James Cook



James Cook

The English explorer, navigator, and cartographer James Cook (1728-1779) is famous for his voyages in the Pacific Ocean and his accurate mapping of it, as well as for his application of scientific methods to exploration.

James Cook was born in Yorkshire on Oct. 27, 1728, into a poor family. At the age of 18 he found employment with a shipowner in his native village of Whitby and made several voyages to the Baltic Sea. When the Anglo-French war broke out in 1755, he enlisted in the Royal Navy and saw service on the Eagle as an able-bodied seaman. In a month’s time he was promoted to master’s mate and 4 years later to master. In 1759 he also received command of a ship and took it to Canada, where he joined the operations in the St. Lawrence River. He performed well enough so that the senior officer of the British fleet put him in command of the flagship.

After the war ended in 1763, Cook was given a schooner, Grenville, and was charged with surveying the coasts of Newfoundland, Labrador, and Nova Scotia. For 4 years he sailed up and down these coasts, and when the task was done his findings were of such importance and usefulness that the government had them published.

First Voyage

Upon his return to England in 1767, Cook found the British Admiralty planning to send a ship to the Pacific Ocean to observe the transit of Venus and also to explore new lands in that area. Cook was picked to command the vessel, and on Aug. 26, 1768, in the Endeavour he left Plymouth, accompanied by an astronomer, two botanists, a landscape artist, and a painter of natural history. Sailing south and west, he touched the Madeira, Canary, and Cape Verde islands, then went to Rio de Janeiro, rounded Cape Horn into the Pacific, and reached Tahiti on April 13, 1769. On June 3 the transit of Venus was observed, and on July 13 he left the place.

Arriving at New Zealand on October 7, Cook set about at once to make an accurate chart of the waters of the two islands; it took him 6 months. He then sailed along the east coast of Australia, which he named New South Wales and for which he claimed possession in the name of the king. He sailed on through the strait separating Australia from New Guinea, to Java, around the Cape of Good Hope, and reached England on June 12, 1771. In recognition of his achievements—circumnavigating the globe, charting new waters, and discovering new land—he was promoted from lieutenant to commander


Second Voyage

One year later Cook stood ready for a second voyage, this time to verify the report of the existence of a great southern continent. On July 13, 1772, he left Plymouth in the Resolution and, accompanied by another vessel, Adventure, sailed southward along the African coast and around the Cape of Good Hope, crossing the Antarctic Circle in January 1773. Finding no great southern continent, he pointed his ship toward New Zealand. This was the starting point for a long cruise in the South Pacific, as he explored the New Hebrides, charted Easter Island and the Marquesas, visited Tahiti and Tonga, and discovered New Caledonia and the islands of Palmerston, Norfolk, and Niue. In January 1775 he was on his way back to England by way of Cape Horn, reaching home on July 29. Thus Cook completed his second Pacific voyage, once again having made a significant contribution by his mapping and charting and his explorations and discoveries.

To those acomplishments Cook added one in nautical medicine, for he had proved that a crew, if properly fed, could make a long voyage without ill effects. He lost only 1 man to disease out of a crew of 118. This feat won him the Copley Gold Medal of the Royal Society and election as a fellow of that distinguished scientific and philosophic association.

The First Imam, ‘Ali (as) Ibn Abu Talib

The First Imam, ‘Ali (as) Ibn Abu Talib

It was Friday 13th of Rajab 30 Amulfeel Hazrat Fatima binte Asad, the wife of Hazrat Abu Talib entered the precincts of the Kaaba and prayed to Allah saying O’my protector ease my pain.’All of a sudden the wall of the Kaaba opened up and she, as if by some unseen force went inside the Kaaba and the wall closed.

‘Ali (as) the youngest son of Abu Talib was born inside the Holy Kaaba. She stayed inside for three days. On the 3rd day she came out through the door and Muhammad was waiting outside. She told Muhammad (S) that the boy had not taken any milk. Muhammad gave him the first feed from his mouth and afterwards asked his uncle Abu Talib that he wished to adopt the baby.

‘Ali entered the house of Muhammad from the very first day of his birth. ‘Ali’s mother Fatima binte Assad Also lived there who looked after his own son as well as Muhammad (S) so much so that later the Holy Prophet used to say that she was like his own mother.

Shah Waliullah, Mohadith-e-Dehlvi writes in the book “Izalatul Kholafa” giving reference from Imam Hakim in his Mustadrak Part 3, Page 483. Qud Tawatarul Akhbar Inna Fatimah Binte Asad woledat Aliyan Fi Jaufil Kaaba”. Another writer of the old school Sibtel Jauzi in his book Tazkeratul Khawas ul Umma, page 7 mentions the same fact that ‘Ali was born inside the Kaaba.

Khawja Moinuddin Chishti Ajmeri mentions this fact in his famous Quartet saying that when ‘Ali was born inside the kaaba the Sky and the earth was filled with a light and Angel Gabriel announced that a child was born in the house of God.

Maulana Rumi in his Mathnawi writes, “ O’one who travels to Najef to visit the tomb of ‘Ali must know the fact that the pearl of the Kaaba lies there to give us security because of our intense love for him.”

Masoodi the famous historian writes in his book of history Muruj el Zahab, that ‘Ali was born inside the Kaaba on the orders of Muhammad the Messenger of God.

It was after the adoption of ‘Ali (as) that he lived with the Holy Prophet in his house.

Wherever Muhammad (S) went ‘Ali (as) was with him all the time. Even in the Mountain of Hira when Muhammad (S)went for meditation ‘Ali (as) went with him most of the time. Sometimes they stayed on the mountain for 3 or 4 days. Sometimes ‘Ali (as) took his food there. In Nahjul Balagha ‘Ali (as) said that “ I used to go with the Holy Prophet like the baby camel goes with his mother.”

Some historians try to show that when Muhammad (S) declared his prophet hood ‘Ali (as) was the first among male children who accepted Islam. The implication here is that both Muhammad (S) and ‘Ali (as) were non -believers before this declaration.

This is against the Qur’anic verdict which says that Ibrahim was a Muslim and he taught his children to be Muslims so that when the Prophet was born among the descendants of Ibrahim through the line of Ismael he was born a Muslim and so was ‘Ali. The correct thing to say would be that when Muhammad (S)declared his prophet hood openly ‘Ali (as) immediately adhered to the declaration without hesitation.

The three persons seen in prayers in the Kaaba were Muhammad, Khadija and ‘Ali before anyone else accepted Islam. For 3 years young and poor persons of Makka were accepting Islam secretly. The first open declaration came when the Qora’nic verse tells the Prophet to “come out openly and warn the people of your own clan.”

Invitations were sent to leaders of the Banu Hashim to come to the house of Muhammad (S)for Dinner. Forty of them came, ate food and then heard Muhammad (S)about his mission of ‘ No god but Allah and Muhammad (S) as the messenger of Allah and whoever offers his help to propagate this religion will be his deputy and successor.

No one stood up except ‘Ali (as) . After announcing this 3 times Muhammad (S) declared that ‘Ali (as) will be his deputy to his mission and will be his successor after him. People thought it as a joke that a 13 year old boy was to be a deputy of this prophetic mission.

Even Abu Lahab jokingly told Abu Talib, go and obey your son to which AbuTalib smilingly accepted. ‘Ali (as) promised to help Muhammad (S) in his mission and kept this promise all his life.

The next thing which we see in the life of ‘Ali (as) is the reflection of this promise he gave at this place in front of the leaders of the Quraish.

We see ‘Ali (as) protecting Muhammad (S) from the abuses of the enemies of Islam. When Muhammad (S)went to Taif a nearby town to preach Islam children of Taif hurled stones and it was ‘Ali (as) who protected the Prophet and drove the stone throwing children away from the Prophet.

As a youth ‘Ali (as) was strongly built, strong arms, wide chest and a very strong brave and shining face. Children of his age and even older to him were frightened of him and whenever they tried to mock the Prophet, they always ran away when they saw ‘Ali (as) standing by for protection.

Time passed and hostility of the Quraish increased so much so that Muhammad (S) was ordered by Allah to leave Makka. ‘Ali (as) slept on Muhammad’s bed without hesitation and when the non-believers entered the house of Muhammad (S) to kill, they found ‘Ali (as) who was not afraid at all at the site of 40 swordsmen entering the house.

When they questioned ‘Ali: ”where is Muhammad” he bravely replied, did you leave him in my custody? When after 3 days of Muhammad’s departure ‘Ali returned all the goods entrusted to Muhammad to their owners, he set out to leave Makka for Madina with the rest of the family.

‘Ali (as) had with him his mother Fatima binte Asad, His aunt, the wife of Hamza, and Fatima, the daughter of Muhammad (S) and many other ladies. Non-believers of Makka tried to stop ‘Ali (as) from his departure but ‘Ali (as) fought back, drove the infidels away and safely reached Madina. Muhammad (S) was waiting for the family outside the precincts of the town. He entered the city with ‘Ali (as) and the rest of the family.

The Holy Prophet created a bond of brotherhood between the Muslims, making ‘Ali (as) as his Muslim brother saying O’’Ali, you are my brother in this world as well as in the next.

Once the family settled in the newly adopted city of Madina their first task was to complete the mosque around which their houses were also built. ‘Ali initially stayed with his mother but when he married Fatima the daughter of the Prophet he was given a house next to the Prophet by the side of the mosque. He had been betrothed to her several days before the battle of Badr.

But the marriage was celebrated three months later. ‘Ali was about 23 years old and Fatima was 18. This was most happy and celebrated marriage. The distinctiveness of their respective characters blended so well with each other that they never quarreled and complained of one another and led a happy and most contended life.

Materially the couple did not possess much, spiritually they were at the highest level of assent. They had no worries if they go hungry or their clothes had patches. They would be more concerned if an orphan goes away from their door without receiving any food.

History records ‘Ali’s life in Madina with the Holy Prophet for the next ten years as the busiest in defending Islam against the attackers from Makka. ‘Ali (as) was always the standard bearer of the Flag of Islam in all such battles and his bravery became legendary.

Ibne Abil Hadid, the Motazelli commentator of Nahjul Balagha says that: ‘Ali (as) had a personality in which opposite characteristics had so gathered that it was difficult to believe a human mind could manifest such a combination. He was the bravest man that history could cite and such brave men are always hard hearted, cruel and eager to shed blood.

On the contrary ‘Ali was kind, sympathetic, responsive and warmhearted person, qualities quite contrary to the other phase of his character and more suited to pious and God fearing persons.’Ali’s bravery and piety both became legendry. Life in Madina while the Holy Prophet was alive was the busiest for ‘Ali. But he remembers these times as the best times of his life. He says in Nahjul Balagha ‘Life with my brother was a life of ease and happiness.’

The battles of Badr, Ohud, Khandaq and Khyber were fought in the defense if Islam and won on the hands of ‘Ali (as) . He was not only the standard bearer of the Flag of Islam in these battles, but always led the forces of Islam against Kufr and came out victorious. Khyber was the climax of these battles when ‘Ali’s victory brought prosperity in the Muslim ranks.

Ayesha the wife of the Prophet said once that until the victory of Khyber we in the house of the Prophet spent days without food. It was only after Khyber that life at home became a little easier. Thus ‘Ali (as) brought an end to the hostilities of Quraish in three encounters of Badr, Ohud and Khandaq.

Their best warriors were killed, their unity against Islam was crushed, their pride was humiliated and their prestige before Arab clans was lowered by him and by him alone. Khyber saw an end to the hegemony of Jews in Arabia at the hands of ‘Ali (as) .

The peace agreement of Hodaibiya was written by ‘Ali (as) and at the time of the peaceful victory at Makka, the idols of the Kaaba were demolished by the Holy Prophet with the help of ‘Ali (as) .Details of these battles were shown in the life of the Prophet.

Battle of Honain

The Victory of Makka brought many non believers into the fold of Islam. Broadly speaking there were three types who embraced Islam. Fear, greed and the true understanding of Islam and its principles. Some of the Makkans became Muslims for fear of their lives, they were afraid that the Prophet would kill them, others were simply frightened that the Holy Prophet with the help of Angel Gabriel would bring the wrath of God on them.

Then there was greed that Islam was now victorious, so if they joined in the good life would be theirs for free. Very few of them truly understood Islam and accepted it as a true faith. The Test of their true faith came immediately after the fall of Makka while Muslims were still in the sweet pleasure of this bloodless victory, that various tribes outside Makka gathered an army of 20,000 in Taif to fight the Muslims.

The hostile tribes decided to attack at a vantage point at Hunain and selected two prominent places where they concealed their archers. The Muslims were proud of their success in Makka, but their behavior during the encounter was timorous and cowardly. The Qur’an tells us this in (9:9):

“God came to your help on so many occasions, on the day of Honain, your vanity in the number of your soldiers and your arrogance did not prove any avail to you, you were badly defeated and could not find any place of shelter, you started running away without shame.”

This encounter took place in the month of Shawwal 8th Hijri (Jan 630 AD). When the Muslim army marched towards the place where archers were concealed the enemy opened the campaign with such a severe onslaught that the Muslim army could not stand it.

Their assault was fierce and confusion in the Muslim ranks made the archers bolder and they came nearer and attacked from both flanks and from the front. The Muslims could not stand the attack and started running without putting any resistance and where not concerned to leave the Prophet alone, (see Saheeh Bukhari).

The first battalion to run was the one in the command of Khalid ibne Waleed(Rauzathus Safa vol II page 137) This was followed by such a disorderly and tumultuous flight that only 10 people were left out of an army of 15,000 with the Holy Prophet. Eight of them were of Bani Hashim,(.Abbas, two of his sons, ‘Ali and three other cousins of the Holy Prophet)

Abbas was shouting to the Muslims to come back, reminding them of the oath of allegiance taken and promises made, but it was to no avail. Those who accepted Islam for greed , wealth and power were not willing to risk their lives.

Many of them who had carefully hidden their enmity from the rising power were happy at the defeat. They gathered round Abu Sofian, started congratulating him and saying, “The magical circle of the lying Prophet is broken,” They were praying for the return of Polytheism. 1.

Once again it fell to the lot of ‘Ali (as) to save the Holy Prophet and the Islam. Armies of Bani Hawaazen and Banu Saqeef under cover of their archers were rushing the hillock and were getting ready for a fierce onslaught.

‘Ali (as) divided the small band of faithful true Muslims in three divisions; to Abdullah Ibne Masood, Abbas ibne Abdul Muttalib and Abu bin Harris has assigned the duty of protecting the Holy Prophet, to three he ordered to guard the rear and he himself faced the onslaught with only three warriors with him.

He fought, wounded at many places, but continued fighting when he faced the commander of the hostile army, Abu Jerdal in hand to hand fight and killed him with one stroke of his sword. He alone killed over 30 of the enemy and with this bravery his aids also fought bravely and enemy was defeated.

The day was saved, the commander of the enemy’s army was killed, their ranks were broken they had no courage to face ‘Ali (as) and they started retreating. The sight of the powerful army in retreat, made the fleeing Muslims bold and they came back as victory was won for them 2.

The defensive battles were over and the peaceful spread of Islam began. ‘Ali (as) was again in the forefront. He brought the whole tribe of Bani Hamdan to Islam by preaching . Similarly when he was sent to Yemen he brought the whole country in to the fold of Islam by his sermons.

This news so pleased the Holy Prophet that he bowed down in Sajdah to thank God three times and said loudly, peace be to Bani Hamdan and to ‘Ali. Again in the year 10th of Hijra ‘Ali’s sermon and preaching proved so effective that the whole province embraced Islam as one man.

In the 9th year of Hijra the famous event of Mobahela took place. Najran was a city in the province of Yemen. It was the center of Christian Missionary activities in southern Arabia. The Holy Prophet had written to the Chief Priest of the City to realize the blessings of Islam.

In reply he wrote that he personally would like to discuss the teachings of this new religion. His name was Haris. He was invited and came with a group of 14 priests.

These priests as guest of the Holy Prophet. Long discussions took place during the course of 4 days of their stay in Madina. When Sunday came the Chief priest wanted to go out of the city to have their Sunday Service. Prophet Islam said that they all have permission to conduct their religious service inside the mosque of the Prophet which they happily did.

Long discussions continued about monotheism verses trinity and it was realized that these priests were not open minded, on the contrary they were prejudiced against monotheism. The Almighty Lord ordered the Holy Prophet to explain to that:

“Verily Jesus is as Adam in the sight of God. He created Adam from dust. He said unto him, Be, and he was. This is truth from thy Lord. be not therefore one of those who doubt, and whoever shall dispute thee, say unto them, “come let us call together our sons and your sons, our women and your women, our Selves and your Selves, then let us make imprecations and lay the curse of God upon those who lie.” (3:61)

According to Bibi Ayesha when the above verse was revealed to the Apostle of God, he called ‘Ali, Fatima, Hasan and Husayn and said, “Lord, this is my family (Ahlul Bayt). The Holy Prophet took this small family with them to the open land outside the city where they all assembled to bring the curse of God on those who lie.

When the Chief priest saw these faces, he told his companions that he was looking at the faces that if they call the mountain, the mountain will go them. Do not have Mobahela with them or you will be destroyed. On hearing this they all agreed to pay homage to the Holy Prophet and an annual tax for living in the Islamic State and withdrew from the scene.

Designation of ‘Ali as successor to the Prophet

In history there were numerous occasions when the Holy Prophet designated ‘Ali as his Deputy and successor after him. From the moment of Zulasheera to the time of the conquest of Khyber and the occasion of the battle of Tabuke the Holy Prophet made it abundantly clear that no one deserved more than ‘Ali to be his Deputy and successor. But at the time of Ghadeer this was clearly ordered by Allah through a clear verse revealed on the Prophet. The Verse said,

“O’ apostle; proclaim the whole of that which hath been sent down to thee from thy Lord, for if thou dost it not, it will be as if thou hast not at all performed the duty of His Prophethood. And God will protect thee from evil men, verily God guideth not the unbelievers.” (5:67.)

The occasion was after the last pilgrimage in 10th Hijri. The Prophet delivered his Sermons on Mount Arafat, had the final rounds of the Kaaba and left for Madina. More than 120,000 pilgrims were coming out with him from Makka going to the North.

Half way through their journey where the routes were separated for various pilgrims, the Holy Prophet ordered the whole caravan to halt. All those who went ahead were called back and for those who were behind they waited for them to arrive.

The place was Ghadeer, near the pool of water. That is why it was named Ghadeer-e-Khom. When all assembled at this place the Holy Prophet stood up on top of the pulpit and said, “People, shortly I shall be called towards my creator where I shall have to give an account as to how I have conveyed His message to you and you in your turn will be asked as to how you have accepted and carried out the teachings. Now tell me what you will say”.

Thereupon all the pilgrims declared as one man, “Apostle of God, we testify and declare that you have conveyed the message of God fully, you have strived your utmost to guide us to the Right Path and taught us to follow it. You were most kind to us and you never wished for us but our good, may God repay you for all that.”

After that the Prophet said, “Do you not testify that there is no god but Allah, that Muhammad is His creature, His servant, and His apostle, that there is the Heaven and the Hell, that death will overtake every one of you, that you will be brought back from your graves that the Day of Judgement will surely dawn and human beings will be resurrected from their graves to account for their deeds.

The whole crowd declared in unison, “We believe and testify all this.” Hearing this the Apostle declared, “I am leaving amongst you two most important things worthy of obedience, the Qur’an and my progeny (Ahlul Bayt). Take care how you treat them, they will not separate from each other till they reach me at the fountain of Kauser.”

Then he said, “The Almighty God is my Lord (Maula) and I am the Lord of all Muslims and have more right and power on their lives than they themselves. Do you believe in this assertion of mine?” They all in one voice replied “Yes O’Apostle of God. Three times he asked the same question and three times he received the same affirmative reply.

At this solemn affirmation he said, “Hear and remember that to whomever I am Lord or Maula, ‘Ali is the Lord and Maula to him. He is to me what Aaron was to Musa. The Almighty God is a friend to his friends and a foe to his foe, help those who help him and frustrate those who betray him.

While saying this he raised ‘Ali High over his shoulders in order to be seen by all the Muslims assembled there. Thereupon the Holy Prophet received the final revelation:

This day I have perfected your religion for you and have filled up the measure of my bounties upon you and I am pleased with Islam to be your Deen,” (5:3).

After performing this ceremony and receiving the above revelation the Holy Prophet came down from the pulpit and ordered a tent to be erected. In this ‘Ali (as) was made to take his seat and all Muslims were ordered to pay homage to him and address him as Amirul Momeneen (Lord of the faithful) The first person to congratulate and address him as such was Omar Ibne Khattab saying, “I congratulate you, O’’Ali, today you have become my Maula and Lord and Lord of every Muslim man and woman. 1.

The event of Ghadeer was on 18th of Zilhijja 10th Hijri, immediately after the last pilgrimage by the Holy Prophet. He then arrived back in Madina and lived only for 70 days after the event.(130 Prominent Companions of the Holy Prophet narrated this Hadith including the first three Kholafa-e-Rashidoon)

The year 11th AH was the saddest year for ‘Ali. (as) He lost two of his best friends. One of whom he loved and venerated like a father, like a master and like a dearest friend, the Holy Prophet(S) who died on 28th Safar 11th Hijri, exactly 70 days after the event of Ghadeer. His death followed by the death of his dearest companion his wife Fatima, the Lady of Light.

Immediately after the death of the Holy Prophet who was buried by ‘Ali (as) with the help of his uncle Abbas and all the family of Bani Hashim, the news was given to ‘Ali (as) about the events at the Saqeefa that Abubakr was made Caliph. Abu Sofian heard the news came to ‘Ali (as) and told him that his Right was taken away from him.

If he wishes, Abu Sofian would fill the city of Madina with horsemen to defend ‘Ali’s Right of Khilafat. ‘Ali’s reply was typical, he said,” since when you have become friends of Islam”, you want to create serious dissension amongst the Muslims. You have always tried to harm Islam I do not need your sympathies or help.”

‘Ali realized that any serious dissension at this stage would harm the cause of Islam. He had before him the example of Hodaibiya and he had been foretold by the Holy Prophet of all that would happen. Allama ‘Ali Ibne Mohammed (630 AH) in his book Usdul Ghaba Vol iv page 31 says, The Holy Prophet had told ‘Ali, your status is like that of Kaaba.

People go to Kaaba but that August house never approaches anybody. Therefore after my death, if people come to you and swear the oath of allegiance you accept it and if they do not come to you then you do not go to them.”

‘Ali’s love for Islam was so intense, he could not, for the sake of worldly rule, endanger Islam. He knew fully well that a civil war at this stage would give chances to the Jewish tribes of Banu Nuzair and Banu Qoraiza on the one side, and the Byzantine armies in the north with the Munafiqoon (hypocrites) the new converts on the third side to simply take advantage of the situation.

When they would find the Muslims busy killing each other they would literally cut them to pieces and Islam would totally disappear as a message of peace. ‘Ali’s utmost desire was to see Islam and the Arabs in one piece and wanted the enemies of Islam to realize that Islam was strong enough to defend itself as “Deen”. even after the demise of the Apostle of God.

He had another important job to complete that is the completion of the collection of Qur’an with its Tafseer (explanations) according to the instructions of the Holy Prophet. Qur’an as a book was already completed by the Holy Prophet, many copies were made and circulated among the Muslim communities all over the Islamic world.

What ‘Ali did in the next six months after the demise of the Holy Prophet was to collect all the explanations of the various verses, reasons behind their revelation and their full context. This monumental job he completed in six months and brought before the Muslims in the city of the Prophet.

Unfortunately this was ignored by the ruling party and ‘Ali (as) took it back with him. Their comment was “this is too bulky and people will not understand it.”

The original remained with ‘Ali (as) all his life and then passed on to his son Hasan (as) and then to Husayn (as) which then continued with the Ahlul Bayt of the Prophet. It is now with the 12th Imam (as) .

During the time of the three Kholafa, although ‘Ali (as) did not take part in any of the battles, he was always available when they sought his advice on religious matters. His position as the jurist was on the top of the list among the companions of the Holy Prophet.

Omar Ibne Khattab the 2nd Caliph had given clear instructions that when ‘Ali was present in the mosque of the Prophet no one should take precedence over him in answering questions on religious matters.

In one such encounter during the time of the 2nd Caliph, a group of Jewish scholars approached the caliph and said, “ We have a few questions. If we get the answers to these questions correctly, we will accept the Islamic faith. “Ask whatever you want to ask,” said the caliph. They asked the following questions.

1. What are the locks and keys of heaven?

2. Who was the messenger who was neither of the human nor of the jinn and who warned his people?

3. Which are the 5 beings that were created without the aid of ovaries?

4 What are one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven and twelve?

The caliph thought over these questions for a time, then said, I do not know the answers to these questions. I will take you to a man who is most knowledgeable in the commandments of God and the Prophet and the greatest among us. The caliph then brought the Jewish scholars to ‘Ali (as) . They asked the same questions to him. ‘Ali (as) answered thus:

1. The locks of the heavens are beliefs in more than one God, and its keys are the letters of “La Ilaha Illallah, Muhammad-Ur-Rasulallah.”

2. The messenger who warned his people is the ant who, when Solomon’s army was passing by, said to his people, “ Enter your houses so that the army may not stamp you out (without intention)”. So God states in the Holy Qur’an,

“Until they came to the valley of the Ants, said an ant (addressing the other ants of the valley) O” you ants’ enter into your dwellings, so that Solomon and his hosts may not crush you while they know it not”. (27:18)

3. The five beings that were not born of ovaries are: Adam, Eve, the staff of Moses which used to change into a python, the camel of Saleh, and the sheep of Ibrahim (which was sent by God to become a ransom of the life of Ibrahim’s son Ismael).

4. One is God who has no partners, two are Adam and Eve, three are the substances ( i.e. non-living matter, plants and animals), four are the Heavenly books: Torah of Moses, Bible of Jesus, Zubur of Dawood and the Qur’an of Muhammad (S).

Five are the daily prayers. Six are the days of creation of the heavens and earth, as per the verse of the Qur’an:

“And indeed We created the heavens and the earth and what is between them two, in six periods and touched us not any fatigue.” (Surah 50:38). Seven are the seven heavens, in the light of the Qur’anic Verse: “And we have erected above you the seven strong ones.” (78:12)

Eight are those angels who bear the heavens, as per the Qur’anic Verse:

“And the angels shall be on the side of it; and above them shall bear that day ‘Arsh’(the throne of authority). of your Lord, eight of them (69:17)

Nine are the nine signs given to Moses as stated by God:

“And indeed we gave Moses nine clear signs (miracles); so ask the children of Israel when he came to them, Pharaoh said to him; “Verily I deem you O’Moses one bewitched.”

Ten are the ten days, i.e. God had promised Moses that he would stay on the mountain of Toor for thirty days, and later added ten more days to this duration, as it is stated in the Qur’an.

“And we made an appointment with Moses for thirty nights and completed it with ten more;” Thus was completed the term of his Lord, forty nights, and (before he went up) Moses said to his brother Aaron: You take my place among my people, act rightly and follow not the path of the mischief-makers.” (7:142).

Eleven are the brothers of Joseph, son of Jacob, as the Qur’an states,

“When said Joseph to his father, O’my father; Verily I did see (dream) eleven stars and the sun and the moon,, I saw them all prostrating to me.” (12:4).

Twelve are the Twelve water-springs manifested by the staff of Moses, as God states,

“And (remember) when Moses sought water for his people; said We, ‘Strike the rock with your staff’ Then gushed out therefrom twelve springs; each people knew their drinking place; “Eat and drink God’s provision, and commit not evil in the earth acting mischievously.” (2:60)

When the Jewish scholars heard the replies of ‘Ali (as) they said, “We bear witness that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad (S) is His Messenger and ‘Ali (as) is the “Wasi” and successor of the Messenger of God as Aaron was the Wasi of Moses. They all embraced Islam, went back to their tribe and converted all of them to Islam.(Kaukabe Durri).

After the death of Osman the 3rd Caliph ‘Ali (as) was elected by the overwhelming majority of Muslims as the 4th Caliph. He was reluctant to accept the office of the caliph but when pushed by the majority , accepted it by saying that he was taking the reins of worldly authority only to bring back the Ummah of the Prophet on the Right Path, though the value of this worldly khilafat is less than the sneeze of a goat.

His position as an Imam and guide was already established during the period of three earlier khulafa, with worldly power he began the daunting task of establishing the type of rule the Messenger of God had established during his time.

Imam Bukhari mentioned in his Saheeh that the very first prayers which ‘Ali (as) led in the mosque of the Prophet as the Caliph, many companions of the prophet said that “today we have prayed as the Messenger of God used to pray”.

But during the past 25 years many companions of the Prophet had, due to excessive wealth coming in from the conquest of the foreign lands, changed into the habit of living like feudal lords of the period of Jahiliya of pre-Islamic days. ‘Ali (as) as caliph warned them of the dangers of excessive wealth by these words. ” Beware of the intoxication of wealth”.(Masudi,Muruj el Zahab).

The path of ‘Ali (as) was full of thorns and as soon as he tried to establish the austere path of the Messenger of God, he created many enemies. The first and foremost was the Governor of Syria Moawiya ibne Abi Sofian.

He persuaded Talha and Zubair,when they were denied the Governorship of various provinces by ‘Ali (as) , to start a revolt against ‘Ali. (as) Both of them left Madina, arrived in Makka and somehow persuaded bibi Ayesha the widow of the Prophet to start a fight against ‘Ali. (as) They left Makka for Basra and assembled an army against ‘Ali. (as) .

He warned them of the dangers of war against the caliph upon whose hand they had taken the oath of allegiance, but persuasion from Moawiya and promises of Governorship of various provinces was so strong that they would not hear any advice. ‘Ali (as) left Madina in pursuit of these deviants and two Muslim armies faced each other near Basra.

When many companions of the Prophet saw this they questioned the validity of this war and cast doubt as to which party was on the right path. ‘Ali (as) replied in the most subtle way to these doubters. “ Truth cannot be identified from men, find the truth and you will find the deserving person”.

The battle of Jamal was fought, ‘Ali ‘s army was victorious, both Talha and Zubair were killed by their own men and bibi Ayesha was sent back to Madina under the escort of her brother Muhammad ibne Abibakr. She always repented this venture and asked forgiveness from God.

When with the connivance of Moawiya her brother Muhammad ibne abi bakr was killed and his body was put into the body of a dead camel and burnt, she cursed Moawiya five times a day after every prayer, throughout her life..

The Battle of Siffin was also fought due to the deviant action of Moawiya against the Islamic State. Some companions of ‘Ali’s army deserted him by accepting bribes from Moawiya and due to this deceitful action the battle of Siffin remained indecisive, no one won and no one lost.

In the meantime this deviant group which was later named as “Khawarij” meaning deviant, began to spread trouble within the Islamic State by looting and burning villages and killing women and children that ‘Ali (as) fought against them and the battle of Nahrwan took place.

On the way to Nahrwan ‘Ali (as) passed a monastery. An old Christian monk who also claimed to be an astrologer of some repute called out, “ O’ army of Islam, ask your leader to come to me. Upon hearing this ‘Ali (as) turned his horse towards the monastery and approached the monk. Where do you go ask the monk. To fight the enemies of Islam, replied ‘Ali (as) .

Do not fight now, because at this moment the stars do not favor the Muslims. Wait for a few days when the stars will become favorable for you. ‘Ali (as) replied, do you defy Allah for this action we are taking on the orders of Allah and for His Deen.

‘Ali (as) said, “ since you profess knowledge of the stars, tell me about the movement of such and such star.” The old man said, By God, I have never heard the name of this star. ‘Ali (as) asked him another question about the skies and when the old man failed to reply said “It is now known that you do not know about the skies.

Shall I ask you about the earth? Tell me what is buried beneath your feet at the spot where you stand. I do not know said the old monk, “There is a vessel filled with so many silver coins and the coins bear such and such emblem. How do you know enquired the monk”.

“By God’s grace.” said ‘Ali (as) . Then ‘Ali proceeded to say that in the ensuing fight, less than ten persons of Islamic army would be killed whereas less than ten persons from the opposing army would escape. The old monk listened astonished. As per ‘Ali’s command, when the earth beneath the feet of the monk was dug, a vessel filled with silver coins was found exactly as described by ‘Ali (as)

‘Ali (as) proceeded to Nahrwan and in the ensuing fight, the Khawarij were thoroughly defeated. Out of the four thousand men of the Khawarij only nine escaped and only nine men of the Islamic army were killed in this battle. (Rawdhatul Shuhada, Kaukab el Durri )

Returning from the battle ‘Ali (as) passed the monastery and when the monk heard the full story he embraced Islam immediately.

‘Ali (as) also admonished him about his belief in astrology. He said “ do you think you can tell the hour when a man goes out and no evil befall him. Whoever testifies this falsifies the Qur’an and becomes unmindful of Allah in achieving his desired objective and in warding off the undesirable.”

Then ‘Ali (as) addressed to his own soldiers and said “Beware of learning the science of stars except that with which guidance is sought on land or sea, because it leads to divining and an astrologer is a diviner, while a diviner is like the sorcerer, the sorcerer is like the unbeliever and the unbeliever’s place is in hell.”(Nahjul Balagha)

The four years and ten months of the Khilafat of ‘Ali (as) has been regarded by many historians as the best example of Islamic State after the Prophet of Islam’s death, in spite of the fact that the family of Abu Sofian tried their best to destroy it.

Imam Abu Yousuf the famous disciple of Imam Abu Hanifa in his book about the history of Kholafae Rashedun declares above the title of his book that ‘Ali’s (as) time of Khilafat was the best in the management of the Islamic State and most just.

Many European historians mentioned ‘Ali’s name with love and affection. Carlyle writes in his Heros and Heroworship that” ‘Ali had such a personality that he was liked, loved and venerated by everybody. He was the man of excellent character loving and lovable, so intensely brave that if anything stood against his bravery it was consumed as if by fire, yet he was so gentle and kind that he represented the model of a Christian Knight.”

The famous Egyptian scholar Mohammad Abdoh relates a story about the time of the conquest of Alexandria during the reign of the 2nd caliph. They found a great library there and did not know what to do with it.

Orders were issued from Madina that ‘if these books are according to the Holy Qur’an, then we do not need them and if they say anything contrary to the Holy Qur’an then we do not want them. Therefore, in any case they ought to be burnt. (Akhbarul Ulama wa Aakhbarul Hukama of Ibne Quftee, pages 232 and 233,Printed Cairo).

When ‘Ali (as) heard the news of this, he tried to pursuade them to refrain from issuing such order. He told them, “These books are treasures of knowledge and they cannot say anything against the Holy Qur’an.

On the contrary the knowledge contained therein would act as commentaries of the Holy Book and would assist and help in further explanations of the knowledge as presented by the Holy Prophet. Knowledge is an asset for human beings and a birth right of man. It should not be destroyed.”

It was 19th of Ramadan 41 Hijri while ‘Ali (as) was leading the morning prayers and was in the second Sajdah of the 2nd Rakaat that Ibne Muljim’s sword fell and the life of the greatest warrior saint was taken away to his merciful Lord.

The famous christian writer of Lebanon George Jurdaq writes in his books on ‘Ali (as) that with this one blow of the sword of Ibne Muljim the world was deprived of the person who, if had lived a few more years would have given the world a system of administration that future generations would have benefited for a long time to come.”

In fact the letter to his Governor of Egypt Malike Ashter advising him of the “Do’s and Don’ts for a successful administration of the State is the hall mark in the annals of history”. We can only say that ‘Ali’s supreme wisdom provides the guidance of a stature that mankind can aspire to.

‘Ali (as) injured with the wound from the poisonous sword lived for two days. In these two days he dictated his Will and last testament to his son Hasan (as) which is again a brilliant part of literary history.

He advised his eldest son to love God and obey Him and to live for the service of the people in the way of God. “And then do not forget to set apart the best of your time for communion with God, although every moment of yours is for Him, provided it is spent sincerely in the service of your people.”

‘Ali’s (as) sermons, collected by Sayyid Razi in the 4th century (AH) are the examples of the most brilliant piece of Arabic literature that after the Holy Qur’an and the authentic Hadith of the Prophet of Islam, ever produced.

What Sayyid Razi could compile in Nahjul Balagha does not contain all the Sermons, letters and sayings of ‘Ali (as) . Masoodi (d.346) in his famous book of history Muruj-al-Zahab says that the only Sermons of ‘Ali, (as) which have been preserved by various people, number more than 480.

These were extempore orations, people have copied them from one another and compiled them in the book forms’ they have cited them and quoted passages from them in their books. The famous companion and pupil of ‘Ali (as) Hasan al Basri had made such arrangements that one of his own friends would memorize the sermons delivered in the mosque of Kufa and relate the same in the next Friday prayer in Basra. This shows the deep interest people of his own time had in these sermons and sayings.

Apparently out of these 480 sermons some were lost and Sayyid Razi could lay hands on only 245 sermons. Besides them he has collected about 75 letters and 489 sayings. Almost every one of the sermons, sayings and letters collected in Nahjul Balagha is to be found books of authors who died long before Sayyid Raza was even born.

Here we quote a few selected sayings of ‘Ali (as) from Nahjul Balagha, The numbers given as they appear in the English translation by Sayyid ‘Ali Raza from Pakistan.

1. During civil disturbance be like an adolescent camel that has neither a back strong enough for riding nor udders for milking.”( 1, page 568)

2. He who adopts greed as a habit devalues himself, he who discloses his hardship agrees to humiliation, and he who allows his tongue to overpower his Nafs debases the Nafs.(2 page 569)

5. Knowledge is a venerable estate, good manners are new dresses and thinking is a clear mirror. ( 5, page 569)

7. Charity is an effective cure, and actions of people in their present life will be before their eyes in the next life.( 7, page 570)

10.Meet people in such a manner that if you die they should weep for you and if you live they should long for you.( 10, page 571)

27.” Keep walking in your sickness as long as you can.”(27, page 576)-A simple cure through exercise and ignoring the sickness as much as possible)

31. Faith stands on four supports: on endurance, conviction, justice and Jihad.(31 page 576)

40. The tongue of the wiseman is behind his heart and the heart of the fool is behind his tongue.(40 page 579)

45. Even if I strike the nose of a believer with this sword for hating me, he will not hate me, and even if I pile all the wealth of the world before a hypocrite for loving me he will not love. This is because it is pronounced by the tongue of the beloved Prophet. O’’Ali, a believer will never hate you and a hypocrite (Muslim) will never love you.( 45 page 580)

54. There is no wealth like wisdom, no destitution like ignorance, no inheritance like refinement and no support like consultation.(54 page 584)

64. The people of the world are like travelers who are being carried while asleep. 64, page 584)

67. Do not feel ashamed for giving little, because refusal is smaller than that.( 67, page 584)

90. The perfect jurist of Islam is he who does not let people lose hope from the mercy of Allah, does not make him despondent of Allah’s kindness and does not make him feel safe from Allah’s punishment.( 90 page 589)

117. Two categories of persons will face ruin on account of me; he who loves me with exaggeration and he who hates me intensely. (117 page 594)

146. Protect your belief by charity, guard your wealth by paying Allah’s share, and ward off the waves of calamity by praying.(146 page 600)

334. Beware of disobeying Allah in solitude, for the witness is also the judge.(334. page 648)

The famous French historian and Orientalist Gabriel Enkiri writes in his famous book ‘Le chevalier de Islam’, In the extremely superfine, grand and noble character of ‘Ali, there were two traits which, it is difficult to believe that can be united in one man.

Besides ‘Ali, history cannot show any other man who has displayed these two qualities at one and the same time, and each one, in such a marked way that none can surpass him.

1. He was the greatest marshal of his time (even of all time) and , 2. He was the wisest man who could explain and expound religion, philosophy, science, sociology and ethics, in a style which was not and which cannot be improved; what is more, he was such a great speaker that his speeches enchant you even fourteen centuries after his death”.

Why do we dream?

Why do we dream?

The human brain is a mysterious little ball of gray matter. After all these years, researchers are still baffled by many aspects of how and why it operates like it does. Scientists have been performing sleep and dream studies for decades now, and we still aren’t 100 percent sure about the function of sleep, or exactly how and why we dream. We do know that our dream cycle is typically most abundant and best remembered during the REM stage of sleep. It’s also pretty commonly accepted among the scientific community that we all dream, though the frequency in which dreams are remembered varies from person to person.

The question of whether dreams actually have a physiological, biological or psychological function has yet to be answered. But that hasn’t stopped scientists from researching and speculating. There are several theories as to why we dream. One is that dreams work hand in hand with sleep to help the brain sort through everything it collects during the waking hours. Your brain is met with hundreds of thousands, if not millions of inputs each day. Some are minor sensory details like the color of a passing car, while others are far more complex, like the big presentation you’re putting together for your job. During sleep, the brain works to plow through all of this information to decide what to hang on to and what to forget. Some researchers feel like dreams play a role in this process.

It’s not just a stab in the dark though — there is some research to back up the ideas that dreams are tied to how we form memories. Studies indicate that as we’re learning new things in our waking hours, dreams increase while we sleep. Participants in a dream study who were taking a language course showed more dream activity than those who were not. In light of such studies, the idea that we use our dreams to sort through and convert short-term memories into long-term memories has gained some momentum in recent years.

Another theory is that dreams typically reflect our emotions. During the day, our brains are working hard to make connections to achieve certain functions. When posed with a tough math problem, your brain is incredibly focused on that one thing. And the brain doesn’t only serve mental functions. If you’re building a bench, your brain is focused on making the right connections to allow your hands to work in concert with a saw and some wood to make an exact cut. The same goes for simple tasks like hitting a nail with a hammer. Have you ever lost focus and smashed your finger because your mind was elsewhere?

Some have proposed that at night everything slows down. We aren’t required to focus on anything during sleep, so our brains make very loose connections. It’s during sleep that the emotions of the day battle it out in our dream cycle. If something is weighing heavily on your mind during the day, chances are you might dream about it either specifically, or through obvious imagery. For instance, if you’re worried about losing your job to company downsizing, you may dream you’re a shrunken person living in a world of giants, or you’re wandering aimlessly through a great desert abyss.

There’s also a theory, definitely the least intriguing of the bunch, that dreams don’t really serve any function at all, that they’re just a pointless byproduct of the brain firing while we slumber. We know that the rear portion of our brain gets pretty active during REM sleep, when most dreaming occurs. Some think that it’s just the brain winding down for the night and that dreams are random and meaningless firings of the brain that we don’t have when we’re awake. The truth is, as long as the brain remains such a mystery, we probably won’t be able to pinpoint with absolute certainty exactly why we dream.


In Your Dreams

Reports of Dreams

It began with a swim in the ocean. Suddenly Jessica realized that she had gone much farther away from shore than she expected and, to her great dismay, there was a pair of killer whales swimming toward her. The whales circled around her several times while she did her best not to panic. After several minutes of playful dives and underwater acrobatics, the whales swam away just as suddenly as they had appeared. What happened next was terrifying. The ocean swelled up, curled over, and slammed Jessica back onto the beach.

That’s when she woke up. This dream report is just one of the myriad bizarre scenarios that people perceive to happen to them while they sleep. Some people describe specific elements in their dreams that they can trace directly to things they have recently seen, heard or experienced, as though their minds are attempting to organize bits and pieces of information gathered during waking hours. Dreamers note repeated themes; the dreamer in this case is a woman who has recurring dreams that take place in or near the ocean. She has been recording these dreams for years in a dream diary, hoping to some day sort out the meaning of such fantastic imaginings that occupy her mind while she sleeps.

History of Dream Research

Since the earliest of recorded histories, people have theorized about the function and meaning of dreams. Answers came largely from the spirit world until Aristotle and Plato developed the drive related hypothesis that was later expanded on by the European psychoanalysts of the 19th and 20th centuries. This hypothesis defines dreaming as a way to act out unconscious desires in a safe or “unreal” setting, presumably because to do so in reality would be unacceptable or even detrimental. But even in the 21st century we still are not sure why we dream. The only way to study dreams is to ask the dreamer. However, one thing we know for sure is that dreaming is something that the vast majority of humans do every night of their lives.

Anzac day

This morning I would like to talk about three aspects of ANZAC day.

• Why do we commemorate ANZAC day on the 25th April;

• What the name of the day represents

• The nature of the ANZAC legacy. To the date firstly. April 25 is of course the anniversary of the day Australian troops landed at Gallipoli in 1915. However, this event in isolation doesn’t seem enough to make this date significant. Gallipoli was not the first time that Australians had been in battle and it was by no means an outstanding success. Australians had previously fought in the Maori wars, had deployed to Sudan in 1885, and had fought again in the Boer war between 1899 and 1902. Gallipoli was not even an Australian battle, for we landed and fought alongside troops from New Zealand, Britain, France and Newfoundland. So why have we chosen April 25? What made Gallipoli different for Australia was that it was the first major battle we Australians fought as a nation. Soldiers from every state of the new federated Australia volunteered and fought. What seared itself into our national soul was the sheer scale of casualties. Gallipoli lasted eight and a half months. In that time 7,600 Australians and 2,500 New Zealanders were killed; 24,000 were wounded. Gallipoli was a battle we lost, and people still ask why we celebrate defeat. The answer is, I believe, that in commemorating ANZAC day we never set out to celebrate victory. Had we wanted to, we had plenty of other opportunities in our military heritage. After Gallipoli, Australians won many famous battles in France, Flanders and Palestine in the Great War, and in North Africa, the Middle East, the south west Pacific, in the air and at sea in subsequent wars. This is not to mention Korea, Malaya, Borneo and Vietnam in which Australians fought with distinction. But, to return to my point, April 25th is not about military victory. As a people we choose a day when loss of war first scarred the conscience of a young nation. The loss was felt across the whole community and it was a tragedy we can all associate with.

What is Ramadan and why do Muslims fast all day?

What is Ramadan and why do Muslims fast all day?

Millions of Muslims around the world will mark the start of Ramadan on Thursday, a month of intense prayer, dawn-to-dusk fasting and nightly feasts. Here’s a look at some questions and answers about Islam’s holiest month:



The fast is intended to bring the faithful closer to God and to remind them of the suffering of those less fortunate. Muslims often donate to charities during the month and feed the hungry.

Fasting is an exercise in self-restraint. It’s seen as a way to physically and spiritually detoxify by kicking impulses like morning coffee, smoking and midday snacking.

Ramadan is a time to detach from worldly pleasures and focus on one’s prayers. Many Muslims dress more conservatively during Ramadan and spend more time at the mosque than at any other time of the year.

Fasting during Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam, along with the Muslim declaration of faith, daily prayer, charity, and performing the hajj pilgrimage in Mecca.



Observant Muslims abstain from eating and drinking from dawn to dusk for the entire month of Ramadan, with a single sip of water or a puff of a cigarette considered enough to invalidate the fast.

Muslim scholars say it’s not enough to just avoid food and drinks during the day, though. Spouses must abstain for sexual intercourse during the day, and Muslims should not engage in road rage, cursing, fighting or gossiping.

Muslims are also encouraged to observe the five daily prayers on time and to use their downtime just before breaking their fast at sunset to recite Quran and intensify remembrance of God.

To prepare for the fast, Muslims eat what is commonly called “suhoor,” a pre-dawn meal of power foods to get them through the day.



Muslims traditionally break their fast like the Prophet Muhammad did some 1,400 years ago, with a sip of water and some dates at sunset. That first sip of water is by far the most anticipated moment of the day.

After a sunset prayer, a large feast known as “iftar” is shared with family and friends. Iftar is a social event as much as it is a gastronomical adventure. Across the Arab world, juices made from apricots are a staple at Ramadan iftars. In South Asia and Turkey, yogurt-based drinks are popular.

Across the Muslim world, mosques and aid organizations set up tents and tables for the public to eat free iftar meals every night of Ramadan.



Yes. There are exceptions for children, the elderly, the sick, women who are pregnant or menstruating and people traveling, which could include athletes during tournaments.

Many Muslims, particularly those who live in the U.S. and Europe, are accepting and welcoming of others around them who are not observing Ramadan. They also are not expecting shorter work hours, as is the case in the public sector across much of the Arab world during Ramadan.

However, non-Muslims or adult Muslims who eat in public during the day can be fined or even jailed in some Middle Eastern countries, such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, home to large Western expat populations in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

Meanwhile, minority Chinese Uighur Muslims complain of heavy restrictions by the Communist Party, such as bans on fasting by party members, civil servants, teachers and students during Ramadan, as well as generally enforced bans on children attending mosques, women wearing veils and young men growing beards.



Typically, the start of the month is welcomed with greetings such as “Ramadan mubarak!” Another hallmark of Ramadan is nightly prayer at the mosque among Sunni Muslims called “taraweeh.”

In Egypt, a common sight during Ramadan is a lantern called the “fanoos,” which is often the centerpiece at an iftar table and can be seen hanging in window shops and balconies.

In the Arabian Gulf countries, wealthy sheikhs hold “majlises” where they open their doors for people to pass by all hours of the night for food, tea, coffee and conversation.

Increasingly common are Ramadan tents in five-star hotels that offer lavish and pricey meals from sunset to sunrise. While Ramadan is a boon for retailers in the Middle East and South Asia, critics say the holy month is increasingly becoming commercialized.

Scholars are also disturbed by the proliferation of evening television shows during Ramadan. In Pakistan, live game shows give away gifts promoting their sponsors. In the Arab world, monthlong soap operas starring Egypt’s top actors rake in millions of dollars in advertising.



The end of Ramadan is marked by intense worship as Muslims seek to have their prayers answered during “Laylat al-Qadr” or “the Night of Destiny.” It is on this night, which falls during the last 10 nights of Ramadan, that Muslims believe that God sent the Angel Gabriel to the Prophet Muhammad and revealed the first versus of the Quran.

Some devout Muslims go into reclusion those final days, spending all of their time in the mosque.

The end of Ramadan is celebrated by a three-day holiday called Eid al-Fitr. Children often receive new clothes, gifts and cash.

Muslims attend early morning Eid prayers the day after Ramadan. Families usually spend the day at parks and eating — now during the day.


Why Do Muslims Fast During the Month of Ramadan?

Why Do Muslims Fast During the Month of Ramadan?

Muslims all over the world observe the annual fast during the daylight hours of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar, in keeping with a divine commandment documenin

  • Fasting is prescribed for believers.
  • Fasting has historically been an institution commonly practiced by various religious communities (for example, during Lent by Christians and on Yom Kippur by Jews).
  • Fasting is a means to attaining taqwa.


implies guarding one’s self from evil and the imbibing of all elements of righteousness, thus reflecting the essence of piety. In its ethical dimension, it connotes moral rectitude (which is the fruit of God-oriented vigilance), and in its spiritual dimension it connotes purification of heart and mind.

Through fasting, one demonstrates the highest degree of obedience by willfully submitting to abstaining from lawful food, drink, and sexual relations from sunrise to sunset one month every year. This regimentation is an excellent means for spiritual and moral improvement.

Through fasting, the human being comes to grip with his carnal self, taming his physical appetites, subduing his greed and lust, and thus traversing a path which progressively elevates his consciousness from the physical to the moral and ultimately to the spiritual dimension of his being. This consciousness and submission is in a cultivation of self-discipline and is the ideal catalyst to improve society by improving the individual self.


Why Do We Fast ?


Why Do We Fast ?


Praise be to Allah.

Firstly we must note that one of the names of Allah is al-Hakeem (the Most Wise). The word Hakeem is derived from the same root as hukm (ruling) and hikmah (wisdom). Allaah alone is the One Who issues rulings, and His rulings are the most wise and perfect.

Secondly:Allah does not prescribe any ruling but there is great wisdom behind it, which we may understand, or our minds may not be guided to understand it. We may know some of it but a great deal is hidden from us.

Thirdly:Allaah has mentioned the reason and wisdom behind His enjoining of fasting upon us, as He says (interpretation of the meaning):

O you who believe! Observing As-Sawm (the fasting) is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become Al-Muttaqoon (the pious)” [al-Baqarah 2:183]

Fasting is a means of attaining taqwa (piety, being conscious of Allaah), and taqwa means doing that which Allaah has enjoined and avoiding that which He has forbidden.

Fasting is one of the greatest means of helping a person to fulfil the commands of Islam.

The scholars (may Allaah have mercy on them) have mentioned some of the reasons why fasting is prescribed, all of which are characteristics of taqwa, but there is nothing wrong with quoting them here, to draw the attention of fasting people to them and make them keen to attain them.

Among the reasons behind fasting are:

1 – Fasting is a means that makes us appreciate and give thanks for pleasures. For fasting means giving up eating, drinking and intercourse, which are among the greatest pleasures. By giving them up for a short time, we begin to appreciate their value. Because the blessings of Allaah are not recognized, but when you abstain from them, you begin to recognize them, so this motivates you to be grateful for them.

2 – Fasting is a means of giving up haraam things, because if a person can give up halaal things in order to please Allaah and for fear of His painful torment, then he will be more likely to refrain from haraam things. So fasting is a means of avoiding the things that Allaah has forbidden.

3 – Fasting enables us to control our desires, because when a person is full his desires grow, but if he is hungry then his desire becomes weak. Hence the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “O young men! Whoever among you can afford to get married, let him do so, for it is more effective in lowering the gaze and protecting one’s chastity. Whoever cannot do that, let him fast, for it will be a shield for him.”

4 – Fasting makes us feel compassion and empathy towards the poor, because when the fasting person tastes the pain of hunger for a while, he remembers those who are in this situation all the time, so he will hasten to do acts of kindness to them and show compassion towards them. So fasting is a means of feeling empathy with the poor.

5 – Fasting humiliates and weakens the Shaytaan; it weakens the effects of his whispers (waswaas) on a person and reduces his sins. That is because the Shaytaan “flows through the son of Adam like blood” as the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said, but fasting narrows the passages through which the Shaytaan flows, so his influence grows less.

Shaykh al-Islam said in Majmoo’ al-Fataawa, 25/246

Undoubtedly blood is created from food and drink, so when a person eats and drinks, the passages through which the devils flow – which is the blood – become wide. But if a person fasts, the passages through which the devils flow become narrow, so hearts are motivated to do good deeds, and to give up evil deeds.

6 – The fasting person is training himself to remember that Allaah is always watching, so he gives up the things that he desires even though he is able to take them, because he knows that Allaah can see him.

7 – Fasting means developing an attitude of asceticism towards this world and its desires, and seeking that which is with Allaah.

8 – It makes the Muslim get used to doing a great deal of acts of worship, because the fasting person usually does more acts of worship and gets used to that.

These are some of the reasons why fasting is enjoined. We ask Allaah to help us to achieve them and to worship Him properly.

And Allaah knows best.

Praise be to Allah.

Firstly we must note that one of the names of Allah is al-Hakeem (the Most Wise). The word Hakeem is derived from the same root as hukm (ruling) and hikmah (wisdom). Allaah alone is the One Who issues rulings, and His rulings are the most wise and perfect.

Secondly:Allah does not prescribe any ruling but there is great wisdom behind it, which we may understand, or our minds may not be guided to understand it. We may know some of it but a great deal is hidden from us.

Thirdly:Allaah has mentioned the reason and wisdom behind His enjoining of fasting upon us, as He says (interpretation of the meaning):

O you who believe! Observing As-Sawm (the fasting) is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become Al-Muttaqoon (the pious)” [al-Baqarah 2:183]

Fasting is a means of attaining taqwa (piety, being conscious of Allaah), and taqwa means doing that which Allaah has enjoined and avoiding that which He has forbidden.

Fasting is one of the greatest means of helping a person to fulfil the commands of Islam.

The scholars (may Allaah have mercy on them) have mentioned some of the reasons why fasting is prescribed, all of which are characteristics of taqwa, but there is nothing wrong with quoting them here, to draw the attention of fasting people to them and make them keen to attain them.

Among the reasons behind fasting are:

1 – Fasting is a means that makes us appreciate and give thanks for pleasures. For fasting means giving up eating, drinking and intercourse, which are among the greatest pleasures. By giving them up for a short time, we begin to appreciate their value. Because the blessings of Allaah are not recognized, but when you abstain from them, you begin to recognize them, so this motivates you to be grateful for them.

2 – Fasting is a means of giving up haraam things, because if a person can give up halaal things in order to please Allaah and for fear of His painful torment, then he will be more likely to refrain from haraam things. So fasting is a means of avoiding the things that Allaah has forbidden.

3 – Fasting enables us to control our desires, because when a person is full his desires grow, but if he is hungry then his desire becomes weak. Hence the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “O young men! Whoever among you can afford to get married, let him do so, for it is more effective in lowering the gaze and protecting one’s chastity. Whoever cannot do that, let him fast, for it will be a shield for him.”

4 – Fasting makes us feel compassion and empathy towards the poor, because when the fasting person tastes the pain of hunger for a while, he remembers those who are in this situation all the time, so he will hasten to do acts of kindness to them and show compassion towards them. So fasting is a means of feeling empathy with the poor.

5 – Fasting humiliates and weakens the Shaytaan; it weakens the effects of his whispers (waswaas) on a person and reduces his sins. That is because the Shaytaan “flows through the son of Adam like blood” as the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said, but fasting narrows the passages through which the Shaytaan flows, so his influence grows less.

Shaykh al-Islam said in Majmoo’ al-Fataawa, 25/246

Undoubtedly blood is created from food and drink, so when a person eats and drinks, the passages through which the devils flow – which is the blood – become wide. But if a person fasts, the passages through which the devils flow become narrow, so hearts are motivated to do good deeds, and to give up evil deeds.

6 – The fasting person is training himself to remember that Allaah is always watching, so he gives up the things that he desires even though he is able to take them, because he knows that Allaah can see him.

7 – Fasting means developing an attitude of asceticism towards this world and its desires, and seeking that which is with Allaah.

8 – It makes the Muslim get used to doing a great deal of acts of worship, because the fasting person usually does more acts of worship and gets used to that.

These are some of the reasons why fasting is enjoined. We ask Allaah to help us to achieve them and to worship Him properly.

And Allaah knows best.





The Qur’an

Page of a handwritten Qur'an in ArabicA copy of the Qur’an The Qur’an is the holy book for Muslims, revealed in stages to theProphet Muhammad over 23 years.

Qur’anic revelations are regarded by Muslims as the sacred word ofGod, intended to correct any errors in previous holy books such as theOld and New Testaments.


The Qur’an was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad by God in Arabic.

Some Qur’anic fragments have been dated as far back as the eighth, and possibly even the seventh, century. The oldest existing copy of the full text is from the ninth century.

Although early variants of the Qur’an are known to have existed, Muslims believe that the text we have today was established shortly after the death of the Prophet by the Caliph Uthman.


There are 114 chapters in the Qur’an, which is written in the old Arabic dialect.

All the chapters except one begin with the sentence Bismillahir rahmanir raheem, ‘In the name of Allah the most merciful and the most kind’. This is the thought with which Muslims should start every action.

The longest chapter of the Qur’an is Surah Baqarah (The Cow) with 286 verses and the shortest is Surah Al-Kawther(abundance) which has 3 verses.

The arrangement of surahs does not correspond to the chronological order in which they were revealed.

The Qur’an is sometimes divided into 30 roughly equal parts, known as juz’. These divisions make it easier for Muslims to read the Qur’an during the course of a month and many will read one juz’ each day, particularly during the month ofRamadan.


Translations of the Qur’an exist in over 40 languages but Muslims are still taught to learn and recite it in Arabic, even if this is not their native language and they cannot converse in it.

Translations are regarded by Muslims as new versions of the holy book, rather than as translations in the conventional sense.

Page of an old Qur'anQur’an page ©

Memorising the Qur’an

At the time of the revelation of the Qur’an, books were not readily available and so it was common for people tolearn it by heart.

Committing the Qur’an to memory acted as a great aid for its preservation and any person who is able to accomplish this is known as a hafiz.


The Qur’an is treated with immense respect by Muslims because it is the sacred word of God.

While the Qur’an is recited aloud, Muslims should behave with reverence and refrain from speaking, eating or drinking, or making distracting noise.

Sunnah and Hadith

In addition to the Qur’an, the other sacred sources are theSunnah, the practise and examples of the Prophet Muhammad’s life, and the Hadith, reports of what the prophet Muhammad said or approved.

Both the Hadith and Sunnah must adhere to a strict chain of narration that ensures its authenticity, taking into account factors such as the character of people in the chain and continuity in narration. Reports that fail to meet such criteria will be disregarded.

One famous example is that of the scholar of Hadith literature, Imam Bukhari, who travelled several hundred miles on horseback to acquire a Hadith. When he arrived, he saw the man that knew the Hadith deceiving his donkey into thinking there was grain in a sack in order to induce him to move forward. Imam Bukhari promptly left without approaching the man because he was not willing to allow any individual with a questionable personality to join a chain of narration or contribute knowledge that would define the practice of the religion.


Audio readings

Audio readings

Imam Misbahi reads passages from the Holy Qur’an.

English translation: This is the Book. In it is guidance sure, without doubt to those who fear Allah, who believe in the unseen, are steadfast in prayer and spend out of what we have provided for them, and who believe in the revelation sent to you, and sent before your time and in their hearts have the assurance of the hereafter. They are on true guidance from the Lord, and it is these who will prosper.

English translation: Say: “We believe in Allah, and in what has been revealed to us and what was revealed to Ibrahim, Isma’il, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and in the books given toMusa, Isa, and the prophets, from their Lord: We make no distinction between one and another among them, and to Allah do we bow our will in Islam. ” If anyone desires a religion other than Islam, never will it be accepted of him; and in the hereafter he will be in the ranks of those who have lost all spiritual good.

English translation: And when they listen to the revelation received by the messenger, you will see their eyes overflowing with tears, for they recognise the truth. They pray: “Our Lord! We believe; write us down among the witnesses.”

English translation: It is he who created you from a single person, and made his mate of like nature, in order that he might dwell with her in love. When they are united, she bears a light burden and carries it about unnoticed. When she grows heavy, they both pray to Allah their Lord, saying: “If you give us a goodly child, we vow we shall ever be grateful.”

English translation: Relate in the book the story of Mary, when she withdrew from her family to a place in the East.

She placed a screen (to screen herself) from them; then we sent to her our angel, and he appeared before her as a man in all respects.

English translation: These are verses of the Wise Book, a guide and a mercy to the doers of good, those who establish regular prayer, and give regular charity, and have in their hearts the assurance of the hereafter.

These are on true guidance from their Lord: and these are the ones who will prosper.

English translation: So also was Jonah among those sent by Us. When he ran away like a slave from captivity to the ship fully laden, he agreed to cast lots, and he was condemned: Then the big fish did swallow him, and he had done acts worthy of blame.

English translation: The revelation of this book is from Allah, exalted in power, full of knowledge, who forgives sin, accepts repentance, is strict in punishment, and has a long reach in all things. There is no God but he: to him is the final goal.

English translation: And before this, was the Book of Musa as a guide and a mercy: And this Book confirms it in the Arabic tongue; to admonish the unjust, and as glad tidings to those who do right.

English translation: So establish weight with justice and fall not short in the balance. It is he who has spread out the earth for his creatures: Therein is fruit and date-palms, producing spathes (enclosing dates); also corn, with its leaves and stalk for fodder, and sweet-smelling plants. Then which of the favours of your Lord will you deny?


The Quran is the central religious text of Islam, which Muslims believe to be a revelation from God. Its scriptural status among a world-spanning religious community, and its major place within world literature generally, have led to a great deal of secondary literature on the Quran. Quranic chapters are called suras and verses are called ayahs


Muslims are the second-largest religious group in the world, after Catholics (Saenz 2005). The group is racially and ethnically diverse, but the Muslim identity has taken on racial connotations at various points in U.S. history, most recently after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon building near Washington, D.C., on September 11, 2001. Although the racialization of a religious identity is not a new phenomenon—for example, Jews experienced an identity change during and after the Holocaust—the impact of this transformation and increased“otherization” of Muslims and Muslim Americans has profound implications for a group that is seen as both a religious and a cultural threat to the mostly white, Christian U.S. population.


Currently, over a billion Muslims live in Europe, Asia, Africa, and North America. There are roughly forty-four Islamic countries in the world today. Although Muslims vary in their particular religious practices and cultural beliefs from region to region, the majority follow the same basic tenets of Islam (Esposito 1998).

Islam is one of three Abrahamic religions, along with Christianity and Judaism, that trace their communities back to the biblical Abraham. The basic teachings of Islam were said to have been revealed to Muhammad (c. 570–632), the final prophet, and collected and recorded in the Qur’an. Muslims rely on the Qur’an for the fundamental Islamic teachings and guidelines for their lives. Aside from the teachings in the Qur’an, Muslims also believe that Muhammad led an exemplary life that all Muslims should attempt to emulate. These examples can be found in the hadith, the documented reports of the prophet’s life, which Muslims also rely on for spiritual and practical direction.

In addition, every Muslim is required to follow the five pillars of Islam—obligatory practices outlined in the Qur’an (Nasr 2003). The first of these is the profession of faith, where a Muslim declares, “There is no god but God and Muhammad is the messenger of God,” emphasizing the monotheistic nature of the religion (Esposito 1998, p. 68). In making this declaration, a person becomes a Muslim. The second pillar is prayer, or salat. Muslims are instructed to pray at specific times, five times a day. Prayers begin with the azan, the call to prayer, followed by an ordered series of recitations from the Qur’an in conjunction with bowing and prostrations toward the direction of Mecca. Zakat, the third pillar of Islam, is a religious tax required of those who have enough money to give to the poor and needy. Giving of alms is not voluntary, but rather a duty defined by sharia, or Islamic law. Fasting during Ramadan is the fourth pillar of Islam. Every year, Muslims are required to fast from sunrise to sunset during the Islamic month of Ramadan, based on the lunar calendar. According to John Esposito (1998), this is a time for Muslims to reflect on their spiritual beliefs and gratitude for good health and wealth, and to remember their duties toward those who are less fortunate than themselves. The final pillar of Islam is pilgrimage, or hajj. During the twelfth month of the Islamic calendar, Muslims who are physically and financially able are required to perform the pilgrimage to Mecca; this needs to be done only once in a person’s lifetime. Once in Mecca, Muslims perform a series of rituals such as circling the Ka‘ba (House of God) while reciting verses from the Qur’an. According to Seyyed Nasr “hajj signifies a return both to the spatial center of the Islamic universe and to the temporal origin of the human state itself” (Nasr 2003, p. 95).


Islamic civilization grew rapidly after the death of Muhammad in 632. Over the course of the century beginning around 600 CE, an Islamic Empire spread to occupy what was once known as Arabia, Central Asia, North Africa, and parts of Europe. Throughout the next few centuries, Islamic imperialism had a profound effect on the arts, sciences, and philosophy. Many scholars note that during this time Islam advanced beyond predominantly Christian Europe in many areas, including trade and commerce, exemplified by the urban centers that popped up all across the Islamic Empire (Turner 1995; Esposito 1998; Nasr 2003). Islamic scholars greatly contributed to the progress of math and science, expanding on Greco-Roman geometry and advancing algebra and trigonometry. Universities and academies flourished in Islamic countries. Nonetheless, although Islamic contributions were significant, they are often overlooked in Western cultures. The Enlightenment brought about a positivist view of the world that refuted religious explanations, ignoring the contributions of Islamic civilizations while promoting eurocentric scientists and artists.


Islam has never been a homogenous or unified religion. During the era of Islamic imperialism there were vast differences in Islamic practices and the development of Islamic cultures. The best known sects today are Sunni Islam, Shiism, Sufism, and the Nation of Islam.

Sunni and Shiite Islam Sunni Muslims constitute the majority of the roughly one billion Muslims in the world today; Shia comprise the second-largest Islamic sect. After Muhammad’s death a schism occurred over who should be the next caliphate, or leader of the Muslims. Abu-Bakr became the first caliphate after Muhammad, followed by Umar, Uthman, and then Ali (the son-in-law and cousin of Muhammad). The Shia believe that Ali should have been the first caliphate because of his blood relation to Muhammad. Sunnis practice a more decentralized version of Islam than the Shia, which does not require one religious authority, but relies instead on a community of learned religious scholars and the standard religious texts. Thus, Sunnis are more literalist than Shia when interpreting the Qur’an and hadith. Shia follow the Qur’an too, but they rely on imams, religious leaders, who they see as divinely guided by God to help them interpret the Qur’an. Thus, they follow a more authoritarian form of Islam compared to Sunnis, who are more communitarian in their practice.

Sufism Sufis follow a very different version of Islam than Sunnis and Shia. Whereas Sunnis are more literalist in their interpretation of the Qur’an, the Sufis’ interpretation is more symbolic and allegorical, and their religious practices are often described as mystic. Sufism developed out of a desire to return to a purer and more spiritual version of Islam as a reaction to the corruption that Sufis felt had became rampant during imperialist Islam. Hence, Sufis embrace an ascetic way of life and reject materialism in an attempt to return to the lifestyle of Muhammad’s time. Sufism focuses particularly on God’s love and meditation.

The Nation of Islam The Nation of Islam is a newer sect of Islam, introduced to African Americans in the 1930s through Wallace D. Fard (1891?–1934?) and then made popular in the United States by Elijah Muhammad (1897–1975). Fard took passages from both the Bible and the Qur’an and preached a religion that encouraged black liberation, using messages from Islam about brotherhood and social justice to encourage African Americans to reject the domination of their white oppressors. Elijah Muhammad took over leadership of the Nation of Islam after Fard disappeared in 1934. He claimed that Fard was Allah (the Arabic word for “God”), and that he was his messenger. It was during Muhammad’s leadership of the Nation of Islam that the sect welcomed the most conversions, due to the popularity of one of Elijah’s disciples, Malcolm Little, or Malcolm X (1925–1965), and the racially charged climate of the 1960s in the United States. As the civil rights movement gained momentum, the Nation of Islam offered an alternative to African Americans who lived in mostly poor urban areas and who felt that their immediate issues and needs were not being addressed by the leaders of the mainstream movement. The Nation of Islam lost members in 1964 after the split with Malcolm X and the passage of the Civil Rights Act, and suffered a further decline in membership after the death of Elijah Muhammad in 1975. Elijah Muhammad’s son Warith Deen Muhammad (b. 1933) succeeded him and converted to Sunni Islam, taking many leaders with him and leaving the Nation of Islam under the leadership of Louis Farrakhan (b. 1933).


The events of September 11, 2001, had an impact on Muslims around the world. Since then, both Afghanistan and Iraq have been invaded by the United States with the support of a number of allies. In the Euro-American media, anti-Muslim rhetoric demonstrates a simplified and reductionistic understanding of Islam and its followers rather than depicting the various political and cultural particularities of Muslims from different Muslim countries.

Moreover, Muslims are often portrayed as a homogenous group fanatical in their religious beliefs, and either participants in, or supporters of, terrorism. Muslims in the United States face increasing racism through racial profiling and the perpetuation of negative stereotypes in the media. Jack Shaheen’s Reel Bad Arabs(2001) identified roughly 900 American movies from the 1900s through the early 1990s in which Muslims and Arabs have been negatively stereotyped. Because these images are so long-standing, they s eem to Americans to be “normal,” “natural” attributes of Muslims, and this has led to public and political support for the creation and implementation of racist laws and policies such as the U.S. Patriot Act, which has curbed the civil rights of Muslims in the United States and spurred military action against Muslim-majority countries.

The United States is not the only country where Muslims face racism and persecution due to misunderstanding of their culture and religious beliefs. In France, Muslim girls are forbidden from wearing thehijab (headscarf), and in 2005 a Danish newspaper published a political cartoon that depicted Muhammad as a terrorist. Acts of violence by Muslims are stripped of their political motivations and reduced to religious fanaticism; images of Muslims as violent terrorists perpetuate an already antiMuslim ideology that Islam is a threat to both modernity and a democratic world. In truth, Islam is not a monolithic religion; Muslims vary in their cultural makeup, political views, level of religiosity, and in the type of Islam that they choose to practice.



Islam (“the act of submitting [to God]”) is the proper and most widely used term for the religion of those who believe that the Quran (Koran) is the true word of God transmitted to mankind as an ultimate revelation through the medium of his Prophet and messenger, Muhammad. Although the term was used in early periods in the more limited sense of “submission” and seems to have been generally equated with “belief” (imān), the meaning today to Muslims and non-Muslims alike is that of the definitive name of a specific religion. The practitioner of the faith is a Muslim, a term that also serves as an adjective, but the attributive adjective Islamic is preferable in social or cultural contexts, e.g., Muslim theology, but Islamic law and Islamic architecture. The terms Mohammedanand Mohammedanism are disliked by Muslims because they carry the implication of the worship of Muhammad as a more than human figure and thus contain the germs of polytheism.

The most recent of the three great monotheisms to have arisen in the Middle East and the last major universal religion to have appeared in history, Islam came into being in the early seventh century in west-central Arabia. Although a good part of the Quran records the preaching of Muhammad in Mecca in the first two decades of that century, the definitive outlines of Islam as a system of beliefs and as a political organization took shape in Medina after the emigration (hijrah) to that city of Muhammad and a band of his followers in 622. In recognition of the importance of this event, the Muslim calendar reckons events from the first lunar month of that year—July 16, 622, becoming the first day of Muharram, A.H. 1. Between that date and the death of Muhammad in 632, two years after a triumphal return to his newly converted birthplace of Mecca, the new religion established itself throughout most of the Arabian Peninsula, not only as a corpus of religious belief but equally as a political community (ummah) provided with its own laws and embryonic govern-mental and social institutions. The significance and uniqueness of this twin foundation structure is recognized in the well-known dictum, “Islam is a religion and a state,” which is interpreted, however, by Muslims in a unitary meaning rather than implying any dualism.

The century following Muhammad’s death saw a far-reaching series of conquests by the new Muslim armies. Their spectacular successes and the way in which ancient communities and seemingly powerful states succumbed with little resistance testify to underlying weaknesses in the existing order but also say something of the fresh appeal Islam had for peoples in the Middle East at a time when they were exhausted by internecine struggles and doctrinal quarrels. However, the large number of conversions to Islam at this period may be said to have stemmed more from socioeconomic causes than from religious motivation, although these in the end had repercussions on both the faith itself and the subsequent nature of the Islamic state. In the Fertile Crescent area and in Egypt the numerous Christian and Jewish communities were legally allowed to continue practicing their religion, but inequalities in taxation which favored Muslims, and the natural social desire to become full members of the body politic with all its advantages, furthered Islamization. In Iran multiple causes conditioned conversion: the desire of the bureaucracy to preserve its privileges, the reluctance of the landed nobility to pay the poll tax, and the wish on the part of the merchant class to have a full share in the material culture of the Islamic empire. In north Africa pagan or semi-Christianized Berbers were more often either genuinely influenced by the tenets of Islam or spontaneously gave their allegiance to the new religion rather than suffer the alternative, loss of life, reserved for those other than “people of the book,” i.e., monotheists who possessed scriptures.

In the centuries following its birth Islam was spread by conquest and occupation, organized and at times militant religious activism, and peaceful missionary work. The first wave of expansion was the work of Arabs, largely armies buttressed by new converts in the Middle East and north Africa. By the end of the Umayyad reign (A.D. 750), the frontiers of Islam extended to the Pyrenees in the west and the Indus River in the east. Included in Muslim domains were most of Spain, north Africa, Egypt, the Levant to the frontiers of Anatolia, the Arabian Peninsula, Iran, and part of Turkestan. Once this force had been spent there was relatively little fluctuation in the extent of the House of Islam (Dār ul-Isldm) until a second wave of military conquest was set under way in the fourteenth century by Turkic peoples who had migrated from central Asia to Iran and Asia Minor and been progressively Islamized over a period of several centuries. One of these groups, the Osmanli, destroyed the remnants of the Byzantine state, took Constantinople in 1453, and established Muslim rule in large areas of southeastern Europe, maintaining it until well into the nineteenth century. These two waves directed at Europe left important cultural legacies in Spain and Sicily and vestigial groups of Muslims in Yugoslavia, Albania, and Bulgaria.

The historical advance of Islam into south and southeast Asia, and later into tropical Africa, has been of another kind. The faith came to these areas at a comparatively late date and was spread more gradually, sometimes by force, but more often through the voluntary conversion of nonmonotheists. Muslim power gained sway in northwest India only after A.D. 1000, and converts in Bengal were not numerous until the sixteenth century. The force of Islam in south Asia in modern times is shown by the success of Muslim demands for the partition of British India and the establishment of Pakistan as a separate state for Muslims. In addition to some ninety million Muslims in that country, a large minority of over forty million is found in India. In south Asia as a whole, Muslims have increased their numbers at the expense of non-Muslims, not only because of the one-way nature of conversion but because of socioeconomic factors, including a greater life expectancy resulting from a higher protein diet, the urban nature of the Muslim population, which somewhat spares it from rural famines, and the fact that widows are permitted to remarry. Proselytization in southeast Asia was mainly the work of Muslim traders who established themselves in Malaya, Sumatra, and elsewhere in the fourteenth century. Gradually Islam spread inland in Sumatra and Malaya and penetrated the farther islands of Indonesia as far as the southern Philippines. Today the Malays of Malaya are overwhelmingly Muslim and the Indonesians are very heavily Muslim, while important minorities exist in Thailand, Burma, and the Philippines. The stronghold that Islam had early obtained in central Asia was the source for the considerable Islamization of Sinkiang and parts of northwestern China in later times. At present it is estimated that as much as one-tenth of the total Chinese population may be considered Muslim.

In Africa, Islam spread unevenly at different periods, but it has continued to make impressive advances in modern times. Although peoples living along the Mediterranean shores of northern Africa were converted in the first wave of Arab conquest, Islam spread more gradually up the Nile and across the trade routes of the Sahara to reach the Chad area and, eventually, in the fifteenth century, northern Nigeria. By sea it moved down around the horn of east Africa to the Somali coast and Zanzibar. An island of resistance exists in the Abyssinian highlands, but Islam is heavily predominant today in Somalia, Zanzibar, and the Sudan, while important minorities exist in coastal Kenya, Tanganyika, and Mozambique. Islamization in west Africa was furthered by brotherhood activity in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Islam has a majority today in Mauritania, Senegal, Mali, Niger, Chad, and probably Nigeria, large minorities in Guinea, Gambia, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Cameroon, and the Central African Republic, and numerous adherents in the other states of west and central Africa as far south as Zambia and Rhodesia.

In all, more than 500 million persons today, one-sixth of humanity, profess themselves to be Muslims, however nominal in practice. Of this number about 125 million are in Africa and almost 400 million in Asia, with scattered communities in Europe and the Americas. Of perhaps greater significance than its present numbers is the fact that Islam, of all the major religions, continues to show the most steady growth. Particularly noteworthy is its progress in regions previously dominated by pagan tribal cultures. Its strong appeal to under-privileged or minority groups everywhere, as has historically been evident in south Asia, is a further factor of political and social importance in this century.


The basis of Islam, and the heart of Muslim belief and thought, lie in its holy scripture, the Qur’ān, considered by Muslims to be the direct and true word of God, transmitted by the angel Gabriel to Muhammad (in Arabic) while the latter was in a state of divine inspiration akin to trance. In this state Muhammad was ordered to recite (iqrā) the word of God, whence qur’ān, a “recitation.” A supplementary source of faith began to emerge after the death of the Prophet as it became clear that the Qur’ān did not provide specific guidance for many of the questions faced by the growing community. In their search for additional guidance, Muslims turned to the life, the habits, and the dicta of Muhammad in given situations. There thus arose the practice of compiling, recording, and classifying the “tradition” (hadīth) of or relating to the Prophet. Out of this material, expressed in the form of short narratives relating specific acts and sayings of Muhammad through a chain of hearsay, grew the completed product: the customary way of doing (sunnah), which expresses the ideal of behavior for pious, orthodox Muslims, who style themselves “followers of the custom” (ahl al-sunnah)—whence the term Sunnites.

The central importance of Muhammad in Islam is thus evident. His position as the sole communicant of God’s word to man is attested in the basic Muslim profession of faith: “There is no God but God and Muhammad is His Prophet.” This credo, although it does not occur in a single phrase in the Qur’ān itself, has become the foundation of Muslim self-identification. It differentiates the believer from the nonbeliever and Islam from other religions by emphasizing that Muhammad is not one prophet among many but the seal of the prophets and that the revelation given to him was the ultimate and unchangeable exposition of divine will. The function of the hadīth reinforced this position, as may well have been one of its main purposes, by preserving for later generations a portrait of the personality of Muhammad in warm and simple details which link the believer to him in an atmosphere of pious affection that has grown through the centuries. Through the device of the hadīth, which contrasts strongly with the formalism and transcendentalism of the Qur’ān, Muhammad is kept from becoming a dim historical figure; he emerges as a venerable, just, but understandable human leader of his flock. In this way Islam maintains the principle of the strictest monotheism, while tempering it with a human touch which, to judge by the historical experience, has fulfilled the needs of ordinary Muslims in all ages. It is true that this devotion has sometimes seemed to approach adulation or even outright worship, particularly in the past century, when a new consciousness of Christianity led some Muslim biographers of Muhammad to present his life in ways that clearly reveal the influence of the story of Jesus. However, both orthodox Muslim thought and the practice of the masses have kept the fine distinction between ceremonial veneration and anthropolatry.

The Qur’ān is divided into 114 chapters, arranged in decreasing order of length. The generally earlier Meccan chapters are distinguishable by their apocalyptic style, their use of a strongly fashioned rhymed prose, their relatively simple subject matter, and their poetic expression of religious symbolism. In their imaginative grasp and their masterly use of Arabic they reveal a genuine prophetic genius. In comparison, the later Medinan chapters, which include moral maxims, legal proscriptions, and historical narratives that are sometimes taken from Christian and Jewish sources, suffer from a dilution of this vigorous style.

The essential dogma of the Qur’ān is that of the unity of God: “Say God is one, God the eternal. He hath not begotten nor was he begotten, and there is none equal to him.” The believer is enjoined to accept the envoys of God and the scriptures they have revealed, beginning with Adam and continuing with Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus, to the final revelation of Muhammad. Running through the entire work are two motifs: one envisions an impersonal, remote, and majestic deity, who evokes in the believer a sense of awe and humility; the other conceptualizes the Divine Spirit in terms of hope and mercy. Among the most numerous epithets for God in the Qur’ān are those describing him as compassionate and merciful, and while a theme of fiery destruction for the sinful is preached in some Meccan verses, others rank among the purest expressions of trust in divine love.

It has long been clear to non-Muslim scholars that to some degree Christian beliefs, Judaism, and the pre-Islamic tradition in Arabia all had a part in shaping Qur’ānic dogma. Contacts with Christian communities in western Asia and Abyssinia were numerous, and Jewish colonies were found throughout the peninsula; in the Yemen, Judaistic movements had held power shortly before Muhammad’s lifetime. Textual criticism of the Qur’ān reveals such borrowings in, for example, the doctrine of the Last Judgment, where not only the concept but the technical terminology is taken from Syriac Christian writings, and in Muhammad’s gradual incorporation into his revelation of Old Testament stories that would validate his teaching. In Medina, Muhammad found a large Jewish community, with which a dispute ultimately arose, the source of much of the anti-Judaist polemic in the Qur’ān. Early in the Medina period, however, Muhammad had incorporated several Jewish practices into Islam, notably ‘Āshūrā’, the holy day that corresponds to the Day of Atonement, and the direction of prayer toward Jerusalem. The Qur’ān stresses the alleged falsification of the Scriptures by both Jews and Christians but in a way that usually indicates a derivative or insufficient understanding of the original ideas or facts. Among these are the Incarnation, which is categorically rejected, and the Crucifixion, said to be a Jewish distortion of the true event. According to Islamic dogma, an-other figure was crucified in the place of Jesus, who was himself taken to heaven.

Of prime importance in the formation of Muhammad’s doctrines, however, was the existence of two intertwined strands of tradition in pre-Islamic Arab life. One was the animistic beliefs of tribal society, which ascribed powers to inanimate objects, stones, trees, etc., as well as to certain human categories (soothsayers, sorcerers) and to nonhuman elements (jinn). Entangled with this Arab paganism, however, there was an ill-defined monotheism, which may have owed something to Jewish and Christian influences. This was exemplified by prophets (singular, hanīf) who opposed a nativistic monotheism to the pagan polydemonism, which no longer satisfied the Arabs’ desire for a broader religious experience. The hanīf’s, despite their monotheism, were unwilling to accept Judaism or Christianity as such. The Qur’ān describes Abraham as a hanīf, and thus asserts itself as a restoration of the true, indigenous Abrahamic monotheism, which had been corrupted by Jewish and Christian beliefs.

The supreme accomplishment of Muhammad in the Qur’ān was to make use of these two elements but to disentangle them at the same time, thus opening the religious imagination of the Arabs to new horizons without too abruptly cutting away their old cultural and emotional roots. This delicate operation involved simultaneously banning most animistic associations but amalgamating others with the new religion by reinterpreting them in a monotheistic way. This restructuring of pagan practice and terminology can be seen most successfully in the incorporation of the earlier religious pilgrimage to the sacred region of Mecca and the circumambulation of the Black Stone, in the adoption of the ritual sacrifice of sheep, and in the new application of terms that formerly referred to pagan customs but that are clothed in richer and broader monotheistic meaning in the Qur’ān. In this reconstruction, by lifting Arab spiritual values out of the incoherence in which they were enmeshed and by focusing them on the concept of a supreme God who encompassed and stood above all previous formulations, Muhammad created a distinctive religious edifice. Although it contains elements of earlier faiths, it can be understood only as a unique, new entity possessing its own structure and dynamics.


The practice of Islam consists essentially of a small number of ritual obligations called the “pillars of the faith.” These include giving witness, ritual prayer, legal almsgiving, fasting, and the pilgrimage. To profess faith with intention is to become a Muslim and be admitted to all the duties and privileges of the community. While good works are considered to be as commendable as faith itself, orthodox opinion has generally held that testimony alone without any other deed during the lifetime of a believer is sufficient for ultimate salvation. Ritual prayer is formal worship, whose ceremony, postures, gestures, and verbal formulas are strictly laid down by law; it is designed to express adoration of God rather than personal communion with him or petition. It may be noted, however, that the period of meditation following upon the prostrations allows the worshiper an opportunity to enter into a relationship of communion with a spirit of humility. Ritual cleanliness is mandatory and is minutely regulated according to the circumstances. Although the Qur’ān is silent on the subject, five daily prayers have been standard since the earliest period of Islam. Their times vary somewhat but usually come before dawn, just after midday, in midafternoon, after sunset, and at night, usually in the first minutes of darkness—hours seemingly calculated to avoid any hint of sun worship. There is no requirement that ordinary prayer be carried out in the mosque, although it is recommended because ritual purity is better guaranteed within its precincts. The Friday midday prayer, however, should be kept in the mosque; it usually contains several sections and a sermon. Legal almsgiving is today in most Muslim countries an institution of only historical interest, having been superseded almost everywhere by modern legislation. Originally it was a religious tax levied on property according to a detailed formula and payable in kind. These three pillars of the faith (giving witness, ritual prayer, and almsgiving) have somewhat less influence on Muslim life than might be supposed. Witness is automatic and often unspoken throughout the lifetime of those who are born to the faith and can conceive of no other. Almsgiving is obsolete, and ritual prayer is to a growing degree slighted or ignored by many modern Muslims, especially in urban areas. This is not true, however, of the remaining two pillars: the fast and the pilgrimage.

Early in the Medinan period Muhammad instituted a fast on ’Āshūrā’, but later he abrogated this and instead ordained abstinence during the entire ninth month of the lunar calendar, Ramadan. During this month, from sunrise to sunset, the faithful must completely abstain from food, drink, tobacco, and sexual intercourse. The fast is compulsory only for adults in good health; pregnant women, children of prepuberty age, the aged and the sick, and bona fide travelers are specifically exempt, although the last must make up the broken fast days. Today the Ramadan fast is without doubt the one ceremony most strictly held to by believers, and it is a basic component of the social cement that holds the community together. While violations are found both among bedouin and rural elements, on the one hand, and in secret in a few modernist and intellectual circles, on the other, townsmen in most Muslim countries tend to keep the fast unanimously. Public opinion strongly reproves individuals who try to avoid the obligation in private and has, even recently, reacted violently to public disregard of it. There appears also to be a discernible connection between rigorous observance and modern nationalism in some countries where Islam was used as a rallying point in the struggle against foreign colonialism, and some states (e.g., Morocco) have inserted penalties for transgressing it in their modern penal codes. In a few Muslim states, however (e.g., Turkey and Tunisia), where the holy law (sharī’ah) has been abolished, the secularist orientation of their nationalism has led the governments to encourage fastbreaking in the interest of national economic imperatives or to consider it a matter of personal conscience.

The pilgrimage to Mecca incorporates in Muslim practice two pagan rites celebrated by the Arabs, one connected with the circumambulation of the Black Stone of the Ka’bah in Mecca, and the other the pilgrimage to the hill of ‘Arafāt outside the town. The rites are performed in the twelfth lunar month and now usually include a visit to nearby Medina. The pilgrimage may be described as a conditional obligation; it is incumbent only on Muslims with the necessary means and the physical ability to reach Mecca. Nevertheless, it has remained a vital element in Muslim life throughout the centuries and, even in the most difficult periods of history, attracted numerous pilgrims. Today, with improved communications, increased travel within the Muslim world, and security in the pilgrimage area, it has taken on new dimensions of cultural and even political significance. Mecca has become a meeting place for Muslims from the entire world, and a deep impression is made on many pilgrims by the reaffirmation of their faith in company with cobelievers of every color and nationality. The annual re-enactment of the ceremonies, with the pilgrims as active participants and not simple onlookers, gives them an especially moving character. The returning pilgrim, who is entitled to add the title hājj to his name, is the object of admiration and congratulations, but more important perhaps is the feeling on the part of those who have remained at home that he brings with him an atmosphere of holiness which is shared by all. At all times the social function of the pilgrimage to the sacred sites has been to serve as a journey to a common hearth fire from which the pilgrims could carry back the renewed and restored flame of faith to their own communities. In this sense, the pilgrimage may be looked on as the counterpart of the fast, for while the fast solidifies the bonds that hold together each community by a common sacrifice, the pilgrimage allows the members of the elites of widely different regions and groups to engage in a spiritual intercourse which strengthens the ties between the various communities of Islam.

Law and institutions

It is not certain whether the Qur’ān was written down during the lifetime of the Prophet. The tradition indicates that scraps of it were preserved, and an authoritative text was prepared by a com-mission appointed by the third caliph, ’Uthmān, and copies of this circulated throughout the empire. However, difficulties in reading the imperfectly developed Arabic script and hesitancies in interpretation caused a reform in writing and the adjustment to a standard pronunciation, as well as the recognition of a certain number of reciters whose readings were by compromise accepted as orthodox. Toward the end of the first century A.H. the text as now used was standardized in most details.

During this formative period the administration of justice was carried out somewhat haphazardly by Qur’ānic precepts as they were customarily interpreted by the Arabs, and with the incorporation of some elements of Roman and pre-Islamic law, administrative procedures were modified and more fully incorporated in the embryonic body of legal practice. Toward the end of the Umayyad period, between about A.D. 725 and 750, the Qur’ān and the sunnah had become established as the principal sources of Muslim jurisprudence, but there had also grown up a body of jurists and men interested in legal problems who in their experience were finding it necessary to go beyond these sources to devise laws for the community.

Up to this time law and religion were inextricably interconnected and rested upon the infallible revelation of the Qur’ān and its presumably infallible verification in detail by the tradition. The infallibility of these two sources, however, was not of the same order; in fact, the proliferation of narratives in the tradition was such that scholars were aware that many of them were spurious. In order to establish the veracity of the tradition beyond any doubt and reinforce its position as an anchor of the legal system, a science of hadīth criticism was introduced in the second and third centuries A.H. This placed stress on the reliability of each member of the chain of authorities cited. Biographies of transmitters were compiled and their subjects carefully investigated, after which each narrative (hadīth) was classified for legal purposes as sound, good, or weak. Many traditions that modern Western scholarship considers highly dubious were classified as sound in this process, for many theologians were at bottom less interested in the historical objectivities of a given tradition than in the practical consequences of its acceptance and application to community life. Later, in the ninth century A.D., hadīth study developed into a full-fledged scholastic enterprise; the great compilations of al-Bukhāri (d. 870) and Muslim (d. 875) have enjoyed almost universal authority in Islam.

The Qur’ān and the expurgated tradition, however, for all their infallibility, did not supply a definitive body of legal precepts for general use. The jurists of the so-called ancient schools in Iraq, Syria, and Medina devoted themselves to finding a way to generalize the specificity of the original sources, and in so doing they established the foundations of the four great legal schools of orthodox Islam and, more importantly, laid down the framework of Islamic law for all time. The concept of opinion, or common sense, had been applied for some time but was thought to contain the dangers of human irresponsibility. It was favored by the school of Iraq, however, while Medinan jurists, among them Malik Ibn Anas (d. 795), developed the doctrine of the “suitability” of one decision to a fixed point of reference and that of the “association” of one with an anterior case. The problem was resolved by al-Shafī‘i (d. 820), who completed the system by extending the use of the Prophetic tradition, as opposed to the narrower Medinan tradition, and introduced the more precise concept of analogical reasoning (qiyās), by which the principles that had governed decisions in previous cases could be applied to new situations. The actual difference between the schools was not overly great, but the reasoning of al-Shafī‘i established his work as the third source of Muslim holy law.

The construction of the Muslim legal edifice was completed by the introduction of the principle of consensus (ijmdā‘) as the guarantor of legal theory and beyond that of the integrity of the entire frame-work of Muslim religious thought. The doctrine of ijmā‘ has been subsumed in a tradition that relates the saying of Muhammad, “My community will not agree in error.” During the second century A.H. it had been established that the consensus of the community, which meant that of the jurists and scholars dealing with religious and legal matters, was binding. The extension of this concept by these very jurists, to stamp with approval the legal systems they had elaborated, removed the possibility of a revision of their work by later generations and gave final validity to the entire structure. Ijmā‘ verifies the authenticity and the proper interpretation of the Qur’ān; it guarantees the correct transmission of the sunnah tradition and the proper use of qiyās. It covers all aspects of the holy law and admits the validity of distinctions between the orthodox legal schools. Of the highest importance, however, is the fact that consensus itself becomes, as Gibb has noted, “a third channel of revelation” (1949) and is elevated to infallibility itself alongside the Qur’ān and the sunnah, which it sanctions. While it is often suggested that the principle of consensus was adopted as a device of convenience by the legal scholars, a broader view leads to the conclusion that the Muslim community’s sense of its own divinely instituted and rightly guided nature has always been so highly developed that it produced an unwavering belief in its own charisma and infallibility. The ideal of Islamic law taken as a whole is absolutist and charismatic at its roots and may be considered a reflection of the Islam which Muslims have brought into being, either, as they would believe, through their unerring understanding of God’s word or, as Western scholars believe, through their own will and actions.

Islam prides itself on the absence of clergy who might interpose themselves between God and man. While this is true in a formal sense, nonetheless from the earliest periods there have been, as seen, a large body of men dealing with religious problems and their interpretation. In time this turned into an identifiable body of theologians (’ulamā’) and jurists. The growth of this group is intimately connected with the development of the holy law and the appearance of the orthodox legal schools in the eighth and ninth centuries. At first they were individual members of the still informal religious institution of Islam, but as this solidified they tended to come together as the formal representatives of the community in questions of faith and, in so doing, often found themselves in positions of opposition to the state. From Abbasid times on, however (after A.D. 750), the political authorities attached theologians to themselves and gave many of them official positions, so that overt opposition by members of the religious establishment tended to be muted. With the establishment of religious colleges (singular, madrasah) in the eleventh century A.D., in which courses were given and degrees granted, there was a further formalization of the structure, which reached its height in the complex government-supported theological institutions of the Ottoman Empire. Such developments tended inevitably to limit the independence of the religious establishment with respect to the authorities, and there are manifold examples of subservience and abasement. Nevertheless, throughout Islamic history there runs the principle, however often violated, that the religious institution exists apart from and as a check on the ruling institution. The theologian and the jurist were in the end the guardians of the law for the state, although they were independent of it and at times in opposition to it. The most notable limitation on the power of the state at all times has been the theoretical inviolability of official members of the religious institution and of their property. A large quantity of mortmain property lay, and still lies, in their hands, and by these means mosques, schools, hospitals, and the like were supported, and to a certain extent the independence of the judge protected.

Unity and diversity

Almost from its inception Islam encountered difficulties in adapting the message of Muhammad to the changed historical circumstances in which the Muslim empire was developing and in formulating a theological statement that would satisfy the diverse elements that were becoming part of the community. The relationship between religion and politics has always been unusually intimate in the Middle East, and this was particularly true in the case of Islam. It is therefore often difficult to separate political from theological questions, and important to understand that the Muslims of the early periods did not consciously do so themselves. Nevertheless, it is fair to say that with rare exceptions conflicts in the formative first decades primarily reflected political and social considerations and the influence of the differing local environments in western Asia to which the faith had spread, rather than theological considerations. It was only later, toward the beginning of the Umayyad period, that religious factors first intervened significantly, and the practice of transferring sociopolitical grievances to the level of theological disputes and challenging the powers that be on those grounds—a practice which was to become a central theme of Islamic history—was initiated.

The first major example of this was the separation of the Kharijites, whose activities were closely linked with what later turned into the principal schismatic movement in Islam, the Shi’ite deviation from orthodoxy. Both groups were found as extremist elements among the fractious nomadic tribesmen who had been settled in garrison towns in Iraq and who made up the troops of ‘Ali, the son-in-law of Muhammad, during his campaign to claim supreme authority after the murder of the third caliph, ’Uthmān, in 656. The Kharijites represented discontented tribesmen whose anarchic spirit resisted being forced into an urban mold and to whom the end of the conquests in their immediate area meant a diminution of booty and of the satis-faction of raiding. The Shi‘ah, or “partisans” of ‘Ali, on the other hand, were composed of men from Kufa in Iraq who felt alienated from the caliphal establishment, which was the center of power in the Hejaz, and its emanations in Syria.

The quarrel of the Kharijites with the rest of the community lay in the domain of religious practice. They insisted that evildoers within Islam must be rigorously punished and that those Muslims who temporized on the extirpation of evil were themselves guilty of apostasy. This radical point of view led them to withdraw from the armies of ‘Ali and eventually, after a series of unsuccessful minor uprisings, to divorce themselves from the community, in which they had no further direct influence. Today they survive in isolated communities in Algeria, Oman, and Zanzibar, without political influence.

The Shi‘ite movement was more complex and permanent. Its psychological foundations seem to have been laid first in the personal devotion ac-corded to ‘Ali by his followers and, second, in the sense of rejection and bitterness which accompanied his defeat and death in 661 and the martyrdom of his son Husain in 680. At the same time, the political bases of the movement were strengthened by the opposition of the Arabs of Iraq to rule from Syria. The movement attracted many recent non-Arab converts, or clients, to Islam, who were seeking equality and fuller integration within the community and who came principally from among Persian and Aramaean elements in Iraq and Iran. From this period begins a cross-linkage of the political and social grievances of non-Arab Muslims with Shi‘ism, which culminates in the sixteenth century in the Shi‘ite nationalism of the Safavid state in Iran.

The earliest Shi‘ism had no distinctive doctrine, and in questions of theology and law individual Shi‘ites were indistinguishable from others in the community, with whom they lived, on the whole, harmoniously. However, the political insistence on the legitimacy of ‘Ali called into being a doctrine that refused recognition to the first three caliphs who followed Muhammad and thus challenged orthodox belief. Moreover, the elevation of ‘Ali to the position of an infallible and charismatic leader (imām) brought Shi‘ism, in later centuries, into sharper conflict with the Sunnite concept of consensus of the community. Gradually a polarization occurred in which Hellenistic remnants in formerly Byzantine areas attached themselves to and influenced the development of orthodox theology, while a variety of sects and ideas from the pre-Islamic Oriental substrata in Iraq, Iran, and later India were grafted onto Shi‘ism. Moreover, Shi‘ism served as a banner to cover social revolt against the orthodox establishment on more than one occasion.

The further development of Shi‘ism may be traced from its character as a volatile opposition movement dependent on strong personal leadership, which contained within itself the seeds of further splitting. Secrecy, concealment of one’s true beliefs, the possession of esoteric knowledge by the infallible imām, and a doctrine of messianic return and salvation became the hallmarks of the various Shi‘ite subsects. Of these there are three principal groups, each of which has erected the concept of divinely inspired leadership, or “imamism,” into basic doctrine, although with differences of interpretation. The Zaidi branch, which is prominent in the Yemen, attributes no superhuman qualities to its imām’s and is closest to Sunnite Islam. The majority Imami branch is the state religion of Iran and has many adherents in Iraq and India among other countries. The extreme Isma‘ili branch has contributed some of the most extraordinary episodes to Islamic history, among them the odyssey of the Fatimid caliphate in north Africa and Egypt, the activities of the sect of the Assassins (hashshashiri),and several revolutionary uprisings in the Middle Ages. The distinctive features of Isma‘ilism, which today has a following primarily in India and east Africa, consist of graded instruction in religious mysteries, a distinction between external and internal meaning in all their aspects, and the practice of dissimulation. Several offshoots of Isma‘ilism, such as the Druze, the Nusairi, and the Yazidi sects in the Levant, display such extreme syncretism that it is doubtful whether they should be considered fully Muslim.

Counterbalancing the tendencies toward sectarianism in Islam at all times, however, has been a broad current of tolerance which has permitted the main orthodox corpus of the faith to entertain, modify, and assimilate a variety of ideas and, having done so, to allow a wide latitude of diversity to flourish among the individuals and bodies that constitute the community. Historically it has been only those sects which have voluntarily excluded themselves from the orthodox community, like the Kharijites, that are considered heretical. Today, the position of the Shi‘ites, the only important heterodox body in Islam, is in general viewed with less rigor than previously. Conversely, Islamic history demonstrates the absorptive and integrationist character of the religion in many instances, the most outstanding of which is the Mu‘tazilite movement of the eighth and ninth centuries.

The Mu‘tazilah came to prominence about a century after Muhammad’s death in reaction against both the extremism of the Kharijites and the corresponding indifference to religious questions on the part of their opposites, the Murjri‘ites. Mu‘tazilism was an intellectual movement whose activity was stimulated by the translations of Greek thought then appearing and by the generally felt need to express and defend Muslim belief in rational terms, especially vis-à-vis recently converted scholars familiar with the canons of Greek logic and philosophy. The Mu’tazilah were the first to try to provide a sound philosophical basis for Islam through forthright discussions of the nature of God, of the Qur’ān, and of man’s relationship to God. While maintaining the purest monotheism and chastising any semblance of anthropomorphism, they held two tenets that ran directly counter to orthodox dogma. One was that the Qur’ān was created in time rather than being the uncreated word of God which had been in existence forever. The other, of more general philosophical importance, was a doctrine of free will, which held that it was inconceivable that God should decree the actions of man, induce him into error, and then punish him for it, as the orthodox doctrine of predestination and the unqualified omnipotence of God asserted. The dispute came to a head in the ninth century, when Mu‘tazilite influence held sway briefly. In the end the movement came to grief because of its own rigidity in the face of counterargument and its persistent attempt to force Muslim thought into Greek forms, an effort that was not only opposed by the orthodox theologians but that met with no response from the mass of believers.

The reaction to Mu‘tazilism led by al-Ashe‘ri (d. 935) consolidated the orthodox position and produced a new orthodox scholasticism, which has remained definitive until today. While setting a lasting dogmatic stamp on Islam, the reaction reconciled some Mu‘tazilite concepts with orthodox belief and thus strengthened and enlarged the area of consensus. Predestination was maintained, but a doctrine of “acquisition,” under which man has contingent responsibility for his deeds, was introduced. The dogma of the absolute omnipotence of God and the orthodox position that right is what God decrees it to be in the Qur’ān—rather than something independently ascertainable by man—were affirmed, but their rigor softened by stressing the intercession of Muhammad in favor of man, something which the Mu‘tazilah had rejected. Finally, the relationship of cause and effect propounded by the Mu’tazilah, which in orthodox eyes limited the power of God, was disavowed by means of an atomistic theory according to which all events and substances exist transitorily in time and space only through the inscrutable will of God and not through any inherent connection among themselves.

The intellectual consequences to Islam of the orthodox reformulation begun by al-Ash‘ari and completed two centuries later (by al-Ghazāli) were of the greatest importance. Ash‘arism marks a rejection of Hellenism and the victory of intuitive faith over rationalism in the struggle to shape Islam. The contribution of the Mu‘tazilah in raising the level of intellectual activity in Islam was important, however, as was the work of al-Ash‘ari, in finding a way to incorporate many of the basic elements of Greek thought introduced by the Mu‘tazilah without undermining the basic dogmas of orthodox Islam.

The will to catholicity in Islam was shown two centuries later in the synthesis achieved by alGhazāli (d. 1111) between philosophy and orthodox theology. In the intervening period, largely as another by-product of the importation of Greek thought, Islamic philosophy had come into flower and made a remarkable contribution to the growth of medieval sciences in Europe as well as in the Middle East. Beginning with al-Kindi (d. 873) and continuing through Avicenna (d. 1037) in the east and Averroës (d. 1198) in the west, Muslim philosophers evolved a philosophical interpretation of Islam within a Neoplatonic framework, which they seem to have felt existed outside the sphere of Islamic doctrine rather than in contradiction with it. There is no hint of a conflict in Avicenna, and one of Averroës’ most important works is the Faşl al-Maqāl(“Decisive Treatise [on the Harmony Between Religion and Philosophy]”), in which he states that philosophy is the companion and foster sister of the sharī‘ah. His answer to al-Ghazāli, Tahāfut al-Tahāfut(“Inconsistency of the Inconsistency”), reveals his conviction that although reason cannot attain a complete understanding of eternal truths, man has a duty to seek a rational explanation by demonstrative argument. Similarly, the work of Averroës’ contemporary Ibn Tufail (d. 1185), Hayy Ibn Yaqzān (“The Living Son of the Vigilant”), demonstrates that reason and revelation independently lead to the same belief.

Views of this kind were considered dangerously close to heresy by many, and by the eleventh century there was strong hostility on the part of theologians toward such philosophical constructions. The accomplishment of al-Ghazāli was essentially to dam this second tide of Hellenism by reconciling the positions of philosophy and theology, much as al-Ash‘ari had stemmed the first by synthesizing orthodox and Mu‘tazilite ideas. Moreover, just as al-Ash‘ari had defended Sunnite dogma by the use of intellectually superior Mu‘tazilite methods of logic, al-Ghazāli upheld it in his major argument against philosophy, Tahāfut al Falāsifa (“The Inconsistency of the Philosophers”), with Neoplatonic ideas taken from Avicenna and other followers of Greek thought.

Al-Ghazāli was important also as a living example of synthesis between theology and the mystic (sūfi)movement in Islam. Sufism had been, more than any of the other movements of diversity, an intuitive way of practicing Islam through the cultivation of personal religious experience, and Sufi mystics and ascetics are found from very early times. Some of them were considered orthodox, but others, like al-Hallāj (d. 922), were persecuted or even executed. For many, however, the personal communion which lay at the heart of the Sufi movement was felt as complementary to normal orthodox devotion and not contrary to it. Al-Ghazāli turned to Sufism in his later years and in some of his works illuminated the inner meaning of the obligation of Muslim faith. On the basis of personal experience he propounded the necessity of founding belief on the strict observance of these obligations before turning to seek the inner awakening for which Sufism characteristically strove.

The growth of Sufism had been accentuated in the period after al-Ash‘ari, in good part as a reaction to the austereness of orthodox Sunnism. Al-Ghazāli’s efforts were temporarily successful, but in the long run they had effects that were unexpected and unwelcome to the orthodox establishment. While orthodoxy was at first given fresh vigor by the new infusion, the acceptance of Sufism within its realm eventually produced a lowering of intellectual standards dealing with the purity of the doctrine. This led in time to a capitulation before the power of popular religion, on the part of both the ‘ulamā’ and many temporal rulers, unwilling to offend popular religious susceptibilities. The result was a final de facto separation of the two briefly joined streams of Muslim faith. The theologians retreated to the sanctuary of the mosque and the madrasah, where they perfected a pedantic system of rote education and intellectual sterility, divorced from the living forces of religion; in con-sequence, the energies that had been unleashed were left without the guidance provided by rigorous intellectual discipline and soon gave themselves over to excesses of mysticism, saint worship tantamount to pantheism, and cultism often having more to do with pre-Islamic animism than with Islam. In particular, the social evolution of Sufism was marked by the appearance of brotherhoods, associations of mendicants, dervish orders, and mystic fraternities, which since the thirteenth century have significantly changed the nature of Islam as popularly practiced. The subsequent development of Sufism influenced the Islamic world in other ways also. As a result of the devastation accompanying the Mongol conquest and occupation of most of western Asia in the fourteenth century, the orthodox establishment was disrupted and discredited. In these circumstances, in countries as different and distant as Persia and Morocco, it was the popular Sufi movement that upheld the unity of the community and resisted the invader. In so doing, the movement utilized efficiently the personal links cultivated by early Sufi circles, but at the same time it began to take on a more formal organization. Colleges were founded by Sufi sheikhs, and these in turn gave rise to a regular network of affiliated institutions, each called a tarīqah, or “path.” Many of these were regional in their influence, but others spread throughout the Muslim states and were a principal means of cultural interchange in the succeeding centuries. Finally, Sufism took root in the sociopolitical debris left in areas such as Asia Minor and Persia as Mongol rule waned. In the two great empires which from that period until the twentieth century dominated the heartland of the Muslim world Sufism played a significant role. In Anatolia Sufi sheikhs were politically active in the ghāzi states, which were organized in corporations often affiliated with a tarīqah, and it was out of one such ghāzi state that the Ottoman Empire grew. In Iran, Sufism along with Shi‘ism contributed to the Iranian national revival from the fourteenth century on, and the Safavid state was founded by Sufi sheikhs attached to the Suhrawardi tarīqah.

Islam and polity

The character of the political institutions of Islam was essentially determined during the lifetime of Muhammad by the simultaneous emergence of Islam as a faith and as an autonomous political community. In classical Islamic thought, government exists for no other purpose than that of up-holding the faith and guaranteeing service to God on earth, and political institutions are designed to safeguard the community in the widest sense from all the perils, spiritual and material, of this existence.

The principal institution by which this design has been carried out is the caliphate, which was instituted when the followers of Muhammad upon his death selected one of his companions as the rightful successor to the mantle of the Prophet. Since the divine will had been made clear to men in the Qur’ān and expatiated on in the sunnah and inasmuch as the correct path for the community is subsumed in the sharā’ah, the caliphate has ideally been an executive stewardship bereft of legislative prerogatives. In practice, however, especially in later times, both the use of administrative decrees and the doctrine of consensus became loop-holes permitting considerable legislative initiative.

In the first Islamic decades under the leadership of the “rightly guided” caliphs Muslims did not distinguish between the moral authority of the caliphate and the actual power it wielded in its own right. Beginning with the successional quarrel after the death of ‘Uthmān in 656, however, a train of events was let loose that greatly influenced Muslim political theory as well as practice. The disaffection of the Kharijites and the Shi‘ites called into question the legitimacy of the occupant of the office, and Shi‘ite insistence that only a descendant of the Prophet could be caliph was instrumental in forcing Sunnite theologians to work out theories of the caliphate that would withstand such attacks. By the early ninth century, moreover, the increasing fragmentation of the Muslim empire and the seizure of power by regional commanders and adventurers, first in distant provinces and finally in the capital itself, underlined the split between a limited caliphal authority and the new self-assertive power, which continued in varied forms and disguises from then until modern times. In succeeding centuries some of the greatest legal minds of Islam attempted to explain this divergence in terms consonant with the theological bases of Islam, and their reasoning had crucial consequences for Islamic political history.

The classical exposition of the Sunnite position was made by al-Māwardi (d. 1031), who formalized the legal fictions (hiyāl) of the Ash‘arites by admitting in cases of necessity the principle that the caliph, whose authority was of divine origin, might delegate this to temporary power holders. By so doing, al-Māwardi took the first step along a dangerous path which led to the collapse of the entire system. Later, al-Ghazāli moved further along it by legitimizing power holders who paid symbolic allegiance to the caliph in ritual prayer, coinage, etc. He tried to forge a synthesis between power and authority by making obedience to any but a manifestly anti-Islamic ruler a virtue because proper leadership was essential to the functioning of the community. The final step was taken after the destruction of the ‘Abbasid caliphate in 1258 with the legitimation of power in itself, on the grounds that all power comes ultimately from God and derives authority from that fact. In this way the difference between good and bad government was reduced through expediency to religious criteria alone; if the ruler protected the faith and carried out his executive responsibilities with respect to the holy law, he should then be obeyed. Such a justification of force offered great incentives to schemers, freebooters, and disgruntled military leaders, for the only criterion of a rightful revolution became its success. But for the mass of the community it eliminated, by its limited definition of injustice, the right to revolt and even the ability to protest effectively against harsh rule.

Having thus completely divorced the power of the emirate from the caliphate, Sunnite jurists were forced into further legal fictions, the most important of which was the doctrine, previously repudiated by the Ash‘arites, that the true caliphate had only lasted thirty years, after which there had existed a self-constituted imamate to which caliphal titles were given as pure form. The caliphate came to be viewed, then, like the sharī‘ah, as an ideal formulation to be constantly aspired to but seldom attained. Sunnite juristic theory was encapsuled by Ibn Khaldūn in the late fourteenth century and a century later by Jalāl ud-Din Dawwāni. They distinguished between secular kingship and the caliphate and insisted that only the righteous ruler who governs according to the sharāah is entitled to style himself caliph.

The caliphate instituted by the Ottoman Empire is thus in strict terms the equivalent of an imamate only, and its resuscitation in the late eighteenth century, after more than two centuries of Ottoman indifference to the title, occurred at a time of declining Ottoman power when the Porte was concerned with reinforcing its symbols of authority. With European encroachments on Muslim lands and the rise of Pan-Islamist sentiment in the nineteenth century, the position of the Ottoman sultan-caliph at the head of the only Muslim state possessing a semblance of power in world politics was reinforced, but its nature was changed. Islamic solidarity grew temporarily on political grounds rather than as the expression of any true revival of the community, and as a political force it had to contend, in the end unsuccessfully, with local or more secular nationalisms among the Turks, the Arabs, the Persians, and other Muslim peoples. Ottoman efforts to rally Islamic solidarity behind the nominal caliph during World War I were fruitless, and the formal abolition of the caliphate by the Turkish Republic in 1924 came during an era of nascent nationalism in many parts of the Muslim world and created little stir except among PanIslamists or politicians trying to capitalize on religious issues. A congress of unofficial delegations from many Muslim countries met in Cairo in 1926 but could not agree on the qualifications of a new caliph or the bases for the restoration of the institution.

Islam and society

The divine commands laid down in the Qur’ān and the sunnah not only concern God and man but also order the social relationships among men and are especially explicit about matters pertaining to the family, marriage, divorce, and inheritance. The Muslim family is the re-creation of the Arab family within the ethical confines of Islam. Thus it is authoritarian, patriarchal, polygamous, patrilineal, and largely patrilocal, with vestigial survivals of what appears to be an earlier matrilineal kinship system reflected in the prominent position of the maternal uncle. The role of women has on the whole, despite Muslim apologetics, been subordinate to that of men; this is attested by the Qur’ān, which ranks men above women and allows only half value to the testimony of the latter. The inheritance shares of female heirs are half those allotted to males. However, the counsel of moderation in the treatment of spouses which runs through the Qur’ān gives some weight to those who claim that Muhammad did in effect lighten the burden women bore in pre-Islamic times. In practice today many elder women exercise great authority over members of their household, and particularly in urban areas, working women of the lower and lower-middle classes have a considerable degree of autonomy. Nevertheless, in almost every Muslim country, the legal position of the wife is inferior to that of the husband and in many cases is precarious.

Traditional marriage is a contract arranged between heads of households. The consent of the groom is necessary if he is of age (formerly puberty, but now fixed almost everywhere by statute), but not that of the bride, except through her tutor for marriage. The right of compulsory marriage of a daughter by a male parent, formerly common, has been sharply restricted in most countries. Although Muslim law specifies degrees of kinship forbidden for marriage, the union of first cousins is sanctioned and often favored. Muslim males may marry non-Muslim women, but except in those countries where the holy law no longer exists (Turkey and Tunisia) Muslim women may not marry outside their faith.

Polygamy is expressly sanctioned by the Qur’ān, which allows the Muslim to take four wives, and has been widely practiced throughout Islam at all times, but with regional variations and under some social and ethical restrictions. Economic factors alone have always limited the number of polygamous families, most of which are found among the urban well-to-do. Peasants tend, through economic necessity, to be monogamous or to limit themselves to the taking of a second wife, often later in life. Under the influence of Western mores in this century plural marriages have come to be regarded by many Muslims as a sign of backwardness. Many Muslim reformers now claim that the Qur’ānic purpose was to limit the uncontrolled polygamy of pre-Islamic Arabia by imposing a limitation reasonable to the age. Today codes of personal status in countries like Syria and Egypt, which combine features of the holy law with European legislation, have made plural marriage increasingly difficult, although they have hesitated to outlaw it completely, as in Turkey and Tunisia.

Probably a greater impediment to family stability than polygamy has been the classical mode of divorce through repudiation. Traditionally, the husband may repudiate his wife in unilateral fashion by simple pronouncement and repayment of the balance of the dowry. The sharā’ah mitigates this somewhat by applying numerous conditions, but, in effect, the wife is subject to being divorced, with all the consequent stigma, without any effective legal recourse except under extraordinary circumstances. Successive repudiations are often equivalent to serial polygamy, and they have been and still are widespread in parts of Muslim society, particularly among the poor, where the dowry is inconsequential or nonexistent. In this domain, too, the law is gradually changing; in recent years Egypt, Morocco, and several other countries have made repudiation more difficult, while the more secularly oriented states have outlawed the practice.

Marriage is encouraged in the Qur’ān, and the Christian concept of celibate purity has always been combated; to Muhammad is attributed the phrase, “No monkery in Islam.” Procreation is held up as desirable, and children, especially boys, are welcomed. The male child is closely dependent on his mother and the women of the household. They take care of him until about the age of seven, when he begins his life as a young man, a step traditionally signaled either by his taking up work with his father or an uncle or by his starting religious instruction at school. Circumcision is normally carried out at this time, although in some areas it is practiced shortly after birth. It is not mentioned in the Qur’ān but has become a strictly observed rite throughout Islam, and the festivities surrounding circumcision make it a rite of passage equivalent only to marriage in popular Muslim custom. The traditional religious instruction of the mosque-school, usually limited to rote Qur’ānic studies and the rudiments of mathematics and civics, has been supplemented or replaced now almost everywhere by modern educational facilities, which attract a majority of the children of school age in many Muslim countries. These uniformly supply religious instruction, however, and thus young men even today, in contrast with modern Westerners, possess a detailed knowledge of their scripture, which serves as a further channel for maintaining Islamic solidarity. The education of girls, previously much neglected, has made great strides in recent decades. Nevertheless, many fewer girls than boys attend school, and even fewer go on to higher education. In some countries women are entering the professions in small numbers and working in salaried positions for the first time, but marriage and housekeeping are still considered their proper occupations.

The social ethic of Islam is founded upon a real sense of solidarity and brotherhood. The teachings of the Qur’ān have shaped an ideal Muslim civism rooted in humility before God, piety, frugality, charity toward the less fortunate, and an equality of believers in the face of the majesty of an all-powerful Deity. The transformation from the pre-Islamic Arab character, which laid emphasis on the blood tie, vengeance, and manliness, is complete, although much of the bedouin background persists under the Islamic mantle. A summary list of grave sins reveals the influence of both strains. Ancient tribal feelings about ritual cleanliness, the eating of carrion and forbidden food, sorcery and usury, unlawful sexual relations, and the blood price coexist with unbelief, refusal to pay legal alms, apostasy, telling falsehoods about the Prophet and his companions, striking a fellow Muslim without cause, not fasting during Ramadan, and the like. Throughout Muslim teaching and writing runs the thread of moderation in all things. The sharā’ah is, literally, the “straight path” not only in the sense of righteousness opposed to deviation but also as a golden mean. Moderation and abstinence are often recommended in the Qur’ān, even for acts that are permissible, and the balance they create is disturbed by the sins of greed and pride. Prodigality and lavishness of hospitality are tenacious pre-Islamic survivals in much of the Muslim East today, but they are not encouraged by the tradition. Finally, the doctrine of equality of all believers and frequent intermarriage with slaves and concubines have led to the relative absence of a color bar in Islam, a fact which today has great sociopolitical significance as well as ethical meaning.

Islam has in certain respects stamped its own image on economic institutions or at least emphasized certain characteristics of economic life to the extent that a distinctive coloration was given to them in the classical period within the limits of the Middle East and the Mediterranean.

Classical Islamic society is one of merchants and trade. The socioeconomic causes lying behind the origins of Islam itself concern the conflict of economic interests in Mecca and the question of the trade routes in western Arabia. The social background of Muhammad and the predominance of the Quraish clan in early Islam insured a continuing emphasis on mercantilism which has never been lost. The sūq, properly an assemblage of shops and ateliers and workshops in which the commercial life of the town is grouped, has Greco–Roman antecedents but has evolved in special ways. The economic geography of the city is arranged from the center out in a descending order of virtue: the cathedral mosque surrounded by those trades catering to it, such as candlestick makers, incense shops, booksellers, etc.; followed by the sūq, of luxury goods, imported wares, and silks; and ending at the gates of the city with the tanneries, slaughterhouses, etc. Extreme specialization and geographical grouping by occupation and organization into guilds or corporations are constants of a pattern that still exists in many areas. The guilds often have ties with Sufi religious orders, and it is common for each to have a patron saint for whom an appropriate annual festival is held. The social function of the guilds counterbalances and complements for the individual that of the extended family and, sometimes but not always, that of the brotherhood or religious order to which he may belong.

As might be expected, Muslim law regulates commercial transactions in detail. It puts its greatest emphasis on the immediacy of transaction, the lawfulness of the thing exchanged, and the good faith of the parties involved. It thus forbids lending for interest and in theory permits only the exchange of quantities and articles of equal value. In due course of economic life, as in other areas, Islam has had recourse to legal fictions in order to avoid the paralyzing effect of the more rigorous Qur’ānic prohibitions. As international trade became important from the ninth century on, double sales, deposit contracts, promissory notes, temporary transfer of property to avoid taxes, and other devices formerly condemned by the tradition were and are widely practiced. Many such commercial customs and banking procedures in fact became models for European financial practices in the Middle Ages.

Islam today

Since the late eighteenth century Islamic society, in common with other non-Western societies, has been undergoing an onslaught from Western civilization which is reflected in every aspect of its social, economic, political, and religious life. At the time the Western assault began in earnest, this society in its core area of western Asia and the Mediterranean was showing every sign of material and spiritual enervation. The internal and external tribulations of the Ottoman state were symptoms of a deeper illness reflected in the divorce between the medieval tradition and the most rampant elements of Sufism, the intellectual stagnation of the more rational forces within Islam, and an extreme subjectivism of the intuitive elements that had temporarily triumphed and threatened at times to lead Islam into a totally mystic pantheism.

In reaction both to these inner dangers and to the Western menace, Islam appears to have embarked upon a path of revival and restoration. This revival has developed over the past two centuries, hesitantly at first but with a growing sense of concern and self-awareness, accompanied by a still unformed and unformulated effort to search for solutions that will enable Islam to meet the challenges of the present age. The first such manifestation came in the fundamentalist Neo-Hanbalite Wahhabi movement of central Arabia, which arose in protest against the laxness and heresies of Sufi versions of the faith in the mid-eighteenth century and which flourished until it was defeated by Ottoman arms in the early nineteenth century. Its influence survived, however, and not only became the basis of the Sa‘ūdi state but has had profound repercussions among revivalist, purifying movements in India and Africa. Although Sufi orders continued to expand in some areas, such as India, Africa, and fringe Muslim territory, in the nineteenth century, the puritan streak embodied in Wahhābism has in the twentieth century taken strong hold in the more purely Arab countries, where in almost all instances the orthodox version of the faith has been reinforced with the encouragement of and sometimes pressure from the authorities.

The confusion of religious and political factors in the Islamic crisis of the nineteenth century gave birth to a revived form of Pan-Islamism, which reflected in part the influence of similar political movements in Europe among the Slavs and Germans. Its message was preached by Jamāl al-Din al-Afghāni (d. 1897) from Egypt but eventually had little impact. One of his pupils, Muhammad ‘Abduh (d. 1905), took that part of it which emphasized the need for a thoroughgoing reform of Islamic thought and intellectual standards and attempted a reformulation of basic orthodox beliefs in order to show that they were compatible with modern life. Although it is too early to assess the ultimate importance of ‘Abduh, he remains at this juncture the outstanding reformist theologian of modern times within Islam. One of his disciples, Muhammad Rashīd Ridā (d. 1935), continued his work but moved from rationalism to a more conservative literalism, while calling for a revived caliphate under Arab, and more specifically, Quraish, guidance. Within the past generation the reaction against Westernization has, if anything, grown stronger, and there has been a proliferation of apologetics among Muslim intellectuals and writers. Much of this has been directed at Christianity, which is seen in a dual light: as a rival faith and as the indirect promoter of Western socio-political infiltration into the Muslim world. A conscious sense of competition, as opposed to the medieval Muslim assumption that Islam was infallible and had no rivals, can be discerned today for the first time in Islamic history. Among its manifestations are defenses against alleged attacks on Islam, an extreme defensiveness with respect to social issues on which Islam takes stands different from Western norms—or about which it is felt, however unconsciously, to be backward—and attempts at emulation and justification, represented notably by the biographical literature centering on Muhammad and the historical literature emphasizing the past glories of Islam and the superiority of medieval Islamic civilization to that of Europe in the Middle Ages. Such attitudes, however, permitted the Indian Muslim reformer Muhammad Iqbal (d. 1938) to expound the idea that Muslims were entitled to take the fruits of Western civilization because they originally grew out of Islamic soil. His writings and activities were instrumental in helping to create the state of Pakistan in 1947.

Although it is manifestly impossible to summarize the various trends in modern Islam in well over a score of countries, it might be said that the overriding problem is that of the confrontation of the faith with a secular nationalism which demands that the highest loyalties be given to the state. In its concept and function as a supranational solidarity ethos and as the bearer of an ultimate message to mankind, Islam has so far found it impossible to come to terms with secularist nationalism as it is found in many Muslim countries, just as it has with scientific materialism, whose tenets have made inroads throughout the Muslim world. Several solutions have been tried. The idea of an Islamic state was promulgated in Pakistan but subsequently abandoned. The creation of a secular state in Turkey after World War I was followed a generation later by concessions to religious sentiment of a kind that makes it impossible to consider Turkey fully secular today. And in modern Egypt there is a complex relationship between the religious institution and the state in which traditional religious education has been modernized and laicized while the orthodox institution has been incorporated into the state and made subservient to it for manifestly political ends. In all these endeavors Muslims are being forced to think in terms of an uncompromising dualism for which their previous theological constructions provide no adequate model. Inherent also in these efforts is the clear desire of modern Muslims, at almost any cost, to put a greater social content into their religious formulations. The outstanding examples of this trend may be the efforts being made in Egypt, Indonesia, Syria, Algeria, and other countries to reconcile various forms of socialism with Islam.

people praying