1. Islam = “surrender” or “submission” to god. Muslim, “one who surrenders [to God],” comes from the same root.
a. Relationship w/ God: name of God -- air in/air out. Spirit comes from God and returns to God, soothing relationship
b. Life is submission to God, even birth and death. Muslims enjoined to make all actions acts of worship. All people are born Muslims. Humanity’s proper response to God is to surrender to his will, carry out God’s commands fully and faithfully.
1. These commands touch on nearly every aspect of life. Islam is distinctive in that the commands of God have been thought to extend to the political arena. Politics, behavior, and theology intertwined.
2. Thus, the history of Islam is entwined with the history of the Muslim empire, it’s legal system, and other matters frequently thought of as secular. An entire civilization grounded in what it believes to be the commands of God.
Islam as: theology, culture, law, practice
2. Diversity of Muslims -- sects, cultures, lifestyles, lack of racial emphasis (first person to recite adhan was a black slave)
a. Founded seventh century C.E. by
b. Largest number of Muslims in
Arabia on the eve of Islam
1. Relative isolation from the rest of the world.
a. Inhabitants (Bedouins) took camels, sheep, and goats from oasis to oasis, occasional trade. Nomadic
b. Kinship groups = tribes - clans. Individual identified by ancestry, kinship.
c. Personal honor connected to honor and power of tribe and clan.
d. No central government: restraint on
conflict and misbehavior = blood feud. Killing > avenge that death >
tribal war (sometimes for generations)
2. Religion: a supreme god; many
minors gods associated with natural features - rocks, trees, springs, stars;
lesser spirits who can trick, inspire, or inform human beings.
4. Patterns and values of nomadic life still present; add influence of urban commerce > breakdown in tribal solidarity > economic individualism, unbalanced concentration of wealth > oppression of weaker members of society (widows, orphans, poor, slaves).
Early History: Life of Muhammad (570-632 C.E.)
1. Born into Hashim clan of Quraysh
tribe (dominant and wealthy in
a. Married at 25 to Khadija, devoted to her
b. Muslim biographers’ portrayal: Deeply troubled as youth. Orphan, doesn’t fit. Looking for values other than wealth and power, unsatisfied with Bedouin religion, trying to transcend tribal differences
c. Began going into caves in mountainside for solitary meditation. Sat for hours
i. 40 yrs old, early revelations - ceased, self-doubt - began again
ii. Continued for 20 yrs: uncontrolled, oblivious, left will verbal messages
iii. Angel of revelation: Gabriel (jabril)
in the Qur'an
2. After much time, M told to warn
a. “O you wrapped in your cloak, arise and warn!"
b. Time is running out, divine
judgment about to descend upon people.
1. M was Commanded to "arise and warn people" > preaching
a. Undermined economic and religious power of Quraysh clan
b. Opposition: could not assassinate;
protected by his clan, Abu-Talib. Tried
to buy him off, torture slaves, commercial boycott
2. Wife and uncle die > unprotected
> alliance with people of (Yathrib)
a. Flight to
b. Growing community of Islam, based on common faith > government, economy, army
c. Raids against Meccan caravans (623), decisive battle (624)
d. First holy war (jihad), just war: demonstrating God's sovereignty, irresistible power > expand. Influence
i. Definition of jihad = ‘struggle,’ such as individual’s struggle in the path of God and in the example of the prophet. Difficulties and complexities of a good life. Fighting injustice and oppression, spreading and defending Islam, creating a just society.
ii. “Lesser jihad:: military conflict. Under specific circumstances, not meant to be the aggressor, no justification of forced conversion