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How the Prophet Muhammad Changed the Arab World

(Photo by Jeff Jewiss, Unsplash)

How the Prophet Muhammad Changed the Arab World

At the time of Muhammad’s birth around 570 A.D., Mecca was an important trading city which guarded the trading route between Yemen and Jerusalem. Mecca had also become an important religious center where pilgrims traveled to bring offerings to a wide variety of gods and goddesses housed inside a haram (sanctuary) called the Kaaba (Esposito 3-5). Muhammad’s religious fervor threatened the very foundations of Meccan society because he believed that the worship of the one God, Allah, took precedence over personal prosperity and tribal power.


The ruling tribe of Mecca – the Quraysh – had grown rich, decadent, and powerful. “Only two generations earlier, the Quraysh had lived a harsh nomadic life in the Arabian steppes, like the other Bedouin tribes: each day had required a grim struggle for survival” (Armstrong 132). Their newfound wealth undermined “the old tribal values” of muruwah (communal survival) (Armstrong 132-133), leading the city of Mecca into materialism, greed, and selfishness.


Women, in particular, received harsh treatment in Meccan society. They were considered property and became part of a man’s estate when he died. Male heirs could marry the women, if they so desired, or marry them off to other men without the women’s consent. Men could marry multiple wives and divorce them at will. The birth of a girl was considered a misfortune since a girl could not fight or contribute much to the family’s fortunes. Female infants were buried alive in the desert sand (Salahi 51-52).


The harshness of life in the Arabian desert discounted the possibility of life after death. Once someone died, they remained dead forever. Anyone preaching resurrection was scorned and mocked as a lunatic (Salahi 52). Charity towards orphans, widows, and the poor gradually slipped away, leaving an underclass of helpless beggars who struggled to survive.


Tribal warfare was an accepted part of everyday life, and the richer Mecca became, the more different tribes fought to gain power and wealth. “Muhammad was convinced that unless the Quraysh learned to put another transcendent value at the center of their lives and overcome their egotism and greed, his tribe would tear itself apart morally and politically in internecine strife” (Armstrong 133).

Islam developed out of the tribal tradition that placed the needs of the tribe over the needs of the individual (Armstrong 134-135). Muhammad gradually incorporated modified versions of tribal traditions and beliefs into a new monotheistic religion after he began to have revelations from Allah (the Arabic word for God) when he was 40 years old. He also legitimized his new religion by incorporating modified versions of Jewish and Christian stories into the Qur’an. For example, the Hebrew prophet, Abraham, became the ancestor of the Arabic tribes based on the Old Testament story of Hagar and Ishmael. Ishmael was adopted as the progenitor of the Arabic tribes and, in particular, Muhammad’s own tribe. In the Qur’anic version, it was Ishmael and Abraham who built the Kaaba to honor Allah. It was Muhammad’s view that later peoples and tribes corrupted Abraham’s monotheism by adopting pagan polytheistic gods and goddesses. Muhammad sought to return to (what he perceived to be) the original monotheism and gave special attention to Jews and Christians because of their belief in monotheism. But he also declared his brand of monotheism to be the final religion of God —and himself as the final prophet of God (the Seal of the Prophets) (Salahi 1-21, 125, 289, 583-584, 678-680, 725, 741; Armstrong 140, 152, 154).


The Qur’an prescribed new rules about women, inheritance, and marriage, giving women more autonomy and equality, while preserving the role of men as their protectors. The murder of female infants was outlawed, giving women a special place in Islamic society (Armstrong 157-158). Rules about food, prayer, and relationships between people were addressed. A kinder, charitable, and nobler society was demanded. The bonds of blood, which were so important in tribal Arabia, were replaced by bonds of religious faith. Islam gradually brought together the warring tribes of Arabia into a united political and religious power which sought to spread its leadership and message to the rest of humanity (Salahi 218-219, 377, 518).


The caliphate began after Muhammad’s death when Abu Bakr was chosen khalifa (successor) by members of the Islamic community. After suppressing opposition within their own territory, Abu Bakr’s military campaigns brought the rest of the Arabian Peninsula under Muslim control (Esposito 11). As the caliphate’s military forces grew in numbers and strength, they began to invade both the Sasanian and Byzantine empires, eventually establishing a brand new Islamic Empire in the Near East (Esposito 13). With political power came religious power, and Islam began to spread among non-Arab people.


Political and religious conflicts broke out over how caliphs could claim legitimate leadership. These conflicts led to the First and Second Civil Wars. The Islamic community became permanently split between the Kharijites, who wanted to choose leaders based on piety and righteous behavior; the Shiites, who wanted to elect descendants of the Prophet as leaders; and the Murjia, or Sunnis, who represented mainstream Islam (Esposito 14-18).


By the end of the Second Civil War, the Islamic community had fully defined itself as a monotheistic community, separate from Jews and Christians, which was “engaged in a common effort to establish, in God’s name, a new and righteous regime on earth” (Esposito 19). Political power brought new economic power, and Islamic culture began to flourish throughout the empire. Islamic communities began to exhibit ethnic and racial diversity as new converts were made and local customs and traditions were incorporated into Islamic practice. Distinctive new forms of art and architecture appeared. As the caliphate began to wane, independent states arose which made their own contributions to Islamic culture and law. Family dynasties arose and disappeared. Persian and other languages stood equal to Arabic. Islam was well-established as a major religion (Esposito 59-61).


Muhammad’s quest to transform Mecca into a more just society was the beginning of a new religion and a new social activism that has transformed the Arab world.

References

Armstrong, Karen. A History of God. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1993.
Esposito, John L. The Oxford History of Islam. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.
Salahi, Adil. Muhammad: Man and Prophet. New York: Barnes & Noble, 1995.

Dawn Pisturino

Thomas Edison State University

December 17, 2018; August 17, 2022

Copyright 2018-2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

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The Adulteress – A Poem

The Adulteress

by Dawn Pisturino

“It is the law,” Old Moses cried

A-top the mountain called Sinai;

“And everyone who broke it, died,”

The people in the valley sighed.

“And what of me?” the young girl said,

Shaking her black and tousled head.

“I will not send him from my bed,

Not if the sun becomes blood red!”

She spread her arms as if to fly:

“Not if the moon should leave the sky!

I love him! Strong, yet very shy —

The man whose side I must be by!”

Her husband prayed the whole night through.

“What have I done? What must I do?”

He muttered as the sky turned blue.

The laws were made; they must hold true.

The people gathered with their stones

And broke the young wife’s slender bones.

And when she died with cries and groans,

They turned and heard her husband’s moans.

“The price is paid,” they cried as one.

“The sinful tie has been undone.”

The young man turned, as if to shun,

The righteous crowd whose law had won.

~

September 18, 1986; August 3, 2022

Copyright 1986-2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

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Is the Qur’an a Miracle from God?

The Qur’an (recitation) is considered a miracle by Muslims because it was revealed in perfect classical Arabic (fusha t-turath) to an illiterate (ummi) Arabic man, Muhammad ibn Abdallah, in 610 A.D.  The Qur’an itself challenges disbelievers to create something similar in Surah 17:88: “Say: ‘If the mankind and the jinn were together to produce the like of this Qur’an, they could not produce the like thereof, even if they helped one another’” (Al-Hilali and Khan, 365).

The Qur’an is so miraculous it proves to Muslims that Muhammad was a messenger (rasul) of Allah (God). The Qur’an discusses revelations given to prophets from Adam to Muhammad, and Muhammad is, therefore, considered the last Prophet of God (the Seal of the Prophets). The Qur’an is also viewed as a superior example of classical Arabic literature and the first Arabic book (https://www.al-islam.org/al-serat/vol-14-no1-spring-1988/islam-quran-and-arabic-literature-elsayed-m-h-omran/islam-quran-and). According to Egyptian Arabic teacher Hussein Moussa, “Quranic Arabic is a more eloquent form of fusha (classical Arabic). The equivalent in English is Shakespearean English . . .” (https://www.quora.com/How-different-is-Quranic-Arabic-from-modern-Arabic-language-Which-one-should-I-learn).

The Qur’an is inseparable from Arabic in the same way that Muhammad is inseparable from the Qur’an. All the daily prayers are uttered in classical Arabic. A Muslim’s entire life revolves around the Arabic roots of the Qur’an, no matter which language he or she speaks. In fact, it has been said that the only true words of Allah are found in the Arabic Qur’an.

“Arabic is a delicate language where even the slightest mispronunciation can drastically alter the meaning of a word” (https://www.arabacademy.com/islamic-arabic). Therefore, translating the Qur’an into other languages can alter its meaning entirely. All Muslims are strongly encouraged to learn Qur’anic Arabic in order to discover the true meaning of the Qur’an.

The Arab tribes in pre-Islamic Arabia were devoted to reciting poetry and passing down oral traditions. In fact, “pre-Islamic Arabs took great pride in their language and in articulate and accurate speech, the latter being one of the main requisites for social prominence”) (https://www.al-islam.org/al-serat/vol-14-no1-spring-1988/islam-quran-and-arabic-literature-elsayed-m-h-omran/islam-quran-and).

Muhammad’s oral revelations would have seemed astounding to the people of Mecca. And when the Angel Gabriel ordered him to “Recite” in Surah 96 (Al-Hilali and Khan, 779), Muhammad was following a long-standing tradition of the Arab tribes. The language of the Qur’an is considered so beautiful and unique that “no human speech can match the Quran and its content and form” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quran).

Tajwid is the “art of Quran recitation” (http://www.oxfordislamicstudies.com/article/opr/t125/e2317). Tajwid determines how each syllable of the Qur’an is pronounced in Arabic; how long and short pauses are placed; whether letters are sounded together or separate; how consonants and vowels are pronounced; and the art of recitation using musical and poetic expression. Diacritical markings (tashkil) on the Arabic letters indicate where and when to use these rules. Tajwid is to recited Arabic what elocution is to classical singers.

Early in his prophethood, Muhammad captivated listeners with the beauty and power of Qur’anic language. “Many were converted [to Islam] on the spot, believing that God alone could account for the extraordinary beauty of the language” (Armstrong 145). Converts who memorized and recited the Qur’an were “interiorizing the inner rhythms, sound patterns, and textual dynamics – taking it to heart in the deepest manner” (Sells 11).

The Qur’an’s message, above all else, is the supremacy and oneness (tawhid) of God (Allah). All humans are dependent on the will of Allah. It was Allah’s will to create humans, and it will be Allah’s will to determine when humans die and resurrect.

The second most important message in the Qur’an is the coming Day of Judgment, when all humans will be judged according to their actions. The earth will be thrown into upheaval and chaos. A spiritual battle will ensue between Satan and God, and Jesus and the Mahdi will re-appear (http://www.oxfordislamicstudies.com/article/opr/t125/e513).

Muhammad’s role as Prophet was to be Allah’s messenger and the interpreter of Allah’s revelations (http://www.al-islam.org). Over 23 years, Muhammad revealed important guidelines about daily life, social justice and law, and reverence for God. He laid the foundation for the basic tenets of Islam—the Five Pillars of Islam and the Six Pillars of Faith—which were later formalized in the Hadith of Gabriel (Esposito 77-88). His revelations continually reminded people (dhikr) to do the things loved by Allah. After his death, the teachings of the Qur’an and the way of life exemplified by Muhammad and his Companions came to be known as the sunna. Later on, these were supplemented by verified sayings and events of the Prophet remembered by others (hadith). Altogether, these three components formed the basis of Islamic law (sharia) (http://www.oxfordbibliographies,com/view/document/obo-9780195390155/0b0-9780195390155-9983.xml).

The exoteric (outer – tafsir) literal meaning of the Qur’an is enhanced by an esoteric (inner – ta’wil) experience of the Qur’an. But this experience and interpretation must only be done by qualified individuals, according to Surah 3:7 in the Qur’an (Al-Hilali and Khan, 75). Sufism is the esoteric branch of Islam and relies heavily on mysticism and “the ancient wisdom of the heart” (https://goldensufis.org/a_meditation_of_heart.html). Early Sufis identified so completely with Allah that many were executed for blasphemy. A well-known Sufi was the poet Rumi, who incorporated ayahs (verses) from the Qur’an into his Persian poetry.

Internet Sources – incorporated into the body of the post

Al-Hilali, Muhammad Taqi-ud-Din, and Khan, Muhammad Muhsin. Interpretation of the    

       Meanings of the Noble Qur’an in the English Language, 15th ed. Riyadh: Darussalam, 1996.

Armstrong, Karen. A History of God. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1993.

Esposito, John L. The Oxford History of Islam. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Sells, Michael. Approaching the Qur’an. Ashland: White Cloud Press, 2007.

Dawn Pisturino

Thomas Edison State University

December 26, 2018; June 1, 2022

Copyright 2018-2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

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The Five Pillars of Islam

(The Kaaba, Mecca, Saudi Arabia, during Hajj)

The heart of Islam is the Five Pillars of Islam (arkan al-Islam). These are the five obligations all Muslims must perform. Revealed by the Angel Gabriel to Muhammad, these five obligations appear in the Qur’an and the hadith, and in particular, the Hadith of Gabriel (hadith jibril). 

Shahadah (or witness) “is the first and most important pillar in that it requires the individual to recognize and believe that there is no God but God and Prophet Muhammad is the Messenger of God.” Before Muhammad received his revelations, the people of Mecca worshipped over 360 idols that were enshrined in the Kaaba. Besides these idols, the Arabs believed that “Allah was the invisible God, creator of the Universe, and above all the others.” Muhammad’s mission was to bring the Arabic people back to monotheism.

The believer who recites the shahadah makes a covenant with God based on four conditions. In the first condition, the believer affirms the Oneness of Allah (Tauhid-ar-Rububiyyah). In the second condition, the believer acknowledges that only Allah is worthy of worship (Tauhid-al-Uluhiyyah). In the third condition, the believer agrees that the names and qualities of Allah cannot be changed or attributed to others (Tauhid-al-Asma was-Sifat). In the fourth condition, the believer confirms that Muhammad is the Messenger of God.

Salah (the five daily prayers) are incumbent upon all Muslims after the onset of puberty. “The prayers . . .  are spread throughout the day as a reminder to Muslims of their true purpose in life, which is the obedience and worship of God.” In Muslim countries, a Muezzin calls the people to prayer from a minaret attached to the mosque. Since the five daily prayers are recited in Arabic, Muslims are strongly encouraged to learn Qur’anic Arabic.

Before prayer, believers ritually purify themselves with water or clean sand (wudu) or a full bath (ghusl). During prayers, Muslims face the direction of Mecca and the Great Mosque (al-Masjid al-Haram). The body positions required during prayer force believers to reaffirm their dependence on and obedience to God. “Prayer is . . . the quintessential act of submission to God and the main proof of Islam.”

Friday, right after noon, is the day when all Muslims gather for congregational prayer (juma) at the mosque. Men and women are segregated “so that there is no temptation that can interfere in the worship.” A strict dress code is observed by women, which requires them to cover their heads, arms, and legs.

Fasting during the month of Ramadan (saum) is the third pillar of Islam. All Muslims who have reached puberty are obligated to perform this fast. The Ramadan fast commemorates “the day in which the Qur’an was first revealed to Prophet Muhammad.” The fast was prescribed in the Qur’an, Surah 2:183: “O, you who believe! Observing As-saum (the fasting) is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become Al-Muttaqun (the pious).”

Although the fast is difficult (believers must abstain from food, water, and sex from dawn to dusk), they honor it “as both a purifactory act of sacrifice and an affirmation of ethical awareness.” Suffering thirst and hunger during Ramadan reminds believers to remember the poor and needy when performing zakat (giving charitable alms). “The larger principle [however] is the total awareness and submission to God.”

Zakat (charitable alms) is the fourth pillar of Islam. Muslims believe that it is “the act of giving in charity that leads to the purification of . . . money, and this altruism of giving to others does not contribute to its diminution but to its increase.” In other words, sharing with others in remembrance of Allah increases the blessings received from Allah. Muslims are required annually to donate 1/40th of their excess wealth to charitable causes. Charitable acts which also qualify as zakat include kindness to others, preventing evil, and promoting the general good.

The fifth pillar of Islam is the Hajj (the pilgrimage to Mecca). “Muslims are required to perform the Hajj at least once in their lifetime if they are capable physically and financially of doing so.” According to the Qur’an (2:127-219), Abraham and his firstborn son, Ishmael, built the Kaaba. Allegedly, Allah taught Abraham the rituals of the Hajj and “required [mankind] to make the pilgrimage to that House.”

The rituals of the Hajj commemorate the story of Abraham, Hagar, and their son, Ishmael. When pilgrims run back and forth between the two hills (As-Safa and Al-Marawah), they are remembering Hagar’s search for water. When pilgrims throw three stones at the pillars of stone representing Satan, they are reminded of Satan’s attempts “to dissuade Abraham from sacrificing his son.” The sacrificing of a sheep or ram at the end of Hajj honors the Angel’s intervention in stopping Abraham from sacrificing his son, Ishmael, and the appearance of a sheep to take his place. Over a period of ten days, pilgrims “re-enact those traditions passed on from Abraham through subsequent generations and continued by Prophet Muhammad.”

Circumambulating the Kaaba is one of the most important traditions of the Hajj, for it “symbolizes the believer’s entry into the divine presence.” The entire purpose of the Hajj is to remind pilgrims of their submission to God.

The Five Pillars of Islam are the external rituals which set Islam apart from other religions. The rituals are meant to evoke a constant reminder of God (dhikr) and to affirm the Oneness of God.

Dawn Pisturino

Thomas Edison State University

January 17, 2019; May 31, 2022

Copyright 2019-2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

Please contact author for sources.

28 Comments »

Afghanistan and the War on Terrorism

(Photo from The Guardian)

Afghanistan and the War on Terrorism

       Fighting terrorism is a different situation than fighting a conventional war because it is not about one nation in conflict with another nation.  Terrorists embody an ideology which conflicts with established culture and values.  In the case of Afghanistan and Al Qaeda, radical interpretations of Islam were used to recruit jihadists to wage guerilla warfare against all people in the West and even other Muslims who did not agree with their interpretation (9-11 Commission, 2004, pg. 55-68).   This defies both the jus ad bellum and jus in bellum traditional requirements for just war.

Jean Bethke Elshtain and the War on Terrorism

       Osama bin Laden fought as a freedom fighter (mujahideen) in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union.  After the Russians were driven out of the country, he organized the terrorist group, Al Qaeda.  The CIA did not become aware of Al Qaeda and its leader until 1996-1997 (9-11 Commission, 2004, pg. 55-68).  After the August 7, 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, Osama bin Laden became one of the FBI’s “most wanted fugitives” (Haddow, Bullock, & Coppola, 2017, pg. 390).  After the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, President George W. Bush ordered the creation of the Department of Homeland Security with Executive Order No. 13228 on October 8, 2001 (Exec. Order No. 13,228, 2001, pg. 51812). 

       Although Osama bin Laden and the majority of 9/11 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia, the Al Qaeda training camps were located in Afghanistan.  In fact, forces within Afghanistan and Pakistan were collaborating with the terrorists.  Al Qaeda also had the support of regular citizens in both Afghanistan and Pakistan who felt a strong hatred for the United States.  The Taliban, a fundamentalist Islamic group, had taken over large parts of Afghanistan and supported the use of terror against the West (9/11 Commission, 2004, pg. 47-68).

       Invading Afghanistan was a natural response to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.  But the U.S. military should have stayed focused on destroying the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan before embarking on a war in Iraq, especially since the 9/11 Commission found no involvement by Iraq with the attacks on the World Trade Center (9-11 Commission, 2004, pg. 47-80).  Imposing economic sanctions on Pakistan instead of giving them economic aid, in my opinion, might have yielded results sooner.

       The invasion of Afghanistan was justified, from the point of view of Jean Bethke Elshtain, because “those who launched the 9/11 attacks cannot be reasoned with, in the manner the ‘humanists’ would like – and that no change in U.S. policy would have that effect – for the simple reason that: they loathe us because of who we are and what our society represents” (Rengger, 2018, pg. 220-221).

What Role did the U.S. have in Afghanistan Beyond Military Action?

       “In October 2001, the United States of America initiated air strikes on Afghanistan, followed by a ground offensive called Operation Enduring Freedom, to topple the Taliban government and drive out Al Qaeda forces hosted in Afghanistan following the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States” (Bella, Giacca, & Casey-Maslen, 2011, pg. 47, 48).  A new government was installed, and with a new regime in control, U.S. troops became peacekeepers, which undermined the original military offensive.  Al Qaeda and the Taliban continued to push back at the expense of American troops.  Although bin Laden was finally killed in 2011, this did not extinguish Al Qaeda or the Taliban.  The U.S. concentrated on re-building Afghanistan, and a new terrorist threat emerged under President Obama: ISIS.

       Elshtain believed that the United States’ War on Terrorism was just because “the United States must take the lead – not alone, to be sure – but it must take the lead in defending human dignity. ‘As the world’s superpower’”” (Rengger, 2018, pg. 221).  If the United States failed in Afghanistan, in my opinion, it is because we lost sight of our goal to destroy the terrorist camps and the power of the terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan.  By not going in and finishing the job, the United States left itself open for more terrorist attacks on American soil, especially since the Taliban now control Afghanistan.

Given the Larger Human Rights Implication that Elshtain Addresses, what Role did the World at Large have in Combating Terrorism?

       Few countries in the world have been left untouched by terrorism, whether it is direct terrorist attacks or taking in refugees from war-torn countries.  For security reasons alone, the United Nations and all countries in the world should be working together to address the issue – which certainly will not go away anytime soon.

       Ultimately, it is the non-combatant citizens who suffer the most when terrorists are wreaking havoc in a country.  According to Amnesty International (2011): “The Taliban and related insurgent groups in Afghanistan show little regard for human rights and the laws of war and systematically and deliberately target civilians, aid workers, and civilian facilities like schools (particularly girls’ schools)” (Bella, Giacca, & Casey-Maslen, 2011, pg. 51).

       The larger humanitarian issues of violence, refugees, homelessness, poverty, and starvation affect all nations in one way or another, and all nations have a moral obligation to address it.  Elshtain called it the “principle of equal regard, faced with a terrible situation, an enormity, one is obliged to think about what is happening, and to conclude that the people dying are human beings and as such equal in moral regard to us” (Dissent, 2005, pg. 60).                                                                                                                                         

References

9-11 Commission. (2004). 9-11 Commission report. Retrieved from

https://www.9-11Commission.gov/report

Bellal, A., Giacca, G., Casey-Maslen, C. (2011, March). International law and armed non-state 

       actors in afghanistan. International Review of the Red Cross 93(881), 47-79.

       Retrieved from https://www.corteidh.or.cr/tablas/r27089.pdf

Dissent, The Editors. (2005, Summer). Interview with jean bethke elshtain. Dissent. Retrieved

       from http://www.dissentmagazine.org/wp-content/files_mf/1390329368d1Interview.pdf

Exec. Order No. 13228, 66 Fed. Reg. 196 (October 10, 2001)

Haddow, G.D., Bullock, J.A., & Coppola, D.P. (2017). Introduction to emergency management.

       (6th ed.). Cambridge, MA: Elsevier

Rengger, N. (2018). Jean bethke elshtain (1941-2013). In D.R. Brunstetter & C. O’Driscoll

       (Eds.), Just war thinkers: From cicero to the 21st century (216-226). Abingdon, Oxon: 

       Routledge

Dawn Pisturino

Thomas Edison State University

December 23, 2021; April 1, 2022

Copyright 2021-2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

5 Comments »

God is Great – a Short Story

Pixabay/WEBSI

(NOTE: Fear and misunderstanding occur any time two cultures come together and clash. I tried to show that in this short story. No offense was intended to any culture or religion.)

~

The sand was blowing so hard against the windshield, he could barely see where he was going. Catching a glimpse of white at the side of the road, he cautiously turned the SUV onto the rough, sand-blown driveway of a small combination gas station and convenience store. He parked in front of the store, uncomfortably aware of the bright neon beer signs in the window. Turning off the engine, he leaned back in the seat, listening to the howling wind as the vehicle rocked gently back and forth.

“Well, that’s it,” he said quietly, looking anxiously at his wife. “We’ll have to wait out the storm. Insh’allah – God willing – it will pass quickly.” He reached over and squeezed her hand reassuringly.

She gave him a forced smile, her beautiful dark eyes marred with worry. The baby stirred in the infant seat behind her and began to cry.

“He’s hungry,” she said, unbuckled her seat belt, and turned around to check on the fussy infant. “He needs to be changed.”

The other child in the back seat, a boy of five with sleepy black eyes and a mop of thick black hair, leaned dully against the window, thumb in mouth, unmindful of the blowing hot sand. The woman placed a hand on his forehead.

“He’s still hot,” she said to her husband.

“He needs medicine,” he answered, looking at his watch. “Let’s go inside. We’ll take care of the children in there. It’s already 1:00. We can spread our prayer rugs on the floor and give thanks to Allah for guiding us to this place.”

His wife nodded obediently and pulled her black dupatta closer around her face.

* * *

“Hey, Roy, look at that!”

Blanche Carter suddenly perked up behind the cash register and nodded her permed gray head in the direction of the front door. The beer-belly cowboy leaning lazily against the counter lifted the brim of his black cowboy hat and turned to look.

“What the heck!” he exclaimed, rising to his full six feet.

“Roy,” the cashier said in a low voice. “Do you still have that gun on ya?”

He peeled back the left side of his black leather vest to show her a stiff leather gun holster nestled under his armpit. With his right hand, he unsnapped the top, giving him free access to the small handgun, if the need arose.

“Don’t worry, Blanche,” he grinned. “You’e safe with me.”

“Thank God,” she said gratefully.

They watched intently as a little man with dark skin and hair wrestled with the heavy glass door, making the cowbells hanging from the handle clang furiously. Behind him, the wind tore fiercely at a small woman draped head-to-toe in black. The man held the door open against the wind, and the woman stumbled inside, her black robes flapping, her face nearly invisible in the black folds. A loud wailing competed with the howling wind, and the woman threw back her complicated drapery to reveal an infant carrier heavily swathed with blankets, a blue diaper bag slung over one shoulder, and a small boy clinging desperately to her skirts.

Blanche narrowed her eyes at the spectacle, clenching her jaw and fists. Resisting the urge to spit on the floor, she glared at the woman angrily, feeling a thick wall of resistance rise between them.

As the dark little man cautiously approached the counter, she saw that he carried what looked like a bundle of rugs under one arm and a wicker picnic basket under the other.

“Good day, ma’am . . . sir . . .” he said politely, bowing his head, fear betrayed in his large dark eyes. “If you please, I need some liquid medicine for my son.”

Blanche waited silently for Roy to respond. She was aware that he shifted his weight slightly to create a solid barrier between her and the timid little man. A large American flag was embroidered on the back of his vest, the familiar image giving her hope and comfort. Roy was a proud American, even if he did whore around and drink too much, and he would handle the situation the way he saw fit.

“Over there,” Roy said gruffly, waving his hand to the right.

“Thank you, sir,” the little man said. “I am most grateful. Alhamdu lillah – praise be to God – for your kindness.”

Roy said nothing. But Blanche saw his body stiffen and the whiteness of his big, flabby hands as they curled tightly into fists.

Blanche wanted to scream, Get your stuff and get out! But she was afraid they would complain to the owner of the store, and she would lose her job. It was the only job available for miles around, and she couldn’t afford to lose it. Most of the desert rats around there who bothered to work a steady job commuted to Phoenix. But Blanche was too old and tired to make that long, hot journey every day. She bit her lip and glared, feeling hostile and afraid.

But it don’t make it right, she fumed bitterly. These furriners come to this here country takin’ good jobs away from law-abidin’ Americans — and we jes’ have to put up with it! The government don’t do nothin’. The country’s goin’ down the tubes anyway. That money-grubbin’ TV evangelist, Graham Robertson, is right — the end times are here, and Jesus is comin’! Won’t that be a blast! He’ll give these heathens a run fer their money. Praise be to God! Ain’t He great?

A picture of global disaster — vividly described in the Book of Revelations — filled her limited imagination. She clearly saw the destruction of the world, the cries of the damned, the end of Israel and the Middle East. But what did she care? She attended services every Sunday at Reverend Boyd’s home (there wasn’t enough money in the collection plate to build a church), fervently believed in Jesus as the true Savior of the world, and diligently read her Bible every day. She was one of The Saved!

When the Rapture comes, she thought with satisfaction, I’ll be carried up to Heaven on the wings of a dove with all the rest of The Elect. I won’t even be here when Armageddon comes! Lord Jesus, do your stuff!

She cackled suddenly with glee. “Hey, Roy, lighten up a little and show the man where the medicine is.”

Roy turned and glared at her. What the heck? his eyes said.

Blanche smiled and shrugged her shoulders. “It’s good customer service.”

  • * * *

Ayesha looked at the big fat man with the black cowboy hat, faded blue jeans, and pointed cowboy boots and trembled with fear. This man is dangerous, she thought. Please, Allah, protect us from harm!

She felt the intense hostility emanating like a deadly radiation from the wrinkled up, gray-haired old woman behind the cash register, but she had felt that before from similar women in other parts of Arizona. She knew it originated from fear, and she expected it.

But the man was something different. He looked at her husband with hard, dark eyes — pig eyes, she thought — and he was so big! He dwarfed her husband, making Mahmood appear small and helpless. A terrible sense of foreboding seized her. They were so alone and vulnerable in this desolate pig-sty of a town. Was there even a town? Or was this all?

She wished they had never come on this trip. They could’ve spent the weekend at home, safe, sound, and secure. But Mahmood was feeling restless after being on call all week at the hospital and wanted to get away for the weekend. Let’s do something fun, he had pleaded, convincing her with boyish black eyes lit up with excitement. He worked so hard and was such a good provider, she couldn’t turn him down. So they had booked a room at a fancy hotel and spa in Phoenix and started out early in the morning.

The wind was blowing even then, but not like now! The last few miles had been torture, Mahmood driving at a snail’s pace, trying desperately to follow the broken yellow lines in the center of the road and the solid white line at the edge. They had stopped several times along the way and waited for the hot, sandy wind to abate. But it only seemed to grow worse.

Ayesha was afraid, but she kept her feelings to herself. The baby had slept most of the way, and five-year-old Akbar, who was usually so energetic, seemed to droop in the back seat. She finally realized that he was sick. He looked at her with glazed eyes, oblivious to the fearful wind, and finally fell asleep with his chin hanging down on his chest. When she touched his forehead with her hand, it felt hot and damp. The poor boy was sweating despite the air conditioning inside the SUV. Ayesha was worried.

The big fat cowboy moved now, scowling as he showed Mahmood the display of cold medicines, allergy tablets, boxes of generic headache pills, and bottles of liquid medicine. Mahmood chose the appropriate bottle, thanked the big fat man, and headed for the counter.

Ayesha relaxed a little when the old woman smiled at Mahmood and cheerfully rang up the purchase. She spied the restroom sign on the wall and carried the infant into the women’s bathroom, her older son trailing close behind.

  • * * *

Roy stroked the rough stubble on his chin and shook his head in disbelief. What the heck has gotten into Blanche? He knew she resented these foreign intruders as much as he did. But suddenly, she had decided to be POLITE and SERVE them! Was she just afraid? Hadn’t he reassured her that he would handle any trouble that came up? Obviously, she didn’t believe him. Did she think he was just another ordinary American kow-towing to these vermin who were infesting his beloved country while the government stood by and did nothing? He would show her, alright! He might be the last of a dying breed, but he would go down fighting — just like his brother did in Desert Storm.

He had been mighty proud of his brother Eddie for joining the Army and going off to the Gulf to kick Saddam Hussein’s rotten behind. He had even been proud when his brother came home in a body bag. After all, he had died bravely in battle and would receive a Purple Heart. Roy’s heart had nearly bust wide open in his chest, he was so proud. But when President Bush Senior had pulled back the troops and ended the war before finishing their God-given job to destroy that monster Saddam Hussein, he had raged with fury, going so far as to beat his wife Gladys black and blue. She had left him not long after that, fearing for her life, and he had raged even more, going on a drunken spree that lasted two weeks.

When he woke up finally in a detox unit in Phoenix, he had vowed not only to straighten himself out, temporarily, but to hate the American government that had betrayed his brother and all the other soldiers who had given their lives in the Gulf War.

After his release from the detox unit, Roy contacted all his neighbors and formed The People’s Militia. They erected a rustic shooting range in the isolated wash way back in the hills, where they met every Saturday morning for target practice. Beneath the floorboards of an abandoned barn, they constructed an underground bunker, where they were slowly gathering quite a stockpile of water, food, explosives, firearms, and ammunition. He had learned how to do this from some Mormons down in Showlow, who were preparing for the end of the world. But Roy and his gang had already agreed to begin their own reign of terror if the government didn’t get its act together. They would call themselves the Warriors of Allah and blame their crimes on the large Arab population in Phoenix. The whole idea had belonged to Jed Turlock. Now who would have thought that a grizzly old man like Jed could come up with such a brilliant idea?

  • * * *

Mahmood spread the small woolen prayer rugs, bearing woven images of the Ka’ba in Mecca, onto the hard linoleum floor in front of the cooler containing gallon jugs of milk, quart bottles of orange juice, boxes of butter, and packages of cheese. He hurried to the men’s restroom to perform the ritual ablutions, which involved purifying various parts of the body with water, then returned to wait for his wife to finish breast-feeding the baby and toileting the eldest boy, Akbar. He removed his shoes and knelt down on a prayer rug to give thanks to God.

His wife Ayesha presently returned with the children. The baby was quiet now, and she placed the infant carrier on the floor in front of a prayer rug, where she could keep a watchful eye. She measured out a dose of liquid medicine into the small plastic cup attached to the top of the medicine bottle, managed to get it into the elder boy, removed his shoes, and encouraged him to lie down on one of the rugs to take a nap. Then she removed her own simple shoes and stood quietly, waiting for her husband to begin the prayers.

He stood up and cupped both hands behind his ears, crying, “Allahu Akbar!” (God is Great!) Then, crossing his arms across his chest, he proceeded to chant, the sacred Arabic words rolling with melodic harmony out of his mouth. His wife mimicked his motions but remained silent.

Bismillah-i-Rahman-ir-Raheem.” (In the name of God, the Benevolent, the Merciful.)

Alhamdu-lillah-i-Rabbil’aalameen-ar-Rahman-ir-Rahim . . .” (Praise be to God, Lord of the Universe, the Benevolent, the Merciful . . .)

  • * * *

Blanche couldn’t believe her ears. Horrified by the sounds of heathens performing pagan prayers on Christian territory, she motioned to Roy to sneak around to the back of the store and stand guard at the end of the aisle. Fascinated by this strange turn of events, she adjusted the security camera so that it pointed directly down on the devout couple. She wanted to act as witness against their treacherous performance and capture them on tape.

Qul hu-Allahu Ahad, Allahu-Samad . . .” (Say: He is Allah, the One — Allah, the eternal . . .) The dark little man chanted loudly and earnestly with poetic rhythm, pouring his heart out to heaven.

Blanche was about to spew out her indignation when the musical chanting seemed to capture her soul, calming her turbulent spirits. She kept her eyes glued to the video monitor, listening intently, not understanding the ancient Arabic words, but responding to their holy sound, mesmerized by the rhythmic chant.

  • * * *

What kind of voodoo is this, Roy muttered silently to himself as he followed Blanche’s prompting and strode quietly to the rear of the store. He mentally stuffed his ears with cotton, refusing to listen to the foreign mumbo jumbo. After all, who knew what hexes and curses these people could place on him and Blanche? Everybody knew they had spread their religion across Asia and parts of Europe with the sword. Maybe now, with Saddam Hussein dead and Osama bin Laden on the run, they were resorting to witchcraft. Anything was possible, right?

He planted himself in the center of the aisle and watched from behind as the man and woman bent forward at the waist, placing their hands on their knees.

Subhana Rabbiyal-Azeem!” (How glorious is God, the Great!)

Roy sucked in his breath as reverently, deliberately, the man and woman continued their prayers, then fell humbly to their knees and prostrated themselves across their prayer rugs, their heads touching the ground.

Subhana Rabbiyal-a’la.” (All glory be to God, the Most High.)

Roy’s muscles tensed, and his stomach twisted, making him want to puke. He felt the waves of bitter anger rise up into his throat. He covered his ears with his hands, squeezed his eyes shut, and silently pleaded, Please, God, make it stop!

Then he turned to Blanche and hissed, “Make them stop, Blanche, make them stop!” But she only ignored him, spellbound, her eyes glued to the video monitor, her face shining, her eyes serene and far away.

They’ve got Blanche, he thought frantically. He took a step forward and shouted, “Stop!” But they only ignored him and began the sequence of prayer all over again.

Allahu Akbar!

Once more, Roy covered his ears with his hands, the fear and anxiety growing steadily inside him, making his heart race and his head pound. He saw his brother’s face in his mind, heard his voice in his ears, remembered the casket draped with an American flag lowered into the ground.

He died for his country, his mother said softly, wiping away the tears from her eyes. He was so brave!

He died for nothing! Roy shouted inside. Here’s the proof!

Qul a’oothoo bi rabbin nas . . .” (Say: I seek refuge in the Sustainer of Mankind . . .)

Roy thought of his brother rotting in the grave, a formless mass of flesh and bones, gone forever — and the family he had left behind. His beautiful, faithful wife, who had cried on Roy’s shoulder at the funeral. The pretty little girl with blonde pigtails who had grown up bitter and destroyed herself with drugs. The baby boy raised without a father who had run off to San Francisco at the age of sixteen, declaring himself gay.

Allahu Akbar!

More bowing at the waist. Roy slipped his right hand inside his vest and fingered the smooth end of the handgun under his arm. This is my country, he silently declared. And my God is the only god.

The man and his wife were kneeling again, ready to fall forward on the ground. Slowly, ever so slowly, Roy drew the shiny handgun from its holster and pointed it at the dark-skinned little man lying prostrate on the ground. As the man raised himself again to a kneeling position, Roy aimed the pistol at the back of the little man’s head.

Allahu Akbar!”

With a steady hand, Roy concentrated hard and slowly began to squeeze the trigger. But suddenly, clang! The cowbells hanging on the front door began to loudly ring as the heavy glass door burst open and the local sheriff came through the door.

“Thank God that wind has stopped,” he exclaimed, brushing the sand from his uniform. “Blanche! Where the heck are you?”

Assalamu ‘alaikum wa rahmatu’ allah.” (The peace and mercy of Allah be upon you.)

Startled, Roy lowered the gun and shoved it quickly back into its holster. He saw Blanche shake her head, wake up from her reverie, and tear herself away from the video monitor.

“Did you say the storm was over?” she asked blankly.

“See for yourself,” the sheriff said. “How about filling up my thermos with hot coffee?”

“Right away.”

Roy headed for the men’s restroom, his hands shaking, his legs weak and wobbly. My God, he thought in horror, nearly wetting his pants. My God, my God, what was I about to do?

  • * * *

Insh’allah, the storm is over,” Mahmood said with relief, rolling up his prayer rug.

“I’m so happy!” Ayesha said, giving him a big grin. She roused the older boy from his nap and felt his forehead. It was cool and dry. “Everything will be okay now. Allahu Akbar!

Dawn Pisturino

October 31, 2007

Copyright 2007-2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

15 Comments »

World Prayers for Peace

(Krishna plays his flute)

Hindu Prayer for Peace

Oh God, lead us from the unreal to the Real.

Oh God, lead us from darkness to light.

Oh God, lead us from death to immortality.

Shanti, Shanti, Shanti unto all.

O Lord God Almighty, may there be peace in Celestial regions.

May there be peace on earth.

May the waters be appeasing.

May herbs be wholesome, and may trees and plants bring peace to all.

May all beneficent beings bring peace to us.

May thy Vedic Law propagate peace all through the world.

May all things be a source of peace to us.

And may thy peace itself bestow peace on all.

And may that peace come to me also.

Shanti, Shanti, Shanti Om.

~

Buddhist Metta Prayer

May all beings be peaceful.

May all beings be happy.

May all beings be safe.

May all beings awaken to the light of their true nature.

May all beings be free.

~

Prayer of St. Francis

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Amen.

A Jewish Prayer for Peace

Come, let us go to the mountain of the Lord, that we may walk the paths of the Most High.

And we shall beat our swords into ploughshares and our spears into pruning hooks.

Nation shall not lift up sword against nation; neither shall they learn war any more.

And none shall be afraid, for the mouth of the Lord of Hosts has spoken.

~

Muslim Prayer for Peace

O God! O our master!

You are eternal life and everlasting peace by Your essence and attributes.

The everlasting peace is from You and it returns to You.

O our Sustainer!

Grant us the life of true peace and usher us into the abode of peace.

O Glorious and Bounteous One!

You are blessed and sublime.
~

(Sitarist Ravi Shankar’s Aman Manch (National Peace Forum) performed by Anoushka Shankar (daughter)

Peace be with you all!

Dawn Pisturino

January 18, 2022

20 Comments »

Radical Islamic Bullies

While discussing the liberation of Afghanistan from the Soviet Union, many people fail to understand that Osama bin Laden was one of the freedom fighters (mujahideen) who helped to defeat the Soviets. The United States backed these freedom fighters economically and militarily.

Afghanistan is where bin Laden and his followers learned to use weapons, engage in guerilla warfare, and the art of making bombs. Bin Laden — a Saudi Islamic fundamentalist — objected to the presence of U.S. military bases on “holy soil” in Saudi Arabia. He organized the terrorist group Al-Qaeda to fight westernization in Muslim countries and the U.S. itself. It was Saudis linked to Al-Qaeda who slammed into the World Trade Center on 9/11.

President Bill Clinton and the CIA warned the American people about Al-Qaeda, but people did not know enough about radical Islam to understand. Nor could they imagine such a terrible thing happening.

Instead of addressing the problem head on, President Bush invaded Iraq and avoided any major military action against Al-Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan, where their camps were actually located. This was incomprehensible to many people. (If he was going to break international law and invade a country, it should have been Afghanistan.)

Under President Obama’s watch, bin Laden was finally killed and Al-Qaeda temporarily dispersed. But another threat emerged: ISIS. They announced their presence to the world through video-taped beheadings of Western journalists and other unlucky victims. Instead of taking these horrific actions seriously, Europe failed to act, and President Obama laughed and called them “J.V.” Realistically, the western world should have acted after the first beheading.

NO RADICAL ISLAMIC GROUP CAN BE WRITTEN OFF AS NOTHING BECAUSE ALL OF THESE GROUPS ARE WILLING TO USE VIOLENCE AND A CALL TO ISLAMIC UNITY AND PURITY TO PROMOTE THEIR AGENDAS. The media either downplays these groups or portrays them as “victims” of colonialism, even though European colonialism ended a long time ago. In point of fact, the Islamic governments which arose after colonialism puppet governments failed, are the real culprits.

The Muslim world has been uniquely divided against itself since the time of the the Prophet Muhammad. Westernization, which brought many countries into the 20th century, has been rejected over and over again when fundamentalist regimes have taken power. In Afghanistan, the Taliban were allowed to take over, resulting in an extreme form of Islamic oppression. The media – and the current Biden administration – does a poor job of reporting on situations like this. The realities of these events are so far removed from American life that people cannot comprehend the horrors of daily life for people in Afghanistan. Before the fall of Kabul, a poll revealed that 75% of the Afghanistan population hated the Taliban. People who were desperate to leave the country died, trying to get on airplanes leaving the airport.

Terrorism on U.S. soil was not as active under President Trump because he was proactive in preventing it. But in Europe, the media still tends to downplay any connection to radical Islamic terrorism when something happens because of the large numbers of Muslim refugees who have been allowed into European countries.

When an act of radical Islamic terrorism occurs — wherever it occurs — people need to know who did it and why. Trying to sweep it under the rug is just ignoring the problem. For example, the goal of ISIS (and Al-Qaeda and the Taliban and other, lesser-known groups) is to re-establish the caliphate in the Middle East. Although this sounds unrealistic to most people, it is a rallying point for ISIS and these other groups in recruiting new members. Referring back to the glory days of Islamic civilization gives down-trodden, oppressed people pride and hope for the future. ISIS – and these other groups – employs technology experts and does much of its recruiting on the Dark Web. The media does not report on this enough.

In reality, some Muslims DO become radicalized. Some of them DO become involved in violent terrorism. Some Americans have been seduced into joining radical Islamic terrorist groups. The media – and our government – has a responsibility to report fully and truthfully on this. Instead, President Biden plans to send $65 million to the Taliban in Afghanistan under the guise of helping the women and children of this war-torn country. The people will never see a dime of that money. Just like the U.S. military left behind $85 billion of weapons and other military equipment for the Taliban to use, the money will be spent on a terrorist government and terrorist activities. Biden has already allowed unvetted Afghanistanis to leave the country as refugees. Nobody knows how many are actual terrorists in disguise.

When we have politicians like Senator Krysten Sinema encouraging Americans to fight with the Taliban; government officials like John Kerry weaponizing terrorist countries like Iran (the leading country when it comes to financing terrorism); and presidents like Obama and Biden kissing terrorists’ asses, the American people are sitting ducks for violence, torture, and death.

Islamic fundamentalists are bullies. And they don’t care what you and I think about it. They are hate-filled, ideology-driven idealists determined to fulfill a goal – the Islamization of the whole world. Groups in America that became influential under the Obama-Biden regime are the Muslim Brotherhood (a well-known terrorist organization that was given access to the White House on numerous occasions under Obama), CAIR (The Council on American-Islamic Relations), and the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). These three groups are all connected.

Are all Muslims terrorists? Of course not, and the good ones should not be confused with the bad ones. But we know who the bad ones are, and it is unacceptable and completely unthinkable that our political leaders are negotiating and doing business with these guys. Even worse, it is total incompetence when the CIA and the FBI become aware of active groups and fail to act. The heads of these organizations should be immediately fired when something happens.

Finally, it is up to the American people to educate themselves and demand change from our own government.

Dawn Pisturino

Thomas Edison State University

February 5, 2019; updated September 13, 2021

Copyright 2019-2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

5 Comments »

Andalusia Spain: The Flower of Islamic Civilization

When Tariq ibn Ziyad and his Berber troops crossed the Straits of Gibraltar into southern Spain in 711 to displace the Visigoths, little did he know that Spain would one day exemplify the Golden Age of Islamic civilization.  The Moorish invasion into Seville, Toledo, Cordoba, Granada, and other Spanish sites brought lasting influences onto Spanish culture, architecture, and knowledge that ultimately benefited Europe as a whole.

In 750, the Umayyad caliphate in Damascus was overthrown by the Abbasids. Abd al-Rahman, an Umayyad prince, escaped to Andalusian Spain.  “In 756, with barely a whimper of opposition from the man who believed himself the emir, the governor, Abd al-Rahman moved into the old city of Cordoba and declared it the new House of the Umayyads, the legitimate continuation of the ruling family that the Abbasids thought they had exterminated and replaced” (Menocal 4).

Al-Rahman set about replicating in Andalusia the splendid culture of the Umayyad caliphate that had existed in Damascus.  The Great Mosque in Cordoba, with its beautiful red arches and intricate ceilings, still stands intact —a lasting testimony to his work.  In 929, Abd al-Rahman III ascended to the throne, ushering in the great Golden Age of Islamic civilization in Spain.  In 1031 the Ummayad caliphate was abandoned in favor of small city-states.  “Seville, Cordoba, Toledo, Badajoz, Saragossa, Valencia, Granada, and others” (Esposito 34) competed with each other economically and militarily, which weakened Islamic Spain and helped the Christians in Northern Spain to reconquer Islamic territories in the south (Esposito 35).

According to Maria Rosa Menocal, Andalusia evolved into a great Islamic civilization because it incorporated three basic elements: “ethnic pluralism, religious tolerance, and a variety of important forms of what we could call cultural secularism—secular poetry and philosophy—that were not understood, by those who pursued them, to be un- or anti-Islamic”.  This tolerance and hunger for knowledge led to the Transmission Movement which would become so important to the preservation of ancient texts and the expansion of Christian Europe.

While Europe was enduring devastating invasions by barbaric hordes, “the widespread and rapid translation of Greek philosophical and scientific works into Arabic following the Muslim conquests of the seventh and eighth centuries” (Turner 209) led to the widespread dissemination of this knowledge across the Muslim world.  In Andalusia, under the 10th century caliph Hakam II, “one royal library is said to have amassed four hundred thousand books” (Esposito 175) on a variety of sciences.  Later on, 12th century Andalusian theorists Ibn Rushd (known as Averroes), Ibn Bajja, Jabir ibn Aflah, Ibn Tufayl, and Abu Ishaq al-Bitruji debated the virtues and defects of Ptolemaic astronomy.   “Of these, al-Bitruji was the only one to formulate an alternative . . . proposed model” (Esposito 175).

Ethnically, the Andalusian population included Jews, Celts, Arabs, Visigoths, and Romans.  Religious groups included Muslims and the dhimmi or People of the Book: Jews and Christians.  Christians living under Arab rule were called Mozarabs (Melacon 5; Turner 209; Esposito 318).  Christians were often reluctant to assimilate into Islamic culture (Esposito 34).  Nonetheless, Jews and Christians were protected and welcomed into Andalusia by virtue of their belief in Abraham and the One God.

Jews thrived in Andalusia when they re-discovered Hebrew and used it in the same multipurpose ways “as the Arabic that was the native language of the Andalusian community” (Melacon 7).  Jews began to write poetry in Hebrew, inspired by Arab poets.  Maimonides, the well-remembered Jewish philosopher, wrote works in both Arabic and Hebrew (Esposito 33).

The Islamization of southern Spain was not without difficulties, however.  Under Abd al-Rahman III, Andalusia reached the height of its greatness.  Muslims, Jews, and Christians all contributed to increased knowledge in “the arts, literature, astronomy, medicine, and other cultural and scientific disciplines” (Esposito 318).  Although many Christians did convert or assimilate into Islamic culture, Muslim jurists sometimes felt threatened by this and warned against Christian influence as “contamination and a threat to the faith of  Muslim societies” (Esposito 318).  Jews and Christians were forced to learn Arabic, whether they wanted to or not.  And the loose morals of upper class Muslims often offended Jews, Christians, and Muslim clerics.  Jews and Christians were always regarded as infidels by Muslims, no matter how much they assimilated into Arabic culture.  When Abu Amir al Mansur (Almanzor) became ruler in the late 10th century, he began “a series of ruthless campaigns against Christians, including the plundering of churches and other Christian sites” (Esposito 320).  The gulf between Jews, Christians, and Muslims grew wider.  Muslim rulers, fearing the missionary zeal and influence of Christians, segregated them into isolated communities.  Christian military forces reconquered Cordoba, Valencia, and Seville in the early 13th century.  By the end of 1492 Granada fell, and that was the end of Moorish rule in Spain.

Some of the Moorish contributions which have had a lasting influence on Spanish culture include the importation and cultivation of citrus fruits; the production of paper and olive oil; the invention of the guitar; and “Arabic coffee culture” (Robert Thomas, 2011).  The tourist trade is boosted by the rich architectural heritage left by the Moors. 

The Alhambra in Granada, completed in the 14th century, was erected by the Nasrids.  “It comprises the most extensive remains of a medieval Islamic palace anywhere and is one of the most famous monuments in all Islamic art” (Blair and Bloom, 124).  The Great Mosque of Cordoba, remembered for its beautiful red arches, and completed in 965, boasts carved marble panels decorated with fragile arabesques, whose “popularity lasted until the fourteenth century . . .” (Esposito 239).  After the reconquista, “many mosques were changed into churches.  In Seville, for example, the top of the fifty-meter-high minaret of the Almohed mosque, built from 1184 to 1198, was remodeled and transformed into a cathedral bell tower” (Esposito 305).  The Great Mosque of Cordoba was converted into a Catholic church but still retains Qur’anic quotations and decorations on its interior designs.  Many mosques were demolished or stripped of all Islamic associations.  The distinctive Moorish architectural style remains on both secular and religious buildings, however, throughout southern Spain.    

Andalusian Spain perfected the art of making ceramics (called lusterware), glass mosaics, colorful tiles, and silk textiles (Esposito 254-256). Couscous, a traditional North African food staple, adds a flavorful diversity to Spanish cuisine.  Some experts even believe that flamenco, the exotic Spanish dance, was influenced by the Moors (Robert Thomas, 2011).

Andalusia Spain became a bridge between the Muslim world and Europe.  After the reconquista of southern Spain, Arabic texts were translated into Latin and exported to Europe.  The Muslim contributions to medicine, science, and philosophy were included in those texts and exerted a profound influence on European thought and development.

Modern Muslims are re-discovering their historic contributions to the arts and sciences and gaining a newfound pride in their accomplishments.  The Western world is now more open to giving them credit for those accomplishments.  The historic accomplishments and events of the Moors are celebrated throughout southern Spain with festivals, parades, and other special celebrations.

Dawn Pisturino

Thomas Edison State University

February 4, 2019

Copyright 2019-2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

Works Cited

Blair, Sheila S., and Bloom, Jonathan. The Art and Architecture of Islam, 1250-1800. New

       Haven: 1996.

Esposito, John L. The Oxford History of Islam. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Menocal, Maria Rosa. “Culture in the Time of Tolerance: Al-Andalus as a Model for Our Time.”

       Occasional Papers. 2000. Yale Law School Legal Scholarship Repository. 2000.

       <http://digitalcommons.law.yale.edu/ylsop_papers/1&gt;.

Thomas, Robert, Dir. Andalusia: The Legacy of the Moors. Perf. Robert Elms. Alpha Television

       Production, 2011.

Turner, Howard R. Science in Medieval Islam: An Illustrated Introduction. Austin: 1997.

6 Comments »

In Honor of the Flight 93 Heroes, September 11, 2001

Flight 93 National Memorial Wall of Names in Pennsylvania

I’m crying as I write this.

It’s hard to remember and write about the events that happened on 9/11 without weeping, gnashing my teeth in anger, and praising the innocent brave souls who lost their lives. As our country moves farther away from decency, patriotism, and traditional American values, it’s important to remember the heroes who willingly gave their lives trying to divert another terrorist attack on the U.S. Capitol Building. It’s imperative that we defeat and crush the enemies of the United States, both inside and outside of America – no matter who they are and what position they might hold.

We now have members of Congress who actively work against decent citizens of the United States. These worthless dogs dress themselves up in fine clothes, healthy bank accounts, and politically correct (for the Left) rhetoric and prey on the weak-minded and uneducated. (Having a college degree doesn’t make a person educated.)

We now have a President and Vice-President who deliberately sell themselves to Communist China and terrorists, while undermining the interests of America and the American people. These “leaders” – and I use the word loosely – come off as treasonous traitors to the United States. In my opinion, they should be court-martialed and face a military firing squad for their crimes against America and the American people. The same should be true of all politicians and corporate leaders who line their pockets at the people’s expense and betray our great country.

The sacrifice of the passengers and crew of Flight 93 calls out to us, urging us to save our country from the obscene, degraded, and depraved maniacs who hate their own country, pervert science, normalize insanity and criminality, glorify death and destruction, and revel in dirt and excrement.

Timeline of Events

At 09:23 am, the Aircraft Communication Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) began issuing warnings about hijackers boarding planes and using them as weapons of mass destruction. United Airlines Flight 93 was notified at 09:27:25 am.

At 09:28:05 am, members of the radical Islamic terrorist group, Al Qaeda, hijacked the plane, taking over the cockpit and subduing the passengers. They were later identified as Ziad Jarrah, Ahmed al-Numi, Ahmed al-Haznawi, and Saeed al-Ghamdi. Their leader, Jarrah, had trained in Afghanistan for three months, met Osama bin Laden in January of 2000, and arrived in Florida in June of 2000 to take flight lessons and to study martial arts.

At 09:28:17 am, the Cleveland controller heard screaming over the radio transmission and LeRoy Homer, Jr. crying, “Mayday! Mayday! Get out of here! Get out of here! Get out of here!”

At 09:31:57 am, the cockpit voice recorder kicked in and recorded the last 30 minutes of the flight. Jarrah was heard talking to the passengers and saying, “We have a bomb on board.” The message was accidentally sent to the Cleveland Air Traffic controller.

At 09:39 am, Jarrah was heard announcing, “We are going back to the airport, and we have our demands.” In reality, the flight was turned eastward towards Washington, D.C. Although some have speculated that the White House was the target, the 9/11 Commission believed, based on evidence, that it was the U.S. Capitol Building that was the real target.

At this point, Captain Jason Dahl may have disabled the autopilot. It was later discovered that passengers and crew had made 35 airphone calls and two cell phone calls, warning family and friends of what was happening. The passengers came up with a plan to take back the plane and revolted at 09:57 am. They allegedly used the food cart to try and break into the cockpit. One of the hijackers guarding the door may have been killed.

At 10:03:09 am, a male voice speaking English cried, “Pull it up!” The plane was deliberately crashed by the hijackers at 10:03:11 am.

In the meantime, Vice-President Dick Cheney, safe inside the Presidential Emergency Operation Center under the White House, ordered Flight 93 to be shot down. After the plane crashed, he called the passengers and crew “heroes.”

A permanent memorial to the passengers and crew of Flight 93 was dedicated on September 10, 2011.

Crew members

Captain Jason Dahl

First Officer LeRoy Homer, Jr.

Lorraine Bay

Sandra Bradshaw

Wanda Green

CeeCee Lyles

Deborah Welsh

The 33 passengers included several foreign nationals.

The American passengers were innocent victims and died for their country. They sacrificed their own lives by standing up to the terrorists, who were forced to then crash the plane into an empty field in Pennsylvania. The foreign passengers who died as innocent victims were in the wrong country at the wrong time. Please pray for all of them and their families.

Let this be a lesson to all of us that life can change on the turn of a dime. The enemies of America never sleep. And we must be equally watchful and alert to the danger they pose.

Dawn Pisturino

September 8, 2021

Copyright 2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

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