I really enjoy how Professor Asani emphasizes religious traditions, artistic expression, architecture, and music from around the world. The global nature of Islam was one of the biggest surprises to me so far in this class.
Before beginning Professor Asani’s class, I had assumed Islam to be a primarily Middle Eastern faith. However, as I listened and read further, I learned that the highest proportion, more than 13%, live in Indonesia (as of 2010, Pew Research Center on Religion & Public Life). The wide geographic distribution and broad range of expressing faith surprised me, though perhaps they should not. Islam, like the other Abrahamic faiths Judaism and Christianity expanded from a prophet in what is now considered the Middle East to a small circle of followers to worshippers around the globe. As the youngest Abrahamic faith, Islam encompasses many other traditions- one of Muhammad’s titles is خاتم النبيين, Khatam an-Nabiyyin, the Seal of the Prophets. Though Muhammad is the last and most important of God’s messengers, he ends a long chain reaching back to Adam. Some earlier prophets, anbiya’, are even considered messengers, or rusul: Moses, David, and Jesus among them (Renard, Seven Doors to Islam). Furthermore, because the Qur’an states, “And We sent some Messengers whom We have already mentioned to thee and some Messengers whom We have not mentioned to thee…” (4:165), holy figures from traditions around the world might be representatives of the God speaking through Muhammad. Professor Asani discussed how some South Asian Muslims considered the Vedas potentially prophetic and translated the Sanskrit or how Lord Krishna might be a prophet of Allah.
I designed a map of the countries with the largest Muslim populations to try to introduce the broad geographic, cultural, and theological range of Islam I hope to learn a little more about this semester. Check it out here: http://arcg.is/21Cnzhf and click through the countries for a small illustration of Muslim art, architecture, or worship as well as a link to the website where I found the picture, most of which have a story or links to further reading.