Islam was revealed in Arabic in the Arabian Peninsula, but what does it actually say about Arabs? What is their place in Islam and Islamic history? And does this apply to today’s modern musta’rab (Arabized people) or only to the original Arabs?
Arabs & Islamic Culture in Islamic History
Enmity to Islam
- The first opponents of Islam were Arabs. They tortured and killed Muslims, even spearing a woman- Sumayya- in her vagina.
- The people Muslims had to flee from, several times, were Arabs.
- The first army Muslims fought was an army of Arabs.
- The first munafiqeen (hypocrites) were Arabs. They pretended to be Muslims ready to fight with Prophet Muhammad, sAá&s, then betrayed him.
- The first murtadeen- renegade apostates- and false prophets were Arabs.
Enmity to Prophet Muhammad, sAá&s, and His Family
- Arabs tried to assassinate Prophet Muhammad, sAá&s, a grave sin of the Children of Israel condemned in the Qur-an many times.
- The first people to physically attack the body of Prophet Muhammad, sAá&s, were Arabs.
- The first people to belie and mock the Prophet Muhammad, sAá&s, were Arabs.
- The murderer of Ali, son-in-law of the Prophet, 4th Khalifa (Caliph), was an Arab.
- The murderers of the grandsons of the Prophet Muhammad, Hasan & Husayn, were Arabs.
Arabs & Arab Culture in the Qur-an & Prophetic Narrations (Hadith)
“So when you have accomplished your (Hajj) rituals, remember Allah as you remember your forefathers or with a greater rememberance…” (Qur-an 2.200)
This refutes a custom the Arabs had introduced into the Hajj (a pilgrimage which precedes Allah’s revelation to Muhammad). In it, they would spend hours praising their forefathers in poetry and song, an exercise in tribal pride.
Bedouin Arab Culture is Disbelief and Hypocrisy
“The wandering desert Arabs are the severest in disbelief and hypocrisy, and most likely to be ignorant of the limits which Allah hath revealed unto His messenger. And Allah is Knower, Wise.
Some of the desert Arabs look upon their payments as a fine, and watch for disasters for you: on them be the disaster of evil: for Allah is He That heareth and knoweth (all things).
But some of the desert Arabs believe in Allah and the Last Day, and look on their payments as pious gifts bringing them nearer to Allah and obtaining the prayers of the Messenger. Aye, indeed they bring them nearer (to Him): soon will Allah admit them to His Mercy: for Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.” (Qur-an 9.97-99)
“He Who belongs to the Bedouin is most likely harsh and hard of heart”
[Reported by Abu Y’ala on the authority of Al-Bara’. Also by Ahmad on the authority of Abu Hurairah].
“All the following people are cursed by Muhammad (Peace be upon him) until the Day of Judgment, the man who lends money at interest (Riba), the man who accepts to pay it back at interest, the man who writes down this usurious agreement, the two witnesses of it at those times, the tattooer and the tattooed for the of beauty, the procrastinator of Zakah, whoever turns back to the Bedouin life after his immigration.”
[Reported by lbn Khuzaimah in his Sahih (No.2250), Al-Hakim (vol. 1, pp.387, 388), Al-Baihaqi (vol.9, p.19), and `Abd Al-Raziq in his Musanaf with difference in words (No.15350). It is also reported by Ahmad (No.3881), Al-Nasa’i (vol.8, p.147), and Ibn Hibban (No .3252) on the authority of Al-Harith Al-A’war]
The apostate to Bedouin life, as Ibn Al-‘Athir said, is the one who returns to desert and live with the Bedoums after his immigration. The man who returned to Bedouin life after immigration without excuse was considered an apostate.
Abu Hurairah reported in a hadith that:
“The great sins are disbelief in Allah, killing a fellow man without a just cause, devouring usury, eating up the property of orphans unjustly, turning one’s back to the disbelievers in a battlefield at the time of fighting, accusing chaste women, and to go back to the Bedouin after one’s immigration.”
[Al-Haitharni said: It is reported by Al-Bazar, vol.1, p.103]
Sahl Ibn Abi Hathamah narrated after his father that he heard the Prophet (Peace be upon him) saying:
“Avoid the great seven sins. When the Prophet saw that the people kept silent, he went on: “Won’t you ask me about them? They are: to associate partners in worship with Allah and to turn and live in the desert with Bedouin after the immigration etc.”
[Al-Haithami said: It is reported by Al-Tabarani in Al-Kabir, vol.1, p.103]
Selling Daughters and Female Wards
“And give to the women (whom you marry) their dowry with a good heart…” (Qur-an 4.4)
This bans the practice of giving dowries to the fathers of the bride, effectively ending the custom of selling daughters and buying wives against their will.
Passing Women between Brothers
O ye who believe! It is not lawful for you forcibly to inherit the women (of your deceased kinsmen), nor (that) ye should put constraint upon them that ye may take away a part of that which ye have given them, unless they be guilty of flagrant lewdness. But consort with them in kindness, for if ye hate them it may happen that ye hate a thing wherein Allah hath placed much good. (Qur-an 4.19)
The Arab custom of widows being inherited by their brother-in-law or other in-laws is banned.
Passing Wives to Sons
And marry not women whom your fathers married,- except what is past: It was shameful and odious,- an abominable custom indeed. (Qur-an 4.22)
Another Arab custom is banned.
Sexual Comparison of Wives and Mothers
If any men among you divorce their wives by Zihar, they cannot be their mothers: None can be their mothers except those who gave them birth. And in fact they use words (both) iniquitous and false: but truly Allah is one that blots out (sins), and forgives (again and again).
But those who divorce their wives by Zihar, then wish to go back on the words they uttered,- (It is ordained that such a one) should free a slave before they touch each other: Thus are ye admonished to perform: and Allah is well-acquainted with (all) that ye do.
And he who findeth not (the wherewithal), let him fast for two successive months before they touch one another; and for him who is unable to do so (the penance is) the feeding of sixty needy ones. This, that ye may put trust in Allah and His messenger. Such are the limits (imposed by Allah); and for disbelievers is a painful doom. (Qur-an 58.2-4)
Zihar, the Arab custom of divorcing a wife by saying approaching her is like approaching the back of his mother, is condemned, punished and banned.
Refutation of Blood Feuds
“O you who believe! The Law of Equality in Punishment is prescribed for you in the case of murder: the free for the free, the slave for the slave, and the female for the female.
But if the killer is forgiven by the brother (or relatives, etc.) of the killed for blood money, then adhering to it with fairness and payment of the blood-money to the heir should be done in fairness. This is an alleviation and a mercy from your Lord. So after this, whoever transgresses the limits (i.e. kills the killer after taking the blood-money), he shall have a painful torment.
And there is a saving of life for you in the Law of Equality in Punishment, O people of understanding, that you may become righteous.” (Qur-an 2.178-9)
Previously, tribes would retaliate for a murder by murdering any other member of the offending tribe, which would in turn retaliate, starting a vicious cycle of vengeance. At the time of Allah’s revelation to Muhammad, a blood feud had been running for centuries between two tribes that began with a member of one drinking from the other’s well.
Hating Females and Murdering Female Infants
“And when the female infant is asked: for what sin was she killed?… …every soul will know what it has brought (of good and evil).” (Qur-an 81.8-9, 14)
When news is brought to one of them, of (the birth of) a female (child), his face darkens, and he is filled with inward grief!
He hides himself from the people because of the evil of that which is announced to him. Shall he keep it with disgrace or bury it (alive) in the dust? Now surely evil is what they judge. (Qur-an 16.58-9)
The Arabs used to dig a hole for the mother to deliver over. If it was a girl, they would simply bury her in the hole. This is the amount of shame and inferiority that was attached to females. There is a narration in which a man once informed Prophet Muhammad that he buried his daughter alive after she was several years old. It is also reported that a man once told the Prophet that he had buried eight of his daughters alive before Islam.
Today, Arab men publicly greet each other by kissing and hugging each other multiple times, and also hold hands when they walk. Any display of affection towards a woman is generally forbidden.
Other Miscellaneous Refutations of Arab Culture and Customs
“And as such do the idols beautify for the idolaters the killing of their children, in order to lead them into their own destruction and confuse them in their religion. And if Allah Had Willed, they would not have done so. So leave them alone in their fabrications.
And they say: “What is in the bellies of these cattle is for our males alone, and forbidden to our females, but if it is born dead, the all have shares therein.” He Will Punish them for their attribution (of such evils to Himself). Verily, He Is Wise, Knowing. (Qur-an 6.137, 139)
Arabs in Islamic Prophecy
The Khawarij- extremist rebels- were and will be Arabs
Jabir b. Abdullah reported that a person came to the Messenger of Allah (SallAllah-u-Alaihi-wa-Sallam) at Ja’rana on his way back from Hunain, and there was in the clothes of Bilal some silver. The Messenger of Allah (SallAllah-u-Alaihi-wa-Sallam) took a handful out of that and bestowed it upon the people. He (the person who had met the Prophet at Ja’rana) said to him: Muhammad, do justice. He (the Holy Prophet) said: Woe be upon thee, who would do justice if I do not do justice, and you would be very unfortunate and a loser if I do not do justice. Upon this Umar b. Khattab (Allah be pleased with him) said: Permit me to kill this hypocrite. Upon this he (the Holy Prophet) said: May there be protection of Allah! People would say that I kill my companions. This man and his companions would recite the Qur’an but it would not go beyond their throat, and they swerve from it just as the arrow goes through the prey.
[Sahih Muslim: Book 005, Number 2316]
In one narration the words are:
A person among the people then sought permission (from the Holy Prophet) for his murder. According to some, it was Khalid b. Walid who sought the permission. Upon this the Messenger of Allah (SallAllah-u-Alaihi-wa-Sallam), said: From this very person’s posterity there would arise people who would recite the Qur’an, but it would not go beyond their throat; they would kill the followers of Islam and would spare the idol-worshippers. They would glance through the teachings of Islam so hurriedly just as the arrow passes through the pray. If I were to ever find them I would kill them like ‘Ad.
[Sahih Muslim: Book 005, Number 2318]
The Dajjaal* Will Resemble an Arab
*”Deceiving Anointed One”, False Messiah, Anti-Christ
No, By Allah, the Prophet did not tell that Jesus was of red complexion but said, “While I was asleep circumambulating the Ka’ba (in my dream), suddenly I saw a man of brown complexion and lank hair walking between two men, and water was dropping from his head. I asked, ‘Who is this?’ The people said, ‘He is the son of Mary.’ Then I looked behind and I saw a red-complexioned, fat, curly-haired man, blind in the right eye which looked like a bulging out grape. I asked, ‘Who is this?’ They replied, ‘He is Ad-Dajjal.’ (Sahih Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 55, Number 650)
In another narration:
The Prophet added, “The man he resembled most is Ibn Qatan, a man from the tribe of Khuza’a.” (Bukhari Volume 9, Book 88, Number 242)
Great Trials and Tribulations Will Come From Arabia
The Messenger of Allaah, sallallaahu alayhi wa sallam, said,
“O Allaah bestow your blessings on our Shaam [The Levant]. O Allaah bestow your blessings on our Yemen.”
The people said, “O Messenger of Allaah, and our Najd [Central Arabia or Iraq].”
I think the third time the Prophet, sallallaahu alayhi wa sallam, said, “There (in Najd) will occur earthquakes, trials and tribulations, and from their appears the Horn of Satan.”
(Reported in al-Bukhaaree [Book of Trials, Chpt. ‘The afflictions will come from the East’ 9/166 no. 214 Eng. Trans])
Narrated by Abu Huraira
Allah’s Apostle said, “The Hour will not be established till the buttocks of the women of the tribe of Daus move while going round Dhi-al-Khalasa.” Dhi-al-Khalasa was the idol of the Daus tribe which they used to worship in the Pre Islamic Period of ignorance. (Bukhari Volume 9, Book 88, Number 232)
Narrated by Abu Huraira
Allah’s Apostle said, “The Hour will not be established till a man from Qahtan appears, driving the people with his stick.” (Bukhari Volume 9, Book 88, Number 233)
Qahtan is a large tribe in the Arabian Peninsula.
“The Arab intellect turns easily to lies, delusions and burying facts, as an excercise to save its face (dignity). Thus, it never accepts defeat, neither it is apologetic.”
Salman al-Ouda is a respected Muslim scholar from the Arabian Peninsula. He is a member of the International Union for Muslim Scholars and on its Board of Trustees, and a director of the Arabic edition of the website Islam Today. He and appears on a number of TV shows and authors newspaper articles.
Aten: The Original Creator God
The mythology of the Aten, the radiant disk of the sun, is not only unique in Egyptian history, but is also one of the most complex and controversial aspects of Ancient Egypt. This term initially could be applied to any disk, including even the surface of a mirror or the moon. The term was used in the Coffin Texts to denote the sun disk, but in the ‘Story of Sinuhe‘ dating from the Middle Kingdom, the word is used with the determinative for god. In that story, Amenemhat I is described as soaring into the sky and uniting with Aten his creator. In the New Kingdom, Amenhotep I, becomes in death “united with Aten, coalescing with the one from whom he had come”.
Aten Absorbed into Egyptian Pantheon
Text written during the New Kingdom‘s 18th Dynasty frequently use the term to mean “throne” or “place” of the sun god. The word Aten was written using the hieroglyphic sign for “god” because the Egyptians tended to personify certain expressions. Eventually, the Aten was conceived as a direct manifestation of the sun god.
Amāna- ātpa (Amenhotep III, Amenophis III; “Amun is Satisfied”)- Father of Akhenaten
Prior to Amenhotep IV, the sun disk could be a symbol in which major gods appear and so we find such phrases as “Atum who is in his disk (‘aten’). However, from there it is only a small leap for the disk itself to become a god.
Sole Worship of Creator Aten Revived
It was Amenhotep IV who first initiated the appearance of the true god, Aten, by formulating a didactic name for him. Hence, in the early years of Amenhotep IV’s reign, the sun god Re-Horakhty, traditionally depicted with a hawk’s head, became identical to Aten, who was again worshipped as a god, rather than as an object associated with the sun god.
To honor his new god, Amenhotep IV constructed an enormous temple east of the Great Temple of Amun at Karnak during the third year of his reign. The temple included pillared courts with striking colossal statues of the king and at least three sanctuaries, one of which was called the Hwt-benben (‘mansion of the Benben’). This emphasized the relationship between Aten and the sun cult of Heliopolis. The Benben symbolized the primeval mound on which the sun god emerged from Nun to create the universe.
Banning Anthropomorphism & Polytheism
Amenhotep IV, who would change his name to Akhenaten to reflect Aten’s importance, first replaced the state god Amun with his newly interpreted god. The hawk-headed figure of Re-Horakhty-Aten was then abandoned in favor of the iconography of the solar disk, which was now depicted as an orb with a uraeus at its base emitting rays that ended in human hands either left open or holding ankh signs that gave “life” to the nose of both the king and the Great Royal Wife, Nefertiti.
Nefertiti Bust, a 3300-year-old painted limestone bust of the Great Royal Wife of the Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaten, believed to have been crafted in 1345 BC by the sculptor Thutmose.
Around the ninth year of of Akhenaten‘s reign, the name of the god Aten was once more changed. Now, all mention of Horakhty and Shu disappeared. Horakhty was replaced by the phrase, “Ruler of the Horizon”. No longer was the hawk form of the god acceptable and this image was definitively replaced with new iconography and a purer form of monotheism was introduced. Now, Aten became “the Living One, Sun, Ruler of the Horizon, who rejoices on the horizon in his name, which is Sunlight, which comes from the disk”.
Left: Akhenaten in an exaggerated form; Right: Nefertiti in a form less attractive then her Berlin Bust. Both are receiving “life” from the Aten
Aten was now considered the sole, ruling deity and celebrated its own royal jubilees (Sed-festivals).
The concept of the new god was not so much the sun disk, but rather the life giving illumination of the sun. To make this distinction, his name would be more correctly pronounced, “Yati(n)”.
Aten was now the king of kings, needing no goddess as a companion and having no enemies who could threaten him. In effect, this worship of Aten was not a sudden innovation on the part of one king, but the climax of a religious quest among Egyptians for a benign god limitless in power and manifest in all countries and natural phenomena.
After Aten ascended to the top of the pantheon, most of the old gods retained their positions at first, though that would soon change as well. Gods of the dead such as Osiris and Soker were several of the first to vanish from the Egyptian religious front.
Akhenaten‘s new religion, which inaugurated theocracy and systematic monotheism, manifest itself with two central themes surrounding light and the king. It was probably after the god’s final name change that Akhenaten ordered the closure of the temples dedicated to all other gods in Egypt. Not only were these temples closed, but in order to extinguish the memory of these gods as much as possible, a veritable persecution took place. Literal armies of stonemasons were sent out all over the land and even into Nubia, above all else, to hack away the image and name of the god Amun.
Hijrah / Exodus / Migration
In year six of his reign, Amenhotep IV became weary of Thebes and the old powerful Amun priesthood, and thus founded a new capital city in the desert valley area we now call el-Amarna (ancient Akhetaten) somewhat north of the old capital in Middle Egypt. Amenhotep IV mentions on two stelae that the priests were saying more evil things about him than they did about his father and grandfather, so from this we learn that there must have been a conflict that dated back at least to the reign of Tuthmosis IV. Luckily for the king, however, the priesthood was apparently not strong enough to curb a pharaoh’s inclinations at this point in time.
There, in his new capital of Akhetaten (‘horizon of Aten’), Aten could be worshipped without any consideration of other deities. Thus he built both a Great Aten temple in the city. Outside of Akhetaten, there appears to have also been temples dedicated to Aten at Memphis, at Sesebi in Nubia, and perhaps elsewhere during at least part of Akhenaten‘s reign.
Around the time Akhetaten was founded, Amenhotep IV changed his own birth name from Amenhotep, which may be translated as “Amun is content”, to Akhenaten, meaning “he who is beneficial to the Aten” or “illuminated manifestation of Aten”. Afterwards, the king proceeded to emphasize Aten’s singular nature above all other gods through excessively preferential treatment. Ultimately, he suppressed all other deities.
Monotheistic Hymn- Revealed Scripture?
But indeed, Akhenaten‘s new creed could be summed up by the formula, “There is no god but Aten, and Akhenaten is his prophet”. The hymn known as the “Sun Hymn of Akhetaten” offers some theological insight into this newly evolved god. Scholars have noted a similarity between the hymn and Biblical Psalm 104, although the distinct parallels between the two are usually interpreted simply as indications of the common literary heritage of Egypt and Israel.
Head of colossal statue of Akhenaten; Karnak; Aten Temple;
Inscribed in thirteen long lines, the essential part of the poem is a hymn of praise for Aten as the creator and preserver of the world. Within it, there are no allusions to traditional mythical concepts, since the names of other gods are absent. Hence, it should be noted that, unlike other supreme gods of Egypt, Aten did not always absorb the attributes of other gods. His nature was entirely different.
The hymn abounds with descriptions of nature and with the position of the king in the new religion. Irregardless of the existence of a priesthood devoted to Aten, only to Akhenaten had the god revealed itself, and only the king could know the demands and commandments of Aten,
Ahl al-Bayt: The people of the prophet’s family
However, while the hymn seems to provide exclusive rights to the Aten only to the king, his family appears to have been included within this inner circle. The new myths of the religion were filled with the ruler’s family history and it is not surprising that the faithful of the Amarna period prayed in front of private cult stelae that depicted the royal “holy” family.
Resistance to Monotheism
Aten had to be forced on the Egyptian people, and outside of Akhetaten (and really even there) and the official state religion, Aten never replaced all the traditional Egyptian gods. In effect, among the common Egyptians, if anything, the situation created a religious vacuum which was unstable from the beginning. And while it is clear that the elite of Akhetaten certainly paid respect to Aten, there is no real evidence for personal individual worship of the god on the part of the ordinary Egyptians whose only access to the god was through the medium of the king. On the contrary, at even the workers village in eastern Amarna, there has been unearthed numerous amulets of traditional gods, as well as some small private chapels probably dedicated to ancestor worship but showing no traces of the official religion.
A painted ivory relief of a royal child picking grapes. Amarna period, New Kingdom, Egypt
Soon after the death of Akhenaten, his capital was dismantled, as was his religion. Aten was removed from the Egyptian pantheon, and Akhenaten as well as his family and religion, were now the focus of prosecution. Their monuments were destroyed, together with related inscriptions and images. While the Aten did continue to be worshipped for some period after Akhenaten’s death, the god soon fell into obscurity.
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- Amarna Letters, Forbes, Dennis C., 1991, KMT Communications, ISBN 1-879388-03-0
- Ancient Gods Speak, The: A Guide to Egyptian Religion, Redford, Donald B., 2002, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-515401-0
- Art and History of Egypt, Carpiceci, Alberto Carlo, 2001, Bonechi, ISBN 88-8029-086-x
- Chronicle of the Pharaohs (The Reign-By-Reign Record of the Rulers and Dynasties of Ancient Egypt), Clayton, Peter A., 1994, Thames and Hudson Ltd, ISBN 0-500-05074-0
- Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt, The, Wilkinson, Richard H., 2003, Thames & Hudson, LTD, ISBN 0-500-05120-8
- Conceptions of God in Ancient Egypt: The One and the Many, Hornung, Erik, 1971, Cornell University Press, ISBN 0-8014-8384-0
- Dictionary of Ancient Egypt, The, Shaw, Ian; Nicholson, Paul, 1995, Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Publishers, ISBN 0-8109-3225-3
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- Egyptian Religion, Morenz, Siegfried, 1973, Cornell University Press, ISBN 0-8014-8029-9
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Dhul-Kifl Means “Man from Kapil”
The mid-twentieth century scholar, Hamid Abdul Qadir, in hisBuddha the Great: His Life and Philosophy (Arabic: Budha al-Akbar Hayatoh wa Falsaftoh), postulates that the Prophet Dhu’l-Kifl, meaning “the one from Kifl,” mentioned twice in the Quran (Al-Anbiya 85 and Sad 48) as patient and good, refers to Shakyamuni Buddha. Although most scholars identify Dhu’l-Kifl with the Prophet Ezekiel, Qadir explains that “Kifl” is the Arabicized form of Kapila, short for Kapilavastu. Although the truths that Buddha realized under the fig tree are not described as revelation, later great Buddhist masters have received revelations of sacred texts, such as Asanga in fourth century India directly from Maitreya in Tushita, the Heaven Filled with Joy.
In the list of prophets who are specifically mentioned in Islamic sources, there are certain names which do not seem to belong to the prophets of Israel. Many commentators therefore are inclined to believe that they are non-Arab prophets who are included in the list just for the sake of representation of the outer world. For instance, Dhul-Kifl is one name in the list of prophets which is unheard of in the Arab or Semitic references. Some scholars seem to have traced this name to Buddha, who was of Kapeel, which was the capital of a small state situated on the border of India and Nepal. Buddha not only belonged to Kapeel, but was many a time referred to as being ‘Of Kapeel’. This is exactly what is meant by the word ‘Dhul-Kifl’. It should be remembered that the consonant ‘p’ is not present in Arabic, and the nearest one to it is ‘fa’. Hence, Kapeel transliterated into Arabic becomes Kifl.”
Fig Tree is Bodhi Tree of Enlightenment
He also proposes that the Qur’anic mention of the fig tree (At-Tin 1-5) refers to Buddha as well, since he attained to enlightenment at the foot of one. Some scholars accept this theory and, as supportfor this position, point out that the eleventh-century Persian Muslim scholar of Indian history, al-Biruni, referred to Buddha as a Prophet. Others dismiss this last piece of evidence and explain that al-Biruni was merely describing that people in India regarded Buddha as a prophet.
Maitreya means Prophet
Some scholars associate the prophesied future Buddha Maitreya, the Loving or Merciful One, with the Prophet Muhammad as the servant of the Merciful One.
Buddhists as People of the Book
Buddha’s attainment and his teachings of techniques for others to achieve the same are known in Sanskrit as “Dharma,” literally “preventive measures.” They are measures to take and methods to follow in order to avoid causing oneself and others suffering. Starting in the second century BCE, Buddha’s discourses on them that had been transmitted orally up until then were written down in the form of scriptural texts. In present-day Uzbekistan and northern Afghanistan, where the Arabs first encountered Buddhists, the versions of these texts most widely available were in Old Turk and Sogdian translation. In these languages, the word Dharma was translated as nom, a loan word from Greek, meaning “law.”
The Quran taught tolerance for the religions of “people of the Book,” which referred to Christianity and Judaism. When the Arabs encountered Buddhism, then although its followers were not strictly “people of the Book,” nevertheless they were granted the same status and rights as the Christians and Jews under their rule. They were allowed to follow their religion, provided the laypeople among them paid a poll-tax. Thus, the legal concept of “People of the Book” seems to have been widened to include those who followed a set of ethical principles of higher authority.
The following is a final exam paper I wrote on the practice of hijab (Islamic veil). I was in a Sociology class called “Sociology of Gender” taught by Dr. Elizabeth Bernstein at Barnard College. It presents the results of a survey I conducted at Columbia University that shows that non-Muslims and Westerners fail to understand this and other practices because they focus on forcing their assumptions on the situation rather than considering what Islam really means. I got a B+…
Daniel Nehemiah Oliver
Sociology of Gender Final Question 2
There is no god but ALLAH. Muhammad (May the Peace and Blessings of ALLAH be upon him) is the Messenger of ALLAH. Sincere belief in these statements makes one a Muslim. They are the fundamental, guiding principles of Muslim life. They, for instance, establish the Qur’an unquestionably as the word of ALLAH, brought to humanity by his Messenger. Belief in ALLAH and His Messenger and the authority of the Qur’an figure importantly in the Muslim/Western
debate over veiling moreso than Hoodfar, in The Veil in their Minds and on their Heads*, realizes. She rightly identifies the Qur’an as an influencing factor in Middle Eastern veiling practices, but her essay does not explore its implications. Her argument is based mainly on historical and sociological sketches that illuminate truths about Middle Eastern society and Muslim culture, but by ignoring Islam as a faith, and failing to acknowledge Muslims as a distinct, diverse group, held together by and operating upon the dynamics of this faith, the discussion of veiling loses credibility and explanatory value. This paper presents the findings of a study aimed at exploring and explaining this crucial and little understood aspect of veiling.
To this end, I selected a survey sample that could represent these unheard and ignored voices. I picked 3 types of respondents, whom I coded as “Muslims”, “Muslimahs” and “Hijabis”. The Muslims were two male Muslims, one born Muslim (Muslim B) and one revert to islam (Muslim R). (Those who accept Islam from another faith are called reverts rather than converts, due to a belief that all things are born in, and some later corrupted from, fitrah, a natural state of submission to ALLAH.) The Muslimahs were two Muslim women who do not veil; one born Muslim (Muslimah B) and one revert (Muslimah R). The Hijabis were two Muslim women who do veil, also known as wearing hijab; one born Muslim (Hijabi B) and one revert (Hijabi R). All six of these were affiliated with Columbia University or Barnard College either as undergraduates, graduate students, or staff. Their ages ranged from 18-29, and their backgrounds and living experiences represent the diversity of the world’s Muslims to as great a degree as possible given the sample size.
Islam is the basis of a worldwide community united by belief in the Lordship of ALLAH and the messengership of Muhammad. This community is diverse in every way that a community can be: linguistically, culturally, economically, geographically, economically, theologically, and so on. Veiling and most other practices are not uniform. These differences, however, are usually not based on belief, but on interpretation of belief. Take the Qur’an, for example. There are no versions. The only variation lies in the rendering of Arabic terms different translators may choose. So, in the original Árabic, every Muslim reads the same thing, but inevitably many individualized readings result. Consider the following:
(With the Name of Allah, the Universally Merciful, the Discriminately Merciful)
And say to the believing women to lower their gaze, and protect their private parts, and not to show their ornaments except what is apparent, and two draw their veils over their bosoms and not to show their adornments except to their husbands, or their fathers, or their husbands’ fathers, or their sons, or their husbands’ sons, or their brothers, or their brothers’ sons, or their sisters’ sons, or their women or what their right hands possess, or to their male servants who have no vigor, or children who are not yet aware of women’s private parts…
– Qur’an, Chapter 24 an-Nuur/“The Light”: 31
O Prophet, say to your wives, and your daughters and the women of the believers to draw their outer garments over themselves. As such it is likelier that they will be recognized and not molested. ALLAH Is Most Forgiving, Most Merciful.
– Qur’an, Chapter 33 al-Ahzab/“The Confederates”: 59
It must first be said that this paper is not gaging the accuracy of this translation from the original text. In addition, the purpose of this paper is not to explain or interpret these verses. These verses have been presented simply as evidence that the Qur’an contains mandates concerning the practicing of veiling or hijab. (The word hijab means “screen or veil”, rather than, for example, for example, “headscarf” or “cloak”. There are many words for Muslim womens’ outer garments, not all of which are found in Islamic literature.) To Muslims, again, the words of the Qur’an are no less than the words of the One, True God.
All but one respondent, Muslimah B, agreed that hijab is legislated by the Qur’an. In the words of Muslimah R, “It was prescribed in the Qur’an for women to cover themselves”. Hijabi B simply answers “ALLAH Commanded it”. These statements begin to answer one of the questions central to this study and the lager debate over veiling: why do Muslim women veil themselves?
Hoodfar unduly emphasizes Arabian and Mediterranean traditions dating back to antiquity, but only presents the fact of veil-wearing: its first recorded references, its changing role in societies over time, etc. However, the reason for veiling is largely untouched in her essay. Westerners and feminists have for some time defined their reasons for other women’s veiling customs: patriarchy, notions of the harem, and extreme repression and domination by men. This colonial method of assumption is prone to great misunderstandings because these “studies” of Muslims have mostly been unaccompanied by what makes them Muslim: Islam. This ignorance seemed apparent to Hoodfar at times, though she did fully address it or elude it. It was not lost on Hijabi B, quoted here at length, who summarizes wonderfully how Muslims feel about the views of Westerners and academics whose conclusions about Muslims are formed without consideration of Islam.
“Responses to common misconceptions (even by [Columbia] professors teaching about Islam” Hijab was not a left-over practice from pre-Islamic culture, it doesn’t mean our parents force us to marry our cousins, it’s not just a political statement, it doesn’t limit intellectual development… it’s not a symbol of male domination, it doesn’t have to be black, it doesn’t make our heads that much warmer in the summer”
She finishes with a telling reflection: “It can be some of those things, but often is not.”
Other respondents described hijab as:
– “the ultimate necessity for any woman (Muslim R)
– “unfair” (Hijabi R)
– “a chore” (Hijabi R)
– “a wonderful way to protect the modesty of a woman” (Muslimah R)
These are all things that wearing hijab or veiling can be, according to the respondents. But in the end, they are largely the effects of hijab, not its causes. For example it is doubtful that that Hijabi R, who feels that hijab is unfair, wears it because it’s unfair.
Regarding cause, interestingly, none of the stereotypical, Western/academic-assigned causes for veiling were quoted by the respondents. Some were actually refuted, as in Hijabi B’s above quote. Family pressure was mentioned once, but only as a discouragement against veiling. All respondents were geographically and socially distant from the Middle East, negating it by default as a cultural explanation of the veiling practice.
To the Muslims of this survey, veiling has a meaning, and a power, that is lost on the minds of Western academia. Just is in Hoodfar’s essay’s explanation of the veil carrying a sense of power, Hijabi R said that hijab was a way to “fight in the way of ALLAH’s Cause”. To Muslimah R it was a statement of faith. Muslimah B felt it “shows one’s inner strength”. To these women, whether or not they chose to wear it, the hijab was a force, and a statement, as well as a shield and display of modesty.
Why has Western academia, with it sustained contact with Muslim population groups, failed to recognize the value of the practice of veiling? It is not just because of the colonial/propagandist motivations that do too much to frame western discourse on Muslims. The seemingly blind misunderstanding is one symptom of a larger problem: willful ignorance of Islam and refusal to acknowledge faith. One does not have to be a Muslim to study the practice of veiling, but how can studies of veiling ignore Islam when the practitioners list ALLAH, Islam and the Qur’an as the cause? Western/non-Muslim perceptions, and to an extent Hoodfar’s essay, fail- refuse, in fact- to capture the reality of veiling as an extension of their refusal to acknowledge Islam. Sympathizing Western feminists thus perpetuate the paternalism and repression that they suffer by re-inflicting it on Muslim women. If Western men have historically treated women like objects, then that is all the less reason for them to do the same thing to Muslim women. The feminist protest is against being treated like a docile, disenfranchised second class, yet feminism, out of ironic sympathy, approaches hundreds of millions across the globe as exactly that. How can feminists insist on their voices being heard, when they drown the voices of Muslim women? How can they, perhaps even more ironically, oppose being treated like sexual objects, while fighting for their right to look like one and belittling the women who refuse to?
This guise of objectivity is itself a veil, masking an academic and cultural arrogance that causes the scientific standards of Western academia to falter and the societies which it informs to suffer. Some studies show American Muslims to live at a higher standard-of-living and education level than American non-Muslims. The statistics of homicide and sexual violence in Western societies soar high above those of Muslim populations. The tendency to criticize and patronize should be replaced with one to recognize.
The West, especially and perhaps because of its academics and feminists, succumbs to the subjectivity it is so wary of internally because it refuses to subjectively evaluate the meaning, or even acknowledge the statement that there is not deity besides ALLAH and Muhammad is His messenger.
* 1997. “The Veil in Their Minds and on Our Heads: The Persistence of Colonial Images of Muslim Women”, Politics of Culture in the Shadow of Capital, David Lloyd and Lisa Lowe (eds). Duke University Press, (reprint).
This is a comment to an article about the role of Zionism in the Norway massacre.
Name any nation that is not at war… you can’t. Nearly every country in this world is in some sort of conflict. No matter what religion the majority of their citizens claim. Read the news: Buddhist Thailand vs. Buddhist Cambodia, over a temple. Civil wars and rebels all over the Christian nations of Africa. The secular and Christian nations of the West occupying, attacking or aiding conflict all over the world. Zionist Jews in Palestine. Hindus committing atrocities in Kashmir and against Muslims and Christians in India. It’s everywhere. EVERY religion has members that are fighting, that kill innocent people, that commit murder and rape, that embezzle, scandal, scam, scheme and plot, rob, plunder and steal, commit adultery, abandon children, can’t read or write, molest children, bribe their way out of justice, etc., etc., etc…. And secularists, atheists, agnostics, and humanists get in on it too, so don’t blame religion
As you can see, a religion’s texts are a proof for or against its members. They are not a proof for or against it. You measure a religion by its book, and you measure its members by its book, too. They either live up to it or fall short of it.
Let us look at an example. It is true that many Christians were at the forefront of abolishing slavery worldwide (many were also the leaders of enslavement). Should we judge Christianity by that? According to some places in the Old Testament and Romans 13.1, opposing the laws that allowed slavery were AGAINST what they consider to be the word of God. In other words, they had to step OUTSIDE Christianity to free slaves.
Islam’s Qur-an and Hadeeth (Prophetic narration) literature support abolition and forbid enslavement outside of the context of war-captives when there is no exchange for prisoners. So while many Muslims were involved in the slave trade, they were stepping OUTSIDE of Islam to keep slaves.
Judge them by the book.
The United States Constitution and Declaration of Independence, celebrated symbols of freedom, enslave Africans, dispossess Native Americans, deny the rights of non-landowning white males, and deny the rights of all women. So freedom, justice and equality can only be achieved by stepping OUTSIDE of America’s founding principles.
This is why we Muslims argue from our book. That, not the action of the next Muslim you walk past, is Islam for us. We only know the Qur-an as Islam. We don’t know what every Muslim in the world is doing and why, but we will argue as strongly against a (seemingly) good deed as we will against a bad one if it is inconsistent with our law and doctrine.
The truth is that Muslims also do a lot of good things, for the sake of Allah, in the name of Islam, to get a reward in heaven, etc. Find them and what they do. See, do they outnumber the wrongdoers? I leave that as an open question to any sincere seeker of accurate information, I won’t answer it for you.
Personally- and this is admittedly subjective- I’ve been around the world and read and heard viewpoints from many walks of life. I was in NYC on 11 September 2001 and accepted Islam there 3 years later. Islam is my free choice because after research and experimentation, I found it to be the best and most complete way of life. I won’t lecture you that I’m right, but I assure you that I’m aware and sincere. See for yourself: https://qahiri.wordpress.com/2011/01/05/11/
So please, do justice to yourself and stop ignoring all the wrongdoing and conflicts involving non-Muslims, and all the good done by Muslims, to prop up an argument that is an offense to intelligence, reason, history and logic. Islam is singular in its establishment of justice and right. Why do some Muslims act to the contrary?
For more on the accusations of rape, sexism/masochism and slavery in Islam: https://qahiri.wordpress.com/category/stockholm-syndrome/
To see the deceptive and erroneous nature of Islamophobia and WikiIslam exposed: https://qahiri.wordpress.com/2011/01/06/dealing-with-doubt/
To see whether Islam is incompatible with democracy: https://qahiri.wordpress.com/2011/01/10/is-democracy-islamist/
To see if there is any difference between Arab culture and Islam: https://qahiri.wordpress.com/2011/01/05/is-islam-arabian-part-i/
To read what Islam actually is: https://qahiri.wordpress.com/2010/01/07/what-islam-is/
The last issue you raised is the current situation in Saudi Arabia. I have not followed it closely, but my understanding is that certain countries have tried to put safeguards in place to protect its nationals from the sexual and physical abuse that Gulf countries are notorious for. Saudi Arabia, to my understanding, has responded by denying work visas for citizens of these countries, which are effectively economic sanctions, considering the remittance income these countries get from their citizens in Saudi Arabia. We can assume that this is basically accurate, and you will soon see that it doesn’t even matter if it is.
Saudi Arabia, quite simply is not an Islamic “state”. It is not a “caliphate” or ‘khilafa’. 2 of Islam’s holy lands- Makkah and Madeena- are in it’s borders. But it is not governed by sharee’ah, or “Islamic law”. It is a hereditary absolute monarchy. Domestic and international political goals, Bedouin culture, racial and national pride, foreign interests, and economic interests are all parts of its politics and workings. Islamis, of course, to be found there, but it is only one factor of many. So why is it, when most people know or can easily guess that all these factors are at play, that Islam gets blamed for everything that happens in Saudi Arabia?
Ignorant people are of two types: those who turn away from the truth and those who are simply unaware. Muslims can fall into one of these categories, and some do. I anticipate your pointing out of the Muslims who are in clear violation of some of the principles I have summarized.
They are not a proof against Islam; Islam is a proof against them.