(ISLAM: ORIGINS, ATTITUDES and BELIEFS – continued)
After the Koran was compiled under the third caliph, Uthman, stories about Muhammad continued orally, stories about Muhammad's activities or what he had said, passed on from one person to another and then written down. The Arabic word describing this is Hadith.
Early on, there were those who viewed these stories with skepticism or rejected them as false, stories such as the Prophet Muhammad having performed miracles, including his feeding a multitude from food hardly adequate for one man, of the Prophet touching the udders of dry goats and the goats then giving milk, of the Prophet healing with his touch and exorcizing demons. And there was a story of the Prophet loving his enemies. But there were stories that were more credible. The Hadith that were to survive were written down at the start of the Abbasid period. Some contradicted each other or supported differing views on matters. Recognized Muslim scholars worked at evaluating them, which Muslims were to call the science of Hadith. Eventually most Muslims considered Hadith essential supplements to and clarifications of the Koran, and Hadith became a part of traditional Islamic jurisprudence and for many Muslims a source of religious inspiration – important tools for determining the Muslim way of life.
With truth being difficult to agree upon, three traditions of Hadith developed. There was the Sunni tradition, which solidified more than 230 years after the death of Muhammad. The Shia rejected Sunni Hadith as unreliable or false, and among the Shia were divisions as to which Hadith were true. There was the Ibadi branch of Islam, which accepted some Sunni Hadith and rejected others. The trend toward variety in belief that had developed with others was happening among the Muslems.
The Ibadi movement has been described as beginning less than 50 years after the death of Muhammad. They saw themselves as the True Believers. They were to be found primarily in the Oman region of Arabia. They were in agreement with the Sunnis and, different from the Shia, in recognizing the legitimacy of the first caliph, Abu Bakr. They chose sides in other conflicts in Islam's early history, some in agreement with the Sunni. Some in agreement with the Shia . They believed that the Koran was created by God at a point in time in Islam's history, disagreeing with the Sunni that the Koran was uncreated. And they did not accept that Sunni believe that Muslims would see God on the day of Judgment.
There were those involved with other Muslims in examing Greek and Hellenistic philosophies and who, with their school of thought that developed out of theological disputes in the 700s, became known as Mutazilites. With other intellectual Muslims they tried to synthesize reason and revelation. They clung to their belief in the power of reason and that the Koran provided truth where reason failed. They differed from others in their belief in free will. Evil, they believed, stemmed from erroneous actions. God, they believed, does no evil. And Muslims who commit grave sins and die without repentance do so not as Muslims.
Another variation was creataed by the Kharijites. They clung to the tradition of warfare producing justice – a continuation of the old notion of God providing victors, as with the belief among Christians that God had helped Constantine win the battle of Milvian Bridge. They did not mix this with pacifism and love. They believed that God would reveal the true leader of Islam on the battlefield, which put them at odds with the Shia belief that Muslim leadership belongs, monarchist style, to the House of Ali. And the Kharijites insisted on the right to revolt against any ruler who deviated from the example of the Prophet Muhammad and the first two caliphs, Abu Bakr and Umar.
Murji'ah emerged as a theological school opposed to the Kharijites on questions related to early controversies regarding sin and definitions of what is a true Muslim. They believed Muslims committing grave sins would remain Muslim and be eligible for paradise if they remained faithful. The Murjites split with the Sunni on the issue of hellfire, the Murji'ah declaring against hellfire while the Sunni held that that some Muslims would enter hellfire temporarily. There Murjites emphasized love, brotherhood and equality among all Muslims. And believing in equality they did not believe in authority, clerical hierarchy or that Muslims should fight one another in contests regarding political power.
And there is the Sufi tradition. Muslim believers in Sufi claim the Prophet Muhammad as the first Sufi. There are writers from the mid-600s and early 700s, Uwais al-Qarni, Harrm bin Hian, Hasan Basri and Sayid ibn al-Mussib, who are regarded as Sufi. The Sufi believed they could gain oneness with God through moral purification. During imperial expansion and the glory of conquest, Muslim spirituality was more focused on the external. With conquest replaced by fragmentation and anarchy the view of Allah as a god of war diminished. The Sufi focused on God as a loving friend – the way Christians saw Jesus. Sufis believed that a bit of God was in everyone – in accordance with the statement in the Koran where Allah speaks about having breathed into every living being its soul. The Sufis believed that one could be united with God by tuning into that part of oneself that was a part of God. Sufism was an organised movement that opposed the worldliness of many Muslims, and they traveled about, attracting Muslims with their devotion to God.
Copyright © 2007-2013 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.