(2:75, 79; 3:78; 4:46; 5:13, 41), who in any case were now failing adequately to uphold their own teachings. By thus accounting for other faiths, a space was made for an entirely new revelation that would need no further reference to the authority claimed by those religions, their founders and their doctrines, in order to proclaim its message.

As befits a new historical beginning, Muhammad brought a message of seeming simplicity. He warned the Arabs to renounce their ancestral idolatry, and to turn instead to the worship of the One God. The new revelation was filled with warnings about God's coming judgement on humanity. This would come in the form of a general resurrection of the dead, to be followed immediately by a great day of judgement, at which God would assign all rational beings to either everlasting bliss or torment, on the basis of their actions during their worldly lives. The Qur'an further called on its hearers to repent or face chastisement even in this world, recounting the ways in which God had destroyed several wayward nations of older times who had rejected the messages brought to them by their prophets. Nothing, of course, was original in this overall vision, since ideas of salvation and judgement had long flourished in the Near East, and had been greatly elaborated there by the earlier monotheistic religions.

Although simple on the surface, this qur'anic system of salvation based on divine judgement brought in its inexorable train many complexities that prompted debate and elaboration among later Muslim generations. This process began in the time of the revelation, insofar as many of the divine exhortations it contains reveal a polemical situation of considerable nuance, and periodically respond directly to questions or criticisms. While it is true that the Qur'an, as a text in the genre of Semitic prophecy, does not contain a single sustained argument of the kind familiar in the elite literature of the Greco-Roman world, it nevertheless develops its own themes argumentatively, sometimes at considerable length, to explain its teachings, and to rebut the established anti-monotheistic arguments of its initial target audience. Because the elaborations of the qur'anic vision of salvation stressed different aspects of the message, and reflected different patterns in the reception of the qur'anic text by those who had heard its interpretation from the Prophet, doctrinal stresses became, over time, the nuclei of diverging ideological schools.

In addition to its coherent system of otherworldly salvation, the Qur'an also laid great stress on certain practical prescriptions for life in this world. Originally connected, for the most part, with the events of the Prophet's multidimensional career, the Qur'an's revelations are replete with exhortations to action as well as counsels on human relationships. Some of this advice is couched in the form of exhortations and recommendations, coupled with a general insistence on justice (4:58; 5:8; 6:115, 152; 7:181; 16:76, 90; 42:15; 49:9), which urge the earliest believers to concentrate their minds on the inherent rightness of their actions, rather than on their utility to their tribes, and to insist on such rightness in their rulers, and this is stressed far more than issues of doctrine or ritual. Such a concern ensured that the earliest Muslim schisms emerged over what were in the first instance political matters, and this very early pattern continued profoundly to affect the course of Muslim history and thought. Although the political ructions took on ideological and religious overtones whose later fixity helped to define religious boundaries, it is very doubtful whether such differences can be considered essentially "spiritual", especially in the earliest period, however strongly they may have been felt, since their origins lay in political contestations that had little to do with credal or legal matters.

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