5. The emergence of Islam

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A profound knowledge of Socio-cultural traditions within the Moslem world requires at least some basic information on the history of the Arab peninsula where the religion of Mohammed had come from. But before one looks at the emergence of an Arab culture that was quickly spread over vast parts of the then known world by “Allah’s warriors”, one will have to examine the pre-Islamic situation of the Middle East. Mohammed and his contemporaries did not come out of nowhere. Their cultural and mental socialisation contributed to the development of an Arab culture and also to a system of moral values, social relationships and legal traditions that are partly still in place.

5.1. Political and geographical situation before Islam

The Arab peninsula with less than 2500 km in length and proximately 2000 km in width is abroad region consisting of vast deserts and some fertile soil. Geographically, the Arab peninsula is a unique land of many distinctive features peculiar to itself. It is a part of Asia but nevertheless separated from the mainland of this continent. Therefore, it can be identified as a subcontinent by itself. This does not just apply to its geographical conditions but also to its culture and ethnicity. Furthermore it has always been closely related to the three continents surrounding the peninsula. In that sense, it could be seen as a centre of the then known world.

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But despite its relatively easy accessibility it never made it too easy for invaders and foreign influence. The difficult topography compresses a mixture of mountains, plateaus, deserts, low land, dreary wasteland and oasis. Arabia is one of the hottest and driest regions in the world. The direct and intense rays of the sun scorch the dreary wastes of the desert without neither shade nor shelter. The heat is further intensified by the hot winds that blow across the country. There is some rainfall in coastal areas, but in the interior of the country the rainfall is scanty. There may be no rain for several years at a stretch, but then the rain may bust as a violent storm.

Due to the difficult climate and geographical conditions as described above which explain the fact that almost five sixth of Arab peninsula comprehend desert land, the Middle East has never been in the centre of interest of any alien force in the pre-Islamic period. Neither one of the two super powers – the Roman Empire followed by the Byzantine rulers as well as the Persian Empire – took a particular interest in Arabia despite the fact that both empires have embedded their power for a long time in its surrounding areas. However, parts of the Modern Arab world fell under the regime of the two empires: the Eastern regions, from Arab peninsula up to modern Iraq were controlled by the Persians whereas the northern and northwest regions including Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Israel, Jordan and North Africa all came under the authority of the Roman Empire.

Several theories can be attributed to the fact that both giant empires did not focus their strategic aims at conquering the Arab peninsula and subordinating its Arab inhabitants who led either a nomadic life or enjoyed some clad administration or tribe government. First of all, this region did not promise a profit from an economic point of view. Secondly, a military invasion seemed rather difficult considering water shortage and similar provision defiles. Highly developed civilizations such as the Romans and the Persians that were accustomed to live comfortably in fertile regions apparently were not too much tempted by those prospects.

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Both reasons as stated might have caused a certain reluctance of the Romans and Persians to annex the Arab peninsula. In addition the Arab society in those days showed identifying features and characteristics that were scarcely found in other cultures. A somewhat primitive, harsh and cruel hospitality towards guests and a high degree of allegiance and loyalty to their own customs and tribe traditions are part of it. They were brave, materialistic, narrow minded and very sensitive if their dignity, repute and freedom got touched. Those characteristic features deflexed in their habit of burying their daughters alive and killing their own sons if they were considered having cowardliness character. Coward Sons were considered incapable to defend the dignity, esteem and reputation of their own family and tribe.

The inhabitants of Arabia did not maintain a permanent residence at one place. They always moved nomadically which means they migrated frequently with all their possessions. Slave trading at that time was one of economic activities of the Arab tribes. Slaves were treated rudely and brutally. They were not entitled to their rights as human beings. Women enjoyed a similar social position. They had no right at all and no social standing. A man could marry as many women as he liked and abandon them at any time. The eldest matured son was a legal heir to his father’s wives except his natural mother.

Regarding those special characteristics of the Arab heartland and the reluctance of the Roman and Persian Empire to annex it, one understands easier why a territory relatively closed to the epicentres of early civilisation experienced a rather unique and independent development. Those characteristics certainly contributed to the rise of Islam as the dominant religion. Even though it was influenced by the monotheistic expression of faith of the Jewish and Christian believers, it was even more shaped by Arab tribe traditions. Interference of the outside world was relatively small.

5.2. Arab societies before Islam

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Fazlur Rahman in his book "Conception of Islamic Modern Society"30 describes the moral concept of the pre-Islamic Arab society by terms such as loyalty, extravagance, bravery, patience, sincerity and respect of self esteem. However, according to the author they had neither a noble moral instinct nor ethnic norm ideas that go along with those principles. As a result, the expression of the above listed character features were corrupted and flowed. In other words, one has to talk of a primitive society defined by pure loyalty based on materialistic consideration.

There was no loftier, further reaching concept about anything at all. This society was implanted in nepotism and a system of blood relations. Thus, it could lead Arabs to sacrifice their life and soul and motivate them to do some horrifying things without relating their action to a system of morals, no matter if good or bad, right or wrong.

Bravery and military courage were in great demand in societies characterised by nepotism as it was a vital device to protect the perpetuity of the tribe and should be implemented without regard of any personal or ethic consideration at all. It compares to animal lust and instinct as unavoidable and uncontrollable biological demands that are used for attacking and destroying tribe enemies. Indeed, their teaching conspicuously suggested the bravery of Arab people not only to hit and attack the enemy without hesitating but also to fertilize an attitude that led to the initiative to kill and ambush. Thus, bravery for Arabs was only another name for vicious acts and savage practice. Therefore, the members of that society were engrossed “in all sorts of vices and evils which were both deep-rooted and universal in nature.”31

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Difficult natural conditions and hardships resulting from scarce sources, disaster, starvation, among others, had taught Arab tribes to be patient. Dealing with the challenges of the dreary deserts of Arabia demanded a special survival strategy. Bravery went along with the crudity of savage wars and the patience to await and sit out difficulties. Thus, patience was not a moral deed in itself but became to be an actual demand of nature, related to the existence of life and as an effort to stay alive.

Moral qualities such as bravery, courage, and patience were strengthened by the life in the desert and caused a high degree of honesty and sincerity as prime features and characteristics. But honesty and sincerity were also preconditions for dignity that was deeply rooted within all Arab tribes. The glorification of the dignity of tribes was taken as source for individual dignity and self esteem of all tribe members. Thus, the dignity of tribe relates to the dignity of its members and it was the highest desire of those individuals to implant, hold on to, and enhance tribe dignity. This odd dignity resulted in a certain spirit of arrogance and solid variety among pagan Arab tribes.32

Property was a key feature to defining dignity and honour. The treatment of women in the pre-Islamic period was one result of those definitions. They were considered as personal property. Each tent made a family; a group of families made a clan and group of clans made a tribe. Each tribe was a world by itself, it had its own code of honour, it own concept of law and order. Loyalty to the tribe and the courage to fight with others indicated the degree of honour within the tribe. A tribe’s absolute equality offered to all men within the tribe and protection of those who sought refuge were rated as the main virtues.

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Tribal loyalties led to inner-tribal rivalries and hostilities; disputes with other tribes arose over live stock possession, pastures, water sources, and horse races. Once the dispute broke out and led to victims on either side, a chain reaction was set up. As a consequence, vendetta became one of the strongest, almost religious, social obligations.

Regarding their faith, Arabs adhered to different forms of polytheism. Each tribe worshiped in its own way. Numerous gods and idols were essential to their expression of faith. But besides praying to idols, they also worshipped celestial objects such as the sun, the moon, and the stars; trees, rocks and other natural objects were seen as holy items as well.

Composing and expressing poetry was used as a means to knock and tease each other. Pagan Arab poetry shows the tribal finalism, chauvinism and triplication of tradition. Furthermore it includes the glorification of individual dignity, the praise of martial arts, combat techniques and weapons.

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At that time, Mecca was a centre of economic activities and majority of citizen were traders. Their business links reached out beyond the borders of Mecca to places as far away as Yemen and Syria. A council of elders managed the affairs of the city. Wealth generally derived from the suffering and misery of the poor. Mecca was steeped in materialism, and the people in their race to make money had little conscience of higher moral and social values. A system of excessive interest was used arbitrarily and violently.33

5.3. The concept of crime and punishment in pre-Islamic Arabia

The basic outline of the pre-Islamic Arab society as given above leads to the question of how crime and punishment were regarded and dealt with before the arrival of Islam. As a general assertion one has to remark that Arabs had a tribal life, a tribal mind and tribal culture which did not encourage the growth of individualism. Its members were purely defined by their tribe. This led to strong repercussions concerning the concept of crime and its resulting punishment within such a society.

For a crime committed by a single offender, revenge was taken from the whole tribe and often set a chain reaction in motion. As a consequence, petty matters sometimes resulted in bloody controversies that often took years to settle. The involved actions such as violence and raiding were regarded as a manly occupation, associated with honour and social prestige. This created an extremely violent atmosphere; regard for human life and weaker elements of society were almost non-existing. All that counted was the right of the stronger because only he could enforce it.

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Pre-Islamic societies had their own methods of dispensing justice, based on custom and usage. Centre piece of their archaic judicial system was their belief in blood-ties and the concept of clan loyalty attached to it. Notions of discipline and authority could only exist by the means of blood relationship. It was impossible for them to conceive both vice and virtue outside the tribal context.

Against such background, Islam was established. The new religion focused on improving the social and legal standing especially of the weaker members of society by introducing some concept of authority and respect that was not purely based on blood ties and clan loyalty but traditional human values. If one talks about Islamic societies as societies that reduce certain member groups to an inferior position, one has to take into consideration where it had came from.34

By the time Islam was established, it brought about a social upgrading and a real improvement of the legal position of many of its members. Islam intended to detribalize the Arab mind and create a general (human) set of values. Pre-Islamic tribal social order was transformed into an Islamic community that placed itself under the absolute authority of Allah and got orientation by the means of established rules and regulations. This also had repercussions on its legal structure for it made it less arbitrary. Therefore, the pagan Arab society has undergone major structural changes in its ideological orientation, modes of behaviour and ways of life.35

5.4. The Seventh Century – Arrival of a new religion

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While historical knowledge of seventh-century Arabia is not as good as that of first century Palestine, historians know the basic outline of events in Arabia immediately before the coming of Muhammad. To the north and west were Iran, Iraq, Syria and Palestine, all urbanized, advanced societies. Iran and the Byzantine Empire were constantly fighting for control over Iraq and Syria, and the border between these two huge empires fluctuated back and forth, with terrible economic consequences for both. A Roman army had invaded Arabia once, in 24 B.C.E., but the desert proved impenetrable and the expedition was a disaster.

In the far south of the Arabian Peninsula was Yemen, a hilly area with more rainfall where frankincense and myrrh - important spices, especially for embalming - were grown. Coffee later became a major source of income for Yemen as well. The spice trade brought wealth to Yemen and it gradually became organized as a country. Yemen established close ties with Abyssinia, an early Christian kingdom that is modern Ethiopia now. Abyssinia even conquered Yemen from about 521 to 575, when it briefly fell under Persian influence. From Abyssinia, Yemen learned of Christianity; from Iran, it was influenced by the Persian cult of Zoroastrianism; and at least one king became a convert to Judaism.

The semiarid hills and arid plains of the Arab peninsula were inhabited by migrating Arab tribes, which had camels and sometimes goats and sheep. The population was divided into clans and tribes that fought each other fiercely at times and protected their own according to an ancient, and often cruel, tribal law. Many tribes believed for instance in killing female babies, so that the first-born would be a son. The desert had occasional oases where little villages, and eventually towns, sprang up. Because of its isolation, civilization spread to the area only slowly, primarily via the caravan trade, because of the war between Byzantium and Persia.36

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Much of Yemen's spices and many goods from India moved to the Mediterranean overland by the means of caravans. Jews, usually merchants, moved into the area and settled at the oases, where they became numerous. Christian missionaries visited as well. That’s how the Arabs got into contact with the two monotheistic religions and some even converted. A primitive monotheism also sprang up, consisting of Arabs who had rejected polytheism in favour of one God but did not convert to Christianity or Judaism.

Gradually one town in central Arabia emerged as the principal centre of Arab culture: Mecca. Mecca's merchants came into a position that enabled them to control much of Arabia’s caravan trade and turning their home town gradually into the region’s economic centre. But Mecca was also a spiritual centre. One reason for that was the black stone cube that covers about thirty feet square called the ka'bah (which is Arabic for cube). It was decorated with 365 idols, representing the same number of gods and goddesses. The ka'bah came to be seen as the centre of Arab religion; every year one month, the month of hajj became a month when Arabs went on pilgrimage to Mecca. There they met for trade purposes, arranged marriages, sought entertainment, and worshipped at the ka'bah. During the month of hajj, warfare was forbidden.

Arab poets composed lyrics to be read at those hajj celebrations; pre-Islamic poetry has been preserved and gives us a sample of the language the people spoke. An alphabet for the Arabic language was developed from the Aramaic alphabet which shows the cultural link to the Mediterranean area. However, scripture only received limited use by merchants and poets. Children born on the holy land around the ka'bah were automatically considered members of the Quraysh tribe, the tribe that controlled the ka'bah. The link between the hajj celebrations, the ka'bah, and the Quraysh tribe shows the establishment of social institutions that one-day could have led to a united Arab nation, probably under a Quraysh king.37

5.5. The emergence of a new religion

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In the midst of such condition, the Prophet Muhammad was born. According to Moslem believe he came to the different Arab tribes as a messenger of Allah and brought to them the teaching of Islam with new values, norms and orders.

To carry out the task, the Prophet Muhammad based his message on the divine revelation. “He did not just initiate a new religious cult but altered an entire society. Those alterations included a new faith system, and a different religions practice that was linked to matters of government, social live, and legal practice”38. Muhammad reached the top of benevolence values as confirmed by the Holy book. Due to the good example that he provided as a model in the beginning of Islamic history, the Muslim community followed his steps. All that stimulated the rapid emergence of Islam in first decades following the decease of the Prophet. Islam was spread out to all regions of the Mediterranean coast but also eastwards.39

The emergence of a new civilization or great changes within a civilization in history can partly be attributed to the factor “religion”. Although the different faith systems in the Mediterranean varied from each other, they all had a great impact on the shaping of civilization within this geographic space. One can even go as far as stating that religion was a source if not a driving motor behind those changes.

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The sources of all civilizations have a strong impact on creating a world history route. In social environments that saw a civilization backed up by religious sources, God has sent down messengers in order to transmit religion as we know now. In Arabia, the gap between the transcendental principles of a monotheistic faith and the tribal principles was so great that it was only through a Prophetic function and efforts that it could be resolved.40 Most of those messengers, or prophets that are accepted by Moslem believers had been part of the Judeo-Christian world long before the arrival of Mohammed. Among others there are prophets such as Moses, Jacob and David. The Koran mentions as many as 25 that had been descended from Judaic religious traditions. This shows how closely the three big monotheistic world religions are interconnected. It helped Islam to emerge as rapidly as it did. On the contrary, this special relationship made it easier for Islamic believers to compete against the other two dominant faiths.41

As a matter of fact, the historical development of a specifically Arab society as we know it now is inseparable from the emergence of an Islamic religion. „It is this interplay […] that helps in discovering the real dynamics of the earliest period of Islam.”42 The Arab nations were guided and brought up by Islam. In return, they supported and sponsored the teaching of Islam as their divine religion and helped to spread it worldwide. As a result, Islam and Islamic legal traditions are not just applied in the Middle East but affects an area that spreads from the Strait of Gibraltar to the gates of India and reaches territories as far away as Nigeria and Indonesia.

5.6. From the Prophet to Islam

In the year 570 Yemen attempted to invade and conquer Mecca and the area, but the invasion failed. This was the year that the Prophet was born. Muhammad was born into a small, weak clan of the Quraysh tribe. His father was named Abdullah, which means "servant of God." The "ulláh" part of the name comes from "Allah," the modern Arabic word for "god". It is not known where the word "Allah" had came from; possibly it is a contraction of al-iláh, "the god" (al means "the" in Arabic). At any rate, the name of Muhammad's father may be a clue for us because it sounds like the name aanf - a monotheist would be. It suggests that Muhammad’s father or grandfather had rejected polytheism.

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Whether this had any influence on Muhammad is not known, because Abdullah died before his son was born. Unfortunately for Muhammad, his mother died when he was about six, leaving him an orphan. The boy was raised by his uncle (the father of 'Ali), a caravan operator and merchant. Muhammad was raised a merchant himself, and as a young man was hired by a wealthy widow named Khadjah to run her caravans. At the age of 25 he married her and they had about six children. Their life together was happy; Muhammad married no other women until after Khadija died.

All accounts indicate that Muhammad did not feel any divine call in the beginning of his life. He did not seek out mystical experiences, nor did he meditate or withdraw from life. He was, to put it in modern terms, a successful businessman and family man. However, he did seek solitude from the troubles he found in Mecca, often in a cave on a nearby hillside. In 610 he began to have Visions. In one of them the angel Gabriel came to him and said, “You that are wrapped up in your vestment, arise, and give warning. Magnify your Lord, cleanse your garments, and keep away from all pollution”.43 Muhammad fled from these experiences and hid himself in his cloak. Once he ran to Khadjah and hid himself in her robes. But Khadjah encouraged him to listen to his revelations, which often came to him again and again.

Khadjah's cousin, Waraqah, who was a Christian, also encouraged him. Finally Muhammad realized that he was receiving messages from God. He began to take them to the people of Mecca, first privately, then more publicly. His message emphasized acceptance of the one, transcendent God; that Muhammad is his messenger; that idol worship and cruelties practiced within the archaic tribal society like the killing of girl babies was forbidden; and that one must prepare oneself for the Day of Judgment. A few, listening to Muhammad, accepted him as a prophet and became the first Muslims. Most Meccans, however, looked at him as a crazy poet and made fun of Muhammad. Their taunts are preserved in the Koran itself.

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When Muhammad began to preach against worship of the idols in the ka'bah many Meccans became outwardly hostile, since such preaching undermined the hajj, and therefore their livelihood. Muhammad also condemned the town's economic and social inequalities. After ten years the Muslim community grew slowly but tension increased to the point where the Muslims no longer could be protected by their clans against violence. But without clan protection one was in grave danger, because in the absence of police and courts it was the fear of starting a blood feud that prevented people from killing each other.44

In one famous case a non-Muslim tried to force his Muslim slave, Bilál, a black man, to recant. Bilál was tied to the ground and heavy stones were piled on his chest in order to torture him. The torture ended when a Muslim purchased Bilál and then emancipated him. In 615 Muhammad had to send some of his followers to Abyssinia, where the Christian king offered them refuge, an act of generosity that Muslims remember to this day.

In 619, his wife Khadjah died, as did Muhammad's uncle, who had also protected him from murder. This put Muhammad in grave danger. In 620 he was invited to move to the city of Yathrib, two hundred miles to the north, and to become the chief arbitrator of the city's feuding tribes. The situation in Mecca finally became unbearable and Muhammad and two hundred of his followers had to flee the city in 622. This event is called the hijra or hegira (the Latin pronunciation of the Arabic word) and marks the beginning of Islam as a religion. Dates in the Islamic calendar are reckoned from the hijra.

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In Medina Muhammad began as leader of one of the town's eight groups, but he gradually emerged as the town's leader, and therefore he was able to implement the social changes that the revelations had demanded. This sets Muhammad off from Jesus in a sharp way; while Jesus was a prophetic figure, he never ruled a state; Muhammad was both prophet and statesman. This makes his career radically different from that of Jesus. But it also has a strong repercussion on the relationship between state and religion and its consequences for a legal system. A true separation of powers is impossible as shown in the chapter “Religion and State” of this work.

Medina was a large agricultural town containing pagan and Jewish tribes. The pagans embraced Islam but the Jews did not, which prompted Qur'anic revelations criticizing Jews and Christians for their obstinacy. Considerable friction arose between the Jews and Muslims and eventually led to the expulsion of the Jewish community from the town. Medina was a trading rival of Mecca, and the inhabitants of Mecca decided to go to war against Medina and their cousin. This made the prophet a military leader and an Islamic warrior and further reinforced the notion of a fusion of state and religious affairs.45

Warfare continued sporadically for seven years, with Muslim victories and defeats. In 627, Mecca soldiers besieged Medina for two weeks and almost took the city. Muhammad acquired more allies, however, as tribes became Muslim. In 630 Mecca surrendered to a Muslim army, converted to Islam, and became the centre of an Islamic Arabia. Muhammad and 'Al cleansed the ka'bah of its idols, restoring it to the worship of the one true God. Pilgrimage to Mecca which had existed for centuries before the arrival of Islam as a sort of pagan worship became a Muslim pilgrimage. In the course of next two years, most of Arabia accepted Muhammad as their leader and nominally became Muslim. In 632 Muhammad died at the age of 63, leaving behind him a new and rapidly growing faith.

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There is a strong tension in Islam between efforts to view him as an ordinary man and efforts to exalt him as a miracle-working prophet. But for all Muslims, Muhammad is seen as the epitome of Muslim life, and Muslims have long sought to emulate him. His actions are seen as a model. To give but one example, the obligatory Muslim pilgrimage is patterned after Muhammad's pilgrimage in 629. Stories about his actions and words, called hadith, circulated and were passed down orally within the Muslim community; within a century or two of Muhammad's death they were written down and closely scrutinized by Muslim scholars for their historical accuracy. The hadith became a major pillar of the Muslim tradition, supplementing the Koran itself when it was silent about a crucial matter.46

The reign of Muhammad over the Muslim community is viewed as the golden age of Islam. The philosophy of Plato, of all people, gives us a model for how Muhammad is viewed: as a just king. In The Republic, Plato discusses the ideal form of government, which he says is rule by a perfect king, one who insures that justice is established, that economic disparities are reduced, and that makes just laws.47 Muslim scholars, when they translated The Republic into Arabic, understood this idea as fitting Muhammad perfectly. Muslims look back with nostalgia to the early days of their community, and seek to reform modern Islamic society to fit the seventh century pattern.

This is an extremely important difference between Islam and Christianity. Christians view the perfect kingdom as something Christ will establish in the latter days; therefore their golden age is still ahead of them. Some see this golden age in very secular terms, as the product of steady social progress. Muslims, however, have their ideal society in the past, and they constantly seek to emulate that example. The numerous traditionalists among them seek to bring back this golden age and, consequently, reject any effort to reform the realm of Islam in general and Sharia as the epitome of Islamic thought in particular. However, whether the world, or even any segment of it can reproduce that golden age before God's Judgment Day comes, remains an open question.48

5.7. Islam as related to other religions

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Islam is the religion founded on the revelation brought to humanity by Muhammad. Muslims see it as the latest chapter in the ongoing religion of God, a religion that can be traced back through Jesus to Moses and Abraham. Therefore, they accept what had been before Muhammad became their prophet and integrated the Judeo-Christian faith into their religion. Muslims consider all three, Abraham, Moses and Jesus, to have been prophets of God and refer to them as Muslims. Thus Islam accepts Christianity and Judaism as true religions, but claims to supersede their truths with a new divine revelation. It understands that change is essential to mankind. Therefore, Moslems are convinced that God always sent his messengers successively to mankind in order to prophecy the changes to be implemented.

Islam, like Judaism and Christianity, believe in the divine origin of government. The creator has periodically chosen human beings to reveal his messages to humankind. Indeed, the Koran refers to many Prophets such as Abraham, Noah, David, Sulimann, Isaac, Jacob, Moses and Jesus. These messages and revelations culminated in Islam and in Mohammed as the last Prophet. The historical evolution and incorporation of prior messages into Islam are clearly stated in the Koran. The Scripture refers to Islam as the religion of Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Jesus and other prophets. It is simply the last of the divine messages to reach human kind through the Prophet Muhammad, who was chosen by the creator as the bearer of his last and all-encompassing revelation. This explains why there exists a strong link between Islam, Christianity and Judaism.

The Koran refers to Christians and Jews as the "People of the Book" because they are the recipients of the Messages of the Creator through Moses and the old Testament prophets and through Jesus, who is believed in Islam to be the fruit of a miracle birth by the Blessed Virgin Mary.

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Islam is thus not a new and separate religion, but the culmination of God's spiritual and temporal commands made known to mankind through Moses and Jesus. Hence, Islam continues as the successor and final expression of the Judeo-Christian revelations. Islam therefore considers the spiritual provisions expressed by the Torah and the Bible. It also considers and protects the believers of these two divine revelations (the people of the book), as long as they live in an Islamic country, under a protective covenant known as Thimmi. According to Thimmi, Christian and Jewish people that live in the Muslim countries have the right to practice their religious rituals and they are equal to Muslim people in terms of personal rights. It is therefore stated that “not a single instance can be quoted to show that the Holy Prophet ever brought the pressure of the sword to bear on one individual, let alone a whole nation, to embrace Islam. What was not permissible in the case of the Holy Prophet, could not be permissible in that of any one acting in his name and on his behalf.”49 Thus, Islamic law does not place any restriction on the freedoms and practices of other groups and minorities.

However, it cannot be denied that classical Islamic law has distinguished between Muslim and non-Muslim residents under the territorial jurisdiction of Islamic states. This has occurred historically for several reasons such as the superiority of divine law and to guarantee the security of the Islamic state against any external intervention. The Islamic country, under this protective covenant, was obliged to defend and protect the Thimmis and their property against any external or internal attack. In return for this practice, the Thimmi are asked to pay Jizya, which is a tax levied on able Thimmi men amounting to 10 percent of the income earned by them while in an Islamic country. If a Thimmi joins with the Muslims in protecting the country, then he is exempt from Jizya. This practice must be seen from a political perspective, during a time in which all religions were rivals in order to control the political power of a sovereign state. Islamic law has therefore promoted its principles, rules, regulations and traditions through the Islamic sources of law but also emphasised key-principles such as brotherhood, equality, justice and liberty.50

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Many of the adherents to other religions refer to Islam as "Mohammedanism", and its adherents have been termed "Mohammedans" referring to the followers of the prophet. Neither term is acceptable to Muslims, however, because they do not view themselves as followers of Muhammad, or Muhammad as the founder of their religion. Contrary to this point, the founder is God, and the Koran, their scripture, is seen as the word of God, and not the word of Muhammad.

The word Islam comes from the Semitic root Salam, which means submission to a higher power or the peace that comes from that submission. Islam means "submission" in Arabic and refers specifically to submission of one's will to the will of God. "Muslim" means, "one who submits" in Arabic. Thus, indeed, Jesus and Abraham were Muslims, for they submitted their wills to the will of God. Springing from the same Salam root is the Arabic word salám, which means "peace“. (Salám is a cognate to the Hebrew word shalom, which also means peace; Hebrew and Arabic are both Semitic languages, and are closely related to each other.) Thus Islam is often referred to as the "religion of peace" as well.

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From the noun "Islam," in English, is coined the English adjective "Islamic." It is important to learn how to use the words Islam, Islamic and Muslim correctly; one cannot refer to the followers as "Islam’s" or the religion as "Muslim."51


Fußnoten und Endnoten

30  Rahman, Fazlur, Conception of Islamic Modern Societies, Delhi 1994,133ff

31  Sherwani, A., Impact of Islamic penal law on the traditional Arab society, New Delhi 1993, 438ff

32  Bravmann, M. M., The Spiritual background of early Islam, Leiden 1972, 67ff.

33  Crone, Patricia, Meccan Trade and the Rise of Islam, New Jersey 1987, 85ff. and Lecker, Michael, Muhammad at Medina. A geographical approach, Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam 6, 1985, 29 ff.

34  Surty, Muhammad Ibraham, The Ethical Code and Organised Procedure of Early Islamic Law Courts, in: Muhammad Abdel Haleem and others, Criminal Justice in Islam, London 2003, 149ff.

35  Haarmann, Ullrich, Geschichte der arabischen Welt, München 2001, Introduction.

36  Compare to: Noth, Albrecht and Jürgen, Paul, Der islamische Orient – Grundzüge seiner Geschichte, Würzburg 1998, 74ff

37  Monroe, James T., The Poetry of the Sirah Literature, in: Arabic Literature to the end of the Umayyad Period, Cambridge 1983, 73ff.

38  Masudul, Hasan, History of Islam, New Delhi 1992, 42 ff.

39  Watt, Montgommery, Muhammad, in: P.M. Holt and Bernard Lewis (ed.): Cambridge History of Islam, Cambridge 1970, 30 ff.

40  Sherwani, Impact of Islamic Penal Law on the traditional Arab society, New Delhi 1993, 65ff.

41  Nagel, Tilmann, Geschichte der islamischen Theologie. Von Mohammed bis zur Gegenwart, München 1994.

42  Sherwani, Impact of Islamic Penal Law on the traditional Arab society, New Delhi 1993, 65ff.

43  Hasan, Masudul, History of Islam, New Delhi 1992. 11ff.

44  Hamidullah, Muhammad: „ Le Prophète et l’Islam“, Paris 1959, 213ff.

45  Hammidullah, Le Prophète et l’Islam, Paris 1959, 256 ff.

46  Endreß, Gerhard, Einführung in die islamische Geschichte, München 1982, 342ff

47  Compare to Ostenfeld, Eric Nils, Essays on Plato’s Republic, Aarhus 1997, 46ff

48  Serajuddin, Alamgir Muhammad, Sharia Law and Society, Oxford 1999, 109ff

49  Ali, Maulana Muhammad, The Call of Islam, Lahore 1926, 21ff.

50  Haleem, Muhammad Abdal, The story of Joseph in the Koran and the Old Testament, in: Islam and Christian Relations, Birmingham 1990, 171ff.

51  Fyzee, Mohamed, Mohammedan law, New Delhi 1974, 2ff



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