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Ch 11 Responses

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Topics: Islam, Sharia
APWH
Ch 11 Responses
Margin Review Questions 1. In what ways did the early history of Islam reflect its Arabian origins? • Islam drew on an older Arab identification of Allah with Yahweh, the Jewish High God, and Arab self-identification as children of Abraham. • The Quran denounced the prevailing social practices of an increasingly prosperous Mecca and sought a return to the older values of Arab tribal life. • The message of the Quran also rejected the Arab tribal and clan structure, which was prone to war, feuding, and violence. Instead, the Quran sought to replace this structure with the umma, the community of all believers. 2. How does the core message of Islam compare with that of Judaism and Christianity? • Islam, like Judaism and Christianity, is monotheistic. Allah is the only God, the all-powerful Creator. • As “the Messenger of God,” Muhammad presented himself in the tradition of earlier prophets like Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. • Like the Jewish prophets and Jesus, Muhammad demanded social justice and laid out a prescription for its implementation. 3. In what ways was the rise of Islam revolutionary, both in theory and in practice? • The Islamic community, or umma, broke with the previous tribal structure defined by family and clan in Arabia, replacing it with a system in which membership was a matter of belief rather than birth. • The early Islamic community found itself constituted as a state at the very beginning of its history. • Muhammad was not only a religious figure but also a political and military leader able to implement his vision of an ideal Islamic society. • Islam possessed no separate religious organization, although tension between r eligious and political goals frequently generated conflict. • No professional clergy mediating between God and humankind emerged within Islam. • No distinction between religious law and civil law existed in the Islamic world. 4. Why were Arabs able to construct such a huge empire so quickly? • For the first time, a shared faith in Islam allowed the newly organized state to mobilize the military potential of the entire Arab population. • The Byzantine and Persian empires were weakened by decades of war with each other and by internal revolts. They also underestimated the Arab threat. • Merchant leaders of the new Islamic community wanted to capture profitable trade routes and wealthy agricultural regions. • Individual Arabs found in military expansion a route to wealth and social promotion. • Expansion provided a common task for the Arab community, which reinforced the fragile unity of the umma. • Arabs were motivated by a religious dimension, as many viewed the mission of empire in terms of jihad, bringing righteous government to the peoples they conquered. 5. What accounts for the widespread conversion to Islam? • Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians could find familiar elements of their own faiths in Islam. • From the start, Islam was associated with the sponsorship of a powerful state. • Conquest called into question the power of old gods, while the growing prestige of the Arab Empire attracted many to Allah. • Although forced conversion was rare, living in an Islamic-governed state provided a variety of incentives for claiming Muslim identity. • In Islam, merchants found a religion friendly to commerce, and in the Arab Empire they enjoyed a huge and secure arena for trade. • People aspiring to official positions found conversion to Islam an aid to social mobility. 6. What is the difference between Sunni and Shia Islam? • Sunnis held that the caliphs were rightful political and military leaders, selected by t he Islamic community, while the Shia held that leadership in the Islamic world should derive from the line of Ali and his son Husayn, blood relatives of Muhammad. • For Sunni Muslims, religious authority in general emerged from the larger community, particularly from the religious scholars known as ulama. Meanwhile, the Shia invested their leaders, known as imams, with a religious authority that the caliphs lacked, allowing them alone to reveal the true meaning of the Quran and the wishes of Allah. • The Shia tradition included a messianic element that the Sunni tradition largely lacked. 7. In what ways were Sufi Muslims critical of mainstream Islam? • Sufism was sharply critical of the more scholarly and legalistic practitioners of the sharia; to Sufis, establishment teachings about the law and correct behavior did little to bring the believer into the presence of God. • Sufis held that many of the ulama of mainstream Islam had been compromised by their association with worldly and corrupt governments. 8. How did the rise of Islam change the lives of women? • The Quran included a mix of rights, restrictions, and protections for women. It banned female infanticide, gave women the right to own property and granted them rights of inheritance, defined marriage as a contract between consenting parties, granted the right to sue for divorce under certain circumstances, and regulated polygyny. It also allowed men to have sexual relations with consenting female slaves, but only under the condition that any children born of these unions were free, as was the mother once her owner died. • In practice, as the Arab Empire grew in size, the position of women became more limited. Women started to pray at home instead of in the mosque, and veiling and seclusion of women became standard practice among the upper and ruling classes, with special areas within the home becoming the only place where women could appear unveiled. Such seclusion was less practicable for lower-class women. These new practices derived far more from established traditions of Middle Eastern cultures than from the Quran, but they soon gained a religious rationale in the writings of Muslim thinkers. • Other signs of tightening patriarchy, such as “honor killing” of women by their male relatives for violating sexual taboos and, in some places, clitorectomy (female circumcision), likewise derived from local cultures, with no sanction in the Quran or Islamic law. But where they were practiced, such customs often came to be seen as Islamic. • Negative views of women, presenting them variously as weak, deficient, and a sexually charged threat to men and social stability, emerged in the hadiths, traditions about the sayings or actions of Muhammad, which became an important source of Islamic law. • Islam also offered new outlets for women in religious life. The Sufi practice of mystical union with God allowed a greater role for women than did mainstream Islam. Some Sufi orders had parallel groups for women, and a few welcomed women as equal members. • In Shia Islam, women teachers of the faith were termed mullahs, the same as their male counterparts. • Islamic education, either in the home or in Quranic schools, allowed some women to become literate and a few to achieve higher levels of learning. • Visits to the tombs of major Islamic figures as well as the ritual of the public bath provided some opportunity for women to interact with other women beyond their own family circle. 9. What similarities and differences can you identify in the spread of Islam to India, Anatolia, West Africa, and Spain? • Islam spread to India, Anatolia, and Spain in part through force of arms of Islamic armies, while Islam arrived in West Africa with Muslim traders. • Sufis facilitated conversions by accommodating local traditions, especially in India and Anatolia, but played little role in West Africa until at least the eighteenth century. • In India, West Africa, and Spain, Islam became one of several faiths within the wider culture, while in Anatolia it became the dominant faith. 10. Why was Anatolia so much more thoroughly Islamized than India? • The demographic balance made a difference. Unlike India, far more Turkic-speaking peoples settled in Anatolia. This, coupled with the much smaller population of Anatolia and the massacres, enslavement, famine, and flight that occurred during the conquest, gave Turks a much more important position in Anatolia. • Anatolian society was more centralized than India, and the Christian Church and Byzantine imperial infrastructure in Anatolia were fatally weakened during the Turkic invasion. India’s more decentralized civilization was better able to absorb the shock of external invasion. • The Turkish rulers of Anatolia built a new society that welcomed converts, and the cultural barriers to conversion were arguably less severe there than in India. 11. What makes it possible to speak of the Islamic world as a distinct and coherent civilization? • At the core of that civilization was a common commitment to Islam. • No group was more important in the transmission of Islamic beliefs and practices than the ulama, an “international elite” who created a system of education that served to bind together an immense and diverse civilization. • The Sufi religious orders established an educational network and organized in a variety of larger associations, some of which included chapters throughout the Islamic world. • The pilgrimage to Mecca (the hajj) drew many thousands of Muslims to Mecca each year from all over the Islamic world. • The Islamic world also cohered as an immense arena of exchange in which goods, technologies, food products, and ideas circulated widely. 12. In what ways was the world of Islam a “cosmopolitan civilization”? • The Islamic world valued commerce and fostered vibrant networks of exchange. Muslim merchants plied the Silk Roads, Sea Roads, and Sand Roads of the Afro-Eurasian world, and the Islamic world promoted long-distance economic relationships by actively supporting a prosperous, highly developed, “capitalist” economy. • Islamic civilization also facilitated a substantial exchange of agricultural products and practices. Rice, new strains of sorghum, hard wheat, bananas, lemons, limes, watermelons, coconut palms, spinach, artichokes, sugarcane, and cotton came to the Middle East from India. Sugarcane and cotton also came with knowledge of complex production processes. Some of these Indian crops subsequently found their way to Africa and Europe from the Middle East. • Technology also diffused widely within the Islamic world. Ancient Persian techniques for obtaining water by drilling into the sides of hills spread to North Africa. Muslim technicians made improvements on rockets developed in China. Techniques for manufacturing paper also arrived in the Middle East from China and later spread from the Middle East to India and Europe. • Ideas also spread, with Jewish and Christian precedents influencing Islamic thinkers; Persian bureaucratic practice, court ritual, and poetry influencing the elite in particular; and Greek and Indian scientific, medical, and philosophical texts being systematically translated into Arabic and studied throughout the Islamic world. • Those traditions mixed and blended to generate a distinctive Islamic civilization that made many original contributions to the world of learning—including the development of algebra as a novel mathematical discipline, original work in astronomy and optics, and medicine and pharmacology.
Big Picture Questions 13. What distinguished the first centuries of Islamic history from the early history of Christianity and Buddhism? What similarities and differences characterized their religious outlooks? • Islam differed sharply from Christianity and Buddhism because its founder was not only a religious figure but also a political and military leader. • Moreover, from the start the Islamic community found itself constituted as a state. Because of this, Islam did not develop as clearly defined a separation between church and state as did both Christianity and Buddhism. • There were some similarities in their religious outlooks: all three religions were founded by single historical figures who had powerful religious experiences; all three provide a clear path to salvation; and all three proclaim the equality of all believers. • However, Islam’s conception of monotheism was stronger than that of Christianity; and each religion was shaped in part by the cultural traditions in which it emerged. 14. How might you account for the immense religious and political/military success of Islam in its early centuries? • For the first time a shared faith in Islam allowed the newly organized state to mobilize the military potential of the entire Arab population. • The Byzantine and Persian empires were weakened by decades of war with each other and by internal revolts. The two empires also underestimated the Arab threat. • Merchant leaders of the new Islamic community wanted to capture profitable trade routes and wealthy agricultural regions. • Individual Arabs found in military expansion a route to wealth and social promotion. • Expansion provided a common task for the Arab community, which reinforced the fragile unity of the Islamic umma. • Arabs were motivated by a religious dimension, as many viewed the mission of empire in terms of jihad, bringing righteous government to the peoples they conquered. • Islam experienced success in attracting converts: Muhammad’s religious message was attractive to many, while Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians could find familiar elements of their own faiths in Islam. • Conquests called into question the power of old gods, while the growing prestige of the Arab Empire attracted many to Allah. • Although forced conversions were rare, living in an Islamic-governed state provided a variety of incentives for claiming Muslim identity. Merchants found in Islam a religion friendly to commerce and in the Arab Empire a huge and secure arena for trade, while people aspiring to official positions found conversion to Islam an aid to social mobility. 15. In what ways might Islamic civilization be described as cosmopolitan, international, or global? • The Islamic civilization embraced at least parts of virtually every other civilization in the Afro-Eurasian hemisphere. • It fostered a network of commerce and exchange that facilitated the spread of crops, technologies, and ideas. • The common commitment to Islam created an identity that transcended more local political and cultural identities in the Islamic world. 16. “Islam was simultaneously both a single world of shared meaning and interaction and a series of separate and distinct communities, often in conflict with one another.” What evidence could you provide to support both sides of this argument? • At the core of a single Islamic world was a common commitment to Islam. The ulama through education and Sufis through their associations served to bind the Islamic world together. It also cohered as an immense arena of exchange in which goods, technologies, crops, and ideas circulated widely. • However, Islam was separate and distinct in that is was politically fragmented. It included numerous distinct and sometimes hostile religious traditions, including Sunni/Shia and ulama/Sufi splits. It embraced distinctive cultural traditions from sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia that resulted in different attitudes toward social and cultural norms, such as those concerning women. 17. What changes did Islamic expansion generate in those societies that encountered it, and how was Islam itself transformed by those encounters? • The populations of many regions converted wholly or partly to the Islamic faith. • Regions of the Islamic world were tied more closely together through trade and the exchange of technologies, crops, and ideas. • Older religious and political traditions were at times swept away or at least altered. • Islam was transformed through these encounters, especially when the norms of those societies that converted had an impact on the social and cultural implications of the faith. • The Islamic world and the understanding of Islam itself was shaped by contact with intellectual and cultural traditions like Greek philosophy.

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