Universality and Particularity

Talk - Sheikh Abdal Hakim Murad - Cambridge - 18th June 2012 - 45mins 38secs

Praise be to Allah, Lord of the Worlds!
Qur'an, Al-Fatiha, Verse 1 

Islam is not just a large religion, it is religion at large. "I am sent to all mankind" 
Sheikh Abdal Hakim Murad, Contentions 16:95 
As British society agonises over cases of prejudice against ethnic minorities in this supposedly post-racist age the universalising message of Islam is a much welcome one. The Sheikh discusses this message, why classical Islamic civilisations were able to be so diverse.

 One reason may be that the Qur'an, unlike the Bible, is not about the continuity of a people but rather principles. It is not about the drama of a people, not a Judaism of the Arabs. The Islamic story begins with Abraham and Hagar rather than one of his descendents, echoed in the central rites of Hajj. the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, and the Arabs are of Semitic lineage but also from the gentile Hagar, something that calls on Islam to be a message for the world, not one particular tribe. This is noted in the language of the Qur'an itself: when Arab is mentioned it usually denotes the language rather than the people. Classically in Maliki law an Arab is one who can speak the language well, rather than one who has a certain set of genes. If anything the Qur'an disparages 'it's people', the contemporary Arabs as they were they propagators of the jahiliyya that Islam came to destroy. Thus the Sheikh notes that Abraham is the forefather of a universalism that co-exists with particularism. Most Islamic cities were incredibly heterogenous, yet the set of core practices remained stable and familiar. The sacred law itself is race-blind, and so whilst we have a legitimate claim to belong to the culture of our ancestors, we also know that this matters not to the Heavenly Judge in terms of proximity to Him in this life and the next.

Picture of a courtyard in the Alcazar, Seville. Taken by the CKETC team

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