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Author Topic: Islam , A variety of discussions from a non extreme perspective.  (Read 35494 times)

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Offline Skynet

Re: Islam , A variety of discussions from a non extreme perspective.
« Reply #375 on: June 05, 2015, 03:57:22 PM »
Hmm, I'm possibly considering making a "Table of Contents" for asked and answered questions here, in that the thread's getting long enough to the point where I can't remember if my queries have already been answered. :-\

I searched the back pages and couldn't come up with any previous explanations, so here goes:

Burial Practices and honoring the dead: So a thing I've heard among Arab Muslims is that there was great incentive to bury a body as soon as possible.  And that this practice is still common in modern times.  I've heard that one reason for this was that corpses decay quickly in warm climates, thus attracting carrion faster.  Quick burials were done to minimize the impact of animals defiling the body.

Additionally, cremation of bodies is apparently forbidden.  The idea is that the ashes would then be eaten by animals and the like.

Another link says that breaking bones of the deceased is forbidden as the primary reason, but doesn't mention concern other ashes being eaten by animals.

Is one, both, or neither explanation right?

Also, does the Qu'ran, Hadiths, or modern Muslim scholar discuss other common practices of handling the dead, such as corpse preservation (like what the Russians did with Lenin or ancient Eygptian mummies)?


Last part is specific to Wahhabi Islam.  Due to the historical concern of idol worship at the tombs of saints, did Wahhabists incorporate any preventative measures in honoring the dead to curb such activity in the future?  Like when a famous and beloved Muslim died?  I heard mention that graves in Saudi Arabia are unmarked for this reason, although the speaker's authenticity was a throw-away mention in the comment section of Huffington Post, so you know I can't take that word-for-word on its own. :P
« Last Edit: June 05, 2015, 04:02:47 PM by Skynet »

Offline Oniya

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Re: Islam , A variety of discussions from a non extreme perspective.
« Reply #376 on: June 05, 2015, 04:04:26 PM »
As a possibly unrelated note, Jewish tradition (which is also based out of the same environmental climate) also places a lot of importance on quick burials, and that practice continues to this day.  Case in point, Leonard Nimoy was buried even before the WBC decided that they were going to protest his funeral.  It was also apparently significant enough to mention in the Gospels that none of Jesus' bones were broken as part of the crucifixion.

Offline Skynet

Re: Islam , A variety of discussions from a non extreme perspective.
« Reply #377 on: June 05, 2015, 04:09:51 PM »
I'd just hazarding a guess, but considering that the most well-known examples of corpse preservation seem geared towards idolizing said departed mortals (pharoahs' tombs and Soviet heroes), I don't think that many Muslims would be keen on this.

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Re: Islam , A variety of discussions from a non extreme perspective.
« Reply #378 on: June 05, 2015, 06:42:09 PM »
It was also apparently significant enough to mention in the Gospels that none of Jesus' bones were broken as part of the crucifixion.

Off topic but that's to make explicit the link with the passover lamb in Exodus something:something, not to do with funerary rites.  Too drunk for scripture or googling so no idea what the passage is.

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Re: Islam , A variety of discussions from a non extreme perspective.
« Reply #379 on: June 05, 2015, 06:51:31 PM »
Ah - thanks for that!

Offline FormlessTopic starter

Re: Islam , A variety of discussions from a non extreme perspective.
« Reply #380 on: June 05, 2015, 10:53:59 PM »
Regarding proper burials and honoring the dead. The only mention of the reason behind the ' burials ' was the tale of Cain & Abel. See when Cain killed his brother , god sent him a crow that pecked against the ground to bury a stone that the bird found. Which inspired Cain to bury his brother and ' hide ' his guilt.

That is the only reference in the Qur'an itself for this custom.

As for why it should be done quickly , I believe it is to respect the dead. Letting a corpse bloat or decay shows a great deal of disrespect since the living cannot help the dead into a better condition , which is in this case being buried and left in peace.

Also , in Islamic teaching as mentioned in one of the articles. A Muslim must be washed and prayed for before they are buried. These two take time , and in some cases , some people wishes to buries their own kin in their own graveyard. So it is always advised to bury them as soon as possible , as the longer they remain , the more disrespect one show towards them.

As for leaving the graves unmarked. It is exactly as you said. So that no grave will be worshipped when time goes on. However , Mohammad's and his Caliphates have their graves within one of the holy mosques. This notion causes a lot of controversies among Muslims.

As for breaking the bones , its forbidden , because they say that a man is resurrected the way his remains were left. So if you break a person's leg bones , you send them to judgment day as cripples. Which gods will punish you for. But it is said that god heals everyone before judgment day starts.

Lastly , cremation. Its forbidden because god forbid to harm any living or dead creature ( not just humans ) with fire. As God alone holds that right. And its his right to torture with fire in hell , and nowhere else.

Hope this helps answers your question.



And come to think of it. The thread did indeed went beyond my expectations when I first created it. And information scattered about it. I wouldn't want to trouble you with a table of contents of sorts. But then again I know I suck at organizing stuff at times. :-\

Offline Skynet

Re: Islam , A variety of discussions from a non extreme perspective.
« Reply #381 on: June 06, 2015, 12:39:19 AM »
And come to think of it. The thread did indeed went beyond my expectations when I first created it. And information scattered about it. I wouldn't want to trouble you with a table of contents of sorts. But then again I know I suck at organizing stuff at times. :-\

Actually, I was thinking of compiling a table of contents in a later post, which you can copy-paste into the OP.  I'm willing to do that once I get some free time; it's late for me right now, so possibly tomorrow or sometime over the weekend.

This has been a swell thread, and a useful resource.  I'd be happy to help contribute in some way if I can.

Offline Skynet

Re: Islam , A variety of discussions from a non extreme perspective.
« Reply #382 on: June 06, 2015, 02:00:46 AM »
A Discussion of Islam Q&A, Table of Contents

Work in Progress

Hello folks.  Over the last 16 pages I reread the thread, compiling links and such to the questions answered here by various Muslim posters.  Right now I'm going to organize the links chronologically, but if it grows big enough I might separate them into categories of common topics.

Edit: Alright, the post is complete as can reasonably be for now.

You might also notice that some questions lead to the same post; this is intentional, for multiple questions are often answered in the same post.

If I happened to miss anything, please feel free to point it out!









Other Sects




How do Muslims view Jesus?

How do Muslims repent their sins?

Apostasy

Declaring another an apostate

Can you be a Muslim in isolation?  Second Answer  Further Discussion

Why are dervishes associated with swordsmen in fantasy fiction and role-playing games?  Part 2 Part 3 Part 4

Is [System of Government X] antithetical to Islam?

Jihad and interactions with non-Muslims

The Ummah, or 'nation'

External Links:

Islam101
Qu'ran.com: Available in English and Arabic
Religion Facts: Islam entry
al-Islam: a collection of religious articles
Patheos Category of Muslim bloggers: Patheos is a website with religious bloggers of all faiths and non-faiths.  Although they talk about a variety of topics, issues pertaining to religion are the most common.
« Last Edit: June 07, 2015, 02:43:42 PM by Skynet »

Offline FormlessTopic starter

Re: Islam , A variety of discussions from a non extreme perspective.
« Reply #383 on: June 06, 2015, 03:26:08 PM »
Brilliant work , Skynet. I don't have the words to thank you enough.

I salute you , kind sir!

Offline Skynet

Re: Islam , A variety of discussions from a non extreme perspective.
« Reply #384 on: June 06, 2015, 09:43:20 PM »
Always happy to help. :-)

So, my idea is to use spoiler blocks titled with broad topics of interest, inside which will be relevant links.  For example...

Sect-Sunni
Links particular to Sunni Islam would go in here.

Looking over the links I have now, I was thinking of these possible topic groups:

Basics of Islam: Five Pillars, belief in one God, the Qu'ran, etc.

The Prophet Muhammad, Peace Be Upon Him: Subjects specifically concerning the life of Islam's prophet.

Historical: Subjects pertaining to things which happened long ago.  From the religion's beginning to the late 1800s.

Contemporary/Modern Issues: Stuff of recent history.  Say 20th and 21st century, after the fall of the Ottoman Empire?

Metaphysical: Concerning things beyond this material world and the nature of reality.  The afterlife, free will and determinism, spirits, the "otherworldly."

Sect-Sunni: Topics pertaining specifically to Sunni Islam.

Sect-Shi'ite: Topics pertaining specifically to Shi'ite Islam.

Other sects: I don't know if comparatively there is enough material and discussion yet on the other sects (Kharijite, Ibadi, Ahmadiyya, etc), so I was considering putting them into this all-purpose category.  Unless there is a need to cover any particular branch individually.

Islamic Nations & Cultures: Subjects particular to one nation or cultural group of Muslims.  Muslims in the US, in Saudi Arabia, Iran, etc.


I was also considering a work of links, like that Crash Course History video on Islam.  Websites of particular use for people.  Here's a few I found via a quick Google search.  Tell me if you have any recommended ones yourself, or if any of mine are suspect in credibility for any reason.

Islam101
Qu'ran.com: Available in English and Arabic
Religion Facts: Islam entry
al-Islam: a collection of religious articles
Patheos Category of Muslim bloggers: Patheos is a website with religious bloggers of all faiths and non-faiths.  Although they talk about a variety of topics, issues pertaining to religion are the most common topic.

I've considered linking a few subreddits, in that it might be useful for looking at communities.  But given Reddit's meme-heavy nature and not always focusing on things for newcomers, I'm debating the merits.

/r/islam is the biggest one on Reddit right now.


Thoughts?
« Last Edit: June 07, 2015, 01:05:33 AM by Skynet »

Offline FormlessTopic starter

Re: Islam , A variety of discussions from a non extreme perspective.
« Reply #385 on: June 07, 2015, 01:09:59 PM »
I believe everything looks perfectly neat. :D

I'll add a link to the Q&A post in the first post for easier access to newcomers. ;D

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Re: Islam , A variety of discussions from a non extreme perspective.
« Reply #386 on: June 09, 2015, 10:06:23 AM »
Great effort, Skynet!

Also a warm thank you to Formless who started up the thread and has been illuminating and personally insightful throughout.

Offline FormlessTopic starter

Re: Islam , A variety of discussions from a non extreme perspective.
« Reply #387 on: June 10, 2015, 04:38:41 PM »
You're very welcome , Louise. :-)

Offline Skynet

Re: Islam , A variety of discussions from a non extreme perspective.
« Reply #388 on: June 13, 2015, 12:16:45 AM »
Sixth and Seventh Pillars of Islam: Although the Five Pillars are pretty much universal, some sects propose additional ones.

Some Shi'ite Muslims propose this Sixth Pillar, a proclamation to go out and do good in the world.

Ismaili Shi'a, have a Seventh Pillar as well.  Their pillars are slightly different than other Shi'ites and Sunnis, incorporating Jihad, Taharah, and Walayah as pillars.

Where did the idea of additional Pillars of Islam come from, in terms of historical sources?

Kharijite Muslims: So I noticed that this was an early sect which sprang up among Muslims, possibly even before the Sunni-Shi'a split.  What I gathered from Wikipedia was that they were Muslims dissatisfied with the position of Caliph which they viewed as illegitimate.  They don't seem to be around anymore as a surviving sect.

What happened to them?  Were they all killed off in war?  Did they lose and successive generations gave up their beliefs in favor the dominant faction?

Pagans: Earlier in this thread Formless mentioned that many idol-worshipers fled north after the death of Muhammad.  I don't know if pagan is the proper terminology here (my understanding is that it refers to any non-Abrahamic faith, polytheist, animist, etc).

Considering the initial wars and struggles and army-building, what exactly happened to the Arab idol-worshiping and polytheist communities?  Did most of them convert?  Flee?  Or stay hidden in communities among the Caliphate?

The Nature of Evil: When it comes to religions where God is both omnipotent and ever-longing, a common dilemma occurs as to why not just evil occurs in this world, but why a divine being would allow it to happen in this world.  In regards to Christianity there are many different answers and interpretations, and I'm sure the same is with Islam.  Nevertheless I was wondering how Muslim communities and scholars wrestled with and explained this question, and if the Qu'ran and any Hadiths offer any insight into this.

Edit: The Moon: So Formless earlier mentioned that a miraculous event detailed in the Qu'ran spoke of the moon being split in two for one night.  The crescent moon and star is a common Muslim symbol for many flags.

Does the moon have any special significance in Islam beyond just being a celestial feature?
« Last Edit: June 13, 2015, 01:51:41 PM by Skynet »

Offline FormlessTopic starter

Re: Islam , A variety of discussions from a non extreme perspective.
« Reply #389 on: June 13, 2015, 06:08:12 PM »
Sixth and Seventh Pillars of Islam: Although the Five Pillars are pretty much universal, some sects propose additional ones.

Some Shi'ite Muslims propose this Sixth Pillar, a proclamation to go out and do good in the world.

Ismaili Shi'a, have a Seventh Pillar as well.  Their pillars are slightly different than other Shi'ites and Sunnis, incorporating Jihad, Taharah, and Walayah as pillars.

Where did the idea of additional Pillars of Islam come from, in terms of historical sources?

Well to be honest , this is the first time I heard about these additional pillars. And god knows how much I am trying to suppress a joke about ' adding extra pillars '.

I mean doing good in the world is basically the essence of any religion. So , I really don't see how that is considered a pillar.

As for the Ismaili ... That feels like its have some ' modern ' stamp on it. I mean if you return to the Qur'an , you'd see that the five pillars are the only pillars mentioned. So , I really don't have a correct answer as to when these ' extras ' happened.

Quote
Kharijite Muslims: So I noticed that this was an early sect which sprang up among Muslims, possibly even before the Sunni-Shi'a split.  What I gathered from Wikipedia was that they were Muslims dissatisfied with the position of Caliph which they viewed as illegitimate.  They don't seem to be around anymore as a surviving sect.

What happened to them?  Were they all killed off in war?  Did they lose and successive generations gave up their beliefs in favor the dominant faction?

Kharijite ( Or Khawarij as we pronounce it in Arabic ) are a group of Muslims who as you said went against the Caliphate rule. But they were Muslims by faith and belief. basically it was a political matter that was sadly dealt with in battles and blood. Some were considered apostates. Some yield to the Caliphate rule , many were killed. Some fled to the north and sought sanctuary until their time ended.

Quote
Pagans: Earlier in this thread Formless mentioned that many idol-worshipers fled north after the death of Muhammad.  I don't know if pagan is the proper terminology here (my understanding is that it refers to any non-Abrahamic faith, polytheist, animist, etc).

Considering the initial wars and struggles and army-building, what exactly happened to the Arab idol-worshiping and polytheist communities?  Did most of them convert?  Flee?  Or stay hidden in communities among the Caliphate?

During that time. If one did not convert within the Arabian peninsula ... Theywere killed. beheaded. The Gezia wasn't introduced until later on when the Arabs marched to conquer the lands beyond the Farsi lands.

Quote
The Nature of Evil: When it comes to religions where God is both omnipotent and ever-longing, a common dilemma occurs as to why not just evil occurs in this world, but why a divine being would allow it to happen in this world.  In regards to Christianity there are many different answers and interpretations, and I'm sure the same is with Islam.  Nevertheless I was wondering how Muslim communities and scholars wrestled with and explained this question, and if the Qu'ran and any Hadiths offer any insight into this

I once asked a similar question to one of my teachers when I was in highschool. He tried to divert me from the question by just saying ' Its God's will'. But when I insisted he almost went into a fit. Some think asking these questions that knocks at the center of the faith could lead to someone losing their faith in the faith itself. ::)

Anyway , let me simplify it in the way I finally understood it.

God created humans and said ' Follow my rules according to the prophets I send you. If you do , you go to heaven. If you don't you go to hell. And when Judgment day comes , we'll see what you did with your lives.'

So basically , god gave humans free will to follow him or not. Not interfering with humans in their mortal life. But giving them the option and enlightenment to follow the path he wishes for them to follow , without forcing them to. Its those who exact religion are the ones whose responsible for what others might achieve in their lives in regards to the faith.

Does that make sense?

Quote
Edit: The Moon: So Formless earlier mentioned that a miraculous event detailed in the Qu'ran spoke of the moon being split in two for one night.  The crescent moon and star is a common Muslim symbol for many flags.

Does the moon have any special significance in Islam beyond just being a celestial feature?

The moons means a lot to Muslims ... Because we have our own Lunar calender to follow. We don't follow the Gregorian calender when it comes to our religious events.

 ( I also get two birthdays a year. Suck on that! .... But then I realize that we don't celebrate birthdays here and I kinda feel down. ::) )

So a moon is important to Muslims ... calenderwise.

Offline Oniya

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Re: Islam , A variety of discussions from a non extreme perspective.
« Reply #390 on: June 13, 2015, 06:26:42 PM »
I once asked a similar question to one of my teachers when I was in highschool. He tried to divert me from the question by just saying ' Its God's will'. But when I insisted he almost went into a fit. Some think asking these questions that knocks at the center of the faith could lead to someone losing their faith in the faith itself. ::)

Anyway , let me simplify it in the way I finally understood it.

God created humans and said ' Follow my rules according to the prophets I send you. If you do , you go to heaven. If you don't you go to hell. And when Judgment day comes , we'll see what you did with your lives.'

So basically , god gave humans free will to follow him or not. Not interfering with humans in their mortal life. But giving them the option and enlightenment to follow the path he wishes for them to follow , without forcing them to. Its those who exact religion are the ones whose responsible for what others might achieve in their lives in regards to the faith.

Does that make sense?

This question goes back at least to the ancient Greeks.  The earliest attribution is to the philosopher Epicurus (although it isn't included in what we have of his own writings).  It was probably less of a 'paradox' when dealing with a pantheon of deities who were more 'potent' than mortals, but of similar enough power levels to counter each other.

Offline FormlessTopic starter

Re: Islam , A variety of discussions from a non extreme perspective.
« Reply #391 on: June 13, 2015, 07:40:48 PM »
This question goes back at least to the ancient Greeks.  The earliest attribution is to the philosopher Epicurus (although it isn't included in what we have of his own writings).  It was probably less of a 'paradox' when dealing with a pantheon of deities who were more 'potent' than mortals, but of similar enough power levels to counter each other.

Yeah.

Its not an easy concept to come in terms with when worshipping one singular Deity. And in Islam specifically , they cannot handle this paradox very well. Which I think its because they really do not understand the faith , beyond the set of rules they read in a holy scripture.

Offline Skynet

Re: Islam , A variety of discussions from a non extreme perspective.
« Reply #392 on: June 13, 2015, 10:02:35 PM »
Does that make sense?

Yes it does.  It sounds akin to the non-interventionist interpretation.

Also, when you mentioned a thing about 2 birthdays a year, are people considered "double their age" in countries with said calendar?  Like would a 15-year-old in the USA be classified as 30 years old in Saudi Arabia for identification and such?

Offline FormlessTopic starter

Re: Islam , A variety of discussions from a non extreme perspective.
« Reply #393 on: June 13, 2015, 10:11:36 PM »
Hah! No. Though that would have its benefits and downsides.  :P

What I meant is that the 1st of January 2000 doesn't match the same day the next year in the Lunar Calender.

Wait ... That sounds confusing.

The Lunar calender isn't very accurate. ( Which why even the banks in Saudi Arabia follows the Gregorian Calender )

Basically every month in the lunar calender is either 30 days long , or 29 days long. It depends on the Moon's cycle in that particular month. I guess astrology would explain this little tid bit.

So let's say that you were born in 01/01/1900AD. And let's say the correspondent date on the Lunar Calender is 01/01/1320HD. Next year 01/01/1901AD won't correspond to 01/01/1321HD .... It will be correspondent to a different day. Depends on how many days each month was in the previous lunar year.

So you could have two birthdates ... for birthday parties sake. But your initial birthdate is fixed. Since ... that's when you were born.

Now I am seriously wondering if that made any sense.

Offline Skynet

Re: Islam , A variety of discussions from a non extreme perspective.
« Reply #394 on: June 13, 2015, 11:38:52 PM »
Is there a known world record of the highest amount of people who've been inside Mecca's borders at any one point?

Offline FormlessTopic starter

Re: Islam , A variety of discussions from a non extreme perspective.
« Reply #395 on: June 14, 2015, 11:06:20 AM »
The highest number of Pilgrims was 5.5 million last year I think. But for Mekkah itself ... There isn't any reliable statistic.

Offline Skynet

Re: Islam , A variety of discussions from a non extreme perspective.
« Reply #396 on: June 17, 2015, 10:43:41 PM »
Turbans: I once asked about if wearing green turbans was traditional for those who completed the Hajj.  But the turban in and of itself is often associated with Muslims and Arabs.

So I went to Wikipedia and found out that many Muslims wear turbans as a form of respect to the Prophet Muhammad.  There are different kinds and styles of wraps depending on sect, region, and culture.  The article went into some detail on the kinds out there, although the only prominent example it gave was about the ones worn by Shi'ite Sayyids.

So the turban appears as a religious garb akin to how Catholics often wear rosary necklaces and other wear meant to express one's faith.

Which leads me to my question: does anyone know of any comprehensive Muslim turban breakdown lists?  Due to the differing sects/regions/etc, would it be easy to identify a Muslim's hometown or country of birth based on the kind of turban they wear, or is it more complicated than that?

Unforgivable Sins: Many religions have a concept of wrongdoing and bad behavior.  Many of them allow for a kind of penance in some form.

There are some sins in cultures which are so bad that once that threshold is crossed, a person is doomed to wickedness and separation from heaven/God/etc.

Does Islam have any unforgivable sins?  Actions which if committed consign a person to Hell no matter what they do with their life afterwards?

Haram animals: It's established that Muslims can't eat certain kinds of meat, but does this restriction apply to other forms of interaction with living animals?  Is there anything prohibiting a Muslim from owning a pet pig, collecting bird feathers, basically physical contact other than consumption?

Bernard Lewis: This British historian specialized in "orientalist studies," which basically means Middle Eastern and East Asian societies.  He wrote a lot of books about the Muslim world.  His name pops up a lot on Amazon when searching books about the Caliphate and Ottoman Empire.

He doesn't seemed to be liked in several circles, notably for his recent political views.  His support of the 2003 US-Iraq War and his views on the Armenian Genocide did not earn him many friends.  Edward Said, a Palestinian literary theorist, has been critical of his work which he feels to be more self-affirming than truly objective.

Are any Muslims here familiar with his work?  Overall do you find him a good source on Islamic history and culture?  I tend to find a sense of separating the author from the work at times.  A scholar who can find good data who turns out to have unconventional views might still have good work.  On the other hand, there is always a sense of unintentional subjectivity and bias in any work which can harm it.  The question is how much it gets in the way.

Bernard Lewis' Wikipedia page.
« Last Edit: June 17, 2015, 11:05:21 PM by Skynet »

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Re: Islam , A variety of discussions from a non extreme perspective.
« Reply #397 on: June 18, 2015, 01:53:46 AM »
God created humans and said ' Follow my rules according to the prophets I send you. If you do , you go to heaven. If you don't you go to hell. And when Judgment day comes , we'll see what you did with your lives.'

So basically , god gave humans free will to follow him or not. Not interfering with humans in their mortal life. But giving them the option and enlightenment to follow the path he wishes for them to follow , without forcing them to. Its those who exact religion are the ones whose responsible for what others might achieve in their lives in regards to the faith.

"Now look guys, I'm giving you free will so you can live your lives however you wish to. I'm giving you freedom. But if you choose to not obey my will your ass is going to burn. Just saying."

That's basically what I get from that.

Offline Cassandra LeMay

Re: Islam , A variety of discussions from a non extreme perspective.
« Reply #398 on: June 18, 2015, 02:40:36 AM »
"Now look guys, I'm giving you free will so you can live your lives however you wish to. I'm giving you freedom. But if you choose to not obey my will your ass is going to burn. Just saying."

That's basically what I get from that.
That is pretty much what I get from it too, but I don't think that contradicts the point about having free will during your lifetime. As an anology, imagine a doctor telling a patient that if they don't give up smoking and drinking they'll die of a heart attack before turning 50. It's still up to the patient to follow that advice or not, to do what is recommended and have a better outcome, or disregard that advice, maybe hope for the best, and continue as before.

Offline FormlessTopic starter

Re: Islam , A variety of discussions from a non extreme perspective.
« Reply #399 on: June 18, 2015, 10:10:45 AM »
Turbans: I once asked about if wearing green turbans was traditional for those who completed the Hajj.  But the turban in and of itself is often associated with Muslims and Arabs.

So I went to Wikipedia and found out that many Muslims wear turbans as a form of respect to the Prophet Muhammad.  There are different kinds and styles of wraps depending on sect, region, and culture.  The article went into some detail on the kinds out there, although the only prominent example it gave was about the ones worn by Shi'ite Sayyids.

So the turban appears as a religious garb akin to how Catholics often wear rosary necklaces and other wear meant to express one's faith.

Which leads me to my question: does anyone know of any comprehensive Muslim turban breakdown lists?  Due to the differing sects/regions/etc, would it be easy to identify a Muslim's hometown or country of birth based on the kind of turban they wear, or is it more complicated than that?

The Turban isn't a religious wear for Sunnis. And I don't think anyone wears it to respect the prophet because that was the traditional wear back then. I think it just became an item of different attire between two sects.

As for a list of type of turbans , I can't find anything so far , but as soon as I do I'll give it to you.

Unforgivable Sins: Many religions have a concept of wrongdoing and bad behavior.  Many of them allow for a kind of penance in some form.

There are some sins in cultures which are so bad that once that threshold is crossed, a person is doomed to wickedness and separation from heaven/God/etc.

Does Islam have any unforgivable sins?  Actions which if committed consign a person to Hell no matter what they do with their life afterwards?

In Qur'an , any sin mentioned is a sin. However some Hadiths spoke of the greatest seven.

1- Apostasy. One can atone , but if they call for apostasy as well , it is punishable by death.

2- Magic. Meaning black magic used for binding and causing harm. Punishable by death.

3- Killing an innocent life. Life belongs to god and no one have the right to take it away , unless one commit an act that deserves death. Death punishments should only be delivered by a ruler , thus even if one commits an act like the two mentioned above or below , only a ruler should exact the punishment and not any vigilante. ( I might make a post later about this very misconception. ) So blood for blood if you took a life for whatever reason.

4- Dirty money. This is meant for taking interests or benefits over a loan. So by this definition , all bankers are going to hell. One can atone , as long as they forego these ways. There is no mortal punishment for this one. But in Qur'an , whenever it is mentioned , a greater punishment in hell always followed.

5- Taking the helpless' fortune. ( Orphans ). Taking away a helpless orphan's fortune as one's guardian is a great sin. When one is a guardian for someone , an orphan or whoever , and they take advantage of their fortune for themselves. Then they've committed a great sin. Their mortal punishment is up to the ruler. Which in these days is jail and fines ...

6- Turning tail during battle. When a war occurs and one choose to run away than fight , it is considered a great sin. No mortal punishment for such act.

7- False accusation against the innocent women. This means to falsely accuse a woman of adultery. This actually applies to any false accusation against anyone. But it was heavily emphasized in several hadiths that targeting a woman innocence is a greater sin than other types of accusations.

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Haram animals: It's established that Muslims can't eat certain kinds of meat, but does this restriction apply to other forms of interaction with living animals?  Is there anything prohibiting a Muslim from owning a pet pig, collecting bird feathers, basically physical contact other than consumption?

There's really nothing against owning a pet pig ... But I don't think any Muslim would take one for a pet. Its just unheard of. But I guess Muslims wouldn't do so since it is forbidden to eat them. But since most hunt with Falcons , they take them as pets , even though it is forbidden to eat a falcon itself. So ... does that make sense?

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Bernard Lewis: This British historian specialized in "orientalist studies," which basically means Middle Eastern and East Asian societies.  He wrote a lot of books about the Muslim world.  His name pops up a lot on Amazon when searching books about the Caliphate and Ottoman Empire.

He doesn't seemed to be liked in several circles, notably for his recent political views.  His support of the 2003 US-Iraq War and his views on the Armenian Genocide did not earn him many friends.  Edward Said, a Palestinian literary theorist, has been critical of his work which he feels to be more self-affirming than truly objective.

Are any Muslims here familiar with his work?  Overall do you find him a good source on Islamic history and culture?  I tend to find a sense of separating the author from the work at times.  A scholar who can find good data who turns out to have unconventional views might still have good work.  On the other hand, there is always a sense of unintentional subjectivity and bias in any work which can harm it.  The question is how much it gets in the way.

Bernard Lewis' Wikipedia page.

I am not familiar with him. But a quick google search in arabic rendered a lot of ... Anti-Bernard results. ::)

I really cannot make any comment on him.