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.
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)Read More