In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.
Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the worlds,
The Beneficent, the Merciful,
Master of the day of Requital.
Thee do we serve and Thee do we beseech for help.
Guide us on the right path,
The path of those upon whom Thou hast bestowed favours,
Not those upon whom wrath is brought down, nor those who go astray. (1-7)
This is the entire first sura (chapter) of the Qur'an. Don't get your hopes up--they're not all this short. Oh, and "day of Requital" refers to Judgment Day. (I had to look it up. My vocabulary is pathetic.)
And now, it is necessary to write:
An Introduction to Islam
Abu al-Qasim Muhammad ibn 'Abd Allah ibn 'Abd al-Muttalib ibn Hashim (aka "Muhammad"--peace be upon him) was born in the city of Mecca in about 570 A.D. His father died before he was born, and his mother died when he was six. At the age of twenty-five, he received an offer of marriage from a wealthy, older woman named Khadijah. They had four daughters who survived childhood.
Muhammad had a habit of spending nights in a cave near the city for reflection. One night, when he was about forty years old, he had a vision of a messenger of God (who later turned out to be the angel Gabriel, from the Judeo-Christian tradition). Gabriel commanded Muhammad to recite the word of God that was being transmitted to him. There is a common belief that the prophet was illiterate, and that his verbal recitation of verses in very beautiful Arabic is a miracle. In fact, his illiteracy turns out to be most likely a myth.
Muhammad wrote a full, complete compilation of the verses he received in chronological order in his own hand along with instructions on the order in which they should be arranged. The Qur'an as we know it is arranged according to his instructions. Sura no. 1 was the fifth to be revealed; sura no. 2 was the 87th. The first sura to be revealed now stands in the 96th position in the Quran, and it begins:
Read (or "recite") in the name of thy Lord Who creates --
Creates man from a clot,
Read and thy Lord is most Generous,
Who taught by the pen,
Taught man what he knew not. (96.1-5)
The reasons for controversy surrounding the events of Muhammad's life is that he didn't fill up too much of the Qur'an going on about his life story. Much of what we have comes from the hadithn (a plural word)--traditions of the words and deeds of the prophet. The website from which I first learned some details on Islam (www.submission.org) is very anti-hadith. It holds that the Qur'an is the ONLY reliable guide for the lives of Muslims, and that the the hadith are pretty much a sacrilege.
The hadith contain many really revolting anecdotes. Let me give an example. Muhammad was a polygamist. The Qur'an allows men to take multiple wives, but wives cannot take multiple husbands. One of his wives was Aisha. He married her when she was six years old, and consummated the marriage when she was nine. You read that correctly. The holy prophet found nine year old girls sexually arousing. He was a pedophile. A monster.
Or maybe the hadith are just as inaccurate as some believe...
That is all for today. We can go over the theology and other events from the early days of Islam in other posts.