Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Some more answers

Aliocha--here are some more answers to your comment-questions. Please let me know if you'd like some more information.

What are salat and Taraweeh?

Salat or Salah is the Arabic word for prayer, specifically the ritual prayer that Muslims pray 5 times a day. It is a pillar of Islam, the central pillar really, and is a scripted means for Muslims to connect with God. It is glorification of God and praise of God, and a request for guidance. The prayer consists of reading Qur'an as well, plus bowing and prostrating (before God) while supplicating to Him.

Taraweeh means resting or something like that, and I'm talking about an extra kind of salat in Ramadan, the month when Muslims fast. This is an optional prayer, where a portion from the Qur'an is recited in the prayer every night, such that the entire Qur'an is read by the end of the month. It's called resting, but basically, in the prayer, the first chapter of the Qur'an is always read, then something else from the Qur'an. In these prayers, which are at night in Ramadan after the night prayer, large passages from the Qur'an are read, and for a few hours the person praying and anyone praying behind, everyone is standing, pausing sometimes to bow and prostrate, which sort of breaks it up a little bit.

A few more questions about Islam: how do you see the salvation for non-Islamic believers? For instance: I am a Christian. Does that mean I am going to Hell?

This is a good question, but the only answer I can give you is that God knows who is going to Hell, and I don't. In fact, I'm not even certain that I won't go to Hell, as a Muslim, and I fear that. I fear that I am not sincere, I fear that I might become a hypocrite, and that my devotion to God is not deep enough to spare me from disbelief, even by accident.

So salvation... Muslims don't talk about "salvation" so much, or being "saved." Being Muslim is not a guarantee of avoiding Hell actually, though we do believe that anyone who truly believes in God and submits to Him will make it to Paradise. What you'll find in Islam, though it might seem strange at first, is the idea that some people will go to Hell for a while, and then be freed of it. I don't want to spend one second in Hellfire, though... not even less than that, forget hours, days, years, or more! There is no guarantee that we will not be in Hellfire, or that we will certainly make it to Paradise--just saying we're Muslim isn't enough. Hypocrites face one of the worst punishments in Hell!! But what is necessary is belief that there is absolutely no god, nothing at all worthy of worship, no deity, no power or ruler, except for the One God. And in Islam, on top of that there are other beliefs, namely that God/Allah has sent Messengers, including Muhammad, peace be upon all of them. Part of believing in God is believing in His Messengers, and in the Message that he has sent mankind--which is in essence that we should worship Him alone, without any partners.

What are the sources of authority in Islam? I know the Quran is the basis for Islam, but how do you decide on the interpretation of the Quran?

Basically there are two "sources of authority" in Islam. There is the Qur'an--what Allah says/said. And there is the Sunnah/Hadith--what Allah's Messenger said. So we rely on the Qur'an as the preserved verbatim word of God, and then the teachings of Muhammad. Muslims view Muhammad as a "walking Qur'an" meaning that he understood it completely, more than anyone else, and that all his teachings and actions were in accordance with it. So we take instruction from him, and we take our understanding of the Qur'an from him.

I have some notes at home about the study of the Qur'an and interpretation of it, but I hope this will answer your question. The first means of interpreting the Qur'an is by using the Qur'an. If one passage has something that seems unclear, another may clarify it. The next means is by using the Hadith (which are sayings of Muhammad), because Muhammad knew the Qur'an's meaning better than anyone else. After that, we look at the interpretation of the first generation of Muslims, (i.e., Ibn Abbas), and after that we look at interpretations through language. One option under debate is whether a consensus of the majority of scholars of the Qur'an is another valid kind of interpretation.

There is a whole science to studying the Qur'an--I just bought a book on it actually that I hope to be able to post on soon. Islam is steeped in tradition--in some ways, like the Catholic Church. We don't just look at the Qur'an in light of the 21st century, but as a book that has been revealed for all time, with a history going back to the 7th century.

And to your last question--Alhamdulillah.
Alhamdulillah--this means literally that all praise is for Allah (God.) We should praise God for everything we have, everything that happens, and Muslims say it a lot, even as a response to simple question like "How's it going" or "How are you?" or "How was your test?" Because regardless of the outcome, we should praise Allah for it.


Anonymous said...

Tell me, lady, have you actually read the ahadith?

Do you notice anything wrong? Do some of the passages bother you?

Perhaps, just maybe, the many incidents of murder, plunder, torture, enslavement, wife-beating and rape would cause a normal person to stop and think... but then again...

Let me know your thoughts on these matters, please.

Thanks, JOhn Kactuz

PS: Yes, according to what I have read in both the Quran and hadiths, your prophet was a 'walking Quran' in the sense that he acted in accordance with the message in that book. I cannot disagree on that, for sure.

Amy said...

Lady? All politeness, aren't you?

I read ahadith on a fairly regular basis alhamdulillah. And 1 in every 10 or 20 gets me to raise my eyebrows and question it. Most recently I was in a class for Riyadh us-Saliheen, which is a well-known collection you could look through, that has compiled hadith from other canonical collections and chains. The hadith was one about a couple who had married, and a woman came and told them that she had suckled both of them in their infancy, both the bride and groom. So the man wondered if he should take her testimony on this issue.

It's not the two people sucked by the same woman being brother/sister and therefore unable to marry that bothered me--I knew that. What bothered me was this hadith was in a chapter about avoiding things that cause doubt.

You know, a woman's testimony in court is often not taken alone, she needs another woman to back her up (the explanation for that being she will apparently forget--I don't buy this explanation to be honest, but that's another issue.) Yet in this particular case, there was only one woman saying so... and the Prophet saws asked the man how he could stay married knowing this? The woman's testimony was taken, and is taken even alone on issues that only a woman could testify about. (Which makes me wonder about why her testimony wouldn't be valid alone in other cases but anyway...)

Yet at the same time, this isn't the issue or one of the issues that concern you about hadith. You said: the many incidents of murder, plunder, torture, enslavement, wife-beating and rape.

So let me tell you what hadith means--this is something the Prophet saws said, something he did, or something that was done in his presence that he approved of. I don't know of any instance of the Prophet saws murdering, torturing or raping anyone or approving of it! What you call plundering, I know of only a specific case where the Muslims, who had been forced to flee Mecca btw, were raiding to take back their own belongings. Enslaving--this is interesting you say the Prophet saws enslaved people when Islam was all about freeing slaves and ending slavery. Slaves were taken because that was the custom, but they were also freed and I think that is much more important.

About wife-beating, I know of absolutely no instance where the Prophet saws ever beat his wives. On top of that, he told his followers that the best of them was the best to his wives.