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FOUNDED: 622 c.e.


The religion of Islam was revealed to Muhammad ibn Abdullah, who became known as the Prophet Muhammad, in central Arabia between 610 and 632 c.e. Muhammad did not think that he was founding a new religion with a new scripture but, rather, bringing belief in the one God, a belief already held by Christians and Jews, to the Arabs. The Koran's revelations were seen as a return in the midst of a polytheistic society to the forgotten past, to the faith of the first monotheist, Abraham. Muslims believe that God sent revelations first to Moses, as found in the Hebrew scriptures (the Torah), then to Jesus (the Gospels), and finally to Muhammad (the Koran).

The revelations Muhammad received led him to believe that, over time, Jews and Christians had distorted God's original messages to Moses and, later, to Jesus. Thus, Muslims see the Torah and the Gospels as a combination of the original revelations and later human additions, or interpolations. For example, Christian doctrines such as the Trinity and the divinity of Jesus (his elevation from prophet to Son of God) are seen as changes to the divine revelation from outside or foreign influences.

The Koran contains many references to stories and figures in the Old and New Testaments, including Adam and Eve, Abraham and Moses, David and Solomon, and Mary and Jesus. Indeed, Mary, the mother of Jesus, is mentioned more times in the Koran than in the Gospels. Muslims view Jews and Christians as People of the Book, who received revelations through prophets in the form of revealed books from God.

In addition to belief in a single, all-powerful God, Islam shares with Judaism and Christianity belief in the importance of community-building, social justice, and individual moral decision-making, as well as in revelation, angels, Satan, a final judgment, and eternal reward and punishment. Therefore, Islam was not a totally new monotheistic religion and community that sprang up in isolation. Muslims believe that Islam was, in fact, the original religion of Abraham. The revelations Muhammad received were calls to religious and social reform. They emphasized social justice (concern for the rights of women, widows, and orphans) and warned that many had strayed from the message of God and his prophets. They called upon all to return to what the Koran refers to as the straight path of Islam or the path of God, revealed one final time to Muhammad, the last, or "seal," of the prophets.

The diversity of Islam, the world's second largest religion, is reflected by the geographic expanse of the 56 countries that have Muslim majorities. The world's approximately 1.2 billion Muslims are found not only from Africa to Southeast Asia but also in Europe and North America. Only 20 percent of the world's Muslims are Arab, with the majority of Muslims living in Asian and African countries. The largest Muslim populations are found in Indonesia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, and Nigeria. Islam is also a significant presence in the West, as the second largest religion in Europe and projected to become the second largest in the United States. While Muslims share certain core beliefs, there are many interpretations and cultural practices of Islam. Beyond the two major branches of Islam—Sunni (approximately 85 percent of the Muslim community) and Shiite (15 percent)—there are many theological and legal schools, as well as the diversity of thought and practice illustrated by Sufism (Islamic mysticism).

Islam's many faces across the world are seen in diverse cultures. They are seen in Muslim women's dress and in their varied educational and professional opportunities, as well as in their participation in mosques and societies that differ widely from country to country. They are also seen in politics and society when Islamic activists peacefully press for the implementation of religion in the state, when members of Islamic organizations are elected to parliaments (as in Turkey, Algeria, Jordan, Egypt, Kuwait, Yemen, Pakistan, Thailand, and Malaysia), and when Islamic associations provide inexpensive and efficient educational, legal, and medical services in the slums and lower middle-class neighborhoods of Cairo and Algiers, Beirut and Mindanao, the West Bank and Gaza. At the same time, on 11 September 2001 violent extremists and terrorists headed by Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda, acting in the name of Islam, hijacked commercial airliners and flew them into the towers of the World Trade Center in New York City and into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., resulting in the loss of almost 3,000 lives. The hijackers who committed this act reflect a religious radicalism that, for several decades, has threatened governments and societies in the Muslim world and in the West. The challenge, however, is not only to be aware of the threat from Muslim extremist groups but also to know and understand the faith of the vast majority of mainstream Muslims across the globe.


Like Judaism and Christianity, Islam originated in the Middle East, in Mecca and Medina in Arabia. The origins of Islam, like those of Judaism and Christianity, would have seemed improbable as forecasters of a great world religion. Just as few would have anticipated the extent to which Moses and Jesus, a slave and a carpenter's son, would become major religious figures, so one would not have predicted that the followers of an orphaned, illiterate caravan manager, Muhammad ibn Abdullah, would become the world's second largest religion, a global religious, political, and cultural presence and power.

Muslims see themselves, as well as Jews and Christians, as children of Abraham, belonging to different branches of the same religious family. The Koran and the Old Testament, or Hebrew Bible, both tell the story of Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar, Sarah's Egyptian servant. While Jews and Christians are held to be descended from Abraham and his wife, Sarah, through their son, Isaac, Muslims trace their religious roots to Abraham through Ismail (Ishmael), his firstborn son by Hagar. This connection to Abraham, Hagar, and Ismail is commemorated each year in the rituals of the pilgrimage to Mecca.


The Crescent Moon and Star is a symbol frequently associated with the Islamic faith. The crescent moon in particular is of considerable significance. The sighting of the crescent moon, for example, signals the beginning and end of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting. The symbol is often found on the flag of Muslim nations.

According to both Hebrew and Muslim scripture, when, after many years, Sarah did not conceive a child, she urged Abraham to sleep with her maidservant Hagar so that he might have an heir. As a result of the union between Abraham and Hagar, a son, Ismail, was born. After Ismail's birth Sarah also became pregnant and gave birth to Isaac. Sarah then became jealous of Ismail, who as firstborn would be the prime inheritor and overshadow her own son, and she pressured Abraham to send Hagar and Ismail away. Abraham reluctantly let Hagar and his son go, because God promised that he would make Ismail the father of a great nation. Islamic sources say that Hagar and Ismail ended up in the vicinity of Mecca in Arabia, and both the Bible and the Koran say that they nearly died but were saved by a spring that miraculously gushed from the desert.

In seventh-century Arabia, where Muhammad ibn Abdullah was born, war was the natural state. Arabia was located in the broader Near East, which was divided between two warring superpowers, the Byzantine (Eastern Roman) and the Sasanian (Persian) empires, that were competing for world dominion. Located along the profitable trade routes of the Orient, Arabia was affected by the rivalry and interventions of its powerful imperial neighbors.

Pre-Islamic Arabia was tribal in its religious, social, and political ideas, practices, and institutions. Tribal and family honor were central virtues. Manliness (chivalry, upholding tribal and family honor, and courage in battle) was a major virtue celebrated by the poets of the time. There was no belief in an afterlife or a cosmic moral purpose or in individual or communal moral responsibility. Thus, justice was obtained and carried out through group vengeance or retaliation. Arabia and the city of Mecca, in which Muhammad was born and lived and received God's revelation, were beset by tribal raids and cycles of vendettas. Raiding was an integral part of tribal life and society and had established regulations and customs. Raids were undertaken to increase property and such goods as slaves, jewelry, camels, and live-stock. Bloodshed was avoided, if at all possible, because it could lead to retaliation.

Religion in Arabia at the time was predominantly polytheistic. Various gods and goddesses who were feared, not loved, served as protectors of the many tribes. These gods were the objects of cultic rituals and supplication at local shrines, reflecting the tribal nature and social structure of society. Mecca was a rising commercial and religious center that housed the Kaaba, a cube-shaped structure that contained representations of approximately 360 different tribal gods and goddesses. At the head of the shrine's pantheon was the supreme god, Allah, who was seen as the creator and sustainer of life and the universe but who was remote from everyday concerns. Mecca was also the site of a great annual fair and pilgrimage to the Kaaba, a highly profitable event. It brought worshipers of the different gods from far and wide, along with their money and their business interests. In addition to the prevailing tribal polytheism, Arabia was also home to a variety of monotheistic communities, in particular Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians, which Muhammad encountered in his travels as a businessman.

The traditional sources for information about Muhammad's life are the Koran, as well as biographies of the Prophet and hadith (tradition) literature. Muhammad ibn Abdullah (Muhammad, the son of Abdullah) was born in 570 c.e. in Mecca. Although born into the ruling tribe, the Quraysh, Muhammad was among the "poorer cousins." Orphaned at an early age (his father died before he was born, and his mother died when he was six years old), Muhammad was raised by his uncle, Abu Talib, a well-respected and powerful member of the Quraysh, who provided Muhammad and, later, his community with protection. As a young man Muhammad earned his living as a business manager for the caravans of a wealthy widow named Khadijah. At the age of 25, Muhammad married Khadijah, who was 15 years older. Tradition records that they were married for 24 years and had two sons who died in infancy and four surviving daughters, the most famous of whom was Fatimah, who married Ali, the fourth caliph. Khadijah was the first person to believe in the revelation Muhammad had received, making her the first Muslim convert. She was Muhammad's strongest supporter and adviser, particularly during the early, difficult years after his call as a prophet.

By the age of 30, Muhammad had become a respected member of Meccan society, known for his business skills and trustworthiness (he was nicknamed al-Amin, "the trustworthy"). Reflective by temperament, Muhammad often retreated to the quiet and solitude of Mount Hira to contemplate life and society. It was there, during the month of Ramadan in 610, on a night remembered in Muslim tradition as the Night of Power, that Muhammad, the Meccan businessman, was called to be a prophet of God. Muhammad heard a voice commanding him to "recite." He was frightened and replied that he had nothing to recite. After the angel, identified as Gabriel, repeated the command, the words finally came: "Recite in the name of your Lord who has created, created man out of a germ cell. Recite for your Lord is the Most Generous One, who has taught by the pen, Taught man what he did not know."

This was the first of what would be many revelations from Allah, "the God" in Arabic, communicated through the angel Gabriel. Muhammad continued to receive revelations over the next 22 years, until his death in 632. The revelations were preserved verbatim orally and written down by scribes, and they were later collected and compiled into the Koran, the Muslim scripture. The reformist message Muhammad received, like that of Amos and other prophets before him, represented a powerful but unwelcome challenge to religious and tribal leaders and to businessmen, who comprised the religious and political establishment. Muhammad denounced corrupt business practices and called for social justice for the poor and women, and for children and orphans, the most vulnerable in society. He emphasized the religious equality of men and women and expanded the marriage and inheritance rights of women. Muhammad's prophetic message summoned the people to strive and struggle (jihad) to live a good life based on religious belief rather than loyalty to their tribe and to reform their communities. Most importantly, Muhammad's revelation in the Koran rejected the common practice of worshiping many gods, insisting that there was only one true God. He therefore threatened the livelihood of those who profited enormously from the annual pilgrimage honoring many different gods, the equivalent of a giant tribal convention.

During the first 10 years of Muhammad's preaching, his community of believers remained small and under constant pressure and persecution. In an increasingly hostile environment they were compelled to struggle to stay alive. The life and livelihood of the community were eventually threatened by sanctions that prevented them from doing business and that were literally starving them out. This hardship may have contributed to the death of Khadijah, and after his fortunes were destroyed, Abu Talib, Muhammad's protector, also died. Muhammad was now a likely and proximate target for assassination.

It was at this low point in his life that Muhammad had a mystical experience: the Night Journey, or Ascension. One night, sleeping near the Kaaba, Muhammad was awakened by the angel Gabriel. Muhammad was mounted on a mystical steed called Buruq, who flew him from Mecca to Jerusalem, which is referred to in the Koran as al-masjid al-aqsa (Further Mosque) and which is the site of the Temple Mount, where the ancient Temple of Solomon once stood. There, according to tradition, Muhammad climbed a ladder leading to the throne of God. Along the way to the throne, Muhammad met Abraham, Moses, Joseph, John the Baptist, and Jesus, as well as other prophets. During his meeting with God, Muhammad received guidance for the final number of daily prayers that Muslims should perform, set at five. The Night Journey, which is understood by many Muslims as a mystical experience, made Jerusalem the third holiest city in Islam and affirmed the continuity of Islam with Judaism and Christianity.

Faced with increasing hardships, Muhammad was invited in 622 by a delegation from Yathrib, a city in the north that was caught in a bitter feud between its Arab tribes, to be their binding arbitrator. That his decisions were to be accepted by all the tribes was testimony to Muhammad's wide reputation as a trustworthy and just man. Muhammad began sending his followers to Yathrib, and he followed a short time afterward, thus escaping those plotting to kill him. Yathrib would later be renamed Medina, or Medinat al-Nabi (City of the Prophet). This migration (hijra, or hegira) of the Muslim community from the traditional safety of tribe and kinsmen in warring Arabia to form alliances with alien


al-hajj / al-hajji
pilgrim; prefix added to a name to indicate that the person has made the hajj
successor; deputy to the Prophet Muhammad
call to Islam; propagation of the faith
protected person, specifically a Jew or Christian
personal prayer
fast of Ramadan
fast during ninth month; fourth pillar
legal opinion or judgment of a mufti, a specialist in Islamic law
Five Pillars of Islam
fundamental observances
ritual cleansing before worship
tradition; reports of Muhammad's sayings and deeds
pilgrimage to Mecca; fifth pillar
meat slaughtered in a religious manner
Muslim dress for women, today often referring to a headscarf
hijra (hegira)
migration of early Muslims from Mecca to Medina
Shiite prayer leader; also used as the title for Muhammad's successors as leader of the Muslim community, consisting of male descendants through his cousin and son-in-law Ali
submission to the will of God; peace
strive, struggle
poll, or head, tax paid by Jews and Christians
Friday congregational prayer
sacred structure in Mecca; according to tradition, built by Abraham and Ismail
Koran (Quran)
revelation; Muslim scripture
Islamic religious school
place for ritual prostration; mosque
niche in mosque indicating the direction of Mecca
protected religious community
raised platform in mosque; pulpit
People of the Book
Jews and Christians, who Muslims believe received divine revelations in the Torah and Gospels, respectively
almsgiving for the poor, for thanksgiving, or to ward off danger
prayer or worship; second pillar
declaration of faith; first pillar
Islamic law
member of second largest Muslim sect, believing in the hereditary succession of Ali, the cousin and son-in-law of Muhammad, to lead the community
example of Muhammad
member of largest Muslim sect, holding that the successor (caliph) to Muhammad as leader of the community should be elected
chapter of the Koran
oneness, or unity, of God; monotheism
religious leader or scholar
the transnational community of followers of Islam
friend of God; Sufi saint
ablution before worship
purification; tithe or almsgiving; third pillar

tribes based upon a broader Islamic ideal was a concept introduced by Muhammad, one that would have remarkable success.

The migration to Medina and the creation of the first Islamic community (ummah) underscores the primary importance of community in Islam. It is so significant that when Muslims devised their own calendar they dated it, not from the year in which Muhammad was born or from the first revelation of the Koran, but from the creation of the Islamic community at Medina. Thus, 622 c.e. became 1 a.h. (year [anno] of the hijra). This act reinforced the meaning of Islam as the realization of God's will on earth and the centrality of the Islamic community. It became the basis for Muslim belief in Islam as a world religion, a global community of believers with a universal message and mission.

The experience and example of Muhammad's new community would provide the model for later generations. In times of danger the twin ideals of hijra (to emigrate from a hostile anti-Islamic environment) and jihad (to resist and fight against oppression and injustice) were established. These concepts became guiding principles for responding to persecution and rejection, to threats to the faith, and to the security and survival of the community. Today both mainstream and extremist movements and self-proclaimed "holy warriors," such as Osama bin Laden, who emigrated from Saudi Arabia to establish his movement and training bases in Afghanistan, have selectively used the pattern of migration and struggle, armed resistance, and warfare for their own purposes.

In Medina the Muslim community thrived, resulting in the establishment of the first Islamic communitystate. Muhammad was not only a prophet but also a head of state, political ruler, military commander, chief judge, and lawgiver of a multireligious community consisting of Muslims, Arab polytheists, Jews, and Christians. The Constitution, or Charter, of Medina, as established by Muhammad, set out the rights and duties of the citizens and the relationship of the Muslim community to other communities, thus reflecting the diversity of this society. The charter recognized the People of the Book (Jews and Christians who had received God's revelation through the prophets Moses and Jesus) as an allied community. These People of the Book were entitled to live in coexistence with Muslims and to retain and practice their religion in return for loyalty and the payment of a poll tax, or jizya.

With establishment of the community at Medina, the bitter conflict between Mecca and Muhammad and his followers continued. Muhammad threatened the economic power and political authority of the Meccan leaders with a series of raids against their caravans. In addition, several key battles occurred that are remembered in Muslim tradition as sources of inspiration and guidance. In 624 Muslim forces, although greatly out-numbered, defeated the Meccan army in the Battle of Badr, in which they believed they were aided by divine guidance. The Koran (3:120) declares that thousands of angels assisted the Muslims in battle. This battle has special significance for Muslims because it represents the victory of monotheism over polytheism, of good over evil, of the army of God over the army of ignorance and unbelief. Badr remains an important sacred symbol for contemporary Muslims. For example, Egypt's President Anwar as-Sadat launched the 1973 Arab-Israeli war as a jihad with the code name Operation Badr.

The Battle of Uhud, in 625, represented a major setback for the Muslims when the Meccans bounced back and soundly defeated them, wounding Muhammad. The Battle of the Ditch, or Battle of the Trench, took place in 627, when the Meccans mounted a siege against the Muslims, seeking to crush them permanently. The Battle of the Ditch proved to be a major turning point, however. The Muslims dug a trench to protect themselves from the Meccan cavalry and doggedly resisted the Meccan siege. In the end the Meccans were forced to withdraw, and a truce was struck at Hudaybiyah, a pact of nonaggression that proved a face-saving device for both parties. The truce granted the Muslims the right to make the pilgrimage to Mecca the following year but required that Muhammad end his raids and the attempt at an economic blockade. At the same time, the truce signaled recognition of the political legitimacy of Muhammad.

In 629 Muhammad extended Muslim governance over the Hejaz, in central Arabia, and led the pilgrimage to Mecca. In 630 the feud between Mecca and Medina came to an end. After client tribes of Mecca and Medina clashed, Muhammad declared the truce broken and moved against Mecca with an army of 10,000, and the Quraysh surrendered without a fight. After 20 years Muhammad had successfully returned to Mecca and brought it within the Pax Islamica. In victory Muhammad proved magnanimous and strategic, preferring diplomacy to force. Rather than engaging in vengeance and plunder, he offered amnesty to his former enemies, rewarding a number of its leaders with prominent positions and gifts. Regarding the Kaaba shrine in Mecca as the original house of God built by Abraham and Ismail, Muhammad destroyed its pagan idols and rededicated it to the one true God. The majority of Meccans converted to Islam, accepted Muhammad's leadership, and became part of the Islamic community.

The conquest of Mecca established Muhammad's paramount political leadership. He continued to employ his religious message, diplomatic skills, and, when necessary, force to establish Muslim rule in Arabia. In 632 the 62-year-old Muhammad led a pilgrimage to Mecca and delivered his farewell sermon, a moment remembered and commemorated each year during the annual pilgrimage: "Know ye that every Muslim is a brother unto every other Muslim, and that ye are now one brotherhood. It is not legitimate for any one of you, therefore, to appropriate unto himself anything that belongs to his brother unless it is willingly given him by that brother." When Muhammad died in June 632, all of Arabia was united under the banner of Islam.

Few observers of seventh-century Arabia would have predicted that, within a hundred years of Muhammad's death, a religious community established by a local businessman, orphaned and illiterate, would unite Arabia's warring tribes, overwhelm the eastern Byzantine and Sasanid empires, and create its own vast empire stretching from North Africa to India. Within a brief period of time, Muhammad had initiated a major historical transformation that began in Arabia but that would become a global religious and political movement. In subsequent years Muslim armies, traders, and mystics spread the faith and power of Islam globally. The religion of Islam became intertwined with empires and sultanates from North Africa to Southeast Asia.

After the death of Muhammad, his four immediate successors, remembered in Sunni Islam as the Rightly Guided Caliphs (reigned 632–61), oversaw the consolidation of Muslim rule in Arabia and the broader Middle East (Egypt, Palestine, Iraq, and Syria), overrunning the Byzantine and Sasanid empires. A period of great central empires was followed with the establishment of the Umayyad (661–750) and then the Abbasid (750–1258) empires. Within a hundred years of the death of Muhammad, Muslim rule extended from North Africa to South Asia, an empire greater than Rome at its zenith.

Under the Abbasids trade and industry, a strong central bureaucracy, law, theology, literature, science, and culture developed. The Abbasid conquest of the central Umayyad empire did not affect the existence of the Spanish Umayyad empire in Andalusia (modern-day Spain and Portugal). There, where Muslims were called Moors, Muslim rule ushered in a period of coexistence and culture developed by Muslims, Christians, and Jews in major urban centers. The Spanish Umayyad empire was less a threat to the Abbasids than was the Fatimid (Shiite) empire in the tenth century, carved out in North Africa and with its capital in Cairo. From the tenth to the twelfth centuries, the Fatimids challenged a weakened and fragmented Abbasid empire, spreading their influence and rule across North Africa, Egypt, Syria, Persia, and Sicily. The Fatimids were not brought under Abbasid rule until 1171, when the great general Salah ad-Din (Saladin) conquered Cairo. Despite this success, however, by the thirteenth century the Abbasid empire had become a sprawling, fragmented group of semiautonomous states governed by military commanders. In 1258 the Mongols captured Baghdad, burned and pillaged the city, slaughtered its Muslim inhabitants, and executed the caliph and his family.

Although the fall of Baghdad seemed to be a fatal blow to Muslim power, by the fifteenth century Muslim fortunes had been reversed. The central caliphate was replaced by a chain of dynamic states, each ruled by a sultan, stretching from Africa to Southeast Asia, from Timbuktu to Mindanao. They included three imperial sultanates: the Turkish Ottoman Empire (1322–1924), which encompassed major portions of North Africa, the Arab world, and eastern Europe; the Persian Safavid Empire (1501–1722); and the Mughal Empire (1520–1857), which included much of the Indian subcontinent (modern-day Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh).

Like many parts of the world, Muslim societies fell victim to European imperialism. When Christian Europe overpowered North Africa, the Middle East, and South and Southeast Asia in the nineteenth century, reducing most Muslim societies to colonies, many Muslims experienced these defeats as a religious, as well as a political and cultural, crisis. It was a symbol not only of the decline of Muslim power but also of the apparent loss of divine favor and guidance. Colonialism brought European armies and Christian missionaries, who accompanied the bureaucrats, traders, and teachers, to spread the message of Western (Christian) religious and cultural superiority and dominance. Europe legitimated its colonization of large areas of the underdeveloped Muslim world in cultural terms. The French spoke of a "mission to civilize" and the British of "the white man's burden."

Muslim responses to Europe's political and religious penetration and dominance varied significantly, ranging from resistance or warfare (jihad) in "defense of Islam" to accommodation with, if not outright assimilation of, Western values. The result of Western imperialism for Muslims was a period of self-criticism and reflection on the causes of their decline. Responses spanned the spectrum from liberal secularism to Islamic modernism. Islamic modernists sought to respond to, rather than react against, the challenge of Western imperialism. They proclaimed the need for Islamic reform through a process of reinterpretation and selective adaptation (Islamization) of Western ideas and technology. Islamic modernism sought to reinterpret Islam to demonstrate its compatibility with Western science and thought and to resist European colonialism and meet the changing circumstances of Muslim life through religious, legal, political, educational, and social reforms.

Some Muslims, however, rejected both conservative and modernist positions in favor of religious activism. The Muslim Brotherhood (Ikhwan al-Muslimin) of Egypt and the Jamaat-i Islami (Islamic Society) of the Indian subcontinent are prominent examples of modern neorevivalist Islamic organizations that linked religion to activism. Their leaders, the Muslim Brotherhood's Hasan al-Banna and Jamaat's Mawlana Abul Ala Mawdudi, were pious Muslims whose upbringing and education exposed them to modernist Islamic thought and Western learning. In contrast to Islamic modernists, who justified adopting Western ideas and institutions because they were compatible with Islam, al-Banna and Mawdudi sought to produce a new interpretation, or synthesis. Rather than leaving their societies, they organized their followers into an Islamically oriented community with a dynamic nucleus of leaders capable of transforming society from within. Joining thought to action, these leaders provided Islamic responses, both ideological and organizational, and inspired political as well as social activism.

Though anti-Western, the Muslim Brotherhood and Jamaat were not against modernization. They engaged in building modern organizations and institutions, provided modern educational and social welfare services, and used modern technology and mass communications to spread their message and to mobilize popular support. They addressed the problems of modernity, analyzing the relationship of Islam to nationalism, democracy, capitalism, Marxism, work, modern banking, education, law, women, Zionism, and international relations. The organizations established by al-Banna and Mawdudi remain vibrant today and have served as an example to others throughout much of the Muslim world.


Like Jews and Christians, Muslims are monotheists. They believe in one God, Allah, who is the creator, sustainer, ruler, and judge of the universe. The word "Allah" appears in the Koran more than 2,500 times.

The word "Islam" means "submission" to the will of God and "peace," the interior peace that results from following God's will and creating a just society. Muslims must strive or struggle (jihad) in the path (Shariah) of God in order to implement his will on earth by working to establish a just society or to expand or defend the Muslim community.

Muslims believe that the Koran is the final, complete, literal, eternal, uncreated word of God, sent from heaven to the Prophet Muhammad as a guide for humankind (Koran 2:185). Thus, the Koran does not reveal God per se but, rather, God's will, or law, for all of creation. Although God is transcendent and thus unknowable, his nature is revealed in creation and his will in revelation, and his acts in history. God in the Koran is all-powerful and is the ultimate judge of humankind, but he is also merciful and compassionate.

The proclamation of God's mercy and compassion is made in the opening verse of the Koran, which begins, "In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate." In the Muslim world this phrase is used by pious believers at the beginning of letters, speeches, books, and articles. Many people recite the phrase as they begin to drive a car, eat a meal, or begin any task. God's mercy exists in dialectical tension with his role as the ultimate judge. Although it can be tempered by mercy for the repentant, justice requires punishment for those who disobey God's will. On Judgment Day all human beings are to be judged according to their deeds and either punished or rewarded on the basis of their obedience or disobedience.

Muslims believe that sacred scriptures exist because throughout history God has sent his guidance to prophets so that his will might be known and followed by humankind. Thus, Muslims believe not only in the Prophet Muhammad but also in the prophets of the Hebrew Bible, including Abraham and Moses, and of the New Testament, John the Baptist and Jesus. Those prophets who have also brought God's revelation in the form of a sacred scripture or book—for example, Moses and the Torah and Jesus and the Gospels—are also called "messengers" of God. Thus, not all prophets are messengers, but messengers are also prophets. Jews and Christians are regarded as the People of the Book, a community of believers who received revelations, through prophets, in the form of scriptures, or revealed books, from God.

The Koran confirms the Torah and the Gospels as revelations from God, but Muslims believe that, after the deaths of the prophets, extraneous, nonbiblical beliefs infiltrated the Torah and the Gospels, altering the original, pure revelation. For example, the Koran declares an absolute monotheism, which means that associating anyone or anything with God is the one unforgivable sin of idolatry, or associationism. Muslims therefore do not believe in the Christian doctrine of the Trinity (one God in three persons), and although Muslims recognize Jesus as a prophet, they do not recognize him as God's son. Thus, Muslims believe that the Koran was sent as a correction, not as a nullification, or abrogation, of the Torah and the Gospels, and they see Islam as the oldest of the monotheistic faiths, since it represents both the original and the final revelation of God.

The Koranic universe consists of three realms—heaven, earth, and hell—in which there are two types of beings: humans and spirits. All beings are called to obedience to God. Spirits include angels, jinn, and devils. Angels are created from light, are immortal and sexless, and serve as the link between God and human beings. They serve as guardians, recorders, and messengers from God who transmit his message to human beings by communicating with prophets. Thus, the angel Gabriel is believed to have communicated the revelation of the Koran to Muhammad. Jinn, beings created by fire, are between angels and humans and can be either good or bad. Although invisible by nature, jinn can assume visible form. Like human beings, they are to be rewarded or punished in the afterlife. Jinn are often portrayed as magical beings, such as genies, as in the story of Aladdin and his lamp. Devils are fallen angels or jinn that tempt human beings torn between the forces of good and evil. Satan (shaytan, or Iblis), leader of the devils, represents evil, which is defined as disobedience to God. Satan's fall was caused by his refusal to prostrate himself before Adam upon God's command.

Because God breathed his spirit into Adam, the first human being, humans enjoy a special status as God's representatives on earth. The Koran teaches that God gave the earth to human beings as a trust so that they can implement his will. Although Muslims believe in the Fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, in contrast to Christianity there is no doctrine of an inherited original sin and no belief in a vicarious suffering or atonement for humankind. The punishment of Adam and Eve is believed to result from their own personal act of disobedience to God. Each person is held responsible for his or her own actions. Human beings are mortal because of the human condition, not because of sin or the Fall of Adam and Eve. Sin is the result of an act of disobedience rather than a state of being. In Islam the Fall demonstrates human sin, God's mercy, and human repentance. Islam emphasizes the need to repent by returning to the straight path of God. The Koran does not emphasize shame, disgrace, or guilt but, rather, the ongoing human struggle—jihad—to do what is right and just.

A Muslim's obligation to be God's servant and to spread his message is both an individual and a community obligation. The community is bound not by family or tribal ties but by a common faith, which must be acted out and implemented. The primary emphasis is upon obeying God as prescribed by Islamic law, which contains guidelines for both the individual and the community. In contrast to Christianity, in which theology is the queen of the sciences, for Islam, as for Judaism, the primary religious science is law. Christianity there-fore emphasizes orthodoxy (correct doctrine or belief), while Islam, as witnessed by the Five Pillars (fundamental observances), emphasizes orthopraxy (correct action).

Many Muslims describe Islam as "a total way of life." They believe that religion cannot be separated from social and political life, since religion informs every action a person takes. The Koran provides many passages that emphasize the relationship of religion to the state and society. Muslims see themselves as God's representatives, with a divine mandate to establish his rule on earth in order to create a moral and just society. The Muslim community is thus seen as a political entity, as proclaimed in the Koran 49:13, which teaches that God "made you into nations and tribes." Like Jews and Christians before them, Muslims believe that they have been called into a covenant with God, making them a community of believers who must serve as an example to other nations (2:143): "You are the best community evolved for mankind, enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong" (3:110).

Social justice is a central teaching of the Koran, with all believers equal before God. The equality of believers forms the basis of a just society that is to counterbalance the oppression of the weak and economic exploitation. Muhammad, who was orphaned at an early age and who witnessed the exploitation of orphans, the poor, and women in Meccan society, was especially sensitive to their plight. Some of the strongest passages in the Koran condemn exploitation and champion social justice. Throughout history the mission to create a moral and just social order has provided a rationale for Islamic activist and revivalist movements, both mainstream and extremist.

In response to European colonialism and industrialization, issues of social justice came to the forefront of Muslim societies in the early twentieth century. The influx of large numbers of peasants from the countryside into urban areas in many developing countries created social and demographic tensions. In Egypt, for example, the Muslim Brotherhood, founded in 1928, emerged as a major social movement whose Islamic mission included a religious solution to poverty and assistance to the dispossessed and downtrodden. Its founder, Hasan al-Banna, taught a message of social and economic justice, preaching particularly to the poor and uneducated. In al-Banna's vision Islam was not just a philosophy, religion, or cultural trend but also a social movement seeking to improve all areas of life, not only those that were inherently religious. That is, rather than being simply a belief system, Islam was a call to social action.

Islamic Law

Islamic law, which includes requirements for worship as well as for social transactions, has been seen as providing the ideal blueprint for the believer who asks, "What should I do?" The law covers regulations for religious rituals and for such social transactions as marriage, divorce, and inheritance and sets standards for penal and international law. Traditionally religious scholars (ulama) and judges, courts, or governments have been responsible for elaborating and applying the law.

Sunni Muslims recognize four official sources of law: (1) the Koran, which contains moral directives; (2) the sunnah (example) of Muhammad as recorded in stories or traditions describing his activities, illustrating Islamic faith in practice and explaining Koranic principles; (3) qiyas, reasoning by analogy, used by scholars facing a new situation or problem when no clear text can be found in the Koran or sunnah; and (4) consensus (ijma), which originated with a reported saying of Muhammad, "My community will never agree on an error," which came to mean that consensus among religious scholars could determine the permissibility of an action.

Concern for justice led to the development of subsidiary legal principles: equity (istihsan), which permits exceptions to strict, or literal, legal reasoning, and public interest (maslaha) or human welfare, which give judges flexibility in arriving at just and equitable decisions. Shiites also include collections of the traditions of Ali, who they believe was the first caliph to succeed Muhammad, and of other imams, the ruling descendants of Muhammad through Ali, whom they regard as supreme authorities and legal interpreters.

The diverse geographic, social, historical, and cultural contexts in which jurists have written also account for differences in Islamic law. Many ulama, representing conservative strains in Islam, continue to equate God's divinely revealed law (Shariah) with legal manuals developed by early law schools. Reformers, however, call for changes in laws that are the products of social custom and human reasoning, saying that duties and obligations to God (worship) are unchanging but that social obligations to one's fellow man reflect changing circumstances. They reclaim the right of ijtihad (independent reasoning) to reinterpret Islam to meet modern social needs.

In the contemporary era emphasis on Islam's message of social justice by Islamic movements, both moderate and militant, has been particularly powerful in gaining adherents from poorer and less advantaged groups in such countries as Algeria and Indonesia. In Israel and Palestine, and in Lebanon, groups like Hamas and Hezbollah devote substantial resources to social welfare activities and call for the empowerment of the poor and weak. They teach that social justice can be achieved only if the poor rise up against their oppressive conditions.


The Shariah (Islamic law) provides a blueprint of principles and values for an ideal society. At its core are the Five Pillars of Islam, which unite all Muslims in their common belief. Following the pillars involves a Muslim's mind, body, time, energy, and wealth. Meeting the obligations required by the pillars translates beliefs into actions, reinforces an everyday awareness of God's existence and presence, and reminds Muslims of their membership in a worldwide community of believers.

The first pillar is the declaration of faith. A Muslim is one who bears witness, who testifies that "There is no god but God [Allah] and Muhammad is the messenger of God." This statement, known as the shahadah, is pronounced and heard 14 times a day by those who meet the requirement of praying five times daily, and it is repeated at many other occasions in a Muslim's life. To become a Muslim, one must make only this brief and simple declaration, or profession, of faith.

The first part of the declaration reflects absolute monotheism, Islam's uncompromising belief in the oneness, or unity, of God (tawhid). Associating anything else with God is idolatry, considered the one unforgivable sin. To avoid any possible idolatry resulting from the depiction of figures, for example, Islamic religious art tends to use calligraphy, geometric forms, and arabesque designs and is thus abstract rather than representational.

The second part of the declaration emphasizes that Muhammad is not only a prophet but also a messenger of God, the one who received a book of revelation from him. For Muslims, Muhammad is the last and final prophet, who serves as a model for the community through his life. Unlike Jesus, however, Muhammad is held to have been only human, although he is believed to have been a perfect man, a follower of God. Muslim's efforts to follow Muhammad's example in their private and public conduct reflect the emphasis of Islam on religious observance, or practice, that is expressed in the remaining pillars.

The second pillar of Islam is prayer, or worship (salat). Throughout the world Muslims worship five times a day (daybreak, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset, and evening), sanctifying their entire day as they remember to find guidance in God. In many Muslim countries reminders to pray, or "calls to prayer," echo across the rooftops. Aided by a megaphone from high atop a mosque's minaret, a muezzin calls all Muslims to prayer. Modern technology has also provided novel audio and visual reminders to pray, including special wristwatches, mosque-shaped clocks, and a variety of computer programs.

Prayer is preceded by a series of ablutions, which symbolize the purity of mind and body required for worshiping God. Facing the holy city of Mecca, Islam's spiritual homeland where the Prophet was born and received God's revelation, Muslims recite passages from the Koran and glorify God as they stand, bow, kneel, touch the ground with their foreheads, and sit. Muslims can pray in any clean environment, in a mosque or at home or at work, alone or in a group, indoors or outside. Although not required, it is considered preferable and more meritorious to pray with others, thus demonstrating and reinforcing Muslim brotherhood, equality, and solidarity. Regardless of race or language, all Muslims pray in Arabic. After a formal ritual prayer, individuals may offer personal prayers (dua) of petition or thanksgiving. Each week on Friday, the Muslim Sabbath, the noon prayer is a congregational prayer (juma) at a mosque or Islamic center.

The third pillar of Islam is called the zakat, a tithe or almsgiving. Zakat, which means "purification," and salat, or worship, are often mentioned in the same Koranic verse, reinforcing their significance. As an early Muslim observed, "Prayer carries us half-way to God; fasting brings us to the door of His praises; almsgiving procures for us admission."

By caring for the poor, Muslims as individuals, and the Muslim community collectively, demonstrate their concern and care for their own. It is in this spirit that zakat can be viewed as a social responsibility, combating poverty and preventing the excessive accumulation of wealth. The redistribution of wealth also underscores the Muslim belief that everything ultimately belongs to God. Human beings are simply caretakers, or viceregents, for God's property, which must be fairly allocated within the broader community.

Thus, zakat is not viewed as voluntary giving, as charity, but, rather, as an act of individual self-purification and as a social obligation, reflecting Islam's emphasis upon social justice for the poor and vulnerable in society. Payment of the tithe purifies both the soul of the person and what is given. It reminds Muslims that their wealth is a trust from God. Zakat expresses worship of, and thanksgiving to, God by meeting the needs of the less fortunate members of the community. It functions as an informal type of social security in a Muslim society and resembles forms of tithing found in Judaism and Christianity.

Paid during Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar and the month of fasting, zakat requires an annual contribution of 2.5 percent of a person's total wealth and assets, not merely a percentage of annual income. Original Islamic law stipulated clearly and specifically those areas subject to zakat—silver and gold, animals, and agricultural products. Today modern forms of wealth, such as bank accounts, stocks, and bonds, are included.

There are other religious taxes in Islam. In Shiite Islam the khums, meaning "one-fifth," is an obligatory tax paid to religious leaders. Among the many forms of almsgiving common to all Muslims is the sadaqah, voluntary alms given to the poor, in thanksgiving to God, or to ward off danger. It is the zakat, however, that is the obligatory form of almsgiving for all Muslims.

The fourth pillar of Islam is the fast of Ramadan, which occurs during the month in which the first revelation of the Koran came to Muhammad. The primary emphasis of fasting is not simply on abstinence and self-mortification but, rather, on spiritual self-discipline, reflection on human frailty and dependence on God, and performance of good works in response to the less fortunate. During this month-long fast Muslims whose health permit abstain from dawn to sunset from food, drink, and sexual activity. Those who are sick, pregnant, or weakened by old age are exempted. Muslims on a journey may postpone fasting and make it up at another time. Ramadan is also a special time to recite or listen to the recitation of the Koran. This is popularly done by dividing the Koran into 30 portions to be recited throughout the days of the month. Near the end of Ramadan, on the 27th day, Muslims commemorate the Night of Power, on which Muhammad received the first of God's revelations.

The fifth pillar, and probably the best known among non-Muslims, is the pilgrimage, or hajj, to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, which occurs about 60 days after the end of Ramadan. Every adult Muslim who is physically and financially able is required to make the pilgrimage, becoming a person totally at God's service at least once in his or her lifetime. Many who are able to do so make the pilgrimage more often. Muslim tradition teaches that God forgives the sins of those who perform the hajj with devotion and sincerity. Thus, many elderly make the pilgrimage with the hope that they will die cleansed of their sins.

Every year more than 2 million believers, representing a tremendous diversity of cultures and languages, travel from all over the world to the Al-Haram Mosque in Mecca to form one community living their faith. Just as Muslims are united five times each day as they face Mecca in worship, so the pilgrimage to the spiritual center of Islam enables them to experience the unity, breadth, and diversity of the Islamic community. Muslims who have made the hajj are entitled to add the prefix "pilgrim," al-hajj or hajji, to their names, which many proudly do. Like salat, the pilgrimage requires ritual purification, symbolized by the wearing of white garments, which represent purity as well as the unity and equality of all believers, an equality that transcends class, wealth, privilege, power, nationality, race, or color.

Jihad is sometimes referred to as the sixth pillar of Islam, although it has no such official status. In its most general meaning jihad pertains to the difficulty and complexity of living a good life by struggling against the evil in oneself, by being virtuous and moral, by making a serious effort as individuals and as a community to do good works and help reform society, and by fulfilling the universal mission of Islam to spread its community through the preaching of Islam or the writing of religious tracts, these latter referred to as "jihad of the tongue" and "jihad of the pen." Today jihad may also be used to describe the personal struggle to keep the fast of Ramadan, to fulfill family responsibilities, or to clean up a neighborhood, fight drugs, or work for social justice. In addition, jihad includes the sacred struggle for, or the defense of, Islam or the Muslim community, popularly referred to as "holy war." The two broad meanings of jihad, nonviolent and violent, are contrasted in a well-known Prophetic tradition that reports Muhammad returning from battle to tell his followers, "We return from the lesser jihad [warfare] to the greater jihad." The greater jihad is the more difficult and more important struggle against ego, selfishness, greed, and evil.

Despite the fact that jihad is not supposed to include aggressive (offensive as opposed to defensive) warfare, this has occurred throughout history. Muslim rulers have used jihad to legitimate their wars of imperial expansion, often with the approval of religious leaders or scholars (ulama). Religious extremist groups assassinated Egypt's President Anwar as-Sadat in 1981, and they have slaughtered innocent civilians in suicide bombings in Israel and Palestine and murdered thousands in acts of global terrorism in the United States, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Indonesia, and other countries. At the same time, wars of resistance or liberation have been fought as jihads in Afghanistan against Soviet occupation, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, in Kosovo, and, in the eyes of many Muslims, in Palestine and Israel, Jammu and Kashmir, and Chechnya.

In addition to the Five Pillars of Islam, the Koran provides Muslims with other rules of conduct. Consuming pork and alcohol is forbidden, and there are strict prohibitions against gambling, prostitution, adultery, murder, and other criminal offenses. A host of regulations about the just treatment of debtors, widows, the poor, and orphans emphasizes the key importance of social justice. Those who practice usury are strongly rebuked. In addition, both men and women are required to dress and to act modestly, and they are encouraged to marry and procreate. Thus, Islam provides a set of common beliefs, values, and practices that are to guide Muslim life.


The Koran—"recitation" in Arabic—is the Muslim scripture. It contains the revelations received by the Prophet Muhammad from God through the angel Gabriel over a period of 23 years, beginning when Muhammad was 40 years old and continuing until his death in 632. For Muslims, Muhammad, who was illiterate, was neither the author nor the editor of the Koran. Rather, he functioned as God's intermediary, reciting the revelations he received. The Koran, therefore, is the eternal, literal word of God, preserved in the Arabic language and in the order in which it was revealed.

Muslims believe that the Koran's 114 chapters (surahs) were initially preserved in oral and written form during the lifetime of Muhammad. The entire text was collected in an official standardized version some 15 or 20 years after his death. The Koran is approximately four-fifths the size of the New Testament. Its chapters were assembled and ordered from the longest to the shortest, not thematically. This format proves frustrating to some non-Muslims, who find the text disjointed. The organization of the Koran, however, enables a believer simply to open the text at random and to start reciting at the beginning of any paragraph, since each represents a lesson to be learned and reflected upon.

The recitation of the Koran is central to a Muslim's life, and many Muslims memorize the Koran in its entirety. Recitation reinforces what Muslims see as the miracle of hearing the actual word of God expressed by the human voice. There are many examples throughout history of those who were drawn to, and converted to, Islam upon hearing the Koran recited.


Because of the sensitivity in Islam to representational sacred art, lest any human being or physical object become the subject of worship or idolatry, major symbols are more limited in scope than in many other religions, including Christianity and Hinduism. The Kaaba, Dome of the Rock, and calligraphy are among the more prominent religious symbols in Islam.

The Kaaba is considered the most sacred space in the Muslim world and the spiritual center of the earth, the point Muslims turn toward when they pray and the direction toward which their heads point in burial. It is thought to mark the location where the earth was created. The Kaaba symbolizes an earthly image of the divine throne in heaven, and it is therefore believed that actions that take place at the Kaaba, such as circumam-bulation, are duplicated in heaven at the throne of God.

Another major symbol is the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, popularly referred to as the Mosque of Umar. Jerusalem first came under Muslim rule in 638, during Umar's reign. The shrine itself, however, was built later, in around 692, by the caliph Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan. It was constructed over the rock on the Temple Mount, where Muslim tradition holds that the Prophet Muhammad departed on his Night Journey to heaven. (The Temple Mount itself is also the site of the Temple of Solomon and of the Christian Dome of the Holy Sepulcher, and is thus sacred to all three great monotheistic traditions.) The octagonal shaped shrine, with its golden dome, dominates the skyline. It is majestically decorated inside and out with some 240 yards of calligraphic designs consisting of Koranic inscriptions. Among Muslims today pictures and representations of the Dome of the Rock are probably second in popularity only to those of the Kaaba, both because it symbolizes the Prophet's Night Journey and is located in the third holiest city of Islam and because it has become a popular symbol for the liberation of Jerusalem and Palestine.

Arabic calligraphy originated from the desire for a script worthy of divine revelation in copying the Koran. Because of its association with the Koran, calligraphy assumed a sacred character and became the highest form of art. Since Islamic art does not represent human forms, calligraphy is used to capture and symbolize meaning and message. Thus, for example, Allah written in calligraphic form became a powerful symbol representing the divine. It is also common to see the names of Allah and Muhammad, or of Allah, Muhammad, and Ali, written in calligraphy as religious symbols, whether on paper, in plaster on walls, or on such ornamental objects as plates or medals. Other popular phrases, such as the shahadah (There is no god but God and Muhammad is the messenger of God), Allahu Akbar (God is great), or Ya Rabb (the Lord), are also depicted in calligraphic art that adorns walls and buildings throughout the Islamic world.


Throughout history Islam has been integral to politics and civilization. Intellectuals and writers, religious rulers and activists have often exercised leadership and had a significant impact on government and society. The relationships of faith to power, reason, science, and society have been enduring and interconnected concerns and issues.

The period of Muhammad and his first four successors, the Rightly Guided Caliphs (reigned 632–61), has remained an ideal to which most Muslims look for inspiration and renewal. During the reign of the Rightly Guided Caliphs, Arab Muslim rule over the heartlands of the Middle East was established. Each of these caliphs had been a close companion to Muhammad, and all belonged to the Quraysh tribe. The period of their rule is considered the golden age of Islam, when rulers were closely guided by Muhammad's practices. Abu Bakr, the first caliph (reigned 632–34), had been an early convert who was also Muhammad's close advisor and father-in-law. A man respected for his piety and sagacity, Abu Bakr had been the one appointed to lead the Friday communal prayer in Muhammad's absence. After Muhammad's death Abu Bakr was selected as Muhammad's successor by the majority of Muslims, called Sunnis, or followers of the sunnah (example) of the Prophet, based on their belief that leadership should pass to the most qualified person.

The second caliph, Umar (reigned 634–44), seen as the dominant personality among the four, was responsible for establishing many of the fundamental institutions of the classical Islamic state. During the reign of the personally pious third caliph, Uthman (reigned 644–56), the Koran was collected and put into its final form. Uthman's lack of strength in handling unscrupulous relatives, however, led to his murder by malcontents and to a period of disorder and civil war. The fourth caliph, Ali (reigned 656–61), was the cousin and son-in-law of Muhammad and the first male to convert to Islam. Ali, who was also a distinguished judge and brave warrior, was the first caliph recognized by Shiite Muslims, who believed that succession should be based on heredity and who thus considered the first three caliphs to be usurpers. Ali's political discourse, sermons, letters, and sayings have served as the Shiite framework for Islamic government. His rule was marked by political strife, however, and he was assassinated while praying in a mosque. Shiite Muslims recognize only Ali, as well as the brief reign of Ali's son Hussein (reigned 661). Following the Rightly Guided Caliphs, the dynasty of the Umayyads, who reigned from 661 to 750, was established to became a powerful Arab military aristocracy.

Throughout the following centuries, from the rise of Islam to the modern period, Islamic empires, sultanates, and movements flourished. They were led or influenced by rulers and military men like Saladin and Suleiman the Magnificent; theologians, historians, and legal scholars like Muhammad al-Ghazali and Ibn Taymiyya; and leaders of revivalist movements like Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab in the Arabian Peninsula, the Mahdi of the Sudan, and Uthman dan Fodio of Nigeria.

From the late nineteenth century Islamic movements, both mainstream and extremist, have sought to revitalize and reform Islam. They have been influenced by a core group of Islamic intellectual-activists. Two in particular, Islamic modernism and Islamic revivalism, or "fundamentalism," have been particularly influential. Both have sought a modern reformation but with some-what differing visions and styles.

Among the more important modern reformers were Muhammad Abduh (1849–1905) in the Middle East and Sayyid Ahmad Khan (1817–98) and Muhammad Iqbal (1876–1938) in South Asia. The Egyptian Abduh received a traditional religious education. He taught at Cairo's Al-Azhar University, renowned throughout the Islamic world as the principal center for Islamic education and orthodoxy. Abduh also taught at the newly created Dar al-Ulum College, which provided a modern education for Al-Azhar students who wanted to qualify for government positions. In the 1870s Abduh became an enthusiastic follower of Jamal al-Din al-Afghani (1838–97), born in Iran and educated in Iran and then India. Al-Afghani, an activist who is known as the father of Muslim nationalism, traveled from India to Egypt to promote Islamic intellectual reform as a prerequisite to overcoming European colonial influence and rule and achieving independence. In the 1880s Abduh and Al-Afghani were exiled to Paris for their participation in a nationalist uprising against British and French influence in Egypt. When he returned to Cairo in 1888, Abduh accepted the existing political situation and devoted his energies to religious, educational, and social reform.

A religious scholar, Abduh reinterpreted scripture and tradition to provide an Islamic rationale for modern reforms. When Abduh became mufti, head of Egypt's religious court system, in 1899, he introduced changes in the Shariah courts. As a judge, he interpreted and applied Islam to modern conditions, using a methodology that combined a return to the fundamental sources of Islam with an acceptance of modern rational thought. Critical of many religious leaders' inability to address modern problems, Abduh also modernized the curriculum at Al-Azhar University, whose graduates became religious leaders throughout the Muslim world, to change their training and intellectual outlook. Abduh called for educational and social reforms to improve and protect the status of women, supporting their access to education and arguing that the Koranic marriage ideal was monogamy, not polygamy.

On the Indian subcontinent, in what is today Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh, Sayyid Ahmad Khan and, later, Muhammad Iqbal were prominent voices for Islamic reform. Khan responded to the fall of the Mughal Empire. The Sepoy Mutiny against British colonial influence and de facto rule became the pretext for the British to officially take charge, and it left the Muslim community, largely blamed by the British, in disarray. Initially overwhelmed by the chaos and devastation, Khan had considered leaving India. Instead, he chose to stay and rebuild the Muslim community. In contrast to Al-Afghani and others, he argued that Indian Muslims should accept British rule as a political reality and reform their community within these limits. He wished to respond both to Muslim reform and to the criticisms and attacks leveled at Islam by Christian missionaries.

In the tradition of past Islamic revivalists, Khan claimed the right to reinterpret Islam. He rejected the classical formulations of Islam fashioned by the ulama and sought to return to the original Islam of the Koran and Muhammad. Arguing that Islam and science were compatible, he advocated a new theological formulation, or reformulation, of Islam. To implement his ideas and produce a new generation of Muslim leaders, he established the Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental College at Aligarh, India, in 1874. Renamed Aligarh University in 1920, it was modeled on Cambridge University, with a course of studies that combined the best of a European curriculum with a modernist interpretation of Islam. He and his disciples published journals that dealt with religious reform and women's rights in Islam.

In the 1930s three trailblazers—Hasan al-Banna (1906–49) and Sayyid Qutb (1906–66) of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Mawlana Abul Ala Mawdudi (1903–79) of the Jamaat-i-Islami (Islamic Society) in South Asia—had an incalculable impact on the development of Islamic movements throughout the Muslim world. Both organizations constructed a worldview based on an interpretation of Islam that informed social and political activism. These men were the architects of contemporary Islamic revivalism, their ideas and methods studied and emulated by scholars and activists from the Sudan to Indonesia. The two movements emerged at a time when the Muslim world remained weak and in decline, much of it occupied and ruled by foreign powers. Egypt was occupied by Britain from 1882 to 1952, and the Indian subcontinent was ruled by Britain from 1857 to 1947, when modern India and Pakistan achieved independence.

Although the Muslim Brotherhood and the Jamaat have been called fundamentalist, they were quite modern, though not necessarily Western, in their ideological agenda, organization, and activities. Rather than fleeing the modern world, they sought to engage and control it, but on their own terms.

Hasan al-Banna, a schoolteacher, was born in a small town outside Cairo. His early traditional religious education was supplemented by his father, who had studied at Al-Azhar University during the time of Muhammad Abduh. After studying at a local teachertraining college, al-Banna went to Cairo to study at Dar al-Ulum College, with its modern curriculum. There he came into contact with disciples of Abduh and with the reformist thought of Abduh and Al-Afghani. After completing his studies, al-Banna took a teaching position at a primary school in Ismailia. Convinced that only through a return to Islam could the Muslim community revitalize itself and its fortunes and throw off European colonial domination, he ran discussion groups and, in 1928, established the Muslim Brotherhood (Ikhwan al-Muslimin).

Mawlana Abul Ala Mawdudi was born in Aurangabad in central India. His father supervised his early education in religious disciplines. It was only later that Mawdudi learned English and studied modern subjects. He turned to a career in journalism and quickly became editor of the newspaper of India's Association of Ulama. Mawdudi also became active in the Khilafat movement, which called for a restoration of the caliphate, and the All-India National Congress. He soon became convinced, however, that the identity, unity, and future of Indian Muslims were threatened not only by European imperialism but also by Hindu and Muslim nationalism. Mawdudi believed that a gradual social, rather than a violent political, Islamization of society from below was needed to create an Islamic state and society. He became editor of the journal Exegesis of the Quran, in which he published articles on his Islamic alternative. In 1938 he moved to Lahore (today in Pakistan) at the invitation of Muhammad Iqbal and, in 1941, organized the Jamaat-i-Islami (Islamic Society).

Both al-Banna and Mawdudi believed that their societies were dominated by, and dependent on, the West, both politically and culturally. Both men advocated an "Islamic alternative" to conservative religious leaders and modern Western secular-oriented elites. The ulama were generally regarded as passé, a religious class whose fossilized Islam and co-option by governments were major causes for the backwardness of the Islamic community. Modernists were seen as having traded away the very soul of Muslim society out of their blind admiration for the West.

For decades the symbol of revolutionary Islam was Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (1902–89), leader of Iran's Islamic revolution of 1978–79. Born in the village of Khomein, he studied in Qum, a major center of Islamic learning, and then taught Islamic law and theology. In the mid-1960s Khomeini spoke out against the policies of the shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, delivering fiery sermons that denounced laws or imperial decrees that directly affected religious endowments, extended the vote to women, and granted diplomatic immunity to the American military. He condemned Iran's increasingly authoritarian and repressive government, the growing secularization and Westernization of Iranian society, and the country's relationship with the United States and Israel. He was forced to live in exile from 1964 to 1979, first in Turkey, then in Iraq, and finally in France. Increasingly during the 1970s, Khomeini moved from calling for reform to advocating the overthrow of the Pahlavi dynasty, which he denounced as un-Islamic and illegitimate, and its replacement with an Islamic republic. His calls from exile, distributed secretly through audiocassettes and pamphlets, might have remained marginal had it not been for the increasing broad-based opposition to the shah and his repressive response. Khomeini, who had early on been a voice of protest and opposition and was relatively free to speak out in exile, attracted a broad and diverse following: men and women, religious and secular intellectuals and students, journalists, politicians, liberal nationalists, socialists, and Marxists. However different, all were united in their opposition to the shah and by the desire for a new government.

After the revolution Khomeini surprised many when, in setting up an Islamic republic, he moved away from a constitutional government in which the clergy would advise on religious matters to advance the notion of clerical rule, a clergy-dominated government with himself at the apex as the supreme jurist. For a decade Khomeini, as supreme guardian of the republic, oversaw the implementation of his Islamically legitimated vision domestically and the export of Iran's revolution internationally.


Islamic religion and civilization have produced many great intellectuals and writers, including philosophers, theologians, legal scholars, and scientists, who have sought to understand their faith and its relationship to the world. From earliest times a key issue has been the relationship of reason to revelation.

Yaqub ibn Ishaq as-Sabah al-Kindi (795–866), known in Europe as "the philosopher of the Arabs," was among the early great Islamic philosophers. A prolific, encyclopedic author, he made significant contributions to philosophy, medicine, astronomy, mathematics, chemistry, and the theory of music. Al-Kindi drew heavily on the Greek philosophers Plato and Aristotle and was especially influenced by Neoplatonism. He championed inquiry into the source of all being and unity, which, he believed, reinforced the Muslim belief in the existence of God, the world's creation, and the truth of prophetic revelation. In the more than 300 volumes attributed to him, al-Kindi addressed a wide range of classical learning that encompassed logic, metaphysics, ethics, and astronomy and developed a scientific and philosophical vocabulary that influenced his successors. Like many who followed him, he resolved apparent contradictions between reason and revelation by resorting to an allegorical, rather than a literal, interpretation of the Koran.

The Persian Abu Bakr ar-Razi (865–923) was also a great admirer of Greek philosophy but was diametrically opposed to al-Kindi on the relationship between philosophy and revelation. For ar-Razi revelation was superfluous, since only reason was needed to lead to truth and the development of morals. His concept of the five eternal principles (the creator, soul, matter, space, and time), some of which had a basis in Plato, led to his designation as Islam's greatest Platonist. ArRazi incorporated Plato's concepts of the soul, creation in time, and the transmigration of the soul into his own philosophical system.

Even more influential in shaping the direction of Islamic thought was Abu Nasr al-Farabi (878–950), from northern Persia, who was known as the founder of Islamic Neoplatonism and political philosophy. Drawing upon the Koran, al-Farabi also developed the terminology of Arab scholasticism, which was adapted into Latin and later used by the great Christian theologian Thomas Aquinas. Al-Farabi rejected the Sufi concept of a solitary life, believing, like Aristotle, that, because man was a political animal, happiness could be achieved only within society, within a "virtuous city" somewhat like Plato's ideal state. But as a Muslim, al-Farabi saw such a state as embodied in the ideal of Muhammad and the early Muslim community.

Al-Farabi's thought was further developed by the most famous Neoplatonist of Islam, Ibn Sina (Avicenna in Latin; 980–1037), the renowned physician and philosopher of the Middle Ages whose works became widely known in both the East and the West. Born in Bukhara, he worked as a physician, serving as court physician for a number of princes, and he traveled widely. Ibn Sina's Canon on Medicine was translated into Latin and remained a major text in Europe until the seventeenth century. His influence and reputation earned him the title "prince of the physicians." He wrote with authority on medicine, physics, logic, metaphysics, psychology, and astronomy.

Ibn Sina, who drew on the writings of both Plato and Aristotle, credited al-Farabi with giving him the first keys that led to his understanding Aristotle. He completed Aristotle's idea of the prime mover, developed the philosophy of monotheism, and taught that creation was a timeless process of divine emanation. His rationalist thought was condemned by the religious establishment.

Abu Hamid Muhammad al-Ghazali (1058–1111), a philosopher, theologian, jurist, and mystic, was an extraordinary figure, remembered as the "renewer of Islam," who deeply affected the religion's later development. Born and raised in Iran, al-Ghazali received a first-class Islamic education. In Baghdad he became a renowned lawyer and wrote a series of books. Among the most influential was The Incoherence of the Philosophers, in which he refuted Avicenna, maintaining that, while reason was effective in mathematics and logic, applying it to theological and metaphysical truths led to confusion and threatened the fabric of faith. Al-Ghazali's teachings brought him fame and fortune. After several years, how-ever, he experienced a crisis of faith and conscience, both spiritual and psychological, which rendered him unable to speak or function professionally. He withdrew from life and spent many years traveling, practicing Sufism, and reflecting. During this time he wrote what many consider his greatest work, The Revivication of the Religious Sciences, his great synthesis of law, theology, and mysticism.

Al-Ghazali lived in a turbulent time, when conflicting schools of thought emphasizing faith or reason or mysticism contended with one another, each claiming to be the only authentic view of Islam. "To refute," he said, "one must understand." His comprehensive knowledge of all of the schools and arguments, as well as of philosophy, theology, law, and mysticism, enabled him to establish a credible synthesis of the intellectual and spiritual currents of the time. He presented law and theology in terms that religious scholars could accept, while grounding the disciplines in direct religious experience and the interior devotion seen in Sufism, which he helped to place within the life of the Muslim community. He tempered rationalism by an emphasis on religious experience and love of God.

Because he criticized the blind acceptance of authority, and emphasized a thorough study of a discipline and objectivity of approach, al-Ghazali today receives considerable attention from both Muslim and Western scholars. His "modern" approach is seen in his focus on the essentials of religion, his willingness to entertain doubt and put it in perspective, and his concern for the ordinary believer.

Ibn Rushd (Averro?s in Latin; 1126–98) was the greatest Aristotelian philosopher of the Muslim world. His prominence and commentaries, which provided many Europeans in the medieval world with their only source of knowledge about Aristotle, led to his title "the commentator." His writings and ideas influenced Jewish and Christian thinkers such as Maimonides, Albertus Magnus, and Thomas Aquinas.

Born in Córdoba, Spain, Ibn Rushd sought to harmonize the Koran and revelation with philosophy and logic. Like Ibn Sina, he believed that there was no contradiction between religion and philosophy, although, while religion was the way of the masses, philosophy was the province of an intellectual elite. Some have called this a "two-truths" theory and labeled Ibn Rushd a "freethinker." But when he spoke of religion, Ibn Rushd, who recognized that the higher truth resided in revelation, was referring more specifically to the formulations of theology, the product of fallible human beings and theologians and thus subject to the limitations of language, and not to divine revelation itself.

Ibn Rushd's contributions in philosophy, theology, medicine, and Islamic jurisprudence were voluminous, comparable in comprehensiveness to the works of al-Farabi and Ibn Sina. His extensive influence in the West led to his condemnation by Muslim religious scholars opposed to the view that religious law and philosophy have the same goal and that creation is an eternal process. His intellectual stature, influence, and significance are demonstrated by the fact that European philosophers and theologians during the thirteenth century participated in major pro- and anti-Averroist battles.

Ibn Taymiyya (1268–1328) lived during one of the most disruptive periods of Islamic history, which saw the fall of Baghdad and the conquest of the Abbasid empire in 1258 by the Mongols. He was forced to flee with his family to Damascus, an experience that affected his attitude toward the Mongols throughout his life and made an otherwise conservative religious scholar a militant political activist. As with many who followed him, his writing and preaching earned him persecution and imprisonment. He combined ideas and action to express belief in the interconnectedness of religion, state, and society, thus exerting an influence on modern revivalist movements.

A professor of Hanbali law (Hanbali is the most conservative of the four Sunni schools), Ibn Taymiyya relied on a rigorous, literal interpretation of the sacred sources (the Koran and the examples of the Prophet and of the early Muslim community) for Islamic renewal and the reform of society. Like many who came after him, he regarded the community at Medina as the model for an Islamic state. Ibn Taymiyya distinguished sharply between Islam and non-Islam (dar al-Islam and dar al-harb, respectively), the lands of belief and unbelief. In contrast to his vision of a close relationship between religion and the state, he made a sharp distinction between religion and culture. Although a pious Sufi, a practitioner of Islamic mysticism, he denounced as superstition such popular practices of his day as the worship of saints and the veneration of shrines and tombs.

Ibn Taymiyya's revolutionary ire was especially directed at the Mongols, who were locked in a jihad with the Muslim Mamluk rulers of Egypt. Despite their conversion to Islam, the Mongols continued to follow the code of laws of Genghis Khan instead of the Islamic law, the Shariah, and Ibn Taymiyya regarded them as no better than the polytheists of pre-Islamic Arabia. He issued a fatwa (legal opinion or judgment) that denounced them as unbelievers (kafirs) who were thus excommunicated (takfir). His fatwa established a precedent that has been used by contemporary religious extremists. Despite their claim to be Muslims, the Mongol's failure to implement Shariah rendered them, and by extension all Muslims who acted accordingly, apostates and hence the lawful object of jihad. Thus, "true" Muslims had the right, indeed duty, to revolt or wage jihad against such governments or individuals. Later generations—from the Wahhabi movement in Arabia to Sayyid Qutb in modern Egypt, from Islamic Jihad, the group that assassinated Egypt's President Anwar as-Sadat, to Osama bin Laden—would use the logic of Ibn Taymiyya's fatwa against the Mongols to call for a jihad against their "un-Islamic" Muslim rulers and elites and against the West.

The writings of Muhammad Iqbal (1873–1938) embodied the conflicting agendas of modernists. Educated at Government College in Lahore (now in Pakistan), he then studied in England and Germany, where he earned a law degree and a doctorate in philosophy. Iqbal's modern synthesis and reinterpretation of Islam combined the best of his Islamic heritage with the Western philosophy of Fichte, Hegel, Nietzsche, and Bergson. He was both an admirer and a critic of the West. Acknowledgment of the West's dynamic spirit, intellectual tradition, and technology was balanced by his sharp critique of European colonialism, the materialism and exploitation of capitalism, the atheism of Marxism, and the moral bankruptcy of secularism. Iqbal's reformist impulse and vision, embodied in his extensive writings and poetry, were succinctly summarized in The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam.

Like other Islamic modernists, Iqbal rejected much of medieval Islam as static and stagnant, part of the problem and not the solution for a debilitated community. He saw Islam as emerging from 500 years of "dogmatic slumber" and compared the need for Islamic reform to the Reformation. Iqbal emphasized the need to reclaim the vitality and dynamism of early Islamic thought and practice, calling for a bold reinterpretation of Islam. Drawing on tradition, he sought to "rediscover" principles and values that would provide the basis for Islamic versions of such Western concepts and institutions as democracy and parliamentary government. He looked to the past to rediscover principles and values that could be reinterpreted to reconstruct an alternative Islamic model for modern Muslim society. Because of the centrality of such beliefs as the equality and brotherhood of believers, Iqbal concluded, democracy was the most important political ideal in Islam. He maintained that, although the seizure of power from Ali by Muawiyah, the founder of the Umayyad dynasty, had ended the period of the Rightly Guided Caliphs, led to the creation of dynastic governments, and prevented the realization of an Islamic democratic ideal, it remained the duty of the Muslim community to realize this goal.

It would be difficult to overestimate the role played by Sayyid Qutb (1906–66) on both mainstream and militant Islam. His journey from educated intellectual, government official, and admirer of the West to militant activist who condemned both the Egyptian and the U.S. governments and who defended the legitimacy of militant jihad has influenced and inspired many militants, from the assassins of Anwar as-Sadat to the followers of Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda.

Qutb's interpretation of Islam grew out of the militant confrontation in the late 1950s and the 1960s between the repressive Egyptian state and the Muslim Brotherhood. Like Hasan al-Banna, Qutb had a modern education at Dar al-Ulum College. After graduation he became an official in the Ministry of Public Instruction as well as a poet and literary critic. A devout Muslim who had memorized the Koran as a child, he began to write on Islam and the Egyptian state. In 1948 he published Islam and Social Justice, in which he argued that Islam possessed its own social teachings and that Islamic socialism avoided both the pitfalls of Christianity's separation of religion and society and those of communism's atheism.

An admirer of Western literature, Qutb visited the United States in the late 1940s. It proved to be a turning point in his life, transforming an admirer into a severe critic of the West. His experiences in the United States produced a culture shock that convinced him of the moral decadence of the West and made him more religious. He was appalled by U.S. materialism, sexual permissiveness and promiscuity, the free use and abuse of alcohol, and racism, which he experienced personally because of his dark skin. Qutb felt betrayed when he saw what he considered to be anti-Arab and pro-Jewish coverage in U.S. newspapers and movies that fostered contempt for Muslims. Shortly after his return to Egypt, Qutb joined the Muslim Brotherhood. He quickly emerged as a major voice in the organization and, amid a growing confrontation with Gamal Abdel Nasser's repressive regime, its most influential ideologue. Imprisoned and tortured for alleged involvement in a failed attempt to assassinate Nasser, he became increasingly militant and radicalized, convinced that the Egyptian government was un-Islamic and must be overthrown.

A prolific author, Qutb published more than 40 books, many translated into Persian and English and still widely distributed. During 10 years of imprisonment, Qutb developed a revolutionary vision captured in his most influential tract, Milestones, which was used as evidence against him and led to his being sentenced to death. His ideas would reverberate loudly in the radical rhetoric of revolutionaries.

Like Ibn Taymiyya before him, Qutb sharply divided Muslim societies into two diametrically opposed camps: the forces of good and the forces of evil, those committed to the rule of God and those opposed, the party of God and the party of Satan. His teachings recast the world in black and white; there were no shades of gray. Since the creation of an Islamic government was a divine commandment, he argued, it was not simply an alternative but, rather, an imperative that Muslims must strive to implement or impose immediately. Qutb used the classical designation for pre-Islamic Arabian society, jahiliyyah (a period of ignorance), to paint and condemn all modern societies as un-Islamic and anti-Islamic. Given the authoritarian and repressive nature of the Egyptian government and many other governments in the Muslim world, Qutb concluded that change from within the system was futile and that Islam was on the brink of disaster. Jihad was the only way to implement the new Islamic order.

For Qutb jihad, as armed struggle in the defense of Islam against the injustice and oppression of anti-Islamic governments and the neocolonialism of the West and the East (Soviet Union), was incumbent upon all Muslims. There could be no middle ground. Qutb denounced Muslim governments and their Western, secular-oriented elites as atheists, against whom all true believers must wage holy war.


In general, Islam does not have an official organizational structure or hierarchy. It technically lacks an ordained clergy, and major religious rituals, such as prayers or marriage ceremonies, do not require a religious official. Over time, however, the early scholars of Islam, the ulama (the learned), became a clerical class, asserting their prerogative as the guardians and official interpreters of Islam and adopting a clerical form of dress. They became the primary scholars of law and theology, teachers in schools and universities or seminaries (madrasahs), judges, muftis, and lawyers, as well as the guardians and distributors of funds from religious endowments that provided support for such institutions as schools, hospitals, and hostels and for the poor. In time, in some Muslim countries, senior religious officials were appointed by governments with titles such as grand mufti. Some forms of Shiism, in particular the Twelvers (Ithna Ashari) of Iran and Iraq, developed a hierarchical system of religious officials and titles. Their senior leaders are called ayatollahs, and at the apex of the system are grand ayatollahs.

The Sufi orders, or brotherhoods of Islamic mystics, also developed an institutional structure and organization of disciples, followers, and helpers led by the master (pir or shaykh), who functions as the spiritual leader and head of the community. Some of the more prominent brotherhoods developed international networks. At times the heads of Sufi brotherhoods also became military leaders. When these religious and social organizations turned militant, as with such eighteenth- and nineteenth-century jihad movements as the Mahdi in the Sudan, the Fulani in Nigeria, and the Sanusi in Libya, they fought colonial powers and created Islamic states.


The word "mosque" comes from the Arabic masjid (place for ritual prostration). For many Muslims, Friday at a mosque is a day of congregational prayer, religious education ("Sunday school"), and socializing. The atmosphere is one of tranquility and reflection and also of relaxation. A visitor to a mosque may see people chatting quietly or napping on the carpets, as well as praying and reading the Koran.

The mosque's main prayer area is a large open space adorned with Oriental carpets. When they pray, Muslims face the mihrab, an ornamental arched niche set into the wall, which indicates the direction of Mecca. Near the mihrab is the minbar, a raised wooden platform, like a pulpit, that is similar to the one the Prophet Muhammad used when giving sermons. Prayer leaders deliver sermons from the steps of the minbar. Most mosques also have a spot set aside, away from the main area, where Muslims can cleanse themselves before they pray.

Throughout history, wherever Muslims have settled in sufficient numbers, they have made erecting a mosque an important priority. In the United States, for example, the construction of mosques, which serve as community centers as well as places of worship, has increased greatly. More than 2,100 mosques and Islamic centers serve a diverse Muslim community in the United States, whose membership is often drawn along such ethnic or racial identities as Arab, South Asian, Turkish, and African-American. Mosques of various sizes are located in small towns and villages as well as major American cities.

In addition to individual worship and the Friday congregational prayer, mosques are often the sites for Koranic recitations and retreats, especially during the fast of Ramadan, and as centers for the collection and distribution of charitable contributions (zakat). Muslim pilgrims visit their mosques before they leave for, and when they return from, a pilgrimage to Mecca (hajj), and the bodies of those who have died are placed before the mihrab for funerary prayers. Mosques are also sites where marriages and business agreements are contracted and where educational classes are often held. In contemporary times mosques have become centers for political mobilization in those countries that control or ban public meetings or opposition politics. Preachers deliver sermons that incorporate political messages, criticizing government leaders, corruption, and injustice.

In Shiism the family of Ali and the imams became objects of imitation and veneration. Sites associated with their lives or deaths became mosques and shrines, the objects of veneration and pilgrimage. Shrines and holy cities such as Najaf (the burial place of Ali) and Karbala (the site of the martyrdom of Hussein), both in Iraq, or Mashhad and Qum, in Iran, became centers for learning and pilgrimage where rituals of commemoration, prayer, and celebration were performed. In Sunni Islam places associated with the Prophet Muhammad, his family, and companions, as well as with later martyrs and Sufi saints, became shrines and centers of pilgrimage and places for prayer, petitions, blessings, and miracles.


Islam emphasizes the oneness, or unity, of God and rejects the substitution of anything for God that could be considered idolatrous. Thus, while animals and plants are regarded as part of creation, they are not sacred, a category reserved only for God.

Historically, however, in popular practice, especially in Sufism, some masters came to be viewed as walis (friends of God, or saints), and their tombs became the focus of pilgrimages, where they were appealed to for blessings and assistance. The master's spiritual power and intercession before God might be invoked to request a safe pregnancy, overcoming sickness, a prosperous business, or success in taking exams. Special rituals and celebrations were held to commemorate the dates of the master's birth and death.

For many Muslims, though certainly not all, objects reportedly associated with the Prophet Muhammad—a tooth or strand of hair, for example—have come to be regarded as relics. Similarly, a mosque in Cairo to which Hussein's head was transferred in the twelfth century has been a popular shrine for Sunni and Shiite alike.


Muslims celebrate two great holidays. One is Id al-Fitr, the feast celebrating the breaking of the Ramadan fast. The second, which occurs two and a half months later, is Id al-Adha, or the Feast of Sacrifice. This latter holiday, the greater of the two, marks the end of the pilgrimage to Mecca and commemorates God's testing of Abraham by commanding him to sacrifice his son Ismail (Isaac in Jewish and Christian traditions). The feast is a worldwide celebration that lasts for three days.

The two holidays, which are a time for rejoicing, prayer, and social visits, represent a religious obligation as well as a social celebration. Both are occasions for visiting relatives and friends, for giving gifts, and for enjoying special desserts and foods that are served only at these times of the year. Many Muslim children stay home from school to celebrate the festivals, and in some areas school authorities recognize them as holidays for Muslim youngsters.

Muslims also celebrate other religious holidays, including the Prophet Muhammad's birthday. In Shiism the birthdays of Ali and the imams are also celebrated. Shiites annually commemorate the "passion" of Hussein during a 10-day period (ashura) of remembering, during which they ritually reenact and mourn the last stand of Imam Hussein and his followers against the army of the caliph.


Islamic dress for men and women reflects a focus on modesty in public and private spaces as defined in the hadith (the reports of Muhammad's sayings and deeds) and in popular tradition. Historically dress in the Muslim world was also strongly influenced by hot and arid climates with wind- and sandstorms, where long and flowing garments ensured comfort and head coverings served as protection. In the Muslim world today dress varies greatly, depending on geographic location, diverse customs and Koranic interpretations, marital status, and differing ages, tastes, identities, occupations, or political orientations.

Nonetheless, there is a particular style of Islamic dress for men and women that was adopted in the twentieth century by Muslim communities throughout the world. Female dress consists of an ankle-length skirt and long-sleeved top or a long robe, unfitted at the waist, along with a head covering, low on the forehead and draped over the neck and sometimes the shoulders. Austere colors (black, white, dark blue, beige, or gray) and opaque materials are the most common. This outfit, called the hijab and voluntarily chosen by many Muslim women, is distinctly modern, bought ready-made in shops or sewn by hand.

Male dress, less popular than the female version, includes a traditional long-sleeved tunic and baggy pants or a robe, along with a prayer cap or other traditional head wrap. A beard, either untrimmed or trimmed but covering areas of the cheek, is also sometimes worn. Islamic dress is less popular among men because it often leads officials to identify them as activists subject to identification and arrest.

This Islamic dress represents a new public morality. It strengthens Islamic identity and is a sign of protest and liberation that distances the believer from Western values and its emphasis on materialism and commercialism. Some women believe that Islamic dress makes them better able to function as active, self-directed subjects, commanding respect and valued for who they are rather than what they look like. This dress code has also developed political overtones, becoming a source of national pride, desire for participatory politics, and resistance to authoritarianism and Western cultural and political dominance.

Special dress is worn on a pilgrimage. For women this includes an outer covering and a headscarf. Men on pilgrimage wear two seamless pieces of white cloth and a waistband, an outfit that symbolizes the equality of all believers.


Muslims are required to eat meat that has been slaughtered in a religiously appropriate way (halal). A dietary prohibition against pork comes from the Koran (5:3). The widespread use of pork products and by-products by U.S. food manufacturers creates difficulties for American Muslims. Lard, commonly used in the United States as shortening, is sometimes an ingredient in cookies, for example, and potato chips may be fried in it.

The sale, purchase, and consumption of alcohol by Muslims is strictly prohibited by Islamic law, although in rare cases it is permitted for medicinal purposes. This prohibition is based upon the Koran (5:90–91), which specifically forbids the consumption of date wine. Most jurists, however, apply the injunction to all substances that produce an altered state of mind, including alcohol and narcotics.

Some mosques and Islamic centers circulate lists of specific products known to contain either pork or alcohol, so that they can be avoided. This includes mustard, some of which is made with white wine.


In a well-known hadith Muhammad is reported to have said, "Purity is half of faith." This saying dramatically emphasizes the importance of purity and purification in the Islamic tradition, especially as a preparation for worship and an encounter with God. Thus, physical purification culminates in a spiritual purity that results from worship. The two major purification rituals are the bath (ghusl) and the ablution (wudu), the latter consisting of washing the face, both arms up to the elbows, the head, and the feet. A bath is a precondition for all forms of worship in Islam, but to over-come any impurities encountered during the day, an ablution should also be performed before praying (salat) and circumambulating the Kaaba.

The salat is a ritual performed five times daily. Individually or in groups, Muslims face the holy city of Mecca to pray in Arabic. Believers stand, bow, kneel, and touch the ground with their foreheads—an expression of ultimate submission to God—as they recite verses from the Koran, glorify God, declare their faith, and then privately and informally offer personal prayers of request or thanksgiving.

The most intricate of Islamic rituals is the pilgrimage (hajj) to Mecca, which every Muslim who is financially and physically able must make once in his or her lifetime. During the pilgrimage Muslims perform a series of symbolic and emotional rituals—reenactments of faith-testing events in the lives of Abraham, Hagar, and Ismail—as determined by Muhammad shortly before his death. Muslims pray at the spot where Abraham, the patriarch and father of monotheism, stood. But the focus of the pilgrimage is the Kaaba, the cube-shaped structure that Muslim tradition teaches was originally built by Abraham and his son Ismail to honor God. The black stone the Kaaba contains is believed to have been given to Abraham by the angel Gabriel. Thus, it is a symbol of God's covenant with Ismail and, by extension, with the Muslim community. Pilgrims circumambulate the Kaaba seven times, symbolizing the believer's entry into the divine presence. They try to touch or kiss the black stone as they pass by in their procession around the Kaaba.

Pilgrims also walk or run between the nearby hills of Safa and Marwa to commemorate Hagar's frantic search in the desert for water for her son Ismail. In the midst of her running back and forth, water sprang from the earth, from the well of Zamzam. According to Islamic tradition, both Hagar and Ismail are buried in an enclosed area next to the Kaaba. Pilgrims cast small pebbles, a symbolic stoning, toward the three pillars where Abraham was tempted by the devil to disobey God and refuse to sacrifice his son. Finally, they visit the Plain of Arafat, near the Mount of Mercy, the site where Muhammad delivered his last sermon, to seek God's for-giveness for themselves and for all Muslims throughout the world. At the culmination of the hajj, the important ritual of Id al-Adha (Feast of Sacrifice) celebrates the ram substituted by God when Abraham, in a test of his faith, offered to sacrifice his son Ismail.

Collectively the hajj celebrates renewal and reunion across cultures and the continuity over time of the worldwide Islamic community (ummah). Individually it often coincides with major events in the believer's life cycle—adulthood, marriage, retirement, illness, a personal crisis or loss—and thus is also viewed as a key rite of passage. The simple garments pilgrims wear, which symbolize the equality and humility of all Muslims regardless of their class, gender, nationality, or race, is often used years later as their burial shroud.


Life cycle rituals in Islam serve to provide meaning and reinforce an individual and communal worldview. In addition to the Five Pillars of Islam, rites of passage for birth, puberty, marriage, and death symbolize the theme that a Muslim's purpose is to serve God by submission and thanksgiving.

At birth the call of prayer is recited in the infant's right ear. Names for babies are often derived from those of the prophets or their wives or companions, or a name is formed from the prefix abd (servant) and an attribute of God, such as "servant of the Almighty" (Abd al-Aziz). In addition, a goat or sheep is sacrificed to express gratitude to God and joy at the birth, as well as to form an association with Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son for God. Although circumcision of males is sometimes practiced, it has no doctrinal basis in Islam and is viewed as an act of hygiene. Puberty, the entrance into adulthood, represents the beginning of religious and social responsibility, the obligation to perform purification rituals to ensure physical cleanliness and daily prayers, and participation in the fast during Ramadan.

In Islam marriage (nikah) is encouraged as an integral part of humanity, and celibacy is discouraged. Marriage is considered a contract, however, not a sacrament. As with other rites of passage, marriage customs in the Muslim world reflect local customs. Because Islam views sexuality as a part of life requiring rules that preserve social morality, the Koran and sunnah (example of the Prophet) provide guidelines for prayer before, as well as a ritual bath (ghusl) after, conjugal relations.

Death in Islam is seen as the transition from life in this world to life in the next. Burial normally occurs on the day of death, after funerary rituals, based on practices of Muhammad, that include bathing and wrapping the body. The salat al-janazah, a funeral prayer led by a relative or an imam, is said in the mosque after any of the daily prayers, and the shahadah (declaration of faith) is recited by the family and friends at the burial. The deceased is placed in the grave with his or her face turned toward Mecca. To reinforce humility and the mindfulness of death, each funeral participant contributes three handfuls of earth toward filling the grave.


Islam is a world religion in geographic scope and mission. All followers have an obligation to be an example to others and to invite them to Islam. Muslims believe that Islam is the religion of God, possessing his final and complete word, the Koran, and his final prophet, Muhammad. Thus, while God's revelation had been revealed previously and covenants had been made with other communities, such as Jews and Christians, Muslims believe that Islam possesses the fullness of truth and that they have a divine mandate to be an example to others and to preach and spread their faith.

The "call" (dawa) to Islam, or propagation of the faith, has been central from the origins of the Muslim community. It has a twofold meaning: the call to non-Muslims to become Muslim, and the call to Muslims to return to Islam or to be more religiously observant. From earliest times commercial and military ventures were accompanied by the spread of Islam, with traders, merchants, and soldiers its missionaries. Caliphs also used the spread of Islam as a means to legitimate their authority over Muslims and to justify imperial expansion and conquest.

Modern interpretations of dawa have taken many forms—political, socioeconomic, and cultural—as governments, organizations, and individuals have sought to promote Islam's message and impact. Governments and modern Islamic movements and organizations have supported diverse activities, including the distribution of the Koran; the building of mosques, libraries, hospitals, and Islamic schools in poor Muslim countries; and greater Islamization of law and society in Muslim countries. As part of their foreign policies, some governments, including Saudi Arabia, Libya, and Iran, have created Dawa, or Call, organizations to promote Islam and their influence in the Muslim world and in the West. At the same time, nongovernmental Islamic organizations throughout the world have created strong networks of educational institutions and medical and social services. While the majority of these activities have been supported by mainstream groups, extremist organizations have also used social services to enhance their credibility, recruit supporters, and provide aid for the widows and families of their fighters.


The Koran stresses religious tolerance, teaching that God deliberately created a world of diversity: "O humankind, We have created you male and female and made you nations and tribes, so that you might come to know one another" (49:13). In addition, the Koran stresses that "there is to be no compulsion in religion" (2:256).

Islam regards Jews and Christians as People of the Book, as people who have also received revelations and scriptures from God. It is recognized that followers of the three great Abrahamic religions, the children of Abraham, share a common belief in the one God, in such biblical prophets as Moses and Jesus, in human accountability, and in a final judgment followed by eternal reward or punishment. In later centuries Islam extended recognition to other faiths.

Historically, while the early expansion and conquests spread Islamic rule, Muslims in general did not try to impose their religion on others or force them to convert. As People of the Book, Jews and Christians were regarded as protected people (dhimmi), permitted to retain and practice their religions, be headed by their own religious leaders, and be guided by their own religious laws and customs. For this protection they paid a poll, or head, tax (jizya). While by modern standards this treatment amounted to second-class citizenship, in premodern times, compared with the practices of Christianity, for example, it was highly advanced.

The most frequently cited example of religious tolerance is that of Muslim rule in Spain (Andalusia, or Al-Andalus) from 756 to about 1000, which is usually idealized as a period of interfaith harmony, or convivencia (living together). Muslim rule offered the Christian and Jewish populations seeking refuge from the class system elsewhere in Europe the opportunity to become prosperous small landholders. Christians and Jews occupied prominent positions in the court of the caliph in the tenth century, serving as translators, engineers, physicians, and architects. The archbishop of Seville commissioned an annotated translation of the Bible for the Arabic-speaking Christian community.

In the contemporary era religious and political pluralism has been an issue in the Muslim world, threatened by political and socioeconomic tensions and conflicts. Discrimination and conflict between Muslims and Christians, for example, have occurred from Egypt, the Sudan, and Nigeria to Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Indonesia. The situation has been exacerbated in many of those countries, such as the Sudan, Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, that have attempted to implement self-described Islamic states or Islamic law. A major factor has been extremist religious groups that have targeted non-Muslims. Religious conflict and violence have also occurred within Islam, between Sunnis and Shiites in countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan under the Taliban.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a major example of religion and politics intimately intertwined. Both Jewish and Islamic activist organizations have brought a religious dimension to the conflict between Israeli and Palestinian nationalism. The use of suicide bombings, with their connection to martyrdom, by such Palestinian organizations as Hamas and Islamic Jihad has added a further religious element to the conflict. The struggle over the future of Jerusalem has come to symbolize the religious dimension of the conflict.

A key Islamic issue today regarding tolerance and pluralism is the relationship of past doctrine to current realities. Mainstream conservative Muslims call for a reinstatement of the gradations of citizenship that accompanied the dhimmi status, which, however progressive in the past, would deny equal rights to non-Muslims today. Others recognize that this approach is not compatible with the pluralistic realities of the contemporary world or with international standards of human rights. Muslim reformers, who do not approve of the application of the classical tradition in modern times, insist that non-Muslims be afforded full citizenship rights. Advocates of reform maintain that pluralism, rather than being a purely Western invention or ideology, is the essence of Islam as revealed in the Koran and practiced by Muhammad and the early caliphs. Thus, while militants and traditionalists advocate classical Islam's dhimmi or millet (protected religious community) system, reformers call for a reinterpretation of pluralism.


Muslims, like Christians and Jews before them, believe that they have been called to a special covenant with God, as stated in the Koran, constituting a community of believers intended to serve as an example to other nations (2:143) in establishing a just social order (3:110). The Koran envisions a society based upon the unity and equality of all believers, in which morality and social justice counterbalance economic exploitation and the oppression of the weak. The new moral and social order called for by the Koran reflects the fact that the purpose of all actions is obedience to God's law and fulfillment of his will, not individual, tribal, ethnic, or national self-interest. Men and women are equally responsible for promoting a moral order and adhering to the Five Pillars of Islam.

Sunnis and Shiites

Sunnis (approximately 85 percent) and Shiites (15 percent), the two largest groups within the Muslim community, formed as the result of disagreements about who should succeed Muhammad, whose death in 632 meant the end of direct, personal guidance from the Prophet and thus direct revelation from God. The majority, the Sunnis, or followers of the sunnah (example of the Prophet), believed that Muhammad had not established a system for selecting a successor, and they selected Abu Bakr, his close friend and trusted adviser, to be the caliph (successor, or deputy). An early convert who had also become Muhammad's father-in-law, Abu Bakr was respected for his sagacity and piety. Thus, Sunni Muslims adopted the belief that leadership should pass to the most qualified person through a process of selection or election.

A minority of the Muslim community, the Shiites, or party of Ali, believed that succession should be hereditary and that Ali, Muhammad's first cousin and closest living male relative as well as the husband of his daughter Fatimah, should be the leader, or imam, of the Islamic community. Despite their views Ali was passed over three times, not gaining his place as caliph for 35 years, only to be assassinated a few years later. To make matters worse, Ali's charismatic son Hussein, who led a rebellion against the Sunni caliph Yazid, was overwhelmed and massacred along with his followers.

Thus, the differences between Sunnis and Shiites are based on leadership, on who is qualified to be the Muslim community's leader. Although they share many fundamental beliefs and practices, their diverse experiences also have resulted in differences in belief and ritual, as well as different views about the meaning of history.

Historically Sunnis have almost always ruled Shiites, who have existed as an oppressed and disinherited minority. (Today Shiites are a majority only in Iran, Iraq, Bahrain, and Lebanon.) Thus, Shiites have come to understand history as a test of the righteous community's perseverance in the struggle to restore God's rule on earth. While Sunnis can claim a golden age in which they were a great world power and civilization, which they see as God's favor upon them and a historic validation of Muslim beliefs, Shiites see in this same history the Sunni ruler's illegitimate takeover at the expense of a just society. Shiites view history more as a paradigm of the suffering and oppression of their righteous minority community and of their need to struggle constantly to restore God's rule on earth under his divinely appointed imam.

In the twentieth century Shiite history was reinterpreted in a way that provided inspiration and mobilization to fight actively against injustice rather than passively accept it. This reinterpretation has had the most significant impact among Shiites in Lebanon, who struggled to achieve greater social, educational, and economic opportunities during the 1970s and 1980s, and in Iran, where, during the Islamic revolution of 1978–79, the shah was equated with Yazid and Ayatollah Khomeini and his followers with Hussein. Thus, the victory of the Islamic revolution was declared to be the victory of the righteous over illegitimate usurpers of power.

The socioeconomic reforms of the Koran are among its most striking features. Muslims are held responsible for the care and protection of members of the community, in particular the poor, the weak, women, widows, orphans, and slaves (4:2, 4:12, 90:13–16, 24:33). Bribery, false contracts, the hoarding of wealth, the abuse of women, and usury are condemned. The practice of zakat, giving 2.5 percent of one's total wealth annually to support the less fortunate, is a required social responsibility intended to break the cycle of poverty and to prevent the rich from holding on to their wealth while the poor remain poor: "The alms [zakat] are for the poor and needy, those who work to collect them, those whose hearts are to be reconciled, the ransoming of slaves and debtors, and for the causes of God, and for travelers" (9:60). The redistribution of wealth underscores the Muslim belief that human beings are care-takers, or vice-regents, for God's property, that everything ultimately belongs to God.

Opposition to interest, seen as exploitation of the poor, originates in Koranic verses that prohibit usury, or riba, an ancient Arabian practice that doubled the debt of borrowers who defaulted on their loans and doubled it again if they defaulted a second time. Today opposition to interest comes from the Koranic prohibition against riba and the belief that interest gives an unfair gain to the lender, who receives money without working for it, and imposes an unfair burden on the borrower, who must repay the loan and a finance charge regardless of whether his money grows or he suffers a loss. Opponents also believe that interest transfers wealth from the poor to the rich, promotes selfishness, and weakens community bonds. Reformers argue that the condemnation of riba does not refer to the practices of modern banking but to usury, for, as the Koran warns, usurers face "war from God and His Prophet" (2:279).

Koranic reforms in marriage, divorce, and inheritance sought to protect and enhance the status and rights of women. While the Koran and Islam did not do away with slavery, which was common in pre-Islamic Arabia and thus presumed to be part of society, Islamic law set out guidelines to limit its negative impact and assure the just treatment of slaves. It forbade the enslavement of free members of Islamic society and, in particular, orphans and foundlings. Slaves could not be abused, mutilated, or killed. The freeing of slaves was regarded as an especially meritorious action. Similarly, in war clear regulations were given to protect the rights of noncombatants and the clergy.

The Koran and sunnah teach that Muslims should make every effort, or struggle (jihad), to promote justice. This includes the right, if necessary, to engage in armed defense (jihad) of the rights of the downtrodden, in particular women and children (4:74–76) and victims of oppression and injustice, such as those Muslims who were driven out of their homes unjustly by the Meccans (22:39–40).


Marriage and family life are the norm in Islam. In contrast to Christianity, marriage in Islam is not a sacrament but, rather, a contract between a man and a woman, or perhaps more accurately between their families. In the traditional practice of arranged marriages, the families or guardians, not the bride and groom, are the two primary actors. The preferred marriage, because of concerns regarding the faith of the children, is between two Muslims and within the extended family. In Islam, as in Judaism, marriage between first cousins has been quite common.

As in most societies, the early form of the family in Islam was patriarchal and patrilineal. (The term "patriarch," referring to Jewish and Christian prophets, exemplifies this tendency.) Islam, however, brought significant changes to the seventh-century Arabian family, significantly enhancing the status of women and children. The Koran raised the status of women by prohibiting female infanticide, abolishing women's status as property, establishing their legal capacity, granting women the right to receive their own dowry, changing marriage from a proprietary to a contractual relationship, and allowing women to retain control over their property and use their maiden name after marriage. In addition, the Koran granted women financial maintenance from their husbands and controlled the husband's free ability to divorce. The hadith (Prophetic tradition) saying that "The best of you is he who is best to his wife" also reflects Muhammad's respect for, and protection of, women.

Islamic law views the relationship of husband and wife as complementary, reflecting their differing capacities, characteristics, and dispositions, as well as the different traditional roles of men and women in the patriarchal family. In the public sphere, the primary arena for the man, the husband is responsible for the support and protection of the family. The woman's primary role of wife and mother requires that she manage the household and supervise the upbringing and religious training of their children. Both men and women are seen as equal before God, having the same religious responsibilities and equally required to lead virtuous lives, but women are viewed as subordinate in family matters and society because of their more sheltered and protected lives and because of a man's greater economic responsibilities in the extended family.

In Muslim countries, to a greater extent than in the West, the extended family, which includes grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins, has traditionally provided its members with counseling, child care, financial assistance, insurance, and social security. Women in the family have always been seen as the bearers of culture, the center of the family unit that provides a force for moral and social order and the means of stability for the next generation. In the nineteenth century the family provided religious, cultural, and social protection from colonial and Western domination, as well as a site for political resistance. In a rapidly changing, unpredictable, and sometimes hostile twentieth century, the family in many Muslim countries came to face economic and political and personal pressures brought about by unemployment and economic need and by disruption from war and forced migration. Debates throughout the Muslim world center on better family support from the state, as well as the changing roles and rights of men, women, and children.

Islam has always recognized the right to divorce under certain circumstances. Both the Koran and Prophetic traditions, however, underscore its seriousness. Muhammad is reported to have said, "Of all the permitted things, divorce is the most abominable with God," and an authoritative legal manual describes divorce as "a dangerous and disapproved procedure as it dissolves marriage … [It is] admitted, but on the ground of urgency of relief from an unsuitable relationship."


In Islam procreation is considered an important result of marriage, and for this reason many Muslims oppose abortion. According to Muslim religious scholars, abortion after the fetus obtains a soul (views differ on whether this occurs at fertilization or after 120 days) is considered homicide. The Koran emphasizes the preservation of life (17:31), with neither poverty nor hunger justifying the killing of offspring, and stresses that punishment for unlawfully killing a human being is to be imposed both in this life and in the afterlife (4:93). Therapeutic abortions, performed as a result of severe medical problems, are justified by a general principle of Islamic law that chooses the lesser of two evils. Instead of losing two lives, the life of the mother, who has important duties and responsibilities, is given preference.

Muslim voices differ regarding birth control. Islam has traditionally emphasized the importance of large families that will ensure a strong Muslim community. Although family planning is not mentioned in the Koran, some traditions of the Prophet mention coitus interruptus. Some conservative ulama (religious scholars) object to the use of birth control because they believe it opposes God's supreme will, can weaken the Muslim community by limiting its size, and contributes to premarital sex or adultery. Today, however, the majority of ulama permit contraception that is agreed to by both the husband and the wife, since this guarantees the rights of both parties. On the other hand, sterilization is opposed by most ulama on the grounds that it permanently alters what God has created.

The Koran declares men and women to be equal in God's eyes, to be equal parts of a pair (51:49) or like each other's garment (2:187). Their relationship should be of "love and mercy" (30:21). The Koran states, "The Believers, men and women, are protectors of one another; they enjoin what is just, and forbid what is evil; they observe regular prayers, pay zakat and obey God and His Messenger. On them will God pour His mercy: for God is exalted in Power, Wise. God has promised to Believers, men and women, gardens under which rivers flow, to dwell therein" (9:71–72). This verse was the last to be revealed, and as a result some scholars believe that it defines the ideal, a relationship of equality and complementarity.

Nonetheless, one of the most controversial issues in Islam today is the status of women and their lack of legal rights in family law. Many of the problems, however, can be traced not to Islam but, rather, to the customs of the patriarchal societies in which Islamic laws were originally interpreted. Until the twentieth century women were not actively engaged in interpreting the Koran, hadith, or Islamic law. For example, in order to control a husband's unbridled right to divorce, the Koran requires the man to pronounce his intention three times over a period of three months before the divorce becomes irrevocable (65:1). The delay allows time for a possible reconciliation and time to determine if the wife is pregnant and in need of child support. Despite these guidelines an abbreviated form of divorce, allowing the man to say "I divorce you" three times in succession, became a common phenomena. Although considered a sinful abuse, this kind of divorce was nevertheless declared to be legal, and it affected women's rights in many Muslim countries.

Using the Koran and the courts, many Muslim countries have instituted reforms to control divorce and to improve women's rights. In many countries today, Muslim women can obtain a divorce in court on a variety of grounds, although there are other patriarchal Muslim societies in which custom continues to allow extensive rights of divorce for men but only restricted rights for women. There also have been significant reforms in women's rights in other spheres. In the overwhelming majority of Muslim countries, women have the right to a public education, including education at the college level. In many countries they also have the right to work outside the home, to vote, and to hold public office. Among the most important reforms have been the abolition of polygamy in some countries and its severe limitation in others; expanded rights for women to participate in contracting marriage, including the stipulation of conditions favorable to them in the marriage contract; expanded rights for financial compensation for a woman seeking a divorce; and the requirement that a husband provide housing for his divorced wife and children as long as she holds custody over the children. There also have been reforms prohibiting child marriages and expanding the rights of women to have custody over their older children.


Muslim views of music have been influenced by hadith (Prophetic traditions) that caution against music and musical instruments. Nothing in the Koran bans music, however, and historically music has been a popular and significant art form throughout the Muslim world. It has played an important role in religious festivals and in life cycle rituals, including those for birth, circumcision, and marriage. In addition, throughout Muslim cities the daily calls to prayer are traditionally sung or chanted by a muezzin and projected from on high from loudspeakers on minarets. The most important musical form in Islam, however, is recitation of the Koran, done as a chant, in which annual competitions are held throughout the Muslim world. Recordings of Koran recitation are widely sold, and some of Islam's best-known singers have been reciters of the Koran. The Egyptian singer Umm Kulthum and others have imitated Koran recitation in their music.

As part of their devotions, the Sufi orders typically use music, both vocal, through repetition of words or phrases and in chanting, and instrumental. For Sufis music is a vehicle for spiritual transcendence and a means of attaining the experience of divine ecstasy. Folk music has also been an important expression of culture throughout the Muslim world, used to express moral and devotional themes as well as heroism and love. The music produced by the Muslims of Andalusia, like their poetry, had an enormous impact on the development of classical music in Europe.

In Islamic visual art concerns about idolatry have led historically to bans on the representation of human beings. Thus, the Islamic art that is most cherished is based upon the use of Arabic script in calligraphy (the art of beautiful writing) or of arabesque (geometric and floral) designs. A hadith attributed to the Prophet Muhammad says that one who beautifully writes the phrase "In the name of God the Merciful, the Compassionate," the first words in the opening chapter of the Koran, will enter paradise. The belief that God's direct words in the Koran should be written in a manner worthy of divine revelation has led to the development of calligraphy in many styles and forms. Calligraphy sometimes uses the stylized lettering of Koranic quotations or religious formulas to reflect animal, flower, or even mosque figures. Today interest in calligraphy remains high, as is evidenced in its varied use as decorations for holiday cards, announcements of important events, and book covers. Computer programs have been developed that can create decorations from Arabic script.

Because figures are not used in Islamic art, a form of decoration that came to be known in the West as arabesque—the use of natural forms such as stems, leaves, vines, flowers, or fruits to create designs of infinite geometric patterns—developed as a major artistic technique. Arabesque designs are used to decorate such objects as interior and exterior walls, mosque furniture like the minbar (pulpit), and fine Koran manuscripts. Some designs combine calligraphy with colorful geometric and floral or vegetal ornamentation.

Designs in Islamic art are often enhanced by exuberant colors, for example, in the glittering golden or azure domes and multicolored tiles of buildings or in the colors of pottery, textiles, and manuscripts. Colors are used symbolically in Islamic literature, although their meanings and associations are determined by context. For example, black can be associated with the black stone in the Kaaba in Mecca or with vengeance, violence, or hell. White is less ambiguous, usually representing faithfulness (as in the cloths worn by pilgrims on hajj), lightness, royalty, or death (as in its use as a burial shroud). Blue is the color of magical qualities, which can be used to protect a person from evil spirits or, in contrast, to dispense evil. Green was the color of the Prophet and of turbans worn by descendants of the Prophet, and it was also the color of the cloak of Ali, for Shiites the first imam. As the color of living plants, green is also symbolic of youth and fertility.

The ambiguities of color in Islamic art are matched by the Arabic language itself, which facilitates plays on words and the varied interpretations that result. These multiple meanings contribute to the enjoyment of both unchanging and variable insights and thus represent part of the appeal of Islamic literature. As the direct word of God, the Koran is viewed as religious literature as well as a perfect literary document.

Although in pre-Islamic Bedouin society poetry was the dominant literary form, the first centuries of Islam were dominated by a fear that poetry might conflict with the Koran's divinely inspired words. In the emotionally charged atmosphere generated by mysticism in the tenth and eleventh centuries, however, Sufi poems of longing for the divine beloved proliferated. By the twelfth century poetry emphasizing praise of the Prophet had developed in a number of forms, from short devotional verses to long, elaborate descriptions of Muhammad's greatness to pious songs. These forms are found in almost all literatures of the Muslim world today. The development of such modern technology as audio- and videotapes has fostered the growth of Islamic religious poetry in regional languages and in remote areas of the world.

Islamic prose forms include Koranic verses, the hadith, and biographies and autobiographies. Along with poetry and plays, novels, short stories, and autobiographies are used to advocate a religious way of life. Modern autobiographies place emphasis on the individual, in contrast to classical texts, which focused primarily on collective Islamic norms.

John L. Esposito

See Also Vol. 1: Shiism, Sunnism


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The religion that God set forth for Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and muammad proclaimed by the latter in Arabia in the 7th century, which enjoys the allegiance of approximately 1.2 billion persons, about one-sixth of the total estimated population of Earth. The name Islam, invariably preferred by its adherents to Muhammadanism (one of the archaic Western designations for the religion), is an Arabic word signifying "surrender," and its believers call themselves Muslims, "those who have surrendered to God." The world's Muslims are centered chiefly in the northern and eastern parts of Africa and the western and southern parts of Asia. The largest national representations are those of Pakistan and Indonesia, but Islam's traditional cultural centers have been the Arab world and Iran. Considered the fastest-growing religion in the world, Islam is expanding southward in both East and West Africa, as well as in the West, notably in the United States, where, ever since the conversion of the son of the founder of the Black Muslims to Sunnite Islam in the 1970s, the majority of African American Muslims have been "orthodox" Muslims. The subject will be treated in five parts: the origins of Islam; the Islamic creed; "The Five Pillars" and Islamic religious practice; Islamic law, theology, and mysticism; and modern trends in Islam.

Origins of Islam. Islam can never be disengaged from the life of the man Muammad. Born at mecca in Arabia about a.d. 570, he belonged to a cadet branch of the Quraysh tribe, then prominent in Mecca, and in young manhood married the widow of a wealthy merchant. When he was about 40, he began to make a series of remarkable claims. He maintained that he was the bearer of a "recitation" (Arabic qurĀn) transmitted to him by the Angel Gabriel and "the Spirit." This Qurān, he claimed, was the final redaction of what Allāh, "the God of Abraham, Ismael, Isaac, and Jacob, and the Tribes [of Israel] and Jesus" (Qurān 2.136) wished to communicate to the human race. It carried in itself, as he was ultimately compelled to insist, the power of invalidating the former Scriptures whenever they disagreed with it, although he readily allowed that those Scriptures (presumably including the whole of the Bible) represented divine revelation "in its original form" no less than the Qurān. He further regarded himself as a prophet, indeed as the last of the series of prophets or "messengers" whom God had sent to restore the purity of His religion; for not only had it been deformed by Jews and Christians, in his view, but it had also remained unknown to others, notably the Arabs. These claims enjoyed no striking success at Mecca, though Muammad steadily enlisted small numbers. In 622 he and his followers fled to medina, a city some distance north of Mecca, an "emigration" (Arabic hijra), from which Muslims date their era. At Medina, Muammad added to the number of his followers and welded them together into a vital community and a military power, which was nearly ready, at the time of his death in 632, to extend itself by rapid conquests to mastery over much of Asia and Africa.

Various questions concerning Islam's origins and, more particularly, concerning the sources of the material contained in the Qurān, arise naturally. The orthodox Muslim position is a flat denial that such sources could possibly exist. The Muslims do not deny that Muammad knew Jews and Christians; what they deny is that Muammad was, in any sense, the author of the Qurān. Although God's revelations through Muammad are considered the ultimate authority in Islam, Muammad's deeds and sayings (collected in the bulky Islamic traditions or adīth literature) are considered to exemplify the ideal way of life for the Muslim. There are variations in orthodox Muslim thought as to how the balance should be drawn between patterning one's life after Muammad and following one's own interpretation of Qurānic injunctions. Many Muslims do not deny that there were slight variants in the earliest versions of the Qurān or that the arrangement of the chapters according to length is an arbitrary one, but they hold that the present form, which was soon established, corresponds to a heavenly archetype of "the Book." The Islamic concept of revelation is thus considerably more rigid than is the Catholic, the Protestant Christian, or even the orthodox Jewish; for it excludes the notion of human, though divinely inspired, authorship of Scripture.

Jewish and Christian Influence. Non-Muslim scholarship has taken a different view of the matter. It has nearly always held that the major influences on Muammad must have been principally, but not exclusively, Jewish and Christian, and that those influences were colored by Muammad's own character and made over to conform to aspects and needs of the pre-Islamic Arabian mind. Within this broad framework, however, opinions have clashed. The prize dissertations of Abraham Geiger, the Jewish reformist, stimulated much of the modern scholarly discussion; in it he argued for a dominant Jewish influence on the Qurān. An opposing view, holding that influence to have been chiefly Gnostic, won the powerful support of Julius Wellhausen. The latter view was followed by many scholars until more recent studies, for example those by Charles Torrey and Abraham Katsh, persuasively argued again for a greater Jewish influence. It must also be noted that at the beginning of the 21st century, greater attention was paid to Muammad's reactions to the traditional religions of South Arabia.

Although pre-Islamic Arabia was still distinctly pagan and, by comparison to Mediterranean lands, relatively uncivilized, it harbored numerous Jews and Christians. There is no difficulty in accounting for the presence of Christians there (see arabia, 5) or in explaining why those Christians tended to be Nestorians. The foremost Christian community was Najrān, under the Nestorian influence of the king of Hira. There were Jewish trading settlements at Teima, Khaybar, Medina, and cities farther south. They are occasionally mentioned in rabbinical literature and may have dated back to the 7th century b.c. There is evidence, too, of considerable numbers of Jewish proselytes among the Arabs. They do not appear to have possessed any higher learning, however, and it has been suggested that they had been affected by forms of heterodox thought in which both Christian and pagan notions had been incorporated.

Development of Muammad's Ideas. For those coming from a scholarly tradition that puts a heavy emphasis upon the written word, it is difficult to sift the Qurān and the tradition literature for historical information. It is certain that as a boy and young man Muammad knew, and was on friendly terms with, both Jews and Christians. He is reported to have heard the bishop of Najrān preach and to have met on a caravan a monk "well versed in the knowledge of the Christians" (Ibn-Ishāq, Sīrat Rasūl Allāh [The Life of Mohammad ], tr. A. Guillaume [London 1955] 7981). (see bahira legend.) The first encouragement he received after his prophetic call, if one excepts that of his wife, came from her cousin Waraqah, "who had become a Christian and read the scriptures and learned from those that followed the Torah and the Gospel" (ibid. 107). At the same time he was familiar with various classes of Jewish scholars, whom he could name accurately, and there is reason to believe that many Jews, expecting the imminent advent of a messiah in Arabia, showed special interest in him. Finally, he was associated with a mysterious group that called itself the Hanifs (Arabic unafā', "the pure ones"), whose members, disgusted with idol worship, favored a monotheism incorporating elements from both Judaism and Christianity.

After Muammad began his preaching, he had constant and close contacts with Jews and Christians, but it is hard to say whether or in what manner he profited by them. His adversaries, among whom were many Jews and Christians, watched eagerly for indications of fraud; and Muammad was able successfully to assume a remarkably self-assured attitude toward any accusations of that sort. In the early Meccan period, to be sure, he was given to appealing, though somewhat vaguely, to Jewish and Christian authority for his teachings on the unity of God and on divine judgment: "All this is written in earlier scriptures, the scriptures of Abraham and Moses" (Qurān 87.18). The only respect in which he then admitted differing from those Scriptures was that his own revelation was in the Arabic language: "Before [the Qurān] the Book of Moses was revealed, a guide and a blessing to all men. This book confirms it. It is revealed in the Arabic tongue" (Qurān 46.12). The late Meccan and early Medinese periods saw the greatest readiness on Muammad's part to absorb Jewish elements into Islam, for at that time his special aim was to win Jewish converts, especially among the Jews of Medina.

Changed Attitude toward Jews and Christians. For a time Muammad went out of his way to model Islam on the Bible, but later he assumed a sharply different attitude. That attitude stemmed, one suspects, from the unwillingness of Jews and Christians to accept his teaching. The Qurānic chapters of that later period clearly demonstrate Muhammad's wish to disassociate Islam from Jewish and Christian "orthodoxy" and to establish the supremacy of his own religion by vigorous disputation and the use of force. Unsuccessful in his attempt to convince the Jews and Christians, he began to attack them intellectually and physically. Only the Jews offered organized opposition. In the beginning they seem to have provided Islam with a number of false disciples. Nevertheless, they were incapable of prolonged or effective resistance to the growing Islamic power, and within a few years Khaybar and the other Jewish colonies in North Arabia had been vanquished.

Very probably Muammad had heard improvised translations of the Jewish and Christian Scriptures. It is quite possible, too, that information concerning one group may have come from the other and that wherever Scripture is misrepresented or distorted, Muammad followed homiletical embellishments. Julian Obermann summed up the problem of Islamic origins very well:

What with the vast overlapping of Jewish and Christian lore, especially in the period and area involved [the general impression of greater Jewish influence on Islam], may be illusory or at least inexact, unless it be borne out by detailed evidence for each element under discussion. Obviously, Old Testament and even rabbinical materials might have been transmitted to Arabia by Christian channels; while seemingly New Testament matter might easily have been derived from rabbinical homilies. Indeed, the situation is of a kind that in a considerable number of instances we can go only as far as to demonstrate a given element in Islam as of Judaeo-Christian origin, but no further. (The Arab Heritage, ed. N. A. Faris [New York 1963] 5960)

Islamic Creed. Islam has carefully maintained its distinction between faith (imān ) and practice (ibādāt or isān ). Faith, usually defined as "assent to that which comes from God, and confession to it," has been formulated in a creed considerably more complicated than the shahādah, the simple profession of faith: "There is no god but God [Allāh ], and Muammad is His messenger." There are six classic articles in the otherwise varying Muslim creeds: concerning God, angels, the Holy Scriptures, prophets and "messengers," resurrection and judgment, and predestination. Muammad's monotheism began, no doubt, as a rejection of paganism; yet it was highly positive. It was, as he never ceased repeating, the monotheism of Israel. The God of Islam was Yahweh, without those truths about Him revealed by Christ. It is fairly certain that there were various interpretations of the Trinity in various Christian circles during Muammad's lifetime, some of which may have included the Virgin Mary. The Qurān denies the Incarnation: "God is one, eternal. He did not beget and was not begotten" (Qurān112.3). For Muammad there was no redeemer, no need for redemption, no original sin. Otherwise Allah is invested with nearly the same general attributes of Yahweh. The angels and archangels, even to their names, are those of the Bible. Satan also figures, as do the "genies" (Arabic jinn ) and other spirits similar to but not precisely identical with lesser devils.

The references to earlier Scriptures in the Qurān are sufficiently vague to render their exact identification difficult. Only a few OT books are mentioned by name, and the Gospel (in the singular) is treated as though it were a book revealed to Christ. At first Muammad appealed to the authority of these books to uphold his own prophet-hood and religion, but later seemed to suggest that they had been hopelessly corrupted and falsified. Muslims have never felt obliged, therefore, to justify the inconsistencies and discrepancies (which exist in considerable numbers) between the Qurān and the earlier Scriptures in the forms in which they have come down to us. There is only one indisputable quotation from the Bible in the Qurān (that of Ps 36 [37].29 in 21.105), but scores of OT stories are repeated, in the main accurately, with many reminiscences of their Hebrew wording. There are also Talmudic stories, such as the lowing of Aaron's calf (7.146) and Abraham's trial by fire, a rabbinic play on Ur and the Hebrew 'ûr, "fire" (21.6870).

Muslims also distinguish prophets from "messengers"; the latter are believed to be holy men sent by God to teach specific peoples. Muammad is thus regarded both as the "seal" of the prophets and as the messenger to the Arabs. The Qurān mentions 8 messengers and 24 prophets, 4 of them Arabs and the rest Hebrews. The prophets include most of the major figures in the early history of the Hebrews, but exclude Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and all of the minor prophets but Jonah. Despite the honor in which Abraham is held, the predominant figure in the Qurān is Moses. If one follows Theodor Nöldeke's chronology of the chapters, Moses is mentioned more than 100 times in the chapters from the Meccan period alone. The angels refer to the Qurān in one passage as "a Scripture revealed since the time of Moses, confirming previous Scriptures" (46.30).

Christ, by contrast, is mentioned in only two chapters of the Meccan period, and references to Him throughout the Qurān are sparse. Many of Christ's utterances as found in the canonical Gospels and elsewhere in the New Testament are not mentioned in the Qurān, and those that are mentioned frequently deviate from the text of the NT. Christ appears as a messenger born (by Virgin Birth) of the Virgin Mary. Indeed, he is often referred to as the "Son of Mary." Some of the stories of His infancy, such as His speaking in the cradle (19.3034; 5.109) and fashioning a live bird out of clay (3.43; 5.110), echo apocryphal writings known to have existed in Coptic, Syriac, and even Arabic versions. Muammad granted that Christ worked miracles, but denied that He was crucified. That position, commonly taken by some Gnostics and Docetists, was expressed in the Qurān: "They [the Jews] declared: 'We have put to death the Messiah Jesus, the son of Mary, the apostle of Allāh.' They did not kill him, nor did they crucify him, but they thought they did"(4.156). It has been argued from what is missing in the Qurānic narratives that much of Muammad's information about Christ must have come from Jewish informants. It is a widespread later Islamic belief, still current and not without Qurānic support, that Christ will return at the end of the world to slay the Antichrist. He is often called the "Word" of God and His "Spirit" in the Qurān, and "Messiah" is usually added to His name.

The Qurān bears strong witness to the resurrection of the flesh and the Last Judgment. Only heaven and hell are everlasting, although it appears that hell serves as a kind of purgatory for some Muslims and that Muammad (and, according to some theologians, other prophets as well) has intercessory powers with God for them. The Islamic belief in predestination is not as rigid as some commentators have made it to be. It has always been a live issue in Islamic theology, and the matter of working out an acceptable formulation has been left to the devices of the exegete and the ordinary believer. The Qurān says, for example, "God causes whom He wills to err, and whom He wills He guides; and you shall assuredly be called to account for your doings" (16.93).

The "Five Pillars" and Islamic Religious Practice. By the time of its conquests outside Arabia, Islam regarded itself as a universal religion for all mankind; so there has never been any perfect ethnic or linguistic tie among Muslims, though Arabic (in a special way, over a wider area and for a longer time), Persian, Turkish, and Urdu have come to be the principal languages of its expression. Islamic practice is a complex realm, ranging from the obligatory Five Pillars through the "necessary but not obligatory" on to the "voluntary" acts of the Muslim. The Five Pillars are as follows: the profession of faith in Islam, prayer, fasting, almsgiving, and pilgrimage.

Orthodoxy. The profession of faith consists of the simple statement: "There is no god but God, and Muammad is His messenger." The believing recitation of this formula, preferably before witnesses, is sufficient in itself to make one a Muslim. Islam has no church, no priesthood, no sacramental system, and almost no liturgy. The pattern of belief and practice of the sunnites enjoys the adherence of all but a small percentage of Muslims. The shĪites comprise the second-largest grouping of Muslims. Deriving from the political "partisans" of alĪ and his heirs, they have developed distinct doctrinal, legal and ritualistic features. Sectarianism in Islam has never had quite the same connotations as heresy in the Christian church, allowing for the acceptance of numerous religio-legal entities within the community of Islam.

Prayer. One of the most attractive aspects of Islam for the Christian is its steadfast devotion to prayer. There is a set form of ritual prayer, prefaced by ablutions and accompanied by "bowings" (Arabic rakah ), for the five daily prayers prescribed by Islamic tradition and law. Muslims are called to public prayer by the muezzin (Arabic muadhdhin ) from the minaret of a mosque. Many Muslims pray in the mosque only at noon on Fridays, when there is a sermon (Arabic khuba ), although more devout believers may perform all of the prescribed prayers there. Formal prayer must be performed facing toward Mecca. There is a tradition also of private and contemplative prayer, largely associated with sufism.

Fasting. Muslims are obliged to fast during the entire month of ramadan, which, because of the lunar reckoning from the Hijra, may fall at any time of the year. It is a total fast, but only from daybreak to sunset. It is a community exercise. Those who are ill or on a journey during that time are exempted from it, but must fast an equal number of days later on. Muslim spiritual writers such as al-Ghazzālī emphasize that Ramadan implies more than mere fasting and is a time for repentance and drawing the heart nearer to God. Voluntary fasting during other times of the year, especially in expiation for sins, is recommended and practiced.

Almsgiving. Muslims are enjoined also to give alms (Arabic zakāt ). In the early days of Islam free-will offerings were regarded as satisfying this obligation. Later, however, a formal tax of one-tenth or one-fifth of the income (according to circumstances) was imposed upon Muslims. A contribution of one-fortieth of the income was considered adequate by many later legists. In modern times almsgiving has generally reverted to a matter of free-will offerings. The Qurān distinguished the worthy objects of free-will offerings (relatives, orphans, travelers, and the poor; 2.211) from those upon whom the revenue of zakāt was to be expended (slaves and prisoners, debtors, tax collectors, those to be conciliated by the Islamic community, and those fighting in a holy war; 9.60).

Pilgrimage to Mecca. The fifth of the Five Pillars is the pilgrimage to Mecca (Arabic ajj). Every Muslim is expected to journey there once in his lifetime if he possesses the means. There are two types of pilgrimage: the lesser pilgrimage, which can be performed at any time of the year with an abbreviated ritual, and the greater pilgrimage, which must be performed on specific days during the month of Dhū al-ijjah. When the pilgrim dons his simple white robes and enters into the state of irām, he must abstain from all violence, sensual pleasures, and adornment for the duration of the pilgrimage. When he reaches Mecca, he goes immediately to the Ka'bah, the black-draped cuboidal "holy house" in the central square. This is the shrine, important in pre-Islamic religion, that Muslims believe was built in its original form by Abraham. It was only fairly late in his career that Muammad unequivocally incorporated the shrine and pilgrimage into Islam. The first Muslims had prayed facing Jerusalem. After kissing the Black Stone, the Muslim circumambulates the Ka'bah, marches seven times between the hills of al-Safā and al-Marwah, and then journeys the 14 miles to Mount Arafāt for the ceremony of wuqūf, "standing before God," for which lengthy prayers are prescribed. On the return to Mecca he prays at Muzdalifah, casts stones at certain pillars believed to represent the sites of temptations of Ismael, and offers a blood sacrifice commemorating Abraham's sacrifice in Gn 22.13. After ceremonial tonsure and a second circumambulation of the Ka'bah, the pilgrimage proper is ended, although most pilgrims go on to Medina to visit Muammad's grave and other sites associated with his life.

Other Religious Customs. According to some Muslim opinion, the jihād, or holy war, is to be considered a sixth "pillar" of Islam. This obligation was formulated in quite general terms in the Qurān 2.190, 193: "Fight in the way of God against those who fight against you, but do not commit aggression. Fight against themuntil sedition is no more and allegiance is rendered to God alone; but if they make an end, then no aggression save against the evildoers." Although holy war has lost much of its persuasive force after the period of Islamic expansion (the consensus amongst orthodox Muslims has been that holy war should not be waged when it appeared as though the Muslims might lose), there have been modern attempts to revive it, especially amongst "radical" groups as a means of protesting Western, particularly American, global hegemony.

Besides these major matters of practice, the Qurān and Islamic tradition have supplied many others. Circumcision, for instance, is universally practiced among Muslims as a matter of religious observance, although the Qurān does not mention it. Wine, pork, gambling, and usury are forbidden. So, too, strictly speaking, are the making of images, the veneration of saints, and the use of devotional objects. Since the Qurān envisioned a close-knit community of true believers, it also contained many regulations concerning guardianship, dowries, divorce, and inheritance, as well as a complete punitive system against theft, fraud, perjury, and murder.

Festivals. Muslims celebrate many festivals. The most popular of them are the greater and lesser festivals that mark the end of Ramadan, the month of fasting. The greater festival, begun while fellow Muslims are sacrificing animals on the way back to Mecca, is celebrated with somewhat less enthusiasm than the lesser festival, which begins as soon as the new moon is visible after Ramadan. On that occasion there is great feasting and cheer, with exchanging of gifts. Paradoxically, it is also a favorite occasion for visiting the graves of one's departed relatives and friends. The birthday of Muammad (Arabic mawlid al-nabī ) is marked with some solemnity, though rather less than one might have expected. Among the Shīites, the largest minority sect, the 10th day of the month of Muarram is the principal festival of the year. Shīism added two significant items to the Sunnite creed: first, a belief in a continuing divine "manifestation," particularly valuable with respect to Qurānic interpretation, in the descendants of 'Ali; second, a veneration for "the passion," for voluntary and innocent self-sacrifice to the point of martyrdom by the merits of which believers attain salvation and eternal life. These items, whose Christian parallels are obvious, are united in the liturgy of the 10th of Muarram, when Shīites commemorate the death of Alī's son usayn on Oct. 10, 680. usayn was killed in a skirmish between government troops and a small body of sympathetic supporters who were accompanying him to al-Kūfah in Iraq, where he intended to organize a revolt against the umayyad caliphs of Damascus. The fate of usayn became a prototype and pattern for Shīite martyrdom and a symbol of the Shīite cause. In areas where Shīites are in a majority or at least represented in considerable numbers, this anniversary is preceded by nine days of rigorous religious discipline and culminates in a wild procession through the streets in which a catafalque for usayn is accompanied by horses, blood-smeared attendants, and numbers of naked young men flagellating themselves with chains and swords. The veneration of Alī and his sons has extended, it is interesting to note, to many of the Sunnite Muslims.

Islamic Law, Theology, and Mysticism. Islam is nothing if not the religion of the Qurān. The Qurān is believed by Muslims to constitute God's final and consequently singular revelation to mankind. There has never been any universally or even widely accepted ultimate authority in Islam except the Qurān. Questions of its interpretation have always been, therefore, of fundamental and crucial importance. Necessarily the Qurān had to be supplemented in several ways. It was supplemented first of all by the custom (Arabic sunnah, hence the name Sunnite) of Muammad himself, established principally by means of the tradition literature concerning him and his companions, based in turn upon chains of more or less authentic transmitting authorities (Arabic isnād ), subsequently evaluated by an intricately developed science. It was obvious that traditions often conflicted; a man named Ibn-abī-al-Awja was executed in al-Kūfah in 772 after confessing that he had forged several thousand traditions complete with chains of authority that would be regarded as genuine.

Law. The weakness of this supplement soon became obvious and a more efficacious supplement, designed to counteract that weakness and to serve the needs of a rapidly expanding state, was provided by the employment of certain principles, such as consensus of opinion (ijma' ), analogical deduction (qiyās ), independent reasoning (ijtihād ), and private opinion (ray ) in the creation of an Islamic law (see islamic law). Four recognized schools of legal interpretation (Arabic sharīah ), namely the anafite, Malikite, Shafiite, and anbalite schools, all eponymous, were inaugurated during the 8th and 9th centuries and have remained in force until modern times. Today, while the impact of the sharīah has been abridged by the encroachment of modern civil law in certain areas of jurisprudence, there is at the same time a revival of the strict interpretation of the sharīah in many parts of the Islamic world. Throughout the medieval and early modern periods, however, owing to the virtually unique identification of the religion of Islam with the government of any Islamic state, the sharīah totally regulated the lives of Muslims. It extended to almost every detail of private life, comprehending all its religious, social, political, and domestic behavior. The offices of qāi (judge), mufti (legal expert), and 'ālim (lawyer, though very often used simply for "learned man") rose to and maintained for many centuries positions that were of capital importance in Islamic life. In those places of the world where extensive Islamification of society is being attempted (such as the Sudan and Indonesia), as well as in those countries where the ruling factions have appropriated Islamic terminology to shore up their regimes (such as Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan), the sharīah and the concomitant penal code (e.g., the amputation of the hand of the thief) is the law of the land.

Systematic Theology. Distinct from the sciences of the traditions and of legal interpretation, systematic theology (see kalĀm) began later in the 9th century, partially in response to quarrels between the traditionalists and the incipient legists and to the influx of late Hellenistic philosophical notions, but most evidently in opposition to a group of rationalistic Muslims in Basra and Baghdad called the mutazilites. This group asserted a series of unpopular positions on current issues such as the "creation" of the Qurān, the unity and justice of God, the nature of salvation, and free will. Although their aim seems to have been to protect Islamic dogma from what they regarded as corruptions to which it was open, they made use of a naive and rudimentary philosophical procedure that associated them with the target of their own attacks. When they converted the caliph al-Mamūn to their viewpoints and instituted an inquisition (Arabic minah ), they generated a serious ideological crisis within the Islamic community and a powerful reaction that began with the apostasy of Abū al-asan Alī al-asharĪ (873?935). Al-Asharī, concerned mainly with the preservation of the pure transcendence of God, disenchanted with his Mutazilite masters, and influenced by the thinking of Ibn-Hanbal, the founder of the legal school already mentioned, set about systematically to refute the Mutazilite propositions. Few of his works have survived; but from those that have, it is clear that he himself so far advanced the methodology of treatment of these questions that his enduring reputation as the founder of Islamic theology and symbol of its orthodoxy appears justified. He was responsible for the disengagement of philosophy from this realm, enabling Islamic philosophers to go their independent ways, and for the close connection that developed between theology and the legal schools of the sharīah.

Al-Asharī was the founder of the most influential school of Islamic theology; yet Asharism differs considerably from the teaching of al-Asharī himself. In the immediately succeeding centuries the work of al-Baqillani, al-Juwayni, and others continued and advanced the science. Later al-Ghazzālī, al-Rāzi, al-Ījī, and al-Jurjāni let their thought be formed by it. Eventually, however, it came to an intellectual standstill in stereotyped manuals for students. Its commanding position was not, of course, achieved at once. Its choice as an official system of the Seljuk sultanate and, later, of the Ottoman sultanate was doubtless instrumental toward that end. Still, it must be recognized that in the earlier period Asharism had a powerful rival in the school of al-Maturidi of Samarqand. The basic impulses of the two schools seem to have been very similar and the differences between them relatively slight. Maturidism died out for reasons principally political. At any rate, by the 12th century the most potent challenges to Islamic theology were those emanating from outside the discipline, from the philosophers, notably Ibn Sīnā (avicenna), and from the Sufis.

Mysticism. Sufism (Arabic ūf, "wool") is the name ascribed in general to the entire ascetical and mystical movement within Islam, as well as to its manifestations in the eremetical and regular religious life from the 8th century to the present. Questions concerning the origins of Sufism remain extremely difficult to solve, and there are still some matters on which scholarly opinion has differed with unusual sharpness. Louis Massignon sought to prove that the origins of Sufism lie wholly within the Islamic tradition of the Qurān and the sunnah, despite the surface facts that the Qurān says little that could be interpreted as a justification for the ascetic life as lived and loved by the Sufis and that the adīth literature contains a number of explicit injunctions against it, for example: "There is to be no monasticism in Islam." Other scholars have adduced origins in the remnants of Christian asceticism within Islam after its conquests, in Zoroastrianism (see zoroaster [zarathushtra]), and even in direct and indirect Hindu and Buddhist influences, although these scholars have fallen to quarreling among themselves. In any case, it cannot be denied that from the 8th century onward there was an increasingly influential movement, to be classified in the realm of popular religion, which produced more and more individuals willing to retire from the world in order to pursue an ascetic and contemplative life. That they may have done so partly in response to social and political instabilities and current theological controversies pales before the simple fact that they did so and, in doing so, greatly affected the course of Islamic intellectual history. The convention of periodizing the history of Sufism is largely the result of Sufi hagiography itself. Certainly there were early Muslim ascetics, many of them with Shīite leanings, who eventually grouped themselves together, were nourished by an esoteric reading of the Qurān and later by the writings of such mystics as al-Rabāah and al-allāj, and who, increasingly as the decades wore on, sought a communal life based on common conviction and intention.

Influence of Ghazzālī. From the ranks of the early Sufis came popular preachers and original thinkers who firmly founded Sufism and so disturbed the orthodox legal-theological institution of Islam that they were regarded not only as disruptive, but as bad Muslims. Into this situation was born, in the 11th century, Abū-āmid al-Ghazzālī (see algazel [ghazzĀlĪ, al-]). Influenced by Sufism in his youth, he nevertheless turned to the traditional sciences and to philosophy in his education and brilliant academic career. This prize student of al-Juwayni soon became a leading professor in Baghdad. As suddenly as he turned against philosophy because of the works of Avicenna, which he refuted in a book entitled The Incoherence of Philosophy, he turned against the whole orthodox system and toward Sufism. He resigned his professorship at Baghdad and began a radical reconsideration of Islam that resulted in the nearest thing to a reformation that Islam has ever experienced. By combining and indeed harmonizing the Islam of the Qurān, the theologians, the legists, and the Sufis against the philosophers, he created, in his greatest work, The Revivification of Religious Sciences, a sensitive, well-structured, and comprehensive summa of Islamic religious thought. His achievements, like al-Asharī's, became an integral part of Islamic orthodoxy and transformed it by opening an entire new universe of thought. Through al-Ghazzālī's reforming efforts kalām gained a new vision and Sufism a new respectability. For many centuries philosophical, theological, and mystical writings in Islam bore the stamp of al-Ghazzālī's thought.

The directions and extent of the development of that thought cannot be said to have fulfilled the plan or spirit of al-Ghazzālī himself. The marriage of Sufism with kalām was intellectual rather than practical. In practice the two went their separate ways. Philosophy, as has been noted above, had always gone its separate way. As a result, there was never again to be such a unified system of Islam as al-Ghazzālī's, though each of the areas of thought mentioned deepened as a consequence of his system. Sufism, in particular, enjoyed an immense popularity during the succeeding centuries. As its theory continued to develop, however, a multiplicity of religious folk practices and heterodox notions were kneaded into it. The speculative aspects of later Sufism were combined in a new eclectic system by ibn arabĪ of Murcia (d. Damascus, 1240), who turned the movement in a more pantheistic direction and toward closer circles of initiates. The loose mosque communities of early Sufism gave way to larger confraternities and finally to religious orders (see islamic confraternities), Elements of the monastic, the eremetical, and the mendicant states were combined in various proportions in these orders. Normally, however, a postulant came to a monastery, became a novice, led a communal life under the direction of a shaykh or pīr, whose position was either elective or hereditary. Later he might go out preaching or on to another community, but the characteristic ritual of dhikr and his manner of life readily identified him as a Sufi (Arabic faqīr, Persian darvīsh ).

One of the greatest of the Sufi summarizers was Jalāl al-Dīn al-Rūmī, whose monumental Masnavi did more than other such compilations to inspire later Sufism and arrest its decline. Decline it did, however. The number of orders multiplied; observance was lax; and finally there was little left in the numerous popular lodges and clubs to suggest the grand origins of Sufism. Although Sufism still exists and is very influential on the modern frontiers of Islam, it enjoys nothing like its former glory.

Philosophy, too, responded to al-Ghazzālī's challenge. Al-Rāzī (rhazes) speaking for himself, set the field on a more clearly rationalistic basis in vindication of Ibn Sīnā. It was in Muslim Spain, however, shrinking in the face of the Christian Reconquista, which had begun in the 11th century, that the last truly great philosophical work was done in Islam. There, in the Almohad court of Abū-Yaqūb Yūsūf, Abū Bakr ibn ufail wrote his ayy ibn-Yaqān, a philosophical romance owing a great deal both to Neoplatonic compendia and to Sufism. There, too, one of the greatest Islamic philosophers, Ibn Rushd (averroËs), received his training. Rising quite literally to al-Ghazzālī's challenge in his work The Incoherence of the Incoherence [of Philosophy ], he rose to it even more profoundly and immortally in his series of commentaries upon the works of Aristotle, works that were very soon, in translation, to find a more appreciative audience in the new universities of Christian Europe and to influence very substantially the development of scho lasticism.

Islamic theology, on the other hand, grew more and more implacably hostile to what it regarded as the continuing innovations of Sufism and philosophy. As it did so, it strengthened its ties to the sharīah. In the work of Ibn-Taymīyah (12631328) the orthodox reaction was confidently and powerfully asserted in a return to fundamentalism. Thereafter, until modern times, the traditional disciplines and fundamental doctrines and principles of Islam engaged the energies of the orthodox thinkers completely. Though recent scholarship has discovered enough independent thought on the part of some Muslims to force a revision of the notion that the whole of the Ottoman period was one of intellectual sterility, it remains true that a basic unquestioning orthodoxy held the Islamic community fast together in a rigid system for centuries.

Modern Trends in Islam. The modern Muslim is true to these beliefs and practices and to this intellectual tradition, in his fashion. However thick may be the gloss of elements of "folk" Islam, the basic items in the creed and the Five Pillars are common, with only the slightest modifications, to all Muslims. In recent times there have been such stirrings within Islam, in response to various challenges from within and without, that the modern Muslim is by no means as fully complacent about the omniresponsive nature of his religion as his ancestors were. Few modern Muslims remain unaffected, in fact, by one or another of the more recent trends in Islam.

It is significant that the first impulse toward radical change in modern times came from Arabia. The low ebb to which Islam had sunk in the Arabian Peninsula by the 17th century, which apparently was virtually a return to primitive religion, gave rise to the movement called Wahhābism, founded by Muammad Abd-al-Wahhāb (170392), calling for a return to Islam's first principles and attacking laxity of morals and those innovations attributable, over the centuries, to Sufism and philosophy. It championed the severe Hanbalite legal code and the uncompromising interpretations of Ibn-Taymīyah. Having enjoyed the patronage of the Saudi tribal chieftains, whose descendants came to power over the entire peninsula after World War I, Wahhābism is now general within the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It was followed by a daring vindication of al-Ghazzālī by a Yemenite scholar, Muammad al-Murtaā (d. 1790). The introduction of Arabic printing into Egypt in 1828 led to the wide dissemination of standard theological works and evoked new controversy and thought. In northwest Africa Ahmad al-Tijāni founded in 1781 a new Sufi order. Later a new type of reforming congregation was organized along Sufi lines by Amad ibn-Idrīs (d. 1837), whose disciples went on to establish other congregations in Libya and East Africa. A more revolutionary group was that of the al-mahdĪ (Muammad Amad; 184485) in the Sudan.

All of these movements, true to the inherent identification of the two within Islam, had political as well as religious aspects and goals. After Napoleon's invasion of Egypt and the subjection of various portions of the Islamic world to non-Muslim colonial powers, the issues were sharpened. The differences separating Muslims were stressed, in an attempt to unite them under a caliphate in defense of Islam. Such a pan-Islamism was advocated by Jamāl-al-Dīn al-Afghāni (183997), who traveled widely throughout the eastern Islamic countries propagating his theories and influencing other movements. He inspired revolutions in Egypt and Iran and laid the basis for more recent popular movements combining Islamic fundamentalism with a political program. The uncompromising attitude of the Muslim Brotherhood, for example, retained many of al-Afghāni's ideas. A different movement, a syncretism not unlike or unrelated to Unitarianism and the Ramakrishna mission in Hinduism, led the Bābis and Bahais out of Islam completely (see babism; bahaism). An apostolic group of a related tenor, called the ah : madiyyah, is viewed with considerable suspicion by both Sunnite and Shīite Muslims.

One of al-Afghāni's disciples, the Egyptian shaykh Muhammad Abduh (18491905), instituted a more interesting though ultimately less influential line of thought by separating the political from the religious side of the question. Abduh was the first great Islamic modernist, a man of enormous ability who attempted to reformulate Islamic doctrine in the light of advances, especially in the sciences, achieved in the West, confident that his efforts would only confirm the truth of Islam. The scene of his work was al-Azhar in Cairo, and it was published in the traditional form of a commentary on the Qurān. As carried on by his pupil Rashīd Ridā (18651935), however, the attempt came some way back toward Ibn-Taymīyah and a new doctrinal rigidity. More successful, perhaps, was the effort of the Indian Muslim Muammad Iqbāl (18761938), whose attempts at harmonizing Islam with the thought of Western writers on philosophy and mysticism, in his poetry and a prose work entitled The Reconstruction struction of Religious Thought in Islam, closely resemble that of al-Ghazzālī.

The role of Islam in recent history has been such as to mingle and cloud such elements. Modernization, in particular industrialization, has started in the Muslim world with such force and momentum that nothing could possibly remove its effects or call a halt to it. Basic religious and social institutions are changing. Increased mobility, opportunities for livelihood, education, and political responsibility have accelerated the process. What further forms Islam's response to them might take is unclear. Certainly the secularism of Turkey and some of the Arab countries has not met with wide acceptance, but there is still little clarification of issues among modern Muslims. Israel's expansion beyond its 1948 borders resulted in an Islamic "revival," with many Muslim Palestinians returning to traditional religious practices. Various "radical" groups in the Middle East and elsewhere that have advocated violence as a legitimate means of overthrowing illegitimate political leaders, or subverting an undesirable social order, have a strong religious rhetoric. Especially since the fall of the Berlin Wall, certain elements in the Islamic world have increasingly seen the West, especially the United States, as a threat to Islamic society and traditional values. It remains to be seen how the relationship between Islam and the West, and Islam and Christianity will be negotiated in the 21st century.

Bibliography: d. b. macdonald, The Development of Muslim Theology, Jurisprudence and Constitutional Theory (New York 1903). t. w. arnold and a. guillaume, eds., The Legacy of Islam (Oxford 1931). a. guillaume, Islam (Baltimore 1954). a. j. wensinck, The Muslim Creed (New York 1932). j. w. sweetman, Islam and Christian Theology (London 1945). h. a. r. gibb, Modern Trends in Islam (Chicago 1947). h. a. r. gibb and j. h. kramers, eds., The Shorter Encyclopedia of Islam (Leiden 1953). w. c. smith, Islam in Modern History (Princeton 1957). j. kritzeck and r. b. winder, eds., The World of Islam (New York 1960). j. a. williams, Islam (New York 1961). j. burton, The Collection of the Quran (Cambridge 1977). j. van ess, Theologie und Gesellschaft im 2. und 3. Jahrhundert Hidschra. Eine Geschichte des religiosen Denkens imfruhen Islam, 6 v. (Berlin, New York 199197). w. a. graham, Beyond the Written Word: Oral Aspects of Scripture in the History of Religion (New York 1989). g. r. hawting, The Idea of Idolatry and the Emergence of Islam: From Polemic to History (Cambridge 1999). j. horovitz, Koranische Untersuchungen (Berlin, Leipzig 1926). t. noldeke, Geschichte des Qorans, new ed. by f. schwally, g. bergstrasser, and o. pretzl, 3 v. (Leipzig 190938). r. paret, Der Koran. Ubersetzung (Stuttgart 1962). a. rippin, ed., Approaches to the History of the Interpretation of the Quran (Oxford 1988).

[j. kritzeck/

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The word conveys the sense of total and exclusive submission to Allah and is the name of the religion enunciated by the Prophet *Muhammad in the city of Mecca at the beginning of the seventh century c.e. An adherent of it is called a Muslim, a person who submits to Allah totally and exclusively. While the word is normally used in this sense, in traditional Muslim usage the word also denotes the ancient monotheistic faith associated with *Abraham. It is in this sense that Abraham is explicitly designated as Muslim in *Koran 3:67; the same designation is implicit for the Old Testament prophets and for Jesus as well. Liberal-minded modern Muslims tend to interpret this as a reflection of Muslim tolerance and recognition of the prophets of Judaism and Christianity; viewed from a different perspective, the idea may also be construed as an appropriation of Jewish and Christian religious history by Muslims.

In contradistinction to other religions whose names were frequently given to them by outsiders (cf. W.C. Smith, The Meaning and End of Religion, (1963), 80–82), the name Islam is indigenous and appears in the Koran eight times; moreover, the Koran maintains that Allah himself approved of Islam (Koran 5:5) and it is " the religion in the eyes of Allah" (Koran 3:19). Conversely, "whoever desires a religion other than Islam, it will not be accepted from him, and he will be in the hereafter one of the losers" (Koran 3:85). Muslims use Islam as the only name for their religion; other names by which Islam has been known until recently in European languages – such as "Mohammedanism" or "Mahométanisme" – are totally unacceptable to them. Nevertheless, in medieval Muslim texts one occasionally encounters expressions such as "Muhammadan way" (?arīqa mu?ammadiyya) in a sense identical with Islam. In the literature of tradition, the terms Islam and Muslim are sometimes also given a more sublime significance; playing on the various meanings of the Arabic root s-l-m, a tradition says that "a Muslim is someone by whose hands and tongue the Muslims are not harmed" (al-Bukhārī, ?a?ī?, Kitāb alīmān, 4; ed. Krehl, vol. 1, 11). Recent interpretations according to which Islam is related to salām ("peace") seem to have no basis in traditional literature, though the linguistic root of the two words is identical.

In the pre-Islamic period (called the era of barbarism and ignorance, al-Jāhiliyya), Arab inhabitants of the Peninsula believed in a multiplicity of gods but were not unaware of Allah whom they believed to be the strongest among these. In the Muslim tradition, this is called "associationism" (shirk), the belief that Allah has associates (shurakā?) in His divinity. These associates were believed to have an essential mediatory role between human beings and Allah. Muslim tradition maintains, nevertheless, that pre-Islamic Arabs understood that Allah was more powerful than all other gods and in times of extreme danger they placed their trust in Him alone, becoming, in a manner of speaking, "temporary monotheists" (cf. Koran 29:65–66, 31:22; Izutsu, God and Man, 102–103). In the Peninsula there were also Jewish and Christian communities. The Jews lived in the northern city of *Khaybar and in *Medina where the Prophet Muhammad was active from 622 c.e. until his death ten years later. The Christians inhabited the town of Najrān and also lived elsewhere: the Christian tribe of Taghlib lived first in the Najd region of the Peninsula and later on the lower Euphrates (M. Lecker, "Taghlib" eis2, s.v.). Small Zoroastrian communities probably existed in the eastern part of the Peninsula. Islam developed out of polemics with these religious communities and a substantial part of Muslim belief and ritual can only be understood against this background.

"The Pillars of Islam" (arkān al-islām)

In contradistinction to Judaism which speaks of 613 (taryag) commandments, the Muslim tradition does not keep count of the commandments incumbent on a Muslim. However, five of these have acquired a special standing in Islamic tradition. One of them is related to the manner in which an unbeliever embraces Islam, while the other four belong to the ritual aspect of the religion. Each of these commandments is mentioned several times in the Koran, but there they do not appear as a separate group. However, in the literature of prophetic tradition (*?adīth), the five commandments are grouped and designed as the pillars on which Islam stands. In the collection compiled by al-Bukhārī (d. 870 c.e.), we read: "Islam is built on five (pillars): Witnessing that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah, and the performance of prayer, and giving of alms, and pilgrimage, and the fast of Rama?ān" (al-Bukhārī, ?a?ī?, Kitāb al-īmān, 2; ed. Krehl, 1, 10).

1. The double formula saying that "there is no god but Allah and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah" (called in Arabic shahāda ("witnessing"), kalima ("word"), or kalimat alikhlā? ("the word of exclusive devotion") does not appear in the Koran as one unit. Its first part appears with slight modifications several times. Koran 3:18 reads: "Allah witnessed that there is no god except Him." (Cf. Koran 2:255, 37:35 and elsewhere.) The second part appears only once, in Koran 48:29: "Muhammad is the messenger of Allah. And those who are with him are hard against the unbelievers, merciful one to another…" This formula is the most distinctive expression of Muslim monotheism and of the central position accorded in Islam to the Prophet Muhammad. It is an important part of worship, appearing in the call to prayer and in the prayer itself. It is also the formal requirement for joining the Muslim community. Like other Muslim rituals, this formula seems also to have undergone certain developments before reaching its final form. The tradition maintains that the first part of the shahāda, affirming the oneness of Allah, was sufficient to indicate the conversion of Arab polytheists to Islam because it is unambiguous in the rejection of their former belief in multiple gods. When the call to Islam was directed at Christians and Jews, this part of the shahāda was no longer sufficient: an affirmation of Allah's oneness by monotheist Jews or Christians does not indicate their conversion to Islam because Christians and Jews may identify with the first part of the shahāda without changing their religious affiliation. For a Jew or a Christian, therefore, the acknowledgment of Muhammad's prophethood was considered essential. And since some Jewish groups were willing to acknowledge Muhammad's prophethood but restricted its validity to Arabs alone (see Y. Erder, "The Doctrine of Abū īsā al-Isfahānī and Its Sources," in: Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam, 20 (1996), 162–99), Jews and Christians were obliged – according to some traditions – not only to pronounce the double shahāda, but also unequivocally to renounce their former faiths.

2. Prayer (?alāt): Pre-Islamic Arabs did not observe an obligatory daily routine which could be seen as an inspiration for the Islamic prayer. It is therefore significant to observe that ?alāt ("prayer") is an Aramaic loan word which means bowing or prostration. Nevertheless, prayer is mentioned as an obligation of the believer already in the Meccan period of the Koran (Koran 108:1–2; 107:4–5). It seems that in the first stage of the development, the Prophet spoke of two daily prayers: in the evening and at dawn. Koran 17:80 enjoins the Muslims to "perform the prayer at the sinking of the sun to the darkening of the night and the recital of dawn (Koran alfajr)…." Later developments in this field are not very clear, but it appears that after the hijra to *Medina an additional prayer, called the "middle" one, was added when the Koran says: "Be watchful over the prayers and the middle prayer…" (Koran 2:239). The "middle prayer" is variously explained as the noon or the afternoon prayer.

If we assume that the prayers mentioned in the first part of the verse are the two prayers which had been referred to in the Meccan period, we reach the conclusion that after the hijra the number of prayers reached three. Though there is no hard evidence to substantiate this notion, some scholars tend to speculate that this happened under the influence of the Jews with whom the Prophet came into contact in Medina. The number of the Muslim prayers eventually reached five, but we do not know exactly when this development took place. There is some evidence to suggest that during the *Umayyad period in *Syria the number of the obligatory prayers was not generally known, and at the time of the Umayyad caliph ?Omar b. ?Abd al-?Azīz (r. 717–720 c.e.) the proper time for prayer was not known either (Goldziher, Muslim Studies, 2, 39–40). As for the reasons why the Muslims eventually decided on the number of five daily prayers, these are not clear. Goldziher maintains that the number was influenced by the Zoroastrian tradition which had five daily prayers. Islamic tradition connects the establishment of the five prayers with Muhammad's miraculous nocturnal journey to heaven (isrā?, mi?rāj). According to this tradition, Allah intended to impose on the Muslim community 50 daily prayers, but after some negotiations (which Muhammad conducted with Allah in compliance with the advice of Moses), the number was reduced to five. The tradition maintains, however, that these five prayers have the value of fifty.

In any case, post-Koranic Muslim tradition established five daily prayers: morning (fajr), noon (?uhr), afternoon (?a?r), evening (maghrib), and night (isha). Before each prayer it is necessary to perform an ablution (wu?u), which involves washing the hands up to the elbows, rinsing the mouth and nose, and washing the feet including the ankles. If water is not available, sand may be used; in this case the procedure is called tayammum (Koran 5:8–9). In preparation for the Friday prayer washing the entire body (ghusl) is required. The prayer itself consists of a prescribed sequence of bodily movements (rak?a), including bending, standing, prostration, and half-kneeling, half sitting. The only texts which are essential for the prayer being valid are the formula Allāhu Akbar and the Fāti?a, the opening chapter of the Koran.

Three elements associated with Muslim prayer will serve as an illustration of the idea that Islam developed out of polemics with, and attempts to differentiate itself from, Judaism and Christianity. As is well known, Muslims now pray barefoot. However, there is evidence to suggest that in the early days of Islam, Muslims prayed with their shoes on. This was recommended, even enjoined, in order to distinguish between Muslims and Jews who are said to have prayed barefoot. The second element is the adhān, the call preceding each prayer. The tradition maintains that in the beginning the Prophet used a horn "like the horn of the Jews" for this purpose. Later he disliked this and ordered the clapper (nāqūs) to be used to summon the believers, in emulation of Eastern Christians. Eventually, ?Omar b. al-Kha??āb, the second caliph, had a vision in which he was told: "Do not use the clapper, rather call to prayer (with human voice)." In this way the characteristic Muslim call to prayer is said to have emerged. This call now consists of pronouncing the formula "Allahu Akbar" four times, the shahāda twice, the formula "come to prayer, come to success" twice, "Allahu Akbar" twice again, and, finally, the shahāda.

The development of the Muslim direction of prayer (qibla) is the most famous reflection of the progressive dissociation of Islam from Judaism. The Muslim direction of prayer underwent several changes. The relevant traditions are reasonably clear, but there is no way to verify their historicity. Koran 2:216, considered by some commentators to be abrogated, seems to belittle the importance of the direction of prayer, saying that "To God belong the East and the West; wherever you turn, there is the face of God." On the other hand, we have three traditions concerning the direction of prayer in Mecca before Muhammad's migration to Medina in 622. According to one of them, in Mecca the Prophet faced the Ka?ba while praying; according to another, he faced Jerusalem; according to a third, which constitutes an attempt to harmonize between the first two ones, he faced Jerusalem, but took care to have the Ka?ba on the straight line between himself and Jerusalem. In this way, the tradition maintains, he faced both sanctuaries.

Regarding the period of the Prophet's sojourn in Medina (622–632 c.e.), the tradition is unanimous and maintains that for the first 16 or 18 months of his stay in Medina, the Prophet and the Muslims with him prayed toward Jerusalem; this is why Jerusalem came to be known in Islam as "the first qibla and the third sanctuary" (after Mecca and Medina) (ūlā al-qiblatayn wa thālith al-?aramayn). There is no record of a divine command to do this; nevertheless, some commentators think that such a command was issued, while others maintain that praying in the direction of Jerusalem was the Prophet's own decision. Some suggest that the Prophet was commanded to pray toward Jerusalem "in order to conciliate the Jews." Frequently we read that at some point in time the Prophet became averse to this direction of prayer, and Koran 2:150, which commands the Muslims to pray in the direction of Mecca, was revealed in response to the Prophet's desire. The change of the qibla to Mecca introduced a crucial Arabian element into Islam and was a major step in its disengagement from Judaism.

The five daily prayers may be performed in public or in private, though according to the tradition public prayer is always preferable. The only prayer which must always be performed in public is the noon prayer on Friday (jum?a).

Naturally, no congregational prayer was held before the hijra in Mecca because of the precarious position of the few Meccan Muslims in that period. Though there are some references to the jum?a prayer in Medina before the hijra, it is clear that the jum?a prayer acquired its central standing in Muslim ritual in the Medinan period of the Prophet's career. The choice of Friday as the Muslim day of congregational prayer was explained in various ways. Some thought that it was just to differentiate Islam from Judaism and Christianity; but this argument is good for any day except Saturday and Sunday. A classical tradition observes that although the Jews and the Christians were given their holy books before the Muslims, the Muslims precede them in their day of prayer, in order to do them justice. The most widely accepted scholarly explanation was given by S.D. Goitein ("The Origin and Nature of the Muslim Friday Worship," Studies in Islamic history and institutions (1968), 111–25). Goitein suggests that Friday was chosen because on that day the Jews of Medina used to prepare provisions for the Sabbath; because of this Friday became a market day on which not only the inhabitants of Medina, but also the inhabitants of the adjacent areas assembled in the city and engaged in commerce. Since Koran 62:9–11 clearly says that commercial activity must cease when the call to prayer is sounded, this explanation sounds convincing.

The Friday prayer is the only prayer during which a sermon (khu?ba) is delivered. The sermon normally includes praise of Allah, a prayer for the Prophet, exhortation to good deeds, and a chapter from the Koran. It is also customary to mention the ruler. This custom has great political importance: it is a symbol of the worshipers' allegiance to the government in power. Mentioning the ruler's name in the sermon is considered indicative of the preacher's (and the congregation's) political loyalty, while its omission is considered a symbol of rebellion. Mutatis mutandis, sermons are at times used for political statements in the modern period as well. Religiously speaking, Friday is not a day of rest like the Jewish Sabbath. As is clear from Koran 62:9–11, work is prohibited only during the prayer itself; after the prayer is concluded, all activities may be resumed. Nevertheless, Friday has acquired in Islam the characteristics of a holiday and is the official day of rest in many Muslim states.

3. Pilgrimage (?ajj): In contradistinction to prayer, the Muslim pilgrimage has clear antecedents in the pre-Islamic period. Muslim tradition maintains that pre-Islamic Arabs performed pilgrimage to the Ka?ba in Mecca, which was then a pagan place of worship, with images of idols. The transformation of the Ka?ba into a Muslim sanctuary and of the pilgrimage into a Muslim ritual necessitated an infusion of monotheistic elements into the history of both. This was achieved by describing the pilgrimage as a ritual which had begun long before Arabian idolatry came into being and was a part of the ancient monotheistic religion associated with Abraham "who was neither a Jew nor a Christian but a ?anīf Muslim and was not of the idolaters" (Koran 3:67). According to the Koranic account, Abraham was the man who built the Ka?ba together with his son Ishmael and made it into a pure place of worship (Koran 2:125, 3:95–97).

Hence the Ka?ba, an idolatrous sanctuary in the pre-Islamic period, became the holiest place in Islam. The way was now open for the next step, transformimg the pilgrimage to Mecca into an Islamic commandment: "It is the duty of all people to come to the House as pilgrim, if he is able to make his way there" (Koran 3:97). Thus the pilgrimage is a case in which Islam did not abolish a pre-Islamic ritual, but rather filled it with new content and significance. The identity of the Muslim rituals with the pre-Islamic ones caused misgivings among some early believers and at least in one case a special revelation was needed to give legitimacy to such a ritual.

The pilgrimage is held annually in the month of Dhū al-?ijja, the last month of the Islamic year. It is obligatory for every Muslim once in a lifetime, if he has the means to perform it. At the outskirts of Mecca, the pilgrims enter into the state of sacredness (i?rām), symbolized by the white, seamless garment worn during the pilgrimage. The uniform clothing is understood as symbolizing the equality of all believers. When the pilgrim reaches Mecca, he starts the ritual by circumambulating the Ka?ba seven times (?awāf). Then he covers seven times the distance between the hills of al-Safā and al-Marwa (sa?y). This is understood as commemorating Hagar's search of water for her son Ishmael. The collective rituals, so characteristic of the annual Muslim pilgrimage, begin on the 8th of Dhū al-?ijja, when the pilgrims set out for the plain of ?Arafāt, east of Mecca. On the 9th of the month the pilgrims stand there and listen to a sermon at the time of the noon-prayer. This is the central ritual of the pilgrimage (wuqūf). On the way back to Mecca, the pilgrims throw stones at Minā; this is meant to symbolize the stoning of the devil. On the 10th, 11th, and 12th of the month the Feast of Sacrifice (?īd al-a??ā) is celebrated. The sacrifice of an animal is obligatory on every free Muslim who can afford it. After this, the pilgrims return to Mecca and can come out of their state of sacredness.

The pilgrimage has acquired tremendous importance in Islam. It allows millions of Muslims from all parts of the world to meet, exchange ideas, and get acquainted with each other. The pilgrimage is therefore an extraordinary event: in recent years, about two million Muslims participate in it. It gives the Muslims a sense of belonging to a large, universal community and strengthens the feeling of unity in the Muslim world.

4. Fasting (?awm): The development of the Muslim commandment of fasting began with the migration of the Prophet to Medina in 622, when the Prophet instructed the Muslims to fast the ?āshūrā? (cf. ?asor, Lev. 16:29) on the 10th of Mu?arram, the first month in the Muslim calendar. One version of this tradition maintains that this was in emulation of, or in competition with, the Day of Atonement. Other traditions deny any Jewish connection and hold that the ?āshūrā? commemorates the saving of Noah during the flood, or a fast observed by the tribe of Quraysh in the pre-Islamic period. In 2 a.h./624 c.e., Koran 2:185 was revealed, instituting the month of Rama?ān as the month of fasting, from sunrise to sunset. This is another example of the progressive dissociation of Islam from the Jewish tradition. Henceforth, ?āshūrā? was downgraded to a voluntary fast, but there are indications for its persistence into the Muslim period. Later the fast of ?āshūrā? merged with the Shī?ī commemoration of the death of al-Hūsayn, the Prophet's grandson, in Karbalā? in 680 c.e.

Throughout Rama?ān, the believer must refrain from food, drink, and sexual relations during the daytime. Imsāk is the beginning of the fast at dawn, while if?ār signifies the breaking of the fast after sunset. Unrelated to Rama?ān is fasting of various durations as expiation for failing to fulfill an oath (Koran 5:92), for repudiating a wife in a forbidden way (?ihār, Koran 58:4), for failing to perform the pilgrimage rituals properly (Koran 2:196), or for an accidental killing of a believer (Koran 4:91).

5. Alms-giving (zakā). The pre-Islamic secular value of generosity was transformed into mandatory almsgiving in Islam. In the early Sūras of the Koran, the commandment is phrased in very general terms (Koran 13:24–26). In the late Medinan period, the tone is much more specific and the purposes for which the collected money may be used are specified: "The alms are for the poor and the needy, and those who collect them, and those whose hearts are to be reconciled, and to free the captives, and the debtors, and for the sake of Allah and for the wayfarers; a duty imposed by Allah" (Koran 9:60). Those "whose hearts are to be reconciled" are understood to be people who needed economic incentive to join Islam, while "for the sake of Allah" is interpreted as the jihād (q.v.). This suggests that the Prophet used the alms money not only as help for the needy, but also for political purposes. According to some prophetic traditions, the payment of the alms "purifies" the property retained by the payer. The Qur'an does not specify the amount to be paid as alms. Koran 2:219 seems to indicate that one should give as alms whatever is his surplus (for details on this in Islamic law, see A. Zysow, "Zakāt," eis2, 11, 406–22).

The Expansion of Islam

The first wave of conquests by Muslim Arabs, completed at the beginning of the eighth century c.e., included the Fertile Crescent, *Iran, *Egypt, North Africa, *Spain, the western fringes of *India, and some parts of Central Asia. From the 10th century Turkish people originating on the steppes between the Caspian Sea and the Altai mountains became increasingly important as political and military champions of Islam. The conquest of South Asia (comprising today India, *Pakistan, and Bangladesh) began with the Indian campaigns of Ma?mūd Ghaznawī in the early 11th century, and was almost completed by the Delhi Sultanate in the 13th. The conversion of the *Mongols to Islam which began in the 13th century significantly extended the boundaries of Islam. The manner in which Islam came to South East Asia has not been satisfactorily described so far, but it is clear that it was not by way of conquest. The presence of Muslims in the Indonesian archipelago has been attested since the late 13th century. Muslim merchants and mystics are normally credited with bringing Islam to these areas. It is clear that Muslim conquests and the establishment of Muslim dynasties are not coterminous with the spread of Islam among the population and that the former aspects of Muslim history are known much better than the processes by which Islam became the religion of a substantial part of Asian and African populations.

The number of Muslims was estimated in 2000 at 1,262 million, 77% of these living in countries where the majority of the population is Muslim. The largest concentration of Muslim population is found in the three countries of South Asia (India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh) which are home to 384.3 million Muslims. Indonesia is the largest single Muslim political unit, with 212.1 million Muslims. The Arabic-speaking countries of North Africa (including the Sudan) and the Middle East comprise 257 million Muslims. Turkey follows with 66.5 million, Iran with 62.2 million, the five Muslim states of Central Asia (Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Kirgyzstan, and Kazakhstan) with 41.5 million, and Afghanistan with 22.5 million. In Africa 58.9 million Muslims live in West Africa (south of the Sahara) and 47.1 in East Africa. The Muslim minority of China is estimated at 19.2 million, of Russia at 14.7 million, and of Europe (including the Balkans, France, and the U.K.) at 8.1 million. The number of Muslims in the U.S. and Canada is put at 2 million, although some Muslim organizations in the U.S. speak of 6 million Muslims in the U.S. alone. Reference to religion in demographic statistics is not universal, and these figures must therefore be viewed with caution. It is estimated that the number of Muslims will reach 1.8 billion by 2025; the Muslims are then expected to form almost a quarter of the global population.

General Characteristics

The general character of Islam is determined by two main factors: its foundational literature and its global expansion. The foundational literature – including the Koran, the prophetic tradition (?adīth), the jurisprudence (*fiqh) and mysticism (ta?awwuf) – should be seen as unifying factors. The global expansion of Islam, the diverse conditions in the various areas, the different degrees to which the classical sources of Islam were internalized, the different degrees of modernization – all these explain the distinct characteristics of Islam in various areas of the world.

In addition to its fierce monotheism, the universal, global appeal of Islam seems to be its most conspicuous general feature. It is based on the firm belief that in contradistinction to all other prophets who had been sent to specific communities, Muhammad was sent to all humanity. Furthermore, Muhammad is considered the last prophet to be sent to earth. Consequently, Islam and the Koran – the consummate embodiment of the divine will – will remain valid until the end of days: no prophet will ever be sent in order to bring another revelation or another sacred law. Therefore, Islam does not countenance the establishment of any new religion after the coming of Muhammad. Also, the Koran is considered to be the only scripture which was transmitted reliably and suffered no interpolation, while the Torah and the New Testament had allegedly been tampered willfully by the Jews and the Christians (ta?rīf). As a result of these and similar considerations, Muslims are "the best community ever brought forth to mankind" (Koran 3:110), and "Islam is exalted and nothing is exalted above it" (al-Islām ya?lū wa lā yu? (al-Bukhārī, ?a?ī?, Kitāb al-janā?iz 80; ed. Krehl, 1, 337–38). The idea of Islamic exaltedness has numerous ramifications for the relationship between Islam and other faiths (Friedmann, Tolerance and Coercion, 34–39).

The Muslim ideas relevant to this relationship have been subject to significant changes since the earliest period of Islam. Even the Koran includes divergent ideas about the relationship between Islam and other religions. On the one hand, it includes verses which seem to promise divine reward for the Jews and the Christians without mentioning their conversion to Islam as a precondition (Koran 2:62; cf. 5:69). On the other hand, it speaks about the humiliation inflicted upon them (Koran 2:61, 3:112), instructs the Muslims not to forge alliances with them (Koran 5:51), and calls upon the Muslims to fight them "until they pay the poll-tax (*jizya) out of hand while being humiliated (Koran 9:29). These and verses of similar import have been extensively commented upon in Muslim tradition and jurisprudence. The Muslim attitude to the Jews and Christians gradually moved from an initial conciliatory approach in the direction of increased rigor. (See Friedmann, Tolerance and Coercion, 194–99.)

The Koran and the prophetic tradition (?adīth) (q.v.) constitute the major unifying factors in Islam. The Koran is considered to be the literal word of Allah. Muslim theologians debated whether it has existed since all eternity and is uncreated (ghayr makhlūq), or was created (makhlūq) at a certain point in time. Perceived as divine in origin, its style is considered inimitable (mu?jiz) in the sense that no human being is capable of producing a book of so sublime a stylistic standard. This is the dogma known as i?jāz al-Koran, the idea that the Koran renders human beings unable to imitate it. The distinctive character of Koranic style is unmistakable; from the secular vantage point it may derive from the fact that the Koran is the only extant literary work from seventh-century Arabia. In any case, the Koran has always been the subject of boundless veneration by Muslims. Although the Koran considers itself as "a book in which there is no doubt" (Koran 2:2) and as a revelation in "clear Arabic language" (Koran 26:195), many verses are difficult to understand and the book has inspired a vast literary corpus of exegesis (tafsīr). Once the meaning of a verse was agreed upon by mainstream exegetes, the accepted meaning acquired an uncontested normative value in Muslim law and piety.

The prophetic tradition (hadīth) has developed out of the conviction that a pious Muslim should emulate the Prophet in whatever he did, recall whatever he said, and even keep a record of things which gained his tacit approval. This attitude is based on the firm conviction that Muhammad possessed a perfect personality and should be treated with utmost respect. Any action which is judged incompatible with this basic idea is rejected with great severity. Therefore, one of the most meritorious actions which a Muslim can do is to revive a custom of the Prophet (sunna) which for some reason fell into disuse. The customs of the Prophet were recorded in the ?adīth which has become a major part of Muslim religious literature, a major source of Muslim law and an important vehicle through which later generations could influence the development of Islam. The desire to emulate the Prophet brought about a tremendous proliferation of the ?adīth, which soon became an extensive branch of Muslim religious literature.

According to the traditional Muslim view, a considerable part of the hadīth, which has a reliable chain of transmitters and thus can pass the traditional test of authenticity, was actually pronounced by the Prophet and has therefore a normative value second only to the Koran itself. Modern scholarship, on the other hand, maintains that the authenticity of this material is unverifiable: since we have no extant books of hadīth from the lifetime of the Prophet, there is no reliable method which can establish whether a certain saying was pronounced by the Prophet, or originated in a later period and was attributed to the Prophet in order to prove a point of law or an idea in the religious thought of a Muslim group. In some cases it is possible to discern the religious tendency or political interest embedded in a tradition; but in the countless traditions of general ethical content lacking a point of historical reference this is frequently impossible. In the brilliant formulation of *Goldziher, whose study of the hadīth, written in the late 19th century, is still an indispensable masterpiece, "the hadīth will not serve as a document for the history of the infancy of Islam, but rather as a reflection of the tendencies which appeared in the community during the maturer stages of its development. It contains invaluable evidence for the evolution of Islam during the years when it was forming itself into an organized whole from powerful mutually opposed forces. This makes the proper appreciation and study of the hadīth so important for the understanding of Islam in the evolution of which the most notable phases are accompanied by successive stages in the creation of the hadīth " (Goldziher, Muslim Studies, vol. 2, 19).

The third unifying factor is Islamic jurisprudence (*sharī?a, *fiqh). From the very beginning, Islam strove to control the life of the community in all fields. Like Judaism, Islam is not satisfied with regulating man's obligation toward God, but also aspires to regulate his daily behavior and legislates in matters which in other cultures belong to the field of civil or secular law. Legal matters do not constitute a major part of the Koran, though topics such as the law of marriage, divorce, inheritance, and penalties for a restricted number of transgressions (theft, highway robbery, wine drinking, unlawful sexual intercourse and false accusation thereof) are discussed in some detail. Beginning in the last decades of the 8th century c.e., major compendia of Muslim jurisprudence began to emerge. Numerous schools of legal thinking (madhhab, pl. madhāhib) came into being in the formative period of Islam. Four of them (?anafis, ?anbalīs, Mālikīs, and Shāfi?īs) survived and are regarded as valid versions of the religious law of Islam. The ?anafī school, which originated in the Iraqi city of Kūfa, is the most widespread. It was the dominant school in the *Abbāsid empire, in the *Ottoman empire, in the *Moghul empire in India and in Central Asia. The Mālikīs school was predominant in Muslim Spain, and still is in North Africa. The Shāfi?īs school is deeply rooted in Egypt and has many adherents in the Fertile Crescent. The ?anbalīs have official status in *Saudi Arabia and numerous adherents elsewhere.

While the division into schools of law may indicate some measure of diversity, the common denominator between the schools is more than sufficient to consider the law as a unifying factor in Islam. The law is administered by a judge (qā?ī), sometimes assisted by a legal specialist authorized to issue legal opinions (fatwā pl. fatāwā).

The formative period of Islam was characterized by immense worldly success. The great conquests of the first century of Muslim history, in which Muslims took control of vast areas in the Middle East, in the western fringes of India, in Central Asia, in North Africa and in the Iberian peninsula, transformed the history of these regions and brought them under the aegis of Islam. Later expansion and conquests did the same for other areas of the world. The chronicles of the early conquests abound in descriptions of the wealth accumulated in the course of these events, and the conquerors do not seem to have had any qualms about the riches which they amassed. Mainstream Islam legitimized this and regulated the ways in which booty may be taken and used. This reflects a positive approach of Islam to worldly success (cf. Smith, Islam in Modern History, 22–23). Yet at the same time, one can discern in early Islam a completely different trend of thought: a trend which is contemplative, stresses the uselessness of this world and sees it only as a corridor through which one must pass, but which has no real value when compared with the everlasting bliss promised to the believers in the hereafter. This was the attitude of early Muslim ascetics (zuhhād, sg. zāhid) who spared no effort to revile this world, to describe it as "a corpse pursued by dogs," as a place of unbearable stench, a place which is a prison for the believer and Paradise for the infidel. These were the precursors of the ?ūfī movement (see *Sufism) which developed into a major trend in Muslim religiosity. Since the 10th century c.e., ?ūfi thinkers produced numerous manuals in which they described the path (?arīqa) to God and which served as guides on the seeker's (murīd) way to spiritual perfection. These manuals, of which "The book of (mystical) flashes in ?ūfism" (Kitāb alluma? fī al-ta?awwuf) by Abū Na?r al-Sarrāj (d. 988 c.e.) is a prime example, surveys the practices and modes of thinking of the ?ūfīs. The book speaks about the standing of the ?ūfīs among the believers and reaches the conclusion that they are more assiduous than others in observance and do not try to avoid the inconvenient commandments by seeking allegorical explanations and legal evasions. Thus, they not only obey the letter of the law, but go beyond it and reach degrees of religiosity which can not be attained by jurists and others. They leave aside all irrelevant matters and cut every connection which may interfere with attaining their objective, which is God alone. The book also describes in great detail the spiritual stages on the ?ūfī?s way to God.

In a later stage, from the 12th century onward, the ?ūfīs were not only individuals exploring divine mysteries, but also organized themselves into ?ūfī orders (?uruq, sg. ?arīqa) which spread all over the Muslim world from the Maghrib in the West to Indonesia in the East. These orders developed around ?ūfī masters (shuyūkh, sg. shaykh, or pīr in the eastern part of the Muslim world). These orders were of considerable importance in the life of the Muslim communities everywhere. It stands to reason that participation in the ?ūfī ritual, such as the communal dhikr (the constant repetition of God's name), gave the common man a spiritual satisfaction unachievable by other means. Trimmingham (The ?ūfī Orders, 229) sees a similarity between the spiritual role of a ?ūfī order and that of a local church in Europe; another possible comparison is with the ?asidic movement in Judaism.

While the orders developed numerous disparate characteristics in the various parts of the Muslim world, the similarities between them are sufficient to include ?ūfīsm among the unifying factors of Islam. The more unified picture of Islam can be found in Islamic literature, while its diversity can be most profitably studied in anthropological research. Anthropological fieldwork in various areas of the Muslim world has revealed numerous characteristics which show the extent to which Islam was influenced by local cultures, especially in rural areas. In almost every Muslim house in the Indian district of Purnea a little shrine existed in which prayers were offered both to Allah and to the Indian goddess Kālī. In the same place, a part of the Muslim marriage ceremony was conducted in a shrine of the goddess Bhagvatī (Mujeeb, The Indian Muslims, 13–14). There is substantial literature about the existence of caste system among Indian Muslims, despite the classical Islamic principle of equality of all believers (Ahmad, Caste and Social Stratification…). Geertz (Islam observed, 66) maintains that in Indonesia, "the mass of the peasantry remained devoted to local spirits, domestic rituals and familiar charms. … Christians and pagans apart, all these people, gentry and peasantry alike, conceived themselves to be Muslims." Muslims for whom the classical literature of Islam is the only guide as to what constitutes Islam will probably consider such phenomena as cases of incomplete Islamization; but, of course, there is no guarantee that the Muslims in question will ever be transformed into believers conforming to the ideal of Islam as embodied in the classical tradition.

Modern Islam

Barring a few exceptions, classical and medieval Muslim thought developed against the background of a dominant Muslim civilization. Both in the formative period of Islam and in the later pre-modern centuries, Muslim thinkers were active in areas which were part of secure and relatively stable political systems, headed by Muslim rulers. This situation began to change with the first Western incursions into the Muslim world and with the gradually developing sense that Islam had lost its erstwhile primacy in its relationship with other civilizations. The reaction of Muslim thinkers to this evolving situation was manifold. During the second half of the 19th century, the Muslim modernist movement came into being. In Egypt, the prominent intellectual figure was that of Muhammad ?Abduh (1849–1905). At various times, he was teacher, journalist, and judge; his career culminated between 1899 and 1905, when he served as the muftī of Egypt. His leading ideas included the insistence on the compatibility of Islam with reason and modern science, since the Koran encouraged the study of the physical universe; the preference of reason when it conflicts with traditional knowledge; rejection of the blind following of the tradition (taqlīd); and the revitalization of independent reasoning (ijtihād). He also maintained that the restrictions placed in Islam on polygamy (the obligation to treat the wives with equality and justice; cf. Koran 4:3) are such that they amount to prohibition, and advocated the education of girls. Among his numerous followers, mention should be made of Qāsim Amīn (1865–1908), who became famous because of his advocacy of women's rights, and ?Alī?Abd al-Rāziq (1888–1966), who maintained that Islam "is a religion, not a state" (dīn lā dawla). In other words, and in contradistinction to the prevalent view, he advocated the separation of religion and state in Islam. This idea aroused serious opposition and caused him to be expelled from the ranks of the ?ulamā? and from his position as a religious judge.

In the Indian subcontinent, the modernist movement was launched by Sir Sayyid A?mad Khān (1817–1898). Having been knighted for his loyal behavior during the Indian uprising of 1857, he devoted his life to the improvement of the Indian Muslims' relationship with the British rulers and to the advancement of modern education among Indian Muslims. In 1875 he established (with British support) the Anglo-Muhammadan Oriental College, which came to be known since 1920 as Aligarh Muslim University, and served as an important Muslim institution of higher learning in which modern science was taught alongside the humanities. He promoted the idea that there can be no contradiction between the word of God and laws of nature which are God's doing. Therefore, there can be no contradiction between the Koran, Islam, and the laws of nature, and there can be no objection in Islam to the study of modern Western sciences. A?mad Khān also devoted considerable effort to the demythologizing of Islam and interpreting its leading ideas as conforming to human intellect. In his attempt to improve the relationship between Islam and Christianity, he disagreed with the classical Muslim accusation that Christians and Jews had falsified the Scriptures, maintained that the books of the Bible are to be considered genuine and denounced the Indian Muslim custom of refusal to dine with Christians. Like Muhammad ?Abduh, he maintained that Islam actually prohibited polygamy by insisting on the equal treatment of all wives, an attitude of which men are emotionally incapable.

Sayyid A?mad Khān's views found support among numerous Indian Muslim thinkers. Chirāgh ?Alī (1844–1895) devoted much attention to the interpretation of jihād and argued that "all wars of Mohammad were defensive." He argued that "there are certain points in which the Mohammadan Common Law is irreconcilable with the modern needs of Islam, whether in India or Turkey, and requires modification. The several chapters of the Common Law, as those on political institutes, slavery, concubinage, marriage, divorce, and disabilities of non-Moslem fellow-subjects are to be remodeled and rewritten in accordance with the strict interpretations of the Koran…." He also opposed the blind following (taqlīd) of the Islamic schools of jurisprudence which were "never intended to be either divine or finite." It may be said that Chirāgh ?Alī was one of the most radical reformers in Indian Islam. His definition of the sharī?a as "common law" which may be changed by human intervention is a major departure from traditional norms.

The most famous among Indian Muslim modernists was Muhammad Iqbal (1875–1938). A poet, a philosopher and a political thinker – he is a towering figure among the Indian Muslims in the 20th century. He enjoyed immense popularity among the Indian Muslims, mainly because of his powerful and compelling poetry in Urdu and Persian, although his philosophical and political ideas also played a role in the development of his popularity. His Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, which reflects his Islamic upbringing as well as his knowledge of European philosophy, is the most systematic formulation of his thought, though some of the arguments proffered in it are not clear. A substantial part of this work is dedicated to the description of Islam as a dynamic force in human history and to the analysis of the reasons which caused its stagnation in modern times. In Iqbal's view, the stagnation of Islam was caused by several reasons. One is the failure of the Mu?tazila which he considers a rationalist school of thought. Like other modernists, Iqbal is severely critical of ?ūfism which preferred other-worldliness and caused the Muslims to neglect the concrete world which had been, in his view, at the center of the Koran's attention. He maintains, however, that Islam is capable of renewal and maintains that the belief in the finality of Muhammad's prophethood is a powerful intellectual tool that can be used for this purpose. In contradistinction to the classical interpretation, which used this belief as a proof of the eternal validity of the Koran and of Islamic law, Iqbal maintains that "in Islam prophecy reached its perfection in discovering the need for its own abolition." Finality of prophethood means that after the completion of Muhammad's mission nobody can ever claim personal authority of supernatural origin. Man has reached a stage in which he can open new horizons without being hampered by any constraints. The ideal believer is, therefore characterized by creativity, vitality, abhorrence of stagnation, and love of perpetual movement. Together with the use of the reinterpretation of Islamic law (ijtihād), these are the qualities which can revitalize Islam and restore its original dynamic character.

The modernist movement, which aimed at bringing Islam into conformity with the modern world and was characteristic of Islamic thought in the second half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th, gradually lost its primacy and was replaced by radical trends of thought. Driven by the acute sense that modernity failed to deliver on its promise and stands in sharp contrast with the traditional Islamic ideal, radical Muslim thinkers, such as Abū al-A?lā Mawdūdī (1903–1979) in India and Sayyid Qu?b (1906–1966) in Egypt, initiated scathing attacks on the modernist approach. A central component of these attacks has been a categorical rejection of modern Western civilization which is seen as corrupt, licentious, irreligious and dangerous for Islam. The leitmotif of Mawdūdī's thought is that all sovereignty in the world belongs to God alone; no other source of authority, such as the will of the people, or laws promulgated by elected legislative assemblies is legitimate. In 1941, Mawdūdī juxtaposed obedience to divine law – which is Islam – with obedience to man-made laws and customs; the latter he called Jāhiliyya, a term traditionally used for the pre-Islamic, pagan period in Arab history. When Pakistan was established in 1947, Mawdūdī (and the "Islamic Group," Jamāt-i Islāmī organization which he founded) immersed himself in a struggle to enhance as much as possible the Islamic characteristics of the newly established state. While he saw himself as the vanguard of opposition to things modern and desirous of implementing the classical ideal of Islam, in many details modern ideas and modern conditions influenced his understanding of the ideal. Sayyid Qu?b, the leader of the Muslim Brethren in Egypt (executed in 1966), gave much currency to the dichotomy between Islam and the Jāhiliyya which is, in his as well as in Mawdūdī's view, not only a specific historical period but also a state of affairs and a mentality which allows people to choose a way of life different from the one prescribed by God and by the Prophet Muhammad. Jāhilī society is not only that which denies the existence of God, but also that which does not deny it, but relegates God to the kingdom of heaven and does not apply His law on earth. Such societies, including those which are nominally Muslim, have to be replaced by societies living under the divine Muslim law. The radical Muslim trends which we exemplified by reference to Abū al-A?lā Mawdūdī and Sayyid Qu?b have gained much currency since the middle of the 20th century.

As a religion and a civilization, Islam has been in existence since the seventh century. At the beginning of the 21st century, Muslims live in dozens of countries in most areas of the world. These plain facts go a long way to explain the diversity of the Islamic experience. Islam has always been many things. Muslims have been warriors, rulers, mystics, writers, poets, artisans, and scholars in various fields; they have been, and still are, engaged in the whole range of human activity in widely differing circumstances. Within one century of Muslim history, they conquered a substantial part of the then known world. During the first three centuries of that history, Muslim writers produced a rich historiography, extensive literature in linguistics and lexicography, literary criticism, poetry, and jurisprudence. They stood for a long period at the cutting edge of scientific development. In its formative period, Muslim religious thought was characterized by a wide variety of views on numerous subjects. The variety of views and the nature of the arguments marshaled by their protagonists testify to the vibrant intellectual life of Islam in the early period of its history. Muslims have differed on questions such as determinism versus free will; the existence of the Koran since all eternity versus its being created at a certain point in time, with the rest of creation; the equality of all prophets versus the unquestioned superiority of Muhammad; the validity of personal reasoning versus the irrefutable authority of the prophetic tradition in jurisprudential matters; the identity of unbelievers who may be offered the status of protected communities (*dhimmīs) rather than being forced to embrace Islam; the extent of tolerance to non-Muslims living under Muslim rule and the measure of humiliation to be imposed on them. The list of these much debated issues could easily be augmented. This diversity of Muslim thought and experience has crucial significance. It means that all Muslims, in any place and historical period, must choose the type of Islamic thought and belief most appropriate to the circumstances of their lives and to their world view. It also means that the Muslim tradition includes material capable of substantiating almost any interpretation of Islam which a Muslim may want to develop. He may choose to be a fundamentalist or a modernist. He may choose to view Judaism and Christianity as basically illegitimate and corrupt versions of the divine will, or adopt a more pluralistic view of religious diversity. Professional men of religion tend to promote the view that their interpretation is the only legitimate one, and they are frequently supported by the autocratic regimes in many Muslim states. Such attitudes are belied by the long history of intellectual controversy in Islam and by the various forms which Islam took on in various times and places. Since the middle of the 20th century, radical interpretations of Islam have held sway in some of the most important areas of the Muslim world, but there is no doubt that the building bricks for a different version of Islam are readily available in the Muslim tradition.

[Yohanan Friedmann (2nd ed.)]

Polemics against Judaism

Islamic polemics directed against Judaism and Jews are substantial neither in quantity nor in quality. The great masses of Christian subjects within the Islamic domain and the Christian powers outside caused Islamic polemics to focus on Christianity. On the whole, Arabic lore and literature reflect a negative attitude toward the Jews, one of distrust and suspicion, contempt and animosity. It is argued that from the days of the Prophet the Jews were enemies of Islam, either in direct military confrontation with the Prophet, or in plots to undermine Islam through heresy, subversion, and cunning ill will. An 11th-century admirer of *Samuel b. Joseph ha-Nagid or the 14th-century mystic al-Jīlī (I. Goldziher in jzwl, 11 (1875), 68ff.) are exceptions in their positive attitude toward the Jews. The prevailing attitude may have come from Christian polemics which in turn were rooted to some extent in classical anti-Jewish lore. This holds true even concerning the Koran (T. Andrae, Ursprung des Islams … (1923–25), 198f.; cf. Waardenburg in Liber Amicorum, Studies… C.J. Bleeker, 1969). It is not surprising that the ever-growing mass of Christian converts to Islam should have contributed to the anti-Jewish mood. As early as the ninth century, al-Jā?iz stated that although Judaism may seem closer to Islam than Christianity, Muslims are more negative in their attitude toward Jews than toward Christians (ed. and tr. by J. Finkel, in jaos, 47 (1927), 311–34).

Polemic remarks appear in the Koran and the ?adith (G. Vajda in ja, 229 (1937), 57–127) and in numerous theological works. Systematic treatment appears in courses and manuals on theology, heresies, and comparative religion. Muslim scholars displayed a very limited knowledge of Judaism and were not acquainted with original Jewish sources, and only rarely with translations. For example, the historian Ibn Khaldūn (14th century) even quoted the Bible from the 10th century historian al-Mas?ūdī. The judgments and references of the polemists were usually based on sets of passages, presumably supplied by Jews converted to Islam, and, in the critique of post-biblical Judaism, possibly going back to some *Karaite material. Sometimes polemics may have been geared to social-political public agitation and mob riots. For example, the enemies of the family of Samuel ha-Nagid accused Jewish dignitaries and officials of selling terefah meat to the believers. The Moroccan al-Maghribī (G. Vajda in étude à la mémoire de Lévi-Proven?al, 2 (1962), 805–13) voiced a similar argument.


The subject matter of polemics can be reduced to a few points. Islam claims to be the final dispensation, following the abrogation (Ar. naskh) of Judaism and Christianity, and regards the development of Judaism, after its abrogation, as abnormal and as a human invention (bid?a) contrary to divine dispensation (shar?). This is demonstrated by a critique of the Bible. Jews are charged with tampering (tabdīl) and distorting (ta?rīf) the texts, either in reading or in interpretation. Indeed, the Scriptures contain accounts unworthy of and senseless in a divine book (e.g., the stories of Lot, Judah and Tamar, kings of Edom, stations in the wilderness). Many of the numerical computations seem faulty; contradictions and anthropomorphisms (tajsīm) abound. Conversely, the Scriptures fail to elaborate on reward and punishment in the hereafter. Disrupted by the Babylonian captivity, the transmission of events (tawātur) is defective. Finally, if the Scriptures are authentic, they must contain annunciations (a?lām) of the advent of Muhammad. The latter are gleaned from *gematria, the interpretation of the numerical value of significant words (Muhammad = 92 = bi-me'od me'od in Gen. 17:2; Paran wilderness = Mecca) etc. (cf. Strauss-Ashtor, in Sefer ha-Zikkaron le-Veit ha-Midrash le-Rabbanim be-Vinah (1946), 182–97).

historical survey

A tenth-century compendium by the theologian Bāqillānī presents a discussion of Judaism (Brunschvig, in Homenaje a Millás Vallicrosa). Partly provoked by the high position attained by Samuel ha-Nagid, the philosopher and historian Ibn ?azm (11th century) composed a substantial attack on Judaism in vitriolic language (M. Perlmann, in paajr, 18 (1948/49), 269–90). In the 12th century, a Jewish convert to Islam, *Samuel ibn Abbas al-Maghribī produced the most important polemic work (idem, in paajr, 32, 1964), which was often used and plagiarized by later polemists such as Qarāfī (13th century) and Ibn Qayyim ibn al-Jawziya (14th century). The Egyptian Jew Sa?īd b. Hasan of Alexandria who converted to Islam in 1298 (I. Goldziher, in rej, 30 (1895), 1–23; S.A. Weston, in jaos, 24 (1903), 312–83) and the Moroccan convert ?Abd al-?aqq al Islāmī (14th century) wrote popular tracts. In about 1360, Abu Zakariyyā Ya?yā al-Rāqilī, a Morisco in Christian Spain, wrote a manual of disputation against the Jews who "loosen their tongues… against our prophet" (as in Palacios, in Mélanges Hartwig Derenbourg (1909), 343–66). As late as the 19th century, the account of Tabātaba?ī's disputation and the pamphlet Risāla Sab?iyya appeared in Egyptian editions of Samuel's aforesaid tract (1939, 19622).

Jewish replies to the Islamic contentions began to appear in the tenth century and their authors include the philosophers *Saadiah Gaon, *Judah Halevi, Abraham ibn Daud, and *Maimonides. The former three were also outstanding polemists against the Karaites. Separate tracts against Islam were rare. Ma'amar ?al Yishma'el (13th century), ascribed to Solomon b. Abraham Adret (J. Perles, 1863; M. Zikier, in Festschrift A. Kaminka, 1937), and Keshet u-Magen (M. Steinschneider, in mwj, 7 (1880), 1–48) of R. Simeon b. ?ema? Duran (d. 1444) came from the Jewish milieu peculiar to Christian Spain. While Jewish polemists were bitter about oppression and humiliation under Islam, they were aware that Islam showed greater affinity to Judaism than did Christianity, despite the biblical background shared with the latter.

[Moshe Perlmann]

Judaism and Islam

Centuries before the rise of Islam many Jewish communities were scattered over *Arabia, so that Judaism, in its normative and also sectarian versions, was known to the sedentary population and even to the Bedouin tribes. It was especially widespread in South Arabia, where Judaized groups and proselytes were very common. The deciphering of the South Arabian inscriptions, some of which were discovered only in the 1950s, confirm the many accounts and reports of early, pre-Islamic Christian writers about Jewish missionary activities and the persecutions of the Christians, especially in *Najrān by *Yūsuf Dhū Nuwās, the Jewish (proselyte) king of *Himyar. Ra?mān, the Merciful, as a name of God, without any other attribute, has been found many times in those inscriptions and indicates their Jewish origin. Arab historians and biographers of Muhammad's life describe the Jewish communities and tribes living in Hejaz generations before his rise. The years spent by Muhammad the Prophet and Messenger of God in the Jewish Yathrib-Medina gave him many opportunities (positive and negative) to come into close contact with the Jewish tribes living in that group of oases. This historical background explains the fact of the strict uncompromising monotheism preached by Muhammad (who objected to the Christian belief that Jesus was the son of God). Most of the *Bible tales to be found in the Koran and the normative form of Islam based on precepts are to be traced to the Bible and to the Oral Law. At the same time, some descriptions of the Last Judgment and of eschatological events which preoccupied Muhammad in his early period in Mecca, and also some historical tales, stem from Christian sources and inspirations. But the main eschatological beliefs belong to the common Jewish-Christian heritage, even though they were transmitted by Christian monks. In a ?adith ?Aisha, Muhammad's wife, is said to have heard the tradition about the punishment in the grave (?ibbu? ha-kever) from two old Jewish women in Medina. More Jewish elements can be found in those beliefs after Jerusalem was accepted as the location of the Last Judgment.

Nonetheless, the Arabian character of the Koran must always be stressed as it was Muhammad's genius which founded and established Islam. The fact that some of his contemporaries, prophets, and ?anifs tried unsuccessfully to spread monotheism in Arabia cannot lower Muhammad's stature. A large number of Jewish teachings, sayings, and normative and ethical precepts have been included in the *?adith literature, sometimes in the name of Jews or Jewish converts to Islam although most were inserted anonymously. Much of the narrative material gathered in the Qi?a? al-Anbiyā? ("Legends of the Prophets") goes back to *Ka?b al-A?bār, the Jewish convert to Islam who accompanied the caliph *Omar during his visit to Jerusalem, or to *Wahb b. Munabbih, also a convert or son of a Jewish convert. All of this ?adith literature (and the legends are also systematically arranged like the oral tradition) shows an astonishing knowledge of the *halakhah and *aggadah as laid down in talmudic and midrashic literature. As in Judaism, at first there was opposition in Islam to writing down the sayings and teachings which were transmitted, by isnād (lit., leaning, ascription of an oral religious tradition), a chain of traditioners (see below). The caliph Omar disapproved of the literary fixing of the sunna (the sayings and exemplary actions of Muhammad): "Would you like to have a [written] mathnat like the mathnat [Aramaic: mathnitha – Heb. Mishnah] of the Jews?" (Ibn Sa?d v, p. 140).

It is not always possible to postulate a clear-cut dependence of Islamic teachings and methods on Judaism. The fundamental similarity of Judaism and Islam, both based on religious laws in principles, methods, and legislation, caused parallel developments in later centuries. It is a well-known fact that the *geonim, the heads of the two famous talmudic academies in *Sura and in *Pumbedita, received questions concerning legal and social matters; there are many tens of thousands of their responsa extant. This was also the practice of the Muslim muftis, a category of jurists from whom every Muslim could ask a fatwā, a legal opinion based on the religious law. The fatwā and the responsum both possessed legal power. It is difficult to decide if the development of this branch of literature in both religions was independent or whether this was an example of mutual influence. For example, at the end of the typical question one finds in the fatwā and in the responsum the formula: "May our rabbi (or mufti) give his instruction [= decision] and his reward will be doubled by Heaven [= God]." Goldziher (zdmg 52, p. 645) sees an Islamic influence in this formula of the responsum.

In the first centuries of Islam the jurists were allowed to use their independent judgment (ijtihād) in their decisions, but had to base it on primary sources. Later they were restricted in their freedom of independent decision and were obliged to follow the taqlīd (precedent) and to rely on former judgments. One finds a parallel development in rabbinic Judaism, in which even the geonim were obliged to follow the authority of their predecessors. Nonetheless, social and economic transformations sometimes demanded departure from accepted laws and rules. Thus the geonim and the later generations of rabbis were obliged to establish ordinances adjusted to the new situation. A similar principle was current in the madhhab (legal school) of Mālik b. Anas, i.e., the isti?lā?, the adaptation (or correction) of laws, for the benefit of the community.

The influence of *fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) is clear in the systematic dealings of the geonim with halakhic materials according to their contents, e.g., the laws of inheritance, gifts, deposits, oaths, usury, witness and writs, loans, and obligations, as they were arranged by Saadiah, Hai, Samuel b. Hophni, who wrote their works in Arabic. This is especially clear in Maimonides' code, Mishneh Torah, written in Hebrew and preceded by Sefer ha-Mi?vot (Book of Precepts), the first exposition of the 613 precepts. Maimonides' arrangement of these works indicates knowledge of the methods and principles of the fiqh literature and of the ?adith collections of al-Bukhārī, Muslims, and others. Maimonides applied the ijmā? (consensus), one of the four u?ūl al-fiqh (roots of fiqh), in his code. In his introduction to this code he gives the chain of the teachers and rabbis who during 40 generations transmitted the Oral Law from Moses to R. Ashi. This is a classic illustration of how the isnād – the method of verification of the sayings of Muhammad and his companions – was taken over by early Islam from Judaism, which traced the chain of tradition from Moses to the Men of the Great Synagogue (Avot 1); and in turn was used by Maimonides as a principle to verify the halakhah.

But Islamic influence was not restricted to methodology. Some Muslim customs concerning ablutions, prostrations, and general behavior during prayer were accepted by Maimonides and his son Abraham, and aroused disagreement among the majority of the Jewish society. Jewish apocalypses ascribed to R. Simeon b. *Yo?ai, and pseudepigraphic works such as Pirkei de Rabbi Eliezer and Targum Jonathan show traces of Islamic influence. Note should be made of the book of R. Nissim b. Jacob (Kairouan, first half of the 11th century) called ?ibbur Yafe me-ha-Yeshu?ah ("A Fine Treatise on Salvation"), which in its Hebrew translation was known for centuries and was often reprinted because of its popular religious contents. Its Arabic original (the exact title of which is unknown) was found in the last decade of the 19th century (ed. by J. Obermann, 1933). In Jewish literature it is the only representative of a type known in Islamic literature as Kutub al-Faraj ba?da al-Shidda ("Books of Comfort after Disaster"). A detailed comparison between the ?ibbur and the Muslim books shows that Nissim, who was head of the talmudic academy in *Kairouan, knew the stories then current in his non-Jewish environment, whether in literary form or as folktales.

Islamic culture, which had absorbed the legacy of Greece and the Hellenistic world, made a tremendous impact on some aspects of Jewish thought and science. After centuries of complete disruption between that world and Judaism, the works of the Greek philosophers and scientists came back to the orbit of Jewish thinkers and scholars through Arabic translations (from earlier translations in the Syriac language). From the tenth century on, Aristotle, Plato, and Neoplatonism influenced Jewish philosophers of religion, theologians, poets, and scientists. The most famous include: Saadiah, Isaac Israeli (from Kairouan), *Ibn Gabirol, Ba?ya ibn *Paquda, Judah *Halevi, *Abraham ibn Daud, Maimonides, and his younger contemporary Joseph ibn Aknin (not to be mistaken for Maimonides' pupil of the same name). As S.D. *Goitein has shown, early *Sufism was also supplemented by Jewish sources. In its higher and later states, Sufism was inspired by Greek philosophy. Sufi influence is to be found in the poems of Ibn Gabirol, but the classic work which wholeheartedly advocates asceticism is Ba?ya ibn *Paquda's ?ovot ha-Levavot, which was written in Arabic. Although there is a great deal of eclecticism in this work, it is modeled mainly on Muslim sources. The most prominent representative of Sufism in Judaism is Abraham b. Moses b. *Maimon. In his book Kifāyat al-?ābidīn Sufi traces are discernible, even more than in the work of Ba?ya. Abraham recommends study and contemplation in order to perfect the soul engaged in the service of God. He used the term "highways" as a means that lead to perfection. In its highest degree, perfection culminates in ecstasy through the praise of God in love. Pure, humble, and sincere souls have access to the esoteric, inner mystical sense of the Torah. Ba?ya's ?ovot ha-Levavot and Abraham's Kifāyat al-?ābidīn especially influenced the Jewish communities in the East, and played an important role in some later mystic movements; sometimes these mystics found common ways with Muslim Sufis (cf. also *Isrā? īliyat, *Na?īr, *Quray?a, *Qaynuqā?a).

[Ha?m Z'ew Hirschberg]


I. Goldziher, Muhammedanische Studien, 2 vols. (1889–90); N. Wieder, Islamic Influences on the Jewish Worship (1947); S.D. Goitein, Jews and Arabs (1955); E.I.J. Rosenthal, Judaism and Islam (1961). polemics: Baron, Social2, 3 (1957), 76–85, 87, 156f.; 5 (1957), 82–105, 117–21, 136, 326–37; M. Steinschneider, Polemische und apologetische Literatur …(1887); I. Goldziher, in: jzwl, 1–11 (1862–75); idem, in: rej, 30 (1895), 1–23; 43 (1901), 1–14; 60 (1910), 32–8; idem, in: M. Brann and F. Rosenthal (eds.), Gedenkbuch…David Kaufmann (1900), 86–102; M. Schreiner, Beitraege zur Geschichte der theologischen Bewegungen im Islam (1899, offprint from zdmg, vols. 52–53, 1898–99); I. Friedlaender, in: za, 26 (1912), 93–110; A.S. Tritton, in: Islamic Studies, 1, no. 2 (1962), 60–4. add. bibliography: polemics: I.Y. al-Shāhabī, Istrātījiyyat al-Qur?ān al-Karīm fī muwājahat al-Yahūdiyya al-?ālamiyya (1997); M.I. Khalaf, Qiyam al-Yahūd fi alqi?a? al-Qur?āniyya …(2001). judaism and islam: M. Maas, Bibel und Koran (1893); A.I. Katsh, Judaism in Islam (1954); Abraham Geiger, Judaism and Islam (1969); R. Roberts, The Social Laws of the Qoran (1925, 19712); H. Schwarzbaum, Mi-Mekor Israel we Ishma?el: Yahadūt we-Islām be-aspaklariyyat ha-folklor (1975).


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