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MAHOMMEDAN RELIGION

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Originally appearing in Volume V17, Page 418 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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MAHOMMEDAN RELIGION. The Mahommedan religion is generally known as Islam—the name given to it by Mahomet himself—and meaning the resigning or submitting oneself to God. The participle of the same Arabic verb, Muslim (in English usually spelt Moslem), is used for one who professes this religion. The expression " Mahommedan religion " has arisen in the West probably from analogy with " Christian religion," but is not recognized as a proper one by Moslem writers. Islam claims to be a divinely revealed religion given to the world by Mahomet, who was the last of a succession of inspired prophets. Its doctrine and practices are to be found in (I) the Book of God—the Koran—which was sent down from the highest heaven to Gabriel in the lowest, who in turn revealed it in sections to Mahomet; (2) the collections of tradition (hadith) containing the sayings and manner of life (sunna) of the Prophet; (3) the use of analogy (giyas) as applied to (I) and (2); and (4) the universal consent (ijrna') of the believers. The worship of Islam consists in (1) the recital of the creed; (2) the recital of the ordained prayers; (3) the fast during the month of Ramadhan; (4) alms-giving; (5) the hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca. The theology of Islam finds its first public expression among the orthodox in the teaching of al-Ash'ari (d. after 932), but had its real beginning among the sects that arose soon after the death of Mahomet. Islam is the latest of the so-called world-religions, and as several of the others were practised in Arabia at the time of Mahomet, and the Prophet undoubtedly borrowed some of his doctrines and some of his practices from these, it is necessary to enumerate them and to indicate the extent to which they prevailed in the Arabian world. Relations with Other Religions.—The religions practised in Arabia at the time of Mahomet were heathenism, Judaism, Christianity, and Zoroastrianism. 1. Heathenism was the religion of the majority of the Arabs. In the cities of south Arabia it was a survival from the forms represented in the Sabaean, Minaean and Himyaritic inscriptions of south Arabia (see ARABIA: Antiquities). The more popular form current among the nomads is known very imperfectly from the remains of pre-Islamic poetry and such works as the Kitab ul-Asnam contained in Yaqut's geography, from Shahrastani's work on the sects, and from the few references in classical writers. From these we have mostly names of local deities (cf. J. Wellhausen, Reste arabischen Heidenturns, 2nd ed., Berlin, 1897) and ancient religious customs, which remained in part after the introduction of Islam (cf. W. Robertson Smith, The Religion of the Semites, Edinburgh, 1889, and Kinship and Marriage in Early Arabia, Cambridge, 1885). From these sources we learn that Arabian religion was a nature-worship associated with fetishism. Sun, moon and stars were worshipped, some tribes being devoted to the worship of special constellations. Certain stones, wells and trees were regarded as sacred and as containing a deity. Many (perhaps most) tribes had their own idols. Hobal was the chief god of the Ka'ba in Mecca with its sacred stone, but round him were grouped a number of other tribal idols. It was against this association (shirk) of gods that Mahomet inveighed in his attempt to unify the religion and polity of the Arabs. But there were features in this heathenism favourable to unity, and these Mahomet either simply took over into Islam or adapted for his purpose. The popularity of the Ka'ba in Mecca as a place of resort for worshippers from all parts of Arabia led Mahomet not only to institute the hajj as a duty, but also to take over the customs connected with the heathen worship of these visits, and later to make Mecca the qibla, i.e. the place to which his followers turned when they prayed. The name of Allah, who seems to have been the god of the Koreish (cf. D. S. Margoliouth, Mohammed, p. 19, London, 1905), was accepted by Mahomet as the name of the one God, though he abandoned the corresponding female deity Al-lat. II 2. Judaism had long been known in Arabia at the time of the Prophet. Whether Hebrews settled in Arabia as early as the time of David (cf. R. Dozy, Die Israeliten zu Mecca, Leipzig, 1864), or not, is of little importance here as Judaism cannot be said to have existed until the end of the 5th century B.C. The Seleucid persecutions and the political troubles that ended with the fall of Jerusalem (A.D. 70) probably sent many Jews to Arabia. In the 5th and 6th centuries the history of south Arabia and of Nejran is largely that of the strife between Jews and Christians. In the north-west the Jews possessed Tema, Khaibar, Yathrib (Medina), Fadak, and other smaller settlements. In these they lived as self-contained communities, not seeking to proselytize but working at their trades, especially concerned with money and jewelry. Mahomet seems to have expected their help in his proclamation of monotheism, and his first gibla was Jerusalem. It was only when they refused to accept him as prophet that he turned in anger against them. They had, however, supplied him with much material from the Old Testament, and the stories of creation, the patriarchs and early kings and prophets occur continually in the Koran, told evidently as they were recited by the common people and with many mistakes caused by his own misunderstanding. 3. Christianity, though later than Judaism, had a sure footing in Arabia. It had suffered persecution in Nejran and had been supported in the south by the Abyssinian invasions. The kingdom of Hira was largely Christian; the same is true of the north Arabian tribes of Bakr and Taghlib, and east of the Jordan and on the Syrian boundary as well as in Yemama Christianity had made progress. Pre-Islamic literature contains many allusions to the teaching and practices of Christianity. Of the time of its introduction little is known; little also of the form in which it was taught, save that it came from the Eastern Church and probably to a large extent through Monophysite and Nestorian sects. Tradition says that Mahomet heard Christian preaching at the fair of Ukaz, and he probably heard more when he conducted the caravans of Khadija. Gospel stories derived apparently from uncanonical works, such as the Gospel of the Nativity, occur in the Koran. The asceticism of the monks attracted his admiration. A mistaken notion of the Trinity was sharply attacked by him. It is curious that his followers in the earliest times were called by the heathen Arabs, Sabians (.v.), this being the name of a semi-Christian sect. In the time of the Omayyads Christianity led to some of the earliest theological sects of Islam (see below). 4. Zoroastrianism was known to the Arab tribes in the north-east, but does not seem to have exercised any influence in Mecca or Medina except indirectly through Judaism in its angelology. As soon, however, as the armies of Islam conquered Mesopotamia it began to penetrate the thought and practices of Islam (see below). Sources of Authority.—Islam, as we have said, is founded on: (I) the Koran; (2) the tradition or rather the sunna (manner of life of Mahomet) contained in the tradition (Iadith); (3) ijma'; the universal agreement; (4) qiyds (analogy). 1. The Koran 1 (properly Qur'an from qara'a to collect, or to read, recite) is the copy of an uncreated original preserved by God (see below), sent down from the seventh heaven to Gabriel in the first heaven, and revealed to Mahomet in sections as occasion required. These revelations were recited by the Prophet and in many cases written down at once, though from ii. loo it would seem that this was not always the case. • God is the speaker throughout the revelations. It seems probable that the whole Koran was written in Mahomet's lifetime, but not brought together as a whole or arranged in order. As it exists now the Koran consists of 114 chapters called suras (from sura, a row of bricks in a wall, a degree or step). The first is the Fatiha (opening), which occupies the place of the Lord's Prayer in Christianity. The others are arranged generally in order of length, the longest coming first, the shortest (often the earliest in date) coming at the end. Certain groups, however, indicated by initial unvowelled letters, seem to have been kept together from the time of the Prophet. At the head of each sura is a title, the place of its origin (Mecca or Medina) and the number of its verses (dyat) together with the formula, " In the name of God the Merciful, the Compassionate " (except in sure 9). For liturgical purposes the whole book is divided into 6o sections (ahzab) or into 30 divisions (ajza), each subdivided into a number of prostrations (ruk'a or sajda). The origin of the collected and written Koran is due to Omar, who in the caliphate of Abu Bekr pointed out that many possessors of suras were being slain in the battles of Islam and their property lost, that there was a danger in this way that much of the revelation might disappear, and that men were uncertain what was to be accepted as genuine revelation. Accordingly Zaid ibn Thabit who had been secretary to Mahomet, was commissioned to collect all he could find of the revelation. His work seems to have been simply that of a collector. He seems to have done his work thoroughly and made a copy of the whole for Abu Bekr. The collection 1 See also KORAN.was thus chiefly a private matter, and this copy passed after Abu Bekr's death into the hands of Omar, and after his death to Hafsa, daughter of Omar, a widow of Mahomet. In the caliphate of Othman it was discovered that there were serious differences between the readings of the Koran possessed by the Syrian troops and those of the Eastern soldiers, and Othman was urged to have a copy prepared which should be authoritative for the Moslem world. He appointed Zaid ibn Thabit and three members of the tribe of Koreish (Quraish) to do the work. Each of these made a copy of Abu Bekr's collection, carefully preserving Koreishite forms of words. How far the text was amended by the help of other copies is doubtful; in any case the mode of procedure was undoubtedly very conservative. The four similar manuscripts were sent, one each to Medina, Cufa (Kufa), Basra and Damascus, and an order was issued that all differing copies should be destroyed. In spite of the personal unpopularity of Othman this recension was adopted by the Moslem world and remains the only standard text. A few variant readings and differences of order of the suras in the collections of Ubay ibn Ka'b and of Ibn Masud were, however, known to later commentators. The only variants after the time of Othman were owing to different possible ways of pronouncing the consonantal text. These are usually of little importance for the meaning. As the text is now always vowelled, variations are found in the vowels of different copies, and the opinions of seven leading " readers " are regarded as worthy of respect by commentators (see Th. Noldeke, Geschichte des Qorans, pp. 279 seq., Gottingen, 1860). Various characteristics enable one to establish with more or less certainty the relative chronological order of the suras in the Koran, at any rate so far as to place them in the first or second Meccan period or that of Medina. The form of the sentences is a guide, for the earliest parts are usually written in the saj' form (see ARABIA: Literature). The expressions used also help; thus the " O ye people " of the Meccan period is replaced in the Medina suras by " O ye who believe." The oaths in the first Meccan period are longer, in the second shorter, and are absent in the Medinan. In the earliest period the style is more elevated and passionate. Occasionally the time of origin is determined by reference to historical events. In accordance with such principles of criticism two leading scholars, Noldeke (loc. cit.) and H. Grimme (in his Mohammed Zweiter Teil. Einleitung in den Koran. System der koranischen Theologie, Minster, 1895), have arranged the suras as follows:
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