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Augustine, Aquinas, Vitoria: Justifications and Limitations of War: Christian Perspective

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[NOTE: This is a 6,214 word research paper that I wrote for my university class, Ethics and Politics of War (Just War Theory). I am posting it for those people who are interested in the topic. This week, in the U.S., we honor our brave soldiers who unfairly died at Pearl Harbor.]

Augustine, Aquinas, Vitoria: Justifications and Limitations of War: Christian Perspective

by Dawn Pisturino

       Augustine, Aquinas, and Vitoria examined just war from a Christian perspective and believed that negotiations and diplomacy should come before the use of force; however, if this is impossible, force may be used in a just war that is declared by a legitimate authority, for a just cause, and with the right intention (Brunstetter, 2018, pg. 1).

Three Just War Thinkers and their Views on the Justifications and Limitations of War

       Cicero developed three tenets which cover the justification, implementation, and resolution of war.  Of the three, this writer will address jus ad bellum (the justification for the use of force) and jus in bellum (the limitations for the use of force in war) as expanded on by St. Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, and Francisco de Vitoria (Brunstetter, 2018, pg. 1).

St. Augustine

       St. Augustine went through three phases in his just war thinking.  During phase one, he condoned “a soldier killing an enemy, . . . a judge or his minister killing a criminal, . . . someone inadvertently or imprudently throwing a spear . . . when they killed a man” (Johnson, 2018, pg. 23).  In phase two, he insisted that war, if commanded by God as in the Old Testament, “cannot be inherently immoral” (Johnson, 2018, pg. 23).  Phase three showed a more cynical shift in his thinking when he said that “the quest for justice and order is doomed; but dedication to the impossible task is demanded by the very precariousness of civilized order in the world” (Johnson, 2018, pg. 25).  In other words, just war is necessary to keep the world from chaos.  At the same time, Augustine stressed Christ’s exhortation to love your neighbor and protecting “non-combatants in war” (Johnson, 2018, pg. 32).

Thomas Aquinas

       Thomas Aquinas saw war as “an instrument of peace” that would keep the wicked in check (Reichberg, 2018, pg. 52) through the use of “public authority” (Reichberg, 2018, pg. 52).  He did not promote pacifism as a Christian value.  But he did stress that “conduct in war is first and foremost a matter of moral behavior” (Reichberg, 2018, pg. 52).

       Aquinas’ three tenets include princely authority, just cause, and right intention.  These conditions must be met before any war can be considered just (Reichberg, 2018, pg. 55).  He justified princely authority by insisting that “defense of the common good requires a chain of command with the prince at its head” (Reichberg, 2018, pg. 55) and this can only be achieved where there is “a unified force” (Reichberg, 2018, pg. 55).  Just cause only occurs when “those who are attacked deserve this attack by reason of some fault (culpam)” (Reichberg, 2018, pg. 56).  Lastly, war should be fought with the right intention, to promote the common good.  Unnecessary “cruelty, avarice, unbridled anger, or hatred” (Reichberg, 2018, pg. 57) are not Christian or even human virtues and should be condemned.  He does, however, recognize that unintended damage is bound to occur.

Francisco de Vitoria

       The most surprising development, so far, in our study of just war thinkers, has been Vitoria’s sophisticated analysis of Spain’s treatment of indigenous people in the New World.

       Vitoria believed that nature (or natural law) divided humans into “perfect communities . . . [united by] their own traditions, languages, and cultures and contained within them the means necessary to provide for themselves and the well-being of their members” (Bellamy, 208, pg. 79).  By his reasoning, the indigenous people in the New World formed perfect communities and were entitled to “the same basic rights” (Bellamy, 2018, pg. 79) as European Catholic communities.  Neither the Pope nor the Holy Roman Emperor had supreme authority over these communities, which contradicted the dominant idea at the time that indigenous people in the New World were “vassals of the Spanish King and subjects of the Pope” (Bellamy, 2018, pg. 79).

       Horrified by the behavior of the Spanish conquistadores in the New World, Vitoria defended the rights of the natives.  For example, he did not believe in the legitimacy of converting the natives to Christianity against their will, saying, “war is no argument for the truth of the Christian faith” (Bellamy, 2018, pg. 80).  However, Vitoria still referred to the natives as barbarians and asserted that if they “persist in their wickedness and strive to destroy the Spaniards, then [the Spanish conquistadores] may treat them no longer as innocent enemies, but as treacherous foes against whom all rights of war can be exercised” (Bellamy, 2018, pg. 81).

       In the final analysis, Vitoria condemned the use of force when it comes to “religious differences, claims of universal jurisdiction, and the personal ambitions of sovereigns” (Bellamy, 2018, pg. 81).  The only justification for the use of force is “to right a prior wrong” (Bellamy, 2018, pg. 82).

Application of Just War Principles to Historical Conflicts

       When applying just war principles to Sherman’s March to the Sea, the First Sino-Japanese War, and the U.S. intervention in Somalia, all three represent situations where conflict and force became necessary for humanitarian and self-defense reasons.

Augustine, Aquinas, Proportionality, and Sherman’s March to the Sea

       St. Augustine viewed social groups as “people bound together by agreement as to what they love” (Johnson, 2018, pg. 29), rejecting Cicero’s emphasis on political states.  It is, therefore, an act of love to fight in a just war in order to protect our neighbors.

       Aquinas reaffirmed the conviction that “solely those who have no temporal superior – namely princes – are permitted to initiate war” (Reichberg, 2018, pg. 55) and the fact that “a unified force” (Reichberg, 2018, pg. 55) will be more successful than people acting independently.  The “common good” (Reichberg, 2018, pg. 56) can best be promoted by the leader in power.  Part of the responsibility of the leader is to handle “internal disturbers of the peace” (Reichberg, 2018, pg. 56).

       The second condition for just war, according to Aquinas, is “that those who are attacked deserve this attack by reason of some fault (culpam)” (Reichberg, 2018, pg. 56). 

       The third condition for just war, according to Aquinas, is the concept of “right intention” (Reichberg, 2018, pg. 57).  People involved in a war should fight with the intention of promoting the common good and “the avoidance of evil” (Reichberg, 2018, pg. 57).  He emphasized that unnecessary brutality, greed, and hostility should be avoided (Reichberg, 2018, pg. 57).  Harming innocent non-combatants is unacceptable in jus in bellum.  Besides sparing innocent lives, soldiers should refrain from “cutting down the fruit trees on enemy territory” (Reichberg, 2018, pg. 57).  Aquinas recognized, however, that unintended damage is bound to happen in war, and soldiers are not liable for that damage.  Committing deliberate acts of harm, on the other hand, confers personal liability on the person committing them (Reichberg, 2018, pg. 57).  Only force “undertaken by public officers of the law” (Reichberg, 2018, pg. 58) can be justified as a necessary action for promoting the common good and punishing a wrong-doing.

       In my opinion, Sherman’s March to the Sea was a legitimate military campaign, consistent with the conditions of just war as laid down by Augustine and Aquinas.

Sherman’s March and Proportionality

       In 1864, the Civil War had been raging for three years, demoralizing the North and solidifying the stubbornness of the South, when William Tecumseh Sherman devised a plan to end the war once and for all (Smith, 2007, pg. 7).

       In a speech given on September 30, 1875, Sherman admitted that he and his troops had “transgressed the rules of war . . . and we determined to make it and to subsist on our friends and enemies while making it . . .[for] Georgia was at that time regarded . . .as the arch stone of the South . . .[and] that once destroyed, and the Southern Confederacy dwindled down to the little space between the Savannah River and Richmond, . . . the people of the United States could not only vindicate their laws but could punish the traitors” (Trudeau, 2008, pg. 548).

       Sherman blamed the people of the South for starting the Civil War in the first place and determined to punish them collectively by making “the people themselves experience the war” (Smith, 2007, pg. 8).  His intention, as he marched through Georgia, was to destroy “the state’s war-making capability” (Smith, 2007, pg. 8).  He cared about hastening the end of the war, and he was not so concerned about the means by which he did it.  Governor Joseph Brown was given the option to surrender, and when he did not respond, Sherman pursued his plan “to go ahead, devastating the State in its whole length and breadth” (Smith, 2007, pg. 8).

       There is no denying that the Civil War – and the North’s punishment of the South – was a just cause, according to both Augustine’s and Aquinas’s conditions for just war.  Sherman was acting to promote the common good; out of love for his country and his neighbors in the North; to end the war that had divided the United States; and to ensure that the South would be so devastated, it would have to capitulate and never rise again (Davis, 1988, pg. 3; Johnson, 2018, pg. 29; Reichberg, 2018, pg. 56, 57).  Sherman’s actions were authorized by both General Ulysses S. Grant and President Abraham Lincoln, so the condition of proper authority was fulfilled (Smith, 2007, pg. 8, 15).

       The South had declared war against the North and made the first attack on April 12, 1861 at Fort Sumter, South Carolina (National Park Service, 2021, para. 1).  “Southerners gambled that Southern spirit and military elan could overcome the wealth and size of the North” (Smith, 2007, pg. 14).  Southern forces refused to back down, even when Sherman gave Governor Brown of Georgia an ultimatum.  Therefore, by Aquinas’s rationale, the South deserved to be attacked and punished for the crime of secession and beginning the war in the first place (Reichberg, 2018, pg. 56).

       The March to the Sea destroyed everything that could be used to support the Confederate military machine.  Sherman ordered his foragers to forage for food and necessary supplies, knowing that there would be abuses.  But he also ordered that “churches and private homes” should be saved (Davis, 1988, pg. 3).  He counseled his men to pick on “rich Southerners rather than the poor” (Davis, 1988, pg. 8) because he blamed the rich plantation owners the most.  But Sherman was no fool.  He understood that “hard war” (Davis, 1988, pg. 9) was the only way to end the war.

       Since the Confederates refused to surrender, in spite of the North’s victories, Sherman claimed, “I had a right, under the rules of civilized warfare, to commence a system that would make them feel the power of the government and cause them to succumb . . .” (Davis, 1988, pg. 25).  This actually does comply with Aquinas’s view that the enemy should be attacked and punished for its wrong-doing (Reichberg, 2018, pg. 56).

       In my estimation, Sherman had no choice but to embark on the March to the Sea because it ultimately ended the Civil War and re-united the country.  He fulfilled all the requirements for just war laid down by St. Augustine and Aquinas.  And to prolong the war would have led to more casualties and destruction.

       It has been estimated that Sherman lost 1,888 Union soldiers to death, wounds, missing in action, and capture during the March (Smith, 2007, pg. 85), as opposed to the official Department of Veteran Affairs statistics of 529,332 Union and Confederate soldiers lost during the entire war (Department of Veteran Affairs, 2020, pg. 1).  Thomas Livermore estimated total deaths at 624,000, and the latest figures by J. David Hacker bring the estimate up to 750,000 (Ransom, 2021, pg. 7).

       Union foragers on the March managed to acquire roughly 13,294 head of cattle, 7,000 horses and mules, and 10 million pounds of corn.  Approximately 300 miles of railroad lines were destroyed.  Sherman himself estimated the damages at $100 million, with Union soldiers consuming about 20% of the food and supplies foraged, and the rest left to waste and rot.  Confederate deserters and civilians picked over what was left behind (Smith, 2007, pg. 85).

       Compare this with the cost of the war itself: total government spending (Union and Confederate) $3.3 billion; lost human capital (laborers, etc.) $2.2 billion; and the overall physical damage $1.5 billion (Ransom, 2021, pg.8). The South bore the brunt of the costs, and “the Confederacy had been reduced to a barter economy by the time Lee surrendered his army at Appomattox” (Ransom, 2021, pg. 11).  Freeing 4.5 million slaves cost Southern plantation owners $2 billion alone (Ransom, 2021, pg. 11).

Sherman’s Attack on Civilian Property

       As previously mentioned, Sherman’s primary goal was to destroy “the state’s war-making capability” (Smith, 2007, pg. 8), and he was lax when it came to enforcing his orders to not unnecessarily harm civilian property.  But bored and drunken Yankee soldiers were known to set fires and engage in wanton destruction, despite Sherman’s orders (Davis, 1988, pg. 5).  This does not align with Aquinas’s warning to avoid “cruelty, avarice, unbridled anger, or hatred” (Reichberg, 2018, pg. 57).  And yet, the South had been given opportunities to surrender and negotiate peace and had refused to back down.  And, according to Aquinas, the enemy must be given the “opportunity to make amends” (Reichberg, 2018, pg. 56) before resorting to force.  The Georgia governor failed to accept peace terms, so Sherman acted in good faith to take the necessary steps to end the war.  Aquinas calls for moderation in war but also recognizes “the doctrine of double effect” (Reichberg, 2018, pg. 57) which recognizes that good actions can have unintended negative consequences, and that “some missions will be justified, on grounds of DDE, in spite of a recognition that civilian casualties will ineluctably follow” (Reichberg, 2018, pg. 57).

Breaking Southern Morale and Freeing Thousands of Slaves

       “[Sherman’s] more limited goal [than total war] was to make any continuance of rebellion so unpalatable to southern civilians that they would view a return to the Union as the lesser of two evils” (Trudeau, 2008, pg. 534).  Ultimately, Sherman’s March did end the war, and the South did capitulate, but not without serious bitterness against the North (Trudeau, pg. 534).

       Such a brutal and historic undertaking would have left a lasting negative impression on the collective consciousness of people in the South—even today.  This continued divide between North and South is one of those unintended consequences that Sherman did not foresee.  He also did not reckon the long-term economic impact on people in the South.  Although he understood that the South would be re-built, he did not understand that “the South was locked in a cycle of poverty that lasted well into the twentieth century” (Ransom, 2021, pg. 13).

       Sherman’s attack on civilian property also included freeing the slaves.  He and his soldiers were greeted with cheers by black slaves everywhere they went.  By the end of the March, his troops had picked up hundreds of freed black slaves (Trudeau, 2008, pg. 538) who “came out in groups and welcomed us with delight, they danced and howled, laughed, cried, and prayed all at the same time” (Trudeau, 2008, pg. 531).  Slaves gave them valuable information, stood watch, worked as laborers, and foraged for food, horses, and supplies (Trudeau, 2008, pg. 531, 532).  Freeing the slaves was an act of neighborly love in St. Augustine’s world view and “advancing the common good” in Aquinas’s (Johnson, 2018, pg. 29; Reichberg, 2018, pg. 57).  As a result of the war, 4.5 million black slaves were freed from slavery (Ransom, 2021, pg.11).

Trade, Treaties, Francisco de Vitoria, and the First Sino-Japanese War

Chinese Point of View

       In 2014, China commemorated the 120th anniversary of the First Sino-Japanese War by releasing a collection of essays analyzing the event (Hengjun, 2014, pg.2; Tiezzi, 2014, pg. 2, 3).  China lost the war against Japan – a loss which still bothers the Chinese government and the Chinese people.  The essays were written “by members of the People’s Liberation Army ‘analyzing what China can learn from its defeat’” (Tiezzi, 2014, pg. 3).  The writers concluded that “the Qing dynasty’s failure to effectively modernize” (Tiezzi, 2014, pg. 3) China led to China’s defeat and that China must continue its program of Westernization (Tiezzi, 2014, pg. 3).

       Japan’s strong navy was a key component in its victory.  China’s leader, Xi Jinping, wants to strengthen the country’s navy because “the ocean remains central to national security interests today” (Tiezzi, 2014, pg. 5).

       PLA writers also denounced Japan’s militaristic, nationalist, and imperialistic behavior that led to the war.  It was not until Japan’s defeat in World War II that this behavior was finally restrained (Tiezzi, 2014, pg. 5).

       China still fears a rise in Japanese militarism and warns its military to “guard against the sneak attack that Japan has a history of making” (Tiezzi, 2014, pg. 6).

       On the bright side, the Chinese defeat led to the Xinhai Revolution in 1911, the establishment of Taiwan as a democratic state, and the rise of China as a world power.  Japan’s war against China was “horrible . . . but that cannot cover up the fact that the Qing dynasty was a decadent and declining dynasty that existed in opposition both to historical trends and to the Chinese people” (Hengjun, 2014, pg. 3).

Japanese Point of View

       People in Japan believe that “the First Sino-Japanese War from August 1894 to April 1895 is one of the most important wars in Japanese history in that it heralded Japan’s appearance on the world stage as a serious player” (Japan Visitor, 2021, pg. 1).  Although Japan recognized Korea as a tributary state of China, it was also aware of the turmoil in the country as factions fought for control of the government.  Reformists wanted more Japanese influence in Korea and pushed for increased Westernization.  Traditionalists identified with China and Chinese culture (Japan Visitor, 2021, pg. 1).

       Japan needed important natural resources, such as coal and iron, and looked to Korea to get them (Britannica, 2021, pg. 1; Japan Visitor, 2021, pg. 1).  Japan wanted free access without interference from China and, if possible, to control Korea’s natural resources.  Japan aggressively tried to break China’s influence and control in Korea for its own benefit (Japan Visitor, 2021, pg. 1). 

       Although China had a larger army, the Japanese navy was more organized, efficient, and better equipped.  Corruption in the Chinese military had left China’s navy weak and under-equipped.  Japan’s ground forces were also in better shape than China’s.  By October 1894, the Japanese “expelled the Chinese from Korea . . . [and] entered China itself” (Japan Visitor, 2021, pg. 5).  Japan soon controlled Manchuria, the Liaodong Peninsula, Beijing, Weihaiwei, and Taiwan (Japan Visitor, 2021, pg. 5).

       Proudly, Japan became the dominant power in Asia, freed Korea from China’s domination, and brought Westernization and trade to the whole region (Japan Visitor, 2021, pg. 6).

Korean Point of View

       As a tribute state of China, Korea followed “the Confucian principles enshrined in the Chinese classics and the rules of tributes elaborated in the Chinese statutes [which] constituted the backbone of the system” (Nho, Hyoung-Jin, 2021, pg. 1).  The Korean king was content to be under Chinese influence and Confucian international law.  But Japan wanted to break China’s hold over Korea in order to establish a base of power in which to prevent both China and Russia from controlling the region (Nho, Hyoung-Jin, 2021, pg. 2).

       On February 26, 1876, Japan and Korea signed the Treaty of Kanghwa which gave Japan trading rights to three Korean ports, access to the coastal seas, and unequal trading privileges in Japan’s favor.  Another treaty signed on August 24, 1876, granted Japan “duty-free importation of Japanese goods carried by the ships belonging to their government” (Nho, Hyoung-Jin, 2021, pg. 2).

       Article 1 of the treaty declared that “Choson [Korea] being an independent state, enjoys the same sovereign rights as does Japan” (Nho, Hyoung-Jin, 2021, pg. 2).  This addition to the treaty was meant to undermine China’s claim on Korea.

       From the Korean point of view, “independence” meant that “the political and legal matters of tributary states are totally in the hands of them” (Nho, Hyoung-Jin, 2021, pg. 2), in accordance with the Confucian legal system.  Korea, therefore, felt no hesitation in signing the treaty because it meant that Korea would carry on its diplomatic duties as usual.  The Qing dynasty supported Korea as “entirely independent in her relations with other states” (Nho, Hyoung-Jin, 2021, pg. 2) but continued to regard Korea as a tribute state.

       In spite of the treaty, Korea did not make any changes in its relationships with Japan and China.  The treaty was regarded as more of a sign of friendship with Japan.  But since Japan and China both had special privileges over Korea and its resources, Korea became a pawn for both parties in their quest for control.  As Korea became more unstable from within, diplomatic relations began to break down.  After the Japanese were expelled from Korea by the Chinese, “the Convention between China and Japan for the Withdrawal of Troops from Korea, signed on 18 April 1885” (Nho, Hyoung-Jin, 2021, pg. 2, 3), established Korea “as a buffer state between them” (Nho, Hyoung-Jin, 2021, pg. 3).

       The First Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895) spelled the end of Chinese dominance in Korea.  The Treaty of Shimonoseki between China and Japan ended the Confucian legal system and brought Western international law and trade to Eastern Asia, with Korea at its center.  The treaty ended Korea’s status as a tributary state to China and granted the country both independence and autonomy (Nho, Hyoung-Jin, 2021, pg. 3).

The War

       The First Sino-Japanese war began in the first place because Japan ended its isolation from foreign trade, embraced Western technology, and aspired to expand its trading territories.  Korea had been an important tributary state to China for many years.  “In 1876, the Japanese negotiated a treaty with Korea, opening Korea up to foreign trade for the first time” (Rickard, 2013, pg. 1), with Japan becoming the main beneficiary.

       The treaty led to much discourse in Korea, with pro- and anti-Japanese contenders vying for power.  In 1882, an anti-Japan uprising occurred against the Korean Royal family.  The Chinese stepped in to quell the rebellion (Rickard, 2013, pg. 1).

       Japan negotiated with Korea for peace and then secretly prepared for war.  Japanese influence in Korea continued to grow, with China suppressing a pro-Japanese rebellion in 1884.  “Japan and China signed a new treaty [Li-Ito Convention Tientsin Treaty]” (Rickard, 2013, pg. 1) which removed all Chinese and Japanese troops from Korea.  Korea became “a co-protectorate under [China] and Japan” (Japan Visitor, 2021, pg. 3).

       Although Japan signed the treaty, its expansionist ambitions took priority.  In 1884, pro-Japan Korean leader, Kim Ok-Kyun, was assassinated — and his body mutilated – by the Chinese.  This led to more tension between Japan and China.  When China sent troops in to quell the Tonghak rebellion at the behest of the Korean king, Japan accused China of breaking the treaty and sent troops to Korea (Britannica, 2021, pg. 1, 2).  “On July 23, 1894, Japanese troops deposed the Korean king, annulled Korean-Chinese treaties, and proceeded to try and expel the Chinese from Korea” (Japan Visitor, 2021, pg. 3), something Japan had been planning to do all along.

       On August 1, 1894, war was declared.  Due to its more modern and better equipped military, Japan quickly won the war when it invaded Manchuria and the Shandong province, and China negotiated to end the war (Britannica, 2021, pg. 2).

       The Treaty of Shimonoseki was signed by both countries, and Korea gained its independence.  Japan gained significant trade rights.  The conflict sparked a movement in China against foreigners and rebellion against the Qing dynasty (Britannica, 2021, pg. 2).

Francisco de Vitoria and the First Sino-Japanese War  

       Francisco de Vitoria strongly believed that the “enlargement of empire and personal glory or convenience did not constitute just grounds for war” (Bellamy, 2018, pg. 82).  Although he believed in free trade between sovereign nations (Bellamy, 2018, pg. 81), he would not have supported Japan’s aggressive actions to exclude China from the mix.  At the same time, I believe he would have condemned China for the assassination and mutilation of the Korean leader, Kim Ok-Kyun — which alone would have been a violation of the Tientsin treaty.  Japan, therefore, had a right to defend its interests when China sent troops to Korea, even though the Korean king had requested China’s help.  And China had a right to defend its interests.  Japan was already prepared to wage war, and when it sank the British steamer Kowshing, killing Chinese troops, there was no turning back (Britannica, 2021, pg. 2).

       Russia, Germany, and France attempted to moderate the Treaty of Shimonoseki in order to limit Japan’s influence in the region.  In the process, Russia gained control over Port Arthur and railway rights, which upset the British.  This, in turn, angered the Japanese and led to the Russo-Japanese war of 1904-1905 (Rickard, 2013, pg. 2).

       Although Japan, China, and Korea all had a cause to wage war, it was Japan’s aggressive actions regarding trade which ultimately created the conditions that led to war.  The Japanese government should have honored its treaty with China and stopped trying to exclude China.  China should not have aggravated the situation by assassinating Kim Ok-Kyun.  Korea should not have played both ends against the middle.

       Vitoria would have viewed all of these shenanigans as an unjust basis for war because peaceful trade agreements between sovereign nations should be respected and negotiated peacefully. Japan’s continued aggression in the region, however, threatened China, and China reacted in response.  Korea was destabilized by warring factions within the country.  Both China and Japan wanted to control Korea exclusively.  In spite of their differences, Vitoria would see this as a fight over territorial conquest, which he condemned as unjust because “not all causes of war were just . . .such as territorial conquest and glory” (Bellamy, 2018, pg. 86).

Delivering Humanitarian Aid to Somalia in the Midst of Civil War

       In 1960, Somalia gained its independence from Italian control.  In 1969, Mohamed Siad Barre came to power through a military coup, set up a socialist regime, and befriended the Soviet Union.  During Somalia’s war with Ethiopia, the Soviet Union backed Ethiopia, so Somalia sought aid from the United States (Department of State, 2021, pg. 1).

       The Barre regime became more repressive, and opposition forces forced him from office in January 1991.  “The country descended into chaos, and a humanitarian crisis of staggering proportions began to unfold” (Department of State, 2021, pg. 1).  The Somali people faced “the combination of civil war, a famine after a poor harvest, and a prolonged drought” (Mugabi, 2018, pg. 2).

       The United Nations and the United States attempted to aid the Somali people in 1992, but “intense fighting between the warlords impeded the delivery of aid to those who needed it most, and so the United Nations contemplated stronger action” (Department of State, 2021, pg. 2).

       Operation Restore Hope was implemented by President George H.W. Bush, which authorized U.S. troops in Somalia “to assist with famine relief as part of the larger United Nations effort” (Department of State, 2021, pg. 2).  Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter “allowed for the use of force to maintain peace” (Department of State, 2021, pg. 2) while these humanitarian efforts were being carried out.  Unfortunately, the humanitarian aid was impeded “by warlord Muhammad Farah Aideed” (Department of State, 2021, pg. 2) and his band of militia soldiers.

       In October 1993, the U.S. raided the capital of Mogadishu in an effort to capture Aideed and his soldiers.  But the group fought back, shooting down two Black Hawk helicopters, killing eighteen U.S. soldiers, and wounding eighty more.  This debacle discredited President Bush and Operation Restore Hope and undermined all future interventions in Africa (Mugabi, 2018, pg.2).

       In the beginning, the humanitarian effort was regarded by many Americans “as an act of charity . . . [and] a mechanism to protect ordinary Somalis from marauding militias who looted anything they set their eyes on and killed at will” (Mugabi, 2018, pg. 2).  But, after “images of the bodies of American soldiers being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu as anti-American slogans were chanted were seen round the world” (Mugabi, 2018, pg. 2), public sentiment turned sour on relief efforts in Africa.  The U.S. withdrew all troops from Somalia six months later (Department of State, 2021, pg. 2; Mugabi, 2018, pg. 2).

       Presidential Decision Directive 25 was issued on May 3, 1994 by President Bill Clinton, outlining eight conditions which must be met before authorizing another peacekeeping mission with the United Nations, nine other conditions before authorizing any action under Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter (Department of State, 2021, pg. 2).

       Although the intentions behind Operation Restore Hope were good, American leaders underestimated the ferocity of Somali militia groups, putting American troops in peril.  In fact, “’Somalia’ has become a symbol for the unacceptable costs of humanitarian intervention and for the type of foreign involvement the United States should avoid” (United States Institute of Peace, 1994, pg. 1).  Apart from the politics, however, many people involved in the operation believe “that substantial good was done, although there were problems and missteps . . . U.S. involvement meant that countless lives were saved; and violence and disorder were reduced to the extent that steps toward political reconciliation could begin” (United States Institute of Peace, 1994, pg. 1).  As a result of the lessons learned, new strategies for diplomatic action, U.N. reform, military action, and implementation of humanitarian aid programs are possible (United States Institute of Peace, 1994, pg. 1-3).

Augustine, Aquinas, and Vitoria

       Augustine maintained that “Christians should be obedient subjects to the emperor and that the government has the God-given authority to violently punish in order to keep the peace and stability . . . [therefore] it [was] legitimate for a Christian to serve in the Roman legions and help defend the empire against the barbarians” (Johnson, 2016, pg. 8).  Although he agreed with Jesus’s command to wage peace and not war, he explained that “war is waged in order to attain peace” (Johnson, 2016, pg. 8).  He further maintained that soldiers must wage war against the enemy with the right intentions of love and charity (or “benevolent harshness,” as Augustine called it), safeguarding the rights and well-being of opposing enemy soldiers as well as non-combatants.  For war, after all, is nothing to celebrate (Johnson, 2016, pg. 9).

       Aquinas later elaborated on Augustine’s thinking by including self-defense as a justification for war and a necessity to preserve human life.  He reaffirmed that a just war must be declared by a legitimate authority and must be fought with right intention – out of love and charity – in order to restore peace and without unnecessary harshness toward combatants and non-combatants (Johnson, 2016, pg. 10).

       Vitoria further expanded on just war thinking by insisting that “rights necessarily extended past one’s own borders and to all people” (Johnson, 2016, pg. 11).  Therefore, the people of other sovereign nations are due the same respect, love, and charity as the citizens in our own country (Johnson, 2016, pg. 11).

       The United Nations Security Council was given the responsibility “of maintaining peace and security among nations,” (Johnson, 2016, pg. 12), so they have the legitimate authority to get involved in military and humanitarian operations.  The United States, working with the U.N., had the authority to implement Operation Restore Hope in Somalia.  U.S. troops had the right to use force, if necessary, to maintain the peace and security of the country.  Using U.S. troops to protect humanitarian efforts was an act of love and charity that respected the right of the Somali people to survive, in spite of the war crimes perpetrated by the Somali warlords (Johnson, 2016, pg. 12).

       In my opinion, Augustine, Aquinas, and Vitoria would have condemned the continued violence against innocent Somalis and praised the humanitarian efforts by the United Nations and the United States to feed and protect the Somali people

Lessons Learned, Personal Observations, and the Vitoria Surprise

St. Augustine

       Augustine demanded absolute obedience to authority figures, but I believe this is more a reflection of his education and the times in which he lived.  I don’t agree that people should be content to live under a harsh totalitarian regime or be subjected to genocide, persecution, and repression.  Otherwise, nothing would ever change. The Jews would have been completely wiped out during World War II, blacks would still be slaves in the Deep South, and more people would have died of starvation and violence in Somalia.

St. Aquinas

       I agree with Aquinas that self-defense is a legitimate cause for war, otherwise, there would be no recourse against tyrants and bullies.  Hitler would have invaded more countries, Iraq would now control Kuwait, and the Soviet Union would still be in control of Eastern Europe.  The United States would have accepted the bombing of Pearl Harbor without retaliation.  The U.S. would not have gotten involved in World War II, and Germany might have won the war.

Vitoria

       Exploration and colonization were such an integral part of Vitoria’s era that it is surprising that anyone spoke up in defenseof the indigenous people.  He demonstrated a deep compassion for all people, regardless of race, religion, and culture.  At the same time, he condemned the conquistadores and their exploitation and brutality against the natives.  Their behavior was un-Christian and inhumane and undermined the efforts of the missionaries to spread Christianity.  In fact, the cruelty of the Spaniards led to more bloodshed and war.  Vitoria was absolutely right to criticize the conquistadores.

Pacifism, Realism, and Just Peacemaking

       Some people believe pacifism is the right approach because it is more in line with Christian and humanist values.  Other people are realists and recognize that war is sometimes a necessary evil.  A more modern approach is called just peacemaking, which calls for a more proactive approach in preventing conflict (Johnson, 2016, pg. 18-20).  This approach would require a worldwide fundamental change in attitudes, however, that may be unrealistic.  There have always been people who refuse to follow the rules, defy the norms, and place their own ambitions first, and that seems unlikely to change anytime soon.  Human ambition and ego are strong forces that drive dreams of power, conquest, wealth, and control that can be resistant to rational solutions.  Having guidelines in place to evaluate legitimate conditions for war is a useful tool for making decisions about whether or not to intervene in conflicts, propose sensible solutions, and set goals for a positive result.

References

—–. (2021). First sino-japanese war. Japan visitor. Retrieved from

       http://www.japanvisitor.com/japanese-history/first-sino-japanese-war

Bellamy, A.J. (2018). Francisco de vitoria (1492 – 1546). In D.R. Brunstetter & C. O’Driscoll

       (Eds.), Just war thinkers: From cicero to the 21st century (77-91). Abingdon, Oxon: 

       Routledge

Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopedia. (2021). First sino-japanese war 1894-1895.

       Britannica. Retrieved from

       http://www.britannica.com/event/First-Sino-Japanese-War-1894-1895

Brunstetter, D.R., & O’Driscoll, C. (Ed.). (2018). Just war thinker: From cicero to the 21st

       century. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge

Davis, B. (1988). Sherman’s march. New York: Vintage Books

Department of State. Office of the Historian. (2021). Milestones: 1993-2000: Somalia,

       1992-1993. Department of State. Retrieved from

       http://www.history.state.gov/milestones/1993-2000/somalia

Department of Veteran Affairs. (2020). Fact sheets: America’s wars. Retrieved from

       http://www.va.gov/opa/publications/factsheets/fs_americas_wars.pdf

Hengjun, Y. (2014, August). The biggest lesson of the first sino-japanese war. The diplomat.

       Retrieved from http://www.thediplomat.com/2014/08/the-biggest-lesson-of-the-first-sino-

       japanese-war/

Johnson, E. (2016). War and peace in christian tradition. Augustine collective. Retrieved from

       http://www.augustinecollective.org/war-and-peace-in/

Johnson, J.T. (2018). St. augustine (354-430 ce). In D.R. Brunstetter & C. O’Driscoll (Eds.),

       Just war thinkers: From cicero to the 21st century (21-33). Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge

Mugabi, I. (2018, December). Opinion: How george h.w. bush’s failed somalia intervention

       shaped us-africa ties. DW. Retrieved from

       http://www.dw.com/en/opinion-how-george-hwbushs-failed-somalia-intervention-shaped-

       us-africa-ties/a-46598215

National Park Service. (2021). Fort sumter. Retrieved from

       http://www.nps.gov/fosu/index.htm

Nho, Hyoung-Jin. (2021). From kanghwa to shimonoseki: The disputes over the sovereignty

       of tributary choson korea. Oxford public international law. Retrieved from

       http://www.opil.ouplaw.com/page/kanghwa

Ransom, R. (2021). Causes, costs and consequences: The economics of the american civil war.

       Essential civil war curriculum. Retrieved from

       http://www.essentialcivilwarcurriculum.com/the-economics-of-the-civil-war.html

Reichberg, G.M. (2018). Thomas aquinas (1224/5 – 1274). In D.R. Brunstetter & C. O’Driscoll

       (Eds). Just war thinkers: From cicero to the 21st century (50-63). Abingdon, Oxon:

       Routledge

Rickard, J. (2013, October). First sino-japanese war (1894-1895). History of war. Retrieved from

       http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/wars_first_sino_japanese.html

Smith, D. (2007). Sherman’s march to the sea 1864: Atlanta to savannah. Botley, Oxford:

       Osprey Publishing

Special Report. (1994). Restoring hope: The real lessons of somalia for the future of

       intervention. United states institute of peace. Retrieved from

       http://www.usip.org/sites/default/files/sr950000.pdf

Tiezzi, S. (2014, April). Chinese strategists reflect on the first sino-japanese war. The diplomat.

       Retrieved from http://www.thediplomat.com/2014/04/chinese-strategists-reflect-on-the-first-

       sino-japanese-war/

Trudeau, N.A. (2008). Southern storm: Sherman’s march to the sea. New York: HarperCollins

       Publishers

~

Dawn Pisturino

Thomas Edison State University

December 23, 2021; December 9, 2022

Copyright 2021-2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

(Photo by Phil Hearing on Unsplash)

19 Comments »

Sufism and Islam

(Photo by Hulki Okan Tabak on Unsplash)

Islam is a living religion because Muhammad was a living man who lived in the world as husband, father, business manager, politician, negotiator, mediator, religious leader, and warlord. He became a model of behavior for all of these human roles. With all of its emphasis on a Day of Judgment, Islam is really about everyday life and how human beings conduct themselves in their relations with each other. Muhammad, as both Prophet of Allah and social activist, used his Prophethood to create a more just society for the people of Arabia.

The Qur’an, as revealed to Muhammad, provides divine guidelines for living a life that brings believers into constant remembrance of God (dhikr). Right behavior is modeled on the examples given by the Prophet and his Companions. If any questions come up, religious and legal scholars can consult the Qur’an, study the examples of the Prophet (sunna), and the collected sayings and events of the Prophet as reported by others (hadith). Legal rulings can be made according to the precedent set by Muhammad and his revelations in the Qur’an. This ensures that legal rulings remain in conformity with the religion and social order established by the Prophet.

Sharia Law is based on all of these components and developed to counter the corruption that was slowly undermining the Muslim Caliphate. Islamic life became a set of laws that believers were obligated to accept and follow. It was believed that if all believers ritualistically followed the same rules, society as a whole would become more just and equitable. Conformity, however, leads ultimately to nonconformity. Believers who craved a more spiritual fulfillment began to form spiritual philosophies and communities that rejected the emptiness of a life oppressed by religious and governmental control.

Sufism is a departure from the empty rules and obligations imposed on daily Islamic life. While Sunni Islam rejects monasteries and asceticism, Sufism embraces them. While the Qur’an condones violent jihad against others for self-defense, Sufism emphasizes jihad of the self (fana, which means overcoming the ego and the self (nafs) in order to dissolve into a complete union with Allah). Sufism was meant to be an ecstatic experience that rises above mundane daily life.

The central tenet of Sufism is the divine union between the lover (the believer) and the beloved (Allah). This individual relationship with God automatically excludes others, which contradicts the social nature of Islam. It emphasizes the exclusive authority of God over the individual. Many Sufis and Sufi communities came into conflict with governmental authorities because of their bizarre behavior and rejection of orthodox Islam and government authority. Some, like al-Hallaj, were executed for heresy.

Sufism developed a mystical philosophy that elevates Muhammad to a saint with mystical powers – something Muhammad fought against. The mysticism of the Night Journey, in particular, has been expanded on by Sufi philosophers. For Sufis, inner experience is more important than outer knowledge. And practices developed that cultivate the divine experience, such as chanting Al-Ghazali’s 99 Names of God; reciting mystical poetry that enhances the believer’s drunken, erotic union with God; and performing the mind-altering dances of the whirling dervishes. For Sufis, union with God IS the Divine Reality that trumps ordinary life.

Popular culture gradually embraced Sufi saint worship, pilgrimages to the tombs of saints and holy places, and items such as prayer beads and icons. When Sufi communities began to get rich off of the public, however, their influence gradually faded away. Sunni Islamic leaders have always been skeptical of Sufism and regarded Sufi practices as innovations that detract from the example of the Prophet Muhammad and pure Islam. But the remnants of Sufi practices still exist among Sunni Muslims and Sufi communities still exist today.

Sufism added a spiritual dimension to Islam that helped it to grow and develop as a living religion that would survive into the modern era.

Dawn Pisturino

Thomas Edison State University

January 14, 2019; November 30, 2022

Copyright 2019-2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

20 Comments »

The Four Islamic Legal Schools

(Photo by GR Stocks on Unsplash)

In the ideal Islamic society, there is no separation between church and state. Laws are made and interpreted according to the Qur’an, the example of the Prophet and his Companions, and collections of the hadith. It took several hundred years to compile and evaluate the validity of the hadith. In the end, they were categorized into three Sunni categories of authenticity: the sahih, the sunan, and the jami (Esposito 74-75).

The sahih includes the authenticated hadith of Muhammad al-Bukhari (810-870) (Esposito 66, 74) and Muslim ibn al-Hijjaj al-Nisaburi (817-875). The Hadith of Gabriel (Hadith Jibril), which is part of the Sahih Muslim, was compiled by Umar ibn al-Khattab (586-644), “a close companion of the Prophet Muhammad and the second [caliph] of the Muslim community” (Esposito 75). It has been revered as “the defining statement of the Islamic creed (aqidah)” (Esposito 75) even though it is not elevated to the same level as the Qur’an.

The sunan are “collections of precedents” (Esposito 75) and include the books of Abu Daud al-Sijistani (817-888), Ibn Majjah al-Qazwini (822-887), and al-Nasai (830-915). Jami are collections of hadith that may or may not be authentic, such as Jami al-Tirmidhi, compiled by al-Tirmidhi (824-892) (Esposito 75).

Shiites “consider the traditions of their imams . . . to be equal in importance to those of the Prophet himself” (Esposito 75) because they consider the bloodline of Muhammad as something sacred and open to divine revelation.

Four schools of Islamic legal thought survive: the Hanafi, Maliki, Shafii, and Hanbali. According to Esposito, the Hanafi School “has the largest following of all the surviving schools . . .” The Hanafi School has been influential in the formulation of laws governing personal freedoms, women’s rights, religious practices, and “contract rules for business transactions involving resale for profit and payment for goods for future delivery” (http://www.oxfordislamicstudies.com/article/opr/t125/e798). Basing laws on “reason, logic, opinion (ray), analogy (qiyas), and preferences (istihsan), the Hanafi School is the most liberal school in Islamic law.

The most conservative of the Islamic schools is the Hanbali School of Law, which is “the official school in Saudi Arabia and Qatar” (http://www.oxfordislamicstudies.com/article/opr/t125/e799). Laws formulated according to the Hanbali School are based on “the Qur’an, hadith, fatwas of Muhammad’s Companions, sayings of a single Companion, traditions with weaker chains of transmission or lacking the name of a transmitter in the chain, and reasoning by analogy (qiyas) when absolutely necessary” (http://www.oxfordislamicstudies.com/article/opr/t125/e799).

The Maliki School of Law is called the “School of Medina . . . [and] many doctrines are attributed to early Muslims such as Muhammad’s wives, relatives, and Companions” (http://www.oxfordislamicstudies.com/articles/opr/t125/e1413). Although the Maliki School relies on personal opinion (ray) and analogy (qiyas), it is best known for basing Islamic law on the examples of Muhammad’s Companions in Medina.

The Shafii School of Law, founded by Muhammad ibn Idris ibn al-Abbas ibn Uthman ibn Shafii in the eighth century, “considers hadith superior to customary doctrines of earlier schools in formulation of Islamic law” (http://www.oxfordislamicstudies.com.article/opr/t125/e2148). The Shafii School emphasizes the use of human reason and seeks to find common ground between the different schools.

Shariah Law developed as a means to fight the materialism and greed that were gradually undermining the Islamic Empire. “Because Muhammad was believed to have surrendered perfectly to God, Muslims were to imitate him in their daily lives . . . Islamic Holy Law helped Muslims to live a life that was open to the divine” (Armstrong 160). This ritualized lifestyle was meant to invoke a constant reminder of Allah (dhikr) and to internalize taqwa (God consciousness).

The living example of Muhammad, then, is the key to living a divine life.  And Shariah Law must always trace its roots back to the Prophet and the Qur’an. Having a plurality of schools provokes thought and encourages discourse but undermines the original intent of Shariah law. And when you have Imams claiming divine revelation based on their kinship to the Prophet, this opens the doorway to “innovations,” which are discouraged in Islam.

Internet Sources – incorporated into the body of the post

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.

~

Dawn Pisturino

Thomas Edison State University

January 7, 2019; November 29, 2022

Copyright 2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

6 Comments »

Jesus Met the Woman at the Well

(Photo from http://www.Christ.org)

[Note: All quotations are from the New King James Version Bible]

John 4:1-54 in the New Testament tells the story of the woman at the well. When Jesus informed his disciples that he was going to go to Galilee by way of Samaria, they would have been surprised, although John does not tell us so. Samaria was generally avoided by devout Jews. Interactions with Samaritans were frowned upon due to religious and cultural conflicts. Jesus was making a daring move and a profound statement by choosing to go there.

Jesus traveled to the city of Sychar and decided to rest at Jacob’s Well, which was just outside the city, while his disciples went on to procure food. Soon, a Samaritan woman came to the well to draw water. When Jesus asked her for a drink of water, she reminded him that Jews did not mix with Samaritans. But Jesus offered her “the gift of God” and “living water” in exchange for the drink.

The woman questioned Jesus further, reminding him that Jacob dug the well. But Jesus pointed out to her that ordinary water would always leave a person thirsty. The water he offered would give “everlasting life.” The woman, intrigued, asked for her portion of this water, but Jesus turned the tables on her by asking her to bring her husband to the well. The woman admitted that she had no husband.

Jesus, pleased by her honesty, revealed that she had had five husbands. The woman, amazed by his knowledge of her, honored him as a prophet. She reminded Jesus that part of the conflict between the Jews and the Samaritans was the sacred places of worship, which differed between the two groups. Jews believed Jerusalem was the only place to properly worship God, and the Samaritans worshipped right there on the mountain near Jacob’s Well.

In response, Jesus made a profound admission. “The hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” He seems to be saying here that God does not need a temple or particular place in which to be worshipped. Worship comes from the heart and the soul and cannot be contained within brick-and-mortar walls or special designated places of worship. God is everywhere and all-inclusive. All people are welcome to worship Him.

The woman at the well affirmed her belief in the coming of the Messiah, and Jesus admitted that He was the Messiah. The disciples returned then with the food and did not question Jesus talking to the Samaritan woman. But Jesus affirmed to them that He was doing His Father’s work – that was His real food.

In her excitement, the woman ran off without her water jug. But she no longer needed it because she had heard Jesus’s words and left filled with the Holy Spirit. She informed the city about Jesus and His wise words. People flocked to hear what He had to say. Many believed in Him because of what He had to say. People told the woman, “we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the World.”

After two days, Jesus and His disciples traveled on to Galilee. He returned to Cana, where he learned about a wealthy man’s son in Capernaum who was sick. Jesus admonished the people, accusing them of not believing in Him unless they “see signs and wonders.” But Jesus reassured the father that his son would live. When the man returned home, he learned that his son had recovered from his illness at about the same time that Jesus had assured him that his son would live.

The difference between the Samaritans and the Galileans was that the woman at the well and the people in Sychar believed in Jesus as the Christ because of His words, whereas the Galileans wanted proof in the form of miracles.

May we listen to the words of Jesus and find comfort in His wisdom, love, and compassion. May we put all of our trust in God and hand over all of our worries and cares to Him.

(Folk singers Peter Yarrow, Paul Stookey, and Mary Travers: “Jesus Met the Woman,” from the 1964 album, “Peter, Paul, and Mary in Concert.”)

Dawn Pisturino

August 26, 2022

Copyright 2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

14 Comments »

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.

14 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.

30 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.

29 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.

31 Comments »

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