Islam students at LUC

Archive for July 21st, 2010

It amazes me how many people converted, especially during that time period.  “They were to face rejection, persecution, and exclusion in a Meccan Society” (Ramadan, 29). In class it was mention that the youth, slaves, and women were the first to follow Muhammad. That even came more of a surprise to me because wouldn’t the youth not want to go against their parents beliefs, and the slaves wouldn’t they not want to disobey their masters. I feel like overall it was a big sacrifice for every individual knowing that there was a big chance of a consequence from the Quraysh. It must have taken a lot of faith to really believe in Muhammad. If I lived during that era I probably wouldn’t have taken that big of a leap knowing there were only a few people of the town following Muhammad. I’d be terrified of the consequences the Quraysh would do to me. If I truly had a lot of faith in Muhammad I probably would have kept it a secret by following his beliefs and values; eventually would have been public about it but not until Islam became stronger.

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On the first day of class, we discussed some of the popular connotations of Islam, and one of them was violence. As I’m sure everyone else did, I immediately understood this to be a false stereotype. However, when reading the biography of the Prophet, I was struck by how frequently warfare played in. As a pretty extreme pacifist, this put me off at first, but I think there are several ways to consider the place of warfare in religion.

First of all, the reality of war is not uncommon in stories from any religious tradition. Although Jesus never engaged in combat like Muhammad, there are saints in Catholicism that did, such as Joan of Arc. Muhammad is of course said to be distinct from God and fully human, similarly to these saints. In this way, I think it is possible to distinguish a human aspect of religion from a more spiritual and essential element of religion, with war taking place in the religious history (the human aspect) while the essence of the religion is unity, mercy, non-violence. Muhammad and the saints are meant to be examples, but because they are fully human, there is still an opportunity to interpret the religions as supporting pacifism, at least if one is predisposed to do so.

One of the readings said that Muhammad/the Qu’ran states that war is acceptable but does not clearly define what are just motives of war. Of course Muhammad laid down rules for making war more humane, but personally, I question the morality of all physical conflict and the possibility of any war being a “just war.” Even so, I don’t find this view to be irreconcilable to Islam either because, for example, Muhammad’s “conquest” of Mecca seems more akin to a passive, non-violent form of resistance or demonstration as the pilgrims came without weapons other than hunting equipment.

I also found it very interesting that many of the readings describe jihad as a personal, inner struggle, and Ramadan shows that Muhammad emphasizes the “greater jihad”- “fighting the self [the ego]” (194).

I haven’t read many religious books that read like a story, but I must say I enjoyed reading “In the Footsteps of the Prophet.”  I just had one question related to Khadijah.  In the book, it states that there was some controversy surrounding her real age.  40? or 28?.  The book suggests that she was more than likely 28 (due to having 6 children). If  I recall correctly, (earlier in the readings) she lost two children before the age of 2 years old which may indicate that she was an older woman.  I may do some research online and see what I find.

The specific area of Muhammad’s life that I found most difficult to imagine was when the Muslims were being tortured and Muhammad was protected.  My biggest takeaway from this was that through suffering comes deliverance. If Muhammad hadn’t sacrificed the lives of many and even his own (as one of the other blogger’s stated) positive change would never have happened.  As an old saying goes, “…sometimes you must sacrifice a few for the good of many…