Mysticism: Holiness East and West

By Denise Lardner Carmody; John Tully Carmody | Go to book overview
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Muslim Traditions

General Orientation

If we place the beginning of Islam with God, because from the beginning of their creation God wanted human beings to be Muslims ("submitters"), then Islam is as old as humanity. If we take the view of secular historians that the Arab monotheistic tradition begun by Muhammad early in the seventh century C.E. owed much to Judaism and Christianity, then Islam appears as the daughter and further stage of biblical religion. For our purposes, better than either of these points of view is the more strictly historical one that has Islam begin with the prophet Muhammad ( 570-632). As we see in the next section, Muhammad grew up in Mecca (in present-day Saudi Arabia), influenced by Bedouin and other Arab religious traditions. He received a call from God (Allah) and a series of revelations (the basis of the Koran) and became the head of a new religious community. Shortly after his death Muslims expanded their influence dramatically, first throughout the Middle East, then to Europe, India, Africa above the Sahara, East Asia, and lately to the entire world.

When following the major developments in Sufism, the main carrier of Muslim mysticism, we shall suggest how Islam developed historically. For the remainder of this section we concentrate on the central Muslim tenets, the faith that explains the practice.


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