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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.

5 Comments »

Radha to Krishna – A Poem

Radha to Krishna

You planted your pink lotus seeds

Inside my heart

And opened me up like a radiant flower.

~ Dawn Pisturino ~

2011; August 12, 2022

Copyright 2011-2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

26 Comments »

Boudica’s Soliloquy – A Poem

Boudica’s Soliloquy

by Dawn Pisturino

Foul deeds of war have broken me.

Come, smell the blood! Hear the moans of the dying!

The corpses of my daughters lay silently at my feet,

Shamed and murdered by our Roman tormentors.

Colchester and London — what glorious victories! —

The blood flowed freely from Roman wounds.

They howled in rage as they died. How we cheered!

But Rome’s crawling legions caught us in their snare,

And now, we are vanquished.

Britannia is no more. Weep for a chastised people!

No longer Queen, I am marked for death.

No longer Mother, I will not be consoled.

No longer Wife, I burn with revenge.

I lift the flask of poison to my lips, tasting the bitterness in my mouth.

I will lie here with my daughters, my shield across my breast

And my spear by my side, and welcome Death with honor.

~ Dawn Pisturino ~

Published in Wounds I Healed: The Poetry of Strong Women anthology, June 2022. #1 Amazon bestseller in New Releases of Poetry Anthologies. Available now! Get your copy today.

July 29, 2022

Copyright 2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

38 Comments »

Peace, Serenity with T’ai Chi

(Photo by Mark Hang Fung So on Unsplash)

T’ai Chi is a Chinese system of gentle exercise movements which developed mainly out of Taoist philosophy to promote general good health and a less violent form of self-defense.

Lao Tzu, who developed the philosophy of Taoism in the sixth century B.C., believed that human beings could find peace and serenity by understanding and acting in accordance with the flow of nature. The slow, fluid movements in T’ai Chi reflect the constant ebb and flow of opposing universal energies, called the yin and yang.

T’ai Chi has many benefits. The graceful movements can be easily learned, with practice, by people of all ages. No special equipment is needed, and the exercises can be performed in a relatively small space.

T’ai Chi provides good exercise, lays the foundation for self-defense techniques, increases mental alertness, and improves meditation abilities. As individuals progress, they often develop a more tranquil frame of mind. T’ai Chi incorporates movement meditation along with quiet meditation, based on Taoist meditation and breathing techniques.

T’ai Chi developed as an internal martial art that emphasizes wisdom and development of the mind over body. It allows practitioners to balance internal energy, called ch’i, in order to improve general health and generate new power. The use of vital energy from within becomes a self-healing modality as well as a potent force for self-defense.

T’ai Chi practitioners become highly aware of the benefits of cultivating this energy (ch’i): more rapid recovery from injury and illness, increased energy and libido, greater physical strength and flexibility, better balance and stability, improved stamina, and a stronger immune system.

Many senior citizens have found that the regular practice of T’ai Chi exercises helps them to remain more flexible and active.

(Learn T’ai Chi with Jack Mace on YouTube)

Dawn Pisturino

February 3, 2007; July 25, 2022
Published in The Kingman Daily Miner, March 27, 2007
Copyright 2007-2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

22 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 »

The Skeptic’s Kaddish – Poetry Partner #98

I am pleased and proud to announce that my poem, The Age of Elegance, has been published on The Skeptic’s Kaddish, and David ben Alexander has penned his marvelous response to it. Please visit his site here to read our poems and show your support.

Thank you so much!

Dawn Pisturino

July 17, 2022

Copyright 2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

19 Comments »

“Psychology,” a Poem, Published on Spillwords

(Photo by Glen Hodson)

I’m thrilled to announce that my poem, “Psychology,” has been published today on Spillwords. I want to thank Dagmara K. and all of her lovely staff for this opportunity to share my poetry. I feel truly honored.

PSYCHOLOGY

written by: Dawn Pisturino

A psychologist by trade,
She brought order from chaos,
Splicing together the broken threads
Of fragile minds:
Listening for the right tone,
The right inflection, the right notes
To harmonize the deepest
Fears and desires of her clients.
But, in her own disordered brain . . .

Please head on over to Spillwords here to read the rest of my poem and all of the other featured selections for today.

Thank you sincerely from the bottom of my heart!

Dawn Pisturino

June 18, 2022

Copyright 2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

And, don’t forget to check out the Wounds I Healed: The Poetry of Strong Women anthology, now available on Amazon and Kindle. #1 in Amazon New Releases of Poetry Anthologies. Thanks!

31 Comments »

Official Anthology Launch Date: June 18, 2022

Wounds I Healed: The Poetry of Strong Women anthology officially launches on Amazon and Kindle on Saturday, June 18, 2022.

Here’s the official Amazon description:

Award-winning authors, Pushcart nominees, emerging poets, voices of women and men, come to the fore in this stunning, powerful, and unique anthology. Their poems testify to the challenges that women face in our society, and to their power to overcome them. A memorable collection of over 200 poems by more than 100 authors, this anthology is a must-have for anyone. We all can benefit from the poetry of survival, and of healing. We all can benefit from the experiences so beautifully evoked in this book. We can all come together to emerge triumphant from pain.”

Editor and Curator: Gabriela Marie Milton

Publisher: Experiments in Fiction/Ingrid Wilson

Artwork: Nick Reeves

Get YOUR copy soon!

Dawn Pisturino

June 17, 2022

20 Comments »

Cheap Wine, Dried Salame, and YOU

 My husband was one of those “bad boys” that girls fall in love with and parents deplore. With his black jacket and black leather cap, he looked like a Sicilian gangster out on a hit.

His pent-up anger spilled out of him in dangerous ways. For example, he mapped out a plan whereby every bank in the city of San Francisco could be robbed on the same day.

His dark nature captivated me, and soon, I was hooked for life.

We fought like cats and dogs, but oh, the fun we had! We went treasure hunting in crazy, out-of-the-way places, finding cold hard cash lying in the sand in a cave. We drove up and down the Pacific Coast Highway in his green Fiat X-19, enjoying the sun on our faces, the wind in our hair. We hiked through the redwoods on Mt. Tamalpais and watched the ocean tides under a full moon at Ocean Beach.

One day, singing at the top of his lungs, my husband suddenly stripped down and drove naked with the top of his car open along the 92 over to Half Moon Bay. Thrilled and excited, I watched for the cops, laughing all the way.

On cool, foggy nights, we slipped away into the darkness and made love on sandy beaches. On warm afternoons, we packed a picnic snack: a bottle of Riunite Lambrusco and a link of dried salame. Sun, warmth, ocean air, sand, green grass, and a hazy glow of love and darkness and friendship between us.

After our daughter was born, we included her in our crazy life. Archery at the range on King’s Mountain, afternoon tea at Agatha’s, strolling the malls, tramping through the sand at Half Moon Bay, riding the carousel at the San Francisco Zoo, flying kites down on the Marina.

Those days are over now. Our daughter is grown, and we’re not as skinny as we used to be. We live in the desert in Arizona, work, walk the dog, watch TV, and complain about the heat, wind, and dust. But whenever I go back to California, I relive those glory days of sunshine and salt air. Whenever I spot a bottle of Riunite or a link of dried salame at the grocery store, I remember foggy nights and making love in the sand.

So let me fill my plastic cup with cheap red wine, arrange slices of salame and cheese on a paper plate, and offer this toast to the man I love:

I LOVE YOU, DEAR HEART, MY LOVER, MY BEST FRIEND, MY MENTOR, MY DEVIL’S ADVOCATE, MY DARK KNIGHT — AND I ALWAYS WILL.

Happy Father’s Day!

(Father’s Day is Sunday, June 19, 2022 in the USA)

Dawn Pisturino

June 16, 2022

Copyright 2012-2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

33 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 »

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