Islam students at LUC

Archive for February 5th, 2013

This is a post for last week. The class discussed what makes up a religion. An interesting topic is the role of religion in government. This idea seems exotic in American political context, but America has current laws that are shaped by religious belief. One example is not being able to buy alcohol on Sunday in many rural locations. Religious beliefs help shape cultural ideals and moral concepts. These general cultural rules  result in laws, so it seems natural to have religion play some part in government. I spent several years in the Middle East, and religion does play an important role in government. Although the strictness of the laws differ from location to location, there are generally agreed upon cultural norms and part of daily reality. The American mindset preaches against religion in government, but there are many fully functioning thriving places where religion plays a role in lawmaking.

In response to bookshelf13, I find Khadijah to be an interesting and inspiring figure also. It is good to highlight that she is a strong figure. She even supported and helped Muhammad during the early years, when many of the people ignored him.  There is a misconception that Muslim women are mistreated and weak, but there are many strong Islamic women around the world. Many of these women are leaders in social, political, and religious arenas. It is also important to note that Muhammad encouraged women to be strong leaders and support each other.


In class:

Today, we continued our discussion of Muhammad’s biography.  Toward the end of class, a question was posed on whether or not the Treaty of Hudaybiyah was fair.  Honestly, I thought it was pretty fair.  Yes, it seemed as though the Quraysh were benefitting because of the “no converts out of Mecca” and “accept converts back to Quraysh,” however, if they promised not to fight or kill any Muslims, the Muslims were still protected.  The Muslims were protected and allowed to preach all over.  Especially learning it from this perspective, it’s astonishing how quickly Islam spread over Arabia.  It started with a few believers in a barren city and turned into an entire Arabian empire.


In response to camus2013:

I really appreciate the comments you made about (Nietzsche’s) philosophy versus religion.  I remember reading about this in an ethics class, but it sounds better in this context.  For those of us who do adhere to a religion, I would say that we are given a set of rules to follow.  This code of conduct gives us a basis for acting as good, moral human beings.  Sometimes I catch myself wondering what I would be like if I didn’t follow a religion.  I wonder where I would get my conscience from.  Can philosophical maxims (ideas) be applied to people who are not necessarily philosophical or religious?  One of the big questions I’ve been asking recently is “why are good people good?”  For the non-religious folks, what is it that keeps your morals in check?

First, sorry this is late, and I’m posting after new posts for the 3rd one have already gone up.  Oh well!  In class like many of you already stated, we got into groups and all wrote up 40, or tried to get to 40, aspects that make up religion.  Before this I have never actually tried to define religion before or thought to bother to wonder what makes up a religion.  But once we were forced to and shared our lists, we all had a lot of similar ideas.  One common problem in defining what a religion was in one sentence was that there was a lot of ambiguity.  A lot of the definitions applied to other things in life, like lifestyle choices such as being vegan.  After veganism was proposed, I will admit that I thought this was a ridiculous idea since I wondered what the ‘higher vegetable’ would be in that religion, but at the same time some definitions given made veganism fit right in.  To my own thoughts on religion, that belief in a higher being, or god, or something of that sort, is fundamental. 

We also spoke at some point about morals existing through religion, but I think that morals don’t necessarily have to do with religion.  I think that morals would exist with or without religion, and that religions use morals to further some purpose of theirs.  I’m probably not explaining what I mean very well here though.  Basically I just think that while religions may have their own morals and values they uphold, people who know nothing about religion also have these, and these values that they have are not from a religion.  I am not religious, but I definately like to think I have morals.  But acting by my morals isn’t for some goal of being pious or following Gods teachings or to get into heaven or whatever reasons religions have. 


In response to swats1224,

I like what you said about religion being influenced by people’s environments and I like the question you raise about whether you would be considered religious by most people since you uphold your religious values but don’t act on the rituals of your religion.  In my own opinion I would say that upholding your values might not necessarily have anything to do with religion, unless you only uphold that value because the religion told you to.  I myself am not religious, yet I think that we might share a lot of the same values in life despite my being without religion.  So I guess it just depends on your own take on values and where they come from for whether or not that makes you religious. 

The Qur’an and Muhammad disucssion today impressed me and taught me a lot about Islam.  Beforehand I had scene oral traditions as less reliable and definitely less preferable to reading and writing.  My mind was completely changed.  Oral traditions show incredible dedication.  I had trouble memorizing spanish skits in high school that were 5 minutes long, let alone 600 pages. I think that the point of embodying and internalizing a text truly doesn’t take effect until one can recite it.  I recite the end of the Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald  which is my favorite book.  I can more easily recognize when I’m clinging to the past as a result, not to mention my favorite color is now green because of its significance as an archetype.  Memorizing the Qur’an or any religious text is probably the best way to truly understand and always remember the teachings.  As far as the reading “Muhammad as the pole of existence”, it seems to me that Muhammad is extremely highly esteemed and some of these writings make him nearly as powerful as Allah.  This seems to me to be treading a dangerous line, because from my extremely limited understanding of the Qur’an he acted more as a mouthpiece and then a leader.  The only distinguishing trait between him and other leaders is his closeness with Allah and his relaying of those messages.  Sure he is more important than other prophets but I think care is best when elevating any mortal too far.  Of course I could be completely misunderstood.

In response to whosaidwhatnow:

I agree that religions all are strongly important to how people live their life.  I also agree on how similar they seem to be.  The messages are constant and it seems that the details are the only discrepencies.  No matter what individuals will find excuses for violence and religion is only one of many.  I also agree with the need to keep religion and government separate.  It seems to me that government is responsible for promoting the best for all the people under their rule.  This sometimes means allowing people to choose what they adhere to, and this is definitely the case for religion.  Laws shouldn’t force practicers of any religion to violate their action but they also shouldn’t force them on anyone.  Freedom is a major theme in the US constitution especially and what freedom is greater than the freedom of religion (especially assuming the belief in an afterlife).

I really enjoyed the story told in class today about Muhammad’s journeys to heaven and hell. While the whole Pegasus-like horse and the angel Gabriel whisking him away seems rather fantastical, the lessons learned from Muhammad’s visits really helped me better understand the religion of Islam in terms of where Muhammad fits in the picture. I knew that Muhammad was regarded as “the greatest prophet”, but the fact that he met every single prophet before him, one hundred thousand in all, including Abraham, Moses, and even Jesus, and he was still the “greatest” one there, blew my mind quite a bit. I liked how he prayed over them, as if giving them his blessing and wisdom. I can see more clearly now why it is such a massive “no-no” to depict Muhammad in any secular art. His importance is far greater than I had ever known. The lessons that were imparted to the Muslims through Muhammad’s interactions with both God and Moses are really fascinating too. I knew that Muslims were required to pray five times a day, but I didn’t know where that number came from – and it is interesting to see that that number was only given because Muhammad was too embarressed to go back to God and ask for a lower number…and the fact that the original number for prayers per day was fifty is amazing. It raises the question of whether God knew all along that the number was going to be five, and the only reason why He originally made it fifty was so that Muhammad had to keep coming back and asking for it to be reduced, therefore giving the impression and imparting the wisdom that God is infinitely merciful and lenient, and that the considerable back-and-forth dialogue between Muhammad and God was so lengthy so that Muslims would not be frightened by the prospect of asking God for something continually and over a long span of time.