WHAP Chapter 9

28 August 2022
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question
In what ways did the early history of Islam reflect its Arabian origins?
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β€’ Islam drew on an older Arab identification of Allah with Yahweh, the Jewish High God, and Arab self-identification as children of Abraham. β€’ The Quran denounced the prevailing social practices of an increasingly prosperous Mecca and sought a return to the older values of Arab tribal life. β€’ The message of the Quran also rejected the Arab tribal and clan structure, which was prone to war, feuding, and violence. Instead, the Quran sought to replace this structure with the umma, the community of all believers.
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What did the Quran expect from those who followed its teachings?
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β€’ Submission to Allah was the primary obligation of believers. It was expressed in the first pillar of the faith: "There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is the messenger of God." β€’ The Quran outlined four further pillars that all devout Muslims must adhere to: 1) prayer five times a day at prescribed times, 2) generous giving to help the community and the needy, 3) fasting during the month of Ramadan, 4) pilgrimage to Mecca (hajj)
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How was Arabia transformed by the rise of Islam?
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β€’ A new religion emerged which drew widespread adherence amongst the Arab population. β€’ A new and vigorous state emerged bringing peace to the warring tribes of Arabia. β€’ A distinctive society began to take shape that would serve as a model for Islamic communities everywhere.
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Why were Arabs able to construct such a huge empire so quickly?
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β€’ For the first time, a shared faith in Islam allowed the newly organized state to mobilize the military potential of the entire Arab population. β€’ The Byzantine and Persian empires were weakened by decades of war with each other and by internal revolts. They also underestimated the Arab threat. β€’ Merchant leaders of the new Islamic community wanted to capture profitable trade routes and wealthy agricultural regions. β€’ Individual Arabs found in military expansion a route to wealth and social promotion. β€’ Expansion provided a common task for the Arab community, which reinforced the fragile unity of the umma. β€’ Arabs were motivated by a religious dimension, as many viewed the mission of empire in terms of jihad, bringing righteous government to the peoples they conquered.
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What accounts for the widespread conversion to Islam?
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β€’ Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians could find familiar elements of their own faiths in Islam. β€’ From the start, Islam was associated with the sponsorship of a powerful state. β€’ Conquest called into question the power of old gods, while the growing prestige of the Arab Empire attracted many to Allah. β€’ Although forced conversion was rare, living in an Islamic-governed state provided a variety of incentives for claiming Muslim identity. β€’ In Islam, merchants found a religion friendly to commerce, and in the Arab Empire they enjoyed a huge and secure arena for trade. β€’ People aspiring to official positions found conversion to Islam an aid to social mobility.
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What is the difference between Sunni and Shia Islam?
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β€’ Sunnis held that the caliphs were rightful political and military leaders, selected by the Islamic community, while the Shia held that leadership in the Islamic world should derive from the line of Ali and his son Husayn, blood relatives of Muhammad. β€’ For Sunni Muslims, religious authority in general emerged from the larger community, particularly from the religious scholars known as ulama. Meanwhile, the Shia invested their leaders, known as imams, with a religious authority that the caliphs lacked, allowing them alone to reveal the true meaning of the Quran and the wishes of Allah. β€’ The Shia tradition included a messianic element that the Sunni tradition largely lacked.
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In what ways were Sufi Muslims critical of mainstream Islam?
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β€’ Sufism was sharply critical of the more scholarly and legalistic practitioners of the sharia; to Sufis, establishment teachings about the law and correct behavior did little to bring the believer into the presence of God. β€’ Sufis held that many of the ulama of mainstream Islam had been compromised by their association with worldly and corrupt governments.
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How did the rise of Islam change the lives of women?
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β€’ The Quran included a mix of rights, restrictions, and protections for women. It banned female infanticide, gave women the right to own property and granted them rights of inheritance, defined marriage as a contract between consenting parties, granted the right to sue for divorce under certain circumstances, and regulated polygyny. It also allowed men to have sexual relations with consenting female slaves, but only under the condition that any children born of these unions were free, as was the mother once her owner died. β€’ In practice, as the Arab Empire grew in size, the position of women became more limited. Women started to pray at home instead of in the mosque, and veiling and seclusion of women became standard practice among the upper and ruling classes, with special areas within the home becoming the only place where women could appear unveiled. Such seclusion was less practicable for lower-class women. These new practices derived far more from established traditions of Middle Eastern cultures than from the Quran, but they soon gained a religious rationale in the writings of Muslim thinkers. β€’ Othersignsoftighteningpatriarchy,suchas "honor killing" of women by their male relatives for violating sexual taboos and, in some places, clitorectomy (female circumcision), likewise derived from local cultures, with no sanction in the Quran or Islamic law. But where they were practiced, such customs often came to be seen as Islamic. β€’ Negative views of women, presenting them variously as weak, deficient, and a sexually charged threat to men and social stability, emerged in the hadiths, traditions about the sayings or actions of Muhammad, which became an important source of Islamic law. β€’ Islam also offered new outlets for women in religious life. The Sufi practice of mystical union with God allowed a greater role for women than did mainstream Islam. Some Sufi orders had parallel groups for women, and a few welcomed women as equal members. β€’ In Shia Islam, women teachers of the faith were termed mullahs, the same as their male counterparts. β€’ Islamic education, either in the home or in Quranic schools, allowed some women to become literate and a few to achieve higher levels of learning. β€’ Visits to the tombs of major Islamic figures as well as the ritual of the public bath provided some opportunity for women to interact with other women beyond their own family circle.
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What similarities and differences can you identify in the spread of Islam to India, Anatolia, West Africa, and Spain?
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β€’ Islam spread to India, Anatolia, and Spain in part through force of arms of Islamic armies, while Islam arrived in West Africa with Muslim traders. β€’ Sufis facilitated conversions by accommodating local traditions, especially in India and Anatolia, but played a smaller role in West Africa until at least the eighteenth century. β€’ In India, West Africa, and Spain, Islam became one of several faiths within the wider culture, while in Anatolia it became the dominant faith.
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In what ways was Anatolia changed by its incorporation into the Islamic world?
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β€’ A vast majority of the population converted to Islam from Christianity. β€’ Turkish conquerors also brought cultural transformation. The Turkish language predominated. Some Sufi religious practices derived from Central AsianTurkicshamanismtookroot.Turkictraditionsof a freer more gender-equal life for women persisted.
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What makes it possible to speak of the Islamic world as a distinct and coherent civilization?
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β€’ At the core of that civilization was a common commitment to Islam. β€’ No group was more important in the transmission of Islamic beliefs and practices than the ulama, an "international elite" who created a system of education that served to bind together an immense and diverse civilization. β€’ The Sufi religious orders established an educational network and organized a variety of larger associations, some of which included chapters throughout the Islamic world. β€’ The pilgrimage to Mecca (the hajj) drew many thousands of Muslims to Mecca each year from all over the Islamic world. β€’ The Islamic world also cohered as an immense arena of exchange in which goods, technologies, food products, and ideas circulated widely.
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In what ways was the world of Islam a "cosmopolitan civilization"?
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β€’ The Islamic world valued commerce and fostered vibrant networks of exchange. Muslim merchants plied the Silk Roads, Sea Roads, and Sand Roads of the Afro-Eurasian world, and the Islamic world promoted long-distance economic relationships by actively supporting a prosperous, highly developed, "capitalist" economy. β€’ Islamic civilization also facilitated a substantial exchange of agricultural products andpractices. Rice, new strains of sorghum, hard wheat, bananas, lemons, limes, watermelons, coconut palms, spinach, artichokes, sugarcane, and cotton came to the Middle East from India. Sugarcane and cotton also came with knowledge of complex production processes. Some of these Indian crops subsequently found their way to Africa and Europe from the Middle East. β€’ Technology also diffused widely within the Islamic world. Ancient Persian techniques for obtaining water by drilling into the sides of hills spread to North Africa. Muslim technicians made improvements on rockets developed in China. Techniques for manufacturing paper also arrived in the Middle East from China and later spread from the Middle East to India and Europe. β€’ Ideas also spread, with Jewish and Christian precedents influencing Islamic thinkers; Persian bureaucratic practice, court ritual, and poetry influencing the elite in particular; and Greek and Indian scientific, medical, and philosophical texts being systematically translated into Arabic and studied throughout the Islamic world. β€’ Those traditions mixed and blended to generate a distinctive Islamic civilization that made many original contributions to the world of learningβ€”including the development of algebra as a novel mathematical discipline, original work in astronomy and optics, and medicine and pharmacology.
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Islam
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to surrender/submit to Allah
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Hijra
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Migration of Muhammad to Medina (marks beginning of new Islamic calendar)
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Dhimmi
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'person of the book' (people who practiced Judaism, Christianity, or Zoroastrianism)
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Zakat
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Charity for the poor
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Umma
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Islamic community united by belief
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Jizya
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tax imposed on dhimmi
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Ulama
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trained religious scholars
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Madrasa
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schools of Islamic law
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Jihad
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to fight aggressors who challenge Islam
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5 pillars of Islam
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1)Allah is one true God and Muhammad is the messenger, 2) pray 5 times a day, 3) give to the poor, 4) fast during Ramadan, 5) pilgrimage to Mecca