CHAPTER 13 ARAB CULTURE
Arab Culture PRISMs? • In today’s world, should all cultures be secularized? • Can religion be the basis for social law? • Have organized religions helped or hurt the world more? • Should all cultures be subject to a universal code of civil rights? • Should cultures have the right to discriminate on the basis of religious differences?
Individualism Extended family Community Monochronic Poychronic Low Context High Context Social Ambiguity Social Certainty Low Power Distance High power Distance Mastery Adaptation Emotionally Neutral Emotionally Expressive Quantity of Life Quality of life
Arab culture is diverse There are 22 Arab nations
Only 20 % of Muslims are Arab—Indonesia & India both have more Muslims than all Middle East nations combined. • A fourth of all people are Muslim • Islam is second largest religion in many European nations (especially France & Britain) & the fastest growing American religion (with 1200 mosques in the USA). • Large populations of Muslims live in India, Sub-Saharan Africa, Central Asia & East Asia.
The Arab nations that have traditionally cooperated with the West have been Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Lebanon, Tunisia, Morocco, the United Arab Emirates, & Qatar • The West has experienced the greatest frictions with Iran, Iraq, & Libya • Islam has no official ruling agency (such as the Vatican) and Muslims don’t have to belong to a mosque. • The 3 Muslim holy cities are Mecca & Medina in Saudi Arabia, and Jerusalem.
THE 7 GEOGRAPHICAL ZONES OF ISLAM Zone 1: Arabic (mainly the Arabian peninsula(Dominant language: Arabic) Zone 2: Iraq to the Persian Gulf: Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan. (Dominant language: Farsi (also called Dari & Tajik) Zone 3: Black Africa (150M people): Ethiopia, Mali, Senegal, Chad, Sudan, Morocco, Syria, Algeria, Libya Zone 4: Turkic zone people groups: Chechen, Uighur, Uzbdk, Kirghiz, Turkeman (Dominant language: the Altaic family of languages)
Zone 5: Indian subcontinent: Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Muslims scattered throughout India & Nepal Zone 6: Malay populations in Southeast Asia (220M Muslims): Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, sizable minorities in Thailand & the Philippines; smaller minorities in Cambodia & Vietnam Zone 7: European Muslim minority populations: Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia, Bosnia, Croatia, Serbia; North Africans in France, & large populations of Turk & Kurd immigrants in Germany & 2M Indian Muslim immigrants in Britain.
ARAB NATION DEMOCRACY RANKINGS (the higher the score, the more democratic) Morocco: 35 Lebanon: 34 Iraq: 32 Jordan: 32 Qatar: 31 Kuwait: 30 Syria: 20 Algeria: 18 Libya: 15 Saudi Arabia: 13
1. Unlike Westerners, most Arabs don’t have a strong nation state concept (because so many of today’s Middle Eastern nations were set up by the colonial West in the first half of the 20th century). Arabs identify more with tribal identities and Islamic sects than with nation states, yet Western powers continue to relate to the Middle East from an unrealistic nation state perspective. • From a philosophical point of view, Arab cultures never went through the equivalent of the Western Enlightenment with its emphasis on secularization, nation states, & scientific skepticism.
Growth in per-capita income in Arab nations is the lowest in the world except for sub-Saharan Africa. On average, citizens in industrialized nations double their income every decade vs. 140 years for the average Arab citizen. Of 280M Arabs in 22 Arab nations, 65M are illiterate (2/3 of whom are women). The combined GDP of all 22 Arab nations is less than Spain’s; 1/5 of Arabs live on less than $2 daily.
MUSLIMS IN AMERICA American Muslims are fairly affluent, averaging more than $50,000 in annual income (vs. a national average of $32,000). Two-thirds have college degrees (vs. below half of the American adult population). American Muslims have larger families than non-Muslims.
Precise time of sunrises and sunsets • Longitude and latitude • Magnetic compass • Extracted perfumes from fragrant flowers and herbs
Silk weaving • Steel forging • Harp, bagpipe, lyre, zither, drum, tambourine, flute, oboe and reed instruments • Water wheel, cisterns, irrigation • Arab mathematicians developed the concept of zero, the decimal system, algebra, and made great strides in trigonometry.
Reformed the calendar with a margin of error only one day in five thousand years • Investigated the relative speeds of sound and light • Arabs grafted a single vine so that it would bear grapes in different colors, and their vineyards were responsible for Europe’s future wine industries. • Brought cotton to European markets
Arabic Calligraphy 28 characters read from right to left
CLASSIC ARAB LITERATURE • Sufi Muslims led the development of classic Arab literature. • Famous poets include ibn al-Farid (died in 1235) & Jalal ad-Din Rumi (1207-1273). Classic prose writers include al-Ghazali (1058-1111), Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani (1077-1166), ibn Arabi (1165-1240) & Ibn Qayyim al Jawziyya (1292-1350).
OVERVIEW OF ISLAM
Islam is meant to be a worldwide religion, not just for the Middle East. Muslims consider Allah to be the same deity worshipped by Jews & Christians (but Muslims don’t believe in the Christian Trinity, viewing it as polytheism). • Islam means “those who submit” (to Allah) • Islamic cultures are a theocracy with no separation of church and state • Holy law (Shari’a law) is based on the Qur’an rather than secular law • Fatalism: God’s will overcomes man’s will. Man is thus seen to have limited “free will”
SIMILARITIES BETWEEN JUDAISM & ISLAM • Monotheism • Abraham (who fathered the 2 sons whose lineage led to both Judaism & Islam) • Old Testament based • Legalistic/Ritualistic • Classifying people into two categories (true believers vs. gentile unbelievers)
Those who submit to Allah Most historically Islamic nations are still strongly Islamic, while most historically Christian nations are only marginally Christian now.
Mosques hold religious services at noon on Fridays (because Allah created humans on a Friday)
THE 3 BRANCHES OF ISLAM About 90% (800M) of Muslims are Sunni, the moderate branch of Islam in the practice of Islam & interpretation of the Qur’an. In 661, the Sunni split from the Shiites (10% of Muslims—100M), a more religiously conservative branch of Islam Most Middle Eastern nations have Sunni majorities, as well as Pakistan, Turkey, & Afghanistan. The Shiites are most prominent in Iraq & Iran.
The Wahhabi of Saudi Arabia are the strictest Muslim group, who interpret the Koran literally. • The Sufi historically practiced Islam with an inward-focus somewhat in the same vein as monastic monks in the Medieval Christian tradition, emphasizing mystical closeness to God through intense religious experience, self-denial, simplicity of life, & disdain for materialism. They strive for the religious state of al-insan alkamin (“the perfect human being”), which they feel was modeled by Mohammad.
“Millions of people in developing nations (such as the Middle East) know Western culture only through television and film. The picture they see is of a rich but morally decadent society corrupted by alcohol, drugs, family breakdown, crime, abuse of sex, and economic exploitation in which many innocent victims suffer without redress. They want to resist any forces that could lead them in the same direction.”
THE PROPHET MOHAMMAD & HIS SUCCESSORS
The prophet Mohammad (Ubu’l-Kassim) was born in Mecca in 570; died in 632. Islam considers Mohammed to be the last of the line of Old Testament prophets that includes Abraham, Moses, & Jesus. Mohammad means “the most praised one,” or messenger. • He was orphaned at an early age & raised by his grandfather & uncle. He later married & became a prosperous merchant. • He encountered the angel Gabriel during Ramadan in a cave on Mt. Hira (above the city of Mecca) in 610 and developed the Qur’an (“recitation”) over many years.
Mohammad was a social reformer who sought to end age-old conflicts between family clans & tribal groups. He called people to radical change in the personal faith & lifestyles, serving as a personal role model of religious rightousness. • His reform efforts threatened the Quraysh established social elite, who violently resisted Mohammad’s success. • Mohammad was a prophet for 10 years in the present day Saudi Arabian city of Mecca & then another 10 years in the city of Medina. During this time he united the warring clans, unifying Arabia.
In a quest to spread Islam, Muhammad’s army achieved its first victory in 624. Within 21 years after after Muhammad’s death, armies of his successors (the caliphs) expanded Muslim territory to an area as large as the Roman empire. For the next 700 years, Christian armies (fighting a series of “Crusades”) pushed the Muslims out of France & Spain. • After Mohammad’s death, Islam split into major factions over disagreement on which caliph was to be his successor. The Sunni faction felt the successor should primarily be a political leader who would protect the borders of Islam & maintain peace. The Shiites preferred a leader who was a scholar in Islamic law.
The minority Shia also accepted Ali as the first legitimate Islamic Imam (religious leader). Those who supported Ali were called the followers of Ali, or Shi’a Ali (today’s Shi’a). • The Sunnis were the majority Muslim group, choosing Abu Bakr (died in 656) as the Caliph (leader). His immediate Sunni successors included Umar (led from 634-644), Uthman (died in 656) & Ali &died in 661).
“The way Mohammad lived has become a role model for Muslims down through the centuries. He set the example of hospitality and trustworthiness in all his dealings. He showed humility in his relations with other people and always claimed only to be the servant of God. In practical ways, he was also a role model, such as dressing in white, especially for prayer.” • Muslims don’t regard Mohammad as divine, but rather as a messenger form God who brings good news. He is seen as God’s final prophet, not the founder of a new religion, but rather as the prophet who restored the alleged historical corruptions of Judaism & Christianity.
Beginning in 610, Muhammad began receiving a series of messages from the angel Gabriel that continued until for 23 years until the remainder of his life. • The resulting Qur’an (“recitation” or “gathering”) is divided into 114 sections (suras, or chapters arranged non-chronologically by length) & contains 6,225 verses of varying lengths. It consists of two kinds of revelation: literal dictations from Gabriel & Muhammad’s inspired writings. The Qur’an is considered by all Muslims to be the literal, undistorted word of God.
The prophet Mohammad’s were put into writing by various disciples & interpreted by as series of caliphs (especially Abu Bak & Uthman) who succeeded Mohammad after his death. • Like Christianity, Islam is divided into different schools of thought (sects) based on different interpretations of the Qur’an.
The Qur’an holds the Hebrew & Christian religious traditions in high respect, with 93 references to Jesus, who is viewed an an important prophet & teacher, though not the son of God. • Many Muslims view Jesus as an example of selfless devotion to God. • “The Qur’an sees Jesus as a prophet to the Hebrew nation, but not a universal prophet sent to all mankind, a role reserved for Mohammad.”
ISLAMIC RELIGIOUS PRACTICES
Today Islam is divided into 3 levels of believers based on the depth & intensity of their faith. The first level, called Muslims, are those who surrender to Allah & Islam; the Mumin, who master the faith intellectually, compose the second level; the third level of Mushins seek to maximize virtue through their righteous practice of the faith. The hafiz are those who have memorized the entire Qur’an.
TAQWA: the over-riding purpose of Islam: remembering God in every aspect of life & living accordingly. • SALAT (“formal”): the formal group prayers required of all Muslims 5 times daily, which build taqwa (bringing believers closer to God). Salat can be offered anywhere people congregate at home or work. • ADHAN: the formal “call to prayer” • SURAT AL-FATIHA: the Friday holy day prayer which is compulsory for Muslims to attend
THE 5 TIMES OF DAILY PRAYER (Salat) • Salat al-Fajr: Prayer before sunrise • Salat al-Zuhr: noon prayer • Salat al-’Asr: late afternoon prayer • Salat al-Maghrib: prayer directly after sunset • Salat al-’Isha: nighttime prayer
THE ADHAN PRAYER (Shahada Creed) “God is most great I bear witness that there is no god but Allah I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of God Hurry to prayer Hurry to success God is most great There is no god but Allah”
An imam (“one who presides”) leads Muslim prayer services. “Imam are the sinless guides of a Muslim community who hold both religious & political power. They are held to be infallible in interpreting the Qur’an.”
SURAT AL FATIHA (Friday holy day prayer) “In the name of God, the compassionate, the merciful. Praise be to God, the Lord of creation. Master of the day of judgment You alone do we worship & to you alone we pray for help. Guide us to the straight path, The path of those whom you have favored, Not of those who have incurred your wrath, Nor of those who have gone astray.”
In prayer rituals, the average Muslim invokes the name of Allah 20 plus times a day. • More Muslims are named Mohammed than any other first name in the world. • More passages of the Qur’an are committed to memory than any other religious book. • Women may say prayers with men in mosques, but physical separation is maintained to avoid distraction. • The Qur’an forbids Muslims from consuming alcohol & drugs & prohibits gambling.
RAMADAN (sawm, or fasting) 1. The most important Muslim annual religious time period which celebrates the angel Gabriel reciting the Koran (“recitation”) to Mohammad 2. Al haj, the trip to Mecca, is next in importance 3. Occurs during the 9th month of the Muslim calendar (based the Arab lunar calendar which is 11 days shorter than the solar year Western calendar)
Ramadan, the holiest time of the Muslim year, is a month-long daytime fast from all food, drink, tobacco, & sexual activity. Both psychological & physical purification is sought via intensification of prayer, recitation of the Qu’ran, & acts of charity (zakah).