Central Features of Islam


1.      Two foundational sets of writings in Islam: The Qur’an and the Hadiths:

a.       The Qur’an:

                                                  i.      Eternal words of Allah. Divine revelation to Muhammad.  Recorded or memorized

                                                ii.      First complete text compiled by Abu Bakr (1st caliph),. Later (in 650) a definitive version compiled and edited, all other versions ordered to be destroyed

b.      Hadith -- “report”: narratives reporting the saying and deeds of the prophet

                                                  i.      Two components: a narrative and a list of names (chain of sources that establish authenticity)

                                                ii.      Most of the Hadith on family and women were transmitted by women, beginning with Aisha (youngest wife, Abu Bakr’s daughter), not systematically compiled until the ninth and tenth centuries

                                              iii.      Different collections for Sunnis, three for Shi’as

2.      Central Teachings: Four Emphases:

1.      Monotheism: the absolute unity and uniqueness of Allah

a.       Cannot be represented by any image, or likened to anything created

b.      Has no "associates," no consorts, sons, daughters. "Say, 'He is Allah, one.  Allah, the Eternal.  He has not begotten nor was he begotten, and He has no equal'" (112:1-4)

c.       Polytheists : deny the sovereignty of Allah, God's revelation via Muhammad, the Last Judgment. Also: denying one's obligation to Allah, being ungrateful.

2.      The Meaning and purpose of human existence

a.       A meaningful life is fully centered on God.  The purpose of human existence is to serve God in every sphere of life, and to do God's commands.

b.      Humans are put on earth to be Allah's representatives (khalifa): govern and enjoy the world on its creator's terms, to reflect God's commands. We’ve seen: Islam = surrender, submission, obedience to God's will.

c.       No notion of original sin.

3.      Social reform

a.       One serves God in one's relationships with other people: the Qur'an is the only reliable basis of personal and social values.

b.      Model yourself on God: compassionate, protective of the weak, just, opposed to evil in all forms.

c.       Attack on authority of old, ancestral patterns of behavior (the Bedouin sunna). De-emphasized importance of kinship,  All human beings created to serve God; all true Muslims are brothers.  Religious loyalty takes precedence over family loyalty.  Personal accountability.

4.      Day of Judgment

a.       People who pursue worldly ends act as though there is no day of reckoning.  Nothing else to hope or fear.

b.      Dead resurrected -- all of life past and present will stand before God to be judged.

c.       Unbelievers, selfish > eternal damnation in hell. Believers who respond to Allah's revelation > everlasting life in paradise.

d.      Body and soul are perishable, but will be resurrected and experience either paradise or hell.

e.       God's creation is good, but less valuable than paradise. = a testing ground for eternity.  One must be ready to sacrifice all this of this world in the promise of eternal fellowship with Allah.