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  • Revision:A Level Religious Studies - RS10 Islam

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Contents

BELEIFS

FATIHAH (THE OPENING : SURAH 1 : 1-7)

The Fatihah summarises most key beliefs about God

‘Praise be to Allah, Lord of the Universe, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful, Master of the Day of

Judgement. You alone do we worship and to You alone do we pray for help. Show us the Straight Way – the Way of those whom you have blessed, with whom you are not angry and who have not gone astray.’


THE TRANSCENDENCE OF GOD

Transcendence refers to the belief that God is above and beyond creation.

Examples of Transcendence:

  • ‘God is Eternal, Absolute. He begetteth not nor is He begotten; and there is none like unto Him.’ (112)
  • ‘Praise be to Allah, Who created (out of nothing) the heavens and the earth’ (35:1)
  • ‘Nought there is like Him’ (42:11)


THE IMMANENCE OF GOD

Belief in the immanence of God means belief that God is close and everywhere. Whilst the Qur’an stresses the transcendence of God there are also revelations stressing his immanence. For example –

‘He is wherever you are’ (57:4)

‘We are nearer to him [humankind] than his jugular vein’ (50:16)


IMMANENT OR TRANSCENDENT?

One approach is to see these apparently conflicting views as part of the mystery of God

Another response is related by Watton who quotes Seyyed Hossein Nasr who writes ‘Yet God is also immanent in the light of his transcendence …. That is why the Prophet taught that the highest form of tawhid is to see God before, in and after all things.’


HOWEVER (criticisms of this view)

In ‘The Fundamentals of Tawheed’ Bilal Philips (salafi scholar-najdi whabbi) expresses concern that the view that Allah might be seen as everywhere might encourage worship of His creation (shirk). To support his view he notes, for example:

Places of worship should be free of statues or pictorial representations of God or his creation

Allah must be separate from His creation or he would be finite and contain weaknesses

Philips regards the Qur’anic quotes about the immanence of God as merely stating that nothing escapes Allah’s knowledge and that nothing is beyond his power to control and change

TAWHID / SHIRK

  • Tawhid refers to God as one. (Submission to God) [MS]
  • Shirk is the opposite. [MS]


FREEWILL OR PREDESTINATION?

Al-Qadr means God has power to pre-determine all events, to intercede and judge. [MS]

  • Muslims depend on God to exist as God’s creation and must respond with total allegiance to God’s will. [MS]
  • Shia view: Imam can guide and intercede [MS]

A more complex issue relating to beliefs about God is concerned with the fact that a number of Qur’anic passages seem to suggest that human actions are decreed beforehand:

‘He guides whomsoever He wills and leads astray whomsoever He wills’ (70:34) and ‘The command of Allah is a decree determined’. (33:38)

If God determines all behaviour it seems very unjust that humans could suffer eternal punishment in hell for actions they could not have controlled

Mutazilite’s quoted Qur’anic verses which seemed to stress freewill:

‘Let anyone who will believe, and let anyone who wishes, disbelieve’ (18:29) and stressed that humans must take responsibility for their actions

AL-ASHARI’S ‘COMPROMISE’

Orthodox Islam felt that the Mutazilites were encroaching on God’s almighty power and undermining divine revelation by suggesting that there could be two creators of actions.

A former Mutazilite, al-Ashari (d.935) insisted that the Qur’an was uncreated and that God had foreknowledge of human actions

However, al-Ashari sought a ‘compromise’ position by stressing that whilst Allah decreed all actions and events, humans could acquire responsibility and accountability for their actions. In other words, ‘Individuals are responsible for their actions, but their actions are performed in accordance with God’s decree.’ (Nigosian.)

The Ash’aris felt that this teaching preserved God’s unity whilst stressing God was inaccessible to human reason . Al-Ashari ‘leaves to God the understanding of his own mystery’.


ISLAMS VIEW OF PREDESTINATION CONTRADICTS THE IDEA OF HUMAN FREEDMOM?

YES NO
  • God cannot be just if he pre-determines all actions.
  • Concept of al-qadr logically contradicts human freedom.
  • God must be omnipotent, so create all actions.
  • God is obliged to reward good and punish evil, so man is never truly free or responsible.
  • The sinner is predestined to sin and be judged by God.
  • Muslims act as God’s puppets (Mans freedom is less important than Gods power/ will).
  • Nothing can be compared to God.
  • Humans must be free or God is a dictator / not benevolent.
  • Muslims have a choice, therefore making sense of worship, etc.
  • Believer is free, yet accountable.
  • We cannot know God’s will fully, > his plan is open to everyone.
  • Muslims have a responsibility to work out what God wants and choose to comply or not.
  • Asharite/ Mutazilla interpretation
  • Shia + Sufi view: God’s will is determined by mans intercession / actions.


SUFISM THOUGHT

  • God can be immanent.
  • Through meditation, etc, they can join or become part of God (more like God).
  • In Islam, there is no difference between the sacred and profane, meaning a Muslim must dedicate his life to Islam.

LOOK AT MARK SCHEME 2003


JIHAD

Definition

  • The word jihad means ‘striving’
  • It comes from the word juhd which means ‘effort’
  • Muslims are obliged to strive to follow the will of Allah
    • Supposed “6th pillar” of Islam. (Some consider it as so).


TWO TYPES OF JIHAD

  • Muhammad spoke of a lesser jihad and a greater jihad
  • The lesser jihad is the jihad of the ‘sword’
  • The greater jihad is the jihad of the ‘tongue’, ‘heart’ or ‘pen’


THE GREATER JIHAD

  • Muhammad stressed the importance of the greater jihad
  • It is concerned with the individual’s internal struggle to resist evil and temptation and to live life according to principles laid down in the Qur’an
  • It is concerned with maintaining taqwa (god-consciousness) at all times


THE GREATER JIHAD IN BRITAIN

  • The greater jihad is particularly relevant to Muslims living in Britain as a number of ‘Western’ values conflict with Islamic values
  • For example, Muslims in Britain should strive to resist the temptations of alcohol, gambling, sex outside marriage, materialism etc


THE LESSER JIHAD

  • During the Madinan period Muhammad is said to have received a revelation permitting Muslims to fight in defence of their religion
  • ‘Fight in the way of God those who fight you, but aggress not.’ (2:190)


RULES FOR THE LESSER JIHAD

  • The lesser jihad should be defensive (< Very important, otherwise lesser jihad is not valid, and it is murder)
  • It should be fought to restore peace and freedom from tyranny
  • It should be led by a spiritual leader
  • It should avoid harming women, children, the old and sick, crops & trees.
  • Only use necessary force.


THE HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

  • The doctrine of jihad was developed during the years of conquest which followed the death of Muhammad


JIHAD IN THE QUR’AN

  • Muslims should ‘fight in God’s way those who fight them’ (2:186)
  • ‘God has brought from believers their souls and possessions in return for the gift of Paradise; they fight in the way of God; they kill and are killed; that is a paradise binding upon God’ (9:112).


IS JIHAD “HOLY WAR”?

  • Cannot be equated to a holy war.
  • Its meaning is:
    • Much broader
    • Includes many activities unrelated to warfare


SEPTEMBER 11 2001

  • Many Muslims would regard the attacks in the USA as completely un-Islamic as they involved the deaths of innocent people and, therefore, contravened the ‘rules’ for jihad


‘WAR’ ON THE USA

  • Osama bin Laden has declared that American support for Israel and its stationing of troops in Saudi Arabia are valid reasons for attacking America, its buildings and its citizens


===WHAT IS A MUJAHID ?

  • A fighter in the path of God
  • Fighters who die are believed to be martyrs who go straight to heaven


SHIA

  • Shi’ites = Party of Ali
  • They belief that Ali was the legitimate caliph after the death of Mo.
  • Sunni’s rely on Sharia for guidance, where as Shia look to the hidden knowledge of the Imam, which can be passed on to the Ayatollah.


LOOK AT BLANCH NOTES ON SHI’ISM.


Distinctive emphasis of Shi’ism.

  • Different practices/ beliefs. E.g. Ali as designated successor to Mo.
  • Martydom of Ali / Hasan / Husayn.
  • Imam having authority.
  • Different practices in comparison to Sunnis on:
    • Shahada
    • Prayer
    • Alms
    • Fasting
    • Pilgrimage
  • Authority of Imam v caliph.
  • Historical / Political / Religious . E.g. Designation / succession v election.
  • Confession of faiths adds homage to Ali.
  • Cursing of caliphs.
  • Symbolism of prostration on clay.
  • Alms given to imam
  • Extra fast to mourn Ali.
  • Pilgrimage to Kar’bala.
  • Lesser jihad
  • Existence of shia clergy.


SHARIA LAW

THE SHARI’A

  • The word means ‘the straight path’
  • It contains Islamic laws covering all aspects of life
  • The laws are believed to be complete, perfect, permanent, universal and divine
  • The Shari’ah tells Muslims what is halal (acceptable) and what is haram (forbidden)
  • It is based on a belief that:
  • Allah is the lawgiver
  • Humans should live according to God’s laws as revealed in the Qur’an (‘We made for you a law, so follow it, and not the fancies of those who have no knowledge.’ [65:18])
  • On the Day of Judgement people will be judged according to whether they have followed God’s guidance
  • Reward or punishment will follow from the judgement


BACKGROUND TO THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE SHARI’AH

  • Territorial expansion
  • A need for some degree of conformity
  • The deaths of Muhammad and the Companions
  • Conflict between Caliphs & Scholars
  • Divisions within the ummah
  • The fabrication of some hadiths


THE NATURE OF THE SHARI’AH

  • ‘The substance of traditional Islamic laws places political and social rules on an equal footing with ordinances regarding worship and ritual, details of personal hygiene, greeting formulas, customs and manners. All these legal duties, therefore, can be broadly divided into two categories: duties prescribed towards God on the one hand and towards fellow human beings on the other.’ (Nigosian)


THE QUR’AN & THE SHARI’AH: CRITICISMS

  • The Qur’an does not cover all possible issues on which a Muslim might require guidance
  • The Qur’an may provide some guidance on issues but the guidance may be incomplete


THE SUNNAH

  • The Sunnah means the actions or way of life of Muhammad
  • Muslims look to the example of Muhammad for guidance on matters not covered in the Qur’an. WHY?
  • The Qur’an itself states ‘Obey God and obey the Messenger’
  • Aisha described Muhammad as the ‘living Qur’an’
  • The Qur’an also stresses the need for washing before prayer (wudu) – ‘You who believe, whenever you intend to pray, wash your faces and hands up to the elbows, and wipe your heads and wash your feet up to your ankles’ (5:6)


SOURCES OF THE SHARI’AH

  • Al Shafii (150-240 AH) established four sources of the Shari’ah:
    • The Qur’an
    • The Sunnah
    • Ijma (Consensus)
    • Qiyas (Analogy)


THE SUNNI LAW SCHOOLS: FIQH

  • The word literally means ‘intelligence’ or ‘knowledge’
  • The term is used to describe the way in which Muslim scholars seek to understand God’s law via the use of sources (Islamic jurisprudence)
  • Ijtihad (reasoning) is the method used in the ‘struggle’ to understand God’s law


SOME CRIMES & PUNISHMENTS

  • Theft – Hand amputation (5:38)
  • Fornication – 100 lashes (24:2)
  • False accusation of unchastity – 80 lashes (24:4)
  • Wine drinking – 40 lashes (al Shafii) 80 lashes (other schools)
  • Adultery (4 witnesses) – stoning to death
  • NOTE : Most of these punishments are rarely implemented


DO DIFFERENCES BETWEEN LAW SCHOOLS MATTER?

  • ‘The differences between the learned of my community are a blessing from God’ (Hadith)


THE AIM OF THE SHARI’AH

  • ‘The main aim is the creation of a morally responsible society, with the accent on social, economic and political justice.’ (Sardar & Malik. ‘Muhammad for Beginners)


WOMEN AND FAMILY LIFE

POPULAR PERCEPTIONS

  • The popular Western perception is that Islam oppresses women. It:
    • Gives them an inferior status to men
    • It makes them marry against their will
    • It limits them to being mothers and wives
    • It makes them completely cover themselves
    • It allows men to use force against disobedient women

BUT: Is this an accurate and fair representation of the status and roles of women in Islam ?

RANA KABBANI

Argues that Muhammad brought a message which stressed:

  • Equality for women
  • Opportunities for women
  • Monogamy
  • Modesty of dress for females AND males

She says that ‘Muslim men have, over the centuries, distorted his ideas for their unjust and sexist purposes .….. Nothing in Islam itself would make us second class citizens, but a great deal in Islamic societies distorts the religion’s spirit’


FOR EXAMPLE - THE VEIL

  • The practice of wearing a veil was pre-Islamic
  • It was only worn by the Prophet’s wives towards the end of his life (see 33:53)
  • It was linked with high social status
  • It was a Christian practice in parts of the world conquered by the early Muslim armies
  • 2 schools of Sunni law (Shafii and Hanbali) say the face should be covered as well as the head
  • Muslim women may view it positively as a symbol of identity and voluntarily wear it with confidence and pride
  • Muslim women may wear it to express their rejection of western views of women, which they may regard as debasing and their support for Islamic views, which give Muslim women personal worth and dignity.

MODESTY


LEILA AHMED

  • Also stresses that women enjoyed a high status in early Islam. For example:
  • Khadijah was a successful businesswoman
  • Aisha was a community (and military) leader as well as the source of many hadith
  • Hafsa was entrusted with the safe keeping of the Qur’an


WOMEN’S RIGHTS

  • The Qur’an guarantees women:
  • Rights of inheritance (4:7 + 4:12)
  • Rights of divorce (4:229)
  • Rights to own property (4:12)
  • Rights to retain her earnings (4:32)
  • Rights to be protected (4:34)
  • Rights to a dowry (mahr) (4:4)


ABDUR RAHMAN I DOI

  • Men and Women have the same relationship to Allah (33:35)
  • ‘The Shari’ah regards women as the spiritual and intellectual equals of men. The main distinction it makes between them is in the physical realm based on the equitable principle of fair division of labour. It allots the more strenuous work to the man and makes him responsible for the maintenance of the family. It allots the work of managing the home and the upbringing and training of children to the woman, work which has the greatest importance in the task of building a healthy and prosperous society’


‘THE RIGHTS OF WOMEN IN ISLAM’ – a male viewpoint

  • In his book Asghar Ali Engineer argues that there is a need to re-establish ‘women’s rights in Islam in the true Quranic spirit for there has been much deviation from this spirit in practice’
  • He argues that the Qur’an (in a normative sense) stresses equal status for men and women although (contextually speaking) it does seem to grant a slight edge to men over women (4:35)
  • He says that ‘a woman has an active, independent role to play and has well-defined rights’ (p.58)


THE STATUS AND ROLE OF WOMEN – a female view

In ‘Woman in Islam’ B Aisha Lemu writes that ‘The Muslim woman is accorded full spiritual and intellectual equality with man, and is encouraged to practice her religion and develop her intellectual faculties throughout her life. In her relations with men both are to observe modesty of behaviour and dress and a strict code of morality which discourages unnecessary mixing of the sexes. Her relations with her husband should be based on mutual love and compassion. He is responsible for the maintenance of the wife and children, and she is to give him the respect due to the head of the family. She is responsible for the care of the home and the children’s early training. She may own her own property, run her own business and inherit in her own right.


MOTHERS

Mohammed was asked who was most deserving of fine treatment. He replied ‘Your mother’. When asked ‘Who next ?’ he replied ‘Your mother’. When asked a third time he replied ‘Your mother’. Only after the fourth question did he reply ‘Your father’.


MARRIAGE

  • Marriage is seen as a contract for life (not as a sacrament as in Christianity)
  • It offers security and stability to both partners and any children
  • It provides a legalised sexual outlet for men and women. There is no stress on celibacy in Islam and sexual desire is deemed legitimate
  • Family honour is linked to female behaviour , for example if a girl goes out to drink then her family honour will be hindered whereas if a boy commits this action, the family honour stays intact.(before or after marriage)

EQUALITY?

  • A Sister inherits only half the portion of her brother BUT … it is assumed her husband will keep her
  • A husband may physically chastise his disobedient wife BUT … a ‘beating’ may be interpreted symbolically
  • A woman’s testimony in court is only worth half that of a man BUT … this might be seen as a ruling for a society in which females had much less experience of business affairs than men


THE MUSLIM WORLD

  • Traditions of seclusion may be strong in many Muslim countries (eg. Morocco) but not in all (eg. Indonesia)
  • Similarly, attitudes towards female dress may vary throughout the Muslim world
  • Cultural and religious traditions are sometimes intricately linked although the cultural may be at odds with the religious


FAMILY LIFE

Fatima Heeren describes the Islamic family as:

  • The cradle of human society (where children receive their education)
  • The guardian of natural erotic desires of men and women
  • The breeding place for virtues such as love, kindness and mercy
  • A secure refuge against inward and outward troubles


PERCEPTIONS REVISITED / CONCLUSION

  • In some ways Islam gives women a different role to men’s but this does not mean it is inferior
  • Islam may support arranged marriage but it does not support forced marriage
  • Women have important roles as wives and mothers but this does not mean their role must remain totally focused on the home
  • Hijab can be seen as a positive statement about the status of women
  • Interpretations about ‘beating’ women may vary whilst statements such as ‘Women are the twin halves of men’ raises questions about marriage as a partnership rather than a relationship based on physically imposed male dominance


ISLAM IN BRITAIN

The nature and organisation of the community and some issues related to practising Islam in a secular society.


NOTE

  • According to various estimates there are between 1m and 2m Muslims in Britain (Guardian 17.6.02 stated 1.8m)
  • Most settlement has occurred since WW2
  • In 1915 there were only between 10,000 and 15,000 Muslims in Britain


A UNITED COMMUNITY?

Muslims in Britain are united by their:

  • Belief in one God and in Muhammad as the final prophet of God
  • Submission to God through faith and action
  • Adherence to the Qur’an & Shari’ah
  • Need to ‘fight’ the greater jihad


A DIVIDED COMMUNITY?

Muslims in Britain are divided by:

  • Ethnic allegiances
  • Language and culture
  • Religious and Sectarian differences
  • Age (and length of time spent in Britain)
  • Class
  • Differing responses to life in Britain


THE FIRST MOSQUE

  • After the opening of the Suez canal in 1869 small numbers of Muslim sailors (often from the Yemen) began to settle in sea ports such as Cardiff, Liverpool, South Shields, Hull and London
  • The first mosque was in Cardiff but the first purpose-built mosque was in Woking (1894)
  • Regent’s Park mosque in London was opened in 1977 next to a cultural centre opened in 1944


WHY DID MUSLIMS COME TO BRITAIN?

  • Migration has been a feature of different societies ever since the first humans
  • People tend to migrate for a variety of reasons, some of which are very specific eg. religious persecution or, more general eg. seeking a ‘better way of life’
  • Reasons for migration can be divided into ‘push’ and ‘pull’ factors ie. reasons causing people to leave and reasons linked to them coming to a particular destination


‘PULL’ FACTORS

  • After WW2 there was a need for labour in Britain
  • Their British passports (due to Commonwealth ties) allowed Muslims (and other people) from the Indian sub-continent, in particular, to come to Britain (until immigration acts eg. the 1962 Commonwealth *Immigrants Act and 1971 Immigration Act began to restrict movement)


‘PUSH’ FACTORS

  • Displacement linked to communal violence after the establishment of India and Pakistan in 1948 led some to emigrate to Britain
  • The building of the Mangla dam in Mirpur in the 1960’s displaced about 100,000 people – of whom half came to Britain
  • Africanisation policies in Uganda led to 60,000 Asians being expelled in 1972


ISSUES ARISING

For most it was temporary to begin with, and then began to be permanent.


A CHANGING FOCUS

  • The need for permanent places of worship had to be met.
  • The Islamic education of children needed to be catered for.
  • Issues related to children in schools eg. diet, dress, PE, RE, Assembly, mixed education etc needed to be addressed
  • Dietary needs had to be met


MAKING A PLACE FOR ISLAM IN BRITISH SOCIETY

  • In 1987 Daniele Joly identified two strategies used by Muslims:
  • INTERNAL – establishing institutions to encourage religious practice
  • EXTERNAL – attempting to influence different institutions & individuals to make a space for Muslims in their midst


FIGHTING FOR RIGHTS

At local and national level Muslim individuals and groups fought for recognition of their concerns. For example:

  • In the 1980’s there were concerted attempts to withdraw Muslim schoolchildren from assemblies and RE lessons in a number of Rochdale schools because of concerns over their Christian bias. Such protests helped contribute to RE syllabuses becoming increasingly multi-faith
  • In Altrincham in 1990 two school girls were suspended for wearing head scarves which contributed to increasing public awareness about Islamic dress codes


SCHOOLS

  • One particular area of concern was the existence of state funding for over 7,000 Christian and 25 Jewish schools (1997) whilst Muslim schools (of which there were about 60) were privately funded
  • In 1998, after a 15 year battle for funding, the government announced its support for the first state funded Muslim schools (Islamia in London and Al-Furqan in Birmingham)


YOUNG MUSLIMS

Wattan suggests that Young Muslims have four competing influences on them:

  • The home
  • The mosque
  • School
  • Western society


WOLFE ON MUSLIMS IN BRITAIN

Wolfe identified four different responses of Muslims to living in Britain:

  • Assimilation (as time by adopts values of another culture)
  • Integration
  • Isolation
  • Redefinition


EXAMPLES OF MUSLIM ORGANISATIONS

  • Kalim Siddiqui set up the Muslim Parliament for Muslim concerns to be debated
  • Groups like Islamic Vision seek to educate Muslims and non-Muslims about Islam


ISLAMOPHOBIA

  • As Rana Kabbani highlighted in her book/television programme ‘Letter to Christendom’, there is a long history of misunderstanding and prejudice towards Islam which dates back to the crusader period in the Middle Ages
  • As Muslims have sought to fight for recognition of their concerns the continued existence of Islamophobia has become increasingly evident.
  • Jeremy Bowen’s BBC documentary on Islamophobia in 2001 confirmed continuing negative stereotypes of *Muslims as well as a growth of anti-Muslim/racist attacks
  • American and European responses to 9/11 have contributed to an increased division between the Muslim and non-Muslim world


RADICAL’ RESPONSES

Hostility to ‘the West’ and its value systems has led to the growth of groups such as Al Muhajiroun and Supporters of the Shari’ah who have received much publicity in the media (out of proportion to their support) much to the annoyance of Muslim leaders who regard their presence as damaging to Muslim society in the UK (Guardian. 22.9.01)


A CLASH OF CIVILISATIONS?

  • Since the early 1990’s there has been a growing concern amongst Muslims across the world that the post WW2 ‘Cold War’ has been replaced by an increasingly fragile and deteriorating relationship between the ‘Western’ and Muslim world
  • The events of 9/11 and the resulting ‘war on terror’ has resulted in some people talking about a clash between fundamentally different civilisations.


A NEED FOR BALANCE?

  • Ziauddin Sardar (23.9.01. Observer) has called for the silent Muslim majority to denounce the extremists who have distorted ‘the most sacred concepts of our faith’
  • Akbar Ahmed (17.1.99. Observer) stressed a need for ‘discussion, dialogue and understanding’ in helping to resolve ‘the problems that face Muslims both abroad and here in Britain’


Comments

These notes are aimed at A Level Religious Studies students for the module 'RS10: Islam'.

Originally written by eXis on TSR Forums.

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