GOVERNOR PERRY II: TEACH TEXAS SCHOOL CHILDREN ISLAM—NOT CHRISTIANITY

You learned, August 30, here we have the San Antonio Independent School Web presentation on pdf and Power Point.The indispensable Pamela Geller posted the entire curriculum (Muslim Histories and Culture Project) yesterday at Atlas shrugs.

She wrote, “I was moved by the Texas parents who wrote to thank me for exposing this dangerous whitewash. Imagine an in-depth study of Islamic history void of the jihadi wars, land appropriations, cultural annihilations, gender apartheid, enslavements, ethnic cleansing and misogyny. I urge rational and reasoned thinkers to study the curriculum for themselves. The Perry posse would prefer you did not. I ask that you do. Here is the evidence.

“The religion that the Prophet Muhammad preached provided his followers an ethical and moral vision for leading a life of righteousness.” Perry/Khan curriculum.

In one of my first posts on the controversial Aga Khan/Perry school curriculum on Islam for Texas public schools, I published the links (URLs) to the Muslim Histories and Cultures Program (MHC). The MHC page said proudly: “In April 2004, the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) and UT-Austin finalized a grant proposal that created the partnership that became known as the Muslim Histories and Cultures Program (MHC)…. Governor Perry was instrumental in getting this program off the ground.”

Soon after I posted about it, the links went dead. It was curious that the multiple pages of all nine lessons plus adjunct powerpoints and lesson plans were all taken offline. Subsequently, I found the Google cached pages and posted those links of the curriculum material. Now those links have also been removed. The cache is gone. Why are they hiding this?

Before everything disappears, I am posting the text and the screenshots of all nine lessons of this proselytizing whitewash of Islam. We are handicapping our children by whitewashing the jihadic doctrine and the threat it presents to the West. This is the actual curriculum, not any one single teacher’s lesson plan (which is what other misinformed blogs are using, claiming it is the actual official curriculum, in an attempt to exonerate Perry of this dastardly action).

Further, why is this even being taught in the public schools? There is no intense, extensive Jewish curriculum or Hindu curriculum or Christian curriculum. Further, these religions are not slaughtering Americans and non-believers in the hundreds of thousands, so why color it pretty?

Rick Perry’s partner in this Islamic education program is the Aga Khan. The Aga Khan Development Network signed three agreements with the Syrian Government, and “between 2003 and 2008,” the Aga Khan’s group “spent $40 million to develop business in Syria.” Syria has been listed by the State Department as among the State Sponsors of Terrorism since December 29, 1979, and for years has allowed the jihad terror groups Hamas and Hezbollah to operate with impunity out of Damascus.

Another Aga Khan organization, the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development, is one of the owners of the Bank al-Habib in Pakistan. In 2007, Daniel Pearl’s widow Mariane sued that bank, charging that it had funded al-Qaeda and was involved in killing Daniel Pearl. Those charges have never been answered.

SPIEGEL Interview with Aga Khan: Spiegel: So, what are the root causes of terrorism?

Aga Khan: Unsolved political conflicts, frustration and, above all, ignorance. Nothing that was born out of a theological conflict.

[…]

SPIEGEL: That means the West should deal with the radical Islamist Hamas as well?

Aga Khan: You have to work with whoever the population has elected as long as they are willing to respect what I call cosmopolitan ethics.

Aga Khan Senior: How the Eton-educated wartime Aga Khan offered ‘30,000 armed Arabs’ to help Hitler – but still evaded treason trial

I was moved by the Texas parents who wrote to thank me for exposing this dangerous whitewash. Imagine an in-depth study of Islamic history void of the jihadi wars, land appropriations, cultural annihilations, gender apartheid, enslavements, ethnic cleansing and misogyny. I urge rational and reasoned thinkers to study the curriculum for themselves. The Perry posse would prefer you did not. I ask that you do. Here is the evidence.

Muslim Histories and Culture Project

What is the Muslim Histories and Culture Project (MHCP)?

The Muslim Histories and Cultures Project was born out of discussions between His Highness The Aga Khan and Texas Governor Rick Perry during the Summer 2002, when The Aga Khan was in Houston for the dedication of a new Ismaili Center. Both His Highness and Governor Perry agreed on the need for Texans to have a greater understanding of Islamic culture, and subsequently brought UT-Austin President Larry Faulkner into the discussions. Located in the state capital, Faulkner’s campus is well positioned to accomplish these goals. A series of meetings followed, with the project ultimately finding a home in UT-Austin’s College of Liberal Arts, under the guidance of Dean Richard W. Lariviere, in association with UT Liberal Arts (UT-LA), the college’s teacher preparation program.

In April 2004, the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) and UT-Austin finalized a grant proposal that created the partnership that became known as the Muslim Histories and Cultures Program (MHC). Much has happened since the inception of the partnership. Creation and implementation of a model was of prime importance. MHC recruited and directly trained 80 teachers affecting approximately 15,150 students of World History and World Geography in ten key Texas districts during the two sessions conducted in 2005 and 2006. The purpose is two-fold 1) to fulfill Governor Rick Perry’s desire to better educate Texasteachers on Muslim topics and 2) to train teachers to use a cultural lens approach to understanding other cultures. Governor Perry was instrumental in getting this program off the ground.

Here are some of the elements of the program that show it to be a whitewash of Islam:

Session One

  • The main reading is from Carl Ernst’s Following Muhammad, the first three chapters. This book whitewashes Muhammad, saying that he “was, by all accounts, a charismatic person known for his integrity” (p. 85). Muhammad’s exhortations to make war against unbelievers, his multiple marriages and child marriage, and other negative aspects of his biography are explained away or ignored entirely.
  • The curriculum directs participants to “consider Carl Ernst’s statement, ‘It is safe to say that no religion has such a negative image in Western eyes as Islam.’” Then it asks them: “Why is this so? How have political and economic relationships between the Middle East and Western Europe and the United States impacted perceptions of Islam, in the past and the present? How have they impacted perceptions of the ‘West’ among Muslims?” Note that participants are guided to see the “negative image” of Islam as the result of “political and economic relationships between the Middle East and Western Europe and the United States.” No hint is given of the possibility that Islam might have a “negative image” in the West because of jihad conquests, institutionalized oppression of women and non-Muslims, and the like.
  • The curriculum quotes Edward Said, who ascribed all critical discussion of Islamic jihad and Islamic supremacism to racism and neo-colonialism, as warning that one should speak of “Islams rather than Islam,” and warns that in dealing with Islam “one has entered an astoundingly complicated world.” This invocation of Islam’s complexity is frequently used to discourage those who point to the Qur’an’s violent passages and Muhammad’s exhortations to warfare as evidence of Islam’s bellicose intentions. Yet Islamic jihadists routinely refer to this material with no hesitation based on Islam’s “complexity.”

Session Two

  • Readings for the session entitled “Muhammad through History” include Celebrating Muhammad: Images of the Prophet in Popular Muslim Poetry and The Miraculous Journey of Mahomet. It notes, correctly, that “for millions of Muslims around the world, the Prophet Muhammad has become the paradigm, or role model, who is worthy of being emulated.” However, there is no hint whatsoever of how Muhammad, as a model to be emulated, has inspired jihad warriors and terrorists.
  • The common Islamic apologetic claim that Islam inspired all the greatest achievements of Western Judeo-Christian civilization appears in the assertion that “there is strong evidence to suggest that Muslim poetic accounts of the mi’raj, reaching Europe through the Arab courts in medieval Spain, inspired the Italian writer Dante to compose his famous work, The Divine Comedy.” No mention is made of how Dante placed Muhammad in hell as a false prophet.

Session Three

  • This session on the Qur’an makes no mention whatsoever of the elements of the Qur’an that exhort Muslims to hate unbelievers and make war against them (98:6; 48:29; 47:4; 2:191; 4:89; 9:5; 9:29: 9:123; etc.) The text used is Michael Sells’s Approaching the Qur’an: The Early Revelations, which doesn’t even include the sections of the Qur’an that most directly and emphatically call for violence against non-Muslims.
  • The curriculum makes sure to point out that “believers point to this very perfection of the text as the proof of the prophethood of Muhammad,” and that “for many, the notion that the Qur’an is inimitable, that is, no human could possibly have produced anything so perfect, proves that it had to be God who revealed this message to Muhammad.” But it makes no mention of the text’s designation of non-believers as “the most vile of created beings” (98:6), the warlike passages noted above; its call to beat disobedient women (4:34) and the like.

Session Four

  • This second session on the Qur’an tells participants to “discuss the role of the Qur’an in providing direction for an ethical life.” Here again, no mention is made of the ways in which Islamic jihadists use the Qur’an’s teachings to justify violence against and the subjugation of unbelievers.
  • The curriculum lists eight central themes of the Qur’an. Although there are well over 100 Qur’an verses exhorting believers to jihad warfare, jihad does not make the list.

Session Five

  • This session on the Sunni/Shi’ite split and other sects in Islam fails to mention one salient point: Islamic law calls for the execution of heretics and apostates; this law has been the foundation for an extraordinary amount of bloodshed between adherents of various Muslim sects throughout history and today.

Session Six

  • This session dismisses as a “misconception” the idea that “Islam forbids music and representational art.” It does not explain why so many Muslims, including the Taliban who destroyed the Bamiyan Buddhas, came to hold this “misconception.”

Session Seven

  • Participants are asked, “What conditions in Baghdad encouraged such a vast array of discoveries and inventions?” But the readings give no hint of the fact that Jews and Christians in Baghdad actually accounted for the great majority of these inventions. See here for a full explanation.
  • Participants are also asked: “Why was there such an abundance of inventions and discoveries attributed to Muslims in Medieval times but not today?” This question guides students toward a discussion of the trumped-up and manipulative modern concept of “Islamophobia.”
  • The curriculum states: “The religion that the Prophet Muhammad preached provided his followers an ethical and moral vision for leading a life of righteousness.” Again, no mention is made of Muhammad’s exhortations to hate and violence, his child marriage (which many Muslims consider exemplary behavior and imitate it), and the like.
  • The curriculum states: “Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians, who were subjects of new Arab rulers, could maintain their religious practices provided they paid jizya, a tax in tribute in lieu of military service.” It gives no hint of the institutionalized discrimination and humiliation that this dhimmi status involved.
  • The curriculum quotes Maria Rosa Menocal, the modern scholar most responsible for the myth of a tolerant, pluralistic Muslim Spain. It also discusses this tolerant Muslim Spain as a fact. In reality, however, Jews and Christians had a humiliating second-class status in Muslim Spain. When one Muslim ruler appointed a Jew as a local governor in Granada in 1066, the Muslims rioted and murdered four thousand Jews. The curriculum doesn’t mention any of that.

Session Eight

  • The readings for this session again include Carl Ernst’s Following Muhammad, as well as John Esposito’s The Straight Path. Both are highly apologetic, one-sided works that give the reader little idea why Muslims would wage jihad or commit violence in the name of Islam. No works of other perspectives are included.
  • The curriculum blames the restriction of rights of Muslim women on European colonialism, ignoring the many Islamic texts and teachings that restrict women’s rights.

Session Nine

  • The participants are again directed to read Carl Ernst and John Esposito, as well as another modern-day non-Muslim Islamic apologist, Charles Kurzman. No works of differing perspectives are presented.

Intro cached:

San Antonio Independent School District

Muslim Histories and Culture Project
small logo

What is the Muslim Histories and Culture Project (MHCP)?

The Muslim Histories and Cultures Project was born out of discussions between His Highness The Aga Khan and Texas Governor Rick Perry during the Summer 2002, when The Aga Khan was in Houston for the dedication of a new Ismaili Center. Both His Highness and Governor Perry agreed on the need for Texans to have a greater understanding of Islamic culture, and subsequently brought UT-Austin President Larry Faulkner into the discussions. Located in the state capital, Faulkner’s campus is well positioned to accomplish these goals. A series of meetings followed, with the project ultimately finding a home in UT-Austin’s College of Liberal Arts, under the guidance of Dean Richard W. Lariviere, in association with UT Liberal Arts (UT-LA), the college’s teacher preparation program.
In April 2004, the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) and UT-Austin finalized a grant proposal that created the partnership that became known as the Muslim Histories and Cultures Program (MHC). Much has happened since the inception of the partnership. Creation and implementation of a model was of prime importance. MHC recruited and directly trained 80 teachers affecting approximately 15,150 students of World History and World Geography in ten key Texas districts during the two sessions conducted in 2005 and 2006. The purpose is two-fold 1) to fulfill Governor Rick Perry’s desire to better educate Texas teachers on Muslim topics and 2) to train teachers to use a cultural lens approach to understanding other cultures. Governor Perry was instrumental in getting this program off the ground.

The curriculum for this project was developed at Harvard University and modified at the University of Texas at Austin.

The responsibilities of the participants are:

  • to attend the 10 seminars and complete the assigned readings.
  • to attend the January, April, and June meetings in Austin.
  • to create lessons concerning Islamic topics with a “cultural lens” approach tied to their grade level to share with other teachers.
Teacher’s Zone Find strategies ranging from hands-on to graphic organizers that are ready to print out and use with your lesson plans! The Zone also has information on how to incorporate different types of social studies skills including reading and writing connections. Don’t miss our TAKS area for the most up-to-date information on TAKS and the upcoming EOC assessments. Our strategies have been designed for teachers by teachers with all learners in mind! Parent’s Corner See how you the parent can help our your child learn more about social studies at the global, national, state, and community levels. We have resources and information to help parents understand what your child is learning in social studies.
TechnologyYou will discover the latest strategies that incorporate useful technology integration within a social studies setting. These strategies have been written by technology integration specialists that have used these strategies successfully in the classroom. Links Find over 5000 links going to outside resources based upon grade level and subject area. These links have been researched for content and usability within a school setting.
Photo Album Take a tour of places around the world, the nation, and the city with our over 9,000 images! These photographs have been donated by educators to help bring the world to our students! Blog, Board, and Wiki (Must have a SAISD Account) Read about the latest Social Studies Department’s events and news on our Blog (web log). On the message boards, you can leave messages for all district teachers about strategies and questions that you may have about subject areas. Finally, you and your students can use our Wiki to author and publish research done on social studies topics!

Social Studies Department – 406 Barrera San Antonio, TX 78210 (210) 354-3439
San Antonio Independent School District does not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, color, national origin, sex, or disability in providing education services, activities, and programs, including vocational programs, in accordance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended; Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972; section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended.

Es norma del Districto Escolar Independiente de San Antonio de no discriminar por motivos de raza, religion, color, origen nacional, sexo o impedimento, en sus programas, servicios o actividades vocacionales, tal como lo require el Título VI de la Ley de Derechos Civiles de 1964, según enmienda; el Título IX de las Enmiendas en la Educación, de 1972, y la Sección 504 de la Ley de Rehabilitación de 1973, según enmienda.
All Materials on this site are copyright 2002-2007 SAISD Social Studies Department except where noted. For permissions, please email the webmaster.
The Social Studies Resource Center was made possible by the Teaching American History Grant 2001-2004

About Us |2007-2008 SAISD Social Studies Department

Session 1:

Muslim Histories and Culture Project: Session 01

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Session 1 Session 2 Session 3 Session 4 Session 5 Session 6 Session 7 Session 8 Session 9 Lessons & Strategies http://www.saisd.net/admin/curric/sstudies/mhcp/reflections.html

What’s New?

History Fair Info National History Day Interactive ConstitutionIgnite! Retrieval System Reading Resources

Sources of Tradition

Guiding Questions: As you reflect on the readings in Following Muhammad and the Historical Atlas of Islam, consider the following questions:

  1. Consider Carl Ernst’s statement, “It is safe to say that no religion has such a negative image in Western eyes as Islam.” (p. 11) Why is this so? How have political and economic relationships between the Middle East and Western Europe and the United States impacted perceptions of Islam, in the past and the present? How have they impacted perceptions of the “West” among Muslims?
  2. Carl Ernst writes, “Religion never exists in a vacuum. It is always interwoven with multiple strands of culture and history that link it to particular locations. The rhetoric of religion must be put into a context, so that we know both the objectives and the opponents of particular spokespeople.” (p. 30). Discuss this statement using examples from American history.
  3. How have conceptions of the term “religion” changed over time? How have they impacted perceptions of Islam and its study?
  4. What are the origins of the Islamic faith? Why might Muslims and non-Muslims answer this question differently?
  5. In what ways is it appropriate and/or inappropriate to differentiate between Islamic civilization and Western civilization?

Readings – In Order of Reading:

  1. Ernst, Carl. Following Muhammad: Rethinking Islam in the Contemporary World. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003: Chapters 1-3.
  2. Ruthven, Malise and Azim Nanji. Historical Atlas of Islam. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2004: 6-57
  3. Hodgsen, Marshall. He Venture of Islam: Conscience and History in a World Civilization. pp. 146-195

Abstract:

Keeping this historical reality in mind, it is evident that the story of Islam involves peoples of many different races, ethnicities and cultures, many literatures and languages, with many histories, and a myriad of interpretations some of which may in conflict with each other. Not surprisingly, in view of this diversity, the late Edward Said, University Professor of English at Columbia University and a cultural and literary critic, wrote, “The problems facing anyone attempting to say anything intelligible, useful, or accurate about Islam are legion. One should therefore begin by speaking of Islams rather than Islam (as the scholar Aziz al-Azmeh does in his excellent book Islams and Modernities), and then go on to specify which kind, during which particular time, one is speaking about.” He goes on to say that keeping in mind the complexity and variety of concrete human experience, “it is much more sensible to try to talk about different kinds of Islam, at different moments, for different peoples, in different fields…..once one gets a tiny step beyond core beliefs (since even those are very hard to reduce to a simple set of doctrinal rules) and the centrality of the Koran [Qur’an], one has entered an astoundingly complicated world whose enormous – one might even say unthinkable – collective history alone has yet to be written.” (“Impossible Histories: Why the many Islams cannot be simplified,” Harper’s Magazine, July 2002, 69-74).

The Islamic Cultural Studies course is an invitation to explore a small slice of the rich and dazzling diversity that characterizes the worlds of Islam by examining the dynamic interaction between religious beliefs and practices and their political, economic, social, literary, and artistic contexts across time and space. Besides exposure to new content material, the course is also intended to equip you with the tools to analyze and think critically about what it means to study not only Islam, but any other religious tradition in its cultural contexts. In this broader sense, this course is about how to study religion in an academic context. The underlying premise of the course – knowledge is culturally constructed – is as applicable to the study of the Christian, Jewish, Buddhist or Hindu traditions as it is to the study of Islam. To properly understand the role of religions in human societies, the course contends, we must go beyond descriptive summaries of beliefs and practices and look at them as a living and dynamic traditions that are constantly changing according to context and circumstance of their adherents. Ultimately, this course will help provide you with greater literacy about the study of religion in general and better awareness of the complexities involved in such study.

No doubt believers of many faiths who, being comfortable with understanding their religion from a devotional perspective, will have difficulties in coming to terms with the scholarly and analytical approach we have discussed above. Some Muslims, for instance, may insist that there is only one Islam and differences, if they exist, are superficial. But this conception is itself influenced by a certain cultural context. Such Muslims are not alone in this conception for there are non-Muslims who also conceive of Islam as one unified, homogeneous monolith. More recently, particularly after 9/11, a range of historians, political scientists, journalists, public intellectuals have also considered Islam as one mega-civilizational block, stretching across the globe, that is in conflict with the so-called West which they also conceive as a self-contained and unified civilization. The readings selected for Session One from Carl Ernst’s book, Following Muhammad, begin with a critical examination of the manner in which conceptions of Islam, and for that matter notions of “religion,” are culturally and politically constructed by Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

The readings from Following Muhammad also examine the Sources of the Islamic tradition, providing a brief overview of the crucial role that Muhammad as Prophet of Islam and the Qur’an, as scripture of Islam, play in defining Muslim religious, social and political consciousness. We will explore each of these sources in greater detail in Sessions Two, Three and Four. The second set of readings, from Historical Atlas of Islam, after a brief summary of foundational beliefs and practices, survey the historical expansion of Arab Muslim imperial rule beyond the Arabian peninsula, covering the period between 600 to 1100 CE. Maps illustrate how the Islamic faith began in the Arabic world but spread to other areas where local culture, geography, language and ethnicity influenced beliefs and practices. The establishment of Arab rule in the Middle East led to the development of trade routes that were controlled by Muslim merchants, bringing in much wealth to the rapidly growing empires. With political and economic expansion, the Arabic language evolved into an international language of administration, culture, learning and commerce. As Arab power extended over more areas in the Middle East and the Mediterranean region, non Arab traditions, particularly the Persian and the Greco-Roman, were integrated. The result was a cosmopolitan civilization in which Arabic culture played an important part but in which also participated many different ethnic and religious groups. The historical survey concludes with a brief discussion of the Crusades and the attempts by knights from the Christian kingdoms of the Latin West (including England, Scandinavia, Germany, Italy and France) to wrest political control of the Holy Land from Muslim rulers, damaging the positive relations that had previously existed between Muslims and Eastern Orthodox Christians in the Middle East.

Materials on this page are copyright © 2008-2009 the University of Texas at Austin and SAISD Socal Studies Department. Materials contained on this page may not be reproduced or republished with out express written permission.

Teacher’s Zone Find strategies ranging from hands-on to graphic organizers that are ready to print out and use with your lesson plans! The Zone also has information on how to incorporate different types of social studies skills including reading and writing connections. Don’t miss our TAKS area for the most up-to-date information on TAKS and the upcoming EOC assessments. Our strategies have been designed for teachers by teachers with all learners in mind! Parent’s Corner See how you the parent can help our your child learn more about social studies at the global, national, state, and community levels. We have resources and information to help parents understand what your child is learning in social studies.
TechnologyYou will discover the latest strategies that incorporate useful technology integration within a social studies setting. These strategies have been written by technology integration specialists that have used these strategies successfully in the classroom. Links Find over 5000 links going to outside resources based upon grade level and subject area. These links have been researched for content and usability within a school setting.
Photo Album Take a tour of places around the world, the nation, and the city with our over 9,000 images! These photographs have been donated by educators to help bring the world to our students! Blog, Board, and Wiki (Must have a SAISD Account) Read about the latest Social Studies Department’s events and news on our Blog (web log). On the message boards, you can leave messages for all district teachers about strategies and questions that you may have about subject areas. Finally, you and your students can use our Wiki to author and publish research done on social studies topics!

Social Studies Department – 406 Barrera San Antonio, TX 78210 (210) 354-3439
San Antonio Independent School District does not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, color, national origin, sex, or disability in providing education services, activities, and programs, including vocational programs, in accordance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended; Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972; section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended.

Es norma del Districto Escolar Independiente de San Antonio de no discriminar por motivos de raza, religion, color, origen nacional, sexo o impedimento, en sus programas, servicios o actividades vocacionales, tal como lo require el Título VI de la Ley de Derechos Civiles de 1964, según enmienda; el Título IX de las Enmiendas en la Educación, de 1972, y la Sección 504 de la Ley de Rehabilitación de 1973, según enmienda.
All Materials on this site are copyright 2002-2007 SAISD Social Studies Department except where noted. For permissions, please email the webmaster.
The Social Studies Resource Center was made possible by the Teaching American History Grant 2001-2004

About Us |2007-2008 SAISD Social Studies Department

Session 2: Cached

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San Antonio Independent School District

Muslim Histories and Culture Project: Session 02
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Guiding Questions:

  1. Each of these poems evokes an intimate relationship with Prophet Muhammad. In reading them, consider the significance of this means of devotion. What are the elements that make this type of poetry an effective means of communicating religious affections and pious devotion? The intimacy expressed in the poems allows a window into the poet’s and the audience’s particular understandings of Muhammad and his mission to humanity. How is Muhammad’s prophetic role appropriated and acculturated in each of these traditions? In other words, how is the mission made personally meaningful to the poet and the audience?
  1. Consider these same questions as you read the selections from Mythology and Folklore of the Hui. To what extent do the myths of the Hui reveal Islamic and/or Chinese identity? How are these identities negotiated in the stories?
  1. What influence do local artistic traditions have on the illustrations of the mi’raj? What can we tell of the aesthetic norms that have influenced the depictions of figures (the Prophet, the angels), their clothing, natural elements (the sky, clouds etc) and architectural features? How does this artistic tradition handle perspective? How do these illustrations reflect the intended audience (courtly and aristocratic circles)? How do cultural contexts and accepted aesthetic norms influence the representations of Jesus in Christian traditions around the world?
  1. Why do some Muslims feel comfortable depicting the Prophet (especially his face)? Why would others consider this to be offensive and hence forbidden? What factors, aside from theological ones, could be involved in determining these attitudes? What is the difference between poetic and figural depictions of the Prophet?

Readings: Required

  1. Asani, A, and K. Abdel-Malek. Celebrating Muhammad: Images of the Prophet in Popular Muslim Poetry. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1995: 1-45.
  2. Seguy, Marie-Rose. The Miraculous Journey of Mahomet. Translated by Richard Pevear. New York: George Braziller, Inc, 1977.
    1. On the Way to Jerusalem
    2. Mahomet Enters the Sacred Mosque at Jerusalem
    3. The Angel Half-fire Half-snow
    4. The Prophet Meets Jacob and Joseph
    5. The Angel with 70 Heads
    6. The Angel with 10,000 Wings and the Four-headed Angel
    7. The Five Daily Prayers (conversation with Moses)
    8. The 70,000 Veils
    9. The Doorway to Hell
    10. The Falsely Devout

Divide and Assign:

  • Asani: “In Praise of Muhammad I: Urdu Poems”
    1. Khalil [292]
    2. Dagh [125]
    3. Lutf [117]
    4. Nuri [315]
    5. Sa’il [163]
    6. Salim Ahmad [266]
    7. Kausari [146]
    8. Fani [157]

(Note: the last two poets are Hindus)

  • Asani: “In Praise of Muhammad II: Sindhi Poems,” Valan Valhari [130-132]
  • Knappert, Jan. “Mohammad’s Nocturnal Journey to Jerusalem and his visit to the Seven Heavens and to Hell” of Swahili Islamic Poetry, III. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1967: 227-275.
  • Hiskett, M. “Prophetic Panegyric and Biography” of A History of Hausa Islamic Verse. London: University of London School of Oriental and African Studies, 1975: 43-51.
  • Li, Shujian, and Karl W. Luckert. “Muhammad and His Companions” Mythology and Folklore of the Hui: A Muslim Chinese People. Translated by Fengian Yu and Zhilin Hou. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1994: 83-93. (Originally published in 1946)

Recommended:

  • Speight, R. Marston, “Hadith.” Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World ed. J. Esposito, v..2, 83-87.

Abstract:

Muhammad, Prophet of Islam, ranks amongst the most influential figures in human history. For millions of Muslims around the world, the Prophet Muhammad has become the paradigm, or role model, who is worthy of being emulated. As God’s chosen prophet and messenger, he best embodied how to live a life in accordance with God’s will. In this sense, he and the prophets before him, including Abraham, Moses, Joseph, Jacob and Jesus, are perceived as exemplary muslims, literally, those who have truly submitted [to the will of God]. Not surprisingly, Prophet Muhammad’s customary behavior (sunnah) is an important source, second only to the Qur’an, for determining the legal, societal and pietistic norms for Muslim societies. The hadith, or accounts recording the Prophet’s words and deeds, are an important source of Prophetic sunnah. For many Muslims, Muhammad is not only the guide but the intercessor, the helper in time of difficulty, the mystic, the friend, and even the beloved. For a better understanding of some of the roles in which Muslims have seen their Prophet, we need to focus not only on the historical figure of Muhammad, who lived in the seventh century Arabia (“the Muhammad of history”), but also on Muhammad as he has been interpreted by millions of Muslims over the centuries living in different geographic and cultural locales (“Muhammad through history”). The readings in Session Two help us explore interpretations of the figure of Muhammad across historical time and geographic space drawing on examples from poetry, folk literature and visual arts. By using literature and the arts as cultural lenses through which to view the figure of the Prophet, we are better able to appreciate the role that literary and artistic contexts play in influencing the interpretation and expression of religious concepts and symbols. Such an approach also allows us access to the personal voices of poets and the artists as expressed in their works, voices that are often drowned out by the voices of formal and official religious authorities and texts.

The selections for this Session draw on two types of literature depicting the Prophet Muhammad: poems from South Asia (the Indian subcontinent) and sub-Saharan Africa; and folk stories from the Hui, a Muslim community in China, which illustrate the manner in which the figure of Muhammad is interpreted within the framework of Chinese folkloric traditions.
From South Asia we have examples of poetry from Urdu and Sindhi, both Indo-Aryan languages written in a script based on the Arabic alphabet. In the course of their historical development, both languages have acquired significant vocabulary derived from Arabic and Persian. Spoken by over 150 million people, Urdu is the official language of Pakistan and also one of the national languages of India. Beyond South Asia, Urdu is routinely spoken as a first or second language in immigrant communities of South Asian origin in many parts of the world, including the United States. Urdu poetry includes a distinctive genre called na’t, or composition that glorifies Muhammad. These na’ts may be written in various poetic meters and forms. The selections of na’ts, included in the readings, illustrate the special relationship that exists between the composers of the poems and Muhammad, their beloved Prophet, a relationship that in some instances has a somewhat romantic tinge to it. Muhammad is portrayed as a helper and a friend, with poets seeking his intercession for the forgiveness of their sins. Such pleas reveal that Muhammad is conceived as having a mystical and spiritual dimension to his personality made possible by his special relationship to God. Writing na’ts, or poems glorifying Muhammad, was not confined just to Muslim poets; our sample shows examples of such poems written by non-Muslims as well.

Sindhi is spoken predominantly in the region of Sind, southern province of present-day Pakistan, home of the ancient Indus valley civilization. The language is also spoken by scattered groups of Sindhis living in many cities across India. Sindhi Muslims use their native language to express affection and high esteem for the Prophet Muhammad. Many of the themes in Urdu poetry are also found in Sindhi poetry. A distinctive feature of Sindhi poetry is the tendency to praise Muhammad and represent him in symbols familiar to the local culture and literature. This is accomplished by poets incorporating folk tales and romances as allegoric references or following certain local literary conventions. A particularly striking convention has male poets adopting the female voice to address the Prophet as a longed for bridegroom or beloved. While appearing strange to contemporary Western audiences, such usage is completely in keeping with the ethos of devotional poetry in many parts of northern India and Pakistan in which the human soul is always imagined to be in the feminine mode in its devotional relationship to the Divine.

The poetry selections from sub-Saharan Africa are composed in Hausa and Swahili, widely spoken in West and East Africa, respectively. Both belong to the Bantu family of languages. On account of ancient cultural and economic ties with the Arabic speaking world, (Hausa through the trans-Saharan trade connecting West Africa to North Africa; Swahili through the trading networks across the Indian Ocean between the east coast of Africa and Arabia), both languages have absorbed a significant component of Arabic vocabulary. Historically, modified forms of the Arabic alphabet have even been used to write Hausa and Swahili. With the coming of European colonialism, however, the Latin alphabet was adopted as the official script. The spread of Islam among Hausa and Swahili speaking peoples has resulted in both languages becoming important vehicles for the expression of Islamic devotion.

The poem in Hausa is composed by Asma (d. 1865), daughter of the famous eighteenth century reformer of Islam, Usuman dan Fodio (d. 1817) (We will be learning more about Usuman dan Fodio and his reformist ideology in Session Eight.) Renowned for her piety as well as her learning, Asma wrote poetry in three languages, Arabic, Hausa and Fulfulde. She was particularly gifted in her ability to express Islamic concepts into local African idioms, writing as many as sixty works during her lifetime. Aside from her religiosity and literary abilities, Asma’s popularity rested also on her charitable works for the marginalized in her society as well as her contributions to furthering education for women. Her poem, “Ode in Praise of the Messenger,” an example of a type of poetry called madih, Prophetic panegyric, is one of her most famous compositions in the Hausa language.

The Swahili selection is a poetic account of the mi’raj or Prophet Muhammad’s ascension through the heavens. The traditional accounts narrate that one night, the Prophet Muhammad, mounted on a mythical creature called Buraq and with the Angel Gabriel as his guide, first went to Jerusalem, where after leading the other prophets in prayer, he ascended through the various heavens, culminating this journey in a face to face meeting with God. Muslims have differed among themselves as to the interpretation of this event, with the more mystically minded interpreting it as a spiritual allegory for the journey of the human soul, a kind of “Pilgrim’s Progress.” Muhammad’s mi’raj formed for the mystics of Islam the prototype of the ascent of each soul to higher spiritual realms. The mi’raj becomes a popular subject for Muslim poets in many languages, especially as it allows poets to imagine and depict creatively a highly esoteric experience. Incidentally, there is strong evidence to suggest that Muslim poetic accounts of the mi’raj, reaching Europe through the Arab courts in medieval Spain, inspired the Italian writer Dante to compose his famous work, The Divine Comedy.

As evident in the painting selections, the mi’raj has provided inspiration not just to poets but to artists as well. The illustrations included here are from a fifteenth century manuscript called the Mi’raj Nameh “Treatise on the Mi’raj.” It was one of the great masterpieces produced at studios attached to the royal court at Herat (currently in present-day Afghanistan). At these royal studios, calligraphers, illuminators and bookbinders produced lavish manuscripts for the vast and famous library of the ruler Shah Rukh (1396-1477), son of Tamerlane. It is believed that Mir Haydar, the author of the text, translated it into a dialect of Turkish from an Arabic original. The artwork is very colorful and depicts various scenes during the Prophet Muhammad’s heavenly journey. While the artists and the patron associated with this manuscript tradition were evidently comfortable with a figural representation of the Prophet, depicting even his face, there are Muslims who consider these depictions as constituting idolatry and hence should be forbidden. As such, they would prefer anionic representations of the Prophet perhaps through other art forms such as poetry and calligraphy.

Materials on this page are copyright © 2008-2009 the University of Texas at Austin and SAISD Socal Studies Department. Materials contained on this page may not be reproduced or republished with out express written permission.

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About Richard Johnson

Richard Johnson: a mature Christian who understands the sweep of history, the unique role of America and these times clearly and precisely.
This entry was posted in 2012, Defending Christianity, Jinad/Shariah, Liberty, Reclaiming and Restoring America, Remaking the Republicans. Bookmark the permalink.

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