Islam, Blasphemy, and the East‐West Divide
Who, then, was Muhammad, and what is there in his life and teachings that has attracted the interest and admiration of Church leaders? What strength and virtues can we find in Muslim experience that, as President Hinckley has suggested, will be helpful in our own spiritual lives? At the dawn of the 21st century, Islam is one of the largest and fastest-growing religions in the world.
Some even project that Islam will become the most populous religion in the world during the first half of this new century.
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The roots of this dynamic and, for some people, misunderstood religious movement can be traced back 14 centuries to the humble beginnings and founding work of Muhammad, whom Muslims consider to be the last of a long line of prophets sent by God to teach Islam to the world. Orphaned in early childhood, he lived a life of poverty as a youth, working as a herdsman for his family and neighbors, an occupation that gave him ample time and solitude to contemplate the deeper questions of life.
Muhammad gained a reputation in the community as a trusted arbiter and peacemaker as indicated in the following account:. In one of the corners they wanted to put the black stone, but could not decide who should have the honour of placing it there. They would have quarrelled violently if [Muhammad] the young man they all admired and trusted had not come by.
They asked [him] … to settle the dispute. He told them to spread a large cloak and place the black stone in the middle. They did so. Then, he asked a man from each of the four clans who were in dispute to take hold of a corner of the cloak. In this way they all shared the honour of carrying the stone.
Blasphemy Real or Perceived
At the age of 25, Muhammad married a widow, Khadija, who was 15 years his senior and a prosperous caravan merchant. She knew of his reputation for honesty and hard work, and she made the proposal of marriage that turned out to be a successful and happy one, producing four daughters and two sons. For the next 15 years Muhammad was engaged with Khadija in running the family business and raising their family. It was during this period also that he retreated often into the solitude of the desert to pray, meditate, and worship.
He had become dissatisfied with the corruption, idolatry, and social inequities that plagued Mecca; he sought for a higher truth that would provide peace, justice, and spiritual fulfillment for him and his people. In C.
According to Islamic history, one night while Muhammad was engaged in prayer and meditation on Mount Hira near Mecca, the angel Gabriel appeared to him to deliver a message from God Arabic, Allah. In the name of thy Lord who created, created man of a blood-clot. For a period of 22 years, from C.
His message was rejected in this early period in Mecca, and he and his fledgling community of converts, mostly a few family members and close friends, were shunned, persecuted, and even tortured. Then a group of men came from the town Yathrib and asked Muhammad to act as an arbiter in the squabbles which were ruining their town.
Muhammad saw an opportunity to alleviate the suffering of his followers and agreed to leave Mecca.
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This emigration Arabic, hijra , from Mecca to Medina, took place in C. Muslims saw in the Hijra a fundamental turning point in the life of the prophet and in the nature of the Muslim community. From being a rejected preacher, Muhammad became a statesman, legislator, judge, educator, and military leader. In Medina, the Muslims had freedom to establish themselves securely, develop their institutions for governance and education, and become a prosperous community, in contrast to their status in Mecca as a persecuted, marginal religious minority. A few years after the Hijra, Muhammad was able to return to the city of Mecca, where his teachings were gradually adopted.
Today Mecca is considered by Muslims to be the spiritual center of Islam and the holiest of cities, with Medina as the second and Jerusalem the third holiest cities.
In , at the age of 62, Muhammad died unexpectedly after a short fever. By any measure Muhammad was phenomenally successful during his career, even though his name and achievements have been the subject of controversy over the centuries in Western civilization. He dispensed wise and practical advice to followers.
He was especially fond of children, allowing his two young grandsons to climb on his back while he was performing prayers. If I have unjustifiably inflicted bodily harm on anyone, I present myself for retribution. If I owe anything to anyone, here is my property and he may help himself to it.
Antisemitism in Islam - Wikipedia
These things are repugnant to my nature and temperament. I abhor them so.
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With this view of Muhammad in mind, we can understand why Muslims commonly bless his name when it is mentioned in speech or writing, invoke his name in conversations, and celebrate his birthday. Pious Muslims strive to emulate his example in every aspect of life: mode of dress, style of grooming, table manners, religious rituals, and benevolence toward others. These five pillars are the witness of faith, prayer, almsgiving, fasting, and pilgrimage to Mecca. In Europe centralized absolutism, though an ideal, had not been the success it was in Islamdom.
Emerging from the landed classes rather than from the cities, it had benefited from and been constrained by independent urban commercial classes. In Islamdom the power of merchants had been inhibited by imperial overtaxation of local private enterprise, appropriation of the benefits of trade, and the privileging of foreign traders through agreements known as the Capitulations. In Europe independent financial and social resources promoted an unusual freedom for technological experimentation and, consequently, the technicalization of other areas of society as well.
This combination of innovation and imitation produced an unprecedented and persisting imbalance among various parts of the Oikoumene. The power of Islam as a source of public values had already waxed and waned many times; it intensified in the 18th and 19th centuries, receded in the early 20th century, and surged again after the midth century.
Thus, European colonizers appeared in the midst of an ongoing process that they greatly affected but did not completely transform.
From the midth century through the 18th and early 19th centuries, certain Muslims expressed an awareness of internal weakness in their societies. In some areas, Muslims were largely unaware of the rise of Europe; in others, such as India , Sumatra, and Java, the 18th century actually brought European control. Responses to decline, sometimes official and sometimes unofficial, sometimes Islamizing and sometimes Europeanizing, fell into two categories, as the following examples demonstrate. In some areas leaders attempted to revive existing political systems.
In Iran , for example, attempts at restoration combined military and religious reform. After he was killed in , however, his reforms did not survive and his house disintegrated. In the Ottoman Empire restoration involved selective imitation of things European. Its first phase, from to , is known as the Tulip Period because of the cultivation by the wealthy of a Perso-Turkish flower then popular in Europe. Experimentation with European manners and tastes was matched by experimentation with European military technology. Restoration depended on reinvigorating the military, the key to earlier Ottoman success, and Christian Europeans were hired for the task.
Western historians, however, do not find in these events the underlying reason for Muhammad's attack on the Qaynuqa. He writes that the Jews had assumed a contentious attitude towards Muhammad, and as a group possessing substantial independent power, they posed a great danger. Wensinck thus concludes that Muhammad, strengthened by the victory at Badr, soon resolved to eliminate the Jewish opposition to himself. Muhammad then approached the Banu Qaynuqa, gathering them in the market place and warned them to stop their hostility lest they suffer the same fate that happened to the Quraish at Badr.
He also told them to accept Islam saying he was a prophet sent by God as per their scriptures. The tribe responded by mocking Muhammad's followers for accepting him as a prophet and also mocked their victory at Badr saying the Quraish had no knowledge of war. They then warned him that if he ever fought with them, he will know that they were real men.
Although the Banu Qurayza never took up arms against Mohammad or the Muslims they entered into negotiations with the invading army and violated the Constitution of Medina. However Nuam ibn Masud was able to sow discord between the invading forces and Banu Qurayza, thus breaking down the negotiations. The direction of prayer was shifted towards Mecca from Jerusalem and the most negative verses about Jews were set down after this time.
According to Laqueur, conflicting statements about Jews in the Quran have affected Muslim attitudes towards Jews to this day, especially during periods of rising Islamic fundamentalism. According to Bernard Lewis , there is nothing in Muslim theology with a single exception that can be considered refutations of Judaism or ferocious anti-Jewish diatribes. The Quran, like Judaism, orders Muslims to profess strict monotheism.