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May 29th

About Islam

The Abbasid Dynasty – Part II, Its Religious Development

Islamic Timeline

Dan Wolf photo for bio150 by Dan Wolf

As mentioned last time, this article focuses on Islam’s religious doctrines and documents. During this period that Islam’s core beliefs, and the documents reflecting those beliefs, hardened into those we know today. This article focuses on the Qur’an, Hadith, Sunna, Shri’ a, and Sirat.  (See Part I)

Before we begin it is important to note that in terms of beliefs and doctrine, Muhammad added nothing new from a theological perspective. Instead he borrowed from every religion that existed within the Arabian Peninsula. One can find borrowings from Judaism, Christianity (primarily Monophysite), Zoroastrianism, Gnosticism, and paganism. In addition, one will find Aramaic, Hebrew, Syriac, Ethiopic, Greek, and Persian words within the Qur’an’s Arabic text – about 275 words in all. Ignaz Goldziher was one of the most renowned Islamists of modern times. He had this to say about Muhammad and Islam’s teachings.

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Of Governance, Healthcare, and Refugees

Dan Wolf photo for bio150

The following Op-Ed by VCA Advisory Board Member, Dan Wolf, was submitted to and rejected by: The Washington Post, USA Today, The Richmond Times-Dispatch, and The Virginia Pilot.

To the Editor:

While recently reading a mental healthcare related op-ed, I was struck by its commonality with the Syrian refugee crisis. We share the author’s pain and concern, but disagree another law is needed. The bill is well intentioned, but places decision-making in judiciary hands, and creates new positions within the DHHS. More government funding, jurisdiction, and intervention only deals with the effects, and not the underlying cause(s).

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The Abbasid Dynasty – Part I, History

Fatamid Dynasty 600

The Abbasid Dynasty lasted from 750 until 1258. It was during this period that many of Islam’s structures began to solidify. The Qur’an, hadith, traditions (sunna), and schools of legal jurisprudence (Shri’a) all formed during this time. Governance structures also solidified during this period. These changes had significant impacts on the various peoples conquered by the early caliphs and the Umayyad. Due to the nature and extent of the changes occurring within Islam during this period, there will be three articles concerning this dynasty. This article will focus on the history from this period. The second on the development of religious doctrine, and the third on the conquered peoples within the caliphate (the Dhimmis).

Although this is often thought of as Islam’s Golden Age, it should be noted that there was much upheaval and infighting that occurred during this time. The changes occurring during this period are both significant in terms of Islam’s development and complex. We will specifically look at the rise and fall of both the Fatamid and Seljuk Turk kingdoms within the caliphate that occurred during this period, and conclude with the crusades and Mongol invasion that ultimately ended Abbasid rule.

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Islam - An Overview

System of Belief Picture

Dan Wolf photo for bio150by Dan Wolf

Islam is not just a religion, but an ideology with a religious component. This ideology is not only contrary to our society’s foundations, but is incompatible with it. At its core is the notion that man is not by nature free; he is a slave. Freedom within Islam is the negation of a negative, it is what you have when you are not coerced – as its underlying tenet is submission. In short, man’s natural state is one in which he is coerced by those whose control he is under. Islam means ‘submission to the will of Allah.’ Submission is defined by Islam’s documents and doctrines.

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The First Caliphs and the Umayyad Dynasty

Map Growth of Islamic Caliphate

With this article, we will start to go review the caliphate’s history, beginning with the first caliphs that came from Muhammad’s followers and the Umayyad dynasty.  But before proceeding with that historical review, there is one more area related to Islam and Muhammad that needs to be discussed.  In the last article, Muhammad's Life and Teachings – Part II, we outlined some of the changes that occurred within Islam’s tenets after the migration to Mecca.  Many of the verses within the Qur’an not only changed, but the later revelations themselves conflicted with other verses.  These changes produced concern among some of Muhammad’s followers.  We’ve already mentioned that some of his followers left Islam shortly after the migration from Mecca to Medina (the Hypocrites cited in Surah 63).  We’ve also mentioned the scribe who left Islam after Muhammad allowed him to suggest changes to revelations.  This scribe was later ordered to be slain when Muhammad took Mecca. 

Along the way we will also look at the development of the Qur’an as it was during this period that it was first collected, written down, and assembled into several codices.

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Daniel Greenfield: How Islam in America Became a Privileged Religion

Ralph Sidway | Jihad Watch

Another brilliant piece of analysis from Daniel Greenfield breaks down how Islam has attained its unique status as the “Teflon Religion.” No one may criticize Islam, and woe to those who do.

“How Islam in America Became a Privileged Religion,” by Daniel Greenfield, FrontPage, June 3, 2015

What is Islam? The obvious dictionary definition answer is that it’s a religion, but legally speaking it actually enjoys all of the advantages of race, religion and culture with none of the disadvantages.

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Approximate Timeline of Mohammad’s Life

 570 Mohammad born in Mecca 

595 Mohammad marries Khadija 610 Mohammad receives his first revelation from Allah through Gabriel

613 Mohammad begins preaching publicly in Mecca

615 Escalation in treatment of Muslims results in some fleeing to Abysinnia ? Mohammad’s night journey

619 Khadija and Abu Talib die

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Muhammad’s Life and Teachings, Part I

Dan Wolf photo for bio150

In this article we’ll start to look at Muhammad’s life and teachings.  These articles won’t be all encompassing in terms of covering all of Islam’s tenets, but they will cover the main tenets and how those changed over time.  But first a little bit about the sources for this information.  As Muhammad was born relatively recently, compared to the founders of other major religions, one might think that there are relatively more works written about him, his life, and his teachings.  However, that is not the case.  Instead we only know about him from Islamic sources, and we will look at those resources themselves later on.  For these articles on his life and teachings, we will use the following two sources:  a book on the meaning of the Qur’an, and one of the sirats – the biographies of Muhammad’s life.  The specific works that will be used are M. Pickthall’s The Meaning of the Glorious Qur’an, and A. Guillaume’s translation of Ibn Ishaq’s  Sirat Rasul Allah.  It is important that another text such as the sirat be used in conjunction with the Qur’an in order to provide context for its verses.

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Arab Ancestry and Language

SLM Salama

This final background article provides some additional material for understanding Islam.  We will take a quick look at the ancestry of the Arab peoples, the Arab language, and some common cultural practices that carried over from pre-Islamic times.  These will become relevant later as we look at Islam’s growth, and the development of its tenets and sources.

Arab Ancestry

Arab Muslims often claim to be descended from Ishmael.  However, the Arab peoples are far older than Ishmael and trace their roots to other individuals.  The word Arab does not appear until the 9th century BC in Assyria.  From the book of Genesis we have the following peoples identified:

The descendants of Noah’s son Japheth include Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshech and Tiras.  From these the coastlands of the nations were separated into their lands, every one according to his language, according to their families, into their nations. (Gen. 10:2-5)

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Islamic Borrowings and the Arabic Peoples

Dan Wolf photo for bio150

We ended the last article with an overview of some of the religions that influenced Islam.  This article will begin by looking at the some of the things Islam borrowed from those religions and then some relevant cultural aspects of the Arabic people.

Islam’s Borrowings

The list of Islamic borrowings below is not complete, but does show how extensive they were.  This view is reinforced by the words of Ignaz Goldziher who wrote the following early in the twentieth century, ‘The dogmatic development of Islam took place under the sign of Hellenistic thought; in its legal system the influence of Roman law is unmistakable; the organization of the Islamic state as it took shape during the ‘Abbasid caliphate shows the adaptation of Persian political ideas; Islamic mysticism made use of Neoplatonic and Hindu habits of thought.  In each of these areas Islam demonstrates its ability to absorb and assimilate foreign elements so thoroughly that their foreign character can be detected only by the exact analysis of critical research.

‘With this receptive character Islam was stamped at its birth.  Its founder, Muhammad, did not proclaim new ideas.  He did not enrich earlier conceptions of man’s relation to the transcendental and infinite … The Arab Prophet’s message was an eclectic composite of religious ideas and regulations.  The ideas were suggested to him by contacts, which had stirred him deeply, with Jewish, Christian, and other elements, and they seemed to him suited to awaken an earnest religious mood among his fellow Arabs.  The regulations too were derived by foreign sources; he recognized them as needed to institute life according to the will of God.(1)

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The World Before Muhammad

Dan Wolf photo for bio150

Before we can evaluate something, we have to first understand it.  Much of what we read in the media or see on television about Islam is either very selective in its presentation or simply wrong.   The primary goal of these articles is help you understand some of Islam’s basic tenets and their development.  Along the way we will also look at some of the significant difference between Islam and Christianity, and the implications of those differences.   My objective is not to tell you what to think, but instead to provide you with information and sources you can use to make up your own mind.  I am simply going to present the facts, and places where you can find more information if you want it.  Where possible the information in these articles will come directly from original sources.  These are the best places to use if you truly want to learn about something.

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