Saturday, September 17, 2016

"Peace belongs to one who is inwardly at peace with the Will of Heaven

and outwardly at war with the forces of disruption and disequilibrium. (Nasr)

the spirit and the material

There is no room in Islam for the dualism of a good spiritual realm and an evil material sphere: this world too has been created by God, and He has made it subservient to man...[Quoting Nasr] "The spirituality of Islam of which the Prophet is the prototype is not the rejection of the world but the transcending of it through its integration into a Centre and the establishment of a harmony upon which the quest of the Absolute is based." [...] Therefore the mystic who, completely submerged in the vision of God, wants to stay forever in the realm of spirit without returning hither to the material sphere, has been frequently contrasted in Islamic thought with the Prophet, who returned to this world after his ineffable dialogue with God, in order to ameliorate the world and to implement the fruits of his inspiration for the betterment of society.
-Annemarie Schimmel, And Muhammad Is His Messenger: The Veneration of the Prophet in Islamic Piety (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1985), p. 53.

Friday, September 16, 2016

The focus of the early revelations

The revelations that descended upon Muhammad from about 610 onward spoke primarily of God the One, Who is both the Creator of the world and its Judge. He will call mankind before His judgment unless they follow the commands to love their neighbors, to do justice, and to act honestly. In the early, short suras, as the chapter of the Koran later came to be called, the terrors of the Day of Judgment are depicted in brief and powerful, rhyming sentences that follow each other like sharp lightning and roaring thunder. The Meccans did not find this message very convincing; in particular, the idea of the resurrection of the dead did not make much sense to them. But the revelations Muhammad repeatedly received to counter such doubts argued that even the earth, seemingly dead in winter, could bring forth fresh greenery in the spring, and that the miracle of conception and birth is not less than that of the resurrection of the flesh.
-Annemarie Schimmel, And Muhammad Is His Messenger: The Veneration of the Prophet in Islamic Piety (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1985), p. 12.

[Re-reading for a course on Islam that I am TA'ing for this semester alhamdullilah. I thought she offered this description of the early revelations in a concise and lovely manner.]

Hodgson on the 'Dialectic of a Cultural Tradition' (previous quote expanded)

For historically, Islam and its associated lifeways form a cultural tradition, or a complex of cultural traditions; and a cultural tradition by its nature grows and changes; the more so, the broader its scope. 
Tradition can cease to be living, can degenerate to mere transmission. A recipe for a holiday pastry may be (traditional' in the sense merely that it is transmitted unaltered from mother to daughter for untold generations. If it is merely transmissive, a sheer habit, then any change of circumstances may lead to its abandonment, at least once the mother is gone. But if it is vital, meeting a real need, then the tradition will be readjusted or grow as required by circumstances. A living cultural tradition, in fact, is always in course of development. Even if a pattern of activity remains formally identical in a changed context, its meaning can take on new implications; it can be gradually, even imperceptibly, reconceived. A pastry first made when all foods were prepared at home inevitably becomes something very different when it alone is home-made, though exactly the recipe be used. To cling to the recipe then requires, or perhaps produces, a new point of view toward the pastry. But even without so drastic a change in circumstances, the recipe and its use will prove to have a history. Even in primitive life, over the millennia or even only the centuries, fuel differed, or water, or the quality of the utensils. Eventually, if the tradition was genuinely alive, some cook found that the recipe itself could be improved on in the changed conditions. As she did so, she was not abandoning the tradition but rather keeping it alive by letting it grow and develop. 
Living societies seem never to have been actually static. With the advent of citied and lettered life, this dynamic aspect of cultural tradition was intensified; or, rather, the living tradition-process was speeded up and became more visible, so that generation by generation within each tradition there was a conscious individual cultural initiative in response to the ever-new needs or opportunities of the time. 
-Marshall G. S. Hodgson, The Venture of Islam(Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1977), vol. 1, p. 79-80.