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Islamic Studies

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  • Pages: 9
  • Word count: 2143
  • Category: Islam

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          Islam first entered history as the message of Prophet Mohammed, and later manifested itself as a religious and political order. Much of its text is divine order and has been sent across to the Prophet, to spread the holy messages amongst his ummat.

Ummat is the name given to the followers of Prophet Mohammed’s doctrines and sayings.

   Islam began 14 centuries ago, around the year 610 AD, when Prophet Mohammed was sent commands of God by Gabriel in the month of Ramadan (The holy month of fasting for Muslims). He was pressed upon some verses by the apostle of God and was told to recite them after him.  Through these recitations it became evident to him that it is a revelation from God, who is the highest Divine Order. He describes the disclosure as a ‘ light of the morning’. The Prophet supervised the collection of the Koranic verses, while the followers recited those verses and memorized them by heart. The Prophet was also the interpreter of those messages. These sayings and examples formed the basis of Sharia; which literally means ‘the road’ orthe highway’ and is also the name given to Islamic law. However these message became the origin of Islam’s constitutional, civil and criminal law.

   Written in clear and accessible language –and featuring a chronology of political and cultural events form the rise of Islam to the twentieth century, it reinstates that the Islamic state was not a theocracy run by priests. The Islamic order established by the Prophet enfolds both the spiritual and the temporal aspects of Islam.

   The organization of Islamic law was also expanded by Muslim rulers and Muslim jurists. They used the three principal methods for the expansion of Islam.

These methods were:

  1. Ijma: The consensus of learned opinion.
  2. Qiyas: Argument by analogy.
  3. Ijtihad: Intellectual effort to form an opinion.

  There were five schools of Islamic law, which evolved, in the eighth and ninth centuries of Christian era – Hanafi, the Maliki, the Shafii, the Hambali and Jaffaria.

 These five schools have their basic sources as the Divine and Eternal Law of the Koran.

This was the sacred law upon which Prophet Mohammad founded the Islamic order and the Islamic state.

   Since in Islam the Church and State are one, the law of the Sharia encompasses the individual Muslim, his family, the society of which he is a part and the state of which he is the citizen. These laws were observed and maintained by the followers with dogged sincerity.

  The Prophet also heard cases of crimes such as murder, theft, adultery and perjury.

Perjury in Islam is a serious offence, and the Prophet made it known to the public that it is the gravest crime in the eyes of God’s law.

   The judges were called Quazis, and many cases were peacefully settled in the Prophet’s

Court with wisdom, common sense, emphasis on truthful evidences and reconciliation.

     The legal system in Islam was based upon ‘rule against bias’’ and right to be heard’.

Seen in the light of the present day Western Political system and constitutional law, the Islamic state under the Prophet was democratic, republican, and federal and welfare oriented. It functioned within the framework of the Sharia law of Islam.

   Albeit, for the other nations and religions, Islamic studies was done through travel accounts, political writings and practical handbooks, and it satisfied the contemporary interests of the people of other faith.

   However, the scientific studies of Islam, its languages, and literature remained within the sphere of theology and Semitic philosophy, and remained restricted to the holy Koran and the Arabic language only.

   Although the historical research focuses more on a narrow tunnel view, the study of the religion of Islam became established as a special discipline. This calls for the mention of a Hungarian Ignaz Goldziher (1850-1921) who in his influential Muhammedanische Studien (1889-90) embarked upon the methods to explain the studies of Islam.

    His idea was “ to apply the methods of critical historicism to Islam in its entirety and to view it as a phenomenon of cultural history, the development of which is essentially inspired by religious ideals”. He supported his views through many other works and monographs.  The basic and starting point of his understanding of Islam can be conferred upon the fact that Goldziher was the follower of Orthodox Judaism.

It enabled him to have a deep understanding of the piety and mysticism of Islam.

   In the same way a French Orientalist Louis Massignon (1883-1962) began his investigations. He started with the studies of geographical works on Morocco, but soon he began to work beyond the geographical framework.

It was the year 1909, when his first significant findings on Islamic studies appeared, and was considered as an independent view on the religious phenomena.

However, he was criticized for drawing parallels between Christianity and Islam.

    On the other hand, he was responsible for leading Islamic studies far beyond a mere historical approach that passively observes and complies, to something that incurs debates and deep reflections.  As Islam spread its wings amongst its believers and followers, some new horizons were revealed by various other scholars and representatives of Islamic scholarship.

      However, most of these scholars and representative were viewed with mistrust, and were also attacked by fanatics. The revolution happened when Carl Heinrich Becker (1876-1933), became the first specialist to rebel against the exclusion of Islamic east from the Western outlook of history and declared that Islam’s role must be considered as an intermediary between Europe and Asia, rather than be excluded from the Western views. In his opinion Islam and Europe are the paradigms of a classic heritage.

    And despite all the apparent differences, they continue to exchange all spheres of cultural and intellectual activities between them. He also proved that it was a mistake to believe that Islam is inherently fatalistic, and shuns all economic activities. These were the long-standing prejudices against Islam, which were essentially cleared away by him.

   The first great collaborative work of western Orientalism was published in the book: Encyclopedia of Islam: a geographical, ethnographical and biographical dictionary of the Mohammadan peoples. This Encyclopedia contains an abundance of knowledge, perceptions and opinions that were newly acquired from several texts and studies and were gathered together with a thorough research on Islamic studies.

    Islam as a religion is basically considered as a confession and way of life, or mode of conduct for its followers. The word Islam itself literally means “Surrender”.

   It is complete surrender to God’s command to man, and the followers of Islam consider it as the ‘exclusive confession’ of the One Almighty God.

“ If they surrender (aslamu), then truly they are rightly guarded and if they turn away, then it is thy duty only to convey the message (unto them). God is seer of (His) bondmen.” (Koran, sura3, verses 18-20). Thus Islam denotes acceptance of the revelation. In a broader sense it means, implementation of the command through the historically evolved system of law and that, which represents the worship of God and regulates the conduct of the believers within the community.

    The community submits to the law revealed in the holy Koran. The community of people, nations and states also surrender to the law. Their personal and public behavior is guided by this belief and their worship of God. The law is based on revelation; but the systemization and formulation of Islamic law is based upon historical and political experiences. In fact, the disputes of faith and law have left their mark on the political history of Islam, which is carrying on even in the present times.

   The recourse to Koran is the best way to understand the doctrines of Islam. Mohammad the Prophet was the recipient of the set of guidelines from God and was considered God’s    Human Instrument. Although the complete revelations were not written down at that time, despite the allusions in Koran that the knowledge of writing was common in the commercial city of Mecca; it is found out that the entire writing down of the revelations was not completed during the lifetime of Prophet Mohammad. It occurred much later in the generation of other successors.

   There were some more investigations that followed, which tried to prove the opposite of what was believed earlier. It quoted that it was the Prophet himself who wrote down the Revelations and at a later date the Islamic lawyers made a distinction between the Revealed words of God, and the codified Koran. They denied the Prophet Mohammad the credit of assembling the Koran.

   Yet the unanimous tradition says that only individual parts had been transmitted and assembled as suras (Arabic free verses) on a scroll by the trusted companions of the Prophet. It was indeed the third Caliph Uthman– (644-56) who was the first person to collect the Book of Islam and compiled them in a unified form. This form was final and remained unchangeable. Islam drew on the religious patterns of Judaism and Christianity, while adopting the ethics, legal concepts and religious rituals of ancient Arabia.

  Before Islamic laws and doctrines were introduced by the Prophet , the society was in influx. The people initially lived a nomadic life, and later graduated to a sedentary one, as that was the accepted way of life during those days. It was a society that could not find a direction and was in constant conflict.

The Prophet inspired them to put their life and conduct in order by following the method of transformation, rather than by a radical negation of their existing lives.

A new system of marriage, and family inheritance came into being. In this system the women were treated equally, and were guaranteed social security along with her children.

   The advent of Islamic order was responsible for the emancipation of women in Arabia.

The Koran and its teachings gave women a huge number of rights and were given a status at par with men. The rights were Islamic law or Sharia, as it was called in the Islamic doctrines. A woman got rights to inheritance, right to give evidence in the court of law, the right to engage in trade and commerce and other sectors of economic society.

Islam gave marriage the status of a legal contract, in which the rights and duties were clearly emphasized, and the woman was given the right to choose or reject her husband under the Sharia law.

Polygamy, for which Islamic law is often under a scanner, was in fact a legally controlled law in which adultery is a severely punishable crime. The right to take up more than one wife has many clauses and lacunas, to protect the rights of a married woman. The divorce laws are also relaxed and less dogmatic in Islam. A woman has the right to ask for divorce on grounds of desertion, ill treatment and torture, either physical or mental.

    The divorce initiated by the woman is called Khula. A divorce initiated by a man is called Talaq. In order to make her financially safe, Islam also has a law of giving Mehar to the wife; which is a certain sum of money upon which she has absolute rights, and she can demand it anytime from her husband. This amount is finalized at the time of Nikah. (Muslim marriage ceremony) and is fixed according to the value of the present times.

   In Islam there is no separation between religious and political activities. It gives a basis of communal faith and communal action to the community of believers.

Most of the Islamic doctrines bore the brunt of conflicts between the interpreters of the scriptures and the uncontrollable forces of change in the community.

History reveals that Islam is an egalitarian religion. The various laws and doctrine support this fact that there is much truth in this belief. Islam does propagate impartiality, as the laws and doctrines of Islamic dispensation bring a message of equality towards all sections of society.

Works Cited Page

*Aziz, Qutubuddin, The Prophet And The Islamic State, The Islamic Media Corporation: Karachi, 1982.

*Endress, Gerhard, Islam –An Historical Introduction, Edinburgh University Press: Edinburgh, 2002.

*Lewis, Bernard, What Went Wrong?, Weidenfeld & Nicolson: Great Britain, 2002.

*Schuon, Frithjof, Understanding Islam, New Age Books, New Delhi, 2004.

* Yusufali, Abdullah, The Meanings Of The Holy Quran, Wordsworth Classics of World Literature.

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