Islam: History, values and culture


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  • Shawqi Kassis, Ph.D.
  • We are all Muslims; some have the Gospels,
  • others have the Quran
  • A Patriarch from Syria
  • 1. Which of the following is a true statement:
  • A. All Arabs are Muslims B. All Muslims are Arabs
  • C. Iran is an Arab country D. None of the above
  • 1. Which of the following is a true statement:
  • A. All Arabs are Muslims B. All Muslims are Arabs
  • C. Iran is an Arab country D. None of the above
  • 2. During prayer a Muslim should face:
  • A. Mecca B. Islamabad
  • C. Jerusalem D. Washington, DC
  • 2. During prayer a Muslim should face:
  • A. Mecca B. Islamabad
  • C. Jerusalem D. Washington, DC
  • PRESENTATION OUTLINE
  • Introductory Remarks
  • Historical overview 10 min
  • Islam as a monotheistic religion 30 min
    • the Quran
    • God or Allah
    • pillars and values
    • social code and reforms
    • relation with other faiths
    • the Sunni and Shiha sects
  • Science and civilization 10 min
  • Islam today, and Arab Americans 5 min
  • Suggested reading, distribution of
  • educational material 5 min
  • Qs & As 20 min
  • Islam
  • Founder: Muhammad Ibn (son of) Adballah
  • Born: 571 AD in Mecca, Arabia
  • Descendant of Abraham
  • Nicknames: Almustapha (the chosen), Alamin (the faithful)
  • Titles: The prophet, the messenger (Alrasul)
  • Tribe: Quraiysh
  • Holy Book: The Quran, derived from ‘read’
  • Quraiysh
  • Qussaiy
  • Abdmanaf
  • Abdshams Hashem
  • (Amneh+) Abdallah Abutalib Hamzeh Alabbas Abulahab Alhareth
  • (661-750)
  • (750-1258)
  • Muhammad
  • Ali
  • Adbelmuttalib
  • Ummayah Dynasty Abbbassides Dynasty
  • Abraham
  • Ismail
  • Adnan
  • Historical Overview
  • •Mecca
  • Medinah
  • The Levant
  • Mesopotamia
  • The fertile Crescent
  • H
  • I
  • j
  • a
  • z
  • EGYPT
  • ARABIA
  • Dynasties
  • of the
  • South
  • Middle East, 7th Century
  • The Arabian Peninsula
    • The source of Arabs and the Semitic race
    • Mostly desert, few urbanized areas
    • Urban centers, Mecca
    • Mainly tribal society
    • First mention of ‘Arabs’, 854 B.C.
    • Arabs of the North and Arabs of the South
    • Dynasties in the south
    • Religions
      • Christianity (inclusive), Judaism (exclusive), polytheism
  • The Sassanid or Persian Empire
    • Ailing
  • The Byzantine or Eastern Roman Empire
    • Christianity is the state religion, 3rd century
    • A foreign occupying power
    • Sectarian conflicts with the locals
  • Byzantine
  • Empire
  • *
  • Persian
  • Empire
  • An Arabian
  • dynasty
  • An Arabian
  • dynasty
  • *
  • 571 Muhammad born in Mecca.
  • 610 First revelation in the Harraa cave (27 Ramadan).
  • 622 “Hijra”or Escape. Muhammad and followers escape prosecution
  • and go to Almadinah (Yathrib).
    • Year 1 in the Islamic calendar
    • ‘Missionaries’ sent all over Arabia
      • building peaceful coalition
  • 629 Muhammad conquers Mecca peacefully (NO REVENGE)
    • destroys idols in Alqaaba.
    • single-handedly, brings peace to war-torn Arabia
  • 632 Muhammad dies in Almadinah. Unmarked grave (his will)
  • Islam, 610-632
  • Islam by the death of Mohammed 632
  • Abu-Bakr - 632-634
    • The first elected official. Wise leader, crisis manager
  • Omar Ibn Elkhattab - 634-644
    • A first-rate statesman. Honest, modest and just.
    • Conquered the Levant, Egypt, Iraq, Persia
      • Damascus (9 / 635) and Jerusalem (5 / 638) surrender peacefully
        • Omar’s pledge to the Jerusalemites
    • A modern state: Treasury, communication, defense. Engraved currency.
  • Othman bin Affan - 644-656
    • Collected and compiled the Quran
    • Emergence of power struggle
  • Ali Bin Abitalib - 656-661
    • Power struggle escalated to armed conflict
    • Emergence of political parties
    • End of democracy. Ummayah Dynasty in Damascus, Muawyia (661-680)
  • 632-661: the Four Elected Successors (Caliphs)
  • Islam at 644, the year Omar died
  • The Ummayah Dynasty, 661-750
  • Empire center and capital move to Damascus
  • Expansion: All N. Africa (Atlantic), W. Europe, much of C. Asia, the wall of China
    • 711: Conquer of Spain and Portugal. Tariq Bin Ziyad
  • Expansion into W. Europe blocked in France by Charles Martial, 732
  • Power Struggle continues, but the Caliphs brutally liquidate all rivals
  • Addelmalek builds Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem (691)
  • Massive translation of Greek and Indian writings
  • Arabization of the empire
  • Bloom of architecture, arts, agriculture, and science
  • 732, 100 Yrs after Mohammed
  • The Abbassides Dynasty, 750-1258
  • The center of the Empire moves to Iraq and Iran
  • Baghdad, built 762 AD by Almansur (2nd Caliph).
  • With over 2 M, Baghdad becomes the glamorous center of the world
    • Science, art, architecture, learning, and wealth
    • Lighted streets, public baths, public libraries and hospitals everywhere
  • Other dynasties in Egypt, Spain, and parts of the Levant.
  • A 2nd Ummayah dynasty in Spain, 9th century
    • Qurtoba (Cordova) competes with Baghdad
  • Cairo, built 968 AD
  • Islam as Monotheistic Religion
  • Islam:
  • ”Surrender”, related to ‘salaam’, or peace.
  • Abraham, father of all prophets, is the first Muslim
  • Islam is also a code for social conduct
  • Quran plus the authentic statements of Muhammad (Hadith) = Shareeha (constitution), as Interpreted by Islamic scholars
  • Muhammad is the last prophet (33: 40).
  • Gabriel highest ranking angel
  • The Quran:
  • Islam’s holy book, an inspired scripture. God’s word inspired to his messenger,
  • 114 Chapters (chapter = Surah), 4 to >200 verses/chapter (verse = Aiyah)
  • Confirms most narratives and prophets of the Jewish and Christian faiths
    • Special place for Virgin Mary, the only female (the Chapter of Mary)
  • Allah is the word for God used by Christian and Muslim Arabs
    • God = Allah (Arabic) = Eluhim (Hebrew) = El (Aramaic)
  • One and only one God, no trinity
  • Arabic as the language of the Quran
  • The framework for Muslim life. Essential practices
    • 1. The declaration of faith:
      • "There is no deity but God, and Muhammad is the messenger of God"
    • 2. Prayer:
      • Five obligatory prayers each day.
      • A direct link between the worshiper and God.
      • No hierarchical authority or priesthood
    • 3. Zakat:
      • Obligatory charitable giving.
      • Wealth belong to God and it is held in trust by humans.
      • Zakat, or, "purification" by setting aside a portion (2.5%) for the needy
    • 4. Fasting:
    • 5. Pilgrimage:
      • A pilgrimage (Hajj) to Mecca, Arabia. Only those who can
  • The 'Five Pillars' of Islam
  • Jihad and the Conduct of War
  • Islam is not addicted to war, and jihad is not one of its "pillars”
  • Jihad in Arabic does not mean "holy war”. It means "struggle” or “strive”.
  • It is the difficult effort needed to put God's will into practice at every level
  • The "greater jihad” in the Quran is that of the soul, of the tongue, of the pen, of faith, of morality, etc. The "smaller jihad" is that of arms.
  • Many directives in the authentic statements of Muhammad (Hadiths):
    • He told his companions as they go home after a battle "We are returning from the lesser jihad [the battle] to the greater jihad, at home"
    • Three levels:
      • Personal: That of the soul
      • Verbal: Raising one's voice in the name of Allah on behalf of justice.
        • "The most excellent jihad is the speaking of truth in the face of a tyrant" (Hadith)
      • Physical: Combat waged in defense against oppression and transgression.
        • Profoundly misunderstood in today's world.
  • Much of the Koran revealed in the context of an all-out war imposed on early
  • Muslims by the powerful city of Mecca, and many passages deal with the conduct
  • of armed struggle.
    • While one finds "slay [enemies] wherever you find them!" (e.g., 4: 89),
    • in almost every case it is followed by something like "if they let you be,
    • and do not make war on you, and offer you peace, God does not allow you
    • to harm them" (2:90; 4: 90; 5: 2; 8: 61; 22: 39)
    • Since good and evil cannot be equal, repel thou evil with something that is
    • better, and love he between whom and thy self was enmity may then become
    • as though he had always been close unto thee, a true friend" (41:34)
  • God does not allow harm of civilian, and requests the protection of women,
  • children and the elderly during war (4:96; 9: 91; 48: 16,17)
    • “If any one slew a person--unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief
    • in the land--it would be as if he slew the whole people; and if anyone saved
    • a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people.” (5:32)
  • You shall feed and protect prisoners of war, and you shall not expect a
  • reward (4: 25,36; 5:24)
  • Thus, the only permissible war in the Quran is one of self-defense, you
  • cannot kill unarmed (civilian), and you have to protect prisoners of war
  • Jihad and the Conduct of War
  • Jihad and the Conduct of War
  • Warfare is always evil. Sometimes you have to fight to avoid persecution. e.g., the one Mecca inflicted on early Muslims (2: 191; 2: 217), or to preserve decent values (4: 75; 22: 40)
  • Muslims may not begin hostilities
    • "Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you, but do not transgress limits; for Allah loves not transgressors." (2: 190).
      • Notice: Defensive war, fight back
  • Hostilities must be brought to an end as quickly as possible, and must cease the minute the enemy sues for peace (2:192-3; 41:34)
  • ‘Martyrdom’: Those killed during fighting or while doing civic duties (martyrs) are promised a place in heaven (several passages, e.g., 2:154; 3:169-172)
  • However, suicide is not allowed; it is forbidden and condemned (e.g., 6:151, 17:33, 25:68)
  • One of my favorite Hadiths
    • 'Do not attack a temple, a church, a synagogue. Do not bring a tree or a plant down. Do not harm a horse or a camel’
  • Relation with other Faiths
  • Like the Torah, the Quran permits retaliation eye for eye, tooth for tooth.
  • But, like the Gospels, it says “it is meritorious to forgo revenge in a spirit of charity (5: 45)
  • Acknowledges Adam, Noah, Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses,
  • David, Solomon, Zacharia, Jesus, John the paptist, and others as the “the good prophets of God”
  • A special place for Jesus and Mary (e.g., 3:45,46; 4:156-158; 19:1-98)
  • Accepts that Mary’s conception is from God’s soul.
  • Rejects the divinity of Jesus (no trinity).
  • Jesus was not killed (e.g., 4:155-159; 5:17-19)
  • Islam did not impose itself by the sword.
    • "There must be no coercion in matters of faith" (2: 256)
  • Muslims have to respect Jews and Christians, the "People of the Book,"
  • who worship the same God (e.g., 2:62; 29:46).
    • "And dispute ye not with the People of the Book, except with means better,
    • unless it be with those of them who inflict wrong: but say, 'We believe in
    • the revelation which has come down to us and in that which came down
    • to you; Our Allah and your Allah is one; and it is to Him we bow.”
  • In one of his last public sermons Muhammad said
    • “God tells all human beings, "O people! We have formed you into nations
    • and tribes so that you may know one another" (49: 13). Do not conquer,
    • convert, subjugate, revile or slaughter but to reach out toward others with
    • intelligence and understanding”
  • The Levant remained mainly Christian for almost 200 Yrs.
  • The right of all faiths to warship was respected
  • Sites of warship, holy places and shrines of all faiths were protected
  • Relation with other Faiths
  • Charity, Charity, Charity ….
    • On top of the Zakat. Help the orphan, the poor, the ill, the lost, the homeless, the elderly
    • Endless times in the Quran (16 times in Chapters 2-5 alone)
  • Freedom, Integrity, Equality, Justice ….
    • “An hour of justice by a ruler is better than sixty days of hard work” (Hadith)
    • Endless request for justice in the Quran (e.g., 2: 282; 6; 152)
      • O mankind, We’ve created you from a male and a female and have made
      • you nations and tribes that you may know and interact with each other.
      • The noblest of you in the sight of God is the best in conduct” (49:13).
      • No Arab is privileged over non-Arab but by his or her conduct (Hadith)
      • All people are equal like the teeth of a comb (Hadith)
      • “You are not considered faithful in the sight of God unless you like for
      • your brother (read, others) what you like for yourself” (Hadith)
      • when you are greeted with a greeting of peace, answer with an even better greeting, or at least the like thereof" (4: 86).
  • Social Justice
  • Right and Status of Women
  • Eliminated many pre-Islamic discriminatory practices
  • Gave women rights (e.g., inheritance) and equality to men, both were made
  • from a single soul (e.g., 4:1)
  • Limited the number of wives a man can marry
  • Treat women with kindness and respect their rights as equal to men
  • The hijab or head scarf
  • Modest dress apply to women and men equally (Quran and Hadith).
  • Women are required to cover their bodies so that their figure is not revealed.
  • Women are not required to cover their faces.
  • The forbidden or ‘taboo’ (muharramat) include pork, blood, improperly butchered
  • animals, baby animals, gambling, and charging interest
  • Alcohol drinking was gradually disallowed
  • Other Values
  • Science and Civilization
  • A dedicated quest for knowledge and a burst of scientific innovation
  • in a multi-ethnic and multi-faith society
  • Lasted for over 8 centuries, and produced a plethora of knowledge and
  • discoveries in all disciplines
  • Induced the later European renaissance
  • The Arabic tong, invigorated by the Quran, was the vehicle, and tolerant,
  • inclusive, and knowledge-advocate Islamic faith was the culture
  • Repeated requests in both the Quran and the Hadith for seeking
  • knowledge, and application of rational thinking
    • Seek knowledge even in China
    • Seek knowledge from crib to grave
    • On judgement day, the ink of scientists is valued by God higher
    • than the blood of martyrs
    • The two important disciplines of science are theology and Biology
  • Initially, massive translation of Greek and Indian writings
    • preserved all literary and scientific works and transmitted them to Europe
  • Medicine and Pharmacy
  • Chemistry and Physics
  • Mathmatics
  • Astronomy
  • Medicine and Pharmacy
  • Institutionalized and regulated the practice of Medicine and Pharmacy
    • The modern concept of clinics
    • Board exams and license to practice. Regulatory boards (FDA's!!!)
    • Classification of plants and Algae for their medical use, and outlined possible side effects (PDR’s!!)
  • Hospitals:
    • Tens, including specialized, in each of Baghdad, Qurtoba, and Damascus.
    • Mobile hospitals for emergency.
    • Departments and University Hospitals.
    • Patients records and vital signs, urine tests, family history.
  • Surgery:
    • Threads from animals intestine.
    • Opium and Hashish for Anesthesia.
    • Alcohol as disinfectant.
    • Treatment of cataract, and removal of kidney and gallbladder stones
  • Autopsy !!!
    • Students training (Anatomy)
    • Cause of death
  • Abu-bakr Elrazzy; 9th Century
    • Father of Physicians, great clinician and experimentalist
    • Many books including “Smallpox and Measles”
  • Ibn-Elhaytham: 10th Century
    • Multidisciplinary scientist. Ophthalmologist
    • Mechanism of sight. Function of the eye
    • Over 100 books in Med. and Math.
  • Ibn-Seena (Avisai): 10th Century
    • The “Qannun”, the medical text book in Europe till 19th Cen.
    • Described the medical use of over 2700 plants
    • Light has a finite speed, which is much faster than the speed of sound
  • Ibn-Rushd (Aviros): 13th Century
    • Philosopher and Physician. Many books
  • Ibn-Elnafees:
    • Blood circulation and the role of lungs
  • Abulkassim Alzahrawi (Abulcasis or Albucasis): 11th Century
    • One of the greatest surgeons. A good dentist and GP.
    • Removal of breast cancer.
    • Hemophilia and its hereditary transmission (female to male)
  • Known Physicians
  • Arabic terms and methods of preparation for Alkali, Alcohol, Tartarate
  • Discovered and prepared in pure form 28 elements (Ibn Elhaytham)
  • The processes of crystallization, fermentation, distillation, sublimation,
  • Preparation of acids (H2SO4, HCl, HNO3) and bases (NaOH)
  • Light travels in straight lines. Laws of refraction, reflection and illusion of light.
  • Eluded to the Magnetic properties of some objects
  • Chemistry and Physics
  • Arabic numeral and the decimal system of numbers.
    • Right  Left. English. But 1000
  • Arithmetic. Roots and powers
  • Algorithm = Alkhawarismi
  • The mathematical ZERO
  • Algebra (combining fractions).
  • The Use of (x, y, z) to solve complex arithmetic/geometric problems
  • Trigonometry (Albairuni and Albuzjani), differential and Integral.
  • = 3.141596535898732.
  • Some known Mathematicians:
  • Abu-bakr Alkhawarismi
  • Thabit Ibn Qarra (9th Century). Calculus.
  • Ibn-elhaytham
  • Albairuni (10th Century)
  • Albuzjani
  • Omar Elkhayam (2° & 3° equations)
  • Mathematics
  • Astrology (myth)  Astronomy (science)
  • Movement, path, and location of planets and stars
  • The Asturlab
  • Earth is spherical and rotates along its axis and around the sun.
    • Calculated earth circumference (Albairuni)
    • Calculated the time needed for one rotation around the sun (solar year), with
    • an error of 2’ 22” only (Albattani)
    • Calculated the equinoxes
  • Current names of most constellations, and many stars are from Arabic
  • Some known astronomists:
  • Alkindy (9th Century)
  • Albattani (9th Century)
  • Ibn-elhaytham (11th Century)
  • Thabit Ibn Qarra
  • Almajreeti
  • Astronomy
  • Sunni and Shiha
  • Sunni
  • 90% of Muslims
  • Follow the Quran and the Hadeeth as we have them today,
  • and as interpreted by the Sunni scholars
  • Shiha
  • Came to be as a sect after 680 A.D.
  • Believe in the Quran and Hadeeth, like Sunni
  • However, they place Ali very high as a holy figure, and think ‘main stream’
  • Islam discriminated against him
  • Today Shiah is mainly in Iran (90%), Iraq (55%) and Lebanon (~40%)
  • Important Holidays
  • Al-adhaa (the sacrifice)
  • Symbolizes Abraham attempt to sacrifice his son Ishmael by God’s request.
  • Should sacrifice an animal and give the food to the poor.
  • The pilgrimage to Mecca
  • Alfetr
  • Observed at the end of the holy month of Ramadan (the fasting month)
  • The Islamic New Year
  • Yr 1, Islamic calendar = 622 A.D.
  • Alisraa Walmaaraj
  • Symbolizes the ascending, in Jerusalem, of Mohammed's soul to heaven
  • The Birthday of Muhammad
  • Ashuraa day (Shiha only)
  • Islam Today
  • 1.3 Billion worldwide, three continents
    • 0.3 Billion Arabs
    • Indonesia (200 M) > India (180 M) > Pakistan (160 M) > Bangladesh (120 M) >
    • China (80 M) > Egypt (70 M)
  • There are about 20 M Christian Arabs
    • Egypt > Syria > Lebanon > Palestine > Iraq
  • About 7 M Muslims in the USA, 3-4 M are Arabs
    • Roughly half of the Arab Americans are Christians
  • Farouq Elbaz (Egypt), NASA, the moon mission
  • Ahmed H. Zewail (Egypt) Winner of the 1999 Nobel Prize in Chemistry,
  • Cal. Tech.
  • Saleh Wakeel (Iraq), member of the Nat’l Acad. Sci., Biochemistry
  • Qais Elawqati (Iraq), member of the Nat’l Acad. Sci., Microbiology
  • Majdi Yacub, first open heart surgery
  • Michael Debakee (Lebanon), chief cardiologist of the White House
  • Ralph Nader (Lebanon), consumer advocate, Green Party founder,
  • and 2000 presidential candidate
  • John Sununu (Palestine), White House Ex-Chief of Staff
  • John Sununu JR., current state governor
  • Donna E. Shalala (Lebanon), Ex secretary of HHS
  • Helen Thomas, Ex dean of the White House press corps.
  • Edward Attiyeh (Syria), Ex governor of OR
  • Spencer Abraham (Lebanon), Secretary of Energy
  • George Mitchell
  • Arab Americans
  • Arab Americans
  • Casey Kasem and Don Bustany (Lebanon) creators of radio's American
  • Top 40
  • Mustapha Elaqqad (Syria), Hollywood movie director
  • (director of the ‘Halloween’ series)
  • Tom Shadyac (Lebanon), Hollywood movie director
  • Salma Hayic (Lebanon), a Hollywood star
  • Yasser Seirawan (Syria), US Chess Champion
  • Jacques Nasser, president and CEO of Ford Motor Co
  • Ray Irani CEO of Occidental Petroleum (Exxon Mobil) Co
  • The Hyatt, Hagar, and Farah enterprises
  • Christina McAuliffe, an astronaut who died aboard the space shuttle
  • Challenger
  • Candy Lightner, founder of MADD
  • “History of the Arabs”, Philip Hitti
  • “The Arab People”, Albert Hourany
  • “Islam, An Empire of Faith”, PBS Video, 2001
  • “Islam: A Short History”, Karen Armstrong, 2000
  • “Muhammad”, Karen Armstrong, 1998
  • “Jihad: A Commitment to Universal Peace”, Marcel A. Boisard, American Trust
  • Publications, 1988
  • “The Oxford History of Islam”, John L Esposito, ed. 1999
  • “Islam: The Straight Path”, John L Esposito, ed. 1998
  • “The Meaning of the Holy Quran”, Abdullah Yusif, Ali, 1997
  • “Lives of the Prophets”, Leila Azzam, 1995
  • “From Difference to Equas”, George Kindy, and Philip Saliba, eds., NYAS, 1994
  • Science in Medieval Islam, Howard R Turner, 1997
  • Arab American Encyclopedia, Anan Ameri, and Dawn Ramey, eds., 2000
  • Suggested Reading

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