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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.

6 Comments »

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.

28 Comments »

Martial Arts and the Boxer Rebellion

(By Peter d’Aprix – http://www.galleryhistoricalfigures.com, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=13275101)

       The Boxers were a group of martial arts practitioners who formed a secret society called the I Ho Ch’uan (Fists of Righteous Harmony).  They “opposed foreign influence and [were] strongly anti-Christian” (Plante, 1999, pg.1).  When Northern China experienced a series of natural disasters in the 1890s, farmers and workers joined with the Boxers to harass “Chinese Christians and foreign missionaries” (Plante, 1999, pg. 1).

       Originally, the Boxers staged rebellions against the Qing dynasty in the late 18th and early 19th centuries” (Britannica, 2020, pg. 1).  They wanted to destroy the Qing dynasty and all the Western foreigners who had set up “spheres of influence” in China with the full support of the Chinese government (University of Washington, 2021, pg. 1).  The American government wanted a piece of the action in China, but Empress Tsu-Hsi rejected that proposal (University of Washington, 2021, pg. 1).  Secretly, she supported the Boxers but “promised the Westerners that she would stop the Boxer efforts” (University of Washington, 2021, g. 2).

       United States Secretary of State John Hay “contacted the governments with Chinese spheres of influence and tried to persuade them all to share trading rights equally, including the United States” (University of Washington, 2021, pg. 1,2).  The other governments declined to sign any agreements, but Hay charged that the governments had all agreed in theory to his “Open Door Policy,” which represented a legally-binding agreement (University of Washington, 2021, pg. 2).

       In 1900, the Boxers led a peasant revolt against all foreigners in China.  “In Beijing [Peking], the Boxers burned churches and foreign residences and killed suspected Chinese Christians on sight” (Britannica, 2020, pg. 1).  In response, foreign-led forces took control of the Dagu forts.  Empress Tsu-Hsi ordered the murder of all foreigners in China, as a result (Britannica, 2021, pg. 2).

       The Boxer rebellion posed a threat to Hay’s Open Door Policy.  Foreign ministers refused to leave China, even though the Empress had declared a state of war.  On June 20, 1900, the Boxers and Chinese combatants attacked the city of Beijing, with the foreign ministers and their families barricaded within the Legation Quarter (Plante, 1999, pg. 2,3).

       The United States sent troops into the area “to relieve the legations in [Beijing] and protect American interests in China” (Plante, 1999, pg. 3).  Beijing was taken by a coalition of foreign forces, including the United States, and the Boxer Protocol was signed in September, 1901 (Plante, 1999, pg. 4).

China’s Internal Matters: Support for the Boxers.  Should the Chinese Government have Supported the Boxers in their Rebellion?

       By all appearances, Empress Tsu-Hsi was playing both sides in order to direct aggression of the Boxers away from the Chinese government.  Economically, China benefited from the foreign “spheres of influence,” but foreign influence was undermining Chinese culture and society.  “Christian converts flouted traditional Chinese ceremonies and family relations; and missionaries pressured local officials to side with Christian converts . . . in local lawsuits and property disputes” (Britannica, 2020, pg. 1).

       If the Chinese government had formal agreements with foreign governments, they should have kept their agreements.  China was a sovereign country with an established monarchy.  However, the Western countries were more technologically advanced, aggressive in their quest to exploit Chinese resources, and showed no respect for Chinese culture and authority.  In this regard, the West posed a threat to the Chinese and, according to las Casas (2018), “Every nation, no matter how barbaric, has the right to defend itself against a more civilized one that wants to conquer it and take away its freedom” (Brunstetter, 2018, pg. 96).

       Empress Tsu-Hsi exploited the Boxers against the foreigners but undermined her own government in the end.

China’s Internal Matters: Negotiation.  Should the Chinese Government have Attempted to Negotiate a Peaceful Resolution to the Conflict?

       By all appearances, neither Empress Tsu-Hsi, the Boxers, nor the Chinese civilians were interested in peace.  People were suffering economically, Chinese society was being disrupted by foreign influence, and the push to remove all foreigners from China was too strong.  The Empress actually backed the Boxers against the foreigners, ordered the murder of all foreigners, and declared a state of war (Plante, 1999, pg. 1,2).  If the Chinese wanted to negotiate, they could have done so at any time.

       If the Westerners were injuring China and the Chinese people, the Empress should have tried to negotiate terms in favor of her own people.  If the Empress did not want war with the Westerners, she could have negotiated with the Boxers to control the rebellion.  Instead, she supported them.  She was, according to Suarez (2018), derelict in her duty “to maintain order” (Davis, 2018, pg. 111) in the kingdom.

China’s External Matters: Western Governments’ Troop Intervention.  Should Western Governments have Sent Troops to China to Protect their Citizens and Property? 

       By all appearances, foreigners were in China with the permission of the Chinese government.  But in 1898, “conservative, anti-foreign forces won control of the Chinese government and persuaded the Boxers to drop their opposition to the Qing dynasty and unite with it in destroying the foreigners” (Britannica, 2020, pg. 1).  This implies that the Chinese government was not interested in peace or negotiations.  Once established, the Westerners refused to leave China, even in light of the increasing violence and threats of war.  When the foreigners sent troops into China, they had no legitimate authority to do so because China was a sovereign nation with a legitimate government.  According to las Casas (2018), “No ruler, whether king or emperor, nor anyone else, can exercise jurisdiction beyond his borders, since borders or limits are so called because they limit, determine, or restrict the property, power, or jurisdiction of someone” (Brunstetter, 2018, pg. 97).  Before sending in troops, the Western governments should have tried to negotiate a peace deal with the Chinese government.  However, if the Chinese government was unwilling to control the Boxers and negotiate peace, the Western governments had no choice but to send in troops to rescue Western citizens.

China’s External Matters: Western Governments’ Negotiations.  Should Western Governments have Attempted to Negotiate either with the Boxers or the Chinese Government Directly?

       After the defeat of China in the First Sino-Japanese War, Japan was granted the right to conduct trade in China.  This encouraged Western governments to also seek trading rights in China (Britannica, 2021, pg. 2).  “Austria, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, and Russia all [claimed] exclusive trading rights with specific areas of China” (University of Washington, 2021, pg. 1).  The United States wanted trading rights, too, but Empress Tsu-Hsi rejected U.S. proposals (University of Washington, 2021, pg. 1).  Secretary of State John Hay pressured the other Western governments into an unwritten agreement that had no legal status.  Hay insisted that the agreement was real and called it the Open Door Policy (University of Washington, 2021, pg. 1,2).  Some of these Westerners claimed to own the land within their trading zones, which infuriated the Boxers and the local civilians (University of Washington, 2021, pg. 1).

       The United States had no legitimate authority to invade China, even if the other Western governments did.  They had no legitimate claim to take back the land because they did not legitimately own the land in the first place.  So, las Casas’s assertion that it was just cause “to take back formerly Christian lands held by unbelievers” (Brunstetter, 2018, pg. 97) does not apply.  The effort “to punish pagans who practice idolatry in provinces formerly under Christian control” (Brunstetter, 2018, pg. 97) also would not apply.  Las Casas (2018), however, does consider it a just cause to “wage war upon those who prevent the gospel from being preached within their jurisdiction” (Brunstetter, 2018, pg. 99).  If the missionaries had permission previously to evangelize in China, the Western governments would have a legitimate cause to send troops into China to rescue missionaries, converts, and government officials from persecution by the Boxers and the Chinese government.

Legitimate Negotiations. Given that the Boxers had No Legitimate Authority within China, could Negotiations have Occurred with them Directly under any Circumstances?  If so, how?

       The Boxers were fundamentalists who believed that “they had magical powers and were invulnerable to bullets and pain, and that ‘spirit soldiers’ would rise from the dead to join them in their battles” (University of Washington, 2021, pg. 2).  With that kind of thinking, why would they negotiate if they were convinced that they could defeat the Westerners and already had the backing of the Chinese government?  From my point of view, only the Empress could have negotiated with both the Boxers and the Westerners.  For one thing, she was the only one with real authority to negotiate and control events.  She was the only one with real authority to declare war, per Suarez’s requirement that “war must be waged by a legitimate power” (Davis, 2018, pg. 111).

References

Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopedia (2020, February 13). Boxer rebellion. Encyclopedia

       Britannica. Retrieved from http://www.britannica.com/event/Boxer-Rebellion

Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopedia (2021, July 25). First sino-japanese war. Encyclopedia

       Britannica. Retrieved from http://www.britannica.com/event/First-Sino-Japanese-War-

       1894-1895

Brunstetter, D.R. (2018). Bartolome de las casas (1484-1566). In D.R. Brunstetter & C.   

       O’Driscoll (Eds.), Just war thinkers: From cicero to the 21st century (92-104). Abingdon,

       Oxon: Routledge

Davis, G.S. (2018). Francisco suarez (1548-1617). In D.R. Brunstetter & C. O’Driscoll (Eds.),

       Just war thinkers: From cicero to the 21st century (105-117). Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge

University Libraries. (2021). Essay: The boxer rebellion. University of Washington. Retrieved

       from http://www.content.lib.washington.edu/chandlessweb/boxer.html

Dawn Pisturino

Thomas Edison State University

November 11, 2021; July 22, 2022

Copyright 2021-2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

14 Comments »

Dirty Feet

“I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet.”

~ Mahatma Gandhi ~

Gandhi was a spiritual man full of wisdom and keen insight. What exactly does he mean here?

One of the first practices we learn on the spiritual path is to protect ourselves from the negative influences of the material world. A Hindu tenet is to live in the world but not of the world. In other words, although we have to live, work, love, and function in material society, our minds should be focused on our own spiritual growth. We protect ourselves from the influences of negative energy by wrapping ourselves in a cloak of blue or white light (or some other form of spiritual protection). We eat healthy, wholesome foods. We clear our minds of negative thoughts and accentuate the positive. We practice patience and forgiveness and push those dark feelings of hatred and anger from our hearts. We take care of our bodies in ways that honor and promote LIFE. We avoid hateful, chaotic, negative people. We surround ourselves with beauty, cleanliness, aromatic fragrances, peace, tranquility, and serenity. We remain calm in the face of danger and adversity. We strive to help others. We extend our hands in friendship and kindness. We turn off the noise, the hate, the violence, the chaos, the insanity directed at all of us by the media and loud, angry, hateful people. 

And it does not matter whether we are Christian, Muslim, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist, Wiccan, or any other spiritual affiliation. The principles remain the same. Meditation and contemplation; prayer; trusting in a higher power; opening up our minds and hearts to the positive flow of energy; cleansing our minds and hearts of negative thoughts, feelings, and influences; striving to be a constructive force in the world instead of a destructive force; projecting light and a ray of hope in a dark world – all of us have the capability to shine like the brightest star in the night sky. But it takes commitment and work and a sincere belief that we all contain a divine essence inside ourselves.

May the divine spark in you shine brightly!

Dawn Pisturino

July 20, 2022

Copyright 2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

27 Comments »

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.

11 Comments »

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.

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Church of All Russian Saints Ukraine Message

(Church of All Russian Saints Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, Burlingame, California, USA)

When I lived in California, I used to walk by this church all the time. It always fascinated me with its blue and gold domes, magnificent painting of the Virgin Mary, and clean, white walls. I rarely saw anybody there, and it seemed like one of those mysteries of life, kept locked up and tucked away, that strikes us with awe but never gets solved. For some reason, I was thinking about this church in relation to Easter and the disaster in Ukraine and decided to look it up.

Established in 1952, the church is part of the Western American Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia. This Diocese is also called the “Russian Church in Exile” because it has always seen itself as “part of the suffering Orthodox Church in Russia during the decades of Soviet turmoil, persecution, and subjugation of the Church and its faithful.” In 2007, the Diocese reunited with the Mother Church in Russia.

Like everybody else, our Russian immigrants here in America are shocked and dismayed by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Here’s the message of hope and prayer posted on the church’s website:

“We are overcome with grief over the tragic events in Ukraine, for many of us the land of our forefathers, and for some the land where our relatives live today. We pray to the All-Merciful Lord and His Most-Holy Mother for speedy secession of all hostilities and long-lasting peace.

Prayer to the Lord:
O Lord, Lover of mankind, King of the ages and Giver of good things: having destroyed the
divisions of enmity and granted peace unto the human race, grant even now peace unto Thy
servants, planting within them the fear of Thee and establishing them in love for one another.
Quench all strife, and remove all dissensions and temptations; for Thou art our peace and to
Thee do we offer up glory, to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever
and unto the ages of ages, Amen.
Владыко Человѣколюбче, Царю вѣковъ и Подателю благихъ, разрушившiй вражды
средостѣнiя и мир подавшiй роду человѣческому, даруй и нынѣ миръ рабомъ Твоимъ,
вкорени нихъ страхъ Твой и другъ къ другу любовь утверди: угаси всяку распрю,
отыми вся разногласiя и соблазны. Яко Ты еси миръ нашъ и Тебе славу возсылаемъ,
Отцу и Сыну и Святому Духу, нынѣ и присно и во вѣки вѣковъ. Аминь.


Prayer to the Mother of God:
O much sorrowing Mother of God, more highly exalted than all other of the daughters of the
earth, according to thy purity and the multitude of thy suffering endured by thee on earth:
Hearken to our sighs and soften the hearts of evil men, and protect us under the shelter of thy
mercy. For we know no other refuge and ardent intercessor apart from thee, but as thou hast
great boldness before the One Who was born of thee, help and save us by thy prayers, that
without offense we may attain the Heavenly Kingdom where, with all the saints, we will sing
the thrice-holy hymn to One God Almighty in the Trinity, always now and ever and unto the
ages of ages. Amen.
О, многострадальная Мати Божiя, Превысшая всѣхъ дщерей земли, по чистотѣ Своей и
по множеству страданiй, Тобою на земли перенесенныхъ, прiими многоболезненныя
воздыханiя наша и сохрани насъ подъ кровомъ Твоея милости. Инаго бо прибѣжища
теплаго предстательста развѣ Тебѣ не вѣмы, но яко дерзновенiе имущая къ Иже изъ
Тебѣ рожденному, помози и спаси ны молитвами Своими, да непреткновенно
достигнемъ Царствiя Небеснаго, идеже со всѣми святыми будемъ воспѣвати въ Троицѣ
единому Богу нынѣ и присно и во вѣки вѣков. Аминь.”

(Parish Choir Lent Recital, 2018)

Whatever your faith – Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Protestant, Catholic, Russian/Greek/Eastern Orthodox, Wiccan – please pray and extend your best wishes and hopes for the people of Ukraine!

Dawn Pisturino

April 4, 2022

Copyright 2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

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II. A Soul in Anguish – a Poem

(Artwork by Michelangelo)

II. A Soul in Anguish

by Dawn Pisturino


A soul apart from God
Is a soul in anguish,
Lost in the wilderness,
Out of touch with its own creator.
Like a child without its mother,
It cannot function on its own.
Creator and created: they are one,
Inseparable, indivisable;
And when one is lost,
All is lost.

I need my Lord, my God,
Every day of my life
To give me courage and strength;
To fight the invisible
Battle of life
And resign myself to death;
He IS Life
And He IS death:
I do not agree
With all He is or does,
But He is all, everything, there is.
I cannot argue
With His greatness
Or doubt His power and strength;
He may be wrong or right,
But He is,
And I cannot close my eyes to that.
The tall mountain rises into the sky
And I see His majesty before me;
The tiny flower in the grass,
And it is his tenderness;
Man may have proven to be
HIS GREAT MISTAKE,
But all else, at least, is perfect,
Fits into a logical order,
And intertwines beautifully
With each other.
Man stands on the outside of the puzzle
Seeking answers, seeking answers,
And making the picture more complicated.

God is good and He is bad,
He kills his enemies and makes
Innocent people to suffer;
He draws the darkness of night
Around the big, wide world,
And causes the sunshine to fall.

And I will fight Him as I love him,
And I will fight for what is right,
Unto the death,
       As He would.

Dawn Pisturino
1985; March 8, 2022
Copyright 1985-2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

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Happy Chinese New Year 2022

Today marks the beginning of the Year of the Tiger in the Chinese Zodiac. The tiger is a highly-revered animal in Chinese culture, representing strength, courage, and nobility. People born during the Year of the Tiger are considered to have these characteristics and to make good leaders. Tigers are also symbols of good luck.

May we all be blessed in 2022 with the luck of the tiger!

Dawn Pisturino

February 1, 2022

Copyright 2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

6 Comments »

The Virgin Mary and the Ghent Altarpiece

This beautiful painting of the Virgin Mary is part of the Ghent Altarpiece created by the well-known Flemish painter, Jan Van Eyck, in 1432. Rich in exquisite color and detail, the painting shows Mary holding a girdle book and represents her attribution as the “Seat of Wisdom.” Girdle books were popular between the 13th and 16th centuries and worn as accessories. A long piece of leather hanging from the book made it possible to secure the book to a garment by means of looping it over the girdle belt. It was then easy to pick up the book and read it whenever the desire hit the owner. Girdle books were popular among monks, clergymen, and aristocrats. Here, Mary is portrayed as an aristocratic woman and represents her role as “Queen of Heaven.”

The Latin inscription reads: “She is more beautiful than the sun and the army of the stars; compared to the light she is superior. She is truly the reflection of eternal light and a spotless mirror of God.”


Dawn Pisturino

January 20, 2022

Copyright 2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

19 Comments »

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