Program Particulars: Violence and Crisis

September 30, 2004

Program Particulars

*Times denoted refer to web version of audio

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(1:31) Music Element

"The Multiples of One" from Awakening, performed by Joseph Curiale

(01:41) Poll on Islam

Krista cites an ongoing poll about American perceptions of Islam sponsored by The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, which was last released on September 9, 2004. A July 2004 survey found nearly half, 46 percent, thought that Islam was more likely to encourage violence, whereas the same question asked in March 2002 found that only 25 percent of Americans believed Islam was more likely than other religions to encourage violence.

(02:12) Citation of Al-Arabiya Journalist

In her introductory narrative, Krista quotes the opening paragraph of an article written by Abdel Rahman al-Rashed, the general manager of an Arabic news channel, Al-Arabiya. It was originally published in the Arabic newspaper Al-Sharq Al-Awsat and was reprinted as "Innocent religion is now a message of hate" in the May 9, 2004 issue of the London-based online newspaper, The Daily Telegraph:

It is a certain fact that not all Muslims are terrorists, but it is equally certain, and exceptionally painful, that almost all terrorists are Muslims.

(02:33) On Being Shows on Islam

Since the September 11th attacks, On Being has produced a number of shows devoted to drawing out Muslim voices on the spiritual core of their faith and to conducting interfaith dialogues about the role violence plays in the name of religion. To hear more Muslim perspectives about the changing face of Islam in our world, we recommend listening to:

In an ongoing series of live, public events, we delve into whether violence is inherent in Christianity, and the nature of fundamentalism in our present world. The shows feature discussions and interfaith dialogues taking place at the National Cathedral in Washington D.C. and the Skirball Center in Los Angeles:

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(02:58) Music Element

"Ayasofya" from Suleyman the Magnificent, performed by Brian Keane

(04:33) Reference to Wahhabism

The Wahhabi movement is an ultra-conservative, puritanical movement of Islam. The reform movement originated in the Arabian peninsula in the 18th century and was founded by Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahab. A proponent of al-Wahab's teachings, the tribal leader Muhammad ibn Saud championed the movement and from then on Saudis have become the movement's main supporters; it's the dominant school of Islam in Saudi Arabia today.

Devout Wahhabis believe that other Muslims, particularly the Shiites, have abandoned their faith in one God, tawhid, and have distorted Islam. The Wahhabis accept only the Qur'an and the authentic Sunna, customary practices of living modeled on the life and teachings of the prophet Muhammad, and reject 1,400 years of the development and interpretation of Islamic theology and mysticism. They oppose veneration of saints and relics, prohibit decorating of mosques, and ban luxury. Anyone who does not accept these tenets is considered a heretic.

(05:57) Cornell's Concept of Radical Superficiality

Cornell uses the phrase "radical superficiality" to describe the tendency by certain Muslims to conscript sacred texts, such as the Qur'an, without regard to their context and historical traditions to further their political objectives by declaring universal truths. For an interesting comparison of ideas, listen to theologian Miroslav Volf discuss a similar concept of "thick" and "thin" religion, or read a more thorough discussion of this concept in his paper "Christianity and Violence."

(07:42) Reference to al-Ghazali

Abu Hamid Muhammad al-Tusi al-Ghazali (1058-1111) was an Islamic philosopher and theologian who became a prominent jurist at the Nizamiyyah madrasah in present-day Baghdad. Disillusioned with the corruption and powerful politicking, he renounced his position and became a Sufi. In his best-known work, Revival of the Religious Sciences (Ihya' 'Ulum al-Din), al-Ghazali argues against blind traditionalism and the use of religious knowledge for selfish gains.

(08:12) Semitic Languages Definition

Semitic languages are a subgroup of the Afro-Asiatic languages that include Arabic, Hebrew, Amharic, and Aramaic.

(08:31) Reference to Extremist Organizations

The Muslim Brotherhood is a militant religious organization that takes a political approach to Islam. It was founded in 1928 by Hassan al Banna in Egypt after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and now has approximately 70 branches throughout the globe.

The Muslim Brotherhood opposes secular tendencies of Islamic nations and aims to return to the literal precepts of the Qur'an, and rejection of Western influences. They also reject Sufism. The organization's motto is:

Allah is our objective. The Prophet is our leader. Qur'an is our law. Jihad is our way. Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope.

The Covenant, the Sword, and the Arm of the Lord (CSA) is a paramilitary Christian group that was founded by a fundamentalist minister, James Ellison, in 1970. Located on a from near the Arkansas-Missouri border in Elijah, Missouri, the extremist group holds that all non-whites and Jews are a threat to Christians. In 1985, the Federal Bureau of Investigation seized and searched the CSA compound, finding a large cache of weapons and evidence that the group was involved in the firebombings of a Jewish community center, a homosexual church, and a natural gas pipeline.

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(12:24) Music Element

"Makber" from Suleyman the Magnificent, performed by Brian Keane

(12:52) Explication of Islamic Terms

Hadith As Cornell writes in World Eras, Volume 2: Rise and Spread of Islam, hadith is the most important of the four sources of the Sunnah. They are orally transmitted traditions, which literally mean "saying" or "event." Hadiths are second only to the Qur'an in significance and authority as a source of Islamic knowledge. In some collections, hadiths are paired with accounts of the actions and sayings of the Prophet Muhammad's Companions and the first generation of Muslim leaders.

Hadiths are a collection of the Prophet's deeds and sayings. Sunnis consider hadiths a legitimate body of descriptions of the actions of the Prophet: how he ate and slept, the manner in which he treated his neighbors and practiced hygiene, and so forth. To Shiite Muslims, the tradition of their imams — spiritual leaders who are considered direct descendants of the Prophet Muhammad — are regarded to be equal in importance to the Prophet.

In general, hadith is practice oriented; each prescription or statement complements one or more verses in the Qur'an. While hadiths tend to provide a law-centered view of Islam, the Qur'an stands in contrast, providing a word-centered approach in that the divine word allows human consciousness to experience the knowledge of God.

Sharia and Fiqh According to Cornell, the concept of law in Islam is expressed by the related terms of sharia — meaning the "way" or method set out by God — and fiqh — the "understanding" or the practice of this method of understanding. Theoretically, all Islamic law is divine because it is inspired by the word of God in the Qur'an; experientially, most Islamic legal decisions are based on the hadith of the Sunna. Informed Muslims, Cornell writes, use the term sharia to connote the sacred law as a global ideal, while the word fiqh connotes the evolving interpretation through the schools of jurisprudence.

Fiqh is considered an interpretive science that was first developed in the seventh century. Fiqh is the application of the sharia, the model of the Islamic way of life, to specific cases.

(14:49) Major Schools of Islamic Law

Over the course of a few hundred years, the principles and guidelines contained in Islamic law were solidified in the form of Islamic schools of jurisprudence or law (madhhab). There are four major schools of Islamic jurisprudence in the Sunni tradition and one dominant school in the Shiite tradition:

  • Hanafi school – founded by the Iraqi jurist Abu Hanifa (699-767). It places emphasis on the reasoning of jurists in the formation of legal opinions.
  • Maliki school – founded by Malik ibn Anas (circa 715-795). It tends to base its decisions on the traditions of the Prophet Muhammad's city of Medina as its base source.
  • Shafii school – sought to balance reason and tradition by prioritizing sources of knowledge. The Qur'an serves as the primary source, then the Sunna, analogical reasoning, and then binding consensus. All schools now adopting this methodology.
  • Hanbali school – founded by a student of Ahmad ibn Hanbal (780-855). This school of law follows the Shafii process but places more emphasis on tradition and uses analogical reasoning as last resort.

In the Shiite tradition, the Jafari school is the most prominent school of jurisprudence. The school adheres to the same methodology as the the Hanbali school but includes the traditions of the twelve imams in its body of hadith.

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(18:31) Music Element

"Tales from the Ney" from Sufi Music of Turkey, performed by Kudsi and Suleyman Erguner

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(23:08) Music Element

"Sabura" from Heaven's Dust, performed by Ekova

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(24:14) Music Element

"Istanbul'dan Goruntuler" from Suleyman the Magnificent, performed by Brian Keane

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(25:49) Music Element

"Saraab" from Blue Flame, performed by Simon Shaheen and Qantara

(26:11) Composition and Structure of Muslim World

Sunni Muslims compose approximately 90 percent of the Muslim world's population, with the geographical shift moving further to the east in Asia. The geographical center of the Muslim world, as Cornell says, is now located in Lahore, Pakistan.

» Enlarge the image This 1995 map illustrates the distribution of the Islamic traditions in the contemporary world. The olive green represents Shiism, while the lime green represents Sunnism.

This 1995 map illustrates the distribution of the Islamic traditions in the contemporary world. The olive green represents Shiism, while the lime green represents Sunnism.


(29:08) Reference to Sufism

Sufism is commonly referred to as form of Islamic mysticism where the pursuit of spiritual truth is the quest. In the On Being program "The Spirit of Islam," listen to Omid Safi describe his own understanding and experience of Sufi tradition.

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(32:07) Music Element

"Rast Medhal" from Suleyman the Magnificent, performed by Brian Keane

(38:30) Reading from Cornell's Essay

Krista cited a passage from an essay published in the South Atlantic Quarterly, "A Muslim to Muslims: Reflections after September 11":

Seven months later, events in Palestine and Israel remind us that this is supposed to be where it all began. CNN, Fox, and Al-Jazeera remind us of the Fifty-Four-Year Catastrophe that never ends. Broken hopes and shattered dreams of friendship between Muslims and Jews lie dead in the rubble of Palestine. Israeli tanks crush cars and houses in Nablus, Bethlehem, and Jenin. Thousands are homeless in Jenin alone. The heavy hand of collective punishment follows the brutal but ultimately impotent logic of revenge. Palestinian despair and anger confront Israeli guilt and fear. The only winners are the extremists. Hamas activists and Jewish Settlers dance dabkasand horas of self-righteous bigotry, believing that God is on their side. The Palestinian population bomb is made flesh through murderous acts of self-immolation. If we go down in flames, we'll take the whole world with us. Is this the beginning of the end? Said the Prophet Muhammad, "Islam came as a stranger, and it will be a stranger once again." The same can be said of the religions of Moses and Jesus.

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(38:48) Music Element

"Semai" from Sufi Music of Turkey, performed by Kudsi and Suleyman Erguner

(41:28) Saudi Royal Family

section on the House of Saud and its relation to Wahhabi Islam in the sixteenth century. Also, the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) program Frontline features an online interview with Prince Saud al-Faisal in the documentary "In Search of Al Qaeda."

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(43:13) Music Element

"Saraab" from Blue Flame, performed by Simon Shaheen and Qantara

(43:46) Quote of Prophet Muhammad

The following extended excerpt of the passage Krista quoted was taken from an essay published in the South Atlantic Quarterly, "A Muslim to Muslims: Reflections after September 11":

The Prophet Muhammad said, "The first person against whom judgment will be pronounced on the Day of Resurrection will be a man who has died a martyr. He will be brought forth and God will make known to him the blessings He has bestowed on him and he will recognize them. God will say: 'And what did you do about them?' He will say: 'I fought for you until I died a martyr.' God will say: 'You lie! You only fought that it might be said about you, "He is courageous."' And it was as He had said. Then he will be ordered to be dragged along along on his face until he is cast into Hell fire." Do the ideologues of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades recount this tradition when someone volunteers to become a human bomb? I don't think so. Or do they recount another famous tradition, in which the Prophet said, "When Allah decreed the creation, He wrote down a pledge which He kept unto Himself. And it said: 'My mercy prevails over My wrath?'" I am sure that they do not recount this tradition. Is this enough to convince readers that extremists have hijacked "true" Islam? Most non-Muslims would probably hope so. But the people for whom these teachings are intended would probably not listen to them. The ideologues of fundamentalism are well aware that the nature of one's religion depends on the scriptures that one reads.

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(46:42) Music Element

"Hicaz Taksimi" from Suleyman the Magnificent, performed by Brian Keane

(48:12) Reference to Jahiliyyah

Jahiliyyah is the theological period of ignorance that immediately preceded the initial years of Islam.

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(49:17) Music Element

"Makber" from Suleyman the Magnificent, performed by Brian Keane

(51:11) Music Element

"Ghateh-Ye Zarbi" from On Through Eternity: Homage to Molavi, performed by Dastan Ensemble and Shahram Nazeri

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is professor of History and director of the King Fahd Center for Middle East and Islamic Studies at the University of Arkansas.