Official Blog Entry #7: The Islamic Tradition

Before I comment on the readings for this week, I would like to point out an amazing series of lectures that will take place at the University of Toronto (yes here!) this month.  They are very relevant to the readings that were required.

The course is called The Lost Kingdom:  History of Andalus (Andalusia or Islamic Spain).  I will be going myself!  Here is the trailer:

Islam is a religion that has increasingly become more prevalent in day-to-day discussions and has, in modern times, started to emerge outside of the realm of academia.  There is evidently a great amount of literature present in the Islamic world regarding the religion, its philosophy, and thought.  On the contrary, the non-Muslim literati and what we now call Orientalists (Arabic:  Al-Mostashriqoon), tended to produce literature that demonized Islam and enforced negative stereotypes.  It is, again only in modern times, that Orientalists have emerged who have attempted to understand Islam as within the Islamic tradition, rather than a separate, inherently violent, identity.

Mahmoud M. Ayoub, in his The Spread of Islam depicted the spread of Islam in a manner that was easily comprehensible and definitely not reprehensible as many authors do.  He demonstrated that Islam is more than just a politicized ideology, as some fundamentalists have made it about to be, and it definitely did not spread only by the sword.  Yes the Prophet Muhammad (ص) was a military man, and Islam initially expanded with the Umayyad Empire through warfare, but the mass conversions only took place because the religion of Islam appealed to the masses and allowed them to make their respective cultures Islamic au lieu de Arab.  Ayoub overall depicts how Islam spread throughout the ages, with victories such as that of Ayn Jalut against the Mongol Hulagu Khan, and such defeats as the expulsion of the Spanish Moors from Granada and Cordoba, Spain, the heart land of Islam in the western hemisphere.  He proves that Muslim and Arab are not synonymous, and that the quarter of the World’s population that professes to the Islamic faith are just mere humans, and nothing less.

From reading the selections of Carl W. Ernst in Following Muhammad, I can confidently say that Ernst, a non-Muslim, approaches Islam from an un-biased point of view.  He rejects the idea born out of Samuel Huntington’s book:  The Clash of Civilizations, and points out that one religion does not need to come out triumphant.  He rejects the notion that it will be a fight to the death between Christianity and Islam, and highlights that the West needs to discard the idea that it constantly has to confront the rest.  Ernst attempts to dismantle all the stereotypes that non-Muslims maintain about Islam, and provides sensible, common-sense rebuttals to all of them.

I personally do not agree with the Clash of the Civilizations theory.  Surely there must be a more humane way to settle our disputes.  It should not be a fight to the finish with only one triumphant.  History has proven to us time after time that war will never settle differences.  It will only create bloodshed, horror, and result in many lives lost.  Perhaps its time that we started learning from history, the various instances where people lived in harmony regardless of religious affiliation, and made an attempt to settle the age-long conflicts that bring this world closer each day to Armageddon.  Then, and only then perhaps, the Armageddon that we might one day witness, might not result from the hands of none other than our own.

The Dome of the Rock overlooks the city of Jerusalem. Jerusalem has been a contested place for Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike.

The following clip is the account of the Conquest of Spain (Al-Andalus) from the Muslim perspective.


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