This post regards the islamic religion, one of the four Abrahamic religions — Judaism, Christianity, and Islam; the fourth one is less known, but Bahá’í Faith is sometimes listed as well.
The basic reason of why I dedicate part of my time to write and study a bit on the matter, is to somehow, as a Catholic Christian, hand to those who read me some information and to try to remove hatred from people’s minds and to kill prejudice and spread respect and tolerance between religions and cultures.
We — contradictory to what I’m about to say — love using blanket and general statements. These can frequently be insulting. We may even mean to insult. But when we do so to whichever group we cover in the blanket statement, we also belittle our own intelligence by using them. As Laurent Gounelle said in a book of his, you will have taken a big step in your life when you stop generalizing.
The bigger issue though, is that inaccuracies tend to derail a conversation, and sometimes, in the worst cases, entire ways of thinking.
Small post index.
- Origin of Islam.
- Fragmentation of Islam.
- The arrival of philosophy to Islam.
- Islamic Thinking
- A world without Muslims.
Islam is an Arabic term that means submission. It’s the set of dogmas and moral precepts mentioned in the Quran which constitute the Muslim religion preached by Muhammad. The practitioners of this religion are called Muslims (in Arabic, those who submit to God).
For Islam, Allah (God) relates to humans through the prophets, who have the ability to contact the transcendent and convey the other believers His message. Abraham, Moses and Jesus were prophets, but the last and most important one was Muhammad, who authored the Quran.
The Quran lays down rules of conduct for believers to obtain salvation; it also regulates sociopolitical organization in order to obtain an ideal community. Therefore, Islam also governs the public sphere, not only the privet one.
Its founder was Muhammad (Mecca, 570 – Medina, 632). When he was 40, and after suffering a religious crisis, he began to preach a new religion based on the two great monotheistic faiths of the time (Christianity and Judaism), and adapted to the condition of the Arab people.
For Muslims, Muhammad received the divine revelation through the Archangel Gabriel, who transmitted him a series of messages and which he wrote and became part of the Quran. Since Muhammad was born in Arabia, the Quran is written in Arabic.
Muhammad gained followers, but there were also hostile groups who were against the new monotheistic religion. Such forced him to flee Mecca and shelter in 622 in Medina. This desertion, or Hegira (July 16th 622), marks the beginning of the Muslim era.
In Medina, Muhammad became very popular because of his military successes, and became not only a religious, but also political and military leader. During this period he founded the first Islamic communities.
Clashes between Medina and Mecca ended with the conquest of the latter by the Muslims in 630. Muhammad died two years later, when all the tribes of the Arabian Peninsula were unified and had adopted the new religion.
When Muhammad died, the face of political and religious power in the Islamic world was established on the Caliph (successor or representative). With the Umayyad dynasty (661-751), Muslims spread very quickly from Asia and northern Africa, and managed to enter Europe by conquering the Iberian Peninsula, which they called al-Andalus. Their advance was finally halted in Europe by Charles Martel at Poitiers (732), and in Asia by the Chinese army (747).
When the Umayyads were overthrown, the Abbasid dynasty took over power. Al-Mansur founded Baghdad in 762, city which would become the new capital of Islam, to the detriment of Damascus.
The power of the caliph was gradually weakened as a result of the Muslim extension and the political and religious independence which reached different parts of the Islamic empire. One of the first to gain independence was al-Andalus in 756. It became an independent emirate with its capital in Cordoba — and finally a caliphate in 929 as they had rejected the religious authority of the Caliph of Baghdad.
This process of disintegration, which also occurred in other regions, was one of the causes of Islam’s decline, geographically speaking.
The fusion between philosophy and religion developed by St. Augustine in the 5th century was the highlight of European thinking at the time, which was followed by a period of blockage and thus, the emergence of Islam in the East gave a new motion to the philosophy between the 9th and 11th centuries.
The reach of Christianity to Syria and Mesopotamia made its inhabitants become interested in the New Testament, written in Greek, and hence learning the language. The knowledge of this foreign language also allowed access to the works of Greek philosophers, and because of the interest aroused, schools of translators appear. Such works poured first into Syriac and later, when Syria and Mesopotamia became part of the Muslim empire, Arabic. Thus it was so that the Muslims came into contact with Greek philosophical and scientific thinking.
Between the 9th and 11th centuries, the philosophy ran mixed fortunes in the Muslim world. While there were caliphs who protected and promoted science and philosophy –mainly the Abbasid dynasty— other leaders discredited, persecuted and condemned this knowledge. In the 12th century, rational thought went to the West and developed mainly in al-Andalus, under the auspices of Muslim and Jewish philosophers.
Between the 12th and 13th centuries, there was a revival of philosophy in the West, due to Muslim philosophical contributions being translated into Latin. In a way, it’s due to Muslims that western ideologies are alive today.
Islamic thinkers base their doctrine in Greek philosophy, primarily in Aristotle.
The main issues and concepts discussed by Islamic philosophers are:
The active intellect. Aristotle distinguished between patient intellect and active intellect, saying the latter had the role to capture the essence. Aristotle says such is a part of the soul, which is eternal and indestructible, unlike the body. Islamic thinkers reprocessed this notion of the agent intellect to become it a divine spiritual emanation.
Most Muslim thinkers relate God with the material world through the Platonic notion of emanation –the divinity is the intelligence emanating from different spiritual realities– and make this idea support both the concept of an eternal world, as of a created world, as provided by the revelation.
From this emanation arises a series of intermediate spiritual realities between the One and the material world.
The essence and existence. The meditation about God and the world enriched when the difference between essence and existence was established, which leads parallel to distinguish between what is necessary and what is possible (Al-Farabi and Avicenna).
To mention a pinch on Islam’s practice, we have the Five Pillars of Islam are five basic acts in Islam, considered mandatory by believers and are the foundation of Muslim life, and as such, shape much of their culture as a whole. They are summarized in the famous hadith of Gabriel.
They make up Muslim life, prayer, concern for the needy, self purification and the pilgrimage. They are:
- Shahadah: declaring there is no god except God, and Muhammad is God’s Messenger
- Salat: ritual prayer five times a day
- Zakat: giving 2.5% of one’s savings to the poor and needy
- Sawm: fasting and self-control during the blessed month ofRamadan
- Hajj: pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in a lifetime if he/she is able to.
I won’t go deeper in the Islamic way of thinking nor its religion’s essence.
I am a Christian Catholic, and as such, I’d like islamophobics to realise how the Muslim culture and history have contributed to our nowadays lives. As a matter of fact, Muslim inventions shaped much of the modern world.
It were Muslims who invented:
- Experimental Physics
- Crank-shaft, internal combustion engines, valves, pistons
- Combination locks
- Architectural innovation (pointed arch –European Gothic cathedrals adopted this technic as it made the building much stronger, rose windows, dome buildings, round towers, etc.)
- Surgical intruments
- Treatment of Cowpox
- Fountain pen
- Our numbering system
- Modern cryptology
- Three course meal (soup, meat/fish, fruit/nuts)
- Chrystal glasses
- Gardens used to be for beauty and meditation instead of for herbs and part of the kitchen
- Soft drinks
- Plastic surgery
- Manufacturing of paper and cloth
It was a Muslim who realized that light enters our eyes, unlike the Greeks who thought we emitted rays, and so invented a camera from this discovery.
It was a Muslim who first tried to fly in 852, even though it is the Wright Brothers who have taken the credit.
It was a Muslim by the name of Jabir ibn Hayyan who was known as the founder of modern chemistry. He transformed alchemy into chemistry. He invented: distillation, purification, oxidation, evaporation, and filtration. He also discovered sulfuric and nitric acid.
It is a Muslim, by the name of Al-Jazari who is known as the father of robotics.
It was a Muslim who invented hollow needles to suck cataracts from eyes, a technique still used today.
It was a Muslim who actually discovered inoculation, not Jenner and Pasteur to treat cowpox. The West just brought it over from Turkey.
It was Muslims who contributed much to mathematics like Algebra and Trigonometry, which was imported over to Europe 300 years later to Fibonnaci and the rest.
It was Muslims who discovered that the Earth was round 500 years before Galileo did.
The list goes on…
[Sources: The Independent, CNN, and Ummahedinburgh.co]
#Woolwich murderer says he was sick of British army killing Muslims. Well, we, Muslims are sick of people like u using our religion to kill.
— Ali Al Saeed (@alialsaeed) 23 Mai 2013
— حسين د. (@HusainDashtii) 5 Septembre 2014
— #No2ISIS (@No2ISIS) 4 Septembre 2014
Imagine a world without terrorists. That’s a whole different thing and then I would agree, the world would definitely be a better place without those around.
As I mentioned before, though, to hold a whole group responsible for the actions of a few is ignorant and racist.
No one would ever expect Christians or White people as a whole to be held responsible for the acts of Timothy McVeigh in the Oklahoma bombing; or Andreas Breivik in the Norway killings, or the gun man that shot Congresswoman Giffords in her head, wounded 12 and killed 6 people, and rightly so because they had nothing to do with those incidents. Just like the rest of the 1.5 billion Muslims have nothing to do with so many killings made.
We, humans, are lucky enough to enjoy and take pleasure in the gift and the present of freedom. One’s freedom ends where the freedom of the other begins. Only when we not ignore or forget this statement do we humans evolve and flourish as a whole.