Week03-Husain - Islam A Historical Practical and Doctrinal...

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Islam: A Historical, Practical and Doctrinal Overview By Adnan Husain Dept. of History and Middle Eastern Studies, New York Univ. The Origins of Islam: the Early Years in Mecca From the perspective of modern scholarship in the western academy, the religion of Islam began around 610 C. E., when Muhammad received the first, startling revelations of the Qur an from the angel Gabriel on Mount Hira: Recite: In the Name of thy Lord who created, created Man of a blood-clot. Recite: And the Lord is the Most Generous, who taught by the Pen, taught Man that which he knew not. Although Muslims recognize the first revelation of the Qur an as marking the advent of a new religious dispensation in human history, they would suggest that Islam, which means submission or surrender, remains a primordial condition of a spiritual attitude towards God, named Allah, and a corresponding social ethic. For Muslims, this message has been expressed in the Creator s communication with humanity since the time of Adam to the present. In this way, Islam appeared as a fulfillment and completion of the recognized, earlier monotheistic religions of the Middle East, Judaism and Christianity. While introducing Islam as a historically occurring religious tradition, it is nonetheless important and useful to acknowledge this perspective in the self-understanding of its adherents. Orphaned at an early age, Muhammad worked in the lucrative commercial trade network of Mecca, an important city in the Arabian Peninsula. His work was enabled by his marriage to a wealthy widow, Khadija. He developed a reputation as an upright, honest man, earning the honorific al-Amin or the Trustworthy. However, Muhammad gradually grew disillusioned with life in Mecca, especially because of the pagan polytheism, which was the dominant religion, and with the social inequality and oppression of the society. He began to withdraw for periods of retreat to neighboring hills outside Mecca to fast and reflect, seeking answers to fundamental questions. Visions appeared to him on his meditative walks. They culminated with the dramatic appearance of Gabriel exhorting him to recite and be guided by the higher truths of Allah s existence. These revelations were to continue for some twenty-three years. Initially, Muhammad shared his revelations and the message given to him only with his wife and a few friends and associates. Together, this small group formed a religious circle dedicated to ritual prayer, piety, and ethical nobility. After a couple of years, Muhammad received a verse commanding him to rise and warn his society of the dangers of neglecting to worship Allah exclusively, of ignoring the day of reckoning for ones deeds, of oppressing the weak, and of pursuing excessive individual gain. Muhammad began to spread this message publicly, thus challenging the social and religious order of Mecca; at first, the 1
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message was not well received. For twelve years, Muhammad worked hard to spread the message, but recruited only about a hundred new adherents to the faith;
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Week03-Husain - Islam A Historical Practical and Doctrinal...

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