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Chapter 8 – Judaism
Learning Objectives 8.1 Contrast biblical Judaism with rabbinic Judaism. 8.2 Examine the role the European Enlightenment played in the development of Judaism. 8.3 Identify the key tenets of the Jewish faith. 8.4 Summarize the main sacred practices. 8.5 Describe the High Holy Days and key festivals in the Jewish calendar. 8.6 Differentiate between the major branches of contemporary Judaism. Chapter Overview Biblical and rabbinic Judaism
Biblical stories Teaching Story: Abraham’s Willingness to Sacrifice Isaac Ten Commandments
Return to Jerusalem Rabbinic Judaism
Evolving Judaism Kabbalah and Hasidism Judaism and modernity The Holocaust Zionism and contemporary Israel
Religion in Public Life: Rabbi Michael Melchior Torah
The one God Love for God The sacredness of human life Law
Living Judaism: An Interview with Eli Epstein Suffering and faith
Sacred practices Holy days Contemporary Judaism
Major branches today Jewish feminism LGBT Jews
Religion in Practice: Inclusiveness Jewish renewal
Key Points Introduction
x Judaism has no central leader or group making theological decisions. x It may be defined as an ethnic group or as a religious group. x In religious terms, Jews are those who understand their faith as an ongoing
dialogue with God, both in the past and in the present and into the future.
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x In a religious sense, the term “Israel” refers to all those who answer the call of God and strive to live the teachings of the Torah; some Jews, however, maintain a sense of ethnic identity as Jews but may not be involved in Jewish religious practices.
x The Jews preserved memories of a homeland in the land of Israel and in exile. x After the horrors of the Holocaust, some Jews lobbied for a Jewish State so that
Jews would not be persecuted any longer; it gave them the ability to resist anti- Semitism and survive.
x Knowledge of Judaism is also essential to understanding the later development of Christianity and Islam, both of which draw from Jewish tradition.
x Contemporary expressions of Judaism take many forms: Orthodox, Hasidic, Conservative, Reform, and Reconstructionist branches.
8.1 Biblical and rabbinic Judaism
x The Jewish sense of history begins with the Tanakh, the Hebrew Bible. The Hebrew Bible begins with a supreme deity’s creation of the world and details the experiences of the patriarchs, matriarchs, Moses, and the prophets who brought commandments from God to his people.
x This portion of Jewish history ended roughly at the end of the second century BCE.
x Jewish history continued with the temples in Jerusalem; after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, the Jewish people dispersed, finding unity through their teachings and traditional practices, which were eventually compiled into the Talmud.
x It is difficult to ascertain the historical accuracy of events detailed in the Tanakh. x The Pentateuch, or “five books of Moses,” which appear at the beginning of the
Tanakh, is held to be the most sacred portion of the Tanakh. x The traditionalist view is that these books were divinely revealed to Moses;
contemporary biblical researchers hypothesize that the books are reworked oral traditions later set down by different sources.
x Some stories, such as the Great Flood, resemble earlier Mesopotamian legends. x The Pentateuch seems to have assumed its final form in the days of Ezra the
Scribe in the fifth century BCE. x Whatever approach one takes to the origin of these stories, they are spiritually
significant to both Judaism and Christianity.
Teaching Note: To illustrate a text-critical approach to the Hebrew Bible, ask students to consider the text account of the two versions of the creation story in Genesis. Students with a background in Judaism or Christianity may be familiar with different ways of viewing these two passages.
x The theme of exile recurs throughout the Hebrew Bible. Jews are repeatedly
exiled from their homes because of God’s displeasure with their disobedience. o Some Jews adapted an optimistic understanding of exile believing that the
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diaspora dispersed Jews throughout the land for a sacred purpose. o Rabbinic Judaism, which began in the first century CE, emphasized that the
way out of exile was through study and righteous living. x Also central is the concept of covenant, a contract between God and the people,
which was considered a “special” relationship and unique because they were the one God’s only “chosen” people. o In the Ancient Near East, every nation had a god with whom they had a
contract whereby both parties were held accountable. o The stories of Noah and Abraham illustrate covenants, each with its own
sign. x Scholarly debate continues over the question of early monotheism, that is,
whether the early patriarchs (and presumably matriarchs) were strictly monotheistic. The neighboring Canaanites, who influenced the Israelites, were polytheistic with an emphasis on ritual and myth rooted in agriculture.
x In time, the Israelites rejected the traditions of the people surrounding them and saw themselves as having been chosen by a single divinity. This divinity may have initially been understood as a private god and then later became known as the sole, supreme universal deity.
x The Israelites were likely of mixed ethnic stock; scholars debate the origins of the term “Hebrew.”
x The word “Semite” is a modern linguistic term applied to Jews, Arabs, and others whose languages are classified as Semitic. It is inaccurate to use “Semite” as an ethnic designation.
x The genealogies of the Pentateuch explain that the people called Israelites were the descendants of the offspring of Jacob (and his wives).
x After wrestling with an angel of God, Jacob’s name was changed to Israel, meaning “the one who struggled with God.” o For the people of Israel, this theme of human struggle has allowed the
people to be reborn at a higher level of spirituality. o The nation Israel—“the smallest of all peoples”—is perceived as being the
spiritual center of the world whereby one can go and grow toward God. x Jacob, with his wives and his wives’ maidservants, had one daughter and twelve
sons. The twelve sons became the heads of the twelve tribes of Israel. x The whole group left for Egypt during a famine; the book of Exodus opens there
about four centuries later. o The pharaoh persecuted the Israelites. o Moses escaped the pharaoh’s order that all male boys born to Israeli women
be killed. x The book of Exodus relates that Moses was chosen by God to lead the Israelites
out of Israel. o God then led the Israelites to Mt. Sinai in order to reestablish the covenant.
x There, according to Exodus, God gave Moses a set of rules for the people that included the Ten Commandments. He also gave Moses instructions for a portable tabernacle with a holy ark, the Ark of the Covenant, where the people would keep the stone tablets on which the commandments were inscribed. o While Moses was receiving these instructions, the people reverted to
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idolatry; upon discovering this, Moses smashed the original stone tablets and then got a new set after another forty-day meeting with God.
x Accepting the new laws brought a new dimension to the covenantal relationship. x God freed the Israelites from slavery in Egypt; now they were to accept the
Torah, or the “five books of Moses.” x The Hebrew Bible explains that the Israelites wandered through the desert for
forty years before being able to reenter the land earlier promised to them. This began the wilderness tradition, which becomes a familiar metaphor in the Hebrew text.
x The entry to the promised land is remembered differently in two biblical books: Joshua and Judges.
x Archeological evidence indicates that between the thirteenth and eleventh centuries BCE, major military conflicts existed on the land.
x Israel’s second King, David, is remembered to be their greatest king who united the kingdoms.
x Under the reign of King Solomon, David’s son and successor, a Temple was built in Jerusalem to house the Ark of the Covenant and serve as a place for making burned offerings of animals, grains, and oil to God.
x After a long period of wandering, Judaism had a central location. But Solomon became very wealthy and built altars to the gods of his wives.
x After Solomon’s death, the kingdom was divided into Israel and Judah. x Under these circumstances, prophets—men and women who underwent
transformational ordeals that made them instruments for the word of God—began to exhort the people. o The early prophets warned against idolatry; later prophets cautioned that
social injustice and moral corruption would signal the end of the Jewish state. x During the eighth century, the northern kingdom of Israel was conquered by
Assyria and the Israelites were taken into exile among the Gentiles or non-Jewish people. o Most of the Israelites lost their distinct identity and came to be known as the
“Ten Lost Tribes of Israel.” In 586 BCE, the Babylonians conquered Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple.
o Many Judeans were taken into exile in Babylonia, where they were called “Jews” because they were from Judah.
o The prophets interpreted these events as God’s retribution for the people’s wicked ways. Nonetheless, the Jewish people sought to maintain their faith, and prophets prophesied that God would bring a new era of justice and peace.
Return to Jerusalem
x After fifty years in exile, only a small number of Jews returned to Jerusalem; the remaining Jewish people were said to be living in the diaspora (from the Greek word for “disperse”).
x The Persian king Cyrus authorized the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem, and it was completed in 515 BCE.
x A hereditary priesthood focused on temple rituals and the redaction of the stories of the Jewish people.
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x The Torah now became the spiritual and secular foundation of the dispersed Jewish people.
x In the diaspora, Jews may have adopted concepts from other traditions such as that of Satan, the hierarchy of angels, resurrection, and an afterlife (perhaps from the Zoroastrianism of the Persian Empire). o Not all Jews accepted these beliefs. o Ideas from rationalistic, humanistic Hellenism introduced by Alexander the
Great also affected some Jews. x In the second century BCE, a Hellenistic ruler of Syria (Antiochus IV Epiphanes)
sought to impose Hellenistic practices on all his subjects, including the Jews, which led to the Maccabean rebellion. o The successful rebellion led by the Hasmon family of priests established an
independent kingdom called Israel, centered around Jerusalem, which lasted until 63 BCE, when it was conquered by a Roman general.
o It was the last independent Jewish nation until the twentieth century. x Three sects formed under the Hasmonean king:
o Sadducees (priests and wealthy businesspeople, intent on the letter of the law) o The Pharisees (who sought to study applications of Torah to everyday life) o The Essenes (considered the priesthood corrupt; a similar or related group
retreated to Qumran and developed library now known as Dead Sea Scrolls). Scholars are still studying the Dead Sea Scrolls for information about the period between biblical and rabbinic Judaism.
x After the Romans took over in 63 BCE, Jews began to express belief in a messianic age in which the Jews would be able to return to their homeland. This belief was bolstered by the words of some of the earlier prophets.
x Prior to this, apocalyptic literature, which views the world in stark terms of good and evil and foresees God’s victory over evil, became popular.
x Some Jews concluded that a Messiah would come to bring evil to an end and establish peace.
x In 66 CE, led by the anti-Roman Zealots, Jews rebelled against Rome. x In 70 CE, the Roman legions destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem. Only the
Western Wall remains to this day. x A second ill-fated revolt in 132 CE lead to the destruction of all Judean towns,
and remaining Jews were forbidden to engage in their traditional practices, such as reading the Torah, observing the Sabbath, and circumcising their sons.
x The Jewish people scattered throughout the Mediterranean and western Asia. x The inheritors of the Pharisee tradition, the rabbis, established new Jewish
traditions. x Liturgical prayer and ethical behavior substituted for temple rituals. x People met in synagogues (meeting places) to worship and read the Torah. x A minyan, or quorum of ten adult males, was required for community worship. x Torah study became increasingly important for many men; women were
excluded from such study, their responsibilities understood to be in the home.
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x The interpretation of the Torah gave unity to the Jewish people. x The rabbis’ study, called Midrash, brought about two types of interpretation:
halakhah (proper conduct) and haggadah (folklore, historical/sociological knowledge, etc.).
x The literature of the Midrash process came to be known as the oral Torah. x In 200 CE, Judah the Prince produced an edition of the legal teaching of the oral
Torah called Mishnah. o The Mishnah includes directives about the role of women. o Later, the Mishnah and commentaries on it were organized into the Talmud
(of which there were two authorized versions, Jerusalem and Babylonian; each contained the same Mishnah but had differing Gemara or additional commentaries). � The Talmud preserves multiple, sometimes varying interpretations of
religious questions. x The ongoing process of exegesis provides a means of introducing new ideas
into Judaism—such as the concept of the soul and the concept of Shekhinah (a feminine noun), God’s presence in the world.
x Prayers that are still used to day replaced animal sacrifices of the Temple. x The Kaddish, exaltation of God’s name recited repeatedly in Jewish prayer
services is preserved in the language of Babylonia—Aramaic. x Rabbinic Judaism and institutional Christianity were developing in the same
period. 8.2 Evolving Judaism
x During the early centuries of the Common Era, the Jewish population in Israel declined and settled in other areas of the Roman Empire or among Zoroastrian Persians in Mesopotamia. Babylon became the major center of Jewish intellectual activity, until about the tenth century.
x Rabbinic study continued throughout the diaspora even after the Talmud was complete. o “Responsa” literature records rabbinic answers to legal questions.
x Jews typically fared well under Islamic rule. Known as “People of the Book,” they were allowed to maintain their religious traditions as long as they paid a substantial head tax. o Under the Abbasid Empire, they were concentrated around the city of
Baghdad. o They were known as prosperous merchants, professionals, and craftsmen. o In the Middle Ages, Jews played a significant role in international trade
because of the mastery of languages and were hospitable to people of other faith traditions.
o Jews living in Muslim countries benefited from a climate of cultural creativity and tolerance.
x There were times that Muslim rulers were not tolerant and Jews were forced to flee to other territories. An example of this is Maimonides, who, noted for his synthesis between reason and faith, fled his native Spain and settled in Egypt.
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x There was less intellectual vibrancy in Christian lands during the Middle Ages, and in the later Middle Ages, Jews were expelled from many of the countries in which they had long resided.
x Christian prejudice against Jews was intense and driven by hatred for the Jews because they had not accepted Jesus as the messiah.
x Beginning in 1095, Jews were targeted during the Crusades. x In the twelfth century, strange rumors (ritual murder of Christians; stealing and
torturing the consecrated bread used for Christian communion; responsible for the plague) were spread about the Jews as well.
x In the sixteenth century, Jews in some Italian and German cities were forced to live in Jewish-only ghettos.
x Poland, meanwhile, became a haven for Jews expelled from western Europe, and Jews there developed new forms of literature in Yiddish, a distinctive Jewish language based on medieval German.
x Eventually, Jews came under attack in Poland as well after a revolt against Polish rule.
x In the face of persecution, many Jews longed for a messiah to save them, and “pseudo-Messiahs” such as Shabbetai Tzevi appeared to take advantage of this dream. However, upon entering the Ottoman Empire and facing death, Tzevi chose to convert to Islam and was given a government position, which shocked his followers.
Kabbalah and Hasidism
x Mystical trends have always been part of Judaism; mystical traditions known as Kabbalah were put into writing in the Middle Ages.
x Mystical concepts such as tikkun olam (repairing the world), developed by the sixteenth century mystic Isaac Luria, remain central to Jewish thought.
x In eighteenth-century Poland and Ukraine, the ecstatic path of piety known as Hasidism developed.
x The Baal Shem Tov offered joyous worship over academic Torah debates, urging his followers to find God in everyday life.
x Hasidism claimed approximately half of eastern Europe’s Jews. x Dov Ber emphasized the importance of the tzaddik (enlightened saint and
teacher) called a rebbe or Reb, when ordained as a Hasidic spiritual guide. This later became a hereditary position.
x This stirred opposition from non-Hasidic leaders, who believe that each Jew should be his or her own tzaddik.
Judaism and modernity
x Most Jews lived in eastern Europe during the time of the Enlightenment, but in western Europe, the Enlightenment values of tolerance and reason over tradition and authority led to lessening of restrictions on Jews.
x Moses Mendelssohn, an eighteenth-century German Jew and “father of the Haskalah (reason),” adopted the Enlightenment ideal of the universalism of humanity, and sought to integrate Jews more fully into European culture while
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deemphasizing the Talmud. x Critics of this trend, such as Moses Sofer, argued that Jews must maintain their
traditional rituals and segregate themselves from non-Jewish secular culture. This position came to be known as Orthodox Judaism.
x Meanwhile, those inspired by thinkers such as Mendelssohn spawned what became known as Reform Judaism, which revised traditional references to a return to Israel, changed some liturgies from Hebrew to the vernacular and envisioned Judaism as changing with the times, its followers loyal citizens of the nations in which they lived.
x In the mid-nineteenth century, Jews began immigrating to the United States. Today the United States has the largest Jewish population of the world; it is a highly diverse population.
x The Holocaust is, for many Jews, the defining event of the twentieth century. x Centuries of anti-Semitism in various forms (such as pogroms in nineteenth-
century eastern Europe and Russia) came to horrible fruition in the murder of nearly six million European Jews under Nazi leadership, half the Jewish population of Europe, and more than a third of the world’s Jewish population.
x The Nazis sought the “Final Solution” or total extermination of all the Jews in Europe.
x Although some governments and individuals sought to protect Jews, many historians believe that free Allied countries should have offered greater resistance to Hitler’s genocidal actions.
x The Holocaust presents a daunting theological challenge to Jewish thinkers, for how could a caring God have allowed the Holocaust to happen? Elie Wiesel questioned how anyone could bless such a god and has sought to bring attention to genocidal actions taken against other minority groups.
Zionism and contemporary Israel
x Zionism, which has deep roots in Jewish tradition, is a movement dedicated to establishing a Jewish state in the biblical land of Israel.
x Political Zionism, led by journalist Theodor Herzl, developed in reaction to late nineteenth-century European anti-Semitism.
x The 1917 Balfour Declaration stated Britain’s support for limited Jewish settlement in Palestine at the end of World War I.
x Most Reform Jews did not initially support the Zionist movement and believed it to be their mission to live among the Gentiles.
x A 1947 United Nations decision partitioned Palestine into two areas, one governed by Jews, the other by Arabs, with Jerusalem an international zone.
x In 1948, Israel declared itself an independent state and soon came under attack. x Conflict with neighboring countries has continued (e.g., the 1967 Six-Day War;
1973 attack by Egypt and Syria); conflict with Palestinians is especially acute. x There are tensions within Jewish Israel due to the diverse origins of the
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x Some ultra-Orthodox leaders reject converts to Conservative and Reform Judaism; there are differing views about the Palestinian situation as well.
x The 1950 Law of Return grants automatic Israeli citizenship to any Jew, and immigration continues.
x Despite changes in Judaism over time, major themes of history and literature may be identified. Jewish teachings are known as Torah and can be interpreted in different ways: o In the narrowest sense of the term, Torah (teaching) refers to the “five
books of Moses.” o On the next level, Torah can mean the entire Hebrew Bible and Talmud, the
written and oral law. o For some, Torah can refer to all sacred Jewish literature and observance. o At the highest level, Torah is God’s will and wisdom.
The one God
x Monotheism is the central Jewish belief: there is one creator God, the “cause of all existent things.”
x The metaphysical understanding of God’s oneness is difficult to explain due to the constructs and limitation of language.
x Traditionally, God is perceived as a loving father who is infinitely majestic, who will sometimes reveal divine power when his children need chastising.
Love for God
x Humans must love God, an essential commandment that is emphasized in prayers and religious services.
x Central recitation during a religious service and the inscription on the mezuzah at the doorpost recites Shema Israel.
x Maimonides asserted primacy for the love of God but emphasized that this love should not come from fear. One should study Torah and fulfill God’s commandments out of love.
The sacredness of human life
x Humans are created in God’s image (though this is typically not interpreted anthropomorphically).
x People are potentially equal and perfectible; there is no elevation between gender.
x God is limited because humanity has free will. x Life is sacred. x Sexuality is holy within marriage. x The body is honored as an instrument through which the soul is
manifested on earth; some believe that body and soul are an inseparable totality.
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Law x Acting in accord with Torah is the means to upholding humans’ part of
the covenant with God. x Rabbinic literature indicates that there are 613 mitzvot (commandments;
singular mitzvah), ranging from ethical guidelines to civil matters such as inheritance and family law. They are found in:
o The Book of Leviticus contains ethical guidelines called the Ten Commandments.
o The Book of Genesis sets forth the Noahide Code of seven universal principles for a moral and spiritual life, prohibiting idolatry, blasphemy, murder, theft, sexual behaviors outside marriage, and cruelty to animals, and affirming the rule of law and justice in society.
o The Talmud with its commentaries serve as the blueprint for Jewish social, communal, and religious life.
Suffering and faith
x If God is all-powerful and rewards the righteous, then why do the innocent suffer?
x The parable of Job suggests that God’s wisdom is beyond human understanding.
8.4 Sacred practices
x Daily scriptural study has been a major practice for males since the rabbinic period.
x God is to be remembered in all aspects of life. x Ritual male circumcision (brit milah) traditionally occurs on the eighth day of
life. x Orthodox Jews consider menstruating women unclean; seven days after their
menstrual periods end they immerse themselves in the bath known as a mikveh. x Maintaining pure lines of descent is important; marital sexuality is sacred, but
adultery is strictly prohibited. x Dietary practices are also part of Jewish tradition; the Book of Leviticus defines
ritually acceptable or kosher foods. Dietary rules, if strictly followed, are meant to provide a feeling of sacred identity and community that links a Jew to the eternal authority of Torah.
x Traditional Jews may begin each day with a prayer; male Jews wear a prayer cloth (tallit katan) and tefillin (phylacteries) on the forehead and upper arm.
x There is a traditional prayer schedule for men; women are excused from this schedule due to their household responsibilities.
x Various blessings allow one to thank God for all manner of occurrences. x The Sabbath is observed from sunset Friday night to sunset Saturday night.
o Traditionally, no work is done on the Sabbath. o Families may attend Sabbath services and begin the Sabbath with a special
Friday night dinner. o Sabbath services vary in different forms of Judaism; Hasidic services may
focus on intense prayer or davening.
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x Jewish boys celebrate their coming of age at thirteen with the ritual known as the Bar Mitzvah (son of the commandment). In non-Orthodox congregations, girls may now celebrate a similar ritual called the Bat Mitzvah.
8.5 Holy days
x According to the Jewish lunar calendar, the year begins with the High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah (New Year’s Day), the ten Days of Awe, and Yom Kippur (atonement and cleansing).
x Sukkot is a fall harvest festival where a simple outdoor booth (sukkah) is built and decorated as a dwelling place for seven days. Some contemporary Jews will live in the sukkah. The fragile hoe reminds the faithful that in God is their real home.
x After the seven-day Sukkot festival comes Simhat Torah (joy in Torah), commemorating the end of the yearly cycle of Torah readings.
x Near the winter solstice, the darkest time of year, is Hanukkah, a celebration of the Maccabean rebellion and the purification of the Temple.
x Tu B’shvat celebrates the reawakening of nature at the end of Israel’s winter rainy season.
x On the full moon of the month before spring begins is Purim, commemorating the legend of Esther.
x Later in spring comes Pesach or Passover, celebrating the liberation from bondage in Egypt. o Pesach is marked by the Seder dinner. o In contemporary Judaism, various movements for liturgical renewal have
produced special Passover liturgies for feminists, secular Zionists, and interfaith celebrations.
x Some also celebrate a new holy day termed Holocaust Memorial Day. In Israel, a countrywide minute of silence is observed whereby secular and religious Jews remember the Holocaust together.
x Shavuot in early summer marks Moses’ receiving the Torah at Mt. Sinai. x After Shavuot, there are three weeks of mourning for the Temples of Jerusalem
(Tisha Be-av); this is one of the saddest times for Jews. 8.6 Contemporary Judaism
x There are many different contemporary Jewish groups, with differences centering on issues such as adherence to the Torah and Talmud, conversion, use of Hebrew, and women’s participation.
Major branches today
x There are three major ethnic groupings within contemporary Judaism: o Descendants of the Ashkenazim, who constitute at least 65 percent of Jews,
and originally migrated to Italy from West Africa, and from there, spread through central Europe
o Sephardim, descendants who migrated to Spain from West Asia during the eighth and ninth centuries and thence to North Africa, the Americas and West Asia
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o There is a third group known as Mizrahi Jews who come from Arab lands. x Ethnic distinctions may account for cultural, linguistic, and dietary differences
among Jews. x In addition, there are distinctions among religiously observant Jews. x In response to secularization, Orthodox Judaism has affirmed the Hebrew Bible as
the revealed word of God and the Talmud as legitimate oral law. o Orthodox Judaism has no central governing body and there are debates within
it over Zionism, views of other Jewish groups, and accommodation to a secular environment.
x Modern Orthodoxy values secular knowledge and interaction with non-Jewish society.
x Religious Zionism emphasizes resettlement of the Jewish people in Israel as part of a divine plan for the salvation of Jews and the rest of the world.
x Haredi (Ultra-Orthodox) Judaism advocates detachment from non-Jewish culture to focus on Torah study. Some Haredi groups seek isolation from the secular world and other Jewish groups; others such as Lubavich Hasidim seek other Jews to adopt their way of life.
x At the opposite end of the spectrum is Reform or Liberal Judaism, which began in Germany. o Reform services adopted some aspects of Christian church services, changed
traditional liturgies, and highlighted ongoing development in Judaism rather than adherence to a fixed interpretation of Torah.
o Reform Judaism has been involved in interfaith efforts. x Conservative Judaism, the largest movement in the United States, is dedicated to
traditional rabbinic Judaism but also sponsors critical study of Jewish texts; it holds the view that Judaism has always evaluated tradition in light of changing times.
x Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan broke away from Conservative Judaism to found Reconstructionism, which seeks to preserve Judaism in the face of rationalism. He coined the definition of Judaism as “an evolving religious civilization” with which this chapter begins.
x There are also many secular Jews, who may affirm their Jewish origin but not participate in Jewish religious practice. Intermarriage is a controversial topic for many modern Jews.
x Many women have fought for full religious participation, such as counting as part of the minyan required for a synagogue service, not having to sit separately from men, and the ability to seek rabbinic ordination.
x They have also sought greater attention for the women of the Hebrew Bible. x Some Jewish feminists also seek to create gender-neutral language for prayers and
worship. x Many couples are making egalitarian commitments in wedding vows, and rabbis
in reform and conservative denominations are allowed to officiate at same-sex weddings.
x There is criticism about the state of feminism in Israel, although gender-neutral
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language and more opportunities for women in worship are starting to appear. x Jewish feminists are now expanding to consider global issues such as terrorism
and ecological disasters. They have turned to the ongoing process of Midrash, the interpretation of the deeper meaning of the traditional texts. o An example of this is the feminist Midrash of the interwoven stories of Sarah
and Hagar, the mothers of the founders of Judaism and Islam. x Women’s position in the state of Israel has been critiqued by feminists.
o Orthodox parties took a major role in the formation and governance of the new state of Israel.
o Some success has been seen toward women’s equality and empowerment. For example, in 2013, the Jerusalem District Court upheld the right of the Women of the Wall to wear prayer shawls and tefillin and read from the Torah at the Western Wall.
x Modern Jews ignore most of the traditional restrictions on sexuality outside of marriage but same-sex relationships were often hidden to avoid social ostracism.
x During the twentieth century, when the feminist movement, gay liberation movement, and Jewish renewal emerged, they ultimately converged and LGBT Jews found social support groups that supported them.
x The Reconstructionist movement was the earliest Jewish group to welcome LGBT Jews, and now, Jewish communities across the board have become more inclusive and welcoming.
x Gay marriage is accepted by Reconstructionist, Reform, and Conservative Jews (with limitations).
x Gay rabbis are found in all denominations, though rare and not accepted in orthodox circles.
x Inclusive rituals and liturgies have been created for LGBT Jews. Jewish renewal
x Both men and women from a variety of backgrounds are being attracted to Judaism, and conversions to the faith appear to be increasing.
x Contemporary Jewish renewal takes many forms as Jews seek to find new meaning in ancient rituals and traditions.
x Havurot are small communities of Jews with no affiliation with a formal group who meet regularly to worship and celebrate Jewish tradition.
Key Terms anti-Semitism Messiah Sephardim apocalypse Midrash Shekhinah Ashkenazim minyan synagogue diaspora mitzvah Talmud ghetto oral Torah Tanakh haggadah Orthodox Judaism Torah halakhah Pentateuch Zionism
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Kabbalah Reform or Liberal Judaism
Review Questions 1. What are the major texts of Judaism? Describe the Tanakh, Torah, and Talmud, and name at least one other Jewish text, noting each text’s significance in religious practice. 2. What is the significance of the term “covenant” in Jewish tradition? What are the major covenants? 3. How did the Enlightenment in Europe affect the development of Judaism? 4. What role has hierarchy played in the development of Jewish identity? How are historical events commemorated in religious practice? Give specific examples. Discussion Questions 1. Discuss the evidence for the development of monotheism in Judaism and ideas about God’s relationship with the people of Israel. 2. Discuss the major branches of contemporary Judaism. What issues have led to the development of new branches? How do they differ on issues such as interpretation of sacred texts, religious practices, and women’s roles? 3. Describe the evolving role of women in Judaism, as illustrated by biblical figures such as Hagar and Sarah, statements about women in the Talmud and other Jewish texts, and changes in contemporary Judaism. What issues have drawn the attention of Jewish feminists? 4. Discuss the origins of Zionism and the creation of the modern state of Israel. What are some of the key topics debated within Israel today? Class Activities/Assignments 1. There are many novels, autobiographies, and other works portraying various aspects of Jewish life. Possible reading assignments include Chaim Potok’s The Book of Lights, (Fawcett, 1982) (for students interested in the topic of Jewish mysticism); Lis Harris’s Holy Days: The World of a Hasidic Family (Collier Books, 1985); Anita Diamant’s The Red Tent (2nd edition, Picador, 2007)(a novel that explores biblical themes from the perspective of Jacob’s daughter Dinah); and the works of Elie Wiesel. For those interested in the subject of unjust suffering, Rabbi Harold S. Kushner’s When Bad Things Happen to Good People (Avon, 1981) is a fascinating read. Kushner presents his own process theology and provides very untraditional answers to the timeless question of why good people suffer. 2. Ask students to find out which branches of Judaism are represented in the area; some may wish to attend services. 3. At the beginning of study of the so-called Western traditions, ask students about the terms “Western” and “Eastern” and how they apply to world geography. From what perspective is the east east and the west west? What does this suggest about how Westerners view the world? 4. The widely circulated “Letter to Dr. Laura” is available on many websites; the letter lists questions pertaining to the laws outlined in the Torah and includes questions such
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as “I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?” The letter, while humorous, provides the basis for serious discussion of the issues that arise in interpreting sacred texts and in preserving belief and practice in the face of social change. Ask students how they would respond to the questions in this letter and how the questions raised by the letter might be addressed by the various contemporary branches of Judaism. Recommended Films The Jewish Customs, KTAV Publishing House, 1988. 50 minutes. Depicts the Sabbath celebration, dietary laws, Hannukah, blowing of the shofar, affixing a mezuzah to a doorpost, the use of tefillin, and the Jewish concept of charity; segments can be shown separately. L.A. Mohel, University of Southern California School of Cinema and Television, 1999. 30 minutes. Depicts the ritual of male circumcision as practiced by three mohels in Los Angeles, California. Ritual: Three Portraits of Jewish Life, ABC-TV for Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 1990. 60 minutes. Explores daily prayer, celebration of Sukkot, and the ritual of male circumcision. Trembling before G-d, New Yorker Films, 2001. 84 minutes. This movie was mentioned in the text and explores the issues that LGBT Jews faced, especially from the Orthodox community. There are interviews with rabbis and psychotherapists. The majority of Jews are American, but one British and one Israeli Jew is featured. To Die in Jerusalem, HBO Documentary, 2009, 76 minutes. In 2002, Ayat al-Akhras, an eighteen-year-old Palestinian suicide bomber, detonated a bomb that took the life of another teenaged girl, Rachel Levy. Side by side, these girls could be sisters. This film examines Rachel’s mother’s search for understanding—why and how a young Palestinian girl would do this. In her quest, she has a dialogue with Ayat’s mother. This is a very personal and humanistic insight into the tensions that exist in Israel. Additional Class Discussion/Essay Questions 1. What does it mean to be Jewish today? Select one of the major branches of this faith— Orthodox, Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist—and answer this question from the perspective of that group. 2. What was the role of the Temple for ancient Judaism? What role has it played in Jewish memory since the destruction of the Second Temple? 3. What relationship does the nation of Israel have to Jewish identity and faith? 4. What questions about the nature of God have arisen in response to the Holocaust? What kinds of answers have been proposed?
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Chapter 10 – Islam
Learning Objectives 10.1 Describe pre-Islamic Arabia. 10.2 Explain how the revelations given to Muhammad influenced Islamic belief. 10.3 Outline the role of the Qur’an in Islam. 10.4 Summarize the central teachings of Islam. 10.5 Identify the Five Pillars of Islam. 10.6 Distinguish between Sunni and Shi’a Islam. 10.7 Define shari’ah. 10.8 Describe the key aspects of Sufism. 10.9 Analyze the reasons for the successful expansion of Islam in the seventh and eighth centuries. 10.10 Explain the spread of Islam in the West. 10.11 Discuss the main issues facing contemporary Islam. Chapter Overview Pre-Islamic Arabia The Prophet Muhammad The Qur’an The central teachings
The Oneness of God and of humanity Prophethood and the compass of Islam Human relationship to the divine The unseen life The Last Judgment
The Five Pillars Belief and witness Daily prayers
Religion in Practice: Salat Zakat Fasting
Living Islam: An Interview with Dr. Syed M. Hussain Hajj
Sunni and Shi’a Sunnis Shi’a
Shari’ah: Islamic law and ethics Sufism The development of Islam
Teaching Story: Transformation by Islam Eastward expansion
Relationships with the West Islam in the West
Muslim resurgence Contemporary Islam in public and private life
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Outreach and education Religion in Public Life: Malala Yousafzai
Islam in politics Islam for the future
Key Points Introduction
x Islam began in the seventh century CE with the Prophet Muhammad (born ca. 570 CE), who is believed to be the last prophet sent to restore the truth religion.
x Islam is not a new religion but the original path of monotheism, which was also developed by Judaism and Christianity.
x Islam carried the torch of civilization during the European dark ages and experienced resurgence in the twelfth century.
x Islam is now the religion of nearly one-fifth of the world population, yet there is a growing divide between Muslims and non-Muslims, exacerbated by the United States-led “war on terror.”
x It is important to study this religion carefully. 10.1 Pre-Islamic Arabia
x Islam, like Christianity and Judaism, traces its ancestry to the patriarch Abraham, whom Muslims know as Ibrahim.
o He is said to have fathered two children: Isma’il of Hagar (an Egyptian) and Isaac of Sarah.
o When Isaac was born, Islam teaches that Ibrahim took Isma’il and Hagar to the desert valley of Mecca. There, Isma’il and Ibrahim built the Ka’bah, the holiest sanctuary in Islam, which was long venerated as a holy place by Arabian tribes.
x After Ibrahim, Islamic tradition holds that the region turned away from monotheism, and the Arabian culture became polytheistic and populated by dozens of tribes of merchant, caravan traders.
x Often there were battles between the tribes, except at the Ka’bah, where violence was prohibited.
10.2 The Prophet Muhammad
x In this “age of ignorance,” Muhammad (the praised one) was born into the Hashim clan of the Quraysh tribe. o Muhammad was raised in poverty and sympathetic to the poor and
underprivileged. o Muhammad’s father died before he was born, and his mother died when he
was six. o Muhammad was raised by his uncle and worked as a shepherd.
x While God is the focus and sole authority within Islam, Muhammad’s life story is important as a model of Qur’anic teachings. It is important to understand that Muhammad is not to be worshiped. o The story of Muhammad’s life is found in the Hadith literature, which reports
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Muhammad’s sayings and actions, or Sunnah. x As a young man, Muhammad went to work for a wealthy woman named
Khadijah, and the two married when Muhammad was twenty-five. With Khadijah’s support, Muhammad increasingly devoted himself to spiritual contemplation.
x When Muhammad was forty, the angel Gabriel came to him and instructed him to recite. Thus began the revelation of the Qur’an. o The revelations asserted that there was one true God who called people to
Islam. o After initially sharing the revelations only with close relatives and friends,
Muhammad was called to preach publicly and met with great opposition. x Many of Muhammad’s earliest followers were persecuted. x The Abyssinian slave Bilal was imprisoned, his captors insisting that he worship
the old gods. He refused and became the first muezzin (one who calls people to prayer).
x Muhammad and his followers were forced to leave Mecca for several years but then were invited to return. Still, however, they were persecuted.
x During Muhammad’s fiftieth year, his uncle and wife Khadijah died. During this difficult period, the “Year of Sorrows,” Muhammad experienced the Night of Ascension (also called the Night Journey), when he traveled (from Jerusalem) into God’s presence and met the prophets who had preceded him.
x Residents of Yathrib, north of Mecca, invited Muhammad to live in their city. o Muhammad and his followers accepted the invitation in 622 CE. o The migration or hijrah to Yathrib (subsequently renamed Medina) marks
the beginning of the Muslim calendar. x In Medina, Muhammad instituted a constitution that later became the basis for
Islamic social administration. x Meccan leaders feared that Muhammad posed a threat, and conflict broke out
between the two cities. After an initial success, the Muslims were badly defeated. Eventually Muhammad negotiated a truce.
x In 630 CE, Muhammad and his followers were able to return to Mecca with such strength that they were not challenged.
x The Ka’bah, which Muslims understand to have been built by Abraham and Ishmael on Adam’s original place of worship, was purged of idols.
x Many Meccans converted to Islam. Muhammad went back to Medina from where he undertook campaigns to spread Islam further.
x In 632 CE Muhammad made a final pilgrimage to the Ka’bah to demonstrate the proper form of worship there.
x Recognizing that he was at the end of his life, he gave final instructions to his followers.
x Prior to his death in 632 CE, Muhammad gave no instructions as to who should succeed him. His close friend Abu Bakr was elected as the first caliph (successor to the Prophet), but this election later caused controversy. o Shi’ite Muslims believe that Muhammad’s cousin and son-in-law ‘Ali
(married to Muhammad’s daughter Fatima) should have been the first caliph. o According to one tradition, Muhammad transferred his spiritual light to
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Fatima before his death, but neither she nor ‘Ali took part in the selection of the caliph because they were making funeral arrangements.
x Muhammad’s life became a model for Muslims to follow; those who knew him commented on his nobility, humility, and kindness. The revelations of the Qur’an speak not of a contemplative life of withdrawal but of the need for Muslims to fight oppression and corruption and establish moral order in the world.
10.3 The Qur’an
x The Qur’an contains the revelations Muhammad received, which affirm God’s unity and also direct life in human society. Muhammad dictated the revelations to scribes, and they were carefully recorded.
x Qur’anic study and recitation became central for Muslims, with recitation understood to have a healing and protective effect.
x The authoritative written version of the Qur’an was established around 650 CE. o It is divided into 114 surahs or chapters. o Qur’anic passages may be understood to have multilayered meanings. o Jewish and Christian figures appear frequently in the Qur’an, for the sacred
history of Judaism and Christianity is considered part of Islam. o The prophets of those faiths are said to have brought the same message, but
humans added to and distorted God’s message. o While Muslims revere Jesus as a prophet, they do not accept the notion that
he may pardon sin or atone for others’ sins, for only God can do so. x The Qur’an is understood to be the final and complete version of the teachings of
all the prophets. x Muslims believe that Jesus prophesied the coming of Muhammad when he
promised that the Paraclete or advocate would come after him to assist humanity. x In the Qur’an, God is known by the Arabic name Allah.
10.4 The central teachings
x The basic teachings of Islam (Arabic word for peace, voluntary surrender to the will of God, and obedience to God’s law) are straightforward.
The Oneness of God and of humanity
x The Shahadah—“There is no God but God and Muhammad is the Messenger of God”—is the first statement made to a newborn Muslim infant. God’s unity is a central focus of Islamic theology. The theme of unity, the chief concern of Muslim theology, extends to human life and human social organization.
x More than 90 percent of Muslim theology deals with the implications of Unity, not just with God, but in every aspect of life.
x God, though one, has ninety-nine names, each considered to be attributes of the One Being, and Allah encompasses all of those attributes in their totality.
x There is no one chosen group of people; we are all part of a global family. x Science, art, and politics are part of Islam and should always involve the
consciousness of God.
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Prophethood and the compass of Islam x Islam is considered the universal religion of all peoples, and Islam honors all
prophets as messengers from the one God, sent when religions decayed into polytheism.
x The Qur’an declares Muhammad to be the “Seal of the Prophets,” the ultimate authority in the prophetic tradition. None of the prophets is divine.
x All scriptures are to be honored, but only the Qur’an is to be considered fully authentic.
x The prophet Muhammad is honored and venerated. Human relationship to the divine
x God is all-knowing and has created everything for a divine purpose. Islam encompasses all religions and honors all prophets as messengers of God.
x Humans must know the fixed laws of God’s creation and live accordingly. The Qur’an indicates that human history has provided many “signs” of God’s work of bestowing mercy and protection on believers.
x People must believe in and surrender totally to God or Allah. x The two greatest sins involve one’s relationship to God: shirk is associating
anything with divinity besides the one God, and kufr is ungratefulness to God, atheism, or unbelief.
The unseen life
x Muslims believe that our senses do not reveal all reality and that there are angels, nonphysical beings who serve God but who are not to be worshiped.
x Satan, originally one of the jinn or immaterial beings of fire, is a non- submissive being who refused to bow before Adam and was therefore cursed to live by tempting humanity away from God.
x In popular piety, saints’ tombs became pilgrimage sites; some Muslim reformers object to such practices.
The Last Judgment
x The Qur’an describes bodily resurrection after death followed by a Final Judgment at which all will be held accountable for their actions, each person’s actions recorded in a book bound to his or her neck.
x Unrepentant nonbelievers and hypocrites go to hell, but only nonbelievers remain there for eternity.
x The just and merciful live blissfully in paradise, its form shaped by one’s tendencies in life. Piety is informed by belief in God’s merciful judgment.
x What we experience in the afterlife is revealing of our tendencies in this life—we must awaken to our true nature.
x The desire of purified souls will be closest to God with their spirits having different levels of this closeness.
x Sinners and evildoers will experience torments in hell, fire fueled by humans, boiling water, pus, chains, and so on. o Those who condemn themselves will have their bodies turn on them.
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o However, hell does not last forever—God is far more merciful than wrathful. 10.5 The Five Pillars
x The basic spiritual practices for all Muslims are known as the Five Pillars. x The intention with which a Muslim undertakes each practice is of prime
importance; the pillars are not simply outer rituals. Belief and witness
x The first is pillar is the Shahadah, belief in unity of God and Muhammad’s messengership: “There is no god but God, and Muhammad is the messenger of God,” to which Shi’ites add “and ‘Ali is the Friend of God.”
x According to the Qur’an, believers must tell others about Islam but cannot use coercion to convert them.
x There must be respect for all prophets and all revealed scripture. Daily prayers
x The second (salat) is that Muslims should pray facing Mecca five times daily. x When prayers are performed in a mosque, women and men typically pray
separately. o There may be an imam or prayer leader, but there is no priest. o Prayer should involve both outward performance of the prayers and ritual and
inward concentration and awareness of God’s presence. x Prayer is to strengthen one’s belief in God’s existence and goodness; it purifies
the heart, develops the mind and conscience, comforts the soul, encourages the good, and suppresses the evil in person. It awakens the innate sense of higher morality and aspirations.
x In addition to the prayers five time a day, supererogatory prayers can be done, which are offered in the middle of the night.
x The third pillar is zakat, almsgiving, or donating a certain percentage of one’s income to charity each year.
x It is meant in part to decrease inequalities in wealth and to prevent greed. x Saudi Arabia devotes 15 percent of the kingdom’s GDP to development and relief
projects throughout the world—whether Muslim or not. Fasting
x Fasting is the fourth pillar, and it is obligatory during the month of Ramadan, when Muhammad first began receiving revelations.
x Those who are able must abstain from food, drink, sexual intercourse, and smoking from dawn to sunset during the month of Ramadan. The holiday of Eid al-Fitr marks the end of the month of fasting.
x Many Muslims state that fasting also helps one control negative emotions such as anger and jealousy.
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Hajj x The Hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca, is the fifth pillar, expected of all Muslims at
least once in their lifetime if they are able. x A series of rituals commemorate various aspects of Muhammad’s life and earlier
traditions. Being a hajji is a badge of pride among Muslims. x Another sacred site on the pilgrimage is the field of Arafat, where Adam and Eve
were taught that humans were created for the sole purpose of worshiping God. x Eid al-Adha, or the “Feast of the Sacrifice,” occurs during the month pilgrims are
supposed to undertake hajj. 10.6 Sunni and Shi’a
x The issue of Muhammad’s successor led to a split between two factions: the Sunni (roughly 80 percent of Muslims) and the Shi’a (Shi’ite).
x At the time, two customs existed: a hereditary leader or one chosen by designation.
x A caliph was elected to lead; this was an appointment that lasts a lifetime. The first three caliphs were Abu Bakr, Umar, and Uthman.
x The Prophet’s son-in-law and cousin ‘Ali became the fourth caliph (the Shi’a think that ‘Ali should have been the first caliph, as the hereditary successor), but he was assassinated. ‘Ali’s son Husayn challenged the fifth caliph’s legitimacy and rebelled when the fifth caliph named his own son as successor.
x Husayn and many of his relatives were massacred at Karbala. x The Shi’ites broke away, established their own line of succession, and have
remained separate ever since. x Sunnis are the majority population in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey, northern
Africa, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Central Asian countries of the former Soviet Union, and Indonesia.
x Syria and Iraq have mixed populations of Sunnis and Shi’as. The major Shi’a majority country is Iran.
x Sunnis, or “people of the Sunnah,” who consider themselves to be “traditionalists,” emphasize the authority of the Qur’an and the Hadith and Sunnah.
x Their understanding is that Muhammad did not appoint a successor but rather left this up to the Muslim community or ummah.
x The golden age of Islam is during the time of the first four “rightly guided caliphs”: Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman, and ‘Ali. The life of the Prophet and the lives of the rightly guided caliphs are models for the ideal Muslim.
x The line of caliphs were temporal rulers and remained so until the end of the Ottoman Empire, when Mustafa Kemal Ataturk created a secular state.
x The initial difference between Shi’a and Sunnis is rooted in leadership and the rightful successor to the Prophet. It is believed that spiritual power and temporal
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authority was passed to ‘Ali. x Shi’a Muslims are devoted to the memory of Muhammad and his close
relatives: ‘Ali, Fatima (the Prophet’s daughter), and their sons Hasan and Husayn.
x The festival of ‘Ashura, in the tenth month of Muharram, commemorates Husayn’s martyrdom, when Shi’a may participate in mourning processions.
x Shi’a Muslims revere a succession of seven or twelve Imams (leaders, guides) rather than the Sunni caliphs. ‘Ali, Hasan, and Husayn were the first three Imams.
x “Twelver” Shi’a believe that the twelfth Imam is in an occult state of hiding and will return publicly as the Mahdi at the Day of Resurrection. A minority of Shi’a, the Nizari Isma’ilis, recognize a different seventh Imam and this line has continued to the present forty-ninth Imam, HRH Prince Karim Aga Khan IV.
x The Imam combines political leadership (when possible) with the transmission of Divine Guidance.
10.7 Shari’ah: Islamic law and ethics
x Shari’ah law emerged in the second century of Islam when the Abbasid dynasty replaced the Umayyads out of concern for regulating social and political life consistent with Islamic spiritual tradition.
x For Sunnis, the caliph is the leader of worship and the administrator of Shari’ah, which may be understood as divine guidelines for how a Muslim should live his or her life. Shari’ah incorporates both law and ethics and is based on the Qur’an and Sunnah of Muhammad.
x A jurisprudence system called fiqh was developed, which is the process of understanding, interpreting, and implementing shari’ah. o Fiqh may incorporate different forms of reasoning in determining shariah-
compliant norms and is the human attempt to know whether a Muslim’s way of life is fulfilling this law.
o Different schools of fiqh developed as Islam spread beyond Arabia. Sunni Islam has four major schools and Shi’a have several—all of which developed in different geographic reasons.
x In general, shari’ah is based on the Qur’an and the Sunnah; its dictates are applicable to all areas of life from diet to inheritance to social justice. It is frequently noted that shari’ah gave women rights they did not have in the West until the nineteenth century (e.g., the right to inherit, to divorce).
x As Islam developed, Sunnis came to believe that laws in the Qur’an, Hadith, and Sunnah should be continually interpreted by a consensus of opinion and the wisdom of learned men and jurists. Legal scholars are known as the ulama; a legal opinion issued by the ulama is known as a fatwa. Teaching Note: It may be helpful to ask students if they are at all familiar with Islamic law; they may have some knowledge of the Taliban’s rule in Afghanistan or perhaps the use of Islamic law in Saudi Arabia. It is essential to emphasize that there are different systems of Islamic law and varying interpretations of those laws.
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x Sufism (Arabic: tasawwuf), the mystical tradition of Islam, dates back to Muhammad’s lifetime.
x Forms of Sufism are found in both Sunni and Shi’a Islam; Sufism has often stood in contrast to more legalistically oriented approaches to Islamic life, to the extent that some orthodox Sunnis do not consider Sufis to be Muslim.
x Sufism has produced allegorical interpretations of the Qur’an and devotional literature. Muhammad himself lived in poverty; dervishes (poor mendicant mystics) sought complete trust and surrender in God.
x Sufi practice may include asceticism, a way in which they developed a deeper piety.
x Sufi teachers spoke, sang, and wrote of a fervent love for God, seeking fana or total annihilation in the beloved. This experience of profound union led some Sufis to make statements that authorities deemed blasphemous.
x Sufi murshids (teachers) and shaykhs (spiritual masters) offered training to their initiates.
x Sufi orders or tariqas established spiritual lineages, understanding that the barakah (blessing, sacred power) was passed from one shaykh to the next.
x Some forms of Sufism have been more accommodating to orthodox authorities than others; some Sufi orders have embraced teachings from other religions.
x Originating in mystical experience, Sufi teachings resist doctrinal, linear specification.
x Dhikr, or “remembrance,” is the central Sufi practice, involving repeated head movements and repetition of the prayer “there is nothing except God.”
10.9 The development of Islam
x Islam spread rapidly as both a spiritual and secular power. The spread is attributed mostly through personal contacts through trade, attraction to charismatic Sufi saints, appeals to Muslims from those feeling oppressed from foreign rule, and unforced conversions.
x The stereotypical image of forced conversions by the sword is false, the Qur’an forbids coercion in religion; the more typical means of conversion came through personal contacts in trade, in the appeal of charismatic Sufis, and the example of particular Muslims.
x Some historians attribute economic factors as motives for expansion outside of Arabia.
x Battles fought by Muslims have not necessarily been geared toward spreading the faith. The conquered peoples were treated humanely as dictated by the Qur’an.
x In the time following Muhammad’s death, many surrounding areas had long suffered continued battles with neighbors and unfair rulers; the Muslim armies were welcomed in many instances.
x Muslims credit the power of the divine will to create a peaceful, God-conscious society as the reason behind the rapid success of Islam.
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x Monotheistic followers of revealed religions—Christians and Jews—were designated as dhimmis or protected people. They were allowed to maintain their own faith but were not allowed to convert others to it.
x In the reign of Umayyad caliphs that followed Muhammad’s era, the focus of the caliphate sometimes tended more toward worldly matters than spiritual life.
x The Abbasids took over the caliphate in 750 CE and moved the capital to Baghdad.
x A period of great intellectual and artistic activity followed. Islam absorbed, transmitted, and expanded on traditions from other cultures, such as Persian art and poetry.
x The system of nine Arabic numerals and the zero derived from Indian numbers revolutionized mathematics by liberating it from the clumsiness of Roman numerals. Other areas of study flourished as well.
x The ulama, funded by religious and private endowments, remained a key force in holding together Islamic society, taking positions such as judge (qadi), jurisconsultant (mufti), and mosque imam.
x Baghdad remained the Abbasid capital, and independent caliphates were established in Spain and Egypt.
x In the eleventh century, the Fatimid caliph broke from the Islamic tradition of protecting dhimmis and destroyed the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem.
x As Islamic civilization reached great heights, Europe was in the Dark Ages. x Provoked in part by the attack on Jerusalem by the Fatimid caliphate, Christian
crusaders from Europe sought to take Jerusalem from Muslim leadership; a series of violent conflicts ensued, leading to animosity between the two faiths, the effects of which are still felt.
x The Islamic period in Spain was known for its tolerance of Judaism, but during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, Christians took Spain and later instituted the Inquisition.
x By the beginning of the sixteenth century, an estimated three million Spanish Muslims had been killed or had fled the country.
x Islam also moved eastward through central Asia into India and beyond. The Mongols and the Turks converted to Islam.
x In 1453, the Turks conquered Constantinople and renamed it Istanbul, turning the Hagia Sophia church into a mosque.
x Some rulers of the Muslim Mogul Empire encouraged interfaith explorations. x Tensions between Hindus and Muslims became acute during British rule of India
and led to the partition of British India in 1947 into Pakistan and India. x Strife continues between the two countries and between Hindus and Muslims in
India. x Islam became the majority religion in Indonesia. Although 90 percent of the
population there is now Sunni Muslim, the government has remained a secular state despite the efforts of some Islamist groups.
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x There are also sizable Muslim populations in China and the former Soviet Union. x Africa, too, has a substantial Muslim population, with some Muslims maintaining
indigenous traditions as well. x With the vast geographic and cultural range of Islam, the hajj functions as a
unifying force. 10.10 Relationships with the West
x Many Christians in medieval Europe denounced Islam and Muhammad, portraying Muhammad as an idolater and Islam as a polytheistic faith.
x The legacy of such negative characterizations of Islam persists in the West to the present.
x By the nineteenth century, scholars began to study Arabic classics, but the fear about Islam remained. Ignorance and stereotyping of Muslims remains today.
x Both Christianity and Islam consider themselves the ultimate religion. x The Muslim world fell into decline, in part due to Mongol invasions as well as
European colonialism. x Some Muslims have attributed the decline to spiritual laxity. x As predominantly Muslim nations gained their independence from European
colonial powers in the mid-twentieth century, many developed new systems of government that incorporated Western ideals and practices.
x Social change came about due to new forms of government and law, industrialization, education, and so on.
x The creation of the Jewish state of Israel has also been an issue. Decades of violence and counterviolence have plagued the West Bank and Gaza Strip, a piece of land in dispute between Israel and Palestine.
Islam in the West
x Islam is the fastest-growing religion in the United States and may be the second- largest religion in the country.
x About two-thirds of American Muslims are immigrants and their descendants; the remainder are converts, most of whom are African American.
x African American conversion to Islam dates back at least to the early twentieth century; many of the slaves brought from Africa had been Muslims.
x One of the most visible African American Muslim groups has been the Nation of Islam.
x Other early movements were based on missionary movements, such as the Ahmadiyyah movement from India who were publishing English translations of the Qur’an and helping converted African Americans learn Arabic. Some Muslims do not recognize this movement because the movement’s prophet is a self-proclaimed Messiah.
x Other movements were the “Black Muslims” under the leadership of Elijah Muhammad.
x Homes of African American Muslims have become places of refuge. x After birth, children are placed with their mothers on prayer rugs and gradually
learn to recite portions of the Qur’an. They are raised to be polite to elders, dress
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modestly, and to behave appropriately. Public school encounters are quite different and Muslims are often taunted or instructed about things, like sexuality, that counter their beliefs. Many African American Muslims attempt to home- school their children.
x A 2011 Gallup report shows that Muslim Americans are one of the most tolerant religious groups in the United States.
x There are more than 20 million Muslims in western Europe and they have maintained their own cultural identity—not adopting European practices or standards.
x Since 2004, the French government has banned the wearing of religious symbols, including headscarves worn by women. In 2011, face veils were banned in all public places.
x In Switzerland, the construction of new minarets (tall towers) on mosques was banned by a 2009 referendum. Such restrictions have emerged from fears, including concerns about security and political power.
10.11 Muslim resurgence
x Most of the world’s oil-rich nations are predominantly Muslim. Oil wealth led to social change in many Muslim nations; in response, some Muslims turned to Islam as a blueprint for modern political rule.
x The traditional Muslim view of the different portions of the world is that there is the “abode of Islam” (dar al-Islam), where Muslims are in the majority, governed by shari’ah; the “abode of peace” (dar al-sulh), where Muslims are in the minority but are free to practice Islam; and the “abode of conflict” (dar al-harb), where Muslims are in the minority and struggle to practice Islam.
x In the world’s forty-three primarily Islamic states, different models of the modern Islamic nation have been proposed and attempted.
x Islamists seek Islamic states in which the sovereignty of God is supreme. x While modern industrial societies have tended to make religion a private matter,
some contemporary Muslim reformers seek to create societies in which religious principles imbue all aspects of life.
Contemporary Islam in public and private life
x Much of the discourse regarding Islam, especially in the Western world, focuses on shari’ah, especially with respect to women’s roles in public and private life.
x Media accounts often oversimplify shari’ah and Islamic law, treating as a static linear entity.
x Some Muslim thinkers have argued that Islamic jurisprudence already has a basis for ongoing reform through ijtihad (reasoned interpretation, independent judgment by a qualified scholar).
x Fasting in Saudi Arabia and Iran is strictly enforced in restaurants during Ramadan. In 1999, Nigeria barred men and women from traveling in the same public vehicles to combat crime and immoral behavior.
x Women in many countries have adopted more modest dress, sometimes due to legal requirements, sometimes as a matter of choice. Veiling for the sake of modesty is known as hijab.
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x Some Muslims have called for a return to a particular form of shari’ah, rejecting secular law derived from European codes.
x Many forms include local adaptations, such as veiling and seclusion of women, a feature of Persian and Byzantine societies.
x Some Muslim women assert that they like dressing more modestly so that men will not stare at them. Others feel that men are simply treating them as slaves.
x In some Muslim majority countries, women can only join the workforce if they are veiled.
x In addition, questions of women’s rights to divorce and to choose their own marriage partners are among the hotly debated issues in contemporary attempts to define shari’ah.
x Many women Muslim scholars are conducting a reexamination of the Qur’an and Hadith for new understandings of women’s issues.
x Another current issue concerns ethical challenges not addressed in Muhammad’s time, such as artificial birth control methods. Many Muslims encourage the process of ijtihad in addressing current challenges.
x Shari’ah forbids usury or accepting interest for loans, so alternate forms of financing have been established.
x There is no political unit of global Islam and no single understanding of what a modern Islamic state should be. Many Muslims, however, recognize serious problems in Western civilization. such as crime, drug abuse, and unstable family life.
Outreach and education
x Muslim outreach is on the increase, often using modern forms of mass communication, such as satellite television, that unify Muslims internationally and provide alternatives to Western programming that has sexuality, violence, and a lack of family values.
x Attention has also been given to developing educational systems modeled on Islamic thought.
x Madrasas, traditional religious schools, are strong in some countries such as Pakistan; some madrasas teach a narrow form of Islam and have been breeding grounds for militancy.
x Both Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have revised school curricula in response to criticisms.
x There have also been efforts to create more accurate portrayals of Islam in Western textbooks.
x Muslim philanthropy is on the rise. Islam in politics
x Muslims and non-Muslims alike are particularly concerned with the role various forms of Islam play in politics, especially interpretations of Islam linked to suicide terrorist attacks and forms of Islam that express antagonism toward the West.
x Eighteenth-century reformer Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab (1703–1792)
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argued that Muslims must discard all practices not specifically mentioned in the Qur’an and Sunnah.
x The Egyptian Sayyib Qutb (1906–1966) was one of the first to argue that Islam was not compatible with secular democracy and that Westernization brought moral corruption.
x Qutb’s writings have been pivotal in later Islamists’ thinking. x The concept of jihad, which literally means “striving,” is often mistranslated as
“holy war.” o The Greater Jihad is the struggle over the lower self to do good. o The Lesser, external Jihad is protection of God’s way over the forces of evil,
the safeguarding of the Muslim community. x The Qur’an gives extensive instructions regarding the conduct of war and the
treatment of prisoners. x One who performs jihad is a mujahid [plural mujahideen]. x Muhammad is considered the prototype of the true mujahid. Within Islam,
there are different views as to what form the lesser Lesser Jihad may take. x There are deep disagreements within Muslim states about interpretation of the
Qur’an and the contemporary use of violence in the name of Islam. x In 1953 the democratic government of Iran was overthrown and Pahlavi Shah
took power, disenfranchising many. x A revolutionary leader, the Ayatollah Khomeini, arose from this latter group to
lead the Iranian revolution of 1979, which removed the Shah from power. x Iraq, too, has been a focal point for debates about the role of Islam in politics,
particularly since the United States invaded the country in 2003 with the stated purpose of liberating Iraqis from the tyrannical rule of Saddam Hussein.
x After the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, the United States provided support to militants fighting the Soviets. o After the Soviets left, Afghanistan was torn by sectarian fighting and then
ruled by the Taliban from 1996–2001. o The Taliban enforced a version of Islam that placed severe restrictions on
women. o Afghanistan remains a troubled and poor nation.
x Osama bin Laden, an exiled member of the Saudi aristocracy, is the most well- known self-styled jihadi. He led the militant organization Al Qaeda, believed to be responsible for many attacks, including those against the United States on September 11, 2001.
x U.S. commandos found and killed bin Ladin in 2011 near the Pakistani capital of Islamabad.
x Many leaders argue that Islam seeks a peaceful, just society. x A destabilizing factor in many Muslim countries, especially in the Arab world,
has been the presence of authoritarian rule. o It was within this environment that the “Arab Spring” began in 2010. People
took to the streets to demand better living conditions and a greater voice in their own affairs.
o In Syria, what started as a small youth protest in a border town has become a well-funded, well-organized, and well-armed terrorist group with members
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from at least eighty-four countries. � The behavior counters what Muslims believe is appropriate. � The main victims have been women and children and innocent youth have
been encouraged to engage in suicide terrorist attacks on peaceful civilian targets.
x Saudi Arabia remains a powerful force. o Since 1932, the country has been under the rule of the al-Sa’ud family. o It is religiously conservative with a legal system rooted in shari’ah and
harkening to Wahhabism. o In 2008, Saudi Arabia sponsored an interfaith conference in Mecca to
showcase Islam’s message of tolerance and encouragement of peaceful co- existence.
o Saudi Arabia has been criticized for its treatment of women. � Women are forced to wear the traditional ‘abaya (an outer garment that
covers them from head to toe). � They are banned from driving or leaving home unless accompanied by a
male relative. � In 2011, King Abdullah gave women the right to vote and run in
municipal elections and help choose candidate in 2015. � In 2015, the death of King Abdullah may slow these developments.
x Palestine is another area of controversy between religion and politics. o Two major factions arose to reclaim the homeland from Israel: Fatah and
Hamas. � Fatah was founded in the 1950s to end Israeli control of Palestine.
Recently it supported a two-state solution. � Hamas (meaning “zeal” in Arabic) was formed in 1987 as the
Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist organization based in Egypt. x Its charter calls for the destruction of Israel. x It has supported suicide attacks against Israeli settlements. x Conflicts between Israel and the Hamas-ruled Gaza strip constantly
occur. x Turkey, home to Ataturk’s secular vision, is now engaged in power struggles
between secularists, devout Muslims, and hardline Islamists. x Debates about the role of Islam in modern nation-states are ongoing.
o Islamist groups seek reform of legal, social, and political structures. o An example of this is a radical group in northern Nigeria called Boko Haram,
which is violently opposed to Western education. x In 2014, the Islamic State (IS), a violent militant group under the leadership of
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and an offshoot of Al Qaeda, took advantage of instability in Iraq and the ongoing fighting in Syria and declared itself a new caliphate. o The group uses social media to recruit members. o Young men and women from around the world have traveled to Syria to join
the group. o Some observers suggest that IS appeals to young people whose knowledge of
Islam is limited and who are moved by pleas to help fellow Muslims.
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o IS has drawn heavy criticism from Muslims around the world. o A group of 126 international Islamic scholars wrote a lengthy open letter to al-
Baghdadi using classical Islamic texts to refute the group’s tactics. o In the fall of 2014, the United States formed a coalition with Saudi Arabia and
the United Arab Emirates to carry out airstrikes against IS on Syrian and Iraqi territories.
x Disasters and wars, such as in South Sudan and Afghanistan, have caused the displacement of millions of Muslims, who have been forced to live as refugees. There is an increase in tension between Muslims and non-Muslims, particularly in the West.
x The violence of groups such as Al Qaeda and Palestinian suicide bombers has led to growing anti-Muslim sentiment despite efforts by many prominent Muslim leaders to distance their faith from such acts, arguing that the Qur’an provides no sanction whatsoever for terrorist acts.
x There is a growing perception of Islam as a religion that encourages violence and fanaticism.
x The Qur’an permits the jihad of violence only under particular conditions; it must be undertaken not by individuals but by the collective wisdom of the Muslim community. Jihadis must not harm women, children, or unarmed civilians, and they may not willfully destroy property. Thus terrorist tactics are not permitted by the Qur’an.
Islam for the future
x Religious modernists, Islamists, and secularists are all trying to understand the roots of extremism in Islam and devise alternative means of relating to a changing world.
x While Western media may focus on sensational manifestations of Islamism, there are many currents of forward-looking thought within Islam.
x Malala Yousafzai, a young Pakistani activist shot by the Taliban and Nobel Peace Prize recipient, has been an outspoken advocate for girls’ education and explains that Islam is a religion of compassion.
x Mahmoon-al-Rasheed, founder of the Comprehensive Rural Education, Social, Cultural, and Economic Center in Bangladesh, explains that violence occurs in and between nations because people have not developed a sense of duty toward each other. He believes that Islamic values are not aimed at creating a political state but rather a harmoniously integrated society.
x Professor Omid Safi speaks on behalf of many contemporary progressive Muslims by expressing a desire to bring about positive social change by supporting social justice, gender equality, religious and ethnic pluralism, and nonviolent resistance.
Key Terms Allah Imam Shi’a caliph Islam Sufism fatwa Islamist Sunnah
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fiqh jihad Sunni hajj madrasa surah Hadith muezzin ummah hijab Shahadah zakat hijrah shari’ah Review Questions 1. Outline Muhammad’s life story and describe how his life influenced aspects of Islamic practice and belief. 2. Describe the role of the Qur’an, Hadith, and Sunnah in Islam. 3. Explain the Five Pillars of Islam, noting the purpose of each pillar and how each is put into practice. 4. Describe the differences between Sunni and Shi’a Islam. 5. Describe the practices and beliefs associated with Sufism. 6. Outline the expansion of Islam and the factors that contributed to it. Discussion Questions 1. What are the most important religious themes and people that Islam, Judaism, and Christianity have in common? 2. Discuss aspects of Islamic tradition that relate to gender roles within society and the ways these aspects have been interpreted. 3. Describe and discuss issues of current concern for Muslims around the world and the relationship between Islam and modernity. 4. Discuss the concept of jihad and how it has been oversimplified or stereotyped in the media. Class Activities/Assignments 1. Ask students to describe their impressions of Muslim women and consider how those impressions have been formed. If their impressions are largely negative, ask them to consider what image people outside the United States might have of American women based on the popular media—for example, television shows such as Baywatch and American action movies, which are very popular worldwide. 2. Using newspapers, magazines, Internet, and other sources, ask students to identify and investigate a key issue in a country with a Muslim population. Possible issues include veiling of women and whether it is compulsory, voluntary, or forbidden; Islamic law and civil law; or relations between Sunnis and Shi’as. Have students choose countries representing the wide geographic range of Islam, such as an African country, an Asian country, or a European country. 3. Discuss the teachings of Islam and how radical interpretation of teachings has caused so many issues of terrorism and violence. What are steps to diffuse these situations without building prejudices? Discuss this same kind of extremism that is seen in other religions. Recommended Films A Veiled Revolution, First Run/Icarus Films, 1982. 26 minutes. Explores Egyptian
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women’s decisions about veiling and Islamic dress. Being Muslim in India, South Asia Area Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1980. 42 minutes. Portrays Muslim family lives in India. I Am a Sufi, I Am a Muslim, Films for the Humanities and Sciences, 1996. 52 minutes. Portrayal of Sufism in India, Pakistan, Turkey, and Macedonia. Ramadan and Fasting in Islam: A Universal Act of Worship, Niyyah Productions, 2002. 47 minutes. Portrayal of fasting within Islam and other religions. Faith without Fear: Irshad Manji’s Quest, 90th Parallel and the National Film Board of Canada, 2007. 54 minutes. Portrayal of an Islamic woman’s dissidence yet refusal to abandon her faith. Death in Gaza, HBO Documentary Films, 2004. 80 minutes. This is a film about a journalist staying with and interviewing children in Gaza. This documentary reveals one side of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Unfortunately, the director was killed before he could film the Israeli side of the story. Budrus, Just Vision Films, 2009. 70 minutes. This is about a Palestinian leader who unites Fatah, Hamas, and Israelis in an unarmed movement to save his village from destruction. This film has a wealth of resources online that discuss the film and themes of nonviolent resistance. Additional Class Discussion/Essay Questions 1. Compare and contrast what is known about the life of Muhammad with the life of one of the following religious founders: Buddha, Confucius, Zarathushtra, or Jesus. What are the most significant similarities and differences between Muhammad and the selected founder? Explain. 2. What have been the interrelationships between Judaism, Christianity, and Islam? Explain. 3. Describe the basic features of the hajj and their significance. 4. Using specific examples, explore some of the different interpretations of Islam proffered by Islamists and more moderate Muslims.