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Crash Course in Islamic History

In an online first, Lastprophet.info presents audio recordings of Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad (Tim Winter)’s Crash Course in Islamic History. This is the most succint and yet comprehensive Islamic History available.

Presented in Oslo on 18-19 March 2011, the course is offered in seven parts. Audio courtesy of Muhammad Hüdayi. © www.lastprophet.info

The complete course is available here…

Part I

The narrative begins with the Divine statement, “We breathed into him something of Our Spirit,” describing Adam’s creation out of clay and having been given life.

The deepest of all mysteries for modern philosophers as for theologians has been this puzzle of the lump of clay that has within it the Divine Spirit.

Murad asserts that as "significant history begins when human beings begin to perceive", at that moment when the clay becomes ‘spiritualized’, one can say that history begins…

Part II

Murad explores some of the basic principles that need to be considered when examining the history of the umma (community) and what large lessons might be learned from it.

In particular, he looks at those which can be described as ‘sharia-oriented’ or theological. Two of them in particular have been important to Muslims: How does power and statehood work? What is the role of the Muslim regarding political power: should one seek it? What should be one’s relationship to a ruler?

The second is a theological issue: what is actually happening in history? Is history just a kind of puppet show? Is there a reality to cause and effect?

And beyond that is the issue of destiny and providence. Is there a discernable pattern – God’s way of dealing with human beings – that can enable us to see history as something that has a religious significance and that can continue to teach us?

Part III

After presenting the background, Abdal Hakim Murad points out that Islam does not appear out of a vacuum.

He discusses the early story of Islam – when examining the inner history rather than the outward play of the rise and fall of dynasties – which can be characterized by three major themes:

  1. The polemic against the indigenous religion of the Arabs
  2. The argument against the earlier monotheisms
  3. Islam’s internal arguments

Part IV

This track begins with the story of the encounter between Prophet Muhammad and Christian scholar Waraqa ibn Nawfal and speculation regarding Waraqa’s reading the text in Hebrew. Murad continues with the first revelation, the first believers and the persecution of the early believers leading to the first emigration to Abyssinia.

Part V

Murad discusses the Umayyads leading up to the Abbasid revolution and the fragmentation of the central states. He covers the Abbasid rule – which is for many historians the Golden Age of Islamic civilization – with the capital being moved from Damascus to Baghdad.

Part VI

Eventually, the Abbasid caliph becomes a secondary figure, almost a symbol. Real power is increasingly in the hands of the body guards, the Imperial Guard and hence the figure of the vizier morphs into the figure of the Sultan. This process begins with the family of the viziers in the second and third centuries of their rule.

More significantly, the emergence of the Seljuk’s (Turkish-speaking soldiers, military-types, administrators) begin effectively as rulers when they establish themselves as the real power in the land.

Murad leads up to the spread of Islam to the south and the north and the East, whereby the principle agent of Islamization seems to have been the tariqas.

Part VII

Abdal Hakim Murad examines the unanimity across the classical Islamic world despite the absence of an overriding body that could have forced conformity and delves into the question of the fate of local cultures.

He argues that Islam’s capacity to maintain this balance between the universal and the particular is important and that this is a universal feature of Islamic history. Islam does not 'Arabize' despite the use of the Arabic language in worship and but instead 'monotheizes' local cultures.

 

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Abdal Hakim Murad

Abdulhakim Murad (Tim Winter) is a British Muslim scholar and teacher born in 1960. He studied Islamic sciences at the University of Al-Azhar. He is currently the Shaykh Zayed Lecturer of Islamic Studies in the Faculty of Divinity at Cambridge University, Director of Studies in Theology at Wolfson College, and a doctoral student at Oxford University, where he is studying the relationship between the government and Sufi brotherhoods in the Ottoman Empire. Murad is also the secretary of the Muslim Academic Trust (London), Director of The Anglo-Muslim Fellowship for Eastern Europe, and Director of the Sunna Project, which has published the foremost scholarly Arabic editions of the major Sunni Hadith collections.

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