Islam:
History, values and culture
Shawqi Kassis, Ph.D.
We are all Muslims; some have the Gospels,
others have the Quran
A Patriarch from Syria
1. Which of the following is a true statement:
A. All Arabs are Muslims
B. All Muslims are Arabs
C. Iran is an Arab country
D. None of the above
1. Which of the following is a true statement:
A. All Arabs are Muslims
B. All Muslims are Arabs
C. Iran is an Arab country
D. None of the above
2. During prayer a Muslim should face:
A. Mecca
B. Islamabad
C. Jerusalem
D. Washington, DC
2. During prayer a Muslim should face:
A. Mecca
B. Islamabad
C. Jerusalem
D. Washington, DC
PRESENTATION OUTLINE
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Introductory Remarks
Historical overview
10 min
Islam as a monotheistic religion
30 min
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the Quran
God or Allah
pillars and values
social code and reforms
relation with other faiths
the Sunni and Shiha sects
Science and civilization
10 min
Islam today, and Arab Americans
5 min
Suggested reading, distribution of
educational material
5 min
Qs & As
20 min
Islam
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Founder: Muhammad Ibn (son of) Adballah
Born: 571 AD in Mecca, Arabia
Descendant of Abraham
Nicknames: Almustapha (the chosen), Alamin (the faithful)
Titles: The prophet, the messenger (Alrasul)
Tribe: Quraiysh
Holy Book: The Quran, derived from ‘read’
Abraham
Ismail
Adnan
Quraiysh
Qussaiy
Abdmanaf
Abdshams
Hashem
Adbelmuttalib
(Amneh+) Abdallah Abutalib Hamzeh Alabbas
Muhammad
Ummayah Dynasty
(661-750)
Abulahab Alhareth
Ali
Abbbassides Dynasty
(750-1258)
Historical Overview
The Levant
Mesopotamia
The fertile Crescent
EGYPT
•Medinah
•Mecca
Dynasties
of the
South
Middle East, 7th Century
• The Arabian Peninsula
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The source of Arabs and the Semitic race
Mostly desert, few urbanized areas
Urban centers, Mecca
Mainly tribal society
First mention of ‘Arabs’, 854 B.C.
Arabs of the North and Arabs of the South
Dynasties in the south
Religions
– Christianity (inclusive), Judaism (exclusive), polytheism
• The Sassanid or Persian Empire
 Ailing
• The Byzantine or Eastern Roman Empire
 Christianity is the state religion, 3rd century
 A foreign occupying power
 Sectarian conflicts with the locals
Byzantine
Empire
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Persian
Empire
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An Arabian
dynasty
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An Arabian
dynasty
Islam, 610-632
• 571
Muhammad born in Mecca.
• 610
First revelation in the Harraa cave (27 Ramadan).
• 622
“Hijra”or Escape. Muhammad and followers escape prosecution
and go to Almadinah (Yathrib).
 Year 1 in the Islamic calendar
 ‘Missionaries’ sent all over Arabia
– building peaceful coalition
• 629
Muhammad conquers Mecca peacefully (NO REVENGE)
 destroys idols in Alqaaba.
 single-handedly, brings peace to war-torn Arabia
• 632
Muhammad dies in Almadinah. Unmarked grave (his will)
Islam by the death of Mohammed 632
632-661: the Four Elected Successors (Caliphs)
Abu-Bakr - 632-634
• The first elected official. Wise leader, crisis manager
Omar Ibn Elkhattab - 634-644
• A first-rate statesman. Honest, modest and just.
• Conquered the Levant, Egypt, Iraq, Persia
 Damascus (9 / 635) and Jerusalem (5 / 638) surrender peacefully
– Omar’s pledge to the Jerusalemites
• A modern state: Treasury, communication, defense. Engraved currency.
Othman bin Affan - 644-656
• Collected and compiled the Quran
• Emergence of power struggle
Ali Bin Abitalib - 656-661
• Power struggle escalated to armed conflict
• Emergence of political parties
• End of democracy. Ummayah Dynasty in Damascus, Muawyia (661-680)
Islam at 644, the year Omar died
The Ummayah Dynasty, 661-750
• Empire center and capital move to Damascus
• Expansion: All N. Africa (Atlantic), W. Europe, much of C. Asia, the wall of China
 711: Conquer of Spain and Portugal. Tariq Bin Ziyad
• Expansion into W. Europe blocked in France by Charles Martial, 732
• Power Struggle continues, but the Caliphs brutally liquidate all rivals
 Karbalaa in S. Iraq (10 Nov, 680) and the emerge of the Shiha
• Addelmalek builds Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem (691)
• Massive translation of Greek and Indian writings
• Arabization of the empire
• Bloom of architecture, arts, agriculture, and science
732, 100 Yrs after Mohammed
The Abbassides Dynasty, 750-1258
• The center of the Empire moves to Iraq and Iran
• Baghdad, built 762 AD by Almansur (2nd Caliph).
• With over 2 M, Baghdad becomes the glamorous center of the world
 Science, art, architecture, learning, and wealth
 Lighted streets, public baths, public libraries and hospitals everywhere
• Other dynasties in Egypt, Spain, and parts of the Levant.
• A 2nd Ummayah dynasty in Spain, 9th century
 Qurtoba (Cordova) competes with Baghdad
• Cairo, built 968 AD
Islam as Monotheistic Religion
Islam:
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”Surrender”, related to ‘salaam’, or peace.
Abraham, father of all prophets, is the first Muslim
Islam is also a code for social conduct
Quran plus the authentic statements of Muhammad (Hadith) = Shareeha
(constitution), as Interpreted by Islamic scholars
• Muhammad is the last prophet (33: 40).
• Gabriel highest ranking angel
The Quran:
• Islam’s holy book, an inspired scripture. God’s word inspired to his messenger,
• 114 Chapters (chapter = Surah), 4 to >200 verses/chapter (verse = Aiyah)
• Confirms most narratives and prophets of the Jewish and Christian faiths
 Special place for Virgin Mary, the only female (the Chapter of Mary)
• Allah is the word for God used by Christian and Muslim Arabs
 God = Allah (Arabic) = Eluhim (Hebrew) = El (Aramaic)
• One and only one God, no trinity
• Arabic as the language of the Quran
The 'Five Pillars' of Islam
The framework for Muslim life. Essential practices
1. The declaration of faith:
• "There is no deity but God, and Muhammad is the messenger of God"
2. Prayer:
• Five obligatory prayers each day.
• A direct link between the worshiper and God.
• No hierarchical authority or priesthood
3. Zakat:
• Obligatory charitable giving.
• Wealth belong to God and it is held in trust by humans.
• Zakat, or, "purification" by setting aside a portion (2.5%) for the needy
4. Fasting:
• From sunrise to sunset during the holy month of Ramadan
5. Pilgrimage:
• A pilgrimage (Hajj) to Mecca, Arabia. Only those who can
Jihad and the Conduct of War
• Islam is not addicted to war, and jihad is not one of its "pillars”
• Jihad in Arabic does not mean "holy war”. It means "struggle” or “strive”.
• It is the difficult effort needed to put God's will into practice at every level
• The "greater jihad” in the Quran is that of the soul, of the tongue, of the pen, of
faith, of morality, etc. The "smaller jihad" is that of arms.
• Many directives in the authentic statements of Muhammad (Hadiths):
 He told his companions as they go home after a battle "We are returning from
the lesser jihad [the battle] to the greater jihad, at home"
 Three levels:
– Personal: That of the soul
– Verbal: Raising one's voice in the name of Allah on behalf of justice.
"The most excellent jihad is the speaking of truth in the face of a tyrant"
(Hadith)
– Physical: Combat waged in defense against oppression and transgression.
» Profoundly misunderstood in today's world.
Jihad and the Conduct of War
• Much of the Koran revealed in the context of an all-out war imposed on early
Muslims by the powerful city of Mecca, and many passages deal with the conduct
of armed struggle.
 While one finds "slay [enemies] wherever you find them!" (e.g., 4: 89),
in almost every case it is followed by something like "if they let you be,
and do not make war on you, and offer you peace, God does not allow you
to harm them" (2:90; 4: 90; 5: 2; 8: 61; 22: 39)
 Since good and evil cannot be equal, repel thou evil with something that is
better, and love he between whom and thy self was enmity may then become
as though he had always been close unto thee, a true friend" (41:34)
• God does not allow harm of civilian, and requests the protection of women,
children and the elderly during war (4:96; 9: 91; 48: 16,17)
 “If any one slew a person--unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief
in the land--it would be as if he slew the whole people; and if anyone saved
a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people.” (5:32)
• You shall feed and protect prisoners of war, and you shall not expect a
reward (4: 25,36; 5:24)
Thus, the only permissible war in the Quran is one of self-defense, you
cannot kill unarmed (civilian), and you have to protect prisoners of war
Jihad and the Conduct of War
• Warfare is always evil. Sometimes you have to fight to avoid persecution. e.g.,
the one Mecca inflicted on early Muslims (2: 191; 2: 217), or to preserve decent
values (4: 75; 22: 40)
• Muslims may not begin hostilities
 "Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you, but do not transgress limits;
for Allah loves not transgressors." (2: 190).
– Notice: Defensive war, fight back
• Hostilities must be brought to an end as quickly as possible, and must cease the
minute the enemy sues for peace (2:192-3; 41:34)
• ‘Martyrdom’: Those killed during fighting or while doing civic duties (martyrs) are
promised a place in heaven (several passages, e.g., 2:154; 3:169-172)
• However, suicide is not allowed; it is forbidden and condemned (e.g., 6:151,
17:33, 25:68)
• One of my favorite Hadiths
 'Do not attack a temple, a church, a synagogue. Do not bring a tree
or a plant down. Do not harm a horse or a camel’
Relation with other Faiths
• Like the Torah, the Quran permits retaliation eye for eye, tooth for tooth.
But, like the Gospels, it says “it is meritorious to forgo revenge in a spirit of charity
(5: 45)
• Acknowledges Adam, Noah, Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses,
David, Solomon, Zacharia, Jesus, John the paptist, and others as the “the good
prophets of God”
• A special place for Jesus and Mary (e.g., 3:45,46; 4:156-158; 19:1-98)
• Accepts that Mary’s conception is from God’s soul.
• Rejects the divinity of Jesus (no trinity).
• Jesus was not killed (e.g., 4:155-159; 5:17-19)
Relation with other Faiths
• Islam did not impose itself by the sword.
 "There must be no coercion in matters of faith" (2: 256)
• Muslims have to respect Jews and Christians, the "People of the Book,"
who worship the same God (e.g., 2:62; 29:46).
 "And dispute ye not with the People of the Book, except with means better,
unless it be with those of them who inflict wrong: but say, 'We believe in
the revelation which has come down to us and in that which came down
to you; Our Allah and your Allah is one; and it is to Him we bow.”
• In one of his last public sermons Muhammad said
 “God tells all human beings, "O people! We have formed you into nations
and tribes so that you may know one another" (49: 13). Do not conquer,
convert, subjugate, revile or slaughter but to reach out toward others with
intelligence and understanding”
• The Levant remained mainly Christian for almost 200 Yrs.
 No one was forced to convert to Islam
• The right of all faiths to warship was respected
• Sites of warship, holy places and shrines of all faiths were protected
Social Justice
• Charity, Charity, Charity ….
 On top of the Zakat. Help the orphan, the poor, the ill, the lost, the homeless,
the elderly
 Endless times in the Quran (16 times in Chapters 2-5 alone)
• Freedom, Integrity, Equality, Justice ….
 “An hour of justice by a ruler is better than sixty days of hard work” (Hadith)
 Endless request for justice in the Quran (e.g., 2: 282; 6; 152)
– “O mankind, We’ve created you from a male and a female and have made
you nations and tribes that you may know and interact with each other.
The noblest of you in the sight of God is the best in conduct” (49:13).
– No Arab is privileged over non-Arab but by his or her conduct (Hadith)
– All people are equal like the teeth of a comb (Hadith)
– “You are not considered faithful in the sight of God unless you like for
your brother (read, others) what you like for yourself” (Hadith)
– when you are greeted with a greeting of peace, answer with an even
better greeting, or at least the like thereof" (4: 86).
Other Values
Right and Status of Women
• Eliminated many pre-Islamic discriminatory practices
• Gave women rights (e.g., inheritance) and equality to men, both were made
from a single soul (e.g., 4:1)
• Limited the number of wives a man can marry
• Treat women with kindness and respect their rights as equal to men
The hijab or head scarf
• Modest dress apply to women and men equally (Quran and Hadith).
• Women are required to cover their bodies so that their figure is not revealed.
• Women are not required to cover their faces.
• The forbidden or ‘taboo’ (muharramat) include pork, blood, improperly butchered
animals, baby animals, gambling, and charging interest
• Alcohol drinking was gradually disallowed
Science and Civilization
• A dedicated quest for knowledge and a burst of scientific innovation
in a multi-ethnic and multi-faith society
• Lasted for over 8 centuries, and produced a plethora of knowledge and
discoveries in all disciplines
• Induced the later European renaissance
• The Arabic tong, invigorated by the Quran, was the vehicle, and tolerant,
inclusive, and knowledge-advocate Islamic faith was the culture
• Repeated requests in both the Quran and the Hadith for seeking
knowledge, and application of rational thinking
 Seek knowledge even in China
 Seek knowledge from crib to grave
 On judgement day, the ink of scientists is valued by God higher
than the blood of martyrs
 The two important disciplines of science are theology and Biology
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Initially, massive translation of Greek and Indian writings
 preserved all literary and scientific works and transmitted them to Europe
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Medicine and Pharmacy
Chemistry and Physics
Mathmatics
Astronomy
Medicine and Pharmacy
• Institutionalized and regulated the practice of Medicine and Pharmacy
 The modern concept of clinics
 Board exams and license to practice. Regulatory boards (FDA's!!!)
 Classification of plants and Algae for their medical use, and outlined
possible side effects (PDR’s!!)
Hospitals:
• Tens, including specialized, in each of Baghdad, Qurtoba, and Damascus.
• Mobile hospitals for emergency.
• Departments and University Hospitals.
• Patients records and vital signs, urine tests, family history.
Surgery:
• Threads from animals intestine.
• Opium and Hashish for Anesthesia.
• Alcohol as disinfectant.
• Treatment of cataract, and removal of kidney and gallbladder stones
Autopsy !!!
• Students training (Anatomy)
• Cause of death
Known Physicians
• Abu-bakr Elrazzy; 9th Century
• Father of Physicians, great clinician and experimentalist
• Many books including “Smallpox and Measles”
• Ibn-Elhaytham: 10th Century
• Multidisciplinary scientist. Ophthalmologist
• Mechanism of sight. Function of the eye
• Over 100 books in Med. and Math.
• Ibn-Seena (Avisai): 10th Century
• The “Qannun”, the medical text book in Europe till 19th Cen.
• Described the medical use of over 2700 plants
• Light has a finite speed, which is much faster than the speed of sound
• Ibn-Rushd (Aviros): 13th Century
• Philosopher and Physician. Many books
• Ibn-Elnafees:
• Blood circulation and the role of lungs
• Abulkassim Alzahrawi (Abulcasis or Albucasis): 11th Century
• One of the greatest surgeons. A good dentist and GP.
• Removal of breast cancer.
• Hemophilia and its hereditary transmission (female to male)
Chemistry and Physics
• Arabic terms and methods of preparation for Alkali, Alcohol, Tartarate
• Discovered and prepared in pure form 28 elements (Ibn Elhaytham)
• The processes of crystallization, fermentation, distillation, sublimation,
• Preparation of acids (H2SO4, HCl, HNO3) and bases (NaOH)
• Light travels in straight lines. Laws of refraction, reflection and illusion of light.
• Eluded to the Magnetic properties of some objects
Mathematics
• Arabic numeral and the decimal system of numbers.
 Right  Left. English. But 1000
• Arithmetic. Roots and powers
• Algorithm = Alkhawarismi
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The mathematical ZERO
Algebra (combining fractions).
The Use of (x, y, z) to solve complex arithmetic/geometric problems
Trigonometry (Albairuni and Albuzjani), differential and Integral.
 p = 3.141596535898732.
Some known Mathematicians:
• Abu-bakr Alkhawarismi
• Thabit Ibn Qarra (9th Century). Calculus.
• Ibn-elhaytham
• Albairuni (10th Century)
• Albuzjani
• Omar Elkhayam (2° & 3° equations)
Astronomy
• Astrology (myth)  Astronomy (science)
• Movement, path, and location of planets and stars
• The Asturlab
• Earth is spherical and rotates along its axis and around the sun.
• Calculated earth circumference (Albairuni)
• Calculated the time needed for one rotation around the sun (solar year), with
an error of 2’ 22” only (Albattani)
• Calculated the equinoxes
• Current names of most constellations, and many stars are from Arabic
Some known astronomists:
• Alkindy (9th Century)
• Albattani (9th Century)
• Ibn-elhaytham (11th Century)
• Thabit Ibn Qarra
• Almajreeti
Sunni and Shiha
Sunni
• 90% of Muslims
• Follow the Quran and the Hadeeth as we have them today,
and as interpreted by the Sunni scholars
Shiha
• Came to be as a sect after 680 A.D.
• Believe in the Quran and Hadeeth, like Sunni
• However, they place Ali very high as a holy figure, and think ‘main stream’
Islam discriminated against him
• Today Shiah is mainly in Iran (90%), Iraq (55%) and Lebanon (~40%)
Important Holidays
Al-adhaa (the sacrifice)
• Symbolizes Abraham attempt to sacrifice his son Ishmael by God’s request.
• Should sacrifice an animal and give the food to the poor.
• The pilgrimage to Mecca
Alfetr
• Observed at the end of the holy month of Ramadan (the fasting month)
The Islamic New Year
• Yr 1, Islamic calendar = 622 A.D.
Alisraa Walmaaraj
• Symbolizes the ascending, in Jerusalem, of Mohammed's soul to heaven
The Birthday of Muhammad
Ashuraa day (Shiha only)
Islam Today
• 1.3 Billion worldwide, three continents
 0.3 Billion Arabs
 Indonesia (200 M) > India (180 M) > Pakistan (160 M) > Bangladesh (120 M) >
China (80 M) > Egypt (70 M)
• There are about 20 M Christian Arabs
 Egypt > Syria > Lebanon > Palestine > Iraq
• About 7 M Muslims in the USA, 3-4 M are Arabs
 Roughly half of the Arab Americans are Christians
Arab Americans
• Farouq Elbaz (Egypt), NASA, the moon mission
• Ahmed H. Zewail (Egypt) Winner of the 1999 Nobel Prize in Chemistry,
Cal. Tech.
• Saleh Wakeel (Iraq), member of the Nat’l Acad. Sci., Biochemistry
• Qais Elawqati (Iraq), member of the Nat’l Acad. Sci., Microbiology
• Majdi Yacub, first open heart surgery
• Michael Debakee (Lebanon), chief cardiologist of the White House
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Ralph Nader (Lebanon), consumer advocate, Green Party founder,
and 2000 presidential candidate
John Sununu (Palestine), White House Ex-Chief of Staff
John Sununu JR., current state governor
• Donna E. Shalala (Lebanon), Ex secretary of HHS
• Helen Thomas, Ex dean of the White House press corps.
• Edward Attiyeh (Syria), Ex governor of OR
• Spencer Abraham (Lebanon), Secretary of Energy
• George Mitchell
Arab Americans
• Casey Kasem and Don Bustany (Lebanon) creators of radio's American
Top 40
• Mustapha Elaqqad (Syria), Hollywood movie director
(director of the ‘Halloween’ series)
• Tom Shadyac (Lebanon), Hollywood movie director
• Salma Hayic (Lebanon), a Hollywood star
• Yasser Seirawan (Syria), US Chess Champion
• Jacques Nasser, president and CEO of Ford Motor Co
• Ray Irani CEO of Occidental Petroleum (Exxon Mobil) Co
• The Hyatt, Hagar, and Farah enterprises
• Christina McAuliffe, an astronaut who died aboard the space shuttle
Challenger
• Candy Lightner, founder of MADD
Suggested Reading
• “History of the Arabs”, Philip Hitti
• “The Arab People”, Albert Hourany
• “Islam, An Empire of Faith”, PBS Video, 2001
• “Islam: A Short History”, Karen Armstrong, 2000
• “Muhammad”, Karen Armstrong, 1998
• “Jihad: A Commitment to Universal Peace”, Marcel A. Boisard, American Trust
Publications, 1988
• “The Oxford History of Islam”, John L Esposito, ed. 1999
• “Islam: The Straight Path”, John L Esposito, ed. 1998
• “The Meaning of the Holy Quran”, Abdullah Yusif, Ali, 1997
• “Lives of the Prophets”, Leila Azzam, 1995
• “From Difference to Equas”, George Kindy, and Philip Saliba, eds., NYAS, 1994
• Science in Medieval Islam, Howard R Turner, 1997
• Arab American Encyclopedia, Anan Ameri, and Dawn Ramey, eds., 2000
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