Many people in the West are used to reading a book from left to right and sequentially. Each of the books of the Gospel have a beginning, middle and end. In the Qur’an, the book is not ordered from left to right, but right to left and it is not ordered sequentially, but based on the size of the chapters from largest to smallest.
The Qur’an was codified under the Caliph Uthman, the third Caliph in Islam. The authenticity of this account has been confirmed by orientalist scholars such as the late Estella Whelan in which she stated, “the Muslim tradition is reliable, at least in broad outline, in attributing the first codification of the Qur’anic text to Uthman and his appointed commission” (Whelan, 1998 p. 13). In addition, the recent find at Birmingham University in the United Kingdom of a Qur’an that has been radiocarbon dated to 645 AD possibly even earlier verifies that the Qur’an we have today is the same Qur’an at that time (Coughlan, 2015).
It is recommended when reading the Qur’an that one reads sequentially so as to understand how the Qur’anic message started and evolved over the 23 years of revelation from Mecca to Medina. Many verses in the Medinan period pertain to law which was the prerogative at that time and may be difficult to understand without knowledge of the earlier revelations of the Qur’an. Unfortunately, the Qur’an when read from left to right and sequentially has many chapters at the beginning that were revealed in Medina and contain laws that non-Muslims have a difficult time understanding. This is like being thrown into the middle of a swimming pool without having the proper instruction on how to swim. It is confusing without the proper backdrop.
Luckily, Islamic scholars have determined the order of revelation for the chapters of the Qur’an with small differences between them. One of these prominent scholars is Imam Muhammad al-Zarkashi, who was from Egypt and lived in the 14th Century. He identified 85 chapters of the Qur’an that were Meccan in origin and 29 chapters that were Medinan in origin. Here is the list in order from earliest to latest.
96, 68, 73, 74, 111, 81, 87, 92, 89, 93, 94, 103, 100, 108, 102, 107, 109, 105, 113, 114, 112, 53, 80, 97, 91, 85, 95, 106, 101, 75, 104, 77, 50, 90, 86, 54, 38, 7, 72, 36, 25, 35, 19, 20, 56, 26, 27, 28, 17, 10, 11, 12, 15, 6, 37, 31, 34, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 51, 88, 18, 16, 71, 14, 21, 23, 32, 52, 67, 69, 70, 78, 79, 82, 84
2, 8, 3, 33, 60, 4, 99, 57, 47, 13, 55, 76, 65, 98, 59, 110, 24, 22, 63, 58, 49, 66, 61, 62, 64, 48, 9, 5
For those that do not have a copy of the Qur’an in English, the web has many translations of the Qur’an. We recommend this translation which has been provided online by two former computer science students (Iman Mohammad Kashi & Uwe Hideki Matzen) at the University of Copenhagen. The project is still based in Copenhagen, Denmark. The link is below.
You can also search through the Qur’an with this website:
The other source for Islam is the hadith, which are the sayings and doings of the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.). The Qur’an is considered the Words of God while the Hadith are considered the reports of what the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) said and did during his life after revelation. These reports were codified much later than the Qur’an and required authentication by expert collectors. One of these well-known collectors was Imam al-Bukhari, who was from Bukhara in modern-day Uzbekistan who started collecting hadith more than 200 years after the death of the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.). A critical aspect of determining the authenticity of these hadith was collecting their isnad (chains of transmission). A weak transmission due to a break in the chain or the existence of an unreliable transmitter in the transmission would make the hadith weak and thus not sahih (reliable). These hadith were collected into several volumes known today as Sahih Bukhari. The English translations of these hadith can be found on the web. We recommend the link below for accessing these hadith found in the Sahih Bukhari.
There are five pillars in Islam. These are listed below:
1) Testify to faith- Needed to be a Muslim
“There is no God but God & Muhammad (s.a.w.) is His servant and messenger”
Muslims pray five times a day
Muslims fast the holy month of Ramadhan in the Islamic (hijri) calendar. This is an abstention from eating, drinking and other carnal desires during the day time for the entire month.
The giving of zakat-ul-mal annually which is 2.5% on movable income (liquid assets) held for the entire year (savings) and / or zakat-ul-fitr which is about $10 per person per year
Making the pilgrimage to Mecca during the Hajj season at least once in one’s life if they have the means to do so.
There are six principles of faith. These are listed below:
1) Believe in God (only 1 God with no partner)
2) Believe in the angels
3) Believe in the revealed messages of God including the Gospels and the Torah
4) Believe in the messengers sent by God including Muhammad, Jesus and Moses (peace be upon all of them)
5) Believe in the Resurrection and the Day of Judgement
6) Believe in pre-destination (Qadr)
Today, there are between 2.5 and 3 million Muslims in the United States in which it is the most diverse Muslim population in the world in a single country. Muslims have been in the United States since the antebellum period. These Muslims were mostly slaves of North and West African ancestry and numbered in the tens of thousands. These slaves were mostly literate and therefore impressed their slave-holders. In the first two decades of the 20th Century 60,000 Muslims immigrated from the Near and Far East. This followed the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire. Many of these Muslims immigrated from southeast Europe (GhaneaBassiri, 2010).
“Bosnian Muslims also began immigrating to the United States around 1900 in order to find work….They worked as common laborers in construction and played a noticeable role in digging Chicago’s subway. Many also worked seasonally in the copper mines of Butte, Montana” (GhaneaBassiri, 2010 p. 145).
By WW I Muslims began to view the United States as a home mostly because of the economic success they experienced here. The Muslims in Ross, North Dakota who were homesteaders established the oldest still existing mosque in the United States. They built it in 1929 however it has not been used since WW II. Muslims are still being buried at the adjacent cemetery as recently as 1999 (GhaneaBassiri, 2010).
The first umbrella organization of Muslim mosques and associations across the United States was established in the 1950s and 60s. The Federation of Islamic Associations (FIA) was established by a retired officer who served in WW II who was a second-generation Arab American. His name was Abdallah Ingram. This organization was the predecessor to the present-day national Muslim organizations in the United States such as the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). It had its first convention June 28, 1952 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, another location of one of the oldest mosques in the United States (GhaneaBassiri, 2010).
Islam also spread among the African American population in this time period. Most of these Islamic movements were heterodox, such as the Nation of Islam and the Moorish Science Temple. The Nation of Islam shifted towards orthodox Islam after the passing of Elijah Muhammad in 1975 in which his son Warith Deen Muhammad became the leader. In 1976 he renamed the movement the World Community of al-Islam in the West which had about 70,000 members at the time. Louis Farrakhan broke with this shift and reconstituted the Nation of Islam which still exists today (GhaneaBassiri, 2010).
After the liberalization of the immigration laws in 1965, Muslim immigration peaked in the United States. The number of mosques and Muslim associations increased in the 1970s and 80s including the development of the Islamic Society of North America in 1981 which had its start with the Muslim Students Association (MSA). MSA was first established at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1963. These immigrants were better educated than the earlier immigrants (GhaneaBassiri, 2010).
“Unlike earlier immigrants from Muslim-majority countries who were predominantly young, single, uneducated, male laborers, post-1965 Muslim immigrants were generally older professionals who came either with their families or to join family members already there.” (GhaneaBassiri, 2010 p. 293).
By the 1990s Muslims had been in the United States for at least a century while the number of indigenous Muslim groups had grown substantially. The first celebration of Eid-al-Fitr (celebration of the ending of fasting Ramadhan) in the White House was in 1996. W.D. Muhammad offered a prayer for the first time for a Muslim in the Senate in 1992. The army ordained its first Muslim chaplain in 1993. Following 9/11 the Muslim presence in the United States has been catapulted to public consciousness unfortunately under the guise of terrorism. Currently, Muslims are struggling to find their place in an environment of suspicion and hatred. There have been some successes and failures, but one thing is for sure Muslims have contributed to the development of the United States and they are not going anywhere (GhaneaBassiri, 2010).
Last year (2014) we were visited by Rob Gerhardt, who has developed a photo exhibit of Muslim Americans. He also added photos of our community to his collection. These photos are below. For the full exhibit see his website here.
Coughlan, S. (2015, July 22). ‘Oldest’ Koran fragments found in Birmingham University – BBC News. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.com/news/business-33436021
GhaneaBassiri, K. (2010). A history of Islam in America: From the New World to the New World Order. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
Whelan, E. (1998). Forgotten Witness: Evidence for the Early Codification of the Qur’an. Journal of the American Oriental Society, 118(1), 1-14.