims the freedom of man on the Earth from all authority except that of [Allah] it is confronted in every period of human history (Qutb 1978, 105-106). In that regard, Kalim Siddiqui wrote, “The victory of Islam was and must always be over its hostile environment” (K. Siddiqui 1996, 165) and it is the triumph of Islam over jahilliyah that is the hallmark of the Islamic Civilization.


 

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Shah, Niaz A. “Women’s Human Rights in the Koran: An Interpretive Approach.” Human Rights Quarterly, 2006: 868-903.

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Vallely, Paul. “How Islamic Invenbtors Changed the World.” The Independent, March 11, 2006: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/how-islamic-inventors-changed-the-world-469452.html.

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Young, Gayle. Fast-Growing Islam winning converts in the Western World. April 14, 1997. http://www.cnn.com/WORLD/9704/14/egypt.islam/ (accessed April 8, 2010).


[1] All quotes of The Holy Qu’ran will be taken from the English translation by F. Malik.

[2] Islam is supported by the “5 Pillars” of the religion. These are 1. Shahadah (the declaration of faith): to bear witness that there is no deity except for Allah. 2. Salah (prayer): five times a day at prescribed times. 3. Zakah (charity): 2.5% of one’s surplus wealth per year given to help the needy. 4. Saum (fasting): performed once a year during the month of Ramadan. 5. Hajj (pilgrimage): every Muslim should make the annual pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in their lifetime. Some consider Jihad to be the 6th Pillar. Jihad literally means striving/struggling. This can refer to an internal struggle or an external one. Either way, it connotes a struggle to solidify Islam.

[3] Allah: Usually considered the Arabic translation of the English word ‘God’. However, the Arabic word ‘Allah’ is unique in that it refers to only one specific thing. The word ‘God’, on the other hand, could mean different things to different people. ‘God’ also has a connotation of sex, its derivative being ‘God-ess’; Allah has no gender qualification.

[4] Al-Khaliq: This is one of the 99 characteristics attributed only to Allah and literally means, ‘The Creator’.

[5] Jahilliyah: Ignorance of Divine guidance. Sayyid Qutb refers to it as rebellion against Allah’s sovereignty on Earth.

[6] Free will: The ability of human beings to adhere to Allah’s code of conduct or follow their own fancies.

[7] Holy Qur’an: The Qur’an was delivered in Arabic, thus, that is the only language in which it is authentic. Translations into other languages are subject to human error. It is critical to note, that one of the main reasons The Qur’an was so amazing to the Arabs has to do with its “literary aesthetic” (as al-Faruqi puts it)’ meaning that they recognized the high quality of language usage and considered that it must have “divine authorship”.

[8] Hadith: The related traditions and sayings of the Prophet Muhammad (ex. So-and-so asked the Prophet such-and-such and he said… or the Prophet was once seen doing…..), also referred to as his Sunnah. As the Prophet was said to be a living Qur’an, the hadiths are the second authority in Islam.

[9] Fatwa: A religious edict issued by a high level learned scholar of Islam.

[10] Ijtihad: The act of determining the propriety of a particular phenomenon in relation to Islam where there is no previous precedent; usually performed by scholars who reach a conclusion in the form of a fatwa.

[11] It is proper etiquette that following a Prophet’s name one says, “may Allah’s Peace and Blessings be upon him” (PBUH), or, in Arabic, Sallalahu Alahi  wa Salaam.

[12] Abraham (Ibrahim in Arabic): Lived in Ancient Mesopotamia and sired Jacob (Ishaq) and Ishmael (Isma’il). Jacob was the patriarch of the 12 Tribes of Israel and Ishmael of a particular line of Arabs of which Muhammad was a part.

[13] Tawheed: The essence of Tawheed is in the phrase “there is no god, but Allah”. This means that there is nothing else worthy of worship, obedience, admiration, etc. except fot the One God, Allah, creator of all the universe. This belief also connotes that Allah is the only true reality as everything else only exists by Allah’s leave and depends on Allah for sustenance.

[14] Ishmael: First born son of Abraham who was conceived by his second wife, Hagar (Hajure). The bible refers to her as his concubine/consort. The jealousy of his first wife (who was barren at the time), prompted her to force Hagar and her son into exile.

[15] Ka’ba: A Holy temple in Mecca believed to have been constructed by Abraham and Ishmael

[16] He was often called by the name “al-Amin” (the Trustworthy)

[17] The archangel familiar in Judea-Christendom, Gabriel the Messenger.

[18]Read! With the name of your Lord Who created (all of the universe), Who also created human beings from a congealed clot of blood. Proclaim, for your lord is the most benignant…..” [Surah (96) Al-Alaq, v. 1-5]

[19] It is important to bear in mind that the revelation did not occur all at one time. The Qur’an was revealed to Muhammad on a need to know basis, so to speak, as he and the Muslims interacted with one piece at a time until it was complete.

[20] Abu Bakr: Close friend of Muhammad and one of the first to accept Islam. Later he became the first Caliph (Khalif) after Muhammad’s death.

[21] Ali: One of the first to accept Islam and the first minor. He was Muhammad’s young cousin and eventually his son-in-law. He became the fourth Caliph. Some traditions say that he was announced by Muhammad to be his successor and that this right was usurped by the three Caliphs before him (Abu Bakr, Umar, and Uthman). This is generally held as a Shia (the 2nd largest Muslim denomination after Sunni) belief.

[22] This is utterance is known as the Kalimah: The phrase “La ilaha ill Allah”, there is no god except for Allah.  In order to become Muslim, one simply says this, with conviction and understanding, along with the accompanying phrase, “Muhammadan Rasululah”, Muhammad is His Messenger.  Together they are called the Shahadahtayn, the two Shahadahs, the two testimonies.

[23] The tribes of al-Aus and al-Khazraj were bitter enemies that were engaged in a perpetual civil war in Medina. Their acceptance of Islam changed this and they were unified. The first of them to become Muslims were the ones who met with Muhammad and formed the pact of Aqabah. They were inclined to him because they had heard from the Jews in Medina that a prophet was to arise soon. However, the Jews were not expecting that this prophet would come from amongst the Arabs.

[24] Also called the Hijri Calendar, the years count from the year of the migration which is considered 1 A.H.  It is a lunar calendar consisting of 12 months in a year of 354 or 355 days. Being a purely lunar calendar, it is not synchronized with the seasons. With an annual drift of 10 or 11 days, the seasonal relation repeats about every 33 Islamic years.

[25] Emperor Heraclius ruled the Byzantine Empire from 610 to 641 CE

[26] Khosrau II was the twenty-second Sassanid King of Persia and he ruled from 590-628 CE

[27] The Prophet Muhammad had three sons that all died before reaching adulthood, Qasim, Tahir, and Ibrahim.

[28] At the pond of Ghadir Khumm, on their victory march back to Mecca in 633 CE/10 AH, the Prophet Muhammad stopped to give a pronouncement at which time, according to Tabataba’i, he took Ali’s hand and announced him as his successor as 120,000 Muslim pilgrims looked on.

[29] Caliph/Khalif=ruler

[30] By 680 CE Imam Ali, Imam Hassan, and Imam Husayn had all been killed. Ali by a Kharijite and his sons by the Umayyads.

[31] Literally translated, this word means community, but refers specifically to the Muslim community and by extension the Islamic State.

[32] It is often said that absolute power corrupts absolutely. This was a magnificent exception.

[33] Zakat is a binding tax on all Muslims and is one of the five pillars that upholds the faith. It stipulates that 2.5% per annum of your accumulated wealth be given in charity. Under the Islamic State, that money would go to the state and be redistributed to the needy.

[34] Jizyah is a tax levied against non-Muslims that are under the protection of the Islamic State.

[35] Congregational prayer leader

[36] Caller to prayer. The first one was Bilal, an African slave turned Muslim. He wrote the adhan (call to prayer).

[37] Currently, Islam is now the second largest religion in the world, after Christianity and the fastest growing in the West[37] (Young 1997).  In the United States, for example, nearly 80 percent of the more than 1,200 mosques have been built in the past 12 years.

[38] The Arabic word taghut[Tah-goot] literally means to, cross the limits, overstep boundaries, or to rebel.  Imam Muhammad Al-Asi defines it simply as “concentration and abuse of power (Al-Asi, 423).

In a applicable context, Dr. Diyaaud-deen Al-Qudsy describesit as everything that dissuades and deviates one from the worship of Allah and also prevents one from faithfully and sincerely obeying Allah and His messenger; whether it be “Satan”, man, trees, stones, women, [spouse], [idols]; or an oppressive dictator or an outstanding group that people selected, an assembly, a group of scientists that enacts laws other than Allah’s laws. It may be a custom, a habit, or an ideology that has not originated from the Book of Allah and one who ascribes to himself the right of enacting laws and setting limits.

Entering into this meaning without a doubt is ruling by foreign laws and abandoning Islam and its legislations, enacting laws and setting limits like permitting interest, fornication and adultery and intoxicants. The laws that these people legislate and enact are taghuts itself and those people that legislate and lay down these laws are also taghuts.

Taghut is every nation that seeks judgment from other than Allah and His messenger or follows the taghut or obeys it in that which he does not know is obedience to Allah alone. (Al-Qudsy n.d.)

[39] Shirk is to associate anything with Allah’s sovereignty or propose that Allah has an equal or rival. To imagine that Allah has offspring or that anything else is anything more than a creation of Allah. Allah is the only divine and Allah is omnipotent, in need of nothing. Shirk is the only sin for which Allah has declared there is no hope of forgiveness or mercy. Furthermore, Muslims worship Allah alone and to obey is to worship. Therefore, any authority in the life of a Muslim must receive his/her authority from Allah and execute that authority in harmony with the Qur’an and Sunnah.

[40] In any situation, Islam emphasizes ones responsibilities above ones rights.

[41] These are customary/preferred/advised roles. Women are in no way prohibited from working anymore than men are prohibited from doing the dishes.

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