PS 121 Lecture 4
The Resurgence of Islam
“Their plan is to turn Egypt into an Islamic emirate, which would be the seed of an Islamic caliphate, which would first encompass the Muslim world, and later the world in its entirety. Of course, in 2012, this sounds like sheer fantasy, but all the major enterprises in history began as an idea. Some of ideas died while still in the cradle, while others developed. Therefore, we should not underestimate this idea, which is harbored by the Muslim Brotherhood leaders in Egypt.”
Egyptian-America sociologist Saad Ibrahim on the Muslim Brotherhood, August 2012
The abiding nature of scripture rests not so much in its truth claims as it does in its malleability, its ability to be molded and shaped into whatever form a worshiper requires. The same Bible that commands Jews to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18) also exhorts them to “kill every man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey,” who worship any other God (1 Sam. 15:3). The same Jesus Christ who told his disciples to “turn the other cheek” (Matthew 5:39) also told them that he had “not come to bring peace but the sword” (Matthew 10:34), and that “he who does not have a sword should sell his cloak and buy one” (Luke 22:36). The same Quran that warns believers “if you kill one person it is as though you have killed all of humanity” (5:32) also commands them to “slay the idolaters wherever you find them” (9:5).
Reza Aslan (UC Riverside)
…Let’s be honest. Islam has a problem today. The places that have trouble accommodating themselves to the modern world are disproportionately Muslim.
In 2013, of the top 10 groups that perpetrated terrorist attacks, seven were Muslim. Of the top 10 countries where terrorist attacks took place, seven were Muslim-majority. The Pew Research Center rates countries on the level of restrictions that governments impose on the free exercise of religion. Of the 24 most restrictive countries, 19 are Muslim-majority. Of the 21 countries that have laws against apostasy, all have Muslim majorities.
There is a cancer of extremism within Islam today. A small minority of Muslims celebrates violence and intolerance and harbors deeply reactionary attitudes toward women and minorities. While some confront these extremists, not enough do so, and the protests are not loud enough. How many mass rallies have been held against the Islamic State (also known as ISIS) in the Arab world today?
The caveat, “Islam today,” is important. The central problem with [Bill]Maher’s and [Sam] Harris’s analyses are that they take a reality — extremism in Islam — and describe it in ways that suggest it is inherent in Islam. [Bill] Maher says Islam is “the only religion that acts like the Mafia, that will [expletive] kill you if you say the wrong thing, draw the wrong picture or write the wrong book.” He’s right about the viciousness but wrong to link it to “Islam” — instead of “some Muslims.”
Islam literally means “submission” or “surrender” (to God). Believers are Muslims (from the Arabic Muslimin), Moslems, Mohammedans, Mahometans.
Qur’an = revelation or “recitation” said to have been dictated by the Angel Gabriel, edited and promulgated some 59 years after the death of the prophet Muhammed (believed to be 632 AD)
Hadith (plural ahadith)= traditions purporting to report the sayings and activities of the Prophet; treated as a second source of revelation but culled from many accounts by various Islamic scholars who offer different renderings
Sunna = “the custom and practice of the Prophet, his Companions, and his immediate successors, as preserved by the historic memory of the community as a whole.” (Lewis).
From which is derived Sunni or Sunnite, the largest Muslim sect, considered by its followers to be Orthodox.
Shii or Shiite = literally from “faction”—short for Shiat-Ali, the party of Ali, considered the rightful successor of the Prophet
Dar al-Islam = the abode or land of Islam
Dar al-Harb = the abode of war
Dar al-Kufr = the abode of impiety
Dar al-Suhl = the abode of the treaty: where Muslims live as a peaceful minority or where there is a treaty between Muslim rulers and non-Muslim rulers
The “five pillars” of Islam:
2. The profession of faith (Shehadah)
4. Alms giving (zakat)
5. Pilgrimage to Mecca, or the Hajj.
The Kaa’ba –shrine in Mecca enclosing a holy rock
Imam = defender of the faith nominated by previous imam and elected by religious authorities. Supreme leader for Shiites
Jahiliyya = age of ignorance (pre-Islam)
Other Sects: Ismailis (pacifists), Ibadites (Oman), Wahhabi (Saudi Arabia)
Shari’a = (literally path to the watering place) laws of conduct for Muslims.
Ulema (ulama) = authoritative juridical scholars who interpret the Shari’a. Singular: alim
Fiqh = jurisprudence or the application of Islamic law
Takfir = a pronunciation that someone has been excommunicated
Tawhid = the central belief, that there is only one God
Umma = community (of believers; possible from um, mother; Hebrew cognate imah).
Caliph (Khilafa or caliphate) = successor and deputy; later God’s deputy