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Also known as The Koran in the English language, this is the major religious text if Islam. Muslims believe the Qur'an to be the book of divine guidance and direction for mankind, and consider the original Arabic text to be the final revelation of God.
Qur'an 3:3--4. It is He Who sent down to thee (step by step), in truth, the Book, confirming what went before it; and He sent down the Law (of Moses) and the Gospel (of Jesus) before this, as a guide to mankind, and He sent down the criterion (of judgment between right and wrong). Then those who reject Faith in the Signs of Allah will suffer the severest penalty, and Allah is Exalted in Might, Lord of Retribution.
The Qur'an teaches there is no separation between Church and State -- both are one. Islam is not considered to be something separate from the rest of life; rather, it is a way of life. Islam is a complete system of life: physical, mental, business, civic, social, family, spiritual, and academic. It is an all encompassing way of life, even with its own judicial system.
Islam holds that the Qur'an was revealed to Muhammad by the angel Gabriel from 610 AD to his death in 632 AD. Followers of Islam further believe that the Qur'an was written down by Muhammad's companions while he was alive; although, the primary method of transmission was oral.
It must be remembered that Muhammad was illiterate; he could neither read nor write. It is maintained that in 633, the written text was compiled, and in 653 it was standardized, distributed in the Islamic empire, and produced in large numbers.
The present form of the Qur'an is regarded by Muslims as God's revelation to Muhammad. Academic scholars often consider it the original version authored, or dictated, by Muhammad. Muslim tradition agrees that it was fixed in writing shortly after Muhammad's death by order of Umar and Abu Bakr (two of his close companions, both of whom later became Caliphs with Umar succeeding Abu Bakr).
Further, Muslims regard the Qur'an as the culmination of a series of divine messages that started with those revealed to Adam, regarded in Islam as the first prophet, and continued with the Scrolls of Abraham, "And this is in the Books of the earliest Revelation, -- The Books of Abraham and Moses." (Qur'an 87: 18-19):
The Torah, or Pentateuch
[Qur'an 3:3. "It is He Who sent down to thee (step by step), in truth, the Book, confirming what went before it; and He sent down the Law (of Moses) and the Gospel (of Jesus) before this, as a guide to mankind, and He sent down the criterion (of judgment between right and wrong)."]
The Book of Psalms
[Qur'an 4:163. "Lo! We inspire thee as We inspired Noah and the prophets after him, as We inspired Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and the tribes, and Jesus and Job and Jonah and Aaron and Solomon, and as We imparted unto David the Psalms."]
[Qur'an 17:55. "And it is your Lord that knoweth best all beings that are in the heavens and on earth: We did bestow on some prophets more (and other) gifts than on others: and We gave to David (the gift of) the Psalms."]
And the Christian Gospel.
[Qur'an 5:46. "And in their footsteps We sent Jesus the son of Mary, confirming the Law that had come before him: We sent him the Gospel: therein was guidance and light, and confirmation of the Law that had come before him: a guidance and an admonition to those who fear Allah."]
[Qur'an 5:110. "Then will Allah say: "O Jesus the son of Mary! Recount My favour to thee and to thy mother. Behold! I strengthened thee with the holy spirit, so that thou didst speak to the people in childhood and in maturity. Behold! I taught thee the Book and Wisdom, the Law and the Gospel and behold! thou makest out of clay, as it were, the figure of a bird, by My leave, and thou breathest into it and it becometh a bird by My leave, and thou healest those born blind, and the lepers, by My leave. And behold! thou bringest forth the dead by My leave. And behold! I did restrain the Children of Israel from (violence to) thee when thou didst show them the clear Signs, and the unbelievers among them said: 'This is nothing but evident magic."
[Qur'an 57:27. "Then We caused Our messengers to follow in their footsteps; and We caused Jesus, son of Mary, to follow, and gave him the Gospel, and placed compassion and mercy in the hearts of those who followed him. But monasticism they invented - We ordained it not for them - only seeking Allah's pleasure, and they observed it not with right observance. So We give those of them who believe their reward, but many of them are evil-livers."
The contents of the aforementioned books, the Hebrew and Christian Scripture commonly referred to as the Bible, are not physically affixed within the Qur'an, but are recognized therein:
"Say (O Muhammad): We believe in Allah and that which is revealed unto us and that which was revealed unto Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and the tribes, and that which was vouchsafed unto Moses and Jesus and the prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and unto Him we have surrendered." (Qur'an 3:84)
The Qur'an also refers to many events from Jewish and Christian scriptures, some of which are retold in comparatively distinctive ways from the Torah and New Testament respectively. In cases, it refers to these events in an indirect manner, while other events and stories are clearly described from those texts.
The Qur'an itself expresses that it is the book of guidance. Therefore it rarely offers detailed accounts of historical events; the text instead typically placing emphasis on the moral significance of an event rather than its narrative sequence. Muslims believe the Qur'an itself to be the main miracle of Muhammad, and a proof of his prophet-hood.
Qur'an 10:37. "This Qur'an is not such as can be produced by other than Allah; on the contrary it is a confirmation of (revelations) that went before it, and a fuller explanation of the Book - wherein there is no doubt - from the Lord of the worlds."
Hadith, an Appendix to the Qur'an
Hadith (hÑd_th') , a tradition, or the collection of the traditions, of Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam, including his sayings and deeds, and his tacit approval of what was said, or done, in his presence. Classical hadith specialist Ibn Hajar says that the intended meaning of hadith, in religious tradition, is something attributed to Muhammad, as opposed to the Qur'an.
A Beautiful Hadith On What Muhammad Answered When He Was Asked About His Life
Traditions of the life of Muhammad, and the early history of Islam, were passed down orally for more than a hundred years after Muhammad's death in 632 AD. Therefore, from the first Fitna of the 7th century (the first Civil War 546 -661), people questioned the sources of hadiths.
Therefore, Hadith were eventually written down, evaluated, and gathered into large collections mostly during the reign of Umar II during the 8th century, and also in the 9th century.
As a discipline, it ended up consisting of two branches
- The first concerned with validation of the individual traditions through the process of biographic examination of its chain of transmitters back to the Prophet
- The second, concentrating on the actual content of the validated traditions (matn) as a source of religious authority.
In other words, to validate the tradition that has been handed down, a list of authorities who have transmitted accounts of the teachings, or actions, of Muhammad, one of the Companions of the Prophet (those who were close to him during his life), or of a later authority. This resulted in transmitters such as: "A told me that B told him that Muhammad said....", or "It has been related to me by A on the authority of B on the authority of C on the authority of D that Muhammad said...."
A Beautiful Qur'an Recitation
Since the formalization of Islam, these works are referred to in matters of Islamic law and history to this day. This source of authority has been viewed as second only to the Qur'an.
Hadith currently exists in two main sets of collections, corresponding to the Sunni and Shiite division within Islam.
Sunni Islam recognizes as authoritative the collections of Bukhari and Muslim followed in importance by those of Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi, an-Nasai, and Ibn Maja.
Shiite Islam accepts only traditions traced through Ali's family. The major Shiite collections are those of al-Kulini, al-Babuya al-Qummi, and al-Tusi.
Muslim historians say that Caliph Uthman (the third caliph, or successor of Muhammad, who had formerly been Muhammad's secretary), was the first to urge Muslims to write the Qur'an in a fixed form, and to record the Hadith. Uthman's labors were cut short by his assassination, at the hands of aggrieved soldiers, in 656.
The Muslim community, referred to as "ummah," then fell into a prolonged civil war, which Muslim historians call the Fitna. After the fourth caliph Ali ibn Abi Talib was assassinated in 661, the Umayyad dynasty seized control of the Islamic empire. Ummayad rule was interrupted by a second civil war (the Second Fitna), re-established, and ended in 758 when the Abbasid dynasty seized the caliphate, and held it, at least in name, until 1258.
While Muslim historians say that hadith collection and evaluation continued during the first Fitna, and the Umayyad period, much of this activity was presumably oral transmission from early Muslims to later collectors, or from teachers to students. If any of these early scholars committed any of these collections to writing, they have not survived. The histories and hadith collections we have today were written down at the start of the Abbasid period, more than a hundred years after Muhammad's death.
SUNNAH, supplementary Law to the Qur'an
Sunnah (also known as Sunna) is an Arabic term that means "habitual practice", or the "trodden path;" meaning, norm, or practice. In pre-Islamic Arabia, sunna referred to precedents established by tribal ancestors, accepted as normative, and practiced by the entire community -- customs, cumulative traditions and precedents passed down from generation to generation.
The Qur'an refers to Sunnah as the established practices of earlier people, especially Arabs, and previous prophets. However, the term is used most commonly in reference to the example, and customary practice, of the prophet Muhammad -- the ways and manners of Muhammad.
The Sunnah of Muhammad refers to his traditions and actions, including specific words, actions, and practices. This is in contrast to the hadith, which contains just his words. However, the two doctrines were closely related in the beginnings of Islam.
The Sunnah is significant to the spirituality of Islam because it continues teaching Muslims how their prophet acted during his life, and this allows the continuing generations of Muslims to be able to know his ways. The Sunnah addresses ways of life dealing with friends, family, and government.
Further, a point to be emphasized is that Muhammad is not to be worshipped, or deified, and that his role is to deliver the Qur'an, with comprehensive explanation and guidelines on how to live in the Qur'anic guidelines which have been preserved in Sunnah.
The Prophet's Sunna has more than one usage in Muslim tradition. As a technical term used in Islamic law, the shar'i, it refers to the binding rules derived from the Prophet's sayings, or hadith. The Sunna then represents the laws that can be extracted from the Hadith. It is what he said and did, which are preserved in narrative stories and reports known as "traditions of the Prophet," the Hadith.
As such, it is the second most important source of law after the Qur'an. In a more general meaning, often used by jurists and theologians, the Sunna refers also to all the customs and habits of the Prophet, including his everyday life practices, which are not considered by the shar'i as obligatory.
Hence, the term Sunna is often used in the sense of recommended or good practice. Examples of this are the extra prayers and extra fasting the Prophet performed over and above the prescribed rituals. These are referred to as Sunna prayers, or Sunna fasting.
Certain very strict Muslim movements make the nonbinding practices of the Sunna obligatory. Extreme Muslim leaders have, at times after seizing power, imposed it on all Muslims. They made practices such as wearing beards mandatory; although, the enforcement of any practice, that is not legally binding, is considered illegitimate in Islamic law
Shari'a Law (also known as Shari and Shariah literally means "the path to a watering hole," or "way to the water.") is the way, or path, of Islam based on the teachings of ALLAH, and the acts and sayings of Muhammad as found in the Qur'an and the Sunnah. However, shari'a was not fully developed at the time of Muhammad's death; rather, it evolved around the Muslim community, known as "Ummah," through which it would serve.
When shari'a began its formation in the deserts of Arabia approximately 1,400 years ago, the time Islam was born, a sense of community did not exist. Life in the desert was nomadic and tribal (see section "Muhammad, History & Background"); thus, the only factor that tied people together into various tribes was through common ancestry. However, the nature of Islam challenged that ideology, and brought all those who professed their submission to Islam into the Ummah (this word, "ummah," gained meaning as the "transnational Muslim community").
It needs to be noted, as you continue to read and study, that Shari'a law makes no distinction between sin and law.
So, Islamic law was a response to real religious, political, and social concerns and issues. There were two main issues that needed to be addressed:
- First, what it meant to be a good Muslim. Islam was not just a religion, but a way of life that transformed those who were once enemies into neighbors. Laws had to be instilled so the doctrines of shari'a took root. All who are Muslim are judged by shari'a - regardless of the location, or the culture.
- Second, the need to limit the power of rulers. So, those who turned to law during the Umayyad Dynasty (661-750) did so to limit the autonomy, and the powers, of rulers by standardizing the law, taking control out of the hands of the Caliph, or their appointed judges.
The development of Islamic law, therefore, was the work of religious scholars, referred to as the "Ulama" (meaning, the "learned ones") rather than judges, courts, or governments as experienced in western civilization. These people were not a separate professional class, as would be developed later; rather, these were merely pious Muslims followers, those who showed a devout sense of duty and devotion. However, they were serious students of the Qur'an, and the traditions of the Prophet, Muhammad.
So, these early scholars developed the science of law, or jurisprudence: "figh"; meaning, understanding - understanding in order to ascertain, interpret, and apply ALLAH's guidance, the Shari'a, as found in the Qur'an, and the Sunnah.
In later times, centers, or schools-of-thought, sprang-up in Medina, Damascus, Baghdad, and other cities - across the then-existing Muslim world. Four (Hanafi, Maliki, Shafii, and Hanbali) later became major Sunni laws schools, and have endured to modern times.
The development of law flourished, in particular, during the 10th century under the Abbasid Dynasty (750-1258). The Abbasids enjoyed great wealth, and became patrons of religious leaders, and of the sciences and the arts. The Abbasid caliphs, having led a rebellion that overthrew the Umayyads, sought to justify their revolution and legitimatize their rule in the name of Islam; so, they became patrons of Islam.
One of the ways to think of the Shari'a is like Judaism, Islam emphasizes "correct action, observance;" whereas, Christianity emphasizes "correct belief."
So, the religious scholars, the Ulama, approached the development of law by setting up the main divisions of law in two broad areas: first, a Muslim's duty to Allah (think Five Pillars of Islam); second, a Muslim's duty to others, and that would include regulations governing private life (family laws; example, marriage, divorce, inheritance, etc.), public life, commerce, and domestic and international law.
The primary source is the Qur'an. This is the book of ALLAH, the Revelation. It must be remembered that many of the legal prescriptions came about from the legal principles and values of the Medinan period, when Muhammad was establishing the first Islamic community.
The secondary source is the Sunnah. This is the "example of the Prophet," and is the second most important source of law after the Qur'an.
Two other sources come into play: when there is no clear text from either the Qur'an or the Sunnah, the jurists are free to use their own judgment, or reasoning, which has lead to a great deal of diversity of opinion; the final source being consensus of the community, which was in reality the consensus of the Ulama, the religious scholars of the time. This has resulted in confusion due to the many different cultures, other countries, also.
The above is the basis for the Sunnis denomination. The Shii have an exception: while they use all the above, they have a separate collection of the traditions of Ali (see denominations, Shii), and his successors as imam. In Shiism, they regard the importance of Ali and the imams as supreme authorities, and legal interpreters.
While there is overall unity within Islamic law, the diversity of opinion in the interpretation of text and confusion due the diverse social backgrounds and cultural context of jurists has created the need for legal consultants, called "mufti." These legal consultants offer the services of issuing legal opinions, or legal interpretations, called "fatwa." These legal consultants advise judges, and advise litigants.
This diversity of opinion in the interpretation of text and confusion due to the diverse social backgrounds and cultural context of jurists extends to the various geographical areas of Islam, and therefore, different doctrine of the Shari'a.
Geographically, the division between the various schools and sects became fairly well defined as the judges of courts (called "qadis") in different areas became wedded to the doctrine of one particular school.
- Hanafi law came to predominate in the Middle East, and the Indian subcontinent;
- Maliki law in North, West, and Central Africa;
- Shafii law in East Africa, the southern parts of the Arabian Peninsula, Malaysia, and Indonesia;
- Hanbali law in Saudi Arabia;
- Shii law in Iran and the Shii communities of India and East Africa;
- Ibadi law in Zanzibar, Uman, and parts of Algeria.
As Islam makes no distinction between religion and life, Islamic law covers, not only ritual, but many aspects of life. This is where the term "jihad" had its beginning. The true definition of jihad means "struggle;" meaning, the difficult effort that is needed to put Allah's will into practice at every level - personal, family, social, business, and political. So, Shari'a law, in reality, makes no distinction between sin and law.
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