History: The Middle East and the Arabian Peninsula



    The Middle East and the Arabian Peninsula were the center of the most remarkable civilizations and religions in the history of humanity .However, Islam marked the spirit of many Western scholars and historians ’as a fascinating religion that raised and conquered the hearts and spirits of all man kinds . Many tried to explore the basic beliefs and pillars of this fast growing religion. The exercise was not easy at all part is due to the flat translation of the Quran; one of the most dynamic holly books. Others completely ignored the second source of legislations for Muslims; the Hadith .The result was a deformed lecture of the Islamic believes and practices. Therefore, the status of Muslims women remained as one of the most common western misinterpretation of this intriguing religion.

    To understand the rise of Islam, let’s explain the Geo-political history in the Arabian Peninsula and its population. There is a consensus that the Semitic peoples originated from Arabian Peninsula, came from Mesopotamia to Jazirat al-Arab an area between the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf. The explanation may due to the deterioration of condition of living and especially the rarity of water. Geologists tell us that the Arabian Peninsula is one of the driest and hottest countries in the whole world. The Bedouin lived, in tents of goats' or camels' hair ("houses of hair"), a. Sheep-and-camel- raising, and horse-breeding, Tenacity and endurance enable the nomad to survive where almost everything else perishes. The domestication of the camel was a turning point in their history. They stopped the practice of the raid or Ghazw otherwise considered a form of brigandage and started the caravan trade. This capacity of adaptation may explain later their ability to conquer new lands throw centuries of conquests.

    The clan organization is the basis of Bedouin society. Every tent represents a family; members of one tent constitute a clan. The clans grouped together make a tribe. All members of the same clan consider each other as of one blood submit to the authority of the chief of the clan.. The clan is represented by its titular head, the sheikh. The sheikh is the senior member of the tribe. In judicial, military and other affairs of common concern the sheikh is not the absolute authority; he must consult with the tribal council composed of the heads of the component families.

    The Bedouin is also loyal and generous. Hospitality is considered one of the supreme virtues of the nation. To refuse a guest such a courtesy in a land where there are no refuge, or to harm him after accepting him as a guest, is an offense not only against the established mores and honor, but against God Himself, the real protector. The practice of caravan trading allowed the Bedouins to form a society and settle in the city of Mecca. Yet, a number of Bedouins tribes continue the nomadic life. The loose of faith (they became polytheistic), spread of crime and inhuman practices such burying a life female born made it a dangerous region were to leave. The necessity to return to the Bedouin values was necessities in a society where injustices were growing and where the upper class; the merchants took over. The role of Mohammed (SAW) was not only religious, but also social and economic.

    Mohammed ibn Abdullah ( SAW) was born in 570 in the city of Mecca. Coming from a powerful family of Hashemite clan, he became orphan at the age of six. He lived in Mecca as merchant but was troubled during his trading travels to all Arabic peninsulas by the growing gap between the Bedouin values of honesty and generosity and the acquisitive behavior of the affluent commercial elites in the city. He was respected and trusted on his tribe, his name was “Al-Amine” the trusted one. He had his first revelation in the age of 40 when he was meditating as he used to in the mountain of light “ Jabal Al Nour”.

    The prophet Mohammed ( SAW)  started preaching not only the Meccans but also the visitors of this trading center.  Knowing that Mohammed ( SAW) was the only contact between God who spoke him to through angel Gabriel. He had a primordial role in the development of the Islamic faith; The message of Mohammed ( SAW) was not just about monotheism , he came to implement the basic beliefs of the Islamic religion.

1) Belief in God:

    Muslims believe in one, unique, incomparable God, Who has neither son nor partner, the only one having the right to be worshipped.  He is the true God. In the Quran, God describes Himself: “He is God, the One. God, to whom the creatures turn for their needs.  He begets not, nor was He begotten, and there is none like Him.”  (Quran, 112:1-4).

    God is not Jesus, and Jesus is not God.  Even Jesus himself rejected this. God has said in the Quran: “God is the Messiah (Jesus), son of Mary.”  The Messiah said, “Children of Israel worship God, my Lord and your Lord.  Whoever associates partners in worship with God, then God has forbidden Paradise for him, and his home is the Fire (Hell).  For the wrongdoers, there will be no helpers.”  (Quran, 5:72)

    God is not a trinity.  God has said in the Quran: “God is the third of three (in a trinity), when there is no god but one God.  If they desist not from what they say, truly, a painful punishment will befall the disbelievers among them. Would they not rather repent to God and ask His forgiveness?  For God is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.  The Messiah (Jesus), son of Mary, was no more than a messenger...   (Quran, 5:73-75)

2) Belief in the Angels:

    Muslims believe in the existence of the angels and that they are honored creatures. The angels worship God alone, obey Him, and act only by His command. Among the angels is Gabriel, who brought down the Quran to Muhammad (SAW)

3) Belief in God’s revealed Books:

    Muslims believe that God revealed books to His messengers for guidance .Among these books is the Torah revealed to Moses, the bible revealed to Jesus and  the Quran, which God revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (SAW). God has guaranteed the Quran’s protection from any corruption or distortion because the other holly books were corrupted but humans.  God has said:” We have sent down the Quran, and surely we will guard it” (from corruption).  (Quran, 15:9)

4) Belief in the Prophets and Messengers of God:

    Muslims believe in the prophets and messengers of God, starting with Adam, including Noah, Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and Jesus (peace be upon them).  But God’s final message to man, a reconfirmation of the eternal message, was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (SAW).  Muslims believe that Muhammad (SAW) is the last prophet sent by God, as God has said: “Muhammad is not the father of any one of your men, but he is the Messenger of God and the last of the prophets... “ (Quran, 33:40)

    Muslims believe that all the prophets and messengers were created human beings who had none of the divine qualities of God.

5) Belief in the Day of Judgment:

    Muslims believe in the Day of Judgment (the Day of Resurrection) when all people will be resurrected for God’s judgment according to their beliefs and deeds.

6) Belief in Al-Qadar:

    Muslims believe in Al-Qadar, which is Divine Predestination, but this belief in Divine Predestination does not mean that human beings do not have freewill.  Rather, Muslims believe that God has given human beings freewill.  This means that they can choose right or wrong and that they are responsible for their choices.

    The belief in Divine Predestination includes belief in four things: 1) God knows everything.  He knows what has happened and what will happen.  2) God has recorded all that has happened and all that will happen.  3) Whatever God wills to happen happens, and whatever He wills not to happen does not happen.  4) God is the Creator of everything.

    As soon as Mohammed (SAW) began to recite the Quran and to preach the truth which God had revealed to him, he and his small group of followers suffered persecution from unbelievers. His people were tortured and killed but no one armed him because of his powerful clan. His wife Khadija played an important role, she supported him morally and financially when his tribe harassed him and his followers. When the situation worsted after the death of his uncle and protector Abou-Talib, he decided to sick refuge in Yathrib in the famous historical event known as the Hijrah. Once there he was preoccupied by forming a unit population made of Al-Ansar the habitants of Yathrib and Al –Mohajirine the people of Mecca who followed him. The Uma or the nation of Islam was born.

    The prophet Mohammed (SAW) continue spraying Islamic Faith when he moved to Yathrib ( El Medina) . He became a religious, political, and military leader. Under his guidance, the community of believers became more important than family or tribe. Islam began to be spread and Entire tribes and cities were "converted". He continued the teachings of Islam and among them are the five pillars of Islam.

1) The Testimony of Faith:

    The testimony of faith is saying with conviction, “La ilaha illa Allah, Muhammadur rasoolu Allah.”  This saying means “There is no true god (deity) but God (Allah), and Muhammad is the Messenger (Prophet) of God.” This testimony of faith is called the Shahada, a simple formula which should be said with conviction in order to convert to Islam. The testimony of faith is the most important pillar of Islam.

2) Prayer:

    Muslims perform five prayers a day.  Each prayer does take a few minutes to perform.  Prayer in Islam is a direct link between the worshipper and God.  There are no intermediaries between God and the worshipper. Even if the Friday prayer is really important it’s not part of the 5 pillars of Islam contrarily as we use to read in some publications.

3) Giving Zakat (Support of the Needy):

    The original meaning of the word zakat is both ‘purification’ and ‘growth.’  Giving zakat means ‘giving a specified percentage on certain properties to certain classes of needy people.’  The percentage which is due on gold, silver, and cash funds that have reached the amount of about 85 grams of gold and held in possession for one lunar year is two and a half percent. You are not just helping the poor by giving zakat you are also purifying your money. Contrarily to the principle of donations in the western culture, when individuals seek taxes break by donating money .In Islam no one should know to whom or how much money did you give. It’s an act between you and God. 

4) Fasting the Month of Ramadan:

    Every year in the month of Ramadan, all Muslims fast from sunset until sundown, abstaining from food, drink, and sexual relations. Although the fast is beneficial to health, it is regarded principally as a method of spiritual self-purification. A fasting person gains true sympathy with those hungry.

5) The Pilgrimage to Mecca:

    The annual pilgrimage (Hajj) to Mecca is an obligation once in a lifetime for those who are physically and financially able to perform it. the annual Hajj is performed in the twelfth month of the Islamic calendar “Do- El hijja”.  Male and women pilgrims wear special simple clothes showing no distinctions of class and culture so that all stand equal as God created them. The rites of the Hajj include circling the Kaaba seven times and going seven times between the hillocks of Safa and Marwa. Then the pilgrims stand together in Arafa and ask God for what they wish and for His forgiveness. The end of the Hajj is marked by a festival, Eid Al-Adha, which is celebrated with prayers. Muslims believe by accomplishing hajj , God forgive all their sins and they can start a new life.  

    The Five Pillars of Islam are the framework of the Muslim life.  They are the testimony of faith. They had for goal to implement a code of conduct for all Muslim of the world far from the traditional or cultural practices of each tribe or ethnicity. To implement them was not easy to the Muhammad (SAW).

    In the year 630, eight years after he had been forced to leave Mecca, Muhammad (SAW) returned with such an overwhelming force that the Meccans made no resistance. Muhammad (SAW) destroyed all the idols of Mecca, and declared the Kaabah to be the place of worship for Allah. As it was since it construction by the patriarch Abraham and Ismail. Mohammed (SAW) showed an extraordinary capacity of forgiveness for the Meccans who tried many time to kill him. He exposed his followers to the real virtue of Islam. To Muslims Mecca did not have only an emotional importance, it was the epicenter of the trade in the entire region. Mohammed (SAW) saw Mecca as the ideal place to spread the Islamic Faith specially during the season of Hajj , people from all the areas were coming for trade and it was the perfect occasion to teach them about Islam. These people spread the message to their own tribes; this was one of the reasons why Islam spread in a short time.

    According to Islamic belief, the Holy Quran was revealed by God to the prophet Muhammad ( SAW) through the Angel Gabriel between the years 610 - 632. Conferring to the Islamic teachings, the Quran is held in the greatest respect as one of the most honored and important of all divinely-revealed scriptures -- which has survived in its original form alteration since the time of its revelation. The Quran speaks in powerful, moving language about the reality and attributes of God, the spiritual world, God's purposes with mankind, man's relationship and responsibility to Him, the coming of the Day of Judgment, and the life hereafter. It also contains rules for living which Muslims consider to be binding, stories of earlier prophets' and their communities, and vital insights and understandings concerning the meaning of existence and human life. In its original Arabic, with its moving tone, the Quran speaks directly to the heart. It also speaks profoundly to the mind, exhorting human beings to ponder and reflect on God's creation as evidence of His existence, power and beneficence. The Quran is not directed towards any one particular nation, such as the Arabs, or to a particular sect of Muslims, but to non-Islamic societies as well as the Muslim nation as a whole. There are numerous references to non-believers and idol- worshippers, to the People of the Book (namely, the Jews, or the Tribe of Israel, and the Christians), exhorting each one to strive towards a true understanding of the Quran and of Islam. Since the Arabic text of the Quran is regarded as the direct speech of God, the Qur'an cannot be literally "translated" into any other language. However, its approximate meaning can be given, and the Qur'an has probably been translated into every written language on the globe. Because of the importance of the Quran in the lives of Muslims, Muslims worldwide learn Arabic from an early age and use it in their prayers daily. Up to this day, countless Muslims in various parts of the Muslim world have committed the entire Qur'an to memory. Passages from the Qur'an are recited during each of the five daily prayers which conscious Muslims observe, and at other times as well.

    Even though the Quran was the source of all Muslim common life practices, God asked the Muslim believers to use the reason to apply his guidance’s. Because Muhammad (SAW) was the only one in direct contact with the angel Gabriel, the prophet had to clarify some parts in the Quran and also the basis of jurisprudence for Islamic law, or Sharia law through the hadith.

    The hadith are collected traditions about the sunna of Muhammad ( SAW). Thus they are composed of sayings attributed to Muhammad( SAW).  , as well as the actions of Muhammad ( SAW) in various situations, both of which are held to serve as examples and guidelines for Muslim belief and practice. According to Muslims, the hadith is almost equal in importance to the Quran. Dr. Mazhar U. Kazi, in the introduction to his A Treasury of Ahadith states that "all the sayings, sermons, and utterances of the Prophet were divinely inspired. In Arabic these are known as ahadith (singular: hadith). The sunnah and ahadith are not to be taken as the wise sayings of sages and philosophers or the verdicts of rulers and leaders. One should believe with full conviction that the words and actions of the Prophet represent the will of Allah, and thus one has to follow and obey them in each and every circumstance of life. Quranic principles and values were concretized and interpreted by the second and complementary source of law, the Sunna of the Prophet, the normative model behavior of Muhammad (SAW). The importance of the Sunna is rooted in such Quranic injunctions as "obey God and obey the Messenger... If you should quarrel over anything refer it to God and the Messenger" Quran (4:59) and "In God's messenger you have a fine model for anyone whose hope is in God and the Last Day" Quran (33:21). Belief that Muhammad (SAW)  was inspired by God to act wisely, in accordance with God's will, led to the acceptance of his example, or Sunna, as supplement to the Quran, and thus, a material or textual source of the law. The sunna presents, for the individual Muslim, the picture of the perfect way of life, in imitation of the precedent of Muhammad (SAW).

    Finally, let’s talk about the status of women in Islam. One of the most controversial topics when we talk about Islam is how traditions took over concerning the women rights and restrictions. Islam sees a woman, whether single or married, as an individual in her own right, with the right to own and dispose of her property and earnings without any guardianship over her (whether that be her father, husband, or anyone else).  She has the right to buy and sell, give gifts and charity, and may spend her money as she pleases.  A marriage dowry is given by the groom to the bride for her own personal use, and she keeps her own family name rather than taking her husband’s.

     Islam encourages the husband to treat his wife well, as the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said: “The best among you are those who are best to their wives.” Mothers in Islam are highly honored.  Islam recommends treating them in the best way.  A man came to the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and said, “O Messenger of God!  Who among the people is the most worthy of my good companionship?”  The Prophet said: {Your mother.}  The man said, “Then who?”  The Prophet said: {Then your mother.}  The man further asked, “Then who?”  The Prophet said: {Then your mother.}  The man asked again, “Then who?”  The Prophet  said: {Then your father.}

    However, the Arabic patriarchal society created a legacy of distinct gender roles .the tribal traditions where men exercise unmitigated power over women, strong tribal and ethnic divisions with honor systems playing a major role in the various groups’ customs and their attitudes towards women. These honor codes center primarily around the preservation of their purity and morality. Women are used as pawns that help create and seal alliances between tribes through marriages, which are usually planned without the consent of the brides. In these unions, total obedience to the husband and his family is expected, and women are prevented from getting any education.

    The fact that the first word of the Quran revealed was iqra, which translates to the command, “read” or “learn” in Arabic, is proof enough of the impact that Islam places on the education of its followers. However, there are numerous other places within the scripture and also in the hadiths (words or deeds of the Prophet, peace be upon him) in which the education of both males and females is emphasized. The Prophet (SAW) used to say, for example, that, “education is obligatory on both Muslim men and women, even if they have to go to China to seek it”

    Tribal leaders who rarely recognize the line that lies between cultural customs and Islamic laws. They conveniently fail to enforce parts of the religion that could potentially obstruct the continuity of their patriarchal system, and the steps they take to preserve their ways are often in clear violation of Islam.

    Contrary to popular belief, polygamy is not encouraged in Islam and is only allowed under certain conditions: “And if you fear that you cannot act equitably towards orphans, then marry such women as seem good to you, two and three and four; but if you fear that you will not do justice (between them), then (marry) only one or what your right hands possess; this is more proper, that you may not deviate from the right course. “(Quran 4:3)

     During the time of the Prophet (SAW), it was appropriate to take on more than one wife (but only a maximum of four were permitted) because the wartime conditions during this period left many women widowed and even more orphaned—marriage was seen as an act of charity that helped save and support these women. 300 wives would not be permitted as there would be no feasible way in which the husband can provide equal time and care to each of them—another stipulation to this “luxury” of polygamy. This is another example of the misrepresentation and exploitation of Islam through cultural practices.

    Islam was and will remain as one of the most intriguing religion. Due not only to its particularity as religion demarked from the other religion but also to the charismatic personality of the prophet Mohammed ( SAW) who is considered as the most influent personality in the history. Islam may inspire hate to some, intrigue to others.   



  • SAW: Peace Be With Him




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